Front Page Titles (by Subject) VI.: The Wilkinsons - The Works and Correspondence of David Ricardo, Vol. 10 Biographical Miscellany
Return to Title Page for The Works and Correspondence of David Ricardo, Vol. 10 Biographical Miscellany
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
VI.: The Wilkinsons - David Ricardo, The Works and Correspondence of David Ricardo, Vol. 10 Biographical Miscellany 
The Works and Correspondence of David Ricardo, ed. Piero Sraffa with the Collaboration of M.H. Dobb (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2005). Vol. 10 Biographical Miscellany.
About Liberty Fund:
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.
Fair use statement:
Something must be said of the Wilkinson family, with whom after his marriage Ricardo came to be linked in so many ways.
Edward Wilkinson, the father of Ricardo’s wife, was born at Sandwich in Kent in 1728. His obituary in the Gentleman’s Magazine describes him as ‘a very respectable surgeon and apothecary at Bow, in Middlesex’. It also says that ‘from early life he had a strong propensity to poetical composition; and displayed no mean ability as a satyrist’.2 One of his poems, entitled Wisdom, which was first published in 1751, went through nine editions.3 There is a tradition in the family that ‘the old man at Bow’, or ‘curmudgeon Wilkinson’, as they called him, was not an easy person to live with;4 and Ricardo, generally so mild in his judgements, went so far as to speak of ‘that detestable disposition of his, which makes him unwilling to give pleasure to any human creature unless he is a partaker of it’.5 He married Elizabeth Patteson, who came of a Canterbury family of Quakers, and by her had five children. Of these, two sons, Edward who was a surgeon at Long Sutton in Lincolnshire, and Alfred, died before their father. Of the other three children one was Priscilla Ann, who married Ricardo, the other was Fanny who married Ricardo’s brother Moses; and the third son Josiah Henry married his own cousin Sarah Patteson. These formed Ricardo’s intimate family circle up to the time when his own children grew up. Josiah Henry had seven children, five sons and two daughters. His eldest son, William Arthur, who was Ricardo’s clerk on the Stock Exchange and later himself a stockbroker and railway director, married Ricardo’s sister Esther, and after her death another of his sisters, Rachel.
Both Moses Ricardo and J. H. Wilkinson were surgeons, and at one time seem to have been in partnership (being listed in Holden’s Triennial Directory for 1808 as ‘Wilkinson and Ricardo, surgeons, Bow’); but neither of them prospered very much and both were at various times in receipt of some financial help from Ricardo. The economic difficulties in which he constantly found himself, coloured J. H. Wilkinson’s outlook on life and even his relations with Ricardo, as is reflected in their letters (see below, p. 109 ff.).
Edward Wilkinson died on 4 November 1809, in his eighty-second year, and was buried on 12 November. His son Josiah Henry, who felt he had been ill-used by him, wrote a bitter poem the day before the funeral, which is a revealing document of family discord.1 When the will was read, it was found that old Wilkinson had completely disinherited his son, leaving the bulk of his property to be divided equally between his own two daughters. Each of the daughters was to receive £1100; but Ricardo and his wife immediately decided that they did not wish to benefit from it, and that of Priscilla’s share £700 should be settled on J. H. Wilkinson’s children, £100 should be sent to Robert, son of Edward Wilkinson’s eldest son,1 while the rest would go in discharging expenses. In communicating this decision to her brother in a letter written on 12 November 1809 on returning home from the funeral, Priscilla Ricardo added: ‘I know not my dear H. if this plan will meet with yours and Sally’s approbation, but it appears to David and me as the best which has offer’d to our minds, of making it easy to all our feelings.’2
(More light on the relations between Edward Wilkinson and his children is thrown by the new letter of Ricardo to his father-in-law which has been discovered since the above was written and is given on p. 119.)
We get a glimpse of Ricardo’s wife from the recollections of Mrs Charlotte Sturge, herself a Quaker and a descendant of the Pattesons:3 ‘Priscilla Ricardo was a handsome, but very proud woman. I have heard my Mother say that for many years she continued to attend the Friends’ Meeting at Ratcliff, and how much she was admired as she swept grandly and proudly up the meeting, followed by her fine, elegant daughters. At the death of her husband Mrs Ricardo was left with a handsome income, £30001 per annum, but to her, who had lived in a princely style, beyond what this jointure would afford or permit her to continue, it seemed a great change, and she angrily declared that she should not have money enough to keep her from the workhouse!’
