Letter to Karl Marx, January 19, 1870

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Author(s) Friedrich Engels
Written 19 January 1870

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 and Engels on Ireland, Progress Publishers, 1971;

Published in English in full for the first time in Marx-Engels Collected Works, Volume 43
Keywords : Letter, Law, Ireland

To Marx in London

Manchester, January 19, 1870[edit source]

Dear Moor,

I hope you are having a better time with the infamous carbuncle following the lancing. It’s a ghastly business. Keep on with the arsenic till all the symptoms have disappeared, and then for at least another 3 months. I shall go to Gumpert in the next few days and ask him for his opinion, but be so good as to let me know first for how long you stopped taking the arsenic, and when you began again, so I can answer his very first question.

I would have thought you really must realise that in the interests of your 2nd volume, ‘ too, you need a change of life-style. If there is a constant repetition of such suspensions, you will never get finished; with an increase in movement in fresh air, which will keep off the carbuncles, then sooner or later.

Unfortunately, now that I can no longer call upon the packers in the WAREHOUSE I haven’t such opportunities for sending wine as formerly. I must wait, as with Brauneberger, until I find a ready-packed crate, or depend somehow or other on chance. That is why the small crate of port I am sending you today, has proved so slim. It is an old butter crate from Renshaws; I could not get more than 5 bottles in the narrow space, and the thin boards would not have stood more weight. It should keep you going for a while, however.

The Peter Bonaparte business is a bang-up inauguration for the new era in Paris. Louis[1] is décidément[2] unlucky. For the bourgeois a very rude awakening from the illusion that the whole foundation of corruption and dirty work, carefully and slowly constructed over eighteen years, would disappear immediately noble Ollivier took over the helm. Constitutional Government with such a Bonaparte, such generals, prefects, police and Decembrists! The anxiety of the fellows, I mean the bourgeois, is nowhere more clearly expressed than in Prévost-Paradol’s letter in Monday’s Times.

The worst part of this business is that Rochefort thereby acquires a quite exaggerated nimbus. To be sure, though, the official Republicans are also a miserable lot.

John Bright deserves congratulations. The poor fellow is so helpless in his new and elevated situation that, despite all discretion, he promises the Irish FREE LAND and OPENING OF THE PRISON DOORS. The latter naturally only to revoke it the following day, as soon as the slightest attempt is made to take him at his word. As far as FREE LAND is concerned, this was already—in Bright’s sense, à la FREE TRADE—introduced by the ENCUMBERED ESTATES COURT.

I have at last discovered a copy of Prendergast[3] in a local library, and hope to be able to obtain it. To my good or bad fortune, the ancient Irish laws are now also appearing, and I shall have to wade through these as well. The more I study the subject, the clearer it becomes to me that, as a result of the English invasion, Ireland was cheated of its whole development, and thrown back centuries. And this ever since the 12th century; neither should it be forgotten, of course, that 300 years of invasion and plunder by the Danes had already dragged the country considerably backwards; but this had ceased more than 100 years earlier.

In recent years there has been rather more criticism in Irish research, particularly in Petrie’s antiquarian studies[4]; he also forced me to read some Celtic-Irish (naturally with a parallel translation). It doesn’t seem all that difficult, but I shan’t delve deeper into the stuff; I’m already hobbled with enough philological nonsense. In the next few days, when I get the book, I’ll see how the ancient laws have been dealt with.

I congratulate you on your progress in Russian. You will charm Borkheim, and it is also a good thing because mine has nearly all become very rusty again, and if you let yours become rusty again, then I shall have to start once more.

Best greetings to your wife and the girls. Lafargue is in a really frightful hurry.


F. E.

  1. Napoleon III
  2. decidedly
  3. J. P. Prendergast, The Cromwellian Settlement of Ireland.
  4. G. Pétrie, The Ecclesiastical Architecture of Ireland, Anterior to the Anglo-Norman Invasion. In: The Transactions of the Royal Irish Academy, Vol. XX.