In my ongoing examination of contemporary accounts of the William Henry Ireland Shakespeare forgeries (previous installments: William Godwin, George Canning, John Quincy Adams), one of the most extensive sources is the diary of Joseph Farington (1747-1821), a well-known landscape painter active in the Royal Academy and other artistic organizations. Farington wrote often about the Irelands and their Shakespeare papers, and was an early skeptic of the documents' authenticity.
The entries below are drawn from The Diary of Joseph Farington, Volume II: January 1795-August 1796, edited by Kenneth Garlick and Angus Macintyre and published by Yale University Press in 1978. I've added some footnotes to identify the people mentioned by Farington [an attempt, anyway - corrections/additions are welcome!]. This post includes the entries for 1795; I'll add additional entries later this week.
Wednesday, 4 February 1795: "Lord Inchiquin1, I dined with. — Mr. Boswell and his 2 daughters2, Mr. Malone3, and Mr. & Mrs. Kemble4 there.
Malone related that Sam Ireland's son is said to be in possession of some manuscripts of Shakespeare and a whole play entitled Vortigern. — The story He told does not engage confidence when a man of Sam Irelands character is to support it, yet it is said that Dr. Wharton5 &c &c have seen part of the manuscripts and give credit to them.Wednesday, 22 April 1795: "Bensley the Actor6 has seen Irelands Shakespeare manuscripts and says there is nothing but what might be imitated."
Friday, 6 November 1795: "Mr. Steevens7 I met at the Shakespeare gallery. — He is not at liberty to communicate what He knows on the subject, but He is satisfied Sheridan8 has taken himself in, in the matter of Irelands pretended discovered play of Shakespeare. — not meaning that Sheridan believes it to be genuine."
Wednesday, 25 November 1795: "The Play of Vortigern is certainly to be brought forward after Christmas. It seems there are some passages, or scenes, of an obscene kind, which it has been necessary to alter, for representation. Sheridan was too idle to undertake the task; others were proposed to do it; at last it was left to Ireland to cook it up in such a way as He could. Lysons9 hears the Play was not divided into Acts, & scenes, regularly, this has been part of the necessary task also. — He is told that it is a flat business; and that Ritson10, who has read the whole, or parts, does not think it original."
Thursday, 17 December 1795: "Shakespeare Gallery I went to, and met there Westall11 & Ireland.
Kemble told Boaden12 that He had read the play of Vortigern, and that it was wretched stuff. Ireland sd. another of the players had told him, that the Play would be damned the first night."
Wednesday, 23 December 1795: "The Shakespeare Gallery I went to. G. Steevens & Nicol13 there. — We talked of Irelands Shakespearian discoveries, which both of them ridiculed. — I told Steevens it had by some been supposed that the whole was a fabrication of fun made up by him. He said He had heard the same, but were He disposed to play such a trick it wd. not be in conjunction with S. Ireland.
Ireland the Editor of Hogarth moralised14 came in. He told me that S Ireland now disclaims any knowledge of the person who gave the Shakespearian Manuscripts to his Son: but that, with them, He settled at the same time £280 a year on him. — He now avows having found a Bible found filled with marginal notes by Shakespare.
The deed of gift of this collection of materials which S Ireland says was delivered to an Ancestor of his of the same name, Ireland laughs at, from knowing that S Ireland cannot trace back to a great grandfather."
