Letter to Friedrich Engels, May 7, 1867

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To Engels in Manchester

Hanover, 7 May 1867[edit source]

Dear Fred,

D'abord, best thanks for your intervention in the most pressing casus delicti, as well as for your very detailed letter.

First, business. That damned Wigand did not start printing [Capital] until 29 April, so that I received the first sheet for correction the day before yesterday, on my birthday. Post tot pericula! The misprints were relatively insignificant. It’s impossible to wait here until the printing is completed. In the first instance, I fear that the book will prove much fatter than I had originally calculated. Second, I am not getting the manuscript back, so that for many quotations, especially those involving figures or Greek, I need to have my home manuscript to hand, nor can I impose on Dr Kugelmann’s hospitality for too long. Finally, Meissner is demanding the 2nd volume by the end of the autumn at the latest. I shall therefore have to get my nose to the grindstone as soon as possible, as a lot of new material relating especially to the chapters on credit and landed property has become available since the manuscript was composed. The third volume must be completed during the winter, so that I shall have shaken off the whole opus by next spring. The business of writing, of course, is quite different once the proofs for what has already been done start coming in a fur et mesure, and under pressure from the publisher.

Meanwhile, my time here has not been wasted. Letters have been written to all and sundry, and preliminary notices have appeared in most German papers.

I hope and confidently believe that in the space of a year I shall be made, in the sense that I shall be able to fundamentally rectify my financial affairs and at last stand on my own feet again. Without you, I would never have been able to bring the work to a conclusion, and I can assure you it always weighed like a nightmare on my conscience that you were allowing your fine energies to be squandered and to rust in commerce, chiefly for my sake, and, into the bargain, that you had to share all my petites misères as well. On the other hand, I cannot conceal from myself that I still have a year of trial ahead of me. I have taken a step on which a great deal depends, viz., on which it depends whether several £100 will be made available to me from the only quarter where that is possible. There is a tolerable prospect of a positive outcome, but I shall remain uncertain for about 6 weeks. I shall not have definite confirmation until then. What I am most afraid of — apart from the uncertainty — is my return to London, which will be necessary in 6-8 days. My debts there are considerable, and the Manichaeans are ‘urgently’ awaiting my return. And then the torments of family life, the domestic conflicts, the constant harassment, instead of settling down to work refreshed and free of care.

Dr Kugelmann and his wife are being exceptionally kind to me and anticipate my every need. They are splendid people. They really leave me no time to explore ‘the gloomy paths of my inner self’. Apropos, the Bismarck affair must be kept absolutely secret. I promised to tell no one, not even Kugelmann, about it. Nor have I done so. I did, however, of course make the reservatio mentalis to except yourself.

You express surprise that the National-Liberals... (or, as Kugelmann calls them, the Europeans) did so well in the elections, when the Prussians are so hated here. The matter is very simple. They did badly in all the larger towns, in smaller places they owed their victories to their organisation, which has existed ever since Gotha. These fellows do, on the whole, show how important party organisation is. That is the position in Hanover. In Electoral Hesse, there is no limit to the influence of Prussian intimidation, backed up by the shouting of the members of the National Association. The Prussians meanwhile are operating quite in the Persian manner here. It is true that they cannot transplant the population to their Eastern provinces, but they are doing so with their officials, right down to the railway conductors, and for the officers. Even those poor devils of postmen are having to move to Pomerania. In the meantime, trains full of Hessians, Hanoverians, etc., are to be seen on the railway every day en route to Bremen, emigrating to the United States. Not since dear old Germany came into existence has it sent such a motley crowd of people from all parts across the Atlantic. One is trying to avoid his taxes, another, his military service, a third the political situation, and all of them the hegemony of the sword and the gathering storm of war.

I am greatly diverted by the (pro-Prussian) bourgeoisie here. They want war, but immédiatement. Business, they say, can stand the uncertainty no longer, and where the devil are the taxes to come from if business stagnates for much longer? Incidentally, you would scarcely conceive the burden that the last war and taxation have imposed upon the rural populace in Prussia. Here in the vicinity of Prussian Westphalia, e.g., truly Irish conditions prevail.

