Engraving, 1827, Charles Williams.

Hand coloured. London, Samuel Knight, Knight’s Sweetings Alley.

Early nineteenth‑century broadside illustrating the perils of alcoholism.

SKU SF000781 Category


While the top half of the sheet displays the “benefits” of sobriety and moderation, the lower half is a how to warning guide of the vices of alcohol and crime a step by step descent which ends in the suffering and humiliation of transportation to Botany Bay. The last depicts four wretched convicts being ordered to enter a boat by a burly officer with drawn sword. A transport with sails furled awaits its unhappy cargo.

As the engraved caption at the foot of this broadside indicates, this message of temperance derives from the work of two prominent and fashionable London physicians, John Abernethy (1764 1831) and John Coakley Lettsom (1744 1815). Both doctors were extraordinary men, renowned for their warmth, humanity and charisma; likewise both enjoyed a wide circle of acquaintances with the best and brightest of London’s intellectual elite. Lettsom enjoyed the friendship of pre eminent philanthropists including Benjamin Franklin and the prison reformer John Howard. Lettsom worked with tireless enthusiasm on a wide variety of projects during this lifetime, from bee keeping and horticulture to prison reform, all with a view to improving the common lot of humanity in keeping with the teachings of the Quaker congregation. Interestingly, Lettsom used his considerable personal fortune and income as a physician to help the poor of London, including the treatment of alcoholism and the promotion of temperance. Indeed, his generosity almost brought financial ruin, as towards the end of his days Lettsom was forced to sell his magnificent house and botanical garden at Grove Hill outside London to stave off bankruptcy.

Lettsom had an enduring fascination with Australia and discoveries in the South Seas. He owned a collection of weapons and curios from the Pacific islands and contributed a short preface and edited the famous revised and expanded second edition of Sydney Parkinson’s A Journal of a Voyage to the South Seas (1784). This ‘Moral and Physical Thermometer’ was first published in 1780 as a much simpler letterpress sheet, rather than the engaging cartoon style of the present sheet.

The publisher Knights is known for working with George Cruikshank, but the present sheet is signed “Williams”. Ferguson knew this 1827 broadside from his own collection only. Ferguson, 1134a.

Additional information



Samuel Knight


Ink, Paper