Letter to Johann Philipp Becker, after January 10, 1868

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To Johann Philipp Becker in Geneva

[London, after 10 January 1868] 1 Modena Villas, Maitland Park[edit source]

My dear Mr Becker,

Don’t be cross with me for not replying sooner to your kind last letter. Unfortunately, the reason for my silence was not a happy one. For my poor husband has once again been laid up and fettered hand and foot by his old, serious and painful complaint, which is becoming dangerous through its constant recurrence. Nothing depresses him more than to be constantly condemned to idleness once again, particularly now when there is so much to be done, the 2nd part [of Capital] is demanded and, to put it shortly, when the world begins once again to burn and blaze, though for the time being with ‘Greek fire’, and not with the ‘Red Cock’ [symbol of revolutionary action in the Peasant War in Germany]. The idlers and loafers have cash in their pockets and health in their blood, and the people who belong to the new world, who have devoted their bodies and souls to it, are sick — poor and thus well and truly locked in handcuffs. ‘Shame, shame’ as the English shout at their meetings. You will not believe how often my husband thinks of you, with sincere honour and admiration. He regards your little paper’ as quite definitely the best and most effective, and every time we receive news of our native kindergarten, or rather Gartenlaube, he exclaims: ‘If only the Germans had more men like old Becker!! As temporary secretary, I have just written to Schily and sent him the letter of the man who has offered to make the translation.’ You see, Moses Hess has also offered himself as translator through Schily and wanted to launch some preliminary ballons d'essais in the Courrier français But we have long heard and seen nothing of the two gentlemen, but, to judge by the letter I just mentioned, the matter will be a success. Because of his education in philosophy, and his orientation in the arts of dialectical leaps and balances, Hess would be preferable to many other translators who would be simply literal, but, on the other hand, our mystical Rabbi Rabbuni is often not quite reliable (not quite kosher), and often careless, so it would be wrong to reject other offers because of him. Schily will now act as chargé d'affaires, and see which is the right man.

Your last article on the Peace dawdlers was excellent, and, by God (the Good Lord always springs nolens volens to the lips and the pen, although he has long left the place of honour in our hearts), was the best that we have seen hitherto.

‘Goegg’ is still roaming around here on his propaganda merry-go-round. And Borkheim could have been smarter than to give him 100fr. travelling expenses. If the coins are itching and burning a hole in his pocket like that, he should let them fall and burn elsewhere. I think there are better things to do than supporting these apostles. Amand was dealt with quite differently by Engels in Manchester. For your amusement, here is a passage about it from Engels’ letter.

‘Moreover, yesterday I had a visit from the ex-dictator Goegg, who is travelling for the ridiculous Peace League and who ruined my evening. Luckily, Schorlemmer (a very important chemist, one of ‘our people’) ‘also happened by, and got the surprise of his life with this fossil of Federal Republic; he had not believed such a thing possible. The stupid oaf has become ten times more stupid through the unthinking repetition of the same phrases, and has lost all points of contact with the world of common sense (not to mention actual thinking). Apart from Switzerland and the Canton of Baden, there is still nothing else in the world for people of this sort. For all that, he soon convinced himself of the truth of my first reply to his application for support: that the further apart we lived and the less we had to do with one another, the better we would get on. — He admitted that in the Vogt affair Blind has behaved like a coward, but said he was after all a worthy fellow, and even threatened to reconcile you and Blind! Vogt — no politician, but a decent fellow, honest to the backbone, who simply scribbled away in the daytime without considering the content — if we 2 spent an hour together then we would be like brothers. He admitted him to be a Bonapartist, but not a paid one. To which I replied that all Bonapartists were paid, there were no unpaid ones, and if he could show me an unpaid one, then I would accept the possibility that Vogt was not paid; otherwise I would not. This astonished him, but finally he discovered one — Ludwig Bamberger! Incidentally, he said that Vogt had continually had a very hard time, his wife was a peasant girl from the Bernese Oberland, whom he had married out of virtue. Vogt, the artful dodger, appears to have pulled the wool well over this jackass’s eyes. But when Schorlemmer and I explained to him that Vogt had not produced anything as a natural scientist either, you should have seen his rage: Had he not popularised? Was not that worth while?

Thus Engels. So Goegg left empty-handed. Now he is trying his luck in other towns. Have you seen or heard anything of Bakunin? My husband sent his book [Capital] to him as an old Hegelian, — not a sign near or far. Has he received it? You can’t really trust all those Russians. If they don’t adhere to the ‘Väterchen’ in Russia, then they adhere to, or are kept by, ‘Herzens Väterchen’, which in the end comes to the same thing. Six of one and half a dozen of the other.

Things look good here, the English are running away from themselves in panic, and, if somebody hears a cork pop, he imagines it is Greek fire, and if John Bull sees an innocent phosphorus match he believes it is impregnated with glycerine, paraffin, nicotine and God knows what, and starts to run, and soon everybody is running, and finally the genuine constables are running ahead of the false bobbies, the so-called Specials, who are now keeping order in the streets with their lead batons. Ireland has taken the lead in the entire political programme, the English are already shouting in favour of Ireland at their meetings, and it has almost become respectable to lament the 7-hundred-year suffering of sweet Erin — to weep over it; and all this has been accomplished by a phosphorus match and a rope. How easy is it to frighten the gentlemen out of their wits!? The short fear of physical means has accomplished more than centuries of moral threats. ...

Manuscript breaks off here