A Tale of Forgery and Folly
Da Capo Press
William-Henry Ireland was nineteen years old in 1795 when he handed his father a document that he claimed was written and signed by William Shakespeare, and alluded to a trunk full of such documents that belonged to a mysterious Mr. H. by whom he was employed. His father, along with an impressive group of scholars, collectors, theatre-goers and the press, enthusiastically and uncritically accepted his claims as true. Encouraged by their credulousness, and beginning to believe his own ruse, William-Henry went on to produce many more signatures, letters, hand-written play scripts, sonnets, and even an entire play.
Doug Stewart’s The Boy Who Would Be Shakespeare takes us back to an era when Shakespeare’s work and art was a subject that was on everyone’s mind. The story of William-Henry Ireland’s spectacular rise and fall, it captures our fascination with Shakespeare, the cult of celebrity, and our willingness, even eagerness, to be duped when there’s an opportunity to get a little closer to greatness.