1825 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Henry Ireland

Anonymous, "William Henry Ireland" A New Biographical Dictionary of 3000 Cotemporary Public Characters (1825) 2:404-05.



WILLIAM HENRY IRELAND is the son of the late Samuel Ireland, well known as the author of several tours and as illustrator of Hogarth. His son, whose name has been so conspicuous, was born in London, educated at the academy in Soho-square, and articled to a conveyancer of New Inn, where, having much leisure, he began to exercise his ingenuity in imitating ancient writings. His progress in this encouraged him to imitate Shakespeare, and he at last resolved to endeavour to pass off his imitations as the real remains of that immortal bard. Having executed some of them on the blanks of old books, he communicated them to his father as recently discovered MSS. of Shakespeare. The father made the discovery public, without duly inquiring how his son came by them, or if they were authentic. The public were greatly interested by these papers, and a few, who ought to have known better, admitted their authenticity, and in private companies, with much warmth, supported it. All this might have passed off with a laugh on those who were deceived, but a subscription was set on foot at three guineas, to enable the Irelands to print them. A splendid volume appeared in 1798, and at Drury-lane theatre a play was performed called "Vortigern and Rowena," as a specimen. On the appearance of the volume and the play, both the readers and the audience detected the cheat, which had, however, already been properly exposed by Mr. Malone. Young Ireland now found it necessary for his father's character to acknowledge the fraud, and published "An authentic Account of the Shakespeare Manuscripts," in which he solemnly declares that his father was deceived by him, that he alone was the author and writer, and that no one else had any part in the affair, and, lastly, that he should not have gone so far, had not the public praised the papers so much, and flattered his vanity. Since then, Mr. Ireland has been the author of "The Abbess, a Romance," 4 vols, 1799; "Rimualdo, or the Castle of Badajoz," 4 vols. 1800; "Ballads in Imitation of the Ancient," 1801; "Henry II." one of the plays intended to have been passed off as Shakespeare's; "Mutius Scaevola, a Drama," 1801; "Rhapsodies," 1803; "Chatelar, or the Effusions of Love;" "The Catholic, a Romance," 3 vols.; "The Woman of Feeling, a Novel," 4 vols.; "Gondez the Monk," 4 vols.; "The Confessions relative to the Shakespeare MSS." 1805; "Modern Ship of Fools," 1807; "The Fisher Boy;" "The Sailor Boy;" and one or two other poems of the same kind. Mr. Ireland was at once time editor of the York Herald. He then went to France, where he resided seven years, and, on his recent return from that country, he published a work on its political situation. This work bears the title of "France during the last Seven Years, or the Bourbons," and is written in a good spirit. He has since published a very able translation of Voltaire's "Pucelle."