Joseph Ritson

From Wikiquote
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Such a shuffleing, nonsensical paragraph was, I firmly believe, never put together since the invention of letters. That which I do not, and which, I think, no one can, understand. I shall not meddle with.

Joseph Ritson (October 2, 1752September 23, 1803) was an English antiquarian noted more for his caustic style than for his scholarship.

Quotes about people


The Letters of of Joseph Ritson, Volume II

  • I am sorry to hear of the indisposition of Cumyng, who seemed a very intelligent and respectable man. It is, however, some consolation to you, on the approaching loss of a good friend, that you will get his library.
  • You will have perceived, I suppose, by your Magazine, that Herbert Croft has been obliged to relinquish the publication of his grand dictionary for want of subscribers. He is chiefly indebted, I believe, to the absurdity of his plan, which, by retaining all the blunders of Johnson and adding his own refutations, &c. doubled the bulk and price of the work. Besides, his printed specimen afforded no very promising idea of his etymological abilities ; and in fact some of his late letters in the newspapers seem to imply a derangement of intellect.
  • I am astonished that your friend Brand should be so absurd as to fancy that Gateshead means "the end of the road," instead of "the head of the goat;"and that Bede has confounded "gate, via, with goat, capra."
  • I am assured by Citoyenne Eaton that the preface to The rights of man was not written by doctor Parkinson (an apothecary at Hoxton); though I certainly believe (at present) that Paine knew nothing at all of the matter. This conviction, no doubt, gives me a very indifferent opinion of Daniel Isaac; but whether he deserves the gallows is another matter.

  • The library of Herbert Croft (author of "Love and Madness," &c.) is just now selling off by auction: but it seems to contain little or nothing in your way; nor, in fact, of much rarity or value, in any other.
  • I am sorry to say that I have looked over (for it is impossible that any one should read) your publication of" Scotish Poems of the sixteenth century" with astonishment and disgust. To rake up the false, scandalous, and despicable libels against the most beautiful, amiable, and accomplished princess that ever existed, whose injurious treatment,misfortunes, persecution, imprisonment, and barbarous murder, will be a lasting blot on the national character to the end of time, and which were, as they deserved, apparently devoted to everlasting oblivion and contempt, to stuff almost an entire volume with the uninteresting lives of such scoundrels as regent Murray and the laird of Grange, to publish in short such vile, stupid,and infamous stuff, which few can read, and none can approve, is a lamentable proof of a total want of taste or judgement, a disgrace to Scotish literature, degrades the reputation of the editor, and discredits your own. I must be free to tell you that I will not suffer such an infamous and detestable heap of trash to pollute and infect my shelves: it is therefore under sentence of immediate transportation, though much more fit for some other situation than a gentlemans library, or even a booksellers shop. I confess, at the same time, that the libel against the Tulchan bishop, though excessively scurrilous, has much merit, and would have been admissible in any collection of a different description.

  • I have great reason to doubt the truth of the anecdote you give (Appendix, p. 85, of your Memoirs) of Cunningham the poet (without an e). I knew him personally toward the latter part of his life, when those moderate sacrifices you speak of, had totally disqualified him from writing pastorals. His first and best pieces were produced before he had acquired that pernicious habit which impaired his faculties and shortened his days. Whiskey may inspire, but I will never believe that gin does.

James Cumyng

  • Your narrative of the dying moments and last advice of poor Cumyng is really so ludicrous and so lamentable, that one does not know whether to laugh or cry. I hope you will take care that a piece of eloquence so interesting and important to society does not perish with its author. Suppose you were to draw it up as a communication for the next volume of "Transactions of the Antiquaries of Scotland," under the title of "Cumyngs Legacy, or a Dissertation upon." If you should happen to be at a loss from want of an acquaintance with the subject, Master Smellie will doubtless be ready to lend you any assistance in order to do honour to the memory of his departed friend. Or, perhaps, as you have it in contemplation to favour the public with some biographical anecdotes of the author, which I dare say will be much more entertaining, and just as important, as Boswells Life of Johnson, you might with great propriety enhance the value of the work by so curious an appendix. I am, however, really sorry to lose so worthy and respectable an acquaintance, whom I hoped to render a valuable correspondent. Apropos. Are my ancient spurs, &c. deposited in the archives of the Society? I have no great expectation from his library; though, I suppose, the heraldical books may make it an object.
  • Mr. Gibbon is said to be now employed (at Lausanne) in writing the History of England. For my own part I think he has already written too much, and that his merit would have been more generally acknowledged had he never completed his Decline of the Empire.
  • Your observations on Godwins inaccuracies are well founded. I apprised him of all or most of them long ago; and can only attribute their retention to his obstinacy, or ignorance, I am, however, preparing another list for him. They say he is about another novel.
  • You must cease to consider Lord Hailes as a most faithful publisher; as I who have collated many of his articles with the Bannatyne MS. know the contrary to my cost. I do not, indeed, mean to say that he is so intentionally faithless as Ramsay; but I do say that his transcripts have been very inaccurate, that he has in numerous instances wilfully altered the original orthography, and not unfrequently misinterpreted the text of the MS. which I suspect he was occasionally unable to read.
  • I shall be glad if you will inform me who was the editor of Montrose's memoirs, published in 1756. I had understood him to be the late lord Hailes, which I now fancy a mistake, as his lordships character seems to savour too much of the virulency of whiggism for an admirer of Montrose.

