Letter to Conrad Schramm, December 1857

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Author(s) Jenny von Westphalen
Written December 1857


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Source: Marx-Engels Collected Works, Volume 40, p. 566;
First published: in Marx and Engels, Works, Moscow, 1962.

To Conrad Schramm in St. Helier, Jersey

December [1857] 9 Grafton Terrace, Maitland Park, Hampstead[edit source]

Dear Mr Schramm,

It is so long since we have heard from you that we are all most eager for news. We often talk about you and, more keenly than anything else, regret our inability to help beguile and enliven somewhat your long, solitary winter days and hours.

If it isn’t too much trouble, do let us have a sign of life some time. — What do you feel about the general mess? Wouldn’t you say there was something really quite exhilarating about the way the rotten old structure is crashing and tumbling down? It is to be hoped that your relations aren’t yet using the crisis as a pretext for turning their backs on you and hence that you yourself have not as yet suffered any material ill-effects. Though the American crisis has touched our purse all too appreciably, in as much as Karl is writing for the Tribune only once instead of twice a week, all its European correspondents except Bayard Taylor and Karl having been given their notice, you can nevertheless imagine how high up the Moor is. He has recovered all his wonted facility and capacity for work, as well as the liveliness and buoyancy of a spirit long since blighted by great sorrow, the loss of our beloved child, whose death I shall never cease to mourn in my heart. By day Karl works for his living and by night at the completion of his political economy. Now, when the times require this work, and it has come to be a necessity, it will, no doubt, find some wretched publisher. Already not only we, but also Lupus and Steffen have felt the immediate impact of the crisis. The former has lost the better part of his lessons because the house has gone bankrupt, and the latter was no longer able to remain in Brighton because the Indian business put an abrupt end to his instruction of the Indian cadets. On top of that, his sister lost what little money she had through the faillite of a banker. Little Dronke has started up a business of his own in Glasgow. I believe that all the ranting in the Glaswegian press against ‘unscrupulous people who start up businesses without any capital whatsoever’ is directed against the little fellow. For the moment Freiligrath is still securely ensconced in his diminutive Crédit mobilier. But if the sinister rumours about the Parisian Crédit mobilier and its steady decline prove true, he too will soon go tumbling after and have to bid farewell to his manager’s desk. So far, the crisis would not appear to have made any deep impression on our good, honest friend Liebknecht, or at least n'a-t-elle pas encore frappi son physique [it has not yet affected him physically]; he still retains unimpaired his notorious, fearsome, famous, fabulous appetite and his pristine love for a rasher [of] bacon.

Yesterday we heard from Engels in Manchester. He says:

Among our local philistines the crisis has induced a strong desire for the bottle, no one can bear to stay at home, alone with his cares and his family, the clubs are livening up, and the consumption of liquor is rising sharply. The worse of a jam a chap is in, the more frenzied his efforts to cheer himself up. And then, the morning after, what more striking example of remorse, both alcoholic and moral! In Manchester, 8 or 9 manufacturers have already come a cropper in the past few days. But nowhere do things look so splendid as in Hamburg. Never has panic assumed so perfect and classic a form. The house of Ulberg and Cramer, whose debts when they failed amounted to 12,000,000 banco marks (of which 7 million were bills on themselves!), had a capital of not more than 300,000 marks!! Everything there is now worthless, utterly worthless, save for silver and gold. Last week also saw the failure of Christian Matthias Schröder. J. H. Schröder & Co. in London telegraphed saying that, if 2 million marks would be enough, he would send the equivalent in silver. Came the reply: 3 millions or nothing; he couldn’t spare the 3 millions and Christian Matthias crashed. The big American house which, after 2 days of negotiation with the Bank of England, recently obtained a million-pound advance, thereby saving its skin, belonged to Mr Peabody.

This 4th July Anniversary dinner man calls to mind that lout Heinzen. Although the crisis has whittled down his Pionier to half its former size (despite the collaboration of student Karl Blind, that greatest of revolutionary statesmen), the rascal still continues to maintain that ‘crises are mere Marxian inventions and figments of the brain’. Again, this gobbler-up of communists calls to mind red Becker, who has now been released, and this means, dear Mr Schramm, that willy-nilly you will have to make giant strides across the ocean with me, from Europe to America and back again, since with red Becker we are back once more in the dear Fatherland, the violet which will not, on this occasion, escape with a black, or rather blue, eye — back, indeed, in dear old Cologne, so that I cannot resist telling you something about our old friend Mevissen and his family. Quite a short while since, old Leiden lost 2 children from consumption, then Mrs Mevissen, while one of his sons lost his life when the Pacifique went down.

You can imagine how sullen and sulky all the democrats are at the moment. For now that they are again faced with the much abhorred knife-and-fork problem, and can no longer lay all the blame on princes and tyrants, there must needs be an end to political fiddle-faddle and ale-house oratory.

But now my chatter has lasted so long that it’s time for me to bid you adieu. Warmest regards from myself and the girls, who are growing up to be so sweet and lovable and charming.

Your
Jenny Marx

Apropos. We have photographs of Freiligrath and Engels. If it’s not too much trouble, will you have one done of yourself for us? Karl would so much like to have likenesses of his best friends around him.