Letter to Friedrich Engels, July 31, 1865

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To Engels in Manchester

[London,] 31 July 1865[edit source]

Dear Engels,

As you may have suspected, the reasons for my prolonged silence are not the most pleasant.

For two months I have been living solely on the pawnshop, which means that a queue of creditors has been hammering on my door, becoming more and more unendurable every day. This fact won’t come as any surprise to you when you consider: 1. that I have been unable to earn a farthing the whole time and 2. that merely paying off the debts and furnishing the house cost me something like £500. I have kept accounts (as to this item) pence for pence, as I myself found it unbelievable how the money disappeared. To top that, I have been sent every conceivable, antediluvian IOU from Germany where God knows what rumours had been circulated.

To begin with, I wanted to come up to you to discuss the matter with you in person. But, at the present moment, any time lost cannot be made up as it is not good to interrupt my work. Last Saturday I told the Sub-Committee of the ‘International’ that I was going away, so as at least to have a fortnight for once completely free of disturbance for pushing on with my work.

I assure you that I would rather have had my thumb cut off than write this letter to you. It is truly soul-destroying to be dependent for half one’s life. The only thought that sustains me in all this is that the two of us form a partnership together, in which I spend my time on the theoretical and party side of the business. It is true my house is beyond my means, and we have, moreover, lived better this year than was the case before. But it is the only way for the children to establish themselves socially with a view to securing their future, quite apart from everything they have suffered and for which they have at least been compensated for a brief while. I believe you yourself will be of the opinion that, even from a merely commercial point of view, to run a purely proletarian household would not be appropriate in the circumstances, although that would be quite all right, if my wife and I were by ourselves or if the girls were boys.

Now, regarding my work, I will tell you the plain truth about it. There are 3 more chapters to be written to complete the theoretical part (the first 3 books). Then there is still the 4th book, the historical-literary one, to be written, which will, comparatively speaking, be the easiest part for me, since all the problems have been resolved in the first 3 books, so that this last one is more by way of repetition in historical form. But I cannot bring myself to send anything off until I have the whole thing in front of me. Whatever shortcomings they may have, the advantage of my writings is that they are an artistic whole, and this can only be achieved through my practice of never having things printed until I have them in front of me in their entirety. This is impossible with Jacob Grimm’s method which is in general better with writings that have no dialectical structure.

The English version will be dealt with differently on the other hand. Fox has no doubt that he can find me a publisher as soon as I get the first sheets of print back. I would then arrange with Meissner that, in addition to the proofs for correcting, he would also send me the clean proof of each sheet, so that the German could be corrected at the same time as it is being translated into English. Regarding the latter, I shall of course need your assistance. I am expecting my real earnings from this work to come from the English edition.

As far as the ‘International’ is concerned, the position is as follows:

I made over the £5 to Cremer to buy shares in The Bee-Hive. But since Cremer, Odger, etc., were going up to Manchester at that time, nothing came of it, and Potter had the better of it. They decided to postpone the matter until the next meeting of shareholders (actually, the annual one). But I don’t think that anything will come of it. Firstly, because the squabble between Odger and Potter has become a public scandal. Secondly, because The Miner and Workman’s Advocate has offered its columns to US. (Apropos. At a recent meeting with the Miner we undertook to let it have contributions gratis. So, if you have time to write a little article on foreign politics (Prussian, etc.), now and then, send it to me to be passed on to the paper.)

According to our Rules a public congress ought to be held in Brussels this year. The Parisians, Swiss and some of the people here, too, are going for it hammer and tongs. In the present circumstances — especially since I have so little time to write the necessary documents for the Central Council as well — I can only foresee a disgrace. Despite considerable opposition from the other side, I have succeeded in turning the public congress in Brussels into a private prealable [i.e. preliminary] conference in London (25 September) which only delegates of the Administrative Committees will attend and at which the future congress is to be prepared. Official reasons given for postponing the congress were:

1. The need for prealable understanding between the Executive Committees.

2. The obstacles to the Association’s propaganda arising from the strikes in France, the elections, Reform Movement and Workingmen’s Exhibitions in England.

3. The Alien Bill, recently pressed in Belgium which rules out Brussels as a rendezvous for an International Workingmen’s Congress.

I do not see the Social-Demokrat any more, as the Workers’ Society has also stopped it. Nor am I taking the Nordstern any more, but I do see it occasionally at the Society. It said the Rhineland branches had on the main question deserted Bernhard.

Edgar is a very expensive guest for us, especially in the present circumstances, and he does not seem in the least inclined to decamp.

In consequence of the hot weather and related biliousness, I have again been vomiting nearly every day for the past 3 months, as I did previously in Brussels.


K. M.