Jeffrey had a distinguished legal and political career. As Lord Advocate he had responsibility for the Scottish Reform Bill of 1832. He was also a brilliant literary critic; he was one of the founders of the Edinburgh Review, an influential and successful periodical which he edited for several years. The English artist Bewick made this drawing during a visit to Scotland; Sir Walter Scott gave him a letter of introduction to Lord Jeffrey who, because of his busy schedule, agreed to sit for him over breakfast. The artist was impressed by his sitter's lively expression but said that it 'required to be caught on the instant, as it vanished in the next'.