The Great Shakespeare Fraud: The Strange, True Story of William-Henry Ireland

Overview

William-Henry Ireland, at only nineteen, perpetrated the greatest Shakespeare forgery ever attempted. In this true crime history, Patricia Pierce uncovers drama, pathos, scandal and ultimately tragedy, in a tale which began with a 'dull-witted' youth longing for his father's love and grew to involve a host of famous names from the playwright Sheridan to the Prince of Wales, Mrs. Siddons and James Boswell.

Brought up in late eighteenth-century London, William-Henry was the son of...

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Overview

William-Henry Ireland, at only nineteen, perpetrated the greatest Shakespeare forgery ever attempted. In this true crime history, Patricia Pierce uncovers drama, pathos, scandal and ultimately tragedy, in a tale which began with a 'dull-witted' youth longing for his father's love and grew to involve a host of famous names from the playwright Sheridan to the Prince of Wales, Mrs. Siddons and James Boswell.

Brought up in late eighteenth-century London, William-Henry was the son of Samuel Ireland, a collector and dealer in engravings. Fed on a daily diet of Shakespeare - whom Samuel regarded as 'a divinity' - William-Henry fell upon a unique method for winning his father's love and approval - forgery. Beginning with a deed 'signed' by Shakespeare, William-Henry followed this with a rapid succession of poems, letters and even an entirely new play, Vortigern. His success was phenomenal. James Boswell knelt to kiss 'the relics of Shakespeare', eminent clergyman Dr. Joseph Warton proclaimed 'Shakespeare's Profession of Faith' to be better than anything in either the church service or the litany, and Sheridan agreed to stage Vortigern.

Yet the play marked the beginning of the end for the great Shakespeare forger. Staged two days after the expert Edmond Malone irrefutably exposed the forgeries, the esteemed actors were greeted with hoots of derision during Vortigern's single performance.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780750933940
  • Publisher: The History Press
  • Publication date: 9/25/2005
  • Edition description: New
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 5.06 (w) x 7.80 (h) x 0.71 (d)

Table of Contents

Illustrations vii
Acknowledgements viii
List of Characters ix
Prologue xiii
1 'Here Nature nurs'd her darling boy' 1
2 'So stupid as to be a disgrace to his school' 19
3 'Swallowing with avidity the honied poison' 31
4 'The gilded snare' 44
5 'A witty conundrum' 66
6 'These priceless relics now before me' 77
7 Not 'to any Shakespeare-monger whatever' 105
8 To Believe or not to Believe 122
9 A Singular Performance 151
10 'Your young man is a prodigy one way or another' 176
11 'The maddest of the mad' 194
12 'That my character may be freed from the stigmas' 214
Appendices
I The Shakespeare Papers 235
II Publications of Samuel Ireland 237
III Publications of William-Henry Ireland 239
IV William-Henry's Declaration 245
V Montague Talbot's Declaration to Samuel Ireland 246
VI William-Henry's Statement and his Schedule of Articles at 'Mr H.'s 249
VII William-Henry's Voluntary Deposition 251
VIII Letters to Samuel Ireland from Montague Talbot 252
IX Newspaper Advertisement for the Shakespeare Papers 254
Notes 255
Bibliography 261
Index 266
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