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This is the true story of how a quiet, unremarkable, 19-year-old clerk almost pulled off the greatest literary hoax of all time. In the winter of 1795, a frustrated young writer named William Henry Ireland stood petrified in his father's London study as two of England's most esteemed men of letters, in powdered wigs, interrogated him about a tattered piece of paper that he claimed to have found while rummaging in an old trunk. It was a note from William Shakespeare-a memorabilia collector's equivalent of the Crown Jewels. Or was it? In the months that followed, Ireland produced a torrent of Shakespearean fabrications: letters, deeds, poetry, drawings-even an original full-length play, Vortigern and Rowena, that would be hailed as The Bard's lost masterpiece and staged at the famous Drury Lane Theatre. The documents were hastily written and forensically implausible, but those who inspected them were blind to their flaws. They ached to see firsthand what had flowed from Shakespeare's quill. And so they did. In this dramatic and improbable story of Shakespeare's teenaged double, Doug Stewart takes us to 18th century London and brings us face-to-face with the most audacious literary forger in history.
Da Capo Press Inc
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