Joseph Ritson, the antiquarian, stands at his desk writing in a large open book within a room filled with folios and vegetables. Aquatint by J. Sayers, 1803.

  • Sayers, James, 1748-1823.
22 March 1803
  • Pictures

About this work


The scene is set in Ritson's chambers in Gray's Inn where Ritson destroyed many of his manuscripts. Ritson stands on a torn copy of 'Dr Percy's Antient Balla(ds)' in broken shoes. From his pocket projects a pamphlet: 'The atheist's pocket companion'. At his feet is a large book showing a portrait of Thomas Warton stabbed through with a knife and fork. The shelves behind him are filled with vegetables and folios including a copy of 'the bible' and a pamphlet revealing the lettering: 'abstinence from animal food a moral duty'. An emaciated cat in chains strains in vain towards two rats. A cow's head appears through a window to the right munching a basket of leaves beside which is a paper inscribed: 'bill of fare/nettle soup/sour crout/horse beans/onions leeks'

Riston was an eccentric antiquary who had lived on milk and vegetables since 1772 and gradually sank into insanity. He declared himself an atheist in 1793. Warton was a historian of English poetry at Trinity college, Oxford


[London] : H. Humphrey, 22 March 1803.

Physical description

1 print : aquatint ; image 22.8 x 19.6 cm


Impiger iracundus inexorabilis acer ...and his nails like birds claws 4th Ch Daniel. J.S.Ft.

References note

British Museum, Catalogue of political and personal satires, Vol VIII, London 1947, no. 10171


Wellcome Collection 589427i



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