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viii: A Letter to a Wine Merchant - 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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A Letter to a Wine Merchant
The following draft letter in Ricardo’s handwriting does not indicate the person for whom it was intended. While it has some interest in itself, this interest is enhanced by the probable identity of the addressee; the suggestion, however, that this was his uncle Abraham Delvalle, can be more conveniently discussed in a note at the end of the letter.
The draft is not dated; but a comparison with the MSS of the letters to Malthus shows that the paper it is written on is identical only with that of the letter to Malthus of 17 March 1815, and this fact in conjunction with the reference to the year 1815 in Delvalle’s letter below makes it highly probable that it is of that period. The MSS are in R.P.
[London, ca. March 1815]
Your letter to me contains a defence against accusations never brought against you. You have clearly and satisfactorily proved that in the sale of the claret to me you were neither neglectful as to the selection of the hoghshead, nor actuated by any selfish regard to your own interest; but by whom have you been suspected or accused of the opposite conduct? certainly not by Mrs. Ricardo. She perhaps might be prejudiced,—she might partake of the ignorance of many others, if you please, on these matters, and might fancy that better claret might be obtained from French houses but she never suspected that in furnishing me with wine you were not dealing fairly by me,—and if such a mean suspicion could have entered her mind you would not have received such a letter as she sent you. That letter was written in the most friendly spirit with a view to ascertain whether the exchange March 1815 of the claret for other wine would be attended with any loss to you.
She little expected such a reply as she has received which to speak the least harshly of it is neither very conciliatory, nor very polite.
A man of integrity should be quickly alive to any attack upon his honesty, but the consciousness of the purity of his views should secure him against that extreme touchiness which on the slightest grounds makes him suspect that1 thoughts are harboured to his disadvantage. Such extreme instability is a torment to the possessor of it and a mortal foe to peace and harmony. It is ever prone to strike the first blow2 on a vague supposition that hostility is intended and must be promptly guarded against. For your omission in not sooner answering Mrs. Ricardo’s letter, or for any other trifling inadvertence of that sort I could have made your peace immediately3 but the tone of your letter has made an impression to your disadvantage on her mind which it would not be in my power to remove.
I am Yrs. very truly
That this letter of Ricardo was addressed to his uncle Abraham Delvalle, who was a wine merchant at 11, York-street, Covent Garden,4 is suggested both by its tone, unusual in a letter to a tradesman, and by the following letter of Delvalle himself which refers to an interruption of Ricardo’s orders for wine since ‘the early part of the year 1815’.
delvalle to ricardo1
I avail myself of the opportunity of sending your way to inquire after your health and family, and to remind you of the great length of time since you promised to favor me with a call here, and how much obliged I shall be by your recollection of me.—I have a variety of wines of most kinds—and have imported some very superior Champage, Burgundy, Claret, Sauterne &c. and lately a few cases of Seltzen water.—I am aware how you are circumstanced—but when I call to your mind that since I had the pleasure of sending you a pipe of wine in the early part of the year 1815 I have not been favored by an order of any sort from you—hope you will at your first convenience bear me in mind.—
With best wishes I remain, dear Sir Yours faithfully &c
York Street 6th Nov. 1820
This letter achieved its object, and Delvalle supplied wine to Ricardo in 1822 and 1823 as is shown by an invoice and a receipt which are in R.P.
[1 ]‘his honesty is’ is del. here.
[2 ]‘under pretence’ is del. here.
[3 ]‘with Mrs. Ricardo’ is ins. and then del.
[4 ]Post Office London Directory, issues of 1816 and 1820.
[1 ]Addressed: ‘D. Ricardo Esqre. M.P./56 Upper Brook Street’.