Front Page Titles (by Subject) 57.: mill to ricardo1 - The Works and Correspondence of David Ricardo, Vol. 6 Letters 1810-1815
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57.: mill to ricardo1 - David Ricardo, The Works and Correspondence of David Ricardo, Vol. 6 Letters 1810-1815 
The Works and Correspondence of David Ricardo, ed. Piero Sraffa with the Collaboration of M.H. Dobb (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2005). Vol. 6 Letters 1810-1815.
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First published by Cambridge University Press in 1951. Copyright 1951, 1952, 1955, 1973 by the Royal Economic Society. This edition of The Works and Correspondence of David Ricardo is published by Liberty Fund, Inc., under license from the Royal Economic Society.
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mill to ricardo1
Ford Abbey August 28th. 1814
My dear Sir
Having no little desire to be much acquainted with your history, and what pleasures Gatcomb affords, I know no way likely to procure me that gratification but giving you the history of myself, since we parted—which I hope will entitle me to make a demand for yours.
We left London on the day, or near the day (I forget which) we originally intended, and arrived here without any memorable accident. I would describe the road, as travellers are wont, but for two objections which have weighed with me. One is, that you probably know every inch of it, better than I do, and in the next place, you have read a hundred descriptions of it already, or may do, whenever you please. The wonders of Bagshot heath, over which it so happened that I had never passed before, were the spectacle that principally struck me. I know not by what tenure it is held, nor to whom it belongs. It appeared to me, that it is not the natural barrenness of it which has kept it in its present state. Its vicinity to the capital is the remarkable circumstance.
We arrived at Ford Abbey in two days travelling (no miraculous dispatch), having treated ourselves with a bed at Salisbury, and another look at its beautiful cathedral. We found the house empty, that is to say, with only the gardener and an old woman in it. Mr. Bentham and I, carrying my little boy along with us, came down before the rest of our party, on purpose to meet with the proprietor, with whom certain things were to be settled upon the spot, which could not be settled any where else. The Proprietor aforesaid was expected to have been here before us, but did not come till the evening of the day after. And now I will tell you what sort of a place the house is. But in the first place, I mean to anticipate an objection. There is a certain young lady, now called Miss Ricardo (how long she may be called so, God only knows) who, if she were to read this letter, would say— And what is that house to us? and where is the mighty pleasure in receiving a description of a house? Let me, then, humbly suggest, that I promised no more than a history of myself during the last six weeks; and a description of this house is part of that history. And in the next place a man deserves indulgence when he has given the best of what he has. And how should I have here any thing better than an old house to describe? It is an irregular pile of building, of large extent, which originally belonged to a cargo of monks, and still retains a large share of its monkish appearance, the inside however made into rooms, which have comforts and some of them no little magnificence, for the taste of people of a more mundane description than monks. It is one of the places which travellers come to see; and we have many visitors. I was afraid they would be a nuisance; but I find it less than I expected. It stands upon the river Axe, at the very bottom of a tolerably pretty valley, surrounded with hills of the Devonshire breed, of gentle ascent and moderate altitude, and rather too much than too little covered with wood. There is cloisters in the house, a piece of very beautiful Gothic architecture, which acts as a long wide passage in summer, in winter receives green house plants, and acts as a green house and passage; there is also in it an ancient Gothic hall, which looks like a church; there is an apartment called the saloon, built by Inigo Jones, on express purpose to receive some beautiful tapestry which still adorns its walls, and of this room the dimensions are 50 feet by 25, with correspondent height; there is a very handsome dining room and drawing room; there are two very comfortable rooms called the library and little drawing room, which are the ordinary family rooms; there is a suite of apartments, consisting of a bed room, dressing rooms, and two ante-rooms, all elegant, if antique rather than modern splendour may be called elegant; and the rest consists, as far as inhabited, of tolerable bed rooms, and the other necessary appendages. I must not forget, that there is also a chapel, for which the family some time ago kept a chaplain, which is kept in good repair, and which serves as burial place to the family.—Enough of the house, which I should not have begun with, had I thought it would keep me so long. The grounds about are far from ugly—but not much has lately been done to improve them by art. There is a deer park, containing 140 head of deer, of which we have already killed a few.
Now for the proprietor, who is a curiosity, though of a different sort, as great as his house. The Manor of Ford Abbey is worth to him about £2000 a year, he possesses another estate in this country of about £1500 a year, and another of £1500 a year in Wales. He is notwithstanding very poor, though he has [no]1 wife and no child. He has a mistress, however, who came down with him—and with him and his fair one, Mr. Bentham and I spent a week. It is not easy to describe him. What is called the best English education had been bestowed on him. He was at one of the best of the schools and at Oxford, the reasonable time, and is said, by the clergyman here who was at school with him, to have been a good scholar at school; but excepting a scrap of Latin which proceeded from him now and then, and of which he seemed to know the meaning, it would be difficult to find a mind more thoroughly vacant, and more wonderfully feeble —to his servants and dependents, full of caprice and unsteadiness—and without real tyranny but rather good nature in his heart, producing the effects of tyranny on those around him. His lady, in whom I expected to find the over-done airs and pretensions of half-breeding, guided by a mixture of jealousy and pride, was a simple, country girl, whom he had picked up in the neighbourhood, bashful and awkward, but not without beauty.—So much for Ford Abbey, and its owner. We had Mr. Horner here for two days, as he passed on the circuit.1 Mr. Hume2 is here now, having come from a watering place, he was at on the coast—and with the exception of General Bentham3 and family, who were here for a day or two, before setting out for France, we have had no visitors, and nothing to do, but study.—I hope you will allow that this is not only a long letter, but filled with important matter—therefore I hope a due return will make its appearance from you. We find that you have sent back the papers of Mr. Bentham, on school &.c.4 —and the remarks which you promised to write down, we beg you will send to us by coach as soon as possible, as Mr. B. wishes to see them before sending the papers to Brougham.
I have hardly left room to send compliments. I must include you all in one precious assemblage. When you send me the account of yourselves, send me also some account of those of our friends who are left behind. Forget not what is occupying your own studious leisure. (Ford Abbey Chard Somerset is sufficient direction) Bath and Bristol Coaches to Exeter in plenty for the parcel, if your remarks on the M.S. amount to more than a letter.
Believe yours most truly
[1 ]Addressed: ‘David Ricardo Esq. / Gatcomb Park / Minching Hampton / Gloucester Shire’.—MS in R.P.
[1 ]MS torn.
[1 ]See Francis Horner’s account of this visit in his Memoirs and Correspondence, London, 1843, vol. 11, pp. 178–80.
[2 ]See below, p. 138, n.
[3 ]Sir Samuel Bentham, Jeremy’s brother.
[4 ]See letter 52.