Front Page Titles (by Subject) i: Early Letters to J. H. Wilkinson - The Works and Correspondence of David Ricardo, Vol. 10 Biographical Miscellany
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i: Early Letters to J. H. Wilkinson - 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.
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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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Early Letters to J. H. Wilkinson
The five letters of Ricardo which open this series, the first of which was written when he was 23, are much the earliest of his that have survived. They give us a glimpse of his life at a period of which we know almost nothing. The recipient of the letters, Josiah Henry Wilkinson, was a younger brother of Ricardo’s wife, Priscilla: he had recently been married (his wife Sarah is often mentioned in the letters), and they had their first child in the same year as the Ricardos. His practice as a surgeon was not very remunerative, and the contrast between his impecunious circumstances and Ricardo’s growing prosperity forms the background of several of these letters.
A sixth letter to Wilkinson of a later period has been included because of the interest of the personal relations which it illuminates. The rest of the correspondence between Ricardo and Wilkinson is listed on pp. 117–19.
The MSS are in the possession of J. H. Wilkinson’s great-grandson, Canon Horace Ricardo Wilkinson.
ricardo to wilkinson1
Brighton Sepr. 10–95
We left home this morning at a ¼ before seven oClock, and after travelling as expeditiously as we could, only allowing ourselves time to take a luncheon of cold meat, we arrived here at three oClock where we dined.—The boy2 behaved admirably well and we had no difficulties to contend with.—Granville had not taken a house for us but had seen several and had partly agreed for one to which he immediately took us, which pleased us so much that we mean to take up our residence in it during our stay, we have a charming view of the sea and a better house than ours at Kennington, we have five bedrooms and two parlors for which we pay the extravagant price of 4 guineas pr. week, but when I determined to come here I made up my mind to spend a great deal of money and I am now convinced I shall not be disappointed. It would give us great pleasure if you and Sally and yr. child would pay us a visit our house is large enough to accomodate you comfortably.—I am sincere when I say I shou’d be really glad if you wou’d come.—We have already hired a cook at ½ a guinea pr. week but find we cannot do without another servant,—therefore, will be obliged to you to send to our house at Kennington for Thomas and put him in the way how to come down to us in the cheapest way,—which I think will be by the slap-bang, or on the top of a Brighton coach—you will excuse the trouble.—We are now going to supper it being past nine, we were up at five this morng. and are rather sleepy.—I hope you will write to us, and give us a good account of Sally and the little one. I was sorry to see her so indifferent yesterday.—
Direct to us:—at No. 4 Belle-vue—Brighton which direction I will be obliged to you to give to Thomas.—Priscilla’s kind love to you and Sally—Yrs. sincerely
ricardo to wilkinson1
[Brighton, 20 Sept. 1795] Sunday morng.
We were very much concerned to hear of Sally’s illness at Kennington and are sorry that that shou’d prevent her from venturing there again, as she might in all likelihood be more successful in a second attempt and quite re-establish her health,—however if she is determined not to go again, Priscilla particularly wishes that she wou’d have our Pamela home, who, I am sure, wou’d contribute all in her power to make the task of nursing &ca. less painful to Sally. Let me intreat you not to be unnecessarily ceremonious but send for her; I have some interest in wishing it as I should be sorry to see you excel me in the art of nursing, quieting and feeding children.—
Fanny in spite of all our wishes is not with us, the reason given, is yr. fr.’s2 very ill state of health with which F herself seems to be perfectly satisfied.—I confess I am not, and attribute it only to that detestable disposition of his, which makes him unwilling to give pleasure to any human creature unless he is a partaker of it.—
This place is fuller than ever,—The Prince3 is returned but we have not yet seen him.—There are above six families here with whom we are intimate and who are so sociable, that our time passes very agreeably. We were at the play last wednesy. when J Bannister and Mrs. Bland performd. for Sedgwick’s benefit, but the house which is exceedingly small, was so much crouded that the heat was intolerable, and we were obliged to leave it before the play was over without having enjoyed one moments comfort.—We see the Princess1 every day, she is very fond of children and in passing our house looked up and took particular notice of our boy, which Priscilla is so proud of that I fear she will become a violent aristocrat.
We have been sailing three times on the sea—the last time the wind blew very fresh and the dancing on the waves had so great an effect on Priscilla’s stomach that she vomitted almost the whole time we were out, she says she will content herself with the amusements on shore and will not again trust herself on an element which so ill agrees with her.—
The lump on Osman’s arm has broken and discharged a great deal of matter, but he is in very good health and spirits and I hope you will find him improved on his return.
