Works of Frederick Engels

Continental Movements

Source: MECW Volume 3, p 415;
Written: late in January 1844;
First published: The New Moral World, Third Series, No, 32, February 3, 1844.

The well-known novel of Eugène Sue, The Mysteries of Paris, has made a deep impression upon the public mind, especially in Germany; the forcible manner in which this book depicts the misery and demoralisation falling to the share of the “lower orders” in great cities, could not fail to direct public attention to the state of the poor in general. The Germans begin to discover, as the Allgemeine Zeitung, the Times of Germany, says, that the style of novel writing has undergone a complete revolution during these last ten years; that instead of kings and princes, who formerly were the heroes of similar tales, it is now the poor, the despised class, whose fates and fortunes, joys and sufferings, are made the topic of romance; they are finding out at last that this new class of novel writers, such as G. Sand, E. Sue, and Boz, [Charles Dickens] is indeed a sign of the times. The good Germans always thought, that misery and destitution existed in Paris and Lyons, London and Manchester only, and that Germany was entirely free from such excrescences of over-civilisation and of excessive manufacturing industry. Now, however, they begin to see that they also may muster a considerable amount of social disease; the Berlin papers confess, that the “Voigtland” of that town is not inferior in this respect to St. Giles’ [176] or any other abode of the pariahs of civilisation; they confess, that, although trades’ unions and strikes have hitherto been unknown in Germany, yet help is much needed, in order to avoid the occurrence of similar things among their own countrymen. Dr. Mundt, a lecturer at the Berlin university, has commenced a course of public lectures on the different systems of Social Re-organisation; and although he is not the man to form a correct and impartial judgment upon such things, yet these lectures must do a great deal of good. It may easily be conceived, how favourable this moment is for the commencement of a more extensive social agitation in Germany, and what will be the effect of a new periodical advocating a thorough social reform. Such a periodical has been established in Paris under the title of German and French Annals [Deutsche-Französische Jahrbücher]; its editors, Dr. Ruge and Dr. Marx, as well as its other contributors, belong to the “learned Communists” of Germany, and are supported by the most distinguished Socialist authors of France. The periodical, which is to be published in monthly numbers, and to contain French as well as German articles, could not, indeed, commence at a more favourable moment, and its success may be considered as certain, even before the first number is issued.[177]

F. E.