The Ireland Shakespeare forgeries were a cause célèbre in 1790s London, when author and engraver Samuel Ireland announced the discovery of a treasure-trove of Shakespearean manuscripts by his son William Henry Ireland . Among them were the manuscripts of four plays, two of them previously unknown. Such respected literary figures as James Boswell (biographer of Samuel Johnson) and poet-laureate Henry James Pye pronounced them genuine, as did various antiquarian experts. Richard Brinsley Sheridan, the leading theater manager of his day, agreed to present one of the newly discovered plays with John Philip Kemble in the starring rôle. Excitement over the biographical and literary significance of the find turned to acrimony when it was charged that the documents were forgeries. Edmond Malone, the greatest Shakespeare scholar of his time, showed conclusively that the language, orthography, and handwriting were not those of the times and persons to which they were credited, and William Henry Ireland, the supposed discoverer, confessed to the fraud.
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