WHERE RICARDO LIVED IN LONDON
Shortly before Ricardo was married in December 1793 in Lambeth he had become, as we have seen, a resident of that parish. In the Lambeth Rate Books he appears as of 2 Brookes’s Place in December 1793 and again in March 1794. By May 1795 he is shown as having moved to 7 New Buildings, Kennington Place, where he was still entered as a ratepayer in March 1796.2 His name has not been traced for later periods in the Lambeth Rate Books; but it is certain that he continued to reside there, since the birth certificate of his third child, Priscilla, in October 1797, gives the same address as her place of birth; and the certificate of his fourth child, Fanny, in October 1800, gives her as born in the parish of St Mary Lambeth without recording the precise address. Brookes’s Place was a terrace on the east side of the present Kennington Road, and Kennington Place was close by, where is now the junction of Kennington Road and Kennington Park Road.
In 1798, when fears of invasion were at their height, Volunteer Associations were formed in various parts of the country. Ricardo joined the Loyal Lambeth Infantry Association and was commissioned as 1st Lieutenant on 10 July 1798.3 He no doubt took part in the ceremony of the presentation of the Lambeth colours on Sunday 22 September of the same year, when the local Volunteers, cavalry and infantry, ‘were mustered in their field of exercise near Vauxhall’.1 He continued to hold that rank in the Lambeth Volunteers in 1800 and 1801.2
In 1803, having gone to live in the east of London, he joined on the resumption of war the Bromley and St Leonards Corps of the Tower Hamlets Volunteers, being commissioned as Captain on 17 August of that year.3 His brother Moses was Surgeon in the same Corps; and it may be noted that his future friend James Mill was also a volunteer at this time.4
The earliest evidence of this move to Mile End is in letters of Ricardo of 1 December 1802 and 10 January 1803.5 But the full address, New Grove, Mile End, appears first in the birth certificate of Ricardo’s fifth child, David, of 18 May 1803. New Grove was a house on the north side of the Mile End Road (or Mile End Old Town as a part of it was named), well within the sound of Bow Bells. It stood at the corner of the road to Old Ford, which at this point was called Cut Throat Lane. Small wonder, with such a name, that Ricardo’s brother-in-law who went to the house one night after there had been a robbery in the neighbourhood found it ‘as dismal as the Castle of Otranto’.6 It seems, however, to have been pleasantly situated in rural surroundings, with nursery gardens on one side and cattle pens on the other. It was just within the boundary of the parish of Bromley, which the birth certificates of Ricardo’s last four children refer to as ‘Bromley St Leonard (so-called)’ or simply ‘Bromley’.7 Here he lived until his move to the West End of London in 1812.
The initiative in the move to the West End came from Mrs Ricardo, who, now that her daughters were growing up, was anxious to live in town. An eligible house was soon found at 56 Upper Brook Street, Grosvenor Square, capable of conveniently accommodating their large family; and at the insistence of his wife and children Ricardo bought the lease of it, despite the ‘enormous’ price.1 In the face of a homily from Mill as to the evils of a ‘career of fashionable life’,2 they went to live there in the spring of 1812.3 The house had been built in 1729 as part of the development of the Grosvenor estate.4 It was a handsome building at the eastern end of Upper Brook Street, next to the corner-house of Grosvenor Square, with stable and coach-houses in the neighbouring Lees Mews. The well-known architect Samuel Pepys Cockerell was employed by Ricardo to renovate the house, among the features of which were an oval staircase and three Adam mantelpieces.5 Three years later, however, structural defects were discovered in the building which made it dangerous to live in and extensive repairs had to be carried out, to Ricardo’s great annoyance.6
For the rest of his life this remained Ricardo’s London home; and from 1814 he divided his time about equally between it and Gatcomb Park.7
A NOTE ON CLUBS AND SOCIETIES
The Clubs and Societies to which Ricardo belonged at various times, and through which many of his friendships and acquaintances were formed, are often mentioned in his letters, and it may be convenient to list them here with some information about each.
