Drawing

1795 (made)

Ireland, Samuel

Height: 24.1 cm, Width: 18.6 cm

S.755-2013 T&P

Print of a hand drawn pen and ink illustration entitled ‘William Shakespeare’, published for Samuel Ireland, Norfolk Street, Strand, December, 1795

Print of a hand drawn pen and ink illustration entitled ‘William Shakespeare’. The print is crudely drawn in pen and ink. The central image is a 3/4 length portrait of Shakespeare, identified by name at the top and bottom of the print. The sketch was created for, and published by Samuel Ireland (1744-1800), Norfolk Street, Strand, December, 1795.

Print of a hand drawn pen and ink illustration entitled ‘William Shakespeare’, published for Samuel Ireland (1744-1800), Norfolk Street, Strand, December, 1795. This print was a part of a larger collection of forged Shakespearean papers which were bought together in a publication entitled 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, of Norfolk Street. London. This was publication was printed by Cooper and Graham in 1796, on behalf of Samuel Ireland (1744-1800). Samuel Ireland was a respected publisher and collector, with a passion for Shakespeare which his teenaged son, William Henry (1775-1835), endeavoured to satisfy by forging documents and letters, freely inventing details to cover inconvenient gaps in Shakespeare’s biography. Inspired by his success William Henry Ireland soon progressed to fabricating whole plays. The forgeries deceived many experts and the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane bought the rights to produce the ‘new’ Shakespeare play Vortigern and Rowena. Prior to the opening of Vortigern and Rowena, Samuel Ireland published Miscellaneous Papers and Legal Instruments under the Hand and Seal of William Shakespeare in January of 1796. Although many of the most prominent scholars and literary notables of the day had viewed the manuscripts and deemed them genuine, few had examined them in depth. With the publication of the Miscellaneous Papers, debate over the authenticity of the manuscripts entered the public arena. Various supporters and critics of the Irelands vied in the press and interest in Vortigern and Rowena heightened. Two days before Vortigern and Rowena was scheduled to open, Edmond Malone, perhaps the foremost authority on Shakespeare's plays, released An Inquiry into the Authenticity of Certain Miscellaneous Papers and Legal Instruments. Malone's Inquiry was an exhaustive critique, running to over four hundred pages, on the authenticity of the alleged Shakespeare manuscripts. More than five hundred copies of An Inquiry were sold in the two days prior to the play's opening. When Vortigern and Rowena finally opened on April 2, 1796, it did so to a full house. Unfortunately the production ended in disaster. The reviews were crushing and Vortigern and Rowena closed after its only performance. Samuel Ireland died in 1800 having unsuccessfully attempted to combat Malone’s criticism of the forgeries through a variety of publications. He appeared to uphold his belief in the legitimacy of the archive, not least because he believed his son incapable of the workmanship. In 1805 William Ireland published The Confessions of William Henry Ireland, in which he confessed the true origins of the forged documents. He subsequently fell into debt and lived for a time in France, dying in London in 1835.

Gabrielle Enthoven Collection

Location: In Storage

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