1816 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Henry Ireland

Anonymous, in Biographical Dictionary of Living Authors (1816) 173.



WILLIAM HENRY IRELAND, is the son of the late Samuel Ireland, well known by several picturesque tours, and an illustration of Hogarth. The son also, who has been no less remarkable, was born in London and educated at Soho School; after which he was articled to a conveyancer in New Inn, where, having some leisure, he began to excise his ingenuity in the imitation of ancient writing. His success in these attempts set him upon the bold design of forging some papers, and passing them off as the genuine remains of Shakspeare. Having executed some of these on the blanks of old books, he communicated the treasure to his father, who, strange to say, made a parade of the discovery to the world, without secretly examining into the authenticity of the manuscripts, and the truth of the tale which his son related concerning the manner of his obtaining them. For some of the time the public were greatly amused by these literary relics, and a few, who ought to have known better, lent themselves to the support of the imposition so far as to encourage, by subscription, a collection which was the disgrace of literature. A splendid volume made its appearance in 1796, and a play was performed at Drury Lane with the title of Vortigern; but this last dissolved the spell, and the discernment of an English audience quickly detected the cheat, of which no doubt could be entertained after the ample exposure it experienced from Mr. Malone. The publications of this adventurer are:

An authentic Account of the Shakspeare Manuscripts, 8vo, 1796, in which he makes this declaration: "I solemnly declare first, that my father was perfectly unacquainted with the whole affair, believing the papers most firmly the productions of Shakspeare. Secondly, that I am myself both the author and writer, and had no aid from any soul living, and that I should never have gone so far, but that the world praised the papers so much, and thereby flattered my vanity. Thirdly, that any publication which may appear tending to prove the MSS. genuine, or to contradict what is here stated, is false; this being the true account. W. H. Ireland." — The Abbess, a romance, 4 vol. 12mo. 1799. — Rimualdo, or the Castle of Badajos, a romance, 4 vol. 12mo. 1800. — Ballads in imitation of the ancient, 12mo. 1801. — Henry II. an historical drama, 8vo. 1799. This was out of the pieces intended to have been imposed on the world as the production of Shakspeare. — Mutius Scaevola, a dram. 8vo. 1801. — Rhapsodies, 12mo. 1803. — Chatelar, or Effusions of Love, 12mo. — The Catholic, a romance, 3 v. 12mo. 1807. — The Abbess, a nov. 3 v. — The Woman of Feeling, a nov. 4 vol. 12mo. — Dondez, the Monk, a romance, 4 vol. 12mo. 1804. — The Confessions relative to the Shakespeare Forgery, 8vo. 1805. — The Modern Ship of Fools, 12mo. 1807. — All the Blocks, a poem, 12mo. 1807. — The Fisher boy, 12mo. 1808. — The Sailor Boy, a poem, 12mo. 1808. — The Cottage Girl, 12mo. 1810 — Neglected Genius, a poem, 8vo. 1812. — Chalcographimania, a satirical poem, 8vo. 1814. Mr. Ireland was for some time the editor of the York Herald.