Joseph Ritson (1752-1803)
From 18th Century Literary Anecdotes

HE found a vegetarian printer for the work: Richard Phillips of St. Paul's Churchyard. And not content with espousing one unpopular cause, he had it printed, as he was determined all his books should henceforth be printed, in his most advanced etymological spelling.

While Ritson was about professing his `vegetable love'—or rather, faith—thus publicly, a lamentable but ludicrous incident occurred. It must be told in the words of Frederick Madden, who declares he got the story from Francis Douce himself:

Ritson was sitting in Mr. Douce's house eating some bread and cheese for luncheon, when a little girl who was in the room very innocently looked up in Mr. Ritson's face and said, `La! Mr. Ritson, what a quantity of mites you are eating!' Ritson absolutely trembled with passion — laid down his knife — and abruptly quitted the room! On Mr. Douce following him, he said in a tone of excitement, `You have done this on purpose to insult me.' The only answer Mr. Douce made was, `Sir, there is the door, and I never wish to see you again within it.'
What made the little girl's remark hurt was the fact that Ritson had given especial praise to the Brahmins: `for, not confining murder to the killing of a man, they religiously abstain from taking away the life of the meanest animal, mite or flea'. Was he now, after a life of scrupulous and humane self-denial, to be forbidden his favourite food, or convicted of sin against his own doctrines — by a child? His shattered nerves would not stand the shock. Douce wrote to Ellis, soon afterwards, that Ritson and he had parted: `We have taken a formal leave of each other-under our hands and seals, probably forever... '

From Bertrand H. Bronson, Joseph Ritson, Scholar-at-arms (Berkeley, Calif., 1938), i. 266-7.

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