Shakespeare and the Will to Deceive

From The New York Times:

Art Somewhere buried under the floorboards of this splendidly devious novel is a real-life event. In 1794, a young Englishman, William Henry Ireland, came across something astonishing that he hurried to show his father: an old mortgage deed, with its seal intact, signed by none other than William Shakespeare.

The young man’s father, Samuel, an antiquarian and a passionate Shakespeare enthusiast, was thrilled, and still more thrilled when from the same mysterious source — an old chest in the possession of a reclusive aristocrat who wished his identity to remain secret — his son came up with a series of further discoveries. These included contracts; theatrical receipts; correspondence between Shakespeare and his patron, the Earl of Southampton; a letter to Shakespeare from Queen Elizabeth herself; a “profession of faith” in Shakespeare’s own hand, proving once and for all that he was a good Protestant; and the playwright’s own manuscript of “King Lear.” Alerted to the news, people crowded into Ireland’s house. James Bos­well fell to his knees to kiss the great playwright’s relics. Against his son’s vehement objections, the proud Samuel hurried most of these stupendous finds into print. But he held in reserve the best of them all, until they could be returned in glory to the stage where they belonged: two full-length plays by Shakespeare, both hitherto unknown, “Vortigern and Rowena” and “Henry II.”

More here.