General Sir Alexander Halket

  • I have been able to meet with no further intelligence about Sir Alexander Halket. He is said to be the author of Gilderoy, and I strongly suspect him to have had a principal hand in the forgery of Hardyknute, which is all that I know of him.
  • I suppose you will find citizen Hodgsons translation of the Systime executed in a very slovenly and inaccurate manner. The poor fellow is starving in Newgate, and I do not understand he is likely to receive much benefit by the sale of his work.
  • You appear to have seen Holcrofts pamphlet; which certainly displays much ability and goodwriting, but most of all the extreme vanity and self-importance of the author, which is equally ridiculous and disgusting. He thinks it impossible that any court or jury in the world could have resisted the force of his combined eloquence and philosophy; and actually told me that hewould gladly have given one of his hands for the opportunity of making his defence, which by the way would certainly have hanged him, however favourable his judges might have been beforehand.
  • Your friend Hutchinson has finished his history in a most slovenly, disgraceful, and even swindling manner. To compel his subscribers to take what they had on a formal application uniformly rejected, I mean the account of Allerton, Howdenshires and the North-Bishopric, was certainly a rascally and sharking trick, which one would not easily have suspected in a gentleman-author. You have occasionally observed, no doubt, what a confoundedly ignorant fellow he is: in looking over his Excursion to the lakes, and View of Northumberland, lately, I was perfectly astonished at the monstrous blunders I met with...Now do not you instantly perceive how abominably this blockhead has corrupted a parcel of names which every one but such an ass must have been perfectly acquainted with...
  • Apropos, what is your expectation from Herbert Crofts dictionary? I wish he may have sense and spirit to investigate the principles of orthography, of which Dr. Johnson was totally ignorant. We want a system prodigiously to prevent the fluctuation of the language.
  • Talking of historys, i suppose we are to have nothing further from that fellow Hutchinson: We shall therefore lose the most interesting part of his subject. An ATTORNEY, who HAS BUT ONE OBJECT AND THAT IS THE LUCRE OF GAIN, should never be encourageed in attempts of this nature.
  • Have you seen our friend Langdales History of North Allerton? You will hear, perhaps, or suspect that I gave him some little assistance; but he seems to have been beholden to a much cleverer fellow. I dare say you will not think me capable of saying that a structure was pulled down by "illiterate hands."
  • This is believed to be the completest list of this voluminous, prosiack, and driveling monk, that can be truth, and fact, these stupid and fatigueing productions, which by no means deserve the name of poetry, and their stil more stupid and disgusting author, who disgraces the name and patronage of his master Chaucer, are neither worth collecting (unless it be as typographical curiositys, or on account of the beautyful illuminations in some of his presentation copys), not even worthy of preservation: being only suitablely adapted "ad ficum & piperem," and other more bare and servile uses. How little he profited by the correction, or instructions of his great patron is manifest in almost every part of his elaborate drawlings, in which there are scarcely three lines together of pure and acurate metre.
  • You will have heard, I presume, that Wintons Chronicle, by a Mr. Macpherson, is in great forwardness. It is to surpass, in point of correctness and typography, any thing that has hitherto appeared. But, I confess, the specimen I have seen betrayed symptoms of licentiousness and affectation which I can neither approve of nor account for.
  • Now Mr. Malone will take this exceedingly ill; for Mr. Malone has a very high opinion of himself, and a very mean one of every body else. But I confess I do not seek to please Mr. Malone: I wish to rescue the language and sense of an admirable author from the barbarism and corruption they have acquired in passing through the hands of this incompetent and unworthy editor. In a word, I mean to convict and not to convince him.
    • Cursory Criticisms on the Edition of Shakspeare, published by Edmund Malone
  • But it is not the want of ear and judgement only of which I have to accuse Mr. Malone: he stands charged with divers other high crimes and misdemeanors against the divine majesty of our sovereign lord of the drama; with deforming his text, and degrading his margin, by intentional corruption, flagrant misrepresentation, malignant hypercriticism, and unexampled scurrility. These charges shall be proved--not, as Mr. Malone proves things, by groundless opinion and confident assertion, but--by fact, argument, and demonstration. How sayest thou, culprit? Guilty or not guilty?
    • Cursory Criticisms on the Edition of Shakspeare, published by Edmund Malone
