Letter to Friedrich Engels, January 5, 1882

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Author(s) Karl Marx
Written 5 January 1882

First published in Der Briefwechsel zwischen F. Engels und K. Marx, Bd. 4, Stuttgart, 1913

Extract published in Marx & Engels on the Irish Question, Progress Publishers, Moscow 1971, pp. 331-332;

Published in Marx-Engels Collected Works, Volume 46
Keywords : Letter, Police, Rent

To Engels in London

Ventnor, 5 January 1882

1 St Boniface Gardens

Dear Fred,

Cold and wet during the day, raging winds at night; that, by and large, is the kind of weather and climate we’ve been experiencing here up till today. — The exception was yesterday, when it was dry with brilliant sunshine.— According to letters received by Tussy, it has been the same everywhere on the south coast of England; disappointment everywhere on the part of the not inconsiderable number of convalescing, etc., rabble. Qui vivra verra.[1] Perhaps there will be a change for the better.

I now wear—(au cas de besoin[2])—a muzzle, alias RESPIRATOR; this makes one less dependent on the caprices of the weather when taking one’s obligatory walk.

I still have a tiresome and persistent cough and bronchial catarrh; but it’s an undoubted step forward that I should get a few hours sleep at night without recourse to artificial remedies, and this despite the roar of the wind across the sea close by; on the contrary, the noise helps to send me to sleep.

My companion, Tussy, is sorely plagued with nervous tics and insomnia, etc. However I hope that her frequent excursions in the fresh air — for she goes into ‘town’ every day to attend to this and that — will have a beneficial effect on her.

What has tickled me greatly was the announcement by the LIBERAL ASSOCIATION — I no longer recall where, Birmingham perhaps — that, in celebration of some ANNIVERSARY or other, not only will OLD Bright and THE ILLUSTRIOUS VESTRYMAN AND CAUCUSMAN Chamberlain be speaking, *but that also old Obadiah’s ‘son’, Mr Jacob Bright jun. and several ‘Miss’ Cobden, are to put in their appearance. It is not said whether one of the ‘Miss’ Cobden or all of them will be given away to the young Obadiah, so as to perpetuate in the most appropriate and safest way the Bright-Cobden stock.*

A different picture is presented by the 3,000 landlords meeting at Dublin, duce[3] Abercorn[4] whose only purpose is “to maintain ... contracts and the freedom between man and man in this realm.” Those fellows’ rage over the Assistant Commissioners is funny. By the way, they are quite justified in their polemics against Gladstone, but it is only the coercive measures of the latter and his 50,000 soldiers, apart from the police, that enable these gentlemen to oppose him in such a critical and threatening manner. The whole uproar naturally is meant only to prepare John Bull for the payment of “compensation costs.” Serves him right.

You will see from the enclosed letter from Dietzgen that the unhappy fellow has ‘progressed’ backwards and safely ‘arrived’ at the Phänomenologie. I regard the case as an incurable one.

I have also had a very kind letter of condolence from Reinhardt in Paris who asks me to give you, amongst others, his kindest regards. He always had a soft spot for my beloved partner.

I wish I were fit for action again; not yet reached that stage, alas.

With best wishes from Tussy.



  1. Who survives will see.
  2. in case of need
  3. A.. Under the leadership of. — Ed.
  4. The meeting of English landlords was held in Dublin on January 3, 1882, with the Duke of Abercorn in the chair. It was called to discuss the activities of the assistant commissioners, officials appointed to implement measures connected with the 1881 Land Act for Ireland (*). Referring to the lack of proper qualifications and the inexperience of these officials and also to the absence of Parliamentary decisions defining their competency, the landlords accused the assistant commissioners of adopting biassed decisions on lowering the rents collected by the landlords. In an attempt to sabotage the Land Act, the landlords demanded that the government consider their appeals without delay and pass a law on compensation for losses they might incur if the government sanctioned a reduction of rents.
    (*) The spread of peasant action against English landlords moved Parliament to adopt, early in 1881, two bills on the introduction of coercion laws in Ireland. These laws suspended constitutional guarantees and introduced a state of siege in the country; troops were sent to help the landlords evict tenants refusing to leave.
    The Land Bill for Ireland, proposed by Gladstone’s Liberal government at the end of 1880, was an attempt to divert the Irish peasants from the revolutionary struggle by somewhat restricting the arbitrary rule of the English landlords over the peasant tenants. It was finally passed on August 22, 1881. According to the Land Act of 1881 a landlord was not allowed to evict a tenant from the land if he paid rent in time, the size of the rent being stipulated for 15 years in advance. Although the Land Act gave the landlords the opportunity to sell their land profitably to the state and the size of the rent fixed by it continued to be extremely high, the English landlords obstructed its implementation because they wanted to preserve their unlimited power in Ireland.