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Source: Editors' Introduction to The Works and Correspondence of David Ricardo, ed. Piero Sraffa with the Collaboration of M.H. Dobb (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2005). Vol. 2 Notes on Malthus.
Malthus’sPrinciples of Political Economy appeared early in April 1820. While at various times, whether in the form of a new edition of his pamphlet on Rent of 1815 or of a supplementary volume to the Essay on Population which should deal with his views on Agriculture and Manufactures, he had been thinking of a more general work on Political Economy, it was only after the publication of Ricardo’s Principles that the project of a separate treatise crystallised. From the first this was intended as an answer to Ricardo; and late in 1817 Malthus was writing to him: ‘I am meditating a volume as I believe I have told you, and I want to answer you, without giving my work a controversial air.’ In the spring of 1818 he writes to Professor Preévost of Geneva: ‘I am at present engaged in a volume on those subjects in Political Econy. the principles of which do not yet appear to be quite settled and in this I shall advert frequently to Mr Ricardo’s work. I shall not however be ready for the press till next Spring.’ By August 1818 Malthus had read part of his manuscript to Ricardo; and again when he visited Gatcomb Park in December he read to Ricardo ‘some more of his intended publication’. The book was actually advertised as being ‘in the Press’ in November 1818. But publication was delayed, as Ricardo told Mill in a letter of 28 Dec. 1818, partly because Murray thought the end of the following year would be the most favourable time, ‘and partly, I think, from doubts which he [Malthus] cannot help entertaining of the correctness of his opinions’. As the time now fixed for publication approached, Malthus wrote to Ricardo on 10 Sept. 1819: ‘I have been delayed and led away as usual by thoughts relating to the subjects of some of our discussions.... I think I have a fourthor a fifth to write yet; and having composed the different parts at different times and not in their natural order, I have still much to put out and put in, before it will be fit to send to the press.’