Ireland, Samuel (DNB00)
IRELAND, SAMUEL (d. 1800), author and engraver, began life as a weaver in Spitalfields, London, but soon took to dealing in prints and drawings and devoted his leisure to teaching himself drawing, etching, and engraving. He made sufficient progress to obtain a medal from the Society of Arts in 1760. In 1784 he appears as an exhibitor for the first and apparently only time at the Royal Academy, sending a view of Oxford (cf. Catalogues, 1780–90). Between 1780 and 1785 he etched many plates after John Hamilton Mortimer and Hogarth. Etched portraits by him of General Oglethorpe (in 1785) and Thomas Inglefield, an armless artist (1787), are in the print room of the British Museum, together with etchings after Ruisdael (1786) and Teniers (1787) and other masters, and some architectural drawings in water-colour. There is something amateurish about all his artistic work. Meanwhile his taste for collecting books, pictures, and curiosities gradually became an all-absorbing passion, and his methods exposed him at times to censure. In 1787 Horace Walpole, writing of an edition (limited to forty copies) of a pamphlet which he was preparing at Strawberry Hill, complained that ‘a Mr. Ireland, a collector, I believe with interested views, bribed my engraver to sell him a print of the frontispiece, has etched it himself, and I have heard has represented the piece, and I suppose will sell some copies, as part of the forty’ (Letters, ed. Cunningham, ix. 110). In 1794 Ireland proved the value of a part of his collection by issuing ‘Graphic Illustrations of Hogarth, from Pictures, Drawings, and Scarce Prints in the Author's possession.’ Some of the plates were etched by himself. A second volume appeared in 1799. The work is of high interest, although it is possible that Ireland has, either wilfully or ignorantly, assigned to Hogarth some drawings by other artist (cf. sketch of Dennis in vol. ii.).
In 1790 Ireland published ‘A Picturesque Tour through France, Holland, Brabant, and part of France made in the Autumn of 1789,’ London (2 vols. roy. 8vo and in large-paper 4to). It was dedicated to Francis Grose and contained etchings on copper in aqua-tinta from drawings made by the author ‘on the spot.’ He paid at least one visit to France (cf. W. H. Ireland, Confessions, p. 5), and the charge brought against him by his enemies that he was never out of England is unfounded. A second edition appeared in 1795. The series, which was long valued by collectors, was continued in the same form in ‘Picturesque Views on the River Thames,’ 1792 (2 vols., 2nd ed. 1800–1), dedicated to Earl Harcourt; in ‘Picturesque Views on the River Medway,’ 1793 (1 vol.), dedicated to the Countess Dowager of Aylesford; in ‘Picturesque Views on the Warwickshire Avon,’ 1795 (1 vol.), dedicated to the Earl of Warwick; and in ‘Picturesque Views on the River Wye,’ 1797 (1 vol.). In 1800, just after Ireland's death, appeared ‘Picturesque Views, with an Historical Account of the Inns of Court in London and Westminster,’ dedicated to Alexander, lord Loughborough, and the series was concluded by the publication in 1824 of ‘Picturesque Views on the River Severn’ (2 vols.), with coloured lithographs, after drawings by Ireland, and descriptions by T. Harral. Ireland had announced the immediate issue of this work in his volume on the Wye in 1797.
In 1790 Ireland resided in Arundel Street, Strand, and a year later removed to 8 Norfolk Street. His household consisted of Mrs. Freeman, a housekeeper and amanuensis, whose handwriting shows her to have been a woman of education, a son William Henry, and a daughter Jane. The latter painted some clever miniatures. He had also a married daughter, Anna Maria Barnard.