Fish is in great plenty here, but they take care to keep it at a good price. Lobsters, soles, turbot, plaise &ca. are all sold by the pound.—We again repeat that if you wou’d come down to us tho’ for ever so short a time, you wou’d give us great pleasure, I think it might be of service to you, and do away all the ill effects of the Burgundy and claret you swallow’d so copiously.—Our Dear love to Sally.—
ricardo to wilkinson1
Fortune has persecuted you from your infancy,—you are a signal instance of its injustice; perhaps I am so too, for she has been as unjustly bountiful to me as she has been cruelly neglectful of you; there cannot be therefore much merit in parting with the trifles which you think far too highly of.—I do not mean to say much, I am sick of professions of friendship,—I only hope my feelings with respect to you and Sally may never alter. I love and respect you—
Monday Eveng. [17 Sept. 1798]
ricardo to wilkinson2
I, my dear Wilkinson, have been one of Fortune’s chief favorites, whilst you have met with nothing but disappointments at her hands;—but I reckon as one of the best priveleges she has bestowed on me, the power of repairing her wrongs. Therefore, it appearing to me, that a small sum of ready money will be of more service to your affairs than the little annual assistance which I have lately afforded you,—I beg you to accept the inclosed.—You will greatly add to the pleasure which I feel in giving it, if your acceptance is unaccompanied with any feelings but those of unfettered and unrestrained friendship. If our situations were reversed, I should have no reluctance in receiving a similar proof of your good wishes.
S.E. Novr. 29th 1802
ricardo to wilkinson1
I learnt, with much concern, the manner in which you were affected at my house on monday last.—You attach an importance to this proof of my good wishes, which I am sure on cooler reflection you must be satisfied it does not deserve.—The merit of a donor materially depends on his ability, and little would have attached to me, if with the ample means which I possess I had not endeavored to render you a real not a nominal service. After all, the sum what is it? in my view small indeed if it perform what I should hope it would.—I wish it to clear you from the incumbrances which have been so long weighing heavy on you, and rid your future prospect of the difficulties under which it laboured.—Nothing can be more discourageing than working, as you have done, for many years against the stream, and to remove incumbrances which were neither caused by dissipation or extravagance, but in the attainment of what was necessary to the practise of your profession.—You will be cheared, I hope, in your fatiguing avocation, by the reflection that what you obtain by it will be your own, and the probability of being able to make some little provision for your family. I am a little disappointed in your thinking so much of what I have done.—Remember, my good fellow, that it was but the other day we started together,—I mean that my prospects were no better if so good as yours,—we compared notes, and we made calculations of the probable amount of my expences. In our course what different success has attended us? and now forgetting the spot from whence we took our departure, you are overwhelmed because I dispense one atom of my success to my friend whom I esteem. If you do not wish to abash me, talk no more in the strain in which you have done, but let us meet and be as unrestrained and comfortable as ever. I embrace the opportunity which Sally has afforded me, by asking us for to-morrow, when I hope we shall get rid of all uncomfortable feelings.
Mile-end Wednesday eveng. [1 Dec. 1802]
ricardo to wilkinson1
Upper Brook Street 31 March 1815
In justice to Frank,2 William3 and myself it is necessary that you should be made acquainted with all that has passed between us, relative to William’s quitting me, as Priscilla’s letter to William might otherwise make an impression on your mind to the disadvantage of some or all of us. Much as I am sometimes surprised at Priscilla’s warmth and energy on trifling occasions, on the present occasion I have been more than usually puzzled to account for her thinking it necessary either to feel strongly or to interfere in a business which I tell her is wholly out of her department. Since I have had it in contemplation to leave business, or to carry it on in a very limited way, I have been thinking of some arrangement about William. He has had little to do for me for some months and if I carried my intention into execution he would have still less to occupy his time at the Stock Exchge. I intended to have told him that he should remain with me till he was of age, and then with a little assistance of Stock in trade he must endeavor as other young men do, to get his livelihood and push his own fortunes. Frank knew my intention, and observed a day or two ago, that William appeared to him to be so timid that he had great doubts whether he could do any thing in the way of business for himself yet,—but if I meant to part with him he might have all the advantages which I proposed and a sure resource of about £80 pr. Annm. besides. He said that he had a number of small commissions which brought in about £160 and William should have half if he liked to take all the trouble which they occasioned. He observed too that he could have no particular personal motive for this proposal as he could easily get a young man to give him the necessary assistance at that, or at a less salary, but he proposed it for William because he might keep it or relinquish it accordingly as he found himself equal to carrying on a little business for himself, and which he might do at the same time that he assisted him.
As a friend of William, considering this arrangement as something better than what I had myself in contemplation for him;—as it was something in addition to it, I readily agreed and accordingly spoke to William on the subject (not he to me) and recommended him if he liked the proposal made by Frank to accede to it. He said all that was necessary about leaving me unprovided, and rejected the idea of receiving a salary from me, even for a year, if he was not doing any thing for me, and wished to alter that part of the arrangement, but it was finally settled as Frank and I had agreed.
Now it appears to me that we have all three behaved very civilly to each other:—I am sure we all three thought so.—Priscilla, however, persuades herself that Frank has imposed upon me and made me consent to an arrangement which is not agreeable to me, and has worked herself up to write, unknown to me at the time, to William. She has told me the substance of her letter, and of her consent that you should see it. I write therefore to give you a true statement of the case, that you may not be induced from any other considerations than those of William’s interest to withhold your consent from the above arrangement.