In 1805 the London Institution was established in Old Jewry, whence it moved to Moorfields, and Ricardo was a member since its foundation. Among the members of the original committee were Richard Sharp and Henry Thornton. It had a large reference library of books and newspapers, which Ricardo seems to have occasionally consulted.1
The Geological Society of London was founded in November 1807, and Ricardo was one of its early members, having joined in 1808.2 At first it was mainly a geological dining club; the Society dining together on the first Friday of every month, ‘at five o’clock precisely’, from November to June inclusive at the Freemasons’ Tavern.3 Subsequently, having acquired a collection of specimens and a library, they decided to take as headquarters a house at 3 Lincoln’s Inn Fields. In this connection on 6 April 1810 seven permanent trustees were appointed and among them were Ricardo and Francis Horner.4 In June of the same year a Council was formed, with George Bellas Greenough, M.P., F.R.S., as President, and among the members of it were Ricardo and his relative Wilson Lowry.5 A number of Ricardo’s friends belonged to the Geological Society: Dr Alexander Marcet, husband of the author of Conversations on Political Economy, and Henry Warburton (1808), William Blake, F.R.S. (1812; President 1815–16), Thomas Smith, John Whishaw, Hutches Trower (1813), and George Basevi (1815). Ricardo himself, as the Memoir says, formed a collection of minerals which was continued by his son David who succeeded him at Gatcomb Park. This collection was presented in the late nineteen-twenties by Lt.-Col. H. G. Ricardo to the Museum at Stroud.
The ‘King of Clubs’ appears in the correspondence between Ricardo and Malthus from an early date; its meetings providing the occasion for Malthus’s visits to London. This select Whig dining club had been founded in 1798. Its dinners were held on the first Saturday of the month,1 and among its early members were Richard Sharp, Sir James Mackintosh, John Whishaw and Lord Holland. Later it was joined by Sir Samuel Romilly, Francis Horner, Sydney Smith, Henry Brougham, Francis Jeffrey and William Blake the economist. Malthus was elected a member in 1812, and Ricardo on 7 June 1817.2
On 13 March 1818 Ricardo was elected a member of Brooks’s, having been nominated by two leading Whig peers, Lord Essex as proposer and Lord Holland as seconder.3 This famous club in St James’s Street was at the time notable both as a gambling resort and as a centre for the Parliamentary opposition. For Ricardo this was a preliminary to entering Parliament; and on the occasion of his admission to the Club his friend Thomas Smith, himself an enthusiastic Whig, wrote to him: ‘I am very glad to hear of your election to Brooks’s and of the prospect you now have of getting a seat in Parliament: we feel great pleasure, in observing your acquaintance enlarge and your intimacy encrease, with men themselves distinguish’d for talent’.4 Ricardo seems to have used Brooks’s regularly for reading the newspapers and hearing the day’s political gossip.5
In the last years of his life the dining club most regularly attended by Ricardo was the Political Economy Club, as has been seen from the frequent mention of its meetings in the Correspondence. This was founded in April 1821,1 and met for dinner and discussion on the first Monday of each month from December to June inclusive. These discussions were on questions proposed in advance by members. Ricardo never missed a meeting when he was in London except when detained by important business in the House. On Ricardo’s death his brother Moses was elected a member in his place, and when Moses resigned in 1840 another brother, Samson, was elected and remained a member until his death in 1863.2
A NOTE ON PORTRAITS
Of Ricardo’s physical appearance J. L. Mallet writes: ‘His stature was somewhat under the common size, but well proportioned and active; his countenance open; and his features good, although with a light Jewish cast; his eye had a soft, beaming, intelligent and, at the same time, thoughtful expression, which is very successfully portrayed in Phillips’ picture.’ ‘It is said that his voice, although sweet and pleasing, was pitched extremely high, and his distinct articulation gave him an advantage in the House of Commons by fixing attention, which is not the case with monotonous tones.’3
Another contemporary describes him in terms which, although very similar, are reminiscent rather of the Heaphy miniature: ‘In his person Ricardo was under the middle size; slender, but active; the air of his head was very acute, but at the same time very benevolent; and the expression of his face was candour itself.’ ‘In St. Stephens, we shall miss the little plain man with the acute features and the keen eye, who sat by the pillar.’4
Ricardo’s sudden death took his acquaintances by surprise, who judged his health from his appearance. Thus Mallet remarks: ‘He was not a robust man, but of a sound constitution; and his habits were so temperate, that he would probably have lived to an advanced age if he had not been prematurely cut off by an inflammatory complaint in the head in his 51st year.’1 Ricardo, however, had no confident expectations. In 1820 he wrote to Mill: ‘You are mistaken in supposing that because I consider life on the whole as not a very desirable thing to retain after 60, that therefore I am discontented with my situation...The contrary is the case...I am led to set a light value on life when I consider the many accidents and privations to which we are liable.—In my own case, I have already lost the use of one ear, completely—and am daily losing my teeth, that I have scarcely one that is useful to me. No one bears these serious deprivations with a better temper than myself, yet I cannot help anticipating from certain notices which I sometimes think I have that many more await me.’2
The likeness of Ricardo which is familiar to generations of readers of his works is that of the more or less satisfactory reproductions of the Phillips portrait. A direct photograph of the original has been published for the first time in volume IX of the present edition. The portrait was painted in the spring of 18203 by Thomas Phillips, R.A., and was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1821.4 A mezzotint was engraved from it by T. Hodgetts and proof copies were given by Ricardo to his family; the imprint, ‘London, Published by Messrs Colnaghi’s, Cockspur St. May 6th, 1822’ seems to imply that copies were on sale to the public.5 Hodgetts kept the original portrait for such a long time that Ricardo had to write to him on 2 February 1822 to request its return, with the remark: ‘It is nearly 2 years since it was painted and I have never yet seen it at my own house.’6
However, the form in which the Phillips portrait has usually been reproduced is an engraving by William Holl, showing only the bust, itself copied from Hodgetts’ mezzotint. The first appearance of this version is in Edward Gibbon Wakefield’s edition of the Wealth of Nations, published by Charles Knight in 1835, where it forms the frontispiece to volume ii.1 It was reproduced in the Second Series of Lord Brougham’s Historical Sketches of Statesmen who flourished in the Time of George III, 1839, also published by Charles Knight. Best known is McCulloch’s edition of Ricardo’s Works in which the portrait was inserted as a frontispiece in most of the reprints from 1852 onwards.