  • Mr. Malone can not read, and is totally ignorant of the consequences of his own absurd ideas; he could never else have thought such a line as the following consistent with the laws of metre: '"What wheels? Racks? fi-ers? What flaying? boiling?' Thus, however, he insists that Shakespeare intended us to read--swor-en, char-rums, instead of sworn, charms; su-ar, for sure, &c. &c. converting one syllable into two, two into three or four and so on.
    • Cursory Criticisms on the Edition of Shakspeare, published by Edmund Malone
  • Every reader of this incomparable edition will have frequent occasion to observe that the editor "draweth out the thread of his verbosity finer than the staple of his argument." The present instance, indeed, is nothing in comparison to pages of inanity with which the work abounds, and which, on account of their "true no-meaning," are actually incapable of refutation or discussion.
    • Cursory Criticisms on the Edition of Shakspeare, published by Edmund Malone
  • I have just dipped far enough into Mr. Malones edition of Shakspeare to find he has not been sparing of his epithets whenever he has occasion to introduce me to the notice of his readers. In fact, I believe I originally gave him some little provocation. But I thought your countrymen had been remarkable rather for the suddenness of their anger than the duration of their malignity. Have the morals of this worthy editor been corrupted by his long residence amongst us?
  • I have still some intention of printing an edition of Shakspeare, in which I shall carefully attend to what you say. I send you a pamphlet in which I flatter myself I have totally demolished the great Mr. Malone. He has attempted to answer it by the most contemptible thing in nature.
  • You will do Mr. Malone great injustice if you suppose him to be in all respects what I may have endeavoured to represent him in some. In order that he may recover your more favourable opinion, let me recommend to your perusal, the discussion, in his prolegomena, intitled "Shakspeare, Ford and Jonson ;." and his "Dissertation on the three parts of King Henry the Sixth" (to which I am more indebted for an acquaintance with the manner of our great dramatic poet than to any thing I ever read).
  • Dr. Percy has confounded the vesper bell with the curfew. The reason of this temporary cessation of bloodshed, proceeded from respect to the Virgin Mary; for, at this hour, the angelical salutation was sung; whence it was sometimes called the Ave Maria bell. It is still customary, upon the Spanish stage, for the actors, in the midst of the grossest and most indecent buffoonery, to fall down on their knees, and pull out their beads, at the sound of this bell.
  • I am sorry to say that Dr. Farmer has not been able to find the volume of tracts containing "Sir D. Lindsays Satire." He supposes it to have been lent to Mr. Malone, to whom Mr. Steevens has promised to make immediate application. But perhaps you have already learned that Pinkerton has lately published these satires from a (very incorrect) copy of the Hyndford MS. together with the various readings of the printed edition: published under the name of J. Nichols, for C. Dilly in the Poultry, 3 vols, crown 8vo. price 9s. He has had the impudence and dishonesty to insert in this collection a curious old MS. poem in my possession, of which a friend of his had some years since surreptitiously obtained a copy, and which on that friends application from him, I positively refused my leave to print.
  • Pinkerton seems busy in his intended history of Scotland; whether it is to be the same with that advertised under the name of Robert Heron, I cannot learn. His treatment of the " Celtic savages" is to be speedily resented in print by the Reverend John Lane Buchanan, nominal author of "Travels in the Western Hebrides," who seems in fact, to be as very a Celt as his antagonist could possibly wish for. I am sorry to find so good a cause in the hands of such an incompetent advocate.
  • Our friend Pinkerton, I am told, to complete the infamy of his character, has turned critical reviewer, a situation, of course, which admits neither truth nor honesty. He will therefore have the pleasure of thundering his own damnation upon the heads of others, among whom, I suppose, he will take care not to forget...J. Ritson
  • From the falsehood, impudence and scurrility of The Critical Review, I conclude that Pinkerton is one of its principal authors, and particularly the gentleman to whom I and my little publication are so much obliged. You will think me too revengeful when I wish he were compelled to subscribe his name to his criticisms. The Shakspeare papers, of which you have heard so much, and which I have carefully examined, are, I can assure you, a parcel of forgeries, studiously and ably calculated to deceive the public: the imposition being, in point of art and foresight, beyond any thing of the kind that has been witnessed since the days of Annius Viterbiensis...
  • I observe with pleasure, what Mr. Herd has remarked upon the confusion made by Pinkerton of the two Pennecuiks. He has, with equal ignorance, confounded the two Hamiltons (of Bangour and Gilbertfield). But, indeed, his blunders are venial when compared with the more criminal parts of his literary and moral character.

