Letter to Karl Marx, March 9, 1847

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Author(s) Friedrich Engels
Written 9 March 1847


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Source: Marx-Engels Collected Works, Volume 38 p. 111
First published: slightly abridged in Der Briefwechsel zwischen F. Engels und K. Marx, 1913 and in full in MEGA, 1929.

To Marx in Brussels

Paris, Tuesday, 9 March 1847[edit source]

Dear Marx,

The wee pamphlet enclosed was delivered to me this morning by Junge; Ewerbeck had brought it to them a few days ago. Having looked at the thing, I declared it to be by Moses [Hess] and explained this to Junge, point by point. This evening I saw Ewerbeck, who confessed that he had brought it to them and, after I had thoroughly demolished the thing, came out with the information that he himself, Ewerbeck, was the author of the pretty concoction. He wrote it, he maintains, during the months that followed my arrival here, inspired by the first rapture into which he had been thrown by the novelties I communicated. That’s how these lads are. While mocking Hess for decking himself out in borrowed plumes that didn’t suit him, and forbidding the Straubingers[1] to convey what I had told them to Grün lest he purloin it, he sits him down and — with the best intentions in the world, as always — conducts himself no whit better. Moses and Grün could not have more thoroughly bungled matters than this homespun clap-doctor. I, of course, first made fun of him a little and ended up by forbidding him ever to give vent to such stuff again. But it’s in these people’s bones. Last week I sat down and, partly out of foolishness, partly because I absolutely had to have some money, wrote for anonymous publication a letter, pullulating with smutty jokes, in which I expressed gratitude to Lola Montez.[2] On Saturday I read him some bits out of it, and this evening he tells me, with his customary bonhomie, that this inspired him to produce something similar and that he did so the very next day on the same subject, handing it in to Mäurer for his anonymous periodical [H. Ewerbeck, ‘Hier Baiern! — Hier Andalusia!’, Die Pariser Horen, April 1847] (it really does appear quite sub rosa and only for the benefit of the editors, being censored by Madame Mäurer, who has already blue-pencilled a poem by Heine). He was, he said, telling me about this in good time to save his honour and avoid committing a plagiarism! This fresh masterpiece by this passionately keen author will, of course, simply be my joke translated into a solemnly effusive style. This most recent exercise of the short gut, though of no significance, shows how extremely urgent it is that either your book or our manuscripts [The Poverty of Philosophy and The German Ideology] should appear as soon as possible. The fellows are all worried by the thought that such splendid ideas should remain so long concealed from the people, and can think up no better way of getting this load off their minds than by voiding as much of it as they think they have passablement [tolerably well] digested. So don’t let the Bremen man [Kühtmann] slip through your fingers. If he doesn’t reply, write again and accept a minimum, if needs must. Each month they lie idle these manuscripts lose 5-10 fr. per sheet in exchangeable value. A few months from now, with la diète prussienne[3].. en discussion, la querelle bien entamée à Berlin [the Prussian Diet in debate, the dispute well under way in Berlin], Bauer and Stirner will not fetch more than 10 fr. per sheet. With such a topical work one gradually gets to the stage where the high fee demanded as a writer’s point d'honneur has to be completely set aside.

I spent about a week with Bernays in Sarcelles. He too does stupid things. Writes for the Berliner Zeitungs-Halle and is happy as a sand-boy that his soidisant [self-styled] communist anti-bourgeois expectorations appear in it. The editors and censors naturally allow anything purely anti-bourgeois to stand, but delete the few references that might also reflect unpleasantly on themselves. Fulminates about Juries, ‘bourgeois freedom of the press’, the representation system, etc. I explain to him that this means literally working pour le roi de Prusse [for the King of Prussia, i. e. for nothing], and indirectly, against our party — usual warm-hearted outpourings, impossibility of effecting anything; I point out that the Zeitungs-Halle is in the pay of the government, obstinate denials, references to symptoms which, in the eyes of everyone save the sensitive inhabitants of Sarcelles, precisely bear out my contention. Result: Inability of warm heart, ingenuous enthusiasm, to write contrary to its convictions, to comprehend any policy that spares those who hitherto were the objects of its mortal hatred. ‘Ain’t in me nature!’ the inevitable ultima ratio [last argument]. I have read x of these articles dated from Paris; they are on ne peut plus [as much as they could be] in the interests of the government and in the style of true socialism. I feel inclined to give up Bernays and to meddle no more in the high-minded and repellent family woes in which he plays the heros des dévouements, [hero of devotion] of boundless devotion. Il faut avoir vu cela. [It has to be seen] The stench is like five thousand unaired featherbeds, multiplied by the release therein of innumerable farts — the result of Austrian vegetable cookery. And though the fellow should ten times tear himself away from the riff-raff and come to Paris, he will return to them as often. You can imagine the kind of moralising humbug all this puts into his head. The mode composé [complex kind of] family in which he lives is turning him into a perfect narrow-minded philistine. He'll never get me to come to his boutique again, nor is he likely to feel any urgent desire to see so unfeeling an individual as myself.

