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340.: bentham to ricardo1 - David Ricardo, The Works and Correspondence of David Ricardo, Vol. 8 Letters 1819-June 1821 
The Works and Correspondence of David Ricardo, ed. Piero Sraffa with the Collaboration of M.H. Dobb (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2005). Vol. 8 Letters 1819-1821.
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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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bentham to ricardo1
Queen Square Place West Octr. 28—1819—
Assuming that it would be matter of satisfaction to you and your friend Mr. Professor Smythe1 of Cambridge, to give countenance and encouragement to merit in any age, and in particular in early youth, I take the liberty of mentioning, in this view, a young friend of mine, a Pensioner, I think they call it, late of Peter House, now of Trinity College Cambridge. He is, I think, about 20 years of age, son of an opulent perfumer of Skinner Street, London, who, till lately, now that years have suggested the contracting the field of his cares, had another Establishment, I think it was in Bond Street, and a third at Bath—through all which channels put together, he has contrived to extract a considerable sum of money from the pockets of Amateurs, by extracting milk out of Roses with somewhat better success than attended the endeavour of the Laputa Philosopher to extract sunbeams out of Cucumbers. The destination of Henry Rosser was—to serve perfumery behind his Father’s counter: happily (I trust) for mankind, however it may be for himself, his destiny has taken a different turn: His education, till t’other day, was adapted to his destination: nor yet, well adapted: being rather beneath it, than upon a level with it. Two or three years ago, some spirit—I either have never known or have forgot what;—perhaps the spirit of contradiction, perhaps the spirit of Tailor Place, through whose means about a year and a half ago, I became acquainted with him, inspired him with the love of liberal learning. He was kept from her embraces (pity that learning is not more decidedly of the feminine gender) with as much anxiety as Pyramus from the embrace of Thisbe. That History became, for his benefit, a prophecy: et vetuere patres quod non potuere vetare. An Index prohibitorius was promulgated for his use: and, with the exception of the Bible, the Account Book, and perhaps a Book on Book-keeping, every Book whatsoever was inserted in it. Never were Books stolen from, with more ingenuity, than with more obstinate perseverance he stole to them. It has not lain in my way to take any exact measure of the acquirements he has made in the almost nothing of time that he has had for it: he is pursuing his route with seven leagued boots on his legs, towards a possible fellowship in the forcibly conjoined roads of Greek and Mathematics. Politics, Logic, and Etymology are those in which he has travelled longest, and with most pleasure and consequently with most success. I had like to have forgot public speaking: it was that which produced the miraculous conversion of his Father. For about these dozen years there has existed a Society of the lower orders which meets weekly at a room in Great Malborough Street under the name of the Society for Mutual Improvement: it has a common Library, and occupies itself in debate. About 3 or 4 years ago, without the least suspicion on my part, the very existence of any such Society being unknown to me, it had the whimsical fancy to elect me its Patron: and thus to enrol a sworn enemy to sinecurism in the goodly fellowship of Sinecurists.1 Henry Rosser had been some time a Member. He had given out a subject proposing to speak upon it. His father found him out, and nitched himself in a snug corner unobserved to catch him in flagranti delicto. He heard a speech of an hour and a half long, and went away in rapture. He declared that his son should be a Gentleman, and for that purpose should be first a University Man, and then a Barrister. You have the original Edition of my Parliamentary Reform Catechism. I know not whether you are acquainted with the Vulgate, vulgarly called Bentham made easy;1 if you are, it is more than I am, for I have never yet read a line of it. Such as it is, it was made by Henry Rosser. The alterations I understand are not inconsiderable, and from the short accounts I have heard of them, I make no doubt perfectly judicious, and with reference to the class of persons in view, in no small degree instructive and advantageous: omissions some, additions likewise, to explain allusions by historical statements: the structure of the sentences rolled out from the form of a period in which my old age had involved it, into that of a principal clause, and then a qualifying clause, and then a qualifying clause to that—such being the form suitable to the powers and the taste of grown Idlers, as well as of Babes and Sucklings.
Upon politics—upon Logic—no speculations of mine so novel and abstruse, that he does not lay hold of them the Instant a hint is given of them, and make application of them, as if they had been his own. Chrestomathia he has more of in his head than at this time the Author has. T’other day, from a few hints I gave him he constructed for me a Tabular view, which I believe to be a compleat one, of the whole stock of Conjugates (in the Logical sense which is a great extension of the Grammatical one) travelling over and I believe exhausting the whole field of the English Language. The moral part of his character to judge from all I have ever seen or heard, is such as makes a perfect match with the Intellectual. The only department in which I have observed any deficiency is that of the Graces. He stutters and splutters and makes faces and explodes his words to the no small annoyance of a nervous old man, in the bad sense of the word, such as myself: and such is his ardency, that when an honest man has begun a sentence, he will not always let him finish it. As to his stuttering, the curious circumstance is,—that when he has to speak for a length of time without interruption, for example in the aforesaid laudable Society of your humble servant’s much respected Patrons, the spell of the bad Enchanter is suspended for the time, and he pours forth his periods as fluantly as Counsellor Anybody. So he has assured me when scolded by me; and on this, as on all other subjects in general, the correctness and frankness of his assertions is, unless I am much deceived in him, not to be exceeded.
T’other day I had to thank you for a Letter dated the 2d Inst from my—I will venture to say from our—Hibernian friend.1 You have, I make no doubt, sympathized with him in his exultation. You will have seen in as strong a light as he and I do, the need there is, that for an indefinite length of time, connections so obnoxious should remain unknown: for all the good he can expect to do may depend on it.
Here ends this my Sermon, for time being bitterly scarce and fingers wearied out with scribbling, I have preached it, preached, I mean, not as orthodoxy, but as Methodism and other heterodoxy preaches.
Believe me, with the truest respect, Dear Sir, Your faithful Servant,
David Ricardo Esqr.
In a few days we are to have you again. Good: but no thanks to you but to his Majesty’s Ministers.1
[1 ]MS in R.P. Written by an amanuensis; only the signature and postscript are in Bentham’s hand.
[1 ]William Smyth.
[1 ]See Bentham’s letter agreeing to be patron of the Society, 31 July 1817, in his Works, ed. by Bowring, vol. x, pp. 488–9.
[1 ]Plan of Parliamentary Reform, in the form of a Catechism...[title uniform with 1st ed.; see above, VII, 261, n. 1], London, ‘Reprinted and Republished, with Notes and Alterations, by permission of the Author by T. J. Wooler’, 1818; issued ‘in Numbers, at a cheap rate, with the style adapted to the popular reader’, according to the ‘Advertisement’ prefixed to it. Cp. Bentham’s Works, ed. by Bowring, vol. x, pp. 489–90.
[1 ]Not identified.
[1 ]Parliament reassembled on 23 November.