Literary forgers take centre stage
Press release issued: 27 November 2003
Forgeries, fakes, counterfeits and hoaxes will be the focus of a one-day international conference at the University of Bristol on Saturday 29 November
Experts from Britain, Ireland, Germany, New Zealand, and the United States will meet to discuss the impact of literary forgers on the writing, editing, and criticism of the Romantic period.
The keynote speaker, Professor Jack Lynch of Rutgers University, USA, will address the relationships between the Bristol forger Thomas Chatterton, and the Shakespeare forger, William Henry Ireland.
Chatterton wrote a number of poems in a mock-medieval style and successfully passed them off as the work of a fifteenth century monk called Thomas Rowley. Ireland, a lawyer's apprentice born in 1777, created numerous documents supposedly written by Shakespeare. These included love letters to the playwright's wife, Anne Hathaway, manuscripts for Hamlet and King Lear and even new works such as Vortigern - a play that was eventually performed before a mutinous crowd at Drury Lane.
The conference will also include a special panel devoted to the phenomenon of Ossian, supposedly an ancient poet, whose Gaelic epics were later proved to be the work of the eighteenth century Scottish writer, James Macpherson. The 'discovery' of Ossian's poems sparked a raging enthusiasm for narrative poetry set in a wild and remote Celtic past - the Scottish equivalent of Homer.
The conference will also cover areas such as William Blake's metaphors of forging and the fabrication of Percy Bysshe Shelley's letters, published in 1852. The distinguished poet Robert Browning even wrote a prefix to the letters which were later discovered to be fakes.