Doubts are justifiable about the legitimacy of the surviving son, William Henry Ireland (1777–1835), the forger of Shakespeare manuscripts, with whose history the later career of the father is inextricably connected. Malone asserted that his mother was Mrs. Irwin, a married woman who was separated from her husband, and with whom the elder Ireland lived (manuscript note in British Museum copy of W. H. Ireland, Authentic Account, 1796, p. 1). According to the same authority the boy was baptised as William Henry Irwin in the church of St. Clement Danes in the Strand in 1777, in which year he was undoubtedly born, but there is no confirmation of the statement in the parish register. He himself, in a letter to his father dated January 1797 (Addit. MS. 30346, f. 307), mournfully admitted that there was a mystery respecting his birth, which his father had promised to clear up on his coming of age, and in an earlier letter, 13 Dec. 1796, he signed himself ‘W. H. Freeman,’ evidence that he believed his father's housekeeper to be his mother (ib. f. 302 b). Although undoubtedly christened in the names of William Henry, his father habitually called him ‘Sam,’ in affectionate memory, it was asserted, of a dead brother, and he occasionally signed himself ‘Samuel Ireland, junior,’ and ‘S. W. H. Ireland.’ At first educated at private schools in Kensington, Ealing, and Soho, he was sent when he was thirteen to schools in France, and he retained through life the complete knowledge of French which he acquired during his four years' stay there. On his return home he was articled to William Bingley, a conveyancer in chancery of New Inn. He emulated his father's love of antiquities, and while still a boy picked up many rare books. He studied Percy's ‘Reliques,’ Grose's ‘Ancient Armoury,’ and mediæval poems and romances, and amused himself by writing verse in imitation of early authors. His father read aloud to him Herbert Croft's ‘Love and Madness,’ and the story of Chatterton, with which part of the book deals, impressed him deeply. At the same time he was devoted to the stage. The elder Ireland was a fervent admirer of Shakespeare, and about 1794, when preparing his ‘Picturesque Views of the Avon,’ he took his son with him to Stratford-on-Avon. They carefully examined all the spots associated with the dramatist. The father accepted as true many unauthentic village traditions, including those concocted for his benefit by John Jordan [q. v.], the Stratford poet, who was his chief guide throughout his visit; and he fully credited an absurd tale of the recent destruction of Shakespeare's own manuscripts by an ignorant owner of Clopton House.
Returning to London in the autumn of 1794, young Ireland, who developed lying proclivities at an early age, obtained some ink which had all the appearance of ancient origin, and wrote on the fly-leaf of an Elizabethan tract a dedicatory letter professing to have been addressed by the author to Queen Elizabeth. His father was completely deceived. The young man had much time to himself at Bingley's chambers, and had free access there to a collection of parchment deeds of the reigns of Elizabeth and James I. At the house of Albany Wallis, a solicitor of Norfolk Street, and an intimate friend of his father, he had similar opportunities of examining old legal documents. In December 1794 he cut from an ancient deed in Bingley's office a piece of old parchment, and wrote on it in an old law hand a mortgage deed purporting to have been made between Shakespeare and John 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 (cf. Morning Herald, 17 Feb. 1795). Ritson and George Steevens, among the earliest visitors to Norfolk Street, perceived the fraud. Malone, although he declined to call at Ireland's house, was soon convinced of the deceit, and promised to expose it. James Boaden, a former believer, grew sceptical; placed the ‘Oracle,’ of which he was editor, at the disposal of the unbelievers, and published early in 1796 ‘A Letter to George Steevens,’ attacking Ireland. ‘A Comparative View of the Opinions of James Boaden,’ from the pen of Ireland's friend Wyatt, ‘Shakespeare's Manuscripts, by Philalethes’ [i.e. Colonel Francis Webb], and ‘Vortigern under Consideration,’ by W. C. Oulton, were rapidly published in Ireland's behalf in answer to Boaden. Porson ridiculed the business in a translation of ‘Three Children Sliding on the Ice’ into Greek iambics, which he represented as a newly discovered fragment of Sophocles. A pamphlet by F. G. Waldron, entitled ‘Free Reflections,’ was equally contemptuous, and supplied in an appendix a pretended Shakespearean drama, entitled ‘The Virgin Queen.’ The orthography of the papers was unmercifully parodied by the journalists. The ‘Morning Herald’ published in the autumn of 1795 Henry Bate Dudley's mock version of the much-talked-of ‘Vortigern,’ which was still unpublished, and Ireland had to warn the public against mistaking it for the genuine play. Dudley's parody was issued separately in 1796 as ‘Passages on the Great Literary Trial.’
