Letter to Friedrich Engels, December 10, 1859

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Author(s) Karl Marx
Written 10 December 1859


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Source: Marx-Engels Collected Works, Volume 40, p. 547;
First published: abridged in Der Briefwechsel zwischen F. Engels und K. Marx, Stuttgart, 1913 and in full in: Marx and Engels, Works, Moscow, 1929.

To Engels in Manchester

London, 10 December 1859[edit source]

Dear Engels,

Article received. I trust your health has improved.

As to the Freiligrath business, more in the course of this letter. I presume you saw the Hermann of a week ago today containing ‘Vorletzte Sitzung des Schiller-Comités’, a self-portrait of the scoundrelly bunch of lumpenproletarians which has gathered round Gottfried Kinkel. The article was written by the worthy Beta.

What do you make of Mr Lassalle’s notifying me all at once of his ‘Political Economy’. Does this not explain why my work [Contribution to Political Economy] was, firstly, so much delayed and, secondly, so badly advertised? Lassalle lives in Duncker’s home, or so I am told by Fischel of Berlin (was in England for a few days; editor of the Berlin Portfolio — Urquhartite — of which Nos. 1 and 2 contain excerpts from my anti-Palmerston pamphlets on Poland and Unkiar-Skelessi). In Berlin, it would seem, he (Lassalle) is noted for his vanity. The stick with which he was given a “drubbing” was his own — a memento bought in Paris, Robespierre’s stick bearing the device, liberté, égalité, fraternité!

I wrote and asked Lassalle whether he might not be able to get hold of some money for me (against a bill on myself which I would give him). He replied saying that he himself was living on credit until July, and had appropriated Duncker’s floating surplus. Then he suggested I draw a bill on him (Lassalle), discount it here, and send him the money before it fell due. But over here the name of Lassalle is not, of course, worth 1/100 of a farthing. I have latterly been cited at the County Court — by sundry fellows — quite small ones, such as the milkman, etc., and can, in fact, see no way out of the crisis which has grown steadily worse for the past half year. Extra expenses, e.g. about £5 for the rotten Volk lawsuit, and Mr Biskamp, whom I have fed for three months (and am not yet quit of), have, indeed, contributed their mite to the predicament. But all in all that made little odds. What is really devilish is not having a Bamberger here in London any more, for there are at present considerable possibilities in regard to bill transactions. Had fat philistine Freiligrath so wished, he might even have procured me a loan, for after all the philistine had the security to hand. But the fellow imagined (and no doubt actually boasted) that he was doing a great deal if, a week before I drew a bill on the Tribune, he loaned me £2 for a week. I have, by the by, made various other attempts to find a usurer. But, till now without any results.

I know that you yourself are in a fix as a result of being taken to court recently, and hence am telling you about the state of things only because I feel a need to discuss it with somebody. I hope that our domestic misfortunes won’t deter you from coming up here for a few days. It’s absolutely essential for my girls to have a ‘human being’ in the house again for once. The poor children have been too early tormented by domestic misery.

Now ad vocem Freiligrath.

Having waited a week, the philistine wrote the following letter:

‘Dear Marx,

‘I have received your letter of the 23 inst.’ (November) ‘and Liebknecht’s of the same date and, in order to simplify matters, am replying to both in this letter to you.

‘As far its Liebknecht’s letter is concerned, neither its presumptuous and impertinent tone, nor its content — an unsuccessful attempt to turn the tables could surprise me! Very nice, I must say! The London correspondent of the Augsburg Allgemeine Zeitung thinks fit to put my name at Mr Kolb’s disposal ad libitum and without previously notifying me; but I, if I protest against that abuse, must first give due notice!! The argument used by Liebknecht in support of this pretty doctrine is so jejune that it calls for no serious refutation on my part. I would simply remark that, in no circumstances and for no personal or party considerations whatsoever, shall I put up with arbitrary actions of this nature.

‘That’s all about find for Liebknecht!

‘And now for your letter.

‘I gladly allow your objection to the word “conceded” used in my letter to Liebknecht (of 21 November). I set no store by that word. Nor did it conceal any implication of any kind, and I might just as well have used “remarked” or “said”. So without further contention I concede your “conceded”. If we were both of the same opinion from the start, so much the better!'

(The slyboots doesn’t tumble to the fact that he is thereby conceding my opinion of Vogt and Blind.)

‘As regards your anti-Beta statement you must, of course, do exactly as you think fit. All the same, I believe that your first impulse to ignore the thing was the better one and more worthy of you! Now that you have had more than twice 24 hours for deliberation, you will have decided one way or the other. Whether this way or that is quite immaterial to me!

‘That you should have wished to inform me beforehand, “as is fitting between friends”, of your anti-Beta statement is most deserving of thanks. For that matter your statement, so far as I can see, was to be directed against Beta not against myself, and hence scarcely called for prior notification of your intention

‘At all events let me not omit to mention, en revanche that I myself shall probably be publishing another statement in which I shall repeat, once and for all, that I object to the use of my name in connection with the Vogt affair.

Your.

F. Freiligrath'

Under the circumstances I could, of course, only reply in a very moderate tone to this letter, malicious in intent and adorned with so many!! I therefore wrote by return:

‘Dear Freiligrath, ‘I am neither Liebknecht’s letter-writer, nor his attorney. I shall, however, send him a copy of that part of your letter which relates to him. ‘I have decided against the statement I had briefly envisaged, bearing in mind that “odi profanum vulgus et arceo” [I loathe the profane rabble and shun it] ‘While the statement was certainly against Beta, it was for that very reason bound to be also about you, as you will have seen from the summary. If only for that reason, I gave you notice of it, quite apart from the intimacy in, which your family and his appear in his opusculum. ‘You find it unpleasant to have your name mixed up in the Vogt affair. I don’t give a damn for Vogt and his infamous lies in the Biel Handels-Courier, but I will not have my name used as a mask by democratic tricksters. As you know, if someone is forced to call upon witnesses, no other person can “object” to being cited as a witness. In accordance with ancient English legal use, restive witnesses may, horribile dictu, actually be crushed to death. ‘Finally, as regards party considerations, I am used to being treated on behalf of the whole party as target for mud-slinging by the press, and to seeing my private interests constantly damaged by party considerations; on the other hand, I am equally used to being unable to reckon on any kind of private consideration towards myself.

Salut.

Your
K. M.

To this Freiligrath has not replied, and I don’t know exactly what footing we are on now.

Regards to Lupus.

Your
K. M.