Letters of Frederick Engels
Source: MECW Volume 2, p. 539
Written: 16 April 1842
First published: in the Deutsche Revue, Stuttgart and Leipzig, Bd. 4, 1920
This tender little flower [a pressed rose, with buds and leaves, in the top left-hand corner of the notepaper] which has lain in my portfolio for half a year, and which I take out now and offer to you, will, I hope, compensate for the long time which, I admit it with remorse, I have kept you waiting. Herr Hösterey delivered your little note to me safely after His High-and-Mightiness had hidden it in his trouser pocket from the eyes of the Austrian customs officers, for which His Supreme Highness asked my pardon, and in delightful German indeed. My conscience will not allow me to keep you waiting any longer, so I write. What about? Well, I don’t know yet. That I was on parade drill this morning from 8 till half past eleven? That during this I got a very stiff telling-off from the Lieutenant-Colonel? That we have church parade next Sunday? That I have finished all my good cigars and that the beer at Wallmüller’s has been very bad these last few days? That I must go out now to collect a couple of pots of ginger which I ordered for the Snethlages? Well, that’s all there is to say. So — till tomorrow.
Today, Friday, April 15, I am going for a drive. The weather has greatly improved. A whole lot of carriages are lined in front of my house where they have taken up their quarters. The cabbies are usually drunk and entertain me vastly. It is very convenient for me if I ever want to take a trip in one of the cabs. I live very agreeably on the first floor, in an elegantly furnished room — the front wall of it is made up of three windows separated only by small pillars, so it is very bright and friendly.
I was interrupted yesterday when I had written this. Today I can tell you the glad news that we are probably not going on parade tomorrow because His Most Supreme Majesty, the King [Frederick William IV], has condescended to leave for Potsdam and Brandenburg. All of which suits me very well, for I have no desire to knock around that cursed palace yard tomorrow. Let us hope we shall have no parade at all. We now also have a most charming exercise on the Grützmacher, so called, which is a very large open space where you sink up to your knees in sand and which has the delightful peculiarity of being electric. When the 12th Guards Artillery Company, to which I belong, and which is also electric, but negative, arrives there, positive and negative electricity collide, causing confusion and chaos in the atmosphere and attracting the clouds. Otherwise I cannot think how to explain why it always rains or snows when our company is on the Grützmacher. Incidentally I have now been a bombardier for four weeks, and, in case you didn’t know, I wear braid and piping and a blue collar with red edgings. You won’t understand all this, but it is not really necessary, as long as you know that I am a bombardier, that’s enough.
You will certainly not have heard yet that Herr Liszt has been here and enchanted all the ladies by his piano playing. The Berlin ladies were so besotted by him that there was a free fight during one of his concerts for possession of a glove which he had dropped, and two sisters are now enemies for life because one of them snatched the glove from the other. Countess Schlippenbach poured the tea which the great Liszt had left in a cup into her Eau-de-Cologne bottle after she had poured the Eau-de-Cologne on to the ground. She has since scaled the bottle and placed it on top of her writing-desk to his eternal memory and feasts her eyes on it every morning, as can be seen in a cartoon which appeared about it. There never was such a scandal. The young ladies fought over him but he snubbed them frightfully, and preferred to go and drink champagne with a couple of students. But there are a couple of pictures of the great, charming, heavenly, genial, divine Liszt in every house. I will draw you a portrait of him. Here is the man with the Kamchatka hair style. By the way, he must have earned at least 10,000 talers here and his hotel bill amounted to 3,000 talers — apart from what he spent in taverns. I tell you, he’s a real man. He drinks twenty cups of coffee a day, two ounces of coffee in every cup, and ten bottles of F. Liszt champagne, from which it can fairly safely be concluded that he lives in a kind of perpetual drunken haze, which may also be confirmed. He has now gone off to Russia and one wonders whether the ladies there will go as crazy too.
I must go out now, so I will close. Farewell and write soon.
Berlin 16/4, 42