The resignation of Lord North

  • You will before this I suppose, have heard of the dismission of those miscreant blockheads who formed the late infamous administration, some of whom it is to be hoped will yet hop headless. You'll see more in time. The national ship is now without either pilot or officers, there not being a minister in place. A mutiny among the crew is every moment expected. However I think you may begin to prepare yourself for a trip to the Netherlands. Peace! Peace! will be the undoubted blessing of the new government...We may now begin to hope for the representation of a New Comedy called, "The Blessings of the Constitution restored."
  • I am sorry to learn the death of poor Smellie, whose name reminds me of a whimsical anecdote. In the course of a conversation one evening at the Tripe-club (when I was last in Edinburgh,) upon the aversion which the people of Scotland had formerly borne to the family at present on the throne, Smellie remarked, as an equally strong and singular instance, that they had given the royal name, Geordie, to a sir-reverence [human feces]. Now, on looking casually over "The works of Captain Alex. Ratcliffe," printed in 1696, but apparently written some years before, I find that this illustrious name had been thus lamentably degraded before the present family was heard of; from which, of course, as a loyal subject, I am anxious to remove so dirty an imputation. The actual origin of this curious appellation it is now, perhaps, impossible to ascertain.
  • I inclose you a pamphlet lately published by Stewart (he does not deserve the name of citizen) which he represented to me as the first political production of the age. I mean of course to have no further acquaintance with him...
  • I called some days since at the White Bear, but was informed that citizen Bruin was out of town. Taking a walk however on Sunday evening to Bagnigge Wells I saw him entering one of the rooms, disguised, like a gentleman, in a new white coat and an umbrella in his hand, which made me the less forward to accost him, as I presume he is no longer "the individual John" than he wears a blue coat with a red cape. Indeed, I am so disgusted with his bigotted prejudices and absurd opinions, that the continuation of our acquaintance will be owing rather to ceremony than to esteem...
  • Stewart is just arrived from America, and as mad as ever. He now proposes a course of lectures upon mental capacity, or, in other words, to teach people to think; which he seems to flatter himself will be attended with success: I am of a different opinion.
  • Mr. Fraser Tytler, who promised me to look after it, is probably dissatisfied with the manner in which I have thought myself obliged to differ from his father; but which is no other, I believe, than he himself differed from Hume and Robertson. Magis amica Veritas was his motto, and is mine.
  • For my own part, I often think that if I were some years younger and perfectly independent, I would venture myself among the inhospitable savages of Connaught or Munster, of whom Twiss was so much afraid, in order to acquire their language in its original purity...I can make nothing, however, of his "Vindication of the Ancient History of Ireland." He seems to be somewhat in the condition in which Festus (I think it was) supposed Paul; as, if much learning have not made him mad, it has made him, at least, completely ridiculous and absurd.
  • This faucon brode you most sagaciously interpret to be a bird ...Though such unparalleled ignorance, such matchless effrontery, is not, Mr. Warton, in my humble opinion, worthy of any thing but castigation or contempt, yet, should there be a single person, beside yourself, who can mistake the meaning of so plain, so obvious a passage (which I much suspect to have been corrupted in coming through your hands) I shall beg leave to inform him, that a faucon brode is nothing more or less than a broad fauchion.
  • You must either, Mr. Warton, deal in very strange histories, or else you are very unmindful of what you read, or careless of what you say. And, indeed, I cannot but think, if that good and wholesome discipline, which the name of MILTON may probably call to your remembrance, were still in use at Trinity College, the more than childish ignorance of a certain near friend of yours would hardly escape without experiencing its salutary effects.
  • Your blunders are beyond computation, "out of all cess;" and I have neither the leisure nor the patience to detect you in every one. But your ignorance is so amazing and unaccountable, in many of them, that I cannot choose but bestow more attention upon them than I otherwise would do. For instance, how could you contrive to misinterpret, and corrupt the above simple phrase hedde ferly...
  • It is, in my opinion, a most extraordinary, and, I hope and believe, unparalleled circumstance, that a man of eminence in the literary world should, in order to enhance the bulk and price of his writings, hazard his reputation upon, and descend to, or rather be guilty of, such low, such paltry, such dishonourable, and even dishonest artifices, as almost to deserve the name and punishment of a--SWINDLER.
  • I have lost my old friend Tom Warton —Well!" I war not with the dead," and shall treat his ashes with the reverence I ought possibly to have bestowed on his person. Unfortunately he is introduced, not always in the most serious or respectful manner, in a work which has been long printed, but which I think my bookseller does not choose to publish till both the editor and all his friends and enemies are buried in oblivion.
  • It will be difficult, however, if not impracticable to form a complete collection of David Williamses publications...You probably overrate the merit of the above… Godwin says he is never without an eye to self; and, in fact, a man of talents, who can puff Velnos vegetable sirop, and fawn upon the Prince of Wales, cannot be a very virtuous character. I have a notion, indeed, that he is a plausible parasite, and that it was as much by well-managed flattery as by profound politics he insinuated himself into the good graces of the citizeness Roland.
  • For my part, I abominate mendicancy of every description, and think it much more honourable in a distressed man to hang than to beg. Besides, citizen Yorke well knows, though you may not, that the London Corresponding Society is chiefly composed of poor mechanics who find it a sufficiently hard matter to support themselves and their families, setting aside several of their members who are languishing in penury, sickness and confinement, and whose wives and children are literally perishing for want. I would therefore recommend it to you to make no more applications of this sort. Citizen Yorke is said to be a man of some property, which he has been long enough in prison to derive assistance from; but he is also said to be a lover of money, and refused to join the Scotish Convention as a delegate from one of these societies because it either would not or could not advance him beforehand as much as he insisted on. To confess the truth, the more I see of these modern patriots and philosophers the less I like them. All of them disapproved of Geralds having recourse to the Scotish advocates, though it was but to argue what we call a point of law; and yet, when their own precious existence was supposed to be in danger, they were ready enough to court the means of defence which they had before so uniformly reprobated. Their constant cant is, the force and energy of mind, to which all opposition is to be ineffectual; but none of them, I say, has ever chosen to rely upon that irresistible power in his own case. I really think that Thelwall is the best of them, and yet I find myself pretty singular in my good opinion of him. His vindication, however, let his morals be what they may, is certainly a most able and argumentative performance; perfectly adapted to the occasion; and would, I think, if actually delivered, have been well received and had its due effect: which is a great deal more than I can say in favour of citizen Holcrofts, though it has much merit, no doubt, as a composition, and may be read with more advantage than it would have been heard. Let citizen Yorke, therefore, exert himself in his own defence; he can do that surely without a fee; or if he must have a solicitor and counsel, let him openly tell the court that he has not a shilling to hire them with. But by no means let him beg...
  • Mister Yorke (for a culprit in a black silk coat does not appear to deserve the title of citizen) is certainly a very extraordinary young man: I had no idea of his being but three and twenty. All the papers that I have seen give a very imperfect account of his trial, which I shall be glad to peruse at large. . . . The sentence, however, will be a mere flea-bite, some three or four years imprisonment with a trifling fine, and so far as one is capable of judging from present appearances, will never be executed.

