Front Page Titles (by Subject) xii: Ricardo to Miss Mary Ann - The Works and Correspondence of David Ricardo, Vol. 10 Biographical Miscellany
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xii: Ricardo to Miss Mary Ann - 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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Ricardo to Miss Mary Ann
The young lady who had asked Ricardo for an autograph for her collection, and to whom this letter was written in response, has not been identified. The MS formed Lot 1907 at Sotheby’s sale of 15 October 1945 and was bought by Maggs Bros.
Upper Brook Street 20 April 1822
My Dear Miss Mary Ann
I hasten to comply with the request of a young lady for whom I have a great regard, although in so doing I run some risk of losing a portion of the good opinion which she now has of me. You require a letter from me, and a letter you shall have; but what shall it contain? that is the difficult point. About what is a man of fifty, for that was the age I attained last thursday,1 to write to a young lady under twenty? When I was young I shone little in such a correspondence, now how much less? On thursday last, on this birth day of mine, my saucy children with half a dozen cousins of theirs who were dining with us, headed by Mrs. Ricardo, suddenly started up with wine in their glasses to drink my health, and Mortimer2 insisted on their accompanying him in three cheers on the occasion, with which they complied. I thanked them for the compliment they had paid me, but that did not content them, they were clamorous for a speech. I assured them that I could not make speeches unless they were about rent, or profit, or currency, or some such dry subject:—a speech of this description they declined hearing, and thus I got rid of their importunities. If I were to write to you on any of the above subjects I should be taking a mean advantage of you.—I have you in my power—you cannot help yourself, and if I spare you, you must be beholden to me for my forbearance. Well then I will be generous. For your father’s sake to whom for many years I have been indebted for innumerable acts of kindness—for your sisters’ sake, who are great favorites of mine—and though last not least, for your own sake, I forbear to give you an Essay on rent, profit, or currency. I may however say a few words about wealth, just for the purpose of wishing you may have just as much of it, and no more, as will make you happy and contented. Too much wealth would I fear spoil you, too little would make you suffer privation—I like neither extreme. There is a medium most favorable to independence of character, and to the due cultivation of the mind, and it is this medium quantity which I desire for you. I should be sorry if any thing took from you the enjoyments which books are calculated to afford—they teach us how to think justly, and to think justly is one of the best sources of happiness. You must not however suppose that I limit my wishes for your welfare to the possession of money and to the love of books; I go a great deal further, and you will easily imagine that the other concomitants to the happiness of an amiable young woman, are present to my mind at this moment. I wish them all to you, and not to you only but to those sisters of yours who are so deserving of them.
When I look back on the quantity I have written I am surprised at the facility with which I have advanced. I hope my success will not make me rash. I luckily recollect the object you had in view in requesting me to write to you. I cannot but be sensible of the danger I am running that even in your opinion my letter may not be deemed deserving of a place in your collection—you who are disposed to judge me leniently. You have involved me into a difficult situation. If I write I appear to advance a claim—if I refuse to write I am guilty of unkindness to one whom I greatly wish to oblige. In this choice of difficulties it is wise to chuse the least and therefore I lay my letter with due humility at your feet, with assurances of my regard and esteem.
Ever my dear young friend Yours truly
[1 ]18 April.
[2 ]Ricardo’s youngest son.