Tuesday, 29 December 1795: "Shakespeare Gallery I went to, — met Mr. Lodge of the Heralds Office there. He gave me his opinion of Irelands Shakespearian manuscripts which were published last Thursday15. He saw the manuscripts 6 months ago in company with Mr. Pye, the poet Laureat16, and to him them declared his opinion. He thinks them such gross forgeries that there is sufficient in every page to detect them. There is both internal an[d] external evidence against them. Speaking of the orthography, He said it is rather an imitation of that of Henry 7th. rather than of Elizabeth; and that were He to copy the whole agreeable to the orthography of the latter reign it would be a sufficient exposure of the forgery. — But in imitating the orthography, as in common in forgeries, they have overdone it: and have added more letters in words than were ever known at any period to have been used. — Nor and or for instance are spelt nore & ore and this by various supposed persons. — The Earl of Southampton is addressed my Lord, — which is quite modern; it would have been Right Honourable. He is also styled your grace, which would never have been used to a lower rank than a Duke. — Lord Southampton in turn writes to Shakespare, Dear William., and the letters conclude after the modern modern; one of them with yours. — The word composition was never used in those [times] in the sense in which it is now frequently accepted viz. to signify a work of authorship. — The word Compliment was never, in those days, introduced to express reciprocal civilities. — Lord Southampton gives Shakespeare £1000, a sum perhaps equal to £15000 at this time; and Shakespeare with equal gallantry returns one half of it. These acts of bounty and disinterestedness are performed in those days of feudal dignity, between an Earl, and a young player. — Anna is modern. There is no instance of the word being spelt but as Anne till modern times; when sentimental love poetry became fashionable.
G. Steevens came in. He brought in his pocket a manuscript play written by Middleton, to prove the difference of orthography when compared with Irelands imitations. — I went over to Edwards', the Bookseller17, to see Irelands publication. Three or four gentlemen were there who scouted the nonsense of the matter, & the form of the forgeries: In this Edwards joined, saying that what Ireland has published will cut all hopes of his succeeding in the imposition.
Edwards said Ireland has been very active in procuring names to his subscription list which amounted to 126. The Duke of Leeds told Edwards that Ireland called upon him, and the Duke supposing that four guineas (the subscription) was his object, offered the money; but Ireland declined it saying it was the name of His Grace he wanted. Of course He got both name and money; but the Duke seems to think with other people."
Thursday, 31 December 1795: At a meeting of the Royal Academy. "Some talk about Irelands manuscripts. All concurred in believing them to be forgeries."
More in future; the 1796 entries get even more interesting in the runup to the 2 April debut of Ireland's Shakespeare play, Vortigern. [Update: Part II; Part III]
1: Presumably Murrough O'Brien, the 5th Earl of Inchiquin (1726-1808).
2: James Boswell (1740-1795), Johnson's biographer. When Boswell died on 19 May 1795 Farrington wrote "Poor Boswell died this day, — at his House in Tichfield Street."
3: Edmond Malone (1741-1812), Shakespeare scholar/editor who would later be the main scholarly critic of the Ireland papers with his An Inquiry into the Authenticity of Certain Miscellaneous Papers and Legal Instruments, Published Dec. 24, 1795, and Attributed to Shakespeare, Queen Elizabeth, and Henry, Earl of Southampton (1796).
4: Perhaps Roger Kemble, the theater manager, and his wife, Sarah "Sally" Ward Kemble.
5: Joseph Warton, the younger brother of poet Thomas Warton.
6: Robert Bensley (~1740-1817).
7: George Steevens (1736-1800), another critic of the Ireland papers.
8: Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1751-1816), manager of the Drury Lane theatre, where Vortigern was staged.
9: Daniel Lysons (1762-1834), the antiquary.
10: Joseph Ritson (1752-1803), literary critic.
11: Richard Westall (1765-1836), painter.
12: James Boaden (1762-1839), an early defender of the papers who was persuaded of their true nature. He authored the 1796 pamphlet "A Letter to George Steevens, Esq. Containing a Critical Examination of the Papers of Shakespeare; published by Mr. Samuel Ireland."
13: George Nicol (~1740-1828), bookseller.
14: Presumably John Ireland (d. 1808), editor of Hogarth illustrated, among other works.
15: This was the folio edition of Ireland's Miscellaneous papers and legal instruments under the hand and seal of William Shakspeare: including the tragedy of King Lear, and a small fragment of Hamlet, from the original Mss. in the possession of Samuel Ireland, Of Norfolk Street. London: Printed by Cooper and Graham, Bow Street, Covent Garden. Published by Mr. Egerton, Whitehall; Messrs. White, Fleet Street; Messrs. Leigh and Sotheby, York Street, Covent Garden; Mr. Robson, and Mr. Faulder, New Bond Street; and Mr. Sael, opposite St. Clement’s Church, 1796.
16: Henry James Pye (1745-1813).
17: Likely James Edwards (1756-1816), bookseller of Pall Mall.