Letter to Karl Marx, June 16, 1867

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Author(s) Friedrich Engels
Written 16 June 1867

Source: Marx-Engels Collected Works, Volume 42, p. 381;
First published: in Der Briefwechsel zwischen F. Engels und K. Marx, 1913.

To Marx in London

Manchester, 16 June 1867[edit source]

Dear Moor,

I have been so distracted by all manner of bother with Monsieur Gottfried and other suchlike affairs and disturbances for the past week that I seldom had the leisure to study the form of value. Otherwise, I would have sent the sheets [of the first volume of Capital] back to you long ago. Sheet 2 in particular has the marks of your carbuncles rather firmly stamped upon it, but there is not much that can be done about it now and I think you should not deal with it any further in the supplement, as your philistine really is not accustomed to this kind of abstract thinking and will certainly not torment himself for the sake of the form of value. At most, you could provide rather more extensive historical evidence for the conclusions you have here reached dialectically, you could, so to speak, apply the test of history, although you have already made the most essential points in that respect; but you have so much material that you can surely still write quite a good excursus on it, which will by historical means demonstrate to the philistine the need for the development of money and the process by which this takes place.

It was a serious mistake not to have made the development of these rather abstract arguments clearer by means of a larger number of short sections with their own headings. You ought to have treated this part in the manner of Hegel’s Encyclopaedia, with short paragraphs, each dialectical transition emphasised by means of a special heading and, as far as possible, all the excurses or merely illustrative material printed in special type. The thing would have looked somewhat like a school text-book, but a very large class of readers would have found it considerably easier to understand. The populus, even the scholars, just are no longer at all accustomed to this way of thinking, and one has to make it as easy for them as one possibly can.

Compared with your earlier presentation [Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy] (Duncker), the dialectic of the argument has been greatly sharpened, but with regard to the actual exposition there are a number of things I like better in the first version. It is a great pity that the carbuncles have left their mark on the important second sheet in particular. However, there is nothing to be done about it now, and those who are capable of thinking dialectically will understand it, nevertheless. The other sheets are very good, and I was delighted by them. I hope you will soon be able to send me another five or six sheets (and could you please enclose sheet 5 again so that I can pick up the thread properly); the sheets I have been reading one by one here will make a much better impression when read together.

I've discovered a few more misprints. I would only list as errata those which really distort the sense.

I called on Gumpert yesterday. Pauvre garçon! He is deteriorating with each day that passes. It was impossible to arouse his interest in anything scientific or even political. Town gossip and nothing more than town gossip. And yet he cannot understand why people don’t call on him more often.

Have read Hofmann. For all its faults, the latest chemical theory does represent a great advance on the old atomistic theory. The molecule as the smallest part of matter capable of independent existence is a perfectly rational category, a ‘nodal point’, as Hegel calls it, in the infinite progression of subdivisions, which does not terminate it, but marks a qualitative change. The atom — formerly represented as the limit of divisibility — is now but a state, although Monsieur Hofmann himself is forever relapsing into the old idea that indivisible atoms really exist. For the rest, the advances in chemistry that this book records are truly enormous, and Schorlemmer says that this revolution is still going on day by day, so that new upheavals can be expected daily.

Best regards to your wife, the girls and the electrician [Lafarague].

F. E.

Am sending back 5 sheets today.