- Museum number
- Object: The oaken chest or | The gold mines of Ireland a farce
The interior of a room in Ireland's house, a number of his etchings are on a large folding screen. The older Ireland kneels by a large iron-bound chest with an antique lock and the letters 'W S'. He holds out to a young woman an enormous tail of hair (over a yard long) inscribed 'A Lock of my Dear Williams Hair'. She stands full-face looking at it admiringly. The chest is filled with documents, one of which he holds: 'Deed of gift to Ireland Will Shakespeare.' The others are: 'Verses to Anna Hatherreway', 'The Virgin Queen', and 'Holli[nshed's] Chr[onicles]'. Beside the chest are other papers: 'Ould Deeds ready Drawn to Fill up as Occasion may require'; 'King Henry the thyrde'; 'a double page', having on the right scrawls in which the signature 'Flizabeth' and 'Globe Black ..' is legible, and on the left: 'Bess must have been Drunk when she wrote this as she could not remember the first Letter of her name but calls herself Flizabeth'; 'My alterd Playe of Titus Andronicus All Written by Myself. W. Shakespeares Deed of Trust to Hemming'; a whole length print of a man wearing a hat and cloak inscribed: 'My own Figure at length 6 Foot.'
On the left a loutish youth, William Henry Ireland, sits on the floor, full-face, legs apart; with a vacant grin he reads a book: 'Giles Gingerbread'. In front of him is a pile of four books, two inscribed 'Guy Fauks' and 'Fifteen Plays by Shakespeare which will be brought forward.' Other books and papers are piled in front of these:  'Price of Stock Bank Stock Shut 6 per Pr 1000 4 per Ct Shut Shakespeare scrip below par.'  'Leaves from old Books to Write Plays upon with Various Water Marks.'  'Bacons History of Henry VII. 1622 notes by Shakspeare.'  'The Tears of the Isle of Wight for the Death of Lord Southampton with notes by Shakespeare.'  'Haywards Life of Ewd 6 1630 With notes by Shakespeare.'  'Vortigern & [Row]ena'. On the extreme right a young woman sits in profile to the right, etching. Behind her sits another directed to the left, pen in hand, in the throes of composition.
On the chimney-piece is a shoe inscribed 'Roman Sandal', flanked by two pots: 'Bistre' and 'Tobacoo [W]ater' (for staining documents). A fire burns in the grate. Above is a bust portrait of Shakespeare in a circle inset in a square, inscribed: 'My Own Portrait Drawn by my own Hand from that rare Print by M Droeshout' [prefixed to the 1623 folio]. Beside it (left) is a three-quarter length portrait of 'Anna Hatherrewaye', standing by a table and holding out a book. On the right hangs a 'Plan of the Gold Mines Discovered in the Year MDCCXCV': a line of sea-coast is inscribed 'Wicklow'; men are loading asses at conical mounds and driving them towards the sea, where a small vessel lies beside a jetty. On the screen are prints of 'Antwerp', 'Bruges', 'Lovats Ghost' (carrying his head under his arm); a letter (upside down): 'Dear Sir It greves me to say you were not Elected at the Antiquarian Society I am . . ' (two seals follow); a paper (beside Ireland) 'My Own Remarks on Brabant Flanders' (Ireland's 'Picturesque Tour . . .', 1790; he was alleged (incorrectly) never to have been out of England); prints of 'Windsor', 'Maidenhead', 'Stains', 'Henley' (from his 'Picturesque Views of the River Thames', 1792); prints of 'Prigg the Prizefighte[r]', 'The Drill', 'Vortigern'. Beneath the title: '"the Earth hath Bubbles as the Water has and these are of them, Shakspere ['of inserted in pen]'.
Beneath the design:
'In A musty Old garret some where or another,
This Chest has been found by some person or other.
Yet by whom is A secret that must not be told
For your mystery puzzles the young and the Old:
But the Chest being here the contents you shall see,
Subscribe but four Guineas as part of my fee.
The first thing I shew you is a relick most rare,
An astonishing Lock of the great Shakspeare's hair!
Out of which twenty rings more or less have been made;
Nor a Single Hair miss't from this wonderful Braid.
The next is the Manuscript play of King Lear;
It is true Master Critic so pray do not Sneer:
In its own native form by no Editer drest;
But in Adam Like Nakedness simple and chaste.
An Original Sonnet I now shall present,
From sweet Willy to Anna Hatherrewaye sent.
Plainly telling in numbers so simple and new,
That Willye thye Willye to his Anna still trewe
With drawings and leases and deeds without number;
And fifteen new Plays that have lain by as lumber:
Which shall soon be brought forward to pleasure the town,
All our pocketts to fill and our labour to Crown!
For genious like Ours thats so little regarded,
Ought some way or other to be well rewarded.
Hark great Vortigern comes now ye criticks be dumb;
This is Shakespeares I'll swear: If 'tis not 'tis a Hum!' 1796
- Production date
Height: 421 millimetres
Width: 449 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- (Description and comment from M.Dorothy George, 'Catalogue of Political and Personal Satires in the British Museum', VII, 1942)
As in BMSat 8883 the whole Ireland family is here implicated in the Shakespeare forgeries. The women are presumably Mrs. Freeman, the housekeeper and amanuensis, and Ireland's two daughters, Jane a miniaturist, and Mrs. Anne Marie Barnard. Samuel Ireland (himself deceived) announced in March 1795, and published in December, facsimile copies of the forged documents, price four guineas to subscribers. Gold was found in the Wicklow Mountains in the autumn of 1795. ('Lond. Chron.', 8, 18 Oct. 1795, &c.; 'Ann. Reg.', 1795, pp. 152* f.) O'Keefe's comic opera, 'The Lad of the Hills or the Wicklow Gold Mine', was first played 9 Apr. 1796. (Genest, vii. 269 f.) See Sidney Lee on S. and W. H. Ireland in 'D.N.B.'; Mair, 'The Fourth Forger', 1938, and BMSats 8883, 9064.
Reproduced, Paston, pl. cx; Mair, op. cit., p. 62.
Part of the Burney collection.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2016 15 Apr-6 Sep, London, BL, Shakespeare in ten acts
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number
- Additional IDs
Miscellaneous number: K,8.72 (incorrectly stamped)