Ireland, John

, author of the “Illustrations of Hogarth,” was born at the Trench farm, near Wem, in Shropshire, in a house which had been rendered somewhat remarkable, by having been the birth-place and country residence of Wycherley the poet, and whose widow is said to have adopted Mr. Ireland, when a child; but this lady dying without a will, left him unprovided for. He was descended by the mother’s side from two eminent dissenting clergymen; his mother being the daughter of the rev. Thomas Holland, and great-grand-daughter of the rev. Philip Henry. In his youth he discovered a strong predilection to the arts, and such literature as is immediately connected with them, but as his parents were unable to give him a regular education, and as he had a turn for mechanics, h was brought up to the business of a watchmaker. Although he carried on this for some time with good connexions, it was not upon the whole successful, and during a considerable part of his life, he subsisted by trafficking in pictures, prints, &c. for which he had a correct taste, and in which he was probably assisted by the artists and print-sellers. He amassed a good collection of ^iortimer’s and Hogarth’s works, and lived on intimate terms with many men of eminence in the literary world, and particularly with the artists Mortimer and Gainsborough, and Henderson the actor, whose “Memoirs” he published in 1786. This actor had lived in Mr. Ireland’s house for some time after coming to London, but their intimacy had for some reason abated, and at the period of | Henderson’s death was, if we are rightly informed, quite dissolved. His Life of Henderson is said to have been his first publication, and certainly was not very successful, nor very interesting. He was more fortunate afterwards in being employed by the Messrs. Boydell in the “Illustrations of Hogarth,” 3 vols. 8vo, a work in which he displays a correct knowledge of the arts, and a vein of humourous remark and anecdote not ill suited to the subjects he had to illustrate. As Mr. Ireland was a man of integrity, he often felt himself very much hurt as being mistaken for Samuel Ireland, the proprietor of the Shakspeare forged manuscripts, who had also published a volume of scraps and anecdotes relating to Hogarth. Our author, therefore, thought proper to disclaim, in the preface to his third volume, all connexion and relationship with his namesake. For several years Mr. Ireland had been afflicted with a complication of disorders, which had rendered society irksome to him, and occasioned him to remove to the neighbourhood of Birmingham, where he died in November 1808. He was a man of pleasant and inoffensive manners, and full of literary anecdote, which he liberally dispensed around, whether in a coffee-house among strangers, or at the social table among his friends. 1


Athenæum, vol. V.—Gent. Mag. vol LXXVIII.