Joseph Ritson

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Joseph Ritson (October 2, 1752 - September 23, 1803) was an English author, Jacobin, and an early vegetarian, best known for his collection of works relating to Robin Hood.

Joseph Ritson, more than any other person, is responsible for the transformation of Robin Hood into a champion of Wealth redistribution.[1]

Early life

Joseph Ritson, son of Joseph Ritson and Jane Gibson, was born October 2, 1752, at Stockton-upon-Tees, Durham.[2]


A zealous literary antiquary and critic, was indefatigable in his labours to illustrate English literature, particularly the neglected ballad strains of the nation. He published in 1783 a valuable collection of English songs; in 1790, Ancient Songs, from the Time of Henry III. to the Revolution; in 1792, Pieces of Ancient Popular Poetry; and in 1794, A Collection of Scottish Songs.

In 1791, Ritson visited France[3] where he was influenced by the ideals of the French Revolution.[4][5] After a few years in 1795, he published Robin Hood: A Collection of All the Ancient Poems, Songs, and Ballads, Now Extant, Relative to that Celebrated English Outlaw, which introduced the modern interpretation of Robin Hood known today: "robbing from the rich and giving to the poor".

In most of his works, Ritson was a faithful and acute editor, and profoundly versed in literary antiquities. However, he was of a jealous irritable temper, which kept him in a state of constant warfare with his brother collectors. He was in diet a strict Pythagorean, and wrote a treatise against the use of animal food.[6]