Letter to Friedrich Adolph Sorge, December 15, 1881

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Author(s) Karl Marx
Written 15 December 1881

First published in Briefe und Auszüge aus Briefen von J oh. Phil. Becker, Jos. Dietzgen, Friedrick Engels, Karl Marx u. A. an F. A.
Sorge und Andere, Stuttgart, 1906

Published: Marx-Engels-Gesamtausgabe, International Publishers, 1942;

Published in Marx-Engels Collected Works, Volume 46

To Sorge in Hoboken

[London,] 15 December, 1881[edit source]

Dear Sorge,

Having heard our news from over here by word of mouth from your son,[1] you must surely have been prepared to learn of the death of my wife, my unforgettable and beloved partner (on 2 December).

I myself had not recovered sufficiently to pay her my last respects. Indeed, I have so far been confined to the house, but am to go to Ventnor (Isle of Wight) next week.

I am emerging from this last illness doubly handicapped, emotionally by the loss of my wife, physically in that I am left with a thickening of the pleura and increased sensitivity of the bronchial tubes.

I shall, alas, have to fritter away a certain amount of time on schemes for restoring my health.

Another edition of the German text of Capital has now become necessary. Most inopportune so far as I’m concerned.

Your Henry George is increasingly revealing himself to be a humbug.

I trust Sorge jun. arrived in good shape; give him my regards.


K. Marx

The English have recently begun to occupy themselves more with Capital, etc. Thus in the last October (or November, I am not quite sure) number of the Contemporary there is an article on socialism by John Rae. Very inadequate, full of mistakes, but “fair” as one of my English friends told me the day before yesterday. And why fair? Because John Rae does not suppose that for the forty years I am spreading my pernicious theories, I was being instigated by “bad” motives. “Seine Grossmuth muss ich loben.” The fairness of making yourself at least sufficiently acquainted with the subject of your criticism seems a thing quite unknown to the penmen of British philistinism.

Before this, in the beginning of June, there was published by a certain Hyndman (who had before intruded himself into my house) a little book: England for All. It pretends to be written as an exposé of the programme of the “Democratic Federation” – a recently formed association of different English and Scotch radical societies, half bourgeois, half proletaires. The chapters on Labour and Capital are only literal extracts from, or circumlocutions of, the Capital, but the fellow does neither quote the book, nor its author, but to shield himself from exposure remarks at the end of his preface: “For the ideas and much of the matter contained in Chapters II and III, I am indebted to the work of a great thinker and original writer, etc., etc.” Vis-à-vis myself, the fellow wrote stupid letters of excuse, for instance, that “the English don't like to be taught by foreigners,” that “my name was so much detested, etc.” With all that, his little book – so far as it pilfers the Capital – makes good propaganda, although the man is a “weak” vessel, and very far from having even the patience – the first condition of learning anything – of studying a matter thoroughly. All those amiable middle-class writers – if not specialists – have an itching to make money or name or political capital immediately out of any new thoughts they may have got at by any favourable windfall. Many evenings this fellow has pilfered from me, in order to take me out and to learn in the easiest way.

Lastly there was published on the first December last (I shall send you a copy of it) in the monthly review, Modern Thought, an article: “Leaders of Modern Thought"; No. XXIII – Karl Marx. By Ernest Belfort Bax.

Now this is the first English publication of the kind which is pervaded by a real enthusiasm for the new ideas themselves and boldly stands up against Brit. Philistinism. That does not prevent that the biographical notices the author gives of me are mostly wrong, etc. In the exposition of my economic principles and in his translations (i.e., quotations of the Capital) much is wrong and confused, but with all that the appearance of this article, announced in large letters by placards on the walls of West End London, has produced a great sensation. What was most important for me, I received the said number of Modern Thought already on the 30th of November, so that my dear wife had the last days of her life still cheered up. You know the passionate interest she took in all such affairs.

  1. Adolph Sorge