You will very soon be receiving the pamphlet on the Constitution [Engels, The Constitutional Question in Germany]. I shall write it on separate sheets, so that you can insert and discard.[4] If there’s any prospect of Vogler paying something, ask him if he will take the Lola Montez joke — approx. 1 1/2-2 sheets, but you needn’t tell him the thing originated with me. Let me know by return, for otherwise I shall try in Belle-Vue. You'll have seen from the Débats or the Constitutionnel that, as a result of complaints made by Württemberg, the Great Council has made it impossible for the scoundrelly Schläpfer in Herisau to go on publishing revolutionary stuff; he himself has confirmed this in letters to us and has asked that nothing further be sent to him. All the more reason, therefore, to maintain contact with the man in Bremen. If nothing at all comes of it with him, there remains only the publishers and booksellers in Belle-Vue near Constance. Au reste, should the placing of our manuscripts clash with the placing of your book, then, for heaven’s sake, chuck the manuscripts into a corner, for it’s far more important that your book should appear. We're neither of us likely to make much out of our work in that quarter.

In yesterday’s (Monday’s) Kölner Zeitung you may have seen a smug article on the scandalous affair of Martin du Nord. [probably a report from Paris ‘Affaire Martin du Nord’ published in the Kölnische Zeitung, 8 March 1847] That article was by Bernays — from time to time he takes Börnstein’s place as correspondent.

The police here are in a very ugly mood just now. It would seem that, by hook or by crook, they are determined to exploit the food shortage to provoke a riot or a mass conspiracy. First they scatter all manner of leaflets about; put up placats incendiaires [inflammatory posters], and now they have even manufactured and strewn around fire-raising devices which, however, were not set alight, in order to make plain to the épicier [grocer] the lengths to which diabolical wickedness can go. On top of this they began a fine game with the communistes matérialistes[5] arresting a whole mass of fellows, among whom A knows B, B knows C, C knows D, etc., and now, on the strength of these acquaintanceships and a few statements made by witnesses, they transmogrify the whole lot of them, for the most part unknown to each other, into a ‘gang’. The trial of this ‘gang’ is soon to take place, and if the old complicité morale be added to this new system, any individual you care to name can be sentenced without more ado. Cela sent son Hébert. [it stinks of Hébert] By this means, nothing could be easier than to pin something even on père Cabet.

If at all possible, do come here some time in April. By 7 April I shall be moving — I don’t yet know where to — and about that time I shall also have a little money. So for a time we could enjoy ourselves famously, squandering our all in taverns. However, since the police are being beastly at the moment[6] (besides the Saxon I wrote to you about, my old opponent Eisermann was banished; both have remained here, cf. K. Grün in the Kölner Zeitung [Grün’s Über die Ausweisung von Eisermann und Anderen, 1 March 1847]), it might be as well to follow Börnstein’s advice. Try to obtain a passport from the French Ambassador on the grounds of your emigration; if that doesn’t work, we'll see what can be done at this end — no doubt there is still a conservative deputy who can be persuaded to help. It’s absolutely essential that you get out of ennuyante [vexatious] Brussels for once and come to Paris, and I for my part have a great desire to go carousing with you. Either mauvais sujet [scamp] or schoolmaster; these are the only alternatives open to one here; a mauvais sujet among disreputable good-for-nothings, et cela vous va fort mal quand vous navez pas d'argent [and that suits you very badly when you have no money] or schoolmaster to Ewerbeck, Bernays and Co. Or else submit to wise counsel from the leaders of the French radicals which one must later vindicate among the other jackasses lest they unduly flaunt their bloated Germanness. If I had an income of 5,000 fr. I would do nothing but work and amuse myself with women until I went to pieces. If there were no Frenchwomen, life wouldn’t be worth living. Mais tant qu'il y a des grisettes, va! Cela n'empêche pas [but so long as there are grisettes, well and good! That doesn’t prevent] one from sometimes wishing to discuss a decent topic or enjoy life with a measure of refinement, neither of which is possible with anyone in the whole band of my acquaintances. You must come here.

