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From Maria Edgeworth’s Letters to Her Family - 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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From Maria Edgeworth’s Letters to Her Family
Several passages from Maria Edgeworth’s letters to her family have been quoted in notes to these volumes, and some account of her relations with the Ricardos has been given in the introduction to the Correspondence.1 Of the following extracts, the first three are from letters which she wrote while she was on a visit to Gatcomb Park with her young sisters, Fanny and Harriet. These appeared originally in A Memoir of Maria Edgeworth, with a Selection from her Letters, ‘by the late Mrs Edgeworth’ (her stepmother), ‘Not Published’, London, 1867, vol. ii, pp. 150–55, from which they are here reprinted (the original MSS could not be found among the Edgeworth papers in the possession of Mrs H. J. Butler). They were also reproduced in vol. ii of the Life and Letters of Maria Edgeworth, ed. by Augustus J. C. Hare, London, 1894. The fourth is from a letter of 9 March 1822, which was published both in the Memoir and in the Life—with the omission of almost the whole of the passage given below. This was kindly supplied by the late Professor H. E. Butler from the MS in the possession of his mother; and part of it has since been published in the exhaustive enquiry into ‘The Wilkinson Head of Oliver Cromwell and its Relationship to Busts, Masks and Painted Portraits’ by Karl Pearson and G. M. Morant in Biometrika, December 1934, Vol. xxvi, p. 293.
Of the persons mentioned in the letters Pakenham and Lovell were Maria Edgeworth’s brothers, Honora her sister and Francis Beaufort her stepmother’s brother.
to her stepmother mrs edgeworth from gatcomb park 9 nov. 1821
We arrived here on Wednesday evening to tea—beautiful moonlight night. At the gate, the first operation was to lock the wheel, and we went down, down a hill not knowing where it would end or when the house would appear; that it was a beautiful place was clear even by moonlight. Hall with lights very cheerful—servants on the steps. Mr. Ricardo very glad to see us. Mrs. Ricardo brilliant eyes and such cordial open-hearted benevolence of manner, no affectation, no thought about herself. “My daughter-in-law, Mrs. Osman Ricardo,” a beautiful tall figure, and fine face, fair, and a profusion of light hair. Mr. Ricardo, jun., and two young daughters, Mary, about fifteen, handsome, and a child of ten, Bertha, beautiful.
I was frightened about Fanny, tired and giddy after the journey; however, her first answer in the morning, “much better,” set my heart at ease. A very fine day, all cheerful, a delightfully pleasant house, with up-hill and down-hill wooded views from every window. Rides and drives proposed. I asked to see a cloth manufactory in the neighbourhood. Mrs. Osman Ricardo offered her horse to Fanny, and Mr. Osman rode with her. Mr. Ricardo drove me in his nice safe and comfortable phaeton; Harriet and Mrs. Osman in the seat behind. The horses pretty and strong, and, moreover, quiet, so that though we drove up and down hills almost perpendicular, and along a sort of Rodborough Simplon, I was not in the least alarmed.1 Mr. Ricardo is laughed at, as they tell me, for his driving, but I prefer it to more dashing driving. Sydney Smith, who was here lately, said, that “a new surgeon had set up in Minchin Hampton since Mr. Ricardo had taken to driving.”
We had delightful conversation, both on deep and shallow subjects. Mr. Ricardo, with a very composed manner, has a continual life of mind, and starts perpetually new game in conversation. I never argued or discussed a question with any person who argues more fairly or less for victory and more for truth. He gives full weight to every argument brought against him, and seems not to be on any side of the question for one instant longer than the conviction of his mind on that side. It seems quite indifferent to him whether you find the truth, or whether he finds it, provided it be found. One gets at something by conversing with him; one learns either that one is wrong or that one is right, and the understanding is improved without the temper being ever tried in the discussion; but I must come to an end of this letter. Harriet has written to Pakenham an account of the cloth manufactory which Mr. Stephens explained admirably, and we are going out to see Mrs. Ricardo’s school; she has 130 children there, and takes as much pains as Lovell.
to the same from gatcomb park 10 nov. 1821
Yesterday evening a Mr. and Miss Strachey dined here, nephew and niece of the Mr. Strachey my aunts knew at Lady Holte: he pleasing, and she with a nice pretty-shaped small head like Honora’s, very agreeable voice. Mr. and Mrs. Smith of Easton Grey had come, and there was a great deal of agreeable conversation. An English bull was mentioned: Lord Camden put the following advertisement in the papers: “Owing to the distress of the times Lord Camden will not shoot himself or any of his tenants before the 4th of October next.”