I cannot see it in any other light but as one which may be of use and cannot be of detriment to him.
other correspondence with j.h. wilkinson
The following is a list of the other letters between Ricardo and J. H. Wilkinson which are preserved. Except where otherwise stated the MSS are in the possession of Canon H. R. Wilkinson.
Ricardo to Wilkinson. ‘Mile End 10 Jan. 1803’. Written in French as an exercise when after the Peace of Amiens the two of them, together with George Basevi, intended to go on a visit to Paris.
Wilkinson to Ricardo. Undated draft [paper watermarked 1803]. Probably 2 April 1806. Returning £500 in Exchequer Bills and Stock which had been given him by Ricardo.
Ricardo to Wilkinson. ‘Stock Exchge. 3 April 1806’. Acknowledging the preceding letter.
Mrs Ricardo to her brother J. H. Wilkinson. 12 Nov. 1809. Just returned from the funeral of her father; informing him of the disposal of her own share of the inheritance by settling £700 on J. H. Wilkinson’s children, as Ricardo had done with the £500 which Wilkinson had returned to him three years before. (Quoted above, p. 45.)
Wilkinson to Ricardo. ‘Abchurch Lane—Thursday night’ [21 June 1810; cp. n. 1 below]. Paper watermarked 1809. A long letter in a light vein to Ricardo who was at the seaside (probably at Brighton) with part of the family, expressing concern for the latter’s house at Mile End, after ‘the robbery committed at Dr Lindsey’s house’.1 He had ridden there at ten at night to reconnoitre: ‘I got into such a fidget of fear, that if your volunteers had been in existence, I might have call’d them out at that time of night, to have guarded their Captain’s mansion;2 —but, as that brave corps was annihilated,’ it was arranged for a man to sleep in; in order to dissipate ‘the dreadful dismality of the house’, he decided that a light should be kept burning; also, he took Ricardo’s boys, Osman and David, to sleep at his own home. He asks whether Ricardo has had an opportunity of introducing ‘Sr. Philip’ (no doubt Sir Philip Francis) to Priscilla: ‘he might be an agreeable companion,—not by his exhibition of vanity, but by anecdotes of the Prince of Wales &c.’ The rest of the letter is a facetious report on the patients of Moses Ricardo (who was with the seaside party) whom Wilkinson was looking after during his absence. (MS in R.P.)
Ricardo to Wilkinson. Upper Brook Street, 2 July 1819. Dealing with miscellaneous matters and inviting him and his wife to stay at Gatcomb. (Quoted above, p. 95 and VIII, 46–7, n.)
Wilkinson to Ricardo. Peckham, 2 Dec. 1821. Consulting Ricardo as to the career of his own son Norman. (MS. in R.P.)
Ricardo to Wilkinson. ‘Upper Brook Street, 9 March 1822’. A jocular letter acknowledging a pamphlet by Wilkinson on skin diseases.
Wilkinson to Ricardo. Peckham, 21 April 1822. Praising Ricardo’s pamphlet On Protection to Agriculture. (MS in R.P.)
Ricardo to Wilkinson. Florence, 16 Oct. 1822. A long letter covering similar ground to the description of Florence in the Journal of a Tour on the Continent. (Some passages are quoted below, pp. 317n. and 319–20.)
Wilkinson to Ricardo. Peckham, 16 Nov. 1822. Reply to the previous letter. (MS in R.P.)
[1 ]Addressed: ‘Mr. J. H. Wilkinson / Surgeon. / Church Court / Clements Lane / Lombard Street / London’.
[2 ]Ricardo’s first child Osman, then three months old.
[1 ]Addressed: ‘Mr. Wilkinson / Surgeon / Church Court / Clement’s Lane / Lombard Street / London’.—Postmarks: Brighton, undated; London, 21 Sept. 1795 (a Monday). Seal: shield surmounted by a cat, with motto touch not the cat but a glove.
[2 ]‘your father’ refers to Edward Wilkinson, and Fanny is J. H. Wilkinson’s sister, future wife of Moses Ricardo.
[3 ]The Prince of Wales, later George IV.
[1 ]The future Queen Caroline of the Trial of 1820.
[1 ]Addressed: ‘Mr. Wilkinson / Church Court / Clements Lane / Lombard Street’. London postmark, 18 Sept. 1798 (a Tuesday).
[2 ]Addressed: ‘Mr J. H. Wilkinson / Abchurch Lane’. Not passed through the post.
[1 ]Addressed: ‘Mr. J. H. Wilkinson / Abchurch Lane’. Not passed through the post.
[1 ]Addressed: ‘J. H. Wilkinson Esq’. Not passed through the post.
[2 ]Ricardo’s brother Francis.
[3 ]William Arthur, son of J. H. Wilkinson, had been Ricardo’s clerk on the Stock Exchange since 1811; he was now twenty years old.
[1 ]The Times of Monday 25 June 1810 reported that ‘Mr. Lindsey’s Academy, near Bow’ had been broken into and robbed during the night of 19–20 June. Although both sources spell ‘Lindsey’, this must refer to Dr James Lindsay, the Unitarian minister, who had an Academy at Bow (see Bain, James Mill, p. 121 n.).
[2 ]Cp. above, p. 47.