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Bo, if they chose. "Jemmy" Boswell, under the influence of a tumbler of hot brandy and water, fjll into an ecstasy and down on his knees, and reverentially kissing the papers gave utterance to a solemn nunc dimit- \ tis, declaring he should die contented since he had lived to witness that day. Poor fellow! he did die not long after,* and his euthanasia was undisturbed by the consciousness of his having been so egregiously humbugged. Dr. Parr and Dr. Warton having heard Mr. Ireland read the Profession of Faith—a marvellous piece of puerile bombast, which in truth professes nothing at all—one of them broke forth into this Johnsonian criticism—" Sir, we have very fine passages in our church service, and our litany abounds with beauties; but here, sir, here is a man who has distanced us all!" Young Ireland at first attributed this dictum to Parr, whereat the latter was moved to most unclerical wrath t—after the discovery of the imposture. The eulogy, however, was assuredly uttered in his presence and not dissented from by him; and there can be no doubt that he at first stood at the head of the most fanatical of the believers; although in the intemperate note inserted in his catalogue he says he " was inclined to admit the possibility of genuineness in (the) papers." Boswell had drawn up a declaration of belief in their authenticity; but Parr, thinking the language too weak, drew up another in stronger terms, which was published by S. Ireland, together with the names of those who had signed it, including that of the reverend doctor.
Not everybody, however, who saw the papers, believed in them. Ritson, having scrutinized them, left the house without giving any opinion; but his manner left no doubt on young Ireland's mind that he considered the papers spurious. Person, having examined them, incautiously let fall some complimentary expressions, whereupon Mr. Ireland was emboldened to ask his signature to the Declaration; but the shrewd scholar replied, "I thank you, sir, but I never subscribe my name to professions of faith of any nature whatsoever." Malone and Steevens would never go near the papers.
While this was the state of affairs within doors, all kinds of rumors concerning the discovery were spreading abroad. One of the earliest public notices on the subject appeared in the Oracle for February, 1793. In this, reference was made to the "unseen malignity " which had " already been busy" •with "tho invaluable remains ;" a report
* In 1795—aged fifty-five.
t " Ireland told n lio when he imputed to me the words which Joseph Warton used," etc.—Note in the catalogue of Dr. I'arr's books.
that they were " in the possession of a gentleman in the Temple " was contradicted; it was announced that among the MSS. \ru an unpublished play called Vortigem, -which would soon be offered to public scrutiny; it was stated that" profound antiquaries " wers convinced of their authenticity, and that "the clearest tracing of them from the original possessors, through age and obscurity, (would) be satisfactorily given."
This last announcement there never wa» even any pretence of attempting to make good. Malone was already in the field in the Oentltman's Magazine for the same month, breathing suspicions against the documents. James Boaden was at that time editor of the Oracle, and was at first a stanch believer in the papers, though afterwards he changed his opinion, and became, after the fashion of apostates, a most violent antagonist to his former faith. But in his journal for some months appeared various laudatory articles, and sometimes extracts from the papers themselves. After Boaden had recanted his errors, the Oracle was the principal medium for the attacks on the papers. Among other squibs appeared a series of feigned extracts from Vortigern. These Mr. Ireland thought it necessary publicly to disavow, and to declare they had not the smallest resemblance to the original play; which was indeed true, for they were much better written than any portion of the play itself, so that the object in composing them is not very clear.