Much conversation about cases of conscience, whether Scott was right to deny his novels? Then the Effie Deans question,1 and much about smugglers. Lord Carrington says all ladies are born smugglers. Lady Carrington once staying on the coast of Devonshire wrote to Lord Carrington that his butler had got from a wreck a pipe of wine for £36, and that it was in her cellar. “Now,” said Lord Carrington to himself, “here am I in the king’s service; can I permit such a thing? No.” He wrote to the proper excise officers and gave them notice, and by the same post to Lady Carrington, but he did not know that taking goods from a wreck was a felony. As pale as death the butler came to Lady Carrington. “I must fly for it, my lady, to America.” They were thrown into consternation; at last they staved the wine, so that when the excise officers came nothing was to be found. Lord Carrington of course lost his £36 and saved his honour. Mr. Ricardo said he might have done better by writing to apprise the owners of the vessel that he was ready to pay a fair price for it, and the duties.
to her sister lucy edgeworth from gatcomb park 12 nov. 1821
We are perfectly happy here; delightful house and place for walking, riding, driving. Fanny has a horse always at her command. I a phaeton and Mr. Ricardo to converse with. He is altogether one of the most agreeable persons, as well as the best informed and most clever, that I ever knew. My own pleasure is infinitely increased by seeing that Fanny and Harriet are so much liked and so very happy here.
In the evenings, in the intervals of good conversation, we have all sorts of merry plays. Why, when and where: our words were—Jack, Bar, Belle, Caste, Plum, the best.
We acted charades last night. Pillion excellent. Maria, Fanny, and Harriet, little dear, pretty Bertha, and Mr. Smith, the best hand and head at these diversions imaginable. First we entered swallowing pills with great choking: pill. Next on all-fours, roaring lions; Fanny and Harriet’s roaring devouring lions much clapped. Next Bertha riding on Mr. Smith’s back. Pillion.
Coxcomb.—Mr. Smith, Mr. Ricardo, Fanny, Harriet, and Maria crowing. Ditto, ditto, combing hair. Mr. Ricardo, solus strutting, a coxcomb, very droll.
Sinecure.—Not a good one. Monkey.—Very good. Mr. Ricardo and Mr. Smith as monks, with coloured silk handkerchiefs, as cowls, a laughable solemn procession. Re-enter with keys. Mr. Ricardo as monkey.
Fortune-tellers.—The best: Fanny as Fortune; unluckily we forgot to blind her, and she had only my leather bag for her purse, but nevertheless, she made a beautiful graceful Fortune, and scattered her riches with an air that charmed the world. 2nd scene: Mr. Smith and Harriet tellers of the house—“the ayes have it.” Fanny, Maria, and Harriet, fortune-tellers; much approved.
Love-sick.—Bertha, with a bow made by Mr. Smith in an instant, with a switch and red tape and a long feathered pen. Bertha was properly blind and made an irresistible Cupid; she entered and shot, and all the company fell: Love. 2nd: Harriet, Mr. Smith, and Maria, all very sick. 3rd: Fanny, a love-sick young lady. Maria, her duenna, scolding, and pitying, and nursing her with a smelling bottle.
Fire-eater.—1st: Harriet and I acted alarm of fire, and alarmed Mr. Ricardo so well—he was going to call for assistance. 2nd: I was an epicure, and eating always succeeds on the stage. 3rd: Harriet devoured lighted spills to admiration, and only burnt her lip a little.
In “conundrum,” Mrs. Osman was a beautiful nun; she is a charming creature, most winning countenance and manner, very desirous to improve herself, and with an understanding the extent and excellence of which I did not at first estimate.
to her aunt mrs ruxton from london 9 march 1822
But above all others I have had the greatest pleasure in Francis Beaufort going with us to our delightful breakfasts at Mr. Ricardo’s—they enjoy each other’s conversation so much. It has now become high fashion with blue ladies to talk political economy. There is a certain Lady Mary Shepherd1 who makes a great jabbering on the subject, while others who have more sense, like Mrs Marcet, hold their tongues and listen. A gentleman answered very well the other day that he would be of the famous Political economy club whenever he could find two members of it that agree on any one point—Mean time fine ladies now require that their daughters’ governesses should teach political economy. “Pray Ma’am” said a fine Mamma to one who came to offer herself as a governess “Do you teach political economy?” The governess who thought she had provided herself well with French Italian Music drawing dancing etc. was quite astounded by this unexpected requisition she hesitatingly answered—“No, Ma’am, I cannot say I teach political economy, but I would if you think proper try to learn it.”—“Oh dear no Ma’am—if you don’t teach it you wont do for me.”