After much negotiation Sheridan in September 1795 had agreed to produce ‘Vortigern’ at Drury Lane. Two hundred and fifty pounds were to be paid at once to Ireland, and half-profits were promised him on each performance after 350l. had been received by the management (cf. agreement in Addit. MS. 30348, ff. 22 sq.). When the piece was sent to the theatre in December Kemble's suspicions were aroused. Delays followed, and Ireland wrote many letters to both Sheridan and Kemble, complaining of their procrastination. At length the piece was cast; the chief actors of the company were allotted parts. Pye wrote a prologue, but it was too dubious in tone to satisfy Ireland, who rejected it in favour of one of Sir James Bland Burges [q. v.]; Robert Merry prepared an epilogue to be spoken by Mrs. Jordan; William Linley wrote music for the songs. When the play was put into rehearsal Mrs. Siddons and Mrs. Palmer resigned their characters, on the specious excuse of ill-health. On the eve of the performance (March 1796) Malone issued his caustic ‘Inquiry into the Authenticity’ of the papers, to which Ireland temporarily replied in a handbill, appealing to the public to give the play a fair hearing. On Saturday, 2 April 1796, the piece was produced. Kemble, who had been prevented by Ireland's complaints from fixing the previous night—April Fool's day—for the event, nevertheless added to the programme the farce entitled ‘My Grandmother,’ and Covent Garden announced for representation a play significantly entitled ‘The Lie of the Day.’ Drury Lane Theatre was crowded. At first all went well, but the audience was in a risible humour, and the baldness of the language soon began to provoke mirth. When, in act v. sc. 2, Kemble had to pronounce the line.
And when this solemn mockery is o'er,
deafening peals of laughter rang through the house and lasted until the piece was concluded (cf. Notes and Queries, 2nd ser. iii. 492). Barrymore's announcement of a second performance met with a roar of disapprobation. The younger Ireland afterwards commemorated the kindly encouragement which Mrs. Jordan offered him in the green-room, but for Kemble and most of the other actors he expressed the bitterest scorn. Kemble asserted that he did all he could to save the piece (Clubs of London, 1828, ii. 107). The receipts from the first and only performance amounted to 555l. 6s. 6d., of which 102l. 13s. 3d. was paid to the elder Ireland.
The flood of ridicule rose to its full height immediately after this exposure, and both the Irelands were overwhelmed. But the father's faith was not easily shaken. His son at once confessed to his sisters that he was the author of all the papers, but when the story was repeated by them to the elder Ireland he declined to credit it. A committee of believers met at the house in Norfolk Street in April to investigate the history of the papers. William Henry was twice examined, and repeated his story of ‘M. H.’ But finding the situation desperate, he fully admitted the imposture at the end of April to Albany Wallis, the attorney of Norfolk Street, and on 29 May he suddenly left his father's house without communicating his intention to any of the family. Before the end of the year he gave a history of the forgeries in an ‘Authentic Account of the Shakesperian MSS.,’ avowedly written ‘to remove the odium under which his father laboured.’ George Steevens made the unfounded statement that this work was published, by arrangement between father and son, with the sole view of ‘whitewashing the senior culprit’ (Nichols, Lit. Ill. vii. 8). This opinion gained ground, and the old man's distress of mind was pitiable. He still refused to believe his son, a lad of nineteen, capable of the literary skill needful to the production of the papers, or to regard the proof of forgery as sufficient. He published in November 1796 ‘A Vindication of his Conduct,’ defending himself from the charges of having wilfully deceived the public, and with the help of Thomas Caldecott attacked Malone, whom he regarded as his chief enemy, in ‘An Investigation of Mr. Malone's Claim to the Character of Scholar and Critic.’ On 29 Oct. 1796 he was ridiculed on the stage at Covent Garden as Sir Bamber Blackletter in Reynolds's ‘Fool of Fortune.’ When in 1797 he published his ‘Picturesque Tour on the Wye,’ the chilling reception with which it met and the pecuniary loss to which it led proved how low his reputation had fallen. George Chalmers's learned ‘Apology for the Believers in the Shakesperian Papers,’ with its ‘Supplemental Apology’ (1797), mainly attacked Malone, made little reference to the papers, and failed to restore Ireland's credit. In 1799 he had the hardihood to publish both ‘Vortigern’ and ‘Henry II,’ the copyrights of which his son gave him before leaving home, and he made vain efforts to get the latter represented on the stage. Obloquy still pursued him, and more than once he contemplated legal proceedings against his detractors. He died in July 1800, and Dr. Latham, who attended him, recorded his deathbed declaration, ‘that he was totally ignorant of the deceit, and was equally a believer in the authenticity of the manuscripts as those who were the most credulous’ (Diabetes, 1810, p. 176). He was never reconciled to his son. His old books and curiosities were sold by auction in London 7–15 May 1801. The original copies of the forgeries and many rare editions of Shakespeare's works were described in the printed catalogue. His correspondence respecting the forgeries was purchased by the British Museum in 1877 (cf. Addit. MS. 30349–53).
