Letter to Friedrich Engels, March 28, 1856

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Author(s) Jenny von Westphalen
Written 28 March 1856

Source: Marx-Engels Collected Works, Volume 40, p. 561;
First published: in Marx and Engels, Works, Moscow, 1962.
Keywords : Letter, War, Coup

To Frederick Engels in Manchester

[London, 28 March 1856][edit source]

Dear Mr Engels,

Moor wants to know whether you are coining here for Easter as we would all so very much like. In that case he would not send you the Bluebooks. Please drop us a line to say whether you are coming. Then we could take the thing to the parcels company on Monday. I have just posted your article. Chaley [Karl] is very busy with the Kars papers and is dictating to a somewhat seedy-looking Pieper. What do you make of the scandals in Berlin? Have you read the report from the Berlin correspondent in today’s Times? Now we know the reason for the Kreuz-Zeitung’s sackcloth-and-ashes leaders.

I also have a bone to pick just now with the Minister of the Interior about the little business of my inheritance. You will remember that my late uncle’s effects included a mass of letters and manuscripts belonging to my grandfather who was War Minister to the Duke of Brunswick. The Prussian State, with Mr von Scharnhorst for intermediary, had already entered into negotiations with my father with a view to purchasing these manuscripts which contain material on the military history of the Seven Years War. Then along comes my brother — and in the final statement relating to the estate I find the following curious entry: As regards the books which were found, the Minister of State has, ‘on grounds of piety’, taken over the same for the sum of 10 talers. He had the comparatively worthless portion sold by auction in Brunswick for 11 talers and now, without asking, takes over, out of piety, the more valuable, which he has valued at 10 talers, but debits me with the cost of carriage from Brunswick to Berlin. Funny sort of piety! But now for the real casus belli. In addition, he gets Florencourt, the chief clerk, to write:

‘Besides the books, a large number of papers, amongst them a number of the late Landdrost von Westphalen’s manuscripts — some on military history — have also come to light. The latter are, however for the most part exceedingly incomplete and defective and it seems improbable that the same are of any real literary interest.’

So they imagine that, without sending me a legal inventory and without having the papers valued, they can appropriate them by a coup de main. I strongly suspect that my brother, fired by patriotic zeal, promptly presented the manuscripts to the State, the more so in view of my mother’s letter, in which she tells me she had already written to them about the value of the papers — and asked what they intended to do with them. Their silence is very peculiar. He believes that I, like the rest of my submissive sisters, will simply leave everything to him, the mighty ‘Cheeef’ of the family. But there he’s mistaken.

I have begun by making ‘discreet inquiries’ so that bit by bit I can lay claim to my ‘property’.

I shall be curious to see what they answer. With Berlin in its present state of excitation it would be very easy for us to create a scandal. But out of consideration for my mother we shall tread somewhat cautiously before we start one.

We hope to see you here next week.

With cordial regards,

Jenny Marx