The Dentist

attributed to John Collier

about 1770

Oil on Canvas

52 x 74 cm

The popular artist John Collier, a Lancashire schoolmaster who published illustrated books in Lancashire dialect under the name of ‘Tim Bobbin’, painted a number of pictures of contemporary dentistry designed to be engraved for his collection of Lancashire dialect poetry, Human Passions Delineated, of 1773. This book of illustrated verse, satirizing the behaviour of upper and lower classes alike, proved highly successful, and the etchings produced from his paintings were widely reproduced.


This scene was engraved to accompany Collier’s poem ‘Laughter and Experiment’:


A packthread strong he tied in haste

On tooth that sore did wring:

He pull’d, the patient follow’d fast,

Like Towzer in a string.


He miss’d at first, but try’d again,

Then clapp’d his foot o’th chin;

He pull’d – the patient roared with pain,

And hideously did grin.


In 1829 Sir Walter Scott began a public subscription to provide Collier with a fitting memorial for his grave at St Chad’s Church, Rochdale.