136.: ricardo to trower2[Reply to 120.—Answered by 141] - 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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ricardo to trower
[Reply to 120.—Answered by 141]
Gatcomb Park Minchinhampton 29th. Octr. 1815
I sincerely congratulate Mrs. Trower and you on the increase of your family, which I hope will be attended with an increase of happiness.
You observe justly that having friends staying with us unsettles our regular habits. I find it very materially to interfere with my pursuits. Reading or writing, when one has an object in view, should be followed systematically, and at no distant intervals, for after a time our thoughts are turned into new channels and we cannot easily recal the ideas which were only beginning to be indistinctly formed in our minds. I have scarcely been a week without visitors since I have been in the country, and to that I ascribe the imperfection of the little that I have done in the writing way. So far from imitating the illustrious example, that you set before me, and improving as I go on, each successive attempt is attended with less success than the former, and it invariably happens that my last performance is the worst. I have hitherto done nothing more than write what would make a very small pamphlet on Bank affairs, which I took with me to town, where I was obliged to go for a few days, a fortnight ago. I had very little intention of publishing it but I thought I might as well ask my friend Malthus’ opinion of it. That opinion was not unfavourable to the matter, but was decidedly expressed respecting its inferiority in style and arrangement to my two first pamphlets. Thus you see that I have no other encouragement to pursue the study of Political Economy than the pleasure which the study itself affords me, for never shall I be so fortunate however correct my opinions may become as to produce a work which shall procure me fame and distinction. I am determined however not to be daunted by common difficulties. I shall again set to work to endeavor to improve the style and arrangement of what I have just written, not that I am quite sure that I shall publish it if I succeed, but at least it will afford me an opportunity of exercising the limited powers which I possess. Mr. Malthus and I continue to differ in our views of the principles of Rent, Profit and Wages. These principles are so linked and connected with every thing belonging to the science of Political Economy that I consider the just view of them as of the first importance. It is on this subject, where my opinions differ from the great authority of Adam Smith Malthus, &ca. that I should wish to concentrate all the talent I possess, not only for the purpose of establishing what I think correct principles but of drawing important deductions from them. For my own satisfaction I shall certainly make the attempt, and perhaps with repeated revisions during a year or two I shall at last produce something that may be understood.
The anecdote you gave me respecting an article intended to have been inserted in the last number of the Edinburgh Review is very amusing. It shews that nothing is more dangerous than to set up for a prophet, unless we use such ambiguous language that with a little stretch of the imagination may suit all occurrences. Our politicians are not so wary in this particular as I should have expected, witness their prognostics concerning the war in Spain,—the utter impossibility of beating Bonaparte, not to mention the Bank restriction bill &c. &c.—
Respecting this last named personage I quite agree with [you that] a man’s character and renown must be estimated upon a reference to the whole of his conduct. “We must cast up the account of the good and bad qualities and strike a balance.” It is by this rule that I would try Bonaparte, and by this rule he will be tried by the future historian. I thought you departed from it, when after his brilliant career for 20 years, you pronounced his glory wholly effaced by being obliged in consequence of an unsuccessful battle, bravely contested, to surrender himself a prisoner. It was the balance only that I was contending for which I still think is on the credit side of the account.
Having given you so particular an account of my employments allow me to ask what are yours? Are you amusing yourself with desultory reading or is your attention engaged by some particular subject. If the latter I should hope that your thoughts are turned towards the press, for one who can stimulate others to exertion and perseverance so well, ought himself to be animated with a desire to shine, and where every advantage of leisure and qualifications are given it would be unpardonable to preach a doctrine which you did not yourself practise.
Mr. Mill writes to me that he has nearly finished his Indian History. He is this Autumn where he was last, with Mr. Bentham at Ford Abbey, Somersetshire, where they have both ample leisure for their literary pursuits. Mr. Malthus is I believe engaged in preparing a new Edition of his Essay on Population for publication. Some of the doctrines on Political Economy in that work required revision. I hope they will receive a radical amendment. Mrs. Ricardo and my daughter join with me in kind regards to Mrs. Trower whose health we hope is quite restored.
Yrs. very truly