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Shakespeare Connected - Shakespeare and Literary Pilgrimage

5. Letter forged by W.H. Ireland, purporting to be from William Shakespeare to Judith Hathaway. Transcription in Captain Saunders’ papers.

Samuel Ireland’s disappointment at not finding ‘the long looked for treasure of the Bard’s papers’ on his travels eventually prompted his son, William Henry Ireland (1775-1835) to forge such a ‘treasure’. Amongst other items, he produced letters from Shakespeare, evidence of contemporaries’ strong desire for more personal biographical detail.  This letter is addressed to Shakespeare’s sister, ‘Mistress Judith Hathaway,’ back in Stratford, and provides evidence and circumstantial detail for the planting of the mulberry at New Place together with a trailer for further sensational ‘discoveries’: ‘You are a good saule for nourishing mie mulberrie tree this searching wether, the whiche you may remember that I planted when last with you, rather too late after the cuckoo had sung on Anna’s birth-daie, and I hope you maie live to gather berries from it, but not continue unwedded till then. Have you got my little sonnet on planting it? For if you have not, it is lost, like a thousand scraps of mie pen.’

ER 1/86/4, pp. 36-7


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