Have you seen L. Blanc’s Revolution [Histoire de la révolution française, 1847]? A wild mixture of correct hunches and unbounded craziness. I only read half of the first volume while at Sarcelles Ça fait un drô1e d'effet. [it makes a curious impression] Hardly has he surprised one with some nice observation when he falls head over heels into the most dreadful lunacy. But L. Blanc has a good nose and, despite all the lunacy, the scent he is on is by no means bad. Yet he will get no further than the point he has already reached, being ‘rooted to the spot by a spell’ — ideology.

Do you know Achille de Vaulabelle’s Chute de l'Empire, Histoire des deux Restaurations? Came out last year, a republican on the National, and in the historiographical manner of the old school — before Thierry, Mignet, etc. Abysmal lack of insight into the most ordinary relations — in this respect even Capefigue in his cent jours does infinitely better — but interesting on account of the Bourbon and allied basenesses, all of which he catalogues, and of a fairly exact representation and criticism of the facts in so far as his national and political interests don’t obtrude. On the whole tediously written, however, precisely because of a lack of perspective. The National is a bad historian, and Vaulabelle is said to be Marrast’s amicus.

Moses has vanished completely. He promises to give lectures to those ouvriers with whom I do not ‘consort’, makes himself out to be Grün’s opponent and my intimate friend! God knows and so does Moses that, at our second and last entrevue [interview] in the Passage Vivienne, the painter Körner and I left him standing agape, in order to lead astray two girls Körner had picked up. Since then I have only met him once, on mardi gras when he was dragging his world-weary self through the most dreadful downpour and the most and boredom in the direction of the Exchange. We didn’t even deign to recognise each other.

I will take care of the letter to Bakunin[7] as soon as I am sure of his address — up to now it is still chanceux [a matter of chance].

Apropos, do write to Ewerbeck about the wee pamphlet and make fun of him a little; he is most humbly presenting ambas posaderas [both buttocks] and is anxious to see blows rained down upon them — you know what I mean.

Well then, write soon and see to it that you come here.

Your
F. E.

  1. Straubingers — travelling journeymen in Germany. Marx and Engels used this term for German artisans, including some participants in the working-class movement of that time, who were still largely swayed by guild prejudices and cherished the petty-bourgeois illusion that it was possible to return from capitalist large-scale industry to petty handicraft production.
    Here the reference is to the members of the Paris communities of the League of the Just.
  2. The reference is to Engels’ as yet unfound satirical pamphlet about Lola Montez, a favourite of King Ludwig I of Bavaria. The scandalous influence of this Spanish dancer on the policy of the Bavarian Government caused ill 1847-48 the appearance of numerous pamphlets, articles, cartoons, etc. Further on, the text shows that Engels tried to have this pamphlet published b), Vogler in Brussels and by the Belle-Vue publishers in Switzerland. A letter has survived which Vogler wrote on 3 April 1847 in reply to Engels’ letter of 28 March which has riot been found. Engels’ proposal was rejected because of the censorship existing in the Great Duchy of Baden where the publishers had moved by that time.
  3. The reference is to the rescripts by Frederick William IV of 3 February 1847 convening the United Diet — a united assembly of the eight provincial diets. The United Diet as well as the provincial diets consisted of representatives of the estates: the curia of high aristocracy and the curia of the other three estates (nobility, representatives of the towns and the peasantry). its powers were limited to authorising new taxes and loans, to voice without vote during the discussion of Bills, and to the right to present petitions to the King.

    The United Diet opened on 11 April 1847, but it was dissolved as early as June because the majority refused to vote a new loan.
  4. Engels intended to have this work published as a pamphlet by Vogler in Brussels who was printing Marx’s The Poverty of Philosophy. However, when Marx received the manuscript, Vogler had been arrested in Aachen. The part of the pamphlet which has reached us was first published in Russian in the USSR in 1929.
  5. Communistes matérialistes — members of the secret society of materialist communists founded in the 1840s. The members of this society were tried in July 1847 and sentenced to long terms of imprisonment.
    By materialists Engels meant associates of Théodore Dézamy and other revolutionary representatives of French utopian communism who drew their socialist conclusions from the teaching of the eighteenth-century French materialist philosophers. In the 1840s there existed in France a society of materialist communists which consisted of workers; in July 1847 eleven of its members were brought to trial by the French authorities.
  6. The persecution of the Paris members of the League of the Just by the French police was reported in an item datelined Paris, 2 April 1847, published in the Berliner Zeitungs-Halle, No. 81, 8 April 1847. It said of Engels: “Several police agents have also been to Fr. Engels, who lives here in great retirement and devotes himself only to economic and historical studies; naturally they could find nothing against him.”
  7. Marx’s letter to Bakunin has not been found.