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Key People

(Samuel) William-Henry Ireland

1775  - 1835

William-Henry Ireland Portrait 1818
title page confessions william-henry ireland

A portrait of William-Henry Ireland, author of the Shakespeare Papers, along with the title page to his book 'The Confessions of William-Henry Ireland.' 

We know our favourite Shakespeare forger as William-Henry Ireland, for it was his given name.  But it is said that William-Henry's father started calling him Samuel after his first son Samuel died - some psychological undertones at play here, which may have contributed to William-Henry's career as a famous forger.

William-Henry provided huge entertainment at the latter end of the 18th century and on into the 19th, and continues to delight us more than 200 years later.  So, give a guy a chance, read and enjoy his works from the links below. 

William-Henry, when only 20 years of age, and specifically to impress his father, perpetrated an audacious but hare-brained forgery that culminated in his self-penned play Vortigern, which he claimed was a long lost play by Shakspear (that's how his father thought Shakespeare should be spelled), being performed to ridicule and laughter at Drury Lane. 

​Description of Thomas Chatterton

It is thanks to William-Henry that we have an interesting description of Thomas Chatterton, related to him by Chatterton's sister Mary.   

So, is Chatterton stout or skinny?  

William-Henry says that Mary told him her brother was 'neatly made', with a flashing left eye - see the statement below, taken from William-Henry's Confessions - read it below or View online. 

William-Henry Ireland's | 1a description of Chatterton
William-henry ireland | 1b description of Chatterton

We also have a recently rediscovered statement by a Mr William Seward who claims Chatterton was stout : View.

The Works of William Henry Ireland

The Confessions of William- Henry Ireland, 1805   :  View

Includes a description of Chatterton, gleaned from Mary Newton, his sister.

Miscellaneous Papers and Legal Instruments Under the Hand and Seal of William Shakspeare  :  View

The book includes King Lear and a small fragment of Hamlet. Samuel Ireland produced the book but the forgeries are all by his son, William-Henry Ireland. [Shakespeare]

Vortigern an Historical Tragedy in Five Acts...and Henry the Second an Historical Drama.. :  View

Published in 1799, three years after the infamous performance at Drury Lane.

Interesting video on youtube about the book - click image below.

An Authentic Account of the Shaksperian Manuscripts, &c  :  View

Published 1796

Willliam-Henry has his say on the matter.

Anecdotes sur Napoléon, publiées par Ireland  : View

Obviously a French language book.

Willliam-Henry was a fluent French speaker

Rhapsodies 1803  :  View

If you want to grab a real feeling for the mind of William-Henry then you must read his poetry.

Neglected Genius 1812  :  View

A Poem. Illustrating the Untimely and Unfortunate Fate of many British Poets; from the period of Henry the Eighth to the Aera of the Unfortunate Chatterton containing Imitations of Their Different Styles, &c. &c.

Chalcographimania 1812  :  View

or, the Portrait-Collector and Printseller's Chronicle with Infatuations of every Description. A Humorous Poem. In Four Books. With Copious Notes Explanatory. By Satiricus Sculptor, Esq.

Samuel Ireland (Father of William-Henry

Mr. Ireland's Vindication of his Conduct respecting....the Supposed Shakspeare MSS...1796 : View

By Samuel Ireland.

Correspondence of William-Henry

Not ready yet - sorry.

Books etc. about William-Henry Ireland

William Henry Ireland’s ‘Authentic Original Forgeries’: An Overdue Rediscovery  :  View the article

By Professor Jack Lynch  : View Jack's website

The Great Shakespeare Fraud  :  no view

Patricia Pierce 2004 (cheap to buy online)

An enjoyable read but there are a couple of silly errors re the life of Chatterton. 

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