Miscellaneous quotes


Robin Hood

  • Dr. Fuller to Ritson: "But Who made him[Robin Hood] a judge? or gave him a commission to take where it might be best spared, and give where it was most wanted?"
  • Ritson: "That same power, one may answer, which authorises kings to take where it can be worst spared, and give it where it is least wanted. Our hero, in this respect, was a knight-errant; and wanted no other commission than that of justice, whose cause he militated."

British elections and politics

  • The general election, which I suppose is entirely over on your side of the gutter, is here in the very zenith of confusion. It affords nothing remarkable however; the usual charges of feasting, drunkenness, bribery, perjury, &c. are every where rung, and fully justify an observation made by somebody or other, that the English, who are only free once in seven years, make such an ill use of their liberty as to be altogether unworthy even of so small a particle of it.
  • Always prefer Tory or Jacobite writers; the Whigs are the greatest liars in the world. You consult history for facts, not principles. The Whigs, I allow, have the advantage in the latter, and this advantage they are constantly labouring to support by a misrepresentation of the former. A glaring instance of this habitual perversion is their uniform position that the King, Lords and Commons, are the three estates of the realm; than which nothing can be more false. Now, it so happens, that the bad principles of the Tories are corroborated by the facts and records of history, which makes it their interest to investigate and expose the truth: and I can readily believe that all the alterations which Hume professes to have made in his history in favour of that party were strictly just. The revolution itself was so iniquitous a transaction, and we have had such a succession of scoundrels since it took place, that you must not wonder if corruption or pusillanimity have prevented historians from speaking of both as they deserve.
  • You will perceive by to-days paper that lord Malmsbury is about to return as wise as he went. Whatever the ministers object was in this ridiculous embassy, he has been apparently disappointed. It is a notorious fact that the embarrassments of government are beyond anything ever known. The treasury is unable to pay the smallest bill, though perpetually besieged by clamorous duns: and it turns out that even the miserable pittance collected from the police-offices (being the weekly amount of fees, fines, &c.) has, most rapaciously and dishonestly, been applied to the exigencies of the state, while the tradesmen, constables and other persons, who should be paid out of the money, are in the greatest distress and have actually advertised a general meeting to consider how they can obtain relief. Not a soul seems to have the remotest conception how Mr. Pitt will be able to weather the impending storm.

Corrections to his work

  • I shall only request the favour to add that it would be most absurd nay inexpressibly impertinent and foolish in me to dispute the right you have in common with every other person of controverting my opinions or correcting my errors: a liberty of which no one perhaps has made a greater use than myself. I think I need call no ghost from the grave to explain the difference between information and attack. Far from being offended, you say, with any person who should acquaint you that you had a hole in your stocking or some dirt on your face, you would think yourself much obliged to him; and so should I, but not if he accompanied the information with a kick on the shin or a box on the ear. I have nothing to object to your inserting the notes of Mr. Tyrwhitt and Mr. Malone. They had received some provocation, and if they have advanced any thing I dislike I can find a speedier method of being even with them than that you are so obliging as to point out. And do you seriously think that after being gibbeted for eight or ten years in the margin of your edition it is a sufficient compensation that I stand a chance of obtaining a reversal of my sentence from your successor? No, no, e'en let me hang on.
  • I am much obliged by the pains you have taken in detecting the blunders of the English Anthology. Some of them, however, are those of the author himself, or of the authority, at least, whence the piece is taken, and for these, of course, neither editor nor printer seems responsible: as to the rest one or other of us must plead guilty.


  • As writing seems to be attended with some difficulty if not uneasiness, you have only to put down a figure of 4 or 5 before a cypher to satisfy me of the verity of the matter: a nod, you know, is as good as a wink to a blind horse.


  • It may be impossible to prolong life, but it is frequently in our power to smooth the approaches of death; and they who die happily are certainly more to be envied than those who live otherwise.
  • I inclose the catalogue of your friend Jackson the quakeers library. Perhaps you have already heard that the owner cut his throat in the wine-cellar, where he was accustomed to retire after the family had gone to bed: and there, as one of his servants observeed, was his "dear head found lyeing among the hogsheads." You see the various ways there are of creeping out of the world.
  • I want to put my little affairs in order that I may live, if I am to live, or at least die, in comfort...and do, my good friend, let me then have a final account with you; for I am strongly inclined to suspect that we shall never meet again.
  • Does the expression Jugulatio, orjugulatus est, in the Ulster annals, imply strictly the cutting of a mans throat, or merely the putting him to death?


