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Ireland
Ireland
33

inge on the one part, and Michael Fraser and his wife on the other. The language and signature of Shakespeare were copied from the genuine mortgage deed of 1612, which had been printed in facsimile by George Steevens. Old seals torn from other early deeds were appended. On 16 Dec. young Ireland presented the document to his father, who at once accepted it as genuine, and was corroborated in his opinion next day by Sir Frederick Eden, who carefully examined it. In the following months William supplied his father with many similar documents, and with verses and letters bearing Shakespeare's forged signature written on fly-leaves torn from Elizabethan books. He also produced a large number of early printed volumes in which he had written Shakespeare's name on the title-pages, and notes and verses in the same feigned handwriting on the margin. A transcript of ‘Lear,’ with a few alterations from the printed copies, and a few extracts from ‘Hamlet,’ were soon added to the collection. The orthography, imitated from Chatterton's ‘Rowley Poems,’ was chiefly characterised by a reckless duplication of consonants, and the addition of e to the end of words. When his father inquired as to the source of such valuable treasure-trove, young Ireland told a false story of having met at a friend's house a rich gentleman who had freely placed the documents at his disposal, on the condition that his name was not to be revealed beyond the initials ‘M. H.’ Montague Talbot, a friend of young Ireland, who was at the time a law-clerk, but subsequently was well known as an actor in Dublin under the name of Montague, accidentally discovered the youth in the act of preparing one of the manuscripts, but he agreed to keep the secret, suggested modes of developing the scheme, and in letters to his friend's father subsequently corroborated the fable of ‘M. H.,’ the unknown gentleman. When the father was preparing to meet adverse criticism, he made eager efforts to learn more of ‘M. H.,’ and addressed letters to him, which he gave William Henry to deliver. The answers received, though penned by his son in a slightly disguised handwriting, did not excite suspicion. The supposititious correspondent declined to announce his name, but took every opportunity of eulogising William Henry as ‘brother in genius to Shakespeare,’ and enclosed on 25 July 1795 some extracts from a drama on William the Conqueror, avowedly William Henry's composition.

In February 1795 the elder Ireland had arranged all the documents for exhibition at his house in Norfolk Street, and invited the chief literary men of the day to inspect them. The credulity displayed somewhat excuses Ireland's self-deception. Dr. Parr and Dr. Joseph Warton came together, and the latter. on reading an alleged profession of faith by Shakespeare, declared it to be finer than anything in the English church service. Boswell kissed the supposed relics on his knees (20 Feb.). James Boaden acknowledged their genuineness, while Caley and many officers of the College of Arms affected to demonstrate their authenticity on palæographical grounds. Dr. Valpy of Reading and George Chalmers were frequent visitors, and brought many friends. On 25 Feb. Parr, Sir Isaac Heard, Herbert Croft, Pye, the poet laureate, and sixteen others, signed a paper solemnly testifying to their belief in the manuscripts. Porson refused to append his signature. The exhibition, which roused much public excitement, continued for more than a year. On 17 Nov. Ireland and his son carried the papers to St. James's Palace, where the Duke of Clarence and Mrs. Jordan examined them, and on 30 Dec. Ireland submitted them to the Prince of Wales at Carlton House.

Meanwhile the collection had been growing. Encouraged by his success, young Ireland had presented his father in March with a new blank-verse play, ‘Vortigern and Rowena,’ in what he represented to be Shakespeare's autograph, and he subsequently produced a tragedy entitled ‘Henry II,’ which, though transcribed in his own handwriting, he represented to have been copied from an original in Shakespeare's handwriting. In the summer he concocted a series of deeds to prove that an ancestor of the same names as himself had saved Shakespeare from drowning, and had been rewarded by the dramatist with all the manuscripts which had just been brought to light. It was not, however, with the assent of his son that Ireland issued a prospectus announcing the publication of the documents in facsimile (4 March 1795). The price to subscribers for large-paper copies was fixed at four guineas, and in December 1795 the volume appeared. Its title was ‘Miscellaneous Papers and Legal Instruments under the hand and seal of William Shakespeare, including the tragedy of King Lear, and a small fragment of Hamlet, from the original MSS. in the possession of Samuel Ireland’ (London, 1796). Neither ‘Vortigern’ nor ‘Henry II’ was included.

From the first some writers in the newspapers had denounced the papers as forgeries