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Shakespeare Connected - Shakespeare and Literary Pilgrimage

6. ‘The Hair of the Head of Shakespere when 16 and in the years [sic] of his Death’

Mounted on a piece of vellum or similar material, this patent forgery probably dates from the early nineteenth century. In 2011, the hair was rediscovered in the SBT collection, together with a handwritten letter dated January 10, 1819, supposedly by the poet Samuel Rogers (1763-1855). This identifies Mary Hornby, the last resident of Shakespeare’s Birthplace, as the source of these locks of hair, and bequeaths them to the nation. The likelihood is that Mary Hornby herself produced this crude and ungrammatical forgery, although another possible suspect is W. H. Ireland. Ireland certainly produced a love-letter from Anne Hathaway to Shakespeare enclosing what purported to be some of her hair. Contemporary credulity derived from the nineteenth-century habit of collecting locks of hair to mark the end of childhood, as love-tokens, as mementoes of dead loved ones, and, when pertaining to celebrities such as the poet John Milton, as talismanic curiosities often passed down from one literary celebrity to another.

SBT 1971-12/1/1


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