  • I can easily conceive that you see no reason for so much punctiliousness, but people act from their own conviction and their own feelings, and for my part I shall very readily confess that I had much rather both be and have a declared enemy, than an insincere friend.
  • I should have expected to hear of an attack being made upon me at Constantinople as soon as at Dublin. They, I am aware, who play at bowls must expect rubbers; but I shall never be sorry to have my enemy at a distance.
  • People who like him make it a ruling principle to sacrifice on all occasions friendship to interest, are seldom prepared for the consequences of their scoundrel behaviour. If he wanted a reconciliation, he knew upon what terms it was to be obtained...I beg leave to differ from you in the opinion that I "have carried resentment far enough,"—I seldom relinquish it while I remember the offence, and would not have you be surprised if I carry it to my grave.
  • The modern practice of authors is rather to rival than assist one another; and indeed a mysterious jealousy on one side seems naturally enough to generate a secret hostility on the other.
  • My desire to reside for a few weeks at or near Paris has been increasing ever since the Revolution, and is in reality very strong; which you will easily conceive when I give it as a decided opinion that no people ancient or modern was ever so deserving of admiration.
  • I purpose setting off in the course of a few days for Paris where I mean to reside till the beginning of October. I shall not fail of paying my respects to the Irish monarch at Versailles, and will use my endeavours to procure a correct drawing of his august person.
  • Well, and so, i got to Paris at last; and was highly gratifyed with the whole of my excursion. I admire the French more than ever. They deserveed to be free, and they really are so. You have read their new constitution: can any thing be more admirable? We, who pretend to be free, you know, have no constitution at all. Paris abounds with antiquities, and public monuments, which you would be delighted to see. There are three magnificent libraries; two of which at least, are infinitely beyond either Bodleys or the Museum, both for printed books and manuscripts. When uniteed, as they probablely will be in a little time, they will form the first collection in the world. All three are open to every one who choosees to go, without previous application or any exceptions. The French read a great deal, and even the common people (such, i mean, as cannot be expected from their poverty to have had a favorable education, for there is now no other distinction of rank,) are better acquainted with their ancient history than the English nobility are with ours. They talk familiarly of Charlechauve, and at St. Denis i observeed that all the company, mostly peasants or mechanics, recognizeed with pleasure the portrait of La Pucelle. Then, as to modern politics, and the principles of the constitution, one would think that half the people in Paris had no other employment than to study and talk about them. I have seen a fishwoman reading the journal of the National assembly to her neighbour who appeared to listen with all the avidity of Shakspeares blacksmith. You may now consider their government as completely settleed, and a counter-revolution as utterly impossible: They are more than a match for all the slaves in Europe. I could have got German books now in Paris; but they are by no means cheap, and i am too ignorant of the language to be sure that either the subject or the composition would be worth your notice. The incloseed, which looks like a play, i picked up merely to shew that i did not forget you. The French booksellers publish no catalogues, which seems rather extraordinary, as they are very numerous, and many of them have considerable stocks.


  • One should have some sort of a mental thermometer to ascertain the boiling and freezing points of a mans friendship. At least (to change my metaphor) it would be very important to know "the sticking place" of the machine, lest by screwing too high you break it in pieces, or render it of no further use.




  • Though I rather think he went a little too far, in putting his friend Mrs. Wisemans cat to death for killing a mouse, which, perhaps nature, certainly education, had taught her to look upon as a duty....
  • You talk of sending me the pebbles of the brook in exchange for the gold of Ophir: you return me the pearls of the Ocean for the mud of the Thames.
  • To establish yourself at Stockton you have nothing to do but, by dint of evidence, &c. to gain a desperate cause or two, ruin two or three honest, and hang two or three innocent men, and your fortune is made.
  • One story's good, they say, till another's told. Your clients, I will do you the justice to believe, can lye no faster than you can swear. But you seem to forget that the judge and jury generally have the curiosity to hear both sides. You will find it no difficult matter perhaps to black-ball Sam S. but if you can white-wash Mr. H. you'll be a clever fellow indeed.
  • to the people, I don't care a single farthing what they say, indeed I am too well acquainted with their natural propensity to lying and scandal, to expect either thanks or good words for my endeavours to serve them.
  • With respect to charity jobs, I am no more fond of them than yourself, and beg that this may be the last I receive from you, as I plainly perceive, if you can get an agent to do your business for nothing, it will in a very little time consist of nothing else but charity jobs.
  • ...but if you succeed in persuading this poor devil to part with every penny of his own profits, in stripping him to the skin, in picking him to the bone, Jonathan Wild was a fool to you, that's all. You have my full and free consent to do whatever you please with the fellow, and god send him a good deliverance. But you won't forget to lend me the cash!
  • By heaven, I verily believe if he were only to employ you to draw him up a lease for a year, he would never be able to get out of your clutches as long as he lived. ...Old Slangy was a fool to you.
  • You cannot say that I have ever been backward in doing justice to your ingenious contrivances and unremitting assiduity in pursuit of money. I foresaw the success of your design upon the poor Count, too well concerted, indeed, to give him a chance of eluding it. But I am not yet sufficiently hardened to congratulate you upon an event which affords the immediate prospect of a jail for your client, and the not very distant one of a gallows—or at least a pillory—for yourself. Jonathan Wild was a great man, to be sure; but I would not have you forget that he was hanged at last.
  • Wolleys reflection on your proposal of drawing under the bar is certainly just...if it had not been for that little dirty place in the Savoy, I should most probably at this moment have been either in a jail, an attorneys office, or stationers shop; and it would be hard to say which of those situations is the worst.
  • You would be a slave to the attorneys, Whom I Have Found NOT ONLY THE MOST IGNORANT AND CAPRICIOUS, BUT THE MOST INSINCERE, UNPRINCIPLED, AND IN EVERY RESPECT, WORTHLESS OF MEN. In a word you had much better hang yourself at once than begin to draw under the bar. If you do not immediately accept Wolleys offer you may resign yourself to everlasting damnation, as there will not be a chance left of your doing well.
  • I thank you for the perusal of citizen Stanhopes letter, which does him great credit, no doubt, in several being perfectly clear...there is no law or dictum whatever which can render it criminal to supply a traitor, felon or other malefactor with the means of defending himself on his trial. But I say again, it is infinitely more commendable for a man of talents, accused of virtuous acts or intentions, by the name of treason or sedition, to depend entirely upon his own powers, than to be beholden to the prostituted eloquence of professional hirelings, let their abilities be what they may, procured too by means of a beggarly subscription: though no one has had energy enough to do so in this country. If Horne Tooke had defended himself, without assistance, he might, indeed, have been hanged, but, I believe, as he told the court, he would have been the last that suffered under such laws.

