mill to ricardo
[Reply to 173.—Answered by 177]
Ford Abbey 14th. August 1816
My dear Sir
I was much delighted with your kind letter, received a few nights ago, though it continues so much in the old desponding tone. Why should a man that is not afraid to talk upon a subject before any body, be afraid to write; since writing is nothing but talking upon paper? You can not only talk before the people who are the most celebrated for their knowledge upon this subject, but you are not afraid to contest with them, and to hold your opinion in preference to theirs; and make it appear to the auditors that you are right. Well, then, just do the same thing upon paper—what more would you have?—I shall begin by and bye to think that your misgivings, and your faintness at heart, are apologies ingeniously contrived by you in defence of idleness? Or (what is a more ingenious conjecture, just come into me head) that you employ them as baits with which to fish for compliments;—as who should say,—Ah, I have not talents for the thing; my capacity is not sufficient—And then comes the kind friend, who cries, with enthusiasm, My dear Sir, allow me to correct the only mistake into which in the whole course of your life you ever fell—your talents are admirable; your capacity is immense—only do write and astonish the world! Now I, not being much practiced in the arts of pleasing, shall say quite the contrary—that no talents are wanted, but what any body possesses—you have the thoughts in your mind already and have only to put them down upon paper—after they are down, to look them over, and see that nothing is omitted which you wish to have there—that no one thing is there in more places than one—and that every thing is in the right place. Surely there is nothing in all this to frighten any body—Well, this is all you have to do. The first thing is, to go over your subject, from the beginning to the end, in any way, no matter what. If then, it don’t please you, have it back, and go over the ground again, altering when you find altering to be good. If it should not please in this form, go over it again. Do you think that any man writes a good book by Divine Grace, and the favour of inspiration? Rousseau declares that he never gave anything to the public, which, so far from pleasing him the first time, had not been written five times over. I do not mean to let you retract your faith solemnly pledged that I am to be your School master, fully vested with all the rights belonging to that redoubtable office. Well then, in virtue of these rights, I solemnly command and ordain that you proceed, without loss of time, on the plan which you have already sketched out, till you have gone over the whole field of Political Economy, from the beginning to the end, thinking nothing of order, thinking nothing of repetitions, thinking nothing of stile—regarding nothing, in short, but to get all the thoughts blurred upon paper some how or another. We shall see what is to be done with it after that—that is the first thing. Surely you can do that—for it is only saying do what you can—and you will not pretend to say that you cannot do what you can.
Another command of mine is, that—as I know you have by this time, a pretty mass of papers, written first and last upon the subject—you put as much of them as possible, that is all except those which are absolutely necessary for you to go on with, up in a parcel, and send them here. I have a quantity of things to learn, which I known they will teach me. And perhaps they may enable me to give some directions to you which may not be useless. I mean that you should include those which you read to me in London, because hearing a thing read is very different from reading it when you have leisure by yourself. If you can put the sheets that relate to one subject up by themselves—and give some indication of what each subdivision is about, so much the better—But if not, no matter—send them higgledy-piggledy all together.
I envy you the pleasure you have had of cross questioning the fair traveller who is just returned to you, on all the prodigies she has seen, and all the miracles she has performed. I wish I had made a part of the social circle. I kiss her beautiful hands, as the people say among whom she has been, and beg she will accept my warm felicitations on all the good things without exception which she has experienced since I had last the pleasure of seeing her.—And, after all, she likes home the best. Ay, home is home, though never so homely. I have always found that a good text.—So, Mr. Warburton, Mr. Smith, family, and Mr. Whishaw, all travellers: I am glad you can resist the mania. I suppose you are waiting to go when I go, and live where I live. A propos of travellers, I had a letter from Brougham since I came here. He was then at Geneva, which was all English, but was just going to fix in Savoy, to take the benefit of the waters.
Tell Mr. Ralph, when he comes to you, that a due proportion of the cuttings of his divine elder have struck roots, and are putting forth their little white amiable buds, to the ecstasy and ravishment of Mr. Bentham. And tell also Miss Esther, that I hope she is not to be in any hurry away from Gatcomb, that if it should, by the peculiar bounty of heaven, be in my power to visit you this season, I may have an opportunity of seeing once in my life a creature something in my own shape, that is capable of preferring another human being to itself, and giving up to it the whole of its enjoyments.
I have been so much of a hermit since I came here, that I can tell you little of the actual measure of distress which is felt in this country. But does not this weather frighten you? The corn here is absolutely green, nothing whatsoever in the ear; and a perfect continuance of rain and cold. There must now be of necessity a very deficient crop, and very high prices—and these with an unexampled scarcity of work will produce a degree of misery, the thought of which makes the flesh creep on ones bones—one third of the people must die— it would be a blessing to take them into the streets and high ways, and cut their throats as we do with pigs. Church-and-State, at the London tavern, where Church-and-State was nicely served, recommends subscription—a whole people to be fed by subscription! —I only expect my wife, and the crowd of my children tomorrow. She has had a very good convalescence—but the fatigue of such a journey would have been hazardous before.—I salute the Gatcomb family in all its ramifications, and begging them only to love me as much as I do them, am my Dear Sir
most truly Yours