Letter to Friedrich Engels, June 26, 1869

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Author(s) Karl Marx
Written 26 June 1869


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First published abridged in Der Briefwechsel zwischen F. Engels und K. Marx, Bd. 4, Stuttgart, 1913 and in full in MEGA, Abt. III, Bd. 4, Berlin, 1931

Extract published in Marx Engels on Literature and Art, Progress Publishers, 1976;

Published in English for the first time in Marx-Engels Collected Works, Volume 43

To Engels in Manchester


London, June 26, 1869[edit source]

Dear Fred,

With THANKS I notify the £90, first half-notes. Enclosed for Tussy 2 LETTERS. She must reply to tight-fisted Collet.

The enclosed letter from Eichhoff shows, unfortunately, that his brother has become skittish.[1] Write me what should happen now. The last proof-sheets finally arrived and have been returned, ditto preface sent.[2] It now turns out that the procrastination was for two reasons: 1. Mr Wigand in Leipzig is the printer, and 2. Mr Meissner, for his part, does not keep a watch on the Leipziger. He really believed that I had received the last sheets direct from Leipzig several weeks ago. German sloppiness!

The honourable Wilhelm is maintaining a deep silence.

Today the weather finally TURNS to the better.

I have received an invitation from the SOCIETY OF ARTS[3] for a conversazione in Kensington Museum on 1 July. This takes place only once a year, and is attended by the entire London aristocracy, from the court down to, etc. So Jennychen will have a chance to see this rabble.[4]

Addio.

Your

K. M.


While re-arranging my bookshelves a small old edition of Rochefoucauld’s Réflexions etc. fell into my hands again. Leafing through it, I found:

‘La gravité est un mystère du corps, inventé pour cacher les défauts de l’esprit’[5] [56].

Thus, pinched by Sterne from Rochefoucauld[6] ! And these are nice too:

‘Nous avons tous assez de force pour supporter les maux d’autrui’ [5].

‘Les vieillards aiment à donner de bons préceptes, pour se consoler de n’être plus en état de donner de mauvais exemples’ [20].

‘Les rois font des hommes comme des pièces de monnaye; ils les font valoir ce qu’ils veulent; et l’on est forcé de les recevoir selon leur cours, et non pas selon leur véritable prix’ [126].

‘Quand les vices nous quittent, nous nous flattons de la créance que c’est nous qui les quittons’ [39].

‘La modération est la langueur et la paresse de l’âme, comme l’ambition en est l’activité et l’ardeur’ [63].

‘Nous pardonnons souvent à ceux qui nous ennuyent, mais nous ne pouvons pardonner à ceux que nous ennuyons’ [65].

‘Ce qui fait que les amants et les maîtresses ne s’ennuyent point d’êtres ensemble, c’est qu’ils parlent toujours d’eux-mêmes’[7] [67].

I attended the TRADES UNIONS MEETING LAST WEDNESDAY,[8] in Exeter Hall.[9] Beesly delivered a really fine, very impudent SPEECH, recalling the June days (it was 24 JUNE).[10] The newspapers naturally KILLED, i.e., SUPPRESSED, him. In addition, he committed the crime of speaking very contemptuously of English journalists.

  1. In a letter to Marx of 24 June 1869, Wilhelm Eichhoff wrote about the difficulty of selling his pamphlet Die Internationale Arbeiterassociation..., and his brother’s inability, for financial reasons, to undertake the reprinting of Engels’ work The Peasant War in Germany. The second edition of The Peasant War appeared in 1870.
  2. K. Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte.
  3. In May 1869, Peter Le Néve Foster, Secretary of the Society of Arts and Trades Board of Directors, sent out letters to a number of persons, including Marx, requesting their consent to be elected to the Society. Marx’s letter of 28 May 1869 was a reply to this proposal. On 30 June 1869, the Society’s general meeting considered 132 candidatures and took a vote, as a result of which Marx was elected a member. To be admitted, a person had to have three members, at least one being his personal acquaintance, to back his candidature. For Marx, this was Peter Lund Simmonds, a Dane residing in England, a well-known political writer and author of numerous works on botany and agriculture.
    Marx’s admittance to the Society of Arts and Trades signified recognition by British scientific quarters of his merits as a scholar and political writer. The Society of Arts and Trades, which was founded in 1754, set itself the philanthropic and educational goal of ‘promoting the arts, trades and commerce’. Its social composition was varied: its managing bodies included both members of the aristocracy, patrons of the Society, and representatives of a broad cross-section of bourgeoisie and bourgeois intellectuals; among the members were also representatives of trade unions. In the 1860s, the Society’s membership was in excess of 4,000.
    In 1853-54, as the mass strike movement began to grow, the Society tried to act as an intermediary between the workers and the manufacturers seeking to take the edge off the class struggle. Marx sharply criticised this position and even called the organisation the ‘ “Society of Arts” and tricks’ (see Blue Books. Parliamentary Debates on February 6. Count Orlov's Mission. Operations of the Allied Fleet. The Irish Brigade. Concerning the Convocation of the Labor Parliament).
    Marx’s admission to the Society gave him greater access to scientific literature to be found in the Society’s library, including its extremely large collection of works by the 17th-19th century economists. Many of them he used when working on Capital. He was particularly interested in recent research in the field of economics and natural sciences, specifically, chemistry and agriculture, whose results were published in the Society’s journal. Marx used the materials of the journal for 1859, 1860, 1866 and 1872 in Volume One of Capital (the first and second editions).
  4. In a letter to Engels of 2 July 1869, Marx’s daughter Jenny gave an ironical account of a soirée at the Kensington Museum: ‘What genius the English have for the inventing of melancholy pleasures! Fancy crowd of some 7,000 mutes in full evening dress, wedged in so closely as to be unable either to move about or to sit down, for the chairs, and they were few and far between, a few imperturbable dowagers had taken by storm and stuck to throughout the evening. Of the works of art (the Queen has sacked all the museums of the people, in order to carry off their treasures to this aristocratic and favourite resorts of the “belated lamented”), it was next to impossible to get a glimpse.’
  5. 'Gravity is a secret of the body, invented to hide the defects of the mind.'
  6. Marx is referring to a passage from Laurence Sterne’s novel The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman (Paris, 1832, p. 20) saying that gravity ‘was no better, but often worse, than what a French wit had long ago defined it,— viz. A mysterious carriage of the body, to cover the defects of the mind.’
  7. 'We are all strong enough to bear the sufferings of others.'—'The elderly like to give good precepts, to console themselves for no longer being able to set bad examples.’—’Kings stamp men like money; they determine their worth as they will; and one is forced to accept them at their exchange-rate and not at their real price.’—’When vices abandon us, we flatter ourselves with the belief that we have abandoned them.’—’Moderation is the indifference and indolence of the soul, as ambition is its activity and ardour.’—’We often pardon those who bore us, but we cannot pardon those whom we bore.’—’Lovers and mistresses never bore one another when together, because they always speak of themselves.’
  8. 23 June
  9. On 23 June 1869 Marx took part in a mass trade union meeting in Exeter Hall in London held in support of the Bill for expanding the rights of trade unions.
  10. A reference to the June 1848 uprising of the French proletariat. See Marx’s and Engels’ articles ‘The 23rd of June’, ‘The 24th of June’, ‘The 25th of June’, and ‘The June Revolution’.