#25 William Henry Ireland, Vortigern and Henry II (1799)
Ireland did not stop at “discovering” lost manuscripts, for he wrote two complete “lost” plays supposedly by Shakespeare, the historical romances Vortigern and Henry II. Vortigern was performed only once in public, and was laughed off the stage. Once exposed as a forger, however, Ireland capitalized on his fame by producing “authentic” forgeries. This copy includes a few forged signatures, as well as several pages of a new play written by Ireland in the style of Vortigern. It also includes a note of authentication from the owner of the book, who states that it was written by Ireland “in my presence” and delivered on February 13, 1800. There is no better demonstration of our cultural investment in Shakespeare than this authentic fake.