The present watercolour is an original drawing for the published version of Tea on Shore. The print was published in conjunction with Grog on Board in 1789 and later republished in 1794.
In Grog on Board 'Sweet Poll of Plymouth' has been smuggled on board a ship. The composition illustrates her reclining in the arms of a handsome sailor. In complete contrast the companion print illustrates the contrast between the high and low life in port. The vulgar jolifications on board are forgotten as the officers partake in tea on shore. The head of the house is of no consequence and tends to the tea urn while the ladies are entertained by the officers.
The only difference between the watercolour and the final print is the young lady. In the watercolour she wears a glamorous hat bedecked in feathers, whereas in the print she wears only a modest hair decoration.
Both prints are illustrated in J. Grego, Thomas Rowlandson the Caricaturist, London, 1880, vol. I, pp. 253-256.