Literary critics

  • It suits your purpose, no doubt, to delude the unwary by false colors; as the devil, when he commences innkeeper, hangs out an angel for his sign. The real meaning, however, is that you '--set down ALL in malice.' Shakspears morality, in the hands of a Reviewer, is to be read backward, like a witch's prayer.
    • Cursory Criticisms on the Edition of Shakspeare Published by Edmond Malone Critical Reviewers preface


  • You may give Citizen Equality a hint that I find it prudent to say as little as possible upon political subjects, in order to keep myself out of Newgate.
  • With respect to a revolution, though I think it at no great distance, it seems to defy all calculation for the present. If the increase of taxes, the decline of manufactures, the high price of provisions, and the like, have no effect upon the apathy of the sans culottes here, one can expect little from the reasoning of philosophers or politicians. When the pot boils violently, however, it is not always in the cooks power to prevent the fat from falling into the fire. But suppose a revolution do happen, how is it to provide for you? People will have to work for their bread, I presume, pretty much as they do at present; for a long series of years at least; and he who has nothing will be in equal danger of starving. In fact the idea of an approaching change should influence you the rather to fix yourself in a business or situation which would enable you to take advantage of it when it did come: and I do not see but an attorney is as likely to make his way in case of a revolution as any other member of the profession.
  • I hope your patriotic exertions, of which this is by no means the first, will be productive in time of the success they merit; but am afraid that the vices of government, which "infect to the north star," are inimical, at present, to every species of reformation.
  • The attorney general has prepared no less than three indictments against Eaton for his "Hogs wash," and a fourth against poor Spence for his "Pigs meat:" so that these two worthy swineherds seem to have brought their hogs to a fine market. I have not yet seen the latter, but Eatons daughter informs me that he has long made up his mind for another imprisonment, and has accordingly taken a shop in Newgate-street, that he may have his family near him, and that the great cause, which he appears to have much at heart, may not be neglected in his confinement. We have not been hitherto able to do any thing for our friend Rickman, who sent me the other day one of citizen Paines pens, with some pretty occasional verses, which you may probably like to see.
  • Whatever change may take place you must have better pretensions, I presume, to intitle yourself to its advantages than a set of political and religious opinions; unless you think it sufficient to emulate the bons citoyens who make it their business, in rags and tatters, to discuss questions in the Jardin de la revolution, for the good of their country.
  • But what danger either can be in from any event that I, at least, have in contemplation I really do not comprehend. No reformer, Painite, or whatever you please to call us, proposes to put himself in a worse condition than he is in at present: and every one has something of his own, such as it is —I myself have a little. You may therefore be assured that the most violent revolutionist is as little anxious as yourself for any change that would put in jeopardy the well earned fruits of your honest industry. If, indeed, you were a sinecure placeman or pimping pensioner of ten or twenty thousand a year you might I confess have some little reason to fear. But as it is, I can perceive that you have a good deal to gain and nothing at all to lose. For my part, though I do not clearly see what I shall get by a revolution, I possess a place which brings me in from fifty to one hundred a year, and that I shall be certain to lose. The most prominent feature in the new system is the abolition of taxes; and, since you are an expert arithmetician, and able calculator, I shall be glad to learn the specific injury you will sustain by that. No, no; depend upon it, my friend, that your ideas on this subject are a little erroneous: and, if you think truth preferable to falsehood and right to wrong, I would recommend you to enlighten your mind by an attentive erusal of the "Rights of man," and Godwins "Enquiry concerning Political Justice," both which, I presume, you may procure if you have an inclination. At any rate, when the row begins, I should think it a point of prudence to remain a temperate spectator, till, at least, the contest is fairly decided...
  • You are sufficiently acquainted with the wild and unfounded notions published by Mr. Tytler and others, upon the subject of Scotish Music. The character given of Scotish men by old surly Johnson was, generally speaking, far from unjust. They prefer any thing to truth, when the latter is at all injurious to the national honour: nor are they, as far as I can perceive, very solicitous about it on any occasion.
  • I am now satisfied that no one can tell me from good authority what was the vulgar language of the South of Scotland in the Xllth century; I, however, entirely concur with you in opinion, that it was the English Saxon.
  • Shoals of Scotchmen are arriving here every day; the difficulty, I should imagine, would be to find one going back. Edinburgh, at the same time, is so very small a place, that you may be easily acquainted with the motions of every individual from your shop-door. Formerly, I have been told, when a Scotchman intended a journey to the South, he used to ring the cryers bell for a quarter of a year beforehand, in order to indemnify himself against the enormous expences of the Newcastle waggon, by the packets and parcels he got the charge of from his neighbours; but at present, I suppose, the neighbours go too— not in the Newcastle waggon, I mean, but the mail-coach—Tempora mutantur!
  • Wintons chronicle, I understand, is to be published early this winter. The editor is Mr. Macpherson, (not the Highland impostor); and I am assured that the utmost accuracy and integrity is to be manifested on the occasion: either of which, you know, is pretty extraordinary in a Scotchman. Indeed, I am apt to suspect the publishers abilities rather than his honesty: but he has got a very masterly assistant.
  • A Scotchman in a passion must necessarily be a very ferocious and dangerous animal: it is therefore, very well for me to have been at so great a distance when the fit came on; otherwise, perhaps, instead of an angry letter, I should have received your dirk in my wem. Egertons advice, no doubt, was meant to be confined to English Booksellers, as he must be thoroughly sensible, if it were only from his dealings with you, of the immaculacy of his Scotish brethren...You seem to forget that three shillings sterling is near two pounds Scots, and that there has been a time when the mighty and puissant Monarch of all Scotland had not such a sum in his Treasury. The case is altered, I perceive, at present; but whom have you to thank for it?
"Bonny Scot we all witness can
That England hath made thee a gentleman."