Ireland was so annoyed at the repeated insinuations that his MSS. were forgeries, that he threatened legal proceedings; but he was better advised, and none were taken. Meanwhile the volume of Miscellaneous Papers and Legal Documents, under the hand and seal of William Shalcspearc, was announced as ready for publication. It was issued in December, 1795,—a grand folio, with fac-similes of the MSS. and certain drawings which had been found in " the gentleman's " possession. It was published by subscription, the price being four guineas, and was dedicated "To the Ingenuous, Intelligent, and Disinterested, whose Candour, Conviction, and Support," etc., etc. The tragedy of Lear and the fragment of Hamlet were given in the volume. These, we learn from Vf. H. Ireland, had been copied from quarto editions in the possession of his father; but as the originals teemed, in the opinion of the former, with passages of ribaldry and matters " unworthy our bard," the young corrector set to work to expunge these and to interpolate a few lines which he considered more becoming the genius of Shakspere. i Immediately on the appearance of iiiia folio, Malone set to work on his Inquiry into the Authenticity of (the) Miscellaneous Papers, etc., which he was very anxious to publish before Vortigern was acted, but, owing to the delay in preparing the fac-similes illustrating his book, he did not succeed. In the mean time the journals teemed with articles pro and con; and a vast number of books and pamphlets were published which it would be tedious to enumerate.
Harris and Sheridan had both been anxious to secure Vortigern, the former for Covent Garden, the latter for Drury Lane, but as Mr. Ireland was on terms of intimacy •with the Linley family, Sheridan secured the prize; * not that he knew or cared much about Shakspere j t but he considered the production of the play a good speculation for his theatre. When it was read over to him he thought it was very long and some parts of it were rather prosy, if not unpoetical, but tho antiquity of the papers dispelled all doubts, if indeed ho ever seriously entertained any. A copy of the play was placed in. his hands, the original being deposited at Hammcrslcy's, the banker's. It was announced for performance on Saturday, April 2nd,t 1796, not as written by Shalispeare, but simply as " a new play in five acts, called Vortigern." John Kemble, who was stage manager at Drury Lane at the time, and no better than a downright infidel as regarded the papers,§ is said to have been very anxious to produce the play on the first of April. There certainly seems to have been some malice (in the French sense) in the announcement cf the farce of My Grandmother, to follow the play. At the rival theatre on the same night, was played a comedy called The Lie of the Day, which, though a new piece,
# Harris hnd offered n carte blrmche; but Sheridan's terms were not bud—£300 down, and half the profits for the first sixty nights of performance. Of tho £300, young Ireland received only £60, and £30 as his'slinre of the half profits of the first night; and ho always insisted on this as a proof of how disinterested tie had been in his forgeries; though £90 could not have been an insignificant amount of pocket money for a conveyancer's clerk of nineteen. .
t In thiq respect he resembled Byron, who considered Shakspere not only as "the worst of models " (late Aledwin),but also us n " d—d humbug " (teste Moore).
t Curiously enough Malliiai, who. in his Pursuits vf Literature, wrote a pas&ngc " tu perpetuate the memory of this extraordinary event in literary history, which Hjems to be passing into oblivion" (1796), in one of the notes, states that tho play was acted in ilttn.li. lint Mathitu was often as inaccurate us he was nmignnt. In another note, he states there were only tico folio editions of Shakspere published before the one by Howe. •
$ His sister, Mrs. Siddons, had declined a part, afterwards played by Mrs. Powell, on account of a cold under which sh'e conveniently labored.
was not running at the time. Malone had issued a notice of his forthcoming Inquiry, in which he affirmed ha had proved the mass of papers to be a rank forgery. Copies of this notice were distributed in the avenues of tho theatre on the night of the performance. Ireland, who had had scent of this, issued a counterblast in the shape of a handbill, also distributed to the public, in which, after referring to the " malevolent and impotent attack on the Shaksper.re MS.," he requested " that the play ot Vortigem (might) be heard with that candor that (had) ever distinguished a British audience." The house was crowded. A prologue, written by Mr. Pye, the poet laureate, who was one of the believers, had been set aside because it did not sufficiently insist on the authenticity of the play, and another of a more unflinching character, by Sir James Burgess, was spoken, or rather read, in its place. The audience listened for some time •with patience, but they could not long stomach the childish trash that was set before them; they seized on every trifling incident that was susceptible of ridicule, and at length, when Kemble, who played the principal part, in a. long bombastic speech at the beginning of the fifth act, uttered with peculiar emphasis the line
"And when this solemn mockery is o'er,*
there was an awful explosion of laughter and clamor, which was not lessened when the actor repeated the line with, if possible, more significant expression. From this time not a single word of the play was intelligible. The audience had the courtesy to be silent during the delivery of the epilogue by Mrs. Jordan j and then the uproar recommenced, and was not appeased til! Kemblc announced the School for Scandal for the following Monday.