Another style of governess is now the fashion,—the ultra-French: a lady-governess of this party and one of the Orleans’ or liberaux met and came to high words, till all was calmed by the timely display of a ball-dress, trimmed with roses alternately red and white,—“Garniture aux préjugés vaincus.” This should have been worn by those who formerly invented in the Revolution “Bals aux victimes.”
But to go back to our breakfasts and Mr Ricardo.—After the last at which Capt Beaufort was with us, we saw—What do you think? Oliver Cromwell’s head—not his picture—not his bust—nothing of stone or marble or plaister of Paris, but his real head, which is now in the possession of Mr Ricardo’s brother in law (Mr Wilkinson)—He told us a story of an hour long explaining how it came into his possession. This head as he well observed is the only head upon record which has after death been subject to the extremes of horror1 and infamy—it having been first embalmed and laid in satin State—Then dragged out of the coffin at the restoration—chopped from the body and stuck upon a pole before Westminster Hall, where it stood twenty five years—Till one stormy night the pole broke and down fell the head at the centinels feet who stumbled over it in the dark twice, thinking it a stone, then cursed and picked it up and found it was a head. Its travels and adventures from the centinel through various hands would be too long to tell—it came in short into the Russell family and to one who was poor and in debt and who yet loved this head so dearly that he never would sell it to Coxe2 of the Museum till Coxe got him deep in his debt arrested and threw him into jail—Then and not till the last extremity he gave it up for Liberty—Mr Wilkinson its present possessor doats upon it—a frightful skull it is—covered with its parched yellow skin like any other mummy and with its chesnut hair eyebrows and beard in glorious preservation—The head is still fastened to the inestimable broken bit of the original pole—all black and happily worm eaten. By this bit of pole Mr and Mrs Ricardo and family by turns held up the head opposite the window while we stood in the window and the happy possessor lectured upon it compasses in hand—There is not at first view it must be owned any great likeness to picture or bust of Cromwell—but upon examination the proofs are satisfactory and agree perfectly with historic description—The nose is flattened as it should be when the body was laid on its face to have the head chopped off—There is a cut of the axe (as it should be) in the wrong place where the bungling executioner gave it before he could get it off—One ear has been torn off as it should be—And the plaister of Paris cast which was taken from Cromwell’s face after death, being now produced all the measures of jaws and forehead agreed wonderfully and the likeness grew upon us every instant as we made proper allowances for want of flesh—muscles—eyes etc. To complete Mr W’s felicity there is the mark of a famous wart of Olivers just above the left eye brow on the skull precisely as in the cast. But then Captain B objected or was not quite convinced that the whole face was not half an inch too short. Poor Mr Wilkinson’s hand trembled so that I thought he never would have fixed either point of the compasses and he did brandish them about so afterwards when he was exemplifying that I expected they would have been in Fanny’s eyes or my own and I backed and pulled back. Mrs Ricardo gave her staff to whom she listed—she could not bear the weight of Old Noll thro’ their whole trial. Mr Ricardo gave up too when a bit of cotton-wool was dragged from the nostrils—(“Oh I cannot stand the cotton wool”) He delivered over the staff and went to the fire to comfort himself dragging up the skirts of his coat as men do in troubles great—
I was glad Captn Beaufort let the poor Mr Wilkinson off easy about the length of the face and we all joined in a chorus of conviction—He went off with his head and staff the happiest of connoisseurs—Moreover I suggested that for future convenience he might have it fixed under a glass case—the broken staff to fit into a tube as candle in candle stick.—
How much time and paper it takes to tell anything in writing!—Excuse tiresomeness! inevitable when I have not time to make things properly short.
JOURNAL OF A TOUR ON THE CONTINENT 1822
[1 ]Above, VI, xxxii.
[1 ]The old road up Rodborough Hill, near Minchinhampton, was so steep that to a later generation it seemed strange ‘that it could ever have been traversed by horses and carriages.’ (P. H. Fisher, Notes and Recollections of Stroud, 1871, p. 151.)
[1 ]Scott’s The Heart of Midlothian had been published in 1818.
[1 ]See above, VIII, 56.
[1 ]Should probably read ‘honour’.
[2 ]James Cox.