Letter to Friedrich Adolph Sorge, August 8, 1887

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To Sorge in Mount Desert

4 Cavendish Place, Eastbourne, August 8, 1887[edit source]

Dear Sorge,

All postcards, letters and packages up to 27 July gratefully received, save for a few newspapers which are still in London and awaited daily. We have been here for a fortnight and shall be staying until about the 25th of this month. It’s terribly hot, hardly a drop of rain since the 1st of June, in other words an American summer. There’s only one remedy for your leg, rest and patience; then, with any luck, it will get well again, but at our age things of this sort always drag on for the devil of a long time.

Let Monsieur Grunzig see what sort of a job he can make of a biography of myself. You were quite right to leave the man to his own resources; who knows what rubbish he might not have written on the strength of your notes, only to cite you as his authority. Kautsky has written a biographical piece about me which is appearing in the Österreichischer Arbeiter-Kalender and which I have read over, corrected and added to; hence, so far as the facts are concerned, it can serve for any future eventuality and I shall send it to you. Needless to say, I am not responsible for anything else that may be in it.

I had to do most of the proof-correcting of Das Kapital I, 3rd ed., while ill in bed so that various mistakes slipped through. The punctuation was deliberately altered to approximate to the French and English, as is now largely done in Germany. For that matter, the only place where the old pedagogic German of our boyhood days is still taught and written is America.

Aveling has told me that he himself sent you the copy of Time. But if only one halfpenny stamp too few is affixed to a parcel of books for abroad it will be withheld by the English post office. I shall make further inquiries on my return.—Aveling and Tussy are having a holiday at Stratford-on-Avon, Shakespeare’s birthplace.

The business of the Wischnewetzkys is becoming ever more of a joke. In Germany an Executive such as this would have long since been removed from office. The chaps would seem to think that they can afford to do anything, and that the party will stand by them through thick and thin in return for their requiring the Americans to place themselves under the command of a German society wherein sheer lubberliness would appear increasingly to be gaining the upper hand. But if your Germans over there make that a condition for their co-operation, the movement will soon outdistance them. Affairs are on the move over there at last, and I must know my Americans badly if they do not astonish us all by the vastness of their movement, but also by the gigantic nature of the mistakes they make, through which they will finally work out their way to clarity. Ahead of everyone else in practice and still in swaddling-clothes in theory — that’s how they are, nor can it be otherwise. But it is a land without tradition (except for the religious), which has begun with the democratic republic, and a people full of energy as no other. The course of the movement will by no means follow the classic straight line, but travel in tremendous zigzags and seem to be moving backward at times, but that is of much less importance there than with us. Henry George was an unavoidable evil, but he will soon be obliterated, like Powderly or even McGlynn, whose popularity at the moment is quite understandable in that God-fearing country. In Autumn much will be — I won’t say cleared up, but more and more complicated, and the crisis will come closer. The annual elections, which force the masses to unite over and over again, are really most fortunate.

Mount Desert is undoubtedly very beautiful, but this place isn’t to be sneezed at either—long avenues of ancient elms and oaks right next the sea, the chalk cliffs of Beachy Head right next the town, which last has quite a continental air with its tree-lined promenades—if only I could again walk 4 or 5 miles (English ones)!

I shall go on writing to Mount Desert from here up till about the 18th or 20th of August, and after that to Rochester unless instructed otherwise.

I am sending you the August number of To-day containing some comments, not altogether unfounded, on Aveling’s circulars. The lad has brought all this down on his own head through his utter ignorance of the world, of men and of business, and his predilection for poetical dreaming. I, however, have woken him up a bit and Tussy will see to the rest. He’s a very talented and serviceable sort of chap and thoroughly honest, but gushing as a flapper, with a perpetual itch to do something silly. Well, I can still recall the time when I was much the same kind of idiot.

In Paris our people are making a very brave stand against the chauvinists and Russophiles and, had it not been for them. La Justice wouldn’t have dared to attack the Katkov cult. This is particularly important just now when Bismarck is doing everything in his power to chivvy the French into war before old William[1] kicks the bucket.

On the whole I am feeling better, as I hope you are.


F. Engels

  1. William I