Letter to Ferdinand Lassalle, January 16, 1861

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Author(s) Karl Marx
Written 16 January 1861


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Source: Marx-Engels Collected Works, Volume 41, p. 245;
First published: in F. Lassalle. Nachgelassene Briefe und Schriften, Stuttgart, 1922.

To Ferdinand Lassalle in Berlin

London, 16 January 1861 9 Grafton Terrace, Maitland Park, Haverstock Hill[edit source]

Dear Lassalle,

D'abord, my best if belated wishes for a Happy New Year.

My wife is now convalescing. Her illness resulted in my falling seriously ill myself; and, at present, I am suffering from inflammation of the liver. And a very nice New Year’s gift too! Hitherto, the complaint has merely been chronic. Now it is becoming acute.

This is the explanation for my silence, despite the very close sympathy felt both by my wife and myself for your sufferings. I hope that when you next write you'll have a better account to give me of yourself. If you would care to send me a fairly detailed report on your illness, I shall consult a doctor whom I regard as a veritable aesculapian genius. However, he does not live here, but in Manchester.

I was greatly tickled by the Royal Prussian Amnesty which in effect excludes all refugees from its indulgence. Gottfried Kinkel, who has recently joined the National Association,” could, however, return, if a correct interpretation were put on the ‘act of grace’. As for Bucher, Freiligrath, Borkheim, Zimmermann of Spandau, and many others, they have long been ‘naturalised Englishmen’.

Faucher, former London correspondent of the Neue Preussische Zeitung, afterwards co-editor of the (Manchester School) Morning Star, — a chap, by the by, with whom anyone can consort since he does not conceal but, indeed, openly flaunts, a lack of character typical of the Berliners, and who isn’t actually taken politically au sérieux by any of his acquaintances, — believes that he can now play the Prussian Cobden. Good luck to him. Such, at least, was his plan when he left London.

One of my friends, J. Ph. Becker, is at present with Garibaldi in Caprera. He has written, telling me that the Mazzinists were almost exclusively responsible for the serious part of the south Italian movement, that Garibaldi does not exactly possess a superfluity of brains, and that the utmost confusion reigns in his friends’ camp. Garibaldi, by the by, agrees with Mazzini in believing that Cavour isn’t even well-intentioned with regard to Victor Emmanuel, that he is rather Bonaparte’s direct tool and that the Gaeta intervention, as well as Farina’s appointment to Sicily and Farini’s to Naples, etc., are nothing but carefully calculated moves to compel Vic. Em. to make fresh territorial concessions to France, and concessions in favour of Murat in southern Italy. Which will succeed, and soon become manifest.

The slavery crisis in the United States will bring about a terrible crisis in England in a year or two; the Manchester cotton lords are already beginning to tremble.

I seldom read German stuff. Recently, however, I happened upon A. Bastian, Der Mensch in der Geschichte, etc. I think it’s a bad book, formless and pretentious. His endeavour to explain psychology in terms of ‘natural science’ amounts to little more than a pious wish. His endeavour to explain history in terms of ‘psychology’, on the other hand, shows that the man does not know what psychology is, or, for that matter, history.

Darwin’s work is most important and suits my purpose in that it provides a basis in natural science for the historical class struggle. One does, of course, have to put up with the clumsy English style of argument. Despite all shortcomings, it is here that, for the first time, ‘teleology’ in natural science is not only dealt a mortal blow but its rational meaning is empirically explained.

I have lately had the opportunity of seeing rather more German newspapers. Ghastly stuff. And, withal, a self-satisfied mediocrity which is indeed nauseous.

Could you send me the 2nd volume of Eichhoff’s PolizeiSilhouetten? Not to be had here.

Another thing I have just read is Walesrode’s Totenschau. Has some nice tales! But lamely presented, though this is excusable in view of the time of its publication.

Wishing you all good health, and with regards from my wife,

Your
K. M.

Mieroslawski, who has just been in Paris, told my friend Schily that things looked ‘bad’. At the same time, he expressed himself most unfavourably with respect to ‘Klapka’. Yet I myself can’t quite make up my mind about Mieroslawski.