Gillray published, 1 Dec. 1797, a sketch of Ireland as ‘Notorious Characters, No. I.,’ with a sarcastic inscription in verse by William Mason (cf. Gent. Mag. 1797, p. 931). Ireland was anxious to proceed against the artist for libel (Addit. MS. 30348, f. 35). Two other plates, ‘The Gold Mines of Ireland,’ by John Nixon, and ‘The Ghost of Shakespeare appearing to his Detractors,’ by Silvester Harding, introduce portraits of Ireland.
Meanwhile William Henry had wandered almost penniless through Wales and Gloucestershire, visiting at Bristol, in the autumn of 1796, the scenes connected with Chatterton's tragic story. His appeals to his father for money were refused. On 6 June 1796 he had married in Clerkenwell Church Alice Crudge, and in November 1797 he wrote home that ‘he had been living on his wife's cloaths, linnen, furniture, &c., for the best part of six months.’ He thought of going on the stage, but his applications were treated with scorn, and he began planning more tragedies after the pattern of ‘Vortigern.’ In 1798 he opened a circulating library at 1 Princes Place, Kennington, and sold imitations in his feigned handwriting of the famous forged papers. A copy of ‘Henry II’ transcribed in this manner is now in the British Museum (Addit. MS. 12052). A complete set of the forgeries belonged at a later date to William Thomas Moncrieff the dramatist (Notes and Queries, 5th ser. v. 160), and was presented in 1877 to the Birmingham Shakespeare Memorial Library, where it was destroyed by fire in 1879. Book-collectors, in pity of his poverty, employed him to ‘inlay’ illustrated books, and rumours of his dishonesty in such employment were current at one time. In 1802 he had a gleam of better fortune, and was employed by Princess Elizabeth, afterwards landgravine of Hesse-Homburg [q. v.], to prepare a ‘Frogmore Fête.’ Before 1811 he settled at York, where his extravagance led to a temporary imprisonment in the castle. Andrew Ritchie, who saw much of him in York in the autumn of 1811, describes him as engaging in manner, very communicative, but vain and unprincipled. He seems to have published some time at York a weekly print called ‘The Comet,’ in which he lampooned his neighbours, and contemplated publishing a poem on the ‘Pleasures of Temperance’ (manuscript letter from Ritchie to Richard Garnett, November 1811). Finally he obtained fairly regular employment of varied kinds from the London publishers. He was in Paris in 1822, and thenceforth described himself on the title-pages of his books as ‘member of the Athenæum of Sciences and Arts at Paris.’ His verses show some literary facility, and his political squibs some power of sarcasm. Throughout his writings he exhibits sufficient skill to dispose of the theory that he was incapable of forging the Shakespearean manuscripts. That achievement he always regarded with pride, and complained until his death of the undeserved persecution which he suffered in consequence. His ‘Confessions,’ issued in 1805, expanded his ‘Authentic Account’ of 1796, and was reissued in London in 1872, and with a preface by Mr. Grant White in New York in 1874. Almost his latest publication was a reissue of ‘Vortigern’ (1832), prefaced by a plaintive rehearsal of his misfortunes. He died at Sussex Place, St. George's-in-the-Fields, on 17 April 1835, and was survived by a daughter, Mrs. A. M. de Burgh. Mr. Ingleby describes his wife as belonging to the Kentish family of Culpepper, and widow of Captain Paget, R.N.; but this does not correspond with what we learn from the elder Ireland's papers of the lady whole young Ireland married in 1796; he may, however, have married a second time.
A portrait of W. H. Ireland at the age of twenty-one was drawn and etched by Silvester Harding in 1798. An engraving by Mackenzie is dated 1818. A miniature of him in middle life, painted on ivory by Samuel Drummond, hangs in Shakespeare's birthplace at Stratford-on-Avon.
