Front Page Titles (by Subject) vi: Two Sisters Decline a Present - The Works and Correspondence of David Ricardo, Vol. 10 Biographical Miscellany
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vi: Two Sisters Decline a Present - 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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Two Sisters Decline a Present
The two young sisters of Ricardo, Esther and Sarah, who wrote this demure letter, were greatly attached to one another. And Ricardo in a letter to Mill of 30 August 1815 expresses his admiration for the devotion of Esther during a prolonged illness of Sarah.1 Sarah some time before 1815 was married to G. R. Porter, whereas the present undated letter, signed in her maiden name, must have been written at an earlier time, possibly several years before. The letter is entirely in Sarah’s handwriting, and to it Esther simply adds her signature. Esther was born in 1789 and Sarah in 1790; so that they were nearly twenty years younger than Ricardo. Abigail and Rachel who are mentioned in the letter were two other unmarried sisters.
The MS is in R.P.—Ricardo’s reply, if ever there was one, is not extant.
esther and sarah ricardo to their brother david2
We had hoped our former truly ungracious manner of accepting your kind presents would entirely have disgusted you and effectually prevented you from ever again bestowing your gifts on such unworthy objects—It is a most unpleasant task to be obliged to refuse those favors which arise from the most delicate attention but as we feel we cannot accept them with that kindness with which they are proffered we think it right to decline them. Then do not be offended but indeed we cannot accept the present (which through Rachel) you have offered us—We have a feeling which we call an independent spirit,—you perhaps insufferable pride, which renders the idea of pecuniary obligations most repugnant to us. Under which ever of these terms it may be classed we certainly possess it and even if it were possible you could convince our understandings it was the latter and most wrong the feeling itself would still remain unconquered—Any pleasure you might have conceived must be considerably if not totally abated when what you proffer as a mark of affection is received as an unnecessary superfluity for as such we candidly confess we must ever consider it. Indeed we have quite as much money as we are entitled to, or require for all reasonable wants and Believe us when we assure, if ever we should exceed our usual limits and be inconvenienced for a trifle we would rather apply to you than to anybody convinced you would remove our difficulties with more delicacy and promptitude. We at present feel for you as for our other brothers—if then you do not wish our sentiments to be changed towards you, you will not think us wrong in our present conduct—however we may abstractedly reason on the subject and assert that it ought to make no difference yet few will deny but it does; for while one party is constantly receiving obligations from the other, there certainly cannot subsist that perfect equality so necessary to the unrestrained affection we at present feel towards each other, such frequent and at length settled donations must in time fetter our warm regard for you it will be exchanged for newly awakened sentiments occasioned by our respective situations and perhaps insensibly dwindle into only cold gratitude—we had better then avert the possibility of such a thing. We covet your good opinion we ardently wish for a continuance of your love and esteem, bestow on us these and we are amply satisfied. We do not fear you will persevere in again pressing upon us any of your kind offers since you know our present opinion, but we fear to offend you and we would rather submit to act contrary to our inclinations than you should for one minute entertain any feeling of displeasure towards us you may perhaps condemn our ideas on this subject as wrong but let not that reprehension be mixed with anger and although you may call us foolish and proud do not think us unkind or ungrateful—do not suppose that our refusal is dictated by any want of sisterly feelings towards you for never did we feel more real affection for you than at this moment—we are most grateful for your kind offer but oh how much more really grateful shall we feel if after reading this, you do not feel hurt or angry with us.—We have troubled you with this long letter as we felt we could not speak to you on the subject.—
Believe us dear brother your truly grateful and affectionate Sisters
Abigail is from home and therefore ignorant of the transaction
[1 ]See above, VI, 264.
[2 ]The letter is addressed: ‘Mr D. Ricardo’.