Vortigern was, in green-room language, damned. Ireland was very anxious that the play should have one more trial; but Kemble peremptorily refused again to be made a laughing-stock.
This was the turning point in the affair. Malone's Inquiry appeared soon after, and though, as Mathias said, the subject was rather overlaid by the learned critic, he certainly did succeed in proving that the great bulk of the Miscellaneous Papers were forgeries.
* Another curious instance of small inaccuracy may be here mentioned. In Mr. Knight's English Cyclopedia (Art. Ireland, W. //.), the line is quoted thus:—
'And now this solemn mockery is o'er.* There is an article on the Ireland papers in the Eclectic Magazine, for March, 1849 (New York), where the line is giveu—
'/ vmtld this solemn mockery were o'er.'
More articles and pamphlets pro and con.* Great consternation, thereupon, in the house of Ireland. A committee of gentlemen is appointed to investigate the affair. Young Ireland appears before them, is examined, lies, prevaricates and is at his wit's end. He is requested to entreat the Gentleman to communicate under a pledge of secrecy with two of the committee; after some further procrastination the Gentleman consents to communicate with Mr. Albany AVallis, one of the body; a day is appointed for the purpose, and before Mr. Albany Wallis comes —William Henry Ireland, confesses that all the papers have been fabricated by him himself, and lodges i:i his hands as pieces justificaiives some unfinished forgeries, with the remainder of the ink used in their fabrication. What is to be done now? Young Ireland opines he had better make a clean breast of it, and confess to the world at large j but Mr. Albany Wallis, " like an honest gentleman, . . . and, I warrant, a virtuous," advises him to hold bis peace and let the affair blow over.
.But the affair did not seem likely to blow over. On the contrary, it threatened to blow a hurricane. Old Ireland is distracted; goes out of town for a few days, and writes an earnest letter to his son, imploring him to do something to solve the mystery, and relieve his anxiety. Young Ireland, finding the mess desperate, packs up bis things and leaves the parental roof,f never to return to it.
Not to go further into the details of this
* Among the innumerable facetia which were provoked by this affair, may bo mentioned the fol
of the 13th of April, 1790, as a genuine fragment of Sophocles; The Fulstuff Letters, published in the same year by James \\hite, the friend of Charles Lamb, which purported to be "made public by a gentleman, n descendant of Dame Quickly, from genuine manuscripts, which have been in the possession of the Quickly family near four hundred years ;" prefixed to the volume was a black-letter "Dedicatyono to -Master Samuel Irelaunde." In the Anti-Jacobin of January 1st. 1798, appeared an old ballad of The, Duke and flic Taxing Man, stated to have been transmitted to the Editor, without preface or introduction, by a gentleman of the name of Ip.elasd." It was contributed by Chief Baron Macdonald.
t This event is thus referred to by a squib in the Oi-m le of December 1st :—" Doz lost.—On Sunday morn'iuT, from the neighborhood of Norfolk-street, a little blnk ami white dog, answers to tho name of Bijou. N. 1>.—He is supposed to have been n present from Q. Elizabeth to Shakspcnro upon the Poet performing tho character of I.nunce in the Tiro Gentlemen of Verona, and this is the very dog he played with! Loud I.ktcestkiire gave him to we Qceen." This mode of spelling Lord Leicester's name was one of the points strongly insisted on to prove the papers spurious.
