Monday, July 11, 2011

John Quincy Adams, on Shakespeare

Ok, here's a very cool crossover. I had some fun once upon an April Fool's Day with the "Ireland Forgeries", a collection of counterfeit Shakespeare papers circa 1790s that included letters to Anne Hathaway, new plays, and other extraordinary things that were, of course, all fake.

Sure, we know that *now*. But how did other people of the time feel about it? Haven't you ever wondered what the American founding fathers thought about the discovery?

Well, now you can ;). Check out some of John Quincy Adams' writing on the topic:

Went with them and Mr. Vaughan to see Mr. Ireland [presumably William Henry's father Samuel], and saw several of his manuscripts which he assures have been lately discovered, and are original from the hand of Shakespear. They are deeds, billets, a love-letter to Anne Hatherrwaye with a lock of hair, designs done with a pen, a fair copy of Lear, three or four sheets of a Hamlet, and a Tragedy hitherto unknown of Vortigern and Rowena. The last we did not see, as unfortunately some company came, to which Mr. Ireland was obliged to attend, and we accordingly took our leave. The marks of authenticity born by the manuscripts are very considerable, but this matter will like to occasion as great a literary controversy as the supposed poems of Rowley, and those of Ossian have done.

(emphasis mine) This was found in Adams' diary dated November 19, 1795. So even then the reception among learned men seems to have been "They look authentic, but..."

There's much, much more, but I don't want to steal the original author's thunder. Go read the whole thing! How neat.

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