1798 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Joseph Ritson

David Rivers, in Literary Memoirs of Living Authors (1798) 2:201-02.



JOSEPH RITTSON, Esq. Deputy High Bailif of the Dutchy of Lancaster, and a conveyancer in the Metropolis of some distinction. He is a man of taste and information, but more to be commended for his acuteness than for his good-breeding or his candour. We believe his first publication was an anonymous quarto pamphlet, in 1782, of Observations on the three first volumes of Warton's History of English Poetry; which is an ingenious, but, at the same time, one of the most illiberal productions we ever recollect to have seen. Mr. Rittson has also written, anonymously, three sets of Remarks on the Editors of Shakspeare: the first on Mr. Stevens' edition, in 1778, entitled, Remarks critical and illustrative on the Text and Notes of the last Edition of Shakspeare, an octavo volume; the second on Mr. Reed's republication of that edition, entitled, The Quip Modest, &c. and the third on Mr. Malone's edition, entitled, Cursory Criticism, &c. The last of these is particularly illiberal. In the year 1788, he published, with his name, a well-executed Translation with Notes, of the Hymn to Venus, which has been ascribed to Homer [in fact, by an "Isaac" Ritson].

The most distinguished character of Mr. Rittson, in his literary capacity, is that of a judicious and intelligent compiler. He published, in the year 1785, a select Collection of English Songs, in three octavo volumes; and has, since that time, edited an octavo volume of Ancient Songs, from the time of King Henry III. to the Revolution; an octavo volume of Pieces of Ancient Popular Poetry; the English Anthology, a selection of poetry, in three small octavo volumes; Robin Hood, a collection of ancient poems, in two small octavo volumes; and a Collection of Scottish Songs, with the genuine music, in two volumes, duodecimo. All of his publications, except the Translation of the Hymn to Venus, have been anonymous.