W. H. Ireland's chief publications in verse were ‘Ballads in Imitation of the Antient,’ chiefly on historical subjects, and ‘Mutius Scævola,’ an historical drama in blank verse (both in 1801); under the pseudonym of Paul Persius, ‘A Ballade wrotten on the Feastynge and Merrimentes of Easter Maunday laste paste’ (1802); ‘Rhapsodies,’ by the ‘author of the Shaksperian MSS.’ (1803); ‘The Angler, a didactic poem by Charles Clifford,’ 1804, 12mo; ‘All the Blocks, or an Antidote to All the Talents,’ by Flagellum, and ‘Stultifera Navis, or the Modern Ship of Fools,’ anon., both in 1807; ‘The Fisher Boy’ and ‘The Sailor Boy,’ narrative-poems, after the manner of Bloomfield, both issued under the pseudonym of ‘H. C., Esq.,’ 1809 (2nd edit. of the latter, 1822); ‘Neglected Genius, a poem illustrating the untimely and unfortunate fate of many British Poets,’ 1812, chiefly treating of Chatterton, with imitations of the Rowley MSS. and of Butler's ‘Hudibras;’ ‘Jack Junk, or the Sailor's Cruise on Shore,’ by the author of ‘Sailor Boy,’ 1814; ‘Chalcographiminia, or the Portrait-Collector and Printseller's Chronicle,’ by Satiricus Scriptor, 1814, in which he is said to have been assisted by Caulfield, and ‘Scribbleomania, or the Printer's Devil's Polichronicon,’ edited by ‘Anser Pen-drag-on, Esq.,’ 1815, 8vo.
His novels and romances included ‘The Abbess;’ ‘The Woman of Feeling,’ 1803, 4 vols. 12mo; ‘Gondez the Monk, a Romance of the Thirteenth Century,’ 4 vols. 1805; and ‘The Catholic, or Acts and Deeds of the Popish Church,’ 1826. ‘Les Brigands de l'Estramadure,’ published at Paris in 1823 (2 vols.), was described as translated from the English of W. H. Ireland. ‘Rizzio, or Scenes in Europe during the Sixteenth Century,’ was edited from Ireland's manuscript by G. P. R. James in 1849.
Other of his works were: ‘The Maid of Orleans,’ a translation of Voltaire's ‘Pucelle,’ 1822; ‘France for the last Seven Years,’ an attack on the Bourbons, 1822; ‘Henry Fielding's Proverbs,’ 1822 (?); ‘Memoir of a Young Greek Lady (Pauline Panam),’ an attack on the Prince of Saxe-Coburg, 1823 ‘Memoir of the Duke of Rovigo,’ 1823; ‘Memoirs of Henry the Great and of the Court of France,’ 1824; ‘The Universal Chronologist from the Creation to 1825,’ under the pseudonym of Henry Boyle, London, 1826; ‘Shaksperiana: Catalogue of all the Books, Pamphlets, &c., relating to Shakespeare’ (anon.), 1827; ‘History of Kent,’ 4 vols. 1828–34; ‘Life of Napoleon Bonaparte,’ 4 vols. 1828; ‘Louis Napoleon's Answer to Sir Walter Scott's “Life of Napoleon,”’ a translation, 1829; ‘Authentic Documents relating to the Duke of Reichstadt,’ 1832. In 1830 he produced a series of political squibs: ‘The Political Devil,’ ‘Reform,’ ‘Britannia's Cat o' Nine Tails,’ and ‘Constitutional Parodies.’
[Gent. Mag. 1800, pt. ii. pp. 901, 1000; Fraser's Mag. August 1860 (art. by T. J. Arnold); London Review, October 1860; Ingleby's Shakespeare, The Man and the Book, pt. ii. pp. 144 sq.; Prior's Life of Malone, pp. 222–7; W. H. Ireland's Authentic Account (1796), Confessions (1805), and Preface to Vortigern (1832); Genest's Account of the Stage, vii. 245 sq. For an account of contemporary pamphlets on the manuscripts controversy see R. W. Lowe's Bibliographical Account of Theatrical Literature. The story of the forgery is the subject of Mr. James Payn's novel, The Talk of the Town (1885). Brit. Mus. Addit. MSS. 30349–53 contain the elder Ireland's correspondence respecting the forgeries and a number of cuttings from contemporaneous newspapers. In the British Museum are also many specimens of the younger Ireland's forged documents and of his inscriptions on old books.]