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Detail showing Queen Victoria drinking tea at a Buckingham Palace Garden party

Serving and sipping a favourite beverage

Thomas Rowlandson (1757-1827)

Tea at the Journalist's House in James's Court 15 May 1786

RCIN 810203

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The renowned dictionary editor Samuel Johnson was an ardent advocate of tea-drinking. In 1757 he wrote an impassioned defence of the habit in The Literary Magazine, describing himself as 'a hardened and shameless tea-drinker…whose kettle has scarcely time to cool; who with tea amuses the evening, with tea solaces the midnight, and, with tea, welcomes the morning'.

This print, by the satirical artist Thomas Rowlandson, depicts Dr Johnson taking tea with his close friend James Boswell. Johnson (right) uses tongs to add sugar to his drink, while a servant yawns in the background. The first line of Boswell's inscription reads, 'My Wife had Tea ready for him which it is well known he delighted to drink at all hours, particularly when sitting up late.' Probably purchased by George IV (1762–1830) when Prince of Wales.