Biography of William Henry Ireland and the "Lost Works" of Shakespeare Part 3

About the famous or infamous English Forger William Henry Ireland, his biography as he attempted to pass off forgeries as the lost works of Shakespeare, he goes too far and writes his own play.


English forger.

Stirred by such praise, Ireland went on to discover the complete manuscript of King Lear and portions of the original Hamlet. He also came up with a love letter from Shakespeare to Anne Hathaway, and a lock of Shakespeare's hair.

By now Samuel Ireland was charging admission to the public to inspect the evidence on display in his house. William Pitt, Edmund Burke, and the Prince of Wales were among those who came away deeply moved. James Boswell knelt before the fakes and cried: "I now kiss the invaluable relics of our Bard, and thank God I have lived to see them."

William was now 18, and ready for the big move. He announced that, through his gentleman friend, he could lay his hands on a complete, unpublished, unproduced Shakespeare play. Remembering an oil painting in his father's study showing the Saxon princess Rowena giving wine to Vortigern, William said the play Vortigern was a tragedy set in Romanized Britain. Now William had to stall an anxious public 2 months while he brought forth Vortigern a scene at a time.

While the world waited for the climactic discovery, there were those who had run out of patience for what they perceived to be a hoax. Three eminent Shakespearean scholars suspected forgery, but only one of them prepared to speak out. The vocal one was Edmund Malone, who was readying to expose Ireland's finds in his work An Inquiry into the Authenticity of Certain Papers Attributed to Shakespeare, Queen Elizabeth, and Henry, Earl of Southampton. Word of this book, which would not appear until later in 1796, was already spreading through London.

By now Ireland had delivered the complete play. Every theater manager in London was clamoring for Shakespeare's lost masterpiece. Richard Brinsley Sheridan acquired it with a down payment of pound 300 and a promise of half the profits to the Irelands. Sheridan objected only to the length of the play. As young Ireland confessed later: "Being under the age of 18 when I wrote the play of Vortigern, the following fact will not appear singular. I was really so unacquainted with the proper length of a drama as to be compelled to count the number of lines in one of Shakespeare's plays, and on that standard to frame Vortigern; and the play I had chosen happened to be so uncommonly long, mine consequently became so: when completed it contained, to the best of my recollection, 2,800 lines and upwards."

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