Letter to Friedrich Engels, May 22, 1857

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Author(s) Karl Marx
Written 22 May 1857


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Source: Marx-Engels Collected Works, Volume 40, p. 132;
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,] 22 May 1857 9 Grafton Terrace, Maitland Park, Haverstock Hill[edit source]

Dear Engels,

It may be some consolation to you to learn that for the past 3 weeks right up to this very day, I have been submerged in pills and potions as a result of my old and, as I believe, hereditary liver complaints. Only by dint of the utmost exertions have I been able to supply the ‘goods’ — for the Tribune I mean — being otherwise quite disabled. In order that my time should not be entirely wasted I have, faute de mieux, been mastering the dansk Sprog and am presently applying myself to Af mit Livs og min Tids Historie, a colossal state haemorrhoid, of (ex-minister) Orsted. Opening oysters would be an altogether more amusing proposition. However, if the doctor’s promises are anything to go by, I have prospects of becoming a human being again next week. Meanwhile I'm still as yellow as a quince, and vastly more crabbed.

As regards your own tribulations, I am firmly convinced that they all stem from a hollow tooth which ought to come out and which, by a series of concatenations, underlies all the other unpleasant symptoms. Heckscher will deny this, of course. However, when you come down here — which I greatly look forward to — it can do you no harm at least to accompany me to a really first-rate dentist and get him to examine your teeth. My view is based on the fact that two years ago, when I was suffering from very much the same trouble, Dr Freund also declared I had been eating too much meat, yet a few months ago a courageous visit to the dentist at last uncovered the source of the trouble. Your intermittent toothache is, of course, the main factor in my argument.

My wife expects to be confined at the end of the month, this time in not altogether agreeable circumstances. It will be a long time now — another 3 weeks at very best — before I have accumulated enough to be able to draw on the Tribune. I tried to draw a bill on myself to cover the interim period, but failed with éclat. The actual household debts I can put off paying, but in the case of the rates this is possible only up to a certain point, and besides, the afore-mentioned circumstances call for certain preparations which have to be paid for on the nail.

As you will have seen in the papers, a second director of the Crédit mobilier. — the first was Place — viz. the banker Thurneyssen, has decamped leaving massive debts of about 30-40 million frs. This splendid institution’s latest report — that of 28 April ultimo — reveals that, although the net profit still amounts to 23%, it has nevertheless fallen by about a half compared with 1855. According to Mr Péreire, the fall is due 1. to the ordre in the Moniteur of March 1856 by which Bonaparte forbade the Crédit to skim the cream off the excessive speculation then going on in France; 2. to the fact that, by an oversight, this ‘ordre de la sagesse suprême’ extended only to sociétés anonymes, thus laying the Crédit open to highly improper competition in the shape of sociétés de commandite; 3. to the crisis during the last 3 months of 1856. True, the Crédit sought to exploit that crisis to bring off a few financial coups de main, but was obstructed in this ‘patriotic’ work by the narrow selfishness of the Banque de France and the syndicate of Paris bankers headed by Rothschild; 4. Bonaparte has still not permitted them to make the statutory issue of 600 millions in paper money of their own devising. *That issue is still looming in the future.* Péreire seems to be exerting severe pressure on Bonaparte. Should the latter shrink from giving his authorisation, a middle course would seem to be envisaged, namely to turn the Banque de France into the instrument of the Crédit by loftier means, i. e. new draft legislation. From this report it further transpires that the Crédit’s business is still vastly disproportionate to its capital and that it has used the capital loaned by the public exclusively to further its gambles on the Bourse. As a quasi-state institution of Bonaparte’s on the one hand, the Crédit mobilier declares that it is called upon to maintain the prices of funds, shares, bonds, in short, of all securities on the national Bourse, by advancing the money borrowed from the public to companies or individual stock-jobbers for their operations on the Bourse. As a ‘private institution’, on the other hand, its main business consists in speculating on the rises and falls in the stock-market. Péreire reconciles this contradiction by something Moses Hess might well call ‘social philosophy’.

I have omitted only one or two small items from your China-Persia article and altered an expression here and there. I agree with the whole thing, only I don’t think that the troops stationed in Persia will be sent to China so soon. The treaty expressly stipulates that they will not leave Persia until the Persians evacuate Herat. Pam won’t spare them the hot season. That his instructions in this respect were again highly ‘incomprehensible’ would seem to follow from the fact that the Governor-General of India — Canning — tendered his resignation at the same time as the British general and the British admiral committed suicide. Meanwhile, as announced in the Vienna newspapers, the main object has been attained. Persia has ceded two strips of land to Russia.

I have heard from Mickel and shall send you his letter one of these days. Trusting I shall soon hear that you are fit and well again.

Salut.

Your
K. M.