In the Note-book of Thomas Phillips2 the portrait is entered under the number 474, kit-cat size, as having been exhibited in 1821. Another entry, however, is found in the Note-book under No. 59 of a portrait of ‘Mr Ricardo’, three-quarter size, painted on 24 June 1797 for a fee of 6 guineas. No further information has been discovered of this portrait, which may, of course, have been of Ricardo’s father.
Two miniatures by Thomas Heaphy of Ricardo and of his wife, which have been reproduced in the original size, one in volume VIII and the other in the present volume, were exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1822.3 The miniature of Ricardo is dated at the back 1820, and Mrs Ricardo’s, though undated, seems to be of the same time.4
When Ricardo was in Florence in 1822 he visited the studio of Vincenzo Bonelli and sat for a portrait bust in marble. This was in the hall at Gatcombe and a photograph has been given in volume V.5
Neither the miniatures nor the bust have previously been reproduced. All these, as well as the Phillips portrait, are now in the possession of Mr Peter W. Ricardo.
[2 ]Gentleman’s Magazine, December 1809, p. 1176.
[3 ]See Joseph Smith, Descriptive Catalogue of Friends’ Books, 1867, vol. ii, pp. 933–4.
[4 ]This, and some of the following information on the family was kindly supplied to the editor in 1932 by the Rev. Horace Ricardo Wilkinson.
[5 ]Letter to J. H. Wilkinson of 20 Sept. 1795, below, p. iii.
[1 ]The poem of eight quatrains (a copy of which in Ricardo’s handwriting is in R.P.) is entitled: ‘Reflections—on reading the inscription on the tomb of Thos Dermody,—in the Church yard of Lewisham, on the 11th Novr 1809’ (Thomas Dermody, the Irish poet, had died in 1802). The following are some lines from it:
[1 ]Under the will he only received the surgical instruments and medical books.
[2 ]See below, p. 118. Edward Wilkinson’s will, dated 2 Aug. 1806, was proved 15 Nov. 1809.
[3 ]Family Records, by Charlotte Sturge, ‘For Private Circulation only’, London, 1882, p. 72. Her mother, who knew Mrs Ricardo, was Elizabeth Allen, née Harris (1788–1862).
[1 ]Actually £4000; see below, p. 105.
[2 ]The annual rent as entered in the Rate Books was £18 at the former address and £32 at the latter.
[3 ]List of...the Officers of the Militia, War Office, 6th ed., 1799, p. 635.
[1 ]The ceremony is described in a newspaper of 24 Sept. 1798 of which Ricardo preserved a cutting among his papers.
[2 ]The entry concerning Ricardo is repeated in the 7th ed. of the List, 1800, and in the 8th ed., 1801. In the 9th ed., 1803, neither the Lambeth Volunteers nor Ricardo any longer appear.
[3 ]A List of the Officers of the Gentlemen and Yeomanry Cavalry, and Volunteer Infantry, War Office, 1804, p. 681. The entry is repeated in the similar Lists for 1805, 11th ed. and 1807, 12th ed.
[4 ]See Bain, James Mill, p. 49.
[5 ]These letters which are addressed to his brother-in-law J. H. Wilkinson refer in their headings only to Mile End (the first letter is given below, p. 114–15; on the second, which is not published, see p. 117).
[6 ]Letter of 21 June 1810 from J. H. Wilkinson to Ricardo (who was at the seaside); see below, p. 118.