part of the case, suffice it to say that soon after, though against the repeated advice of Mr. Albany Wallis, young Ireland published "An Authentic Account of the Shakspearian Manuscripts," etc., in which he publicly avowed that he had forged the papers himself, without any assistance. But nobody believed him. His father would not, still pinning his faith upon their authcnticty. The believers, who had swallowed the camel, now strained at the gnat: however great their faith, they could not credit that they had been so ridiculously duped by a boy of about seventeen. The unbelievers chuckled, and though now satisfied of the spuriousness of the papers, imputed a large share in the fraud to Mr. Ireland. He published soon after a " Vindication of bis Conduct," which was originally intended as an introduction to a reply to Malone; in this he violently attacked the critic, and referring to the public statement made' by his sou, cautiously left the world to judge of the truth of his cdlegations. This was followed by his Investigation of Mr. Malone's claim to the character of scholar or critic, in which he still abstained from declaring any opinion respecting the authenticity of the MSS., and said the truth might probably be ascertained at some future period. About the same time Chalmers published his Apology for the Believers, in which he argued that, though the papers were then admittedly spurious, upon the evidence they ought to have been genuine. His main object was to expose errors into which Malone had fallen in some antiquarian matters. He wound up his argument thus: "The believers were accordingly right in their mode of inquiry, and were only led into error by their systematic principles. Their opponents the sceptics, were only right by accident."*
In Mr. Ireland's handbill, circulated on
* This extract is from his Supplemental Apology, published afterwards. It is curious to remark how this discussion, like nil of a similar nature, had a tendency to branch off into collateral issues. After the publication of the Apology a. new edition of the Purfuit* of Literature appeared, in which was inserted n couplet which gave great offence to Chalmers : (.0 to the Supplemental Apology he added a long Postscript to T. J. Matiriai F.lt.iS., F.S.A., (lie Author of ute Pursuits of Literature. At this Jlathias, who had never acknowledged himself tha author of that satire, took umbrage. Various severe squibs and epigrams ngainst Chalmers appeared from time to time in tho Morning Chronicle, which were afterwards collected and published under the title Chalmeriana, in which Mathias apparently had a hand, though the authorship is attributed by Lowndes to George Ilardinge. Chalmers then published an Appenaie to the Supjiltmenfal Ajtoloyy, in which, alter some general attacks on Ins opponents, ho subsided into n long disquisition to prove that Juniut' Letters were written by Hugh liuyil.
the evening that Vortigern was produced, it was announced that the play was at press, and would in a very few days be laid Before the public. The publication, however, did not take place till nearly three years afterwards (1799). In the preface, Ireland stated that " neither the index-lore or the alphabetical, lexicographical labors" of the author of the Inquiry, " nor any declaration since made from a quarter once domestic to the editor" (!) could induce him to believe that the greater part of the paperstwas not genuine. At the same time he published "Henry 1/ie Second, an historical drama, supposed to le written by the author of Vbrtiffern," which, in the advertisement, he said he had received i'i i >; n his son in his own handwriting, stated to have been copied from ancient and original papers in the possession of ike Gentleman. The object of the delay in the publication was of course to wait till the hubbub had died away. But in the mean time all interest in the matter had expired with it. Nobody cared any longer about Vortigern or Ireland.
In the year following Mr. Ireland died. His books, etc., were sold off in May, 1801. The collection included all the fabricated papers, and among others what was called the Shakspere Library, consisting of several old volumes which contained autograph notes by Shakspere, from the pen of young Ireland. In 1805 the latter published his Confessions, an amplification of the Authentic Account, interspersed with anecdotes, and much abuse of M alone and others who had assisted in exposing the fraud. He afterwards passed an obscure life; became a bookseller's hack; wrote some novels, long since forgotten, if ever known; and in 1832 republished Vortigern, with his father's original preface, and a new one by himself. In this he still exhibits the same inveterate rancor against all who had a share in denouncing the forgeries, though he is more wrathful against Parr, who had recently died, and Boaden, who was still alive. He also defended his conduct by the examples, not only of Chatterton, which was perhaps fair enough, but also of Horace Walpole, who had passed off the Castle of Otranto as a translation from an old Italian MS., and of Sir Walter Scott, who had denied, " even to majesty itself," the authorship of the Waverley Novels. The author of the Shakspeare Papers died in poverty in 1835.
