Ireland, Samuel

, mentioned in the preceding article, and we trust more unfortunate than accessary in the possession of the forged Mss. of Shakspeare, was originally a mechanic in Spitalfields, but taking advantage of the taste of the age for literary curiosities, commenced a speculator in scarce books, prints, and drawings. He had some skill in drawing and engraving, and endeavoured to turn it to account, by combining it with description, under the name of “Travels.” With this view he published in 1790, “A Picturesque tour through Holland, Brabant, and part of France, made in the autumn of 1789,” 2 vols. 8vo, illustrated with aqua-tinta and other prints. This succeeded well, although his descriptions were common-place, and his information seldom new. Encouraged, however, by the sale of the work, he produced in 1792, “Picturesque Views on the river Thames,” 2 vols. 8vo, and in 1793 “Picturesque Views on the river Medway,” in 1 vol. In 1794 he published his “Graphic Illustrations of Hogarth,” consisting of anecdotes of that eminent artist, and engraved | Copies of many of his lesser and fugitive works, such as shop-cards, tickets, &c. In 1796, he was an accomplice in that fraud which eventually proved fatal to his character and comfort. This was the production of a large quantity of manuscripts, pretended to be in the hand-writing of Shakspeare and consisting of poems, letters, and one entire play. These were exhibited at his house in Norfolkstreet for the inspection of the public, and for some time divided their opinions. Connoisseurs, however, in ancient writings, and particularly in the genius and history of Shakspeare, soon detected the fraud, which, although it did for a time impose on some gentlemen in the literary world, was executed in the most slovenly and clumsy manner. A more full account of this imposition, and the controversies to which it gave rise, may be seen in our authorities: it is scarcely worth reviving in this work. After complete detection, it appeared that Mr. Ireland had been himself the dupe of a near and worthless relation; but his obstinacy in maintaining the authenticity of these papers long after he ought to have given them up, injured his character, and it is thought hastened his death, which took place in July 1800. We have to add to his works “Picturesque Views of the Severn and Warwickshire Avon,” and a “History of the Inns of Court,” the latter a posthumous work. The Mss. of Shakspeare were published under the title of “Miscellaneous papers and legal instruments, under the hand and seal of William Shakspeare, including the tragedy of King Lear, &c.” at the price of four guineas to subscribers. What was yet more absurd, a play pretended to be Shakspeare’s, entitled “Vortigern,” was actually performed on Drury-lane theatre, but hooted from the stage the first night. 1


Gent. Ma. 1796-7. Month. Review, N. S. vol. XII, XX, XXII, XX VII, -XXXV. Malone’s Inquiry. Chalmers’s Apology for the Believers, &c. &c.