By the by a few days ago the director of the joint-stock foundry here (manufacturing chiefly water and gas pipes) conducted me round the works. On the whole, it is very well organised and utilises much quite modern equipment. But, on the other hand, there is still a good deal of turning by hand (detail work), where the English and Scots are using automatic machinery. The same director took me into the Hermann’s-column workshop. The thing is as long in the making as Germany itself. Hermann’s head is so colossal that you'd seem like a child beside it, and it has a fine look of honest stupidity, and Mr Arminius was above all a diplomat. His air of worthy Westphalian simplicity served but as a mask for a most subtle mind. As chance would have it, I had renewed my acquaintance with Mr Arminius, shortly before my departure from London, in the Grimm edition of historical sources with which you are familiar.

I am sure you will recall J. Meyer (at Bielefeld), who refused to print our manuscript on Stirner, etc., and sent the youth Kriege to annoy us? A few months ago he threw himself out of the window in Warsaw, whither his business affairs had taken him, and broke his neck, if you please.

Our friend Miquel, who declared himself prepared to sacrifice freedom so readily for the sake of unity, is believed to be job-hunting. In my view, le brave homme has miscalculated. Had he not hurled himself so fanatically and unconditionally at Bismarck’s feet, he would have been able to pick up a generous gratuity. But now! What need is there for that? He has made himself so hated by his performance in the North German Parliament... that he is chained to the Prussians like one convict to the next. And the Prussians, as you know, do not like to make ‘useless’ and superfluous dépenses. Recently, the Bismarckite newspaper, the Norddeutsche Allgemeine, produced by that scoundrel Brass published a very witty article about the National-Associationites, pleading inability to emulate even the de mortuis nil nisi bene [speak only good of the dead]. It sent Bismarck’s North-German-Confederationite, National-Associationite minions packing with some artistic kicks delivered con amore.

As far as the war is concerned, I am entirely of your opinion. At the present moment, it can only do harm. If it could be delayed, even just for a year, that would be worth its weight in gold to us. In the first place, Bonaparte and William the Conqueror would necessarily be made to look foolish. The opposition is reviving in Prussia (its only press organ just now is Die Zukunft in Berlin, founded by Jacobi) , and events may occur in France. Business is becoming more and more stagnant, and it will then be impossible to cover up the suffering there on the Continent with empty phrases, whether they be of Teutonic or Gallic provenance.

In my view, we owe the postponement of war exclusively to the Derby ministry. It is anti-Russian, and Russia dares not give the signal until she is sure of Britain. Gladstone, the phrasemonger (entirely under the influence of Lady Palmerston, Shaftesbury, and Lord Cowper), and Bright, not forgetting Russell, would gladly provide her with the guarantees that Britain was disposed as required. Derby had to be removed in 1859, too, in order to stage the Great Drama in Italy. In the North German Parliament Bismarck was obliged to throw down the gauntlet to the Poles in the most brutal manner and thus declare his total subservience to the Tsar.

In the Prussian army there prevails deep distrust of the Russians amongst the better officers, as I learnt personally from Captain von Bölzig here (Guards Regiment, raised in the Cadet Corps, loyal to the Prussian monarchy, but a nice fellow). ‘Bismarck’s conduct in North Schleswig is incomprehensible to me. Only the Russians,’ this he said quite unprompted, ‘have any interest in maintaining tension between ourselves and Denmark.’ He went on to call Frederick William IV a ‘shady cavalier’, who had turned Germany into Russia’s lackey for 1/2 century. The Russian officers were ‘shitty fellows’, the army good for nothing, except for the Guards Regiments, Austria alone was capable of matching the Russian army, etc. I also put a good many more ideas into his head about the Muscovites.

And now adio. Kindest regards to Mrs Lizzy.

Tout à vous.