Letter to Nikolai Danielson, September 12, 1880

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To Nikolai Danielson in St Petersburg

Ramsgate, September 12, 1880[edit source]

My dear Sir,

I need not tell you that I should feel only too happy to do anything you consider useful, but a short statement of the circumstances in which I find myself at this moment will convince you that I am at present unfit for theoretical labour. Having been sent here by the medical men in order to ‘do nothing’ and to restore my nervous system by the far niente[1] an illness of my wife, under which she suffered long time since, has suddenly been aggravated to a degree which menaces to tend to a. fatal termination. Whatever little time I may snatch for work, is necessarily limited to things which I must get rid of. However, the most important part for the public in general is that which you have already performed — the drawing up of the statistical tables and the interpretation of the facts which they imply. It would be a pity if you delayed the publication which I expect myself with the greatest impatience.

Whatever you may have found useful in my letters for that purpose, you may freely dispose of. Only I fear it is not much, since I sent you only a few fragmentary scraps.

The present crisis was the greatest England has passed through with regard to duration, extent and intensiveness, but despite the failures of some Scotch and English provincial banks — the crowning of the past English great periodical crises, I mean the financial crash in London, shone by its absence. This most extraordinary incident — the absence of the monetary panic properly so called, was due to a concatenation of circumstances the analysis of which would lead me too far at present. One of the most decisive circumstances was, however, this: The heavy bullion drain of 1879 was to a great extent met by the cooperation of the Banque de France and the Imperial Bank of Germany. On the other hand, the sudden revival in the United States — since the spring of 1879 — reacted on England like a deus ex machina.[2]

As to the agricultural crisis, it will gather strength, develop itself, and, by the bye, come to a head, carrying with it quite a revolution in the relations of landed property, — quite independent of the cycles of the commercial-industrial crises. Even such optimists as Mr. Caird have commenced “to smell a rat.” Most characteristic of English blockheadedness is this: since two years there have been published letters of farmers — in the Times — as well as in agricultural papers — giving the items of their expenses in cultivating their farms, comparing them with their returns at present prices, and winding up with a positive deficit. Would you believe that not one of the specialists — expatiating upon these accounts — has thought of considering how these accounts would stand if the item of rent was struck out in many cases or reduced “most feelingly” in many other cases? But this is a delicate point which must not be touched. The farmers themselves, though become unbelievers in the nostrums proposed by their landlords or the “plumitifs” of the latter, dare not yet assume attitudes of bold virility, considering that they, on their part, are denounced by the rustic “labouring class.” A nice pickle it is altogether.

I hope there will be no general war in Europe. Though, ultimately, it could not check, but would rather intensify, the social, I mean thereby the economical, development, it would certainly produce a useless exhaustion of forces for some longer or shorter interval. Please to send your letters as before to my London address, from where I shall always receive them even in case of momentary absence.

Yours most sincerely

A. Williams[3]

  1. Abbreviated from dolce far niente (sweet doing nothing), which originates from a similar Latin expression used by Pliny the Younger in Epistle VIII.
  2. deus ex machina— a god from the machine (by which in ancient theatre gods were shown in the air); a power or an event that comes in the nick of time to solve a difficulty
  3. Marx's pseudonym