Scottish-born Wilkie became a star of the London art world, widely admired for his moralising or humorous narratives of everyday life. Here, Wilkie updates the ancient theme of the choice between virtue and vice – in this case drink. Outside a pub, a man hesitates between going home to his wife or staying to drink with his friends. The consequences of a wrong decision are shown by the collapsed drunk on the right; Wilkie said even his dog looked ashamed of him. Wilkie exhibited the picture in 1812. It was bought by John Julius Angerstein, an important collector.