Tale of 19th-century scholar who wanted to exhume Shakespeare’s body set to entertain Ilford residents
- Credit: Archant
Shakespeare has inspired devotion for hundreds of years – and one 19th-century scholar was such a fan he wanted to exhume his body to work out what the great playwright looked like.
The spotlight on the Bard is set to shine even brighter this year with the 450th anniversary of his birth, and one Hainault woman is using the occasion to highlight the life of Clement Mansfield Ingleby who lived in Valentines Mansion for 25 years.
Georgina Green is set to deliver a talk on Ingleby, including his bizarre plan to wrench Shakespeare’s body from its eternal slumber.
Ingleby went from being a solicitor to publishing 12 books on the poet and playwright in the 19th century.
Ms Green said: “This seemed an appropriate time to record his writings.”
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Ingleby was born in Edgbaston, Birmingham, on October 29, 1823. A clever man despite being “little educated due to ill health throughout his life,” he began studying at Trinity College, Cambridge University, in 1843.
Graduating in 1847 with a Bachelor of Arts degree, which he later added to with master’s and doctorate qualifications, Dr Ingleby began working with his solicitor father Clement.
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Although taken into partnership as a solicitor in the firm Ingleby, Wragge and Ingleby, he soon wanted to follow a different path.
Ms Green said: “He did not enjoy the legal profession and in his spare time he studied metaphysics, mathematics and English literature.
“He was a member of a debating society and a literary circle, contributing to their publications.”
After his father died in the early 1860s, Dr Ingleby moved to Valentines Mansion, in Emerson Road, Ilford, and decided to pursue his literary passions further.
His wife Sarah, who had been brought up by her uncle Charles Holcombe, had lived at the mansion since 1838.
Dr Ingleby’s interest in Shakespeare is believed to have developed through meeting scholar Howard Staunton and his first paper, The Neology of Shakespeare, was read before a Birmingham literary society in 1850.
It explored the introduction or use of new words in the playwright’s works.
Ms Green said: “This is fairly typical of his work; an analysis of Shakespeare’s use of words rather than a commentary on the meaning of his text.
“Clement, having been a solicitor, was very logical and used that to look at Shakespeare’s writing. He was looking at the texts and seeing if they were written by the same person – he was looking at the style.”
One of his later books, Shakespeare’s Bones, published in 1883, argued that the playwright’s skull should be exhumed in an attempt to discover what he really looked like.
“The proposal was attacked in the press and firmly rejected by the town council, but it shows that he was a man who wanted facts,” said Ms Green.
“In other writings, he explained that there is no certain likeness – no portrait said to be done during [Shakespeare’s] life has any provenance and could have been of any gentleman of that age. Later depictions are conflicting.
“Given the programmes which use modern techniques to reconstruct the head from a skull, I’m amazed at his visionary approach. This book is a valid case for doing that today.”
Dr Ingleby died on September 26, 1886.
Ms Green’s talk for the Ilford Historical Society takes place on April 14 at the Ilford Hospital Chapel, in Ilford Hill.
A previous event for the Wanstead Historical Society took place at Wanstead Library, Spratt Hall Road, on Thursday.