1850 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Joseph Ritson

John Britton, in Autobiography (1850) 1:70.



During my abode at Holborn Court, I occasionally visited Joseph Ritson, who had chambers on the opposite side to those of Mr. Simpson. He was a special pleader, or chamber counsel, and sometimes had cases submitted for his opinion from our office. He was small in person, thin, consumptive in appearance, reserved in manners; and, at that time I knew him, had but little professional practice. Attorneys, in general, though there are many laudable exceptions, have not much respect for poetry or poets, and consider that the man who devotes his time and thoughts to polite literature, can have little partiality for the dull verbiage of the Statutes at Large, or the sophisticated and delusive language too often employed in special pleading. The sentiments and character of Ritson may be inferred from his published Letters, which appeared in 1833, with a Memoir, by his nephew, Sir Harris Nicholas (2 vols. small 8vo.) In one of his letters, dated in 1793 (just before I knew him) he says, "Those who die happily are certainly more to be envied than those who live otherwise."