Letter to Laura Lafargue, November 16, 1889

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Author(s) Friedrich Engels
Written 16 November 1889

First published, in the language of the original (English), in F. Engels, P. et L. Lafargue, Correspondance, t. II, Paris, 1956

Extract: Marx Engels on Art and Literature, Progress Publishers, 1976;

Published in Marx-Engels Collected Works, Volume 48

To Laura Lafargue at Le Perreux

London, November 16, 1889[edit source]

My dear Laura,

After I finished the enclosed to Paul, I went in the kitchen and had some Pilsener with Nim and Pumps, partly for the sake of the Pilsener and partly because I am ordered to write with interruptions only. Having been, before, to the bank to pay in Sonnenschein ‘s cheque, because I cannot afford to run the risk of keeping it, it will not astonish you to learn that it is now close upon four p.m. and as I dare not write by the gas-light you see I am rather pinched for time.

Anyhow you have done a marvellous thing in the Senator, about the most difficult thing on earth to be put into English. Not only that you have done it with all the proper impropriety, but even with a near approach to the lightness of the original. And that while both subject and metre are rebellious to translation, the senator of Empire No. 1[1] being an unknown quantity over here. If you were a boy I should say: Molodétz, but I am not versed enough in Russian to know whether that epithet (equal about to the English: you're a brick!) can be feminised into: Molodtzà!

The reflex of Thivrier’s blouse has fallen upon, and lighted up for a moment, even the English press. If he tears a hole into it, the whole respectability of great Britain will cry out about the bad manners of these Frenchmen. Barring old Mother Crawford, who is Irish and with all her crotchets immensely superior to the other lot—because she does move on—the rest of the British journalists in Paris beat your French ditto into fits as far as imbecility goes.

The wise men of Cette appear to be quite up to our Krähwinkler and Schildbürger.[2] If Sénégas has retired, Paul would be deputy. If they had not put up Sénégas—they inside or outside the town—Sénégas (who seems to be a worthy descendant of Seneca) would never have been in a position not to retire.

Glad to learn that the barometer is rising again with our French friends—it is sure to rise more than it ought, but that we are used to and cannot be avoided; how else could the proper average be restored. Kautsky is in London and has been in possession of Paul’s letter, etc., for about a fortnight, I will tell him tomorrow that Paul expects news from him.

Your pears are gradually being eaten up, but we keep them religiously until at their best, and then I get most of them for my breakfast. Nim has just discovered that the long-shaped ones are sold here at 5d a piece today. Nim has what my poor wife[3] called ‘a gammy leg’, rheumatism (articular) wandering from knee to hip and back. That of course is a most variable quantity though not, unfortunately, une quantité négligeable.[4] The asthma will become less whenever the weather allows me to take her out a bit to Hampstead. Gumpert told her hill-climbing would mend it and so it does.

Pumps and Co are still here—if a settlement is come to today, they will go back to Kilburn on Monday. The family of Percy has been forced to fork out a bit, but the job will cost me some 60 pounds at least, and then fully half their keep. Percy works for his brother Charlie who has some inventions that seem just now to suit the British philistines, but the pay is but trifling, and the whole thing uncertain.

The 4th edition Vol. I[5] is in the press and I am back to my Vol. III. No easy job, but mun be done as they say in Lancashire.

Tussy is hard at work—tomorrow she won’t be here at all, having two speeches afternoon and evening, so she won’t get her cheque before Monday. Yours is enclosed, also the account—your share unfortunately but £1.17.6, but then in francs it looks much bigger.

We have got hold of another Mother Schack in Miss Harkness. But this time we have nailed her, and she will find out whom she has to deal with.

Ever yours

F. E.

  1. of Napoleon I
  2. Equivalent to 'wise men of Gotham'
  3. Lizzy Burns
  4. a negligible quantity
  5. of Capital