Such is the generally accredited account of the Ireland forgeries. Although at the time a strong suspicion was excited that Samuel Ireland, the father, was more mixed up in the matter than he chose to avow, yet this suspicion gradually died away, and the son's statement was believed, that he was
the sole originator and fabricator of the fraud, and that his father was all along his dupe. It was even supposed that the death" of the latter had been hastened by the distress and vexation occasioned by his son's conduct. Lately, however, a new version of the tale has been given to the world, upon which it may be worth while to bestow a little examination. . In ah appendix to Dr. Ingleby's little book, entitled The Shakspeare Fabrications,* occurs this passage:—
"The object of the Vindication was to exonerato Samuel Ireland from all knowledge of or participation ill the forgery; yet the whole confession, or at least the substance of it, Was itself a fabrication, Samuel Ireland being the original concoctor of tl\e whole scheme of deception, and the person who himself forged several of the signatures, etc."
Then after quoting a passage from the Confessions, in which VV. H. Ireland speaks of his father's tenacious adherence to truth, Dr. Ingleby proceeds:—
"Yet this man of scrupulous truth positively trained his whole family to trade in forgery. He himself was the general who devised and methodized the strategy and executed the simulated handwriting. VV. H. Ireland's "duty" was merely that of amanuensis and copier for his excellent parent: the elder daughter of Samuel Ireland wrote the imitations of the dramatist, Vorlitjern and Rowena, etc., while her younger sister was her assistant. The house of the Irelands was, in fact, a manufactory of forgeries, done for the sole object of making money. . . ." "... When concealment was no longer possible, the Authentic Account and CaiJessioiH were published to raise the wind. These arc a tissue of lies. William Henry always made double capital out of a confession, by leaving room for a confession of the falsity of a confession. As soon as the bubble had burst, and the Authentic Account had found believers, W. II. Ireland forged his father's forgeries, and sold or gnve away to friends bis duplicates! One of these was presented by him to his friend W. Moncrieff, the dramatist. The volume is now in the possession of Dr. Mackay, the poet. It contains, besides the MS. forgeries, a portrait of Mon! crieff, and of the two sisters of William Henry j Ireland.! Another volume of the forgeries is in j the British Museum, and a third duplicate was sold for a large sum at Mr. Dent's sale."
* London: 1859.
t Dr. Ingleby, probably, writing from memory, bos here fallen into an inaccuracy. The portraits of the young Indies are in one engraving, and nr» described in u footnote in ink, in W. H. Ireland's own writing, as 1—" Miss Anna Maria Ireland,.eldest sister of W. H. Ireland, who transcribed most of i his fabrications; 2—Miss June Linlfy, sixttr tif the \frit Mrs. Shervlnn." The same plate is in one ef the volumes in the British Museum, where, in a pencil-note, apparently in the same handvvritiag, strangely enough the portraits are described 1—as >' Miss Ireland, who copied the MSS.;" and ••.l/i'.-.' LinUy, afteruardt Mrt. Sheridan."
Dr. Ingleby obtained his information from \ a gentleman who had written a note on the subject in Willis' Current Notes for December, 1855, who was an intimate acquaintance of the Irelands, ami to whom William Henry is stated to have made the last confession of the falsity of his published Confessions.
Let us briefly consider whether there is any evidence confirmatory of this statement.
