Letter to Friedrich Engels, August 19, 1865

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Author(s) Karl Marx
Written 19 August 1865

Source: Marx-Engels Collected Works, Volume 42, p. 183;
First published: abridged in Der Briefwechsel zwischen F. Engels und K. Marx, Stuttgart, 1913 and in full in MEGA, Berlin, 1930.

To Engels in Manchester

[London,] 19 August 1865[edit source]

Dear Fred,

Since you are setting off on your travels, I must tell you that I have to pay a bill for £10 to butcher on 28 August, and the landlord is also becoming very troublesome. By the by, the English state appears hard-pressed for money. At all events, the tax-gatherers were more pressing this month than ever before and have unexpectedly ‘relieved’ me.

I am still sick, although Allen is getting rid of the liver troubles. But now I have caught a kind of influenza, which, he says, will last 5-6 days and which really is the biggest nuisance of all, as far as mental activity is concerned. I hope that with that I shall have settled my debt to Nature.

Löhrchen [Laura] is not really very well either. For the past year she has been getting much thinner than she ought to be. But she is a strange child and only today agreed to go to the Dr with my wife. I hope it is nothing serious. Little Jenny and Tussy are very well. (Ditto Edgar’s state of health much improved.) My wife had bitten out the 2 front teeth in the middle of her lower jaw, and yesterday had 4 teeth fitted by way of replacement. These are more or less the only ‘events’ that have occurred here.

Being unwell, I am unable to write much, and then only by fits and starts. In between, I am just dabbling in irrelevancies, although with the influenza I cannot even read properly. I ‘took the opportunity’ to ‘take up’ a little astronomy again, amongst other things. And one thing I would like to mention that was new to me at least, but perhaps you have known about it for some time. You know Laplace’s theory of the formation of the celestial systems and how he explains the rotation of the various bodies about their own axis, etc. Proceeding from there, a Yankee, Kirkwood, has discovered a kind of law concerning the differences in the rotation of the planets, which had previously appeared quite abnormal. The law is as follows:

  • ‘The square of the number of times that each planet rotates during one revolution in its orbit, is proportioned to the cube of the breadth of a diameter of its sphere of attraction,’*

This means that between two planets there must be a point at which their power of attraction is equally strong; so that a body at this point would remain stationary between them. On the other hand, the body would fall towards one planet or another on either side of that point. This point thus forms the limit of the sphere of attraction of the planet. This sphere of attraction is, in turn, the measure of the breadth of the gazeous ring from which, according to Laplace, the planet was formed when it first became separated from the general gazeous mass. Kirkwood concluded from this that, if Laplace’s hypothesis is correct, a specific relationship must exist between the velocity of the planets’ rotation and the breadth of the ring from which it was formed or its sphere of attraction. And he has expressed this in the above law, and proved it by analytical calculations.

Old Hegel made some very good jokes about the ‘sudden reversal’ of centripetal to centrifugal force, right at the moment when one has attained ‘preponderance’ over the other; e.g., centripetal force is greatest near the sun; therefore, says Hegel, centrifugal force is greatest, since it overcomes this maximum of centripetal force and vice versa. Moreover, the forces are in equilibrium when half-way between the apsides. Therefore they can never depart from this equilibrium, etc. Incidentally, taken as a whole, Hegel’s polemic amounts to saying that Newton’s ‘proofs’ added nothing to Kepler, who already possessed the ‘concept’ of movement, which I think is fairly generally accepted now.

You know that the President of the Bank of Switzerland is now Mr Karl Vogt, who betrayed his friend Fazy as soon as the latter left Geneva, and cheated together with Reinach (the real Acting Director). I asked Freiligrath how Mr Vogt, who is otherwise of ill repute as a financier in Switzerland, had come by this honourable post. Answer: the Swiss have hardly a share left in the ‘Bank of Swirzerland’. The Jews in Berlin and Frankfurt a. M. take the decisions. And they support Vogt. Meanwhile, Reinach has been teasing our poor Freiligrath so much that the latter wrote him the right-thinking rejoinder that even the Prussian police never persecuted him quite so much. They say Fazy swindled the bank out of 1 1/2 mill. frs.

A few weeks ago, Professor Beesly had an article about Catiline in The Fortnightly Review, vindicating the latter as a man of revolution. Much of it is uncritical (as one would expect from an Englishman, e.g. wrong information on Caesar’s position at that time), but his intense rage at the oligarchy and ‘respectable people’ is very nice. Likewise his sallies against the professional English ‘dull littérateur’. Mr Harrison had an article in the same Review expounding why ‘political economy’ can adduce ‘nothing’ in refutation of communism. It seems to me that now there is more movement amongst English thinkers than amongst the Germans. The latter are sufficiently preoccupied with celebrating Classen-Kappelmann.

Regards to Mrs Lizzy. The children are depending on you not to pass through London without stopping on your way home.

K. M.

You cannot have the remotest conception of the utter nonsense contained in the Parliamentary Reports of 1857 and 1858 on banking, etc., which I recently had to refer back to. As in the monetary system, capital = gold. In the midst, shame-faced recollections of A. Smith and excruciating attempts to reconcile the chaos of the money market with his ‘enlightened’ ideas. MacCulloch, who has at last now gone the way of all flesh, distinguishes himself most of all. The fellow was obviously in receipt of a substantial douceur from Lord Overstone, who is consequently ‘facile maximus argentariorum’ and has to be cleared, come what may. I shall have to reserve my critique of this whole unsavoury stew for a later paper.