[7 ]The name and location of New Grove are shown in the Map of London published by Darton and Harvey in 1805. The site is close to where the present Mile End Road becomes the Bow Road, near the boundary between Bromley and Stepney. In the Rate Books of neither place, however, can New Grove or Ricardo’s name be traced for the period of his residence there.
[1 ]Letter to Mill of 26 Sept. 1811, above, VI, 52. According to the Westminster Rate Books for 1813 to 1823 the assessed annual rent of the house was £480.
[2 ]Letter from Mill of 15 Oct. 1811, above, VI, 59.
[3 ]See above, VI, 82.
[4 ]Information kindly supplied by the Estate Surveyor to the Grosvenor Estates. See also C. T. Gatty, Mary Davies and the Manor of Ebury, 1921, vol. ii, p. 208.
[5 ]See The Times of 10 April 1934 (when the mantelpieces were stolen by burglars).
[6 ]See above, VII, 17–18. The picture in volume VI from a photograph taken in 1932 for this work shows the house with the adjoining buildings much as they must have been in Ricardo’s time. The house was damaged by bombing on the night of 19 April 1941; it was repaired and converted into flats after the war, but is now included in the property due to be demolished to make way for a new American Embassy (this information also supplied by the Estate Surveyor to the Grosvenor Estates).
[7 ]On the purchase of Gatcomb see below, p. 95–6.
[1 ]See Plan and Bye-laws of the London Institution for the Advancement of Literature and the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, determined upon at a General Meeting of the Proprietors, Oct. 17, 1805, with a List of the Proprietors and Life Subscribers, London, 1806. Cp. above, VI, 281.
[2 ]H. B. Woodward, History of the Geological Society of London, 1907, p. 271.
[3 ]ib. p. 16. Cp. Ricardo’s reference to conversation at ‘the Geological Club’ in 1815, above, VI, 205–6.
[4 ]Woodward, ib. p. 32. Ricardo remained a trustee till the end of his life, as appears from the lists published in three successive volumes of the Transactions of the Society.
[5 ]ib. p. 33.
[1 ]Above, VIII, 18.
[2 ]See W. P. Courtney, ‘The King of Clubs’, in The ‘Pope’ of Holland House, ed. by Lady Seymour, London, 1906, pp. 333–40. The Register of the King of Clubs is now in the British Museum, Add. MS. 37,337.
[3 ]Memorials of Brooks’s from the Foundation of the Club 1764 to the Close of the Nineteenth Century, London, 1907, p. 92.
[4 ]Letter to Ricardo from Easton Grey, 23 March , unpublished MS in R.P.
[5 ]Cp. above, VIII, 28 and 163.
[1 ]See above, VIII, 367 and 381.
[2 ]See Political Economy Club, Minutes of Proceedings, 1821–1882, London, 1882.
[3 ]Diary entry on Ricardo’s death, in Political Economy Club, Centenary Volume, 1921, pp. 209 and 212.
[4 ]Obituary in Sunday Times, 14 Sept. 1823.
[1 ]Centenary Volume, p. 209–10.
[2 ]Letter of 5 Sept. 1820, above, VIII, 253.
[3 ]This date is derived from Ricardo’s letter to Hodgetts presently to be mentioned, which had not come to light when the photogravure plate in vol. IX was made, with its date ‘c. 1821’.
[4 ]No. 116 in the Catalogue of the Exhibition, 1821. The painting has been reproduced by permission of Mr Frank Ricardo to whom it formerly belonged.
[5 ]A reproduction of the Hodgetts engraving appears in the Political Economy Club, Centenary Volume, 1921.
[6 ]Unpublished MS in a collection of autographs which formed lot 1179a at Sotheby’s sale, 5 July 1948.
[1 ]The plate has the imprint: ‘London, Published by Charles Knight, Ludgate Street, Sepr. 1835.’
[2 ]A MS copy of this is in the National Portrait Gallery.
[3 ]No. 644 (Mrs Ricardo) and No. 754 (David Ricardo) in the Catalogue of the Exhibition, 1822.
[4 ]These miniatures have been reproduced by permission of the late Lt.-Col. H. G. Ricardo in whose possession they were at Gatcombe.
[5 ]There is a note in the pocketbook which Ricardo had on the Continent, ‘Bust of myself 25 L.’ The entry in Bonelli’s invoice, dated 21 Oct. 1822, reads: ‘Un busto ritratto Grande in Marmo, Luigi 25-Un do piccolo in Alabastro, 6’. Cp. below, p. 318.