278.: mill to ricardo1[Reply to 275.—Answered by 280] - David Ricardo, The Works and Correspondence of David Ricardo, Vol. 7 Letters 1816-1818 
The Works and Correspondence of David Ricardo, ed. Piero Sraffa with the Collaboration of M.H. Dobb (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2005). Vol. 7 Letters 1816-1818.
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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 ricardo
[Reply to 275.—Answered by 280]
4 College Terrace, Bagshot, 26th. Octr. 1818
My Dear Sir
I am inclined to bring up the rear of my part of our correspondence just now, fearing I may have less leisure in future. We are still here, as you see; to which several things have contributed. Besides the continuance of good weather, a still stronger cause has been accidentally added. To the course of education destined for the gentlemen cadets at this college, has been recently added a course of chemical lectures, which began to be delivered for the first time about three weeks ago, by a gentleman from London. Although these lectures have been held very sacred, and even the sons of the Professors and officers of the institution excluded from them, the great authorities of the place united in an invitation to John to attend them, and the opportunity I thought of some importance, as now the time was come when I wished him to see a course of chemical experiments. The distinction of this invitation he owed to a little reputation he has acquired, very accidentally. Among the Professors here are two or three gentlemen of Oxford and Cambridge, really clever men, and another very accomplished Oxford scholar, tutor to the Governor’s sons. These gentlemen and I having got intimate, and taking our walks together, one of them called upon me one evening when I was out, and missing me fell into conversation with John, and asked him about his studies. The account the boy gave him of what he had done he mentioned to the rest; and the whole appeared either folly or cheat; that I was either fool enough to let the boy pass over a multitude of things without knowing them, or wished to impose upon others by making the semblance of knowledge in him pass for the reality; as no child they concluded could possibly know all that he told his interrogator he had done. An occasion was soon taken to put him to the test, by inviting me to the house of one of them, when I was requested to bring the boy along with me. All were present, and as their purpose was to me unknown, I was a little surprised when they began a rigid examination. The consequence was that they expressed extravagant admiration, as absurd, I told them, as their scepticism which they mentioned to me, had been before. Nevertheless they trumpeted their admiration, and he began to be taken too much notice of; the governor begged he might be allowed to go to his house as much as possible, and make friendship with his boys, and so the thing has gone on. I was anxious he should hear the lectures, and I was unwilling to appear to slight the compliment which had been paid him, by taking him away: and I was still more unwilling to leave him to the spoiling of the notice he is receiving. I have arranged matters accordingly, thus. This week and the next will finish the said lectures, all but a few on geology which he can learn from books. I shall remain here till the end of this week, when I must pay my promised visit to Hume: Mrs. Mill will remain here with the children till the end of the week following, when we shall all assemble in London. And this is the principal part of my history since my last—except that I have not at all been well. A bowel complaint, consisting of costiveness attended with severe gripings, has been prevalent here for the last three weeks, and I have had too great a share of it; the pain, and the medicines necessary for relief, have kept me in a very uncomfortable state of body, and have unfitted my mind for study— I have done little but read. My wife is also now ill in the same way. Your family I hope are all well, and Mr. Moses fast recovering. I am truly sorry for the misfortune of Mrs. Clutterbuck, but comfort myself from what you say that her own constitution has suffered as little as could well be in such a case. Pray what are the news of Mr. Ralph? If he is with you, or if you see him before I do, tell him I shall make up for the delinquency of not answering his letter, by talk in abundance when we meet in London, or its neighbourhood.
I had a short scrawl from Torrens the other day, about his son who is at the college here, and who, he is afraid, will be dismissed—the boy is too idle to get knowledge enough to pass; and he wishes me to see what I can do among the professors and office-bearers for him. He adds: “I have just returned from Edin. which I liked extremely. I introduced myself to Mc. Culloch and was highly pleased with him. We had much discussion on Ricardo’s doctrine of value. I threw my arguments upon paper, and they will be printed in the next No. of the Edin. Magazine. Mc. Culloch answers me in the ensuing No., and each is quite confident of gaining the victory over the other. The battle, however, is a most perfectly amicable one.” I am very glad of this—it will promote the reputation both of the doctrine and its author. I should not wonder if it is Blackwoods Mag. he means; as I see in the advertisement of the present No. an article entitled Ricardo and the Edin. Rev .
I am quite pleased with your declaration that you would betake yourself to the writing of the discourses we have so often talked about, as soon as Mr. Basevi left you; and I doubt not you are now deeply engaged, and already feeling delight in your progress. The exercise will be of prodigious advantage to you—and as I know well how much it would have accelerated my own progress, had a man of more experience than myself looked at the productions of my pen when my experience in expressing my thoughts to others was not yet great, I shall not at all mind delicacy in urging you to let me see yours. A few lines shewing where you may have developed too sparingly, or where on another occasion you may have dwelt too long, where you have divided less advantageously than you might, or made a less perfect arrangement than the subject admitted of, given your thoughts in one order when another would have been either more clear, or more impressive; where you may have omitted any thing necessary, or used any thing not necessary; where a flaw may occur in your reasoning; or where you may have used a fallacy instead of a proof—these things pointed out a few times in a composition of your own, when your mind has been attentive to the subject, will give you such an insight into the whole mystery of these errors and their opposite perfections, that you will carry the command of it to every subject you undertake. Nor do I speak all this at random; but from a very exact register of the experience I have had first of my own mind, and then of all the minds with which I have dealt. Your mind in fact is in that state of maturity, in which a small portion of new instruction of the right kind goes a great way with it. And do not take this as a compliment: the same is the case with every mind which has taken as much pains with itself. Now your habits of attentive observation, and attentive reflection, in your course through life, on all you have seen, and heard, and read, is that sort of pains I speak of; and that is the best part of education. You over-rate what is got in the schools; when you think that it places you irrecoverably behind. The best things the schools could give would be those habits of attention observation and reflection which you have got without the schools; and which our imperfect schools are so very ill calculated to give. Therefore no mistrust. You will soon find how little occasion you have for it. Who of them has a mind to compare with yours? Some of the very best among them profess they are unable with all their efforts to understand what you have demonstrated. In fact I have set my heart upon your making a figure: that is the short and the long of it—and you must not disappoint me. Compliments to the whole of your fire side, whose kind remembrance I am so anxious to retain: with best regards to Mrs. Osman and her lord—glad to hear of the profound studies in La Nouvelle Heloise—by the bye she ought to write to me all she thinks about it, all the remarks and discoveries, and criticisms she has made.