Letter to Karl Marx, November 17, 1869

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Author(s) Friedrich Engels
Written 17 November 1869

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

To Marx in London

Manchester, November 17, 1869[edit source]

Dear Moor,

I hope the arsenic and the exercise will have thundered a rapid retreat to that certain 'suspicious' matter. But I also hope that these constant relapses will finally lead you to the conclusion that you must commence a more rational way of life. You poison your blood yourself by making regular digestion impossible. And you certainly don’t then produce the same quantum (and quale[1]) of work as you would under normal circumstances.

The idyllic drama Familienglück coram Philistaco is really enchanting. One does not know what to admire more, the fadaise[2] of the speeches and the poets (only interrupted by the nastysounding nonsense of boozy Karl Beck), or the importunity of the family, which has something like this printed as ‘manuscript for friends’ (that is PUBLIC for non-friends). But it is not quite clear to me how the noble Freiligrath can have printed the intrepid words of the tender-hearted Walesrode: that the poet Freiligrath has also achieved something in the way of worldly possessions (by begging). I would like to have seen the faces in his family when these words were uttered.

Monsieur Ledru-Rollin is certainly reckoning on nothing other than a dictatorship. The litde fellow Louis Blanc also re-emerged as though nothing had happened—why not the others? At a moment like this, the bourgeois press does not tell us anything about what is really happening, and even the revolutionary press does not suffice to enlighten one. The confusion is certainly great, but it is equally certain that the crisis is not yet really close. But a general in Paris has said: Nous avons encore un Empereur, mais l’empire n’existe plus.[3]

The Russians are having a rare old time of it in Asia. They are now happily waging war with the Khan of Kashgar,e formerly subject to the Chinese, but who has now made himself independent. If they subdue him, they will run directly up against countries already under English dominion (Ladekh, Kashmir), about 200 miles from the English frontier. You will have seen Vâmbéry’s news (taken over by English papers from the Augsburg Allgemeine Zeitung[4]) about the trickery in Bukhara (where, under treaty, Russian goods pay 3% customs, English 40%!), Afghanistan, etc. John Bull’s stupidity is becoming ever greater, as a result of his bumptiousness.

The best joke of the Irish is to propose O'Donovan Rossa as candidate for Tipperary. If this succeeds, Gladstone will find himself in a fine fix. And now another amnesty in Italy!

I hope to read the details about the debates, etc., in the International next Sunday in the Bee-Hive. Should there be any documents, please send them on to me. Last Sunday the Bee-Hive had nothing about the International although it did report on the wedding of the Duke of Abercorn’s daughters.

You would therefore greatly oblige me by ordering it immediately at a second-hand bookseller’s. Butt’s Irish People: none in London. Other Irish pamphlets, for example, those of Lords Rosse and Lifford: cannot find. Such are the answers my bookseller received from his London agent, and he told me at the same time that in general the English book trade cannot take it upon itself to obtain publications appearing in Ireland, since it is not the custom to have a correspondent in Dublin, but only in London. I'll write directly to Duffy in Dublin.

I've found some very useful things about Ireland here: Wolfe Tone’s Memoirs, etc., in the catalogue. Whenever I ask for these things in the library, they are not to be found, like Wakefield. Some old fellow must have had all the stuff together and returned it en masse, so that the whole lot is hidden away somewhere. But in any case these things must be found.

Goldwin Smith of Irish History and Irish Character is a wise bourgeois thinker. Ireland was intended by providence as a grazing land, the prophet Léonce de Lavergne foretold it, ergo pereat, the Irish people!

I wanted to write about Careyc today, but was interrupted.


Best greetings to all the LADIES.


F. E.

  1. quality
  2. rubbish
  3. We still have an Emperor, but the Empire no longer exists.
  4. H. Vambéry, 'Eine neue Wendung in der central-asiatischen Frage', Allgemeine Zeitung, No. 308, 4 November 1869. See also The Times, 8 November 1869.