  • Like a skilful husbandman you must force the soil which nature has left sterile; and depend upon it the produce will be answerable to the cultivation.

Travel accomodations

  • You cannot do better, I think, than commit yourself to the care of one of the Stockton captains who are for the most part very honest people, except, indeed, where it is their interest to be otherwise, which is as much as one can say of any body. If you can get nothing better on board of ship than biscuit and water, you may certainly make a shift to subsist upon that food for a week or two, and though there may be neither bed nor hammock for you, when a person is fatigued he will sleep very comfortably on a cabin floor or a coil of rope. Besides, a little temporary hardship at the outset of your expedition into the world may teach you to bear those greater misfortunes to which all are liable, with more philosophy....


  • But I am sure you will agree with me that truth should be preferred to all things and sacrificed to nothing; and that a single fact is worth a hundred conjectures.
  • I am quite sick of the modern writers of ancient history, who think to make amends by their fine language for the total want of industry, truth and candour.


  • I am glad to find you persist so heroically in a mode of living, which you will one day or other find to have been of essential service both to your body and mind, by preserving health and a good conscience, neither of which you could possibly have, if you addicted yourself to the unnatural and diabolical practice of devouring your fellow creatures, as pigs and geese undoubtedly are … I am to signify to you that eggs are henceforward to be considered as animal food, and, consequently prohibited to be eaten.
  • As human sacrifices were a natural effect of that superstitious cruelty which first produced the slaughter of animals, so is it equally natural that those accustomed to eat the brute, should not long abstain from the man: more especially as; when toasted or broiled on the altar, the appearance, savour, and taste of both would be nearly, if not entirely, the same.
  • You will certainly find yourself healthier, and if you have either conscience or humanity, happier, in abstaining from animal food than you could possibly be in depriving, by the indulgence of an unnatural appetite and the adherence to a barbarous custom, hundreds, if not thousands, of innocent creatures of their lives, to the enjoyment of which they have as good a right as yourself.
  • The consciousness of a mind disposed to contribute to the happiness of the minutest being … shall afford you a much greater and more heartfelt satisfaction than to be clothed in purple and fine linen, and fare sumptuously every day.

Quotes about Ritson

  • Joseph Ritson is a minor figure in the literary history of the latter half of the eighteenth century...Ritson's method of criticism was so invidiously personal and his beliefs and habits were so eccentric that attention was attracted primarily to his peculiarities, while his stable qualities were overlooked by the majority.
  • The growing scarcity of Mr. Ritson's publications is the best proof of their utility in illustrating the progress of the language and the manners of our ancestors; but the temper of the man is every day coming forth in a more unamiable light, since, with all his savage ravings about the inaccuracy of others, deeper research than his, is constantly proving him to have been as inaccurate as the best of them. This ought to be a lesson to all black-letter men; and should teach them to be cautious how they set themselves above the old adage, humanum est errare.
  • As a mediator of pure texts, and as a castigator of editorial morals, [Ritson] is the eminent figure of the century...As between Percy and Ritson, the suffrage must fall to Ritson...The "elegant" bishop Percy and the "curious" Mr. Ritson naturally could not bed together. "Curiosity" seems to us the better endowment for a ballad editor; as to the rest, each may wear his own laurels in the other's despite.

See also

Wikipedia has an article about: