In the winter of 1795, a frustrated young writer named William Henry Ireland stood petrified in his fathers study as two of Englands most esteemed scholars interrogated him about a tattered piece of paper that he claimed to have found in an old trunk. It was a note from William Shakespeare. Or was it? In the months that followed, Ireland produced a torrent of Shakespearean fabrications: letters, poetry, drawingseven an original full-length play that would be hailed as the Bards lost masterpiece and staged at the Drury Lane Theatre. The documents were forensically implausible, but the people who inspected them ached to see first hand what had flowed from Shakespeares quill. And so they did. This dramatic and improbable story of Shakespeares teenaged double takes us to eighteenth century London and brings us face-to-face with historys most audacious forger.
Doug Stewart writes frequently about history and the arts for Smithsonian magazine. A freelance journalist, his articles have also appeared in Time, Discover, and Reader's Digest. He lives in Ipswich,