Ireland, Samuel -1800)
Samuel Ireland, the father of William Henry Ireland, the infamous Shakespearean forger, began life as a weaver in Spitalfields, but soon took to dealing in prints and drawings and taught himself to draw, etch and engrave, winning a medal from the Society of Arts in 1760, and exhibiting a view of Oxford at the Royal Academy in 1784. He published a series of “Picturesque tours” from 1790 which were very popular with collectors. His son William Henry Ireland, probably illegitimate, was well educated and articled to a conveyancer in the Chancery of New Inn. In 1794 the son started forging Elizabethan documents, including a deed purporting to be a mortgage between William Shakespeare and John Heminge. When this was accepted as genuine, he produced a mass of Shakespearean forgeries, culminating in a transcript of King Lear and parts of Hamlet. It was not until he produced a complete unrecorded play, Vortigern & Rowenna, that he finally overreached himself. Even then Samuel refused to credit that the forgeries were the work of his son and died still believing them to be genuine. His library, paintings, prints &c. were sold at auction in London by Leigh, Sotheby & Son 7 May 1801.