IRELAND (WILLIAM HENRY) Autograph letter signed ("WH Ireland"), to Mr Beadnall, 1833

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Lot 44*
IRELAND (WILLIAM HENRY)

Sold for £ 2,500 (US$ 3,225) inc. premium
IRELAND (WILLIAM HENRY)
Autograph letter signed ("WH Ireland"), to Mr Beadnall, to whom he had previously sold a copy of Vortigern, offering for sale the package of his Shakespeare fakes that had been put together for George Chalmers and returned after his death: "Having been given to understand... that you are not only particularly fond of literature, but feel much interest in the subject of my Shakesperian Fabrications, I venture to remit, for your inspection, some specimens that may interest you. On my discovery of the secret of my being author of the MSS I forwarded to three or four of the gentlemen; who had stood most prominent among the ranks of believers; specimens of the leading documents, as proofs, that I was writer of the papers, as proofs, that I was writer of the papers; one of whom was Mr Chalmers, who published his Apology for the Believers in answer to Mr Malone's volume... To those specimens I have added some other papers, appertaining to my self & family, as connected with the Shakesperian productions, the whole forming a curious memento of the literary imposition adverted to... the task now devolves upon me to say, that in the event of your feeling disposed to possess the papers herewith remitted, as a literary curiosity, I shall be glad to dispose of the same for the sum of Three Pounds..."; adding that "For a full account of every document sent, there exists a volume entitled; Ireland's Confessions, published I think, in 1808 which may be procured for a few shillings", 3 pages, integral address and wafer seal on verso, recipient's docket and later endorsement ("Letters found in Grandfather's Deed box apparently kept for their signatures/ CCB"), splitting at fold, 4to, 4 Asylum Buildings, Westminster Road, 19 December 1833

Footnotes

  • 'MY SHAKESPERIAN FABRICATIONS': W.H. IRELAND ON HIS FORGERIES. When, in late 1795 and early 1796, the young Ireland had made his sensational 'find' of Shakespeare manuscripts, including a letter to the Earl of Southampton with its reply, an extremely friendly letter from Queen Elizabeth, theatrical contracts, a love letter and poem to 'Anna Hatherrewaye' (plus lock of hair), annotated books from his library, the original manuscript of King Lear, marked up for the press, a few stray leaves of the play "Hamblette" and, a little later on, a couple of new plays, Vortigern and Henry II, the Scottish antiquarian George Chalmers was among those who came to the Ireland house to worship at the shrine.

    Attacks on the papers' authenticity were led by Edmond Malone and the collection soon became the subject of ridicule, especially after the disastrous performance of Vortigern at Drury Lane. But while hope remained, Chalmers remained one of the leading advocates for the papers, publishing An Apology for the Believers in the Shakespeare-Papers, Which were Exhibited in Norfolk-Street (1797), in which he attacked Malone's methodology: 'Chalmers did not actually argue directly for the authenticity of the papers, just for the legitimacy of belief according to the pseudo-legal canons of critical scholarship' (Paul Baines, The House of Forgery in Eighteenth-Century Britain, 1999, p. 180; see his Epilogue, 'The Hand and Seal of William Shakespeare', for a study of the affair with especial reference to Chalmers). Ireland was to forestall Chalmers by publishing his Authentic Account of the Shakesperian Manuscript (1797), in which he confessed to the forgery, causing him, as he claims in our letter, to put together the package for Chalmers's benefit.
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