The expression, that " William Henry always made double capital out of a confession by leaving room for a confession of the falsity of a confession," would imply that after he had made money by the publication of one confession he made more by the publication of another contradicting the former. But there is no ground for such an imputation. He published three statements in the Authentic Account, the Confessions and the preface to Vortigern. They are all substantially the same. In each he declares that the origin of the fabrications was the forged lease to Frascr, executed to gratify his father, and that the success of this, joined to the suggestions of friends, induced him to discover more papers; but from beginning to end he is consistent in taking the whole discreditable credit of the affair on himself, and as he exonerates his father in his lifetime from all share in the fraud, so he does when he writes more than thirty years after his father's .death.
The assertion that W. H. Ireland forged "his father's forgeries and sold his duplicates," is mainly founded on the assumption that Ilk Ireland was the original forger. That W.. II. Ireland made duplicates or copies of the forgeries there is no doubt, and that he may have sold them is highly probable. The specimens, both in Dr. Mackay's volume and in the one in the British Museum, referred to by Dr. Ingleby, are clearly copies, not originals. They differ in many respects from the fac-similcs published in the Miscellaneous Papers, and there are some which do not even pretend to be copies of the original documents.* They are probably mere specimens of young Ireland's craft, which he gave away or sold as curiosities. There is, however, another volume in the British Museum about which there is some mystery. Both the Irelands—the father in his advertisement to the play of Henry tL, and the son in his Confessions—state that the original MS. of that play was never produced,f the son having
* E. g., three specimens of the fabricated signature of hhakspcrc on one small slip of paper. These ore copies of the signature on three ditt'erent docu.ments.
t The f:\thcr says." the title and two other leaves only were produced of the old MS., and these wcro asserted to be nil that would ever appear in that •tile." The ion.asaertt £cnerully that the play was
framed excuses for his being able to bring only a copy in his own handwriting. The volume in question contains the MS. of the entire play in the fabricated handwriting that was passed off as Shakspere's. The MS. is neatly and carefully written upon old paper, the greater part of which has no water-mark. The title is Historycaillc Playe \ off \ Kynge Henryethe Seconde j William Si'takspeare \ , the name being an imitation of Shakspere's autograph. Both this and the other volume in the British Museum formerly belonged to Bishop Butler. How they came into his possession is not known. It is impossible, therefore, to say under what circumstances this MS. was produced; its existence seems inconsistent with the published statements of the Irelands. This volume, however, may have been merely another specimen of art transcribed from the play after it had been printed, and may have been sold as such. It does not seen very probable that it would have been put forward as an original fabrication after the publication of the Confessions; but even if it had been, and W. H. Ireland had been guilty of this additional fraud, that is no ground for implicating bis father or any other member of his family.*
What cannot fail to induce some feeling of doubt in the truth of W. H. Ireland's narrative, is the fact that a comparatively uneducated youth should, without co-operation, have produced not only such a mass of manuscripts in so short a time, but that he should have been able to fabricate a drama of nearly three thousand lines which by any sane person could be received as the poetry of Shakspere.
That he was ill-educated there can be no possible doubt. His Confessions abundantly j prove it. He throughout writes Quintain, | Quintin; he talks of et cetcrae; introduces I Person under the cockney disguise of .P*tc**n i and commits other similar blunders. But he had a certain talent, that of copying old writing. He had probably acquired such a facility in this old hand, that it was as easy to him as his own natural writing.f And he
delivered to his father in his own handwriting, and that he never was nt the trouble of reproducing it in the disguised hand.
* The note, mentioned before, that Miss Ireland "copied the MSS.," asexplained by the other note, i clearly means that sho " transcribed" them—i. en I copied out the spurious old MSS. into a legible hand. Rather an unusunl acquirement for a young lady, it must be owned; but perhaps not an extraordinary one for Miss Ireland, whose father was a groat collector of old writings, to read and copy which she may have been taught, without having been '• trained to forgery."
t He certainly wrote'autographs from memory.
One of the " specimens " in Dr. Mackay's volume
is described as " tracing from the authentic signa
[ tures of Suaktpeare." It consists of the signature