Letters of Marx and Engels, 1847
Source: MECW Volume 38 p. 107;
Written: 15 January 1847;
First published: abridged in Der Briefwechsel zwischen F. Engels und K. Marx, 1913 and in full in MEGA, 1929.
I would have written to you sooner had Bernays not left me in the lurch. That damned Börnstein, who was one of the people of whom I inquired about your coming here, was never to be found, and I therefore entrusted the matter to Bernays, who said he would come to town on Monday at the latest, bringing a letter for you. Instead I received late last night the enclosed scrawl which the lazy fellow had dashed off in Sarcelles the day before yesterday evening, the explanation it contains being hardly of the kind to necessitate 5-6 days’ study. But that’s the sort of chap he is. I shall, by the way, speak to Börnstein personally, for I'm far from satisfied with this explanation and, to be honest, there is no one whose word I trust less than that of Bernays. For six months the man’s been drumming into me that you could come here any day, with bag and baggage, and, now that it comes to the point, he makes all this to-do about a passport. As though you needed a passport! No one asks for it at the frontier; Moses [Hess] came here without anyone asking just as I did and, if you stay with me, I should like to know who is going to ask for it. At most, a Belgian passeport pour l'intérieur to establish your identity if necessary, or Mr Leopold’s well-known missive: Cabinet du Roi — which would suffice for all eventualities. Heine is of exactly the same opinion and, as soon as I can get hold of Börnstein, I'll ask him about it.
Bernays, too, had invented the Tolstoy affair, or rather had been led by Börnstein to believe it, for Börnstein can make him believe anything he chooses. All the various items of news contained in Bernays’ earlier letters to us come from the same source and, having on a number of occasions witnessed the air of infallibility assumed by Börnstein when spouting his suppositions, his tittle-tattle and his own fabrications to Bernays, who takes everything at its face value, I no longer believe a single word of all those important news items ‘from the best of sources’ which he has conveyed to us in the past.
I saw with my own eyes how Börnstein, merely by affecting omniscience, made Bernays believe (and you know with what enthusiasm Bernays believes once he does believe) that the National had been sold lock, stock and barrel, body and soul, to Thiers, argent+-comptant. [cash more or less down] The little man [Bernays] would have been willing to stake his life on it. He’s as incorrigible in this respect as in his highly exalted mortally melancholy disposition. Pendant le cours de la dernière quinzaine il a été seize fois au bord du désespoir. [in the course of the past fortnight he has been sixteen times on the brink of despair]
Cela entre nous. [between ourselves] I shall ask Börnstein again what he thinks about your coming here; Heine, as already mentioned, maintains that you can come in all confidence. Or would you prefer to go to the French Ambassador and demand a passport on the strength of your Prussian emigration certificate?
It was very good of you to let me know about Moses’ advent. The worthy man came to see me, didn’t find me in, I wrote and told him to arrange a rendezvous. This took place yesterday. The man has changed a great deal. His head is adorned with youthful locks, a dainty little beard lends some grace to his angular jaw, a virginal blush hovered about his cheeks, but la grandeur déchue se peignait dans ses beaux yeux [fallen greatness was reflected in his fine eyes] and a strange modesty had come over him. Here in Paris I have come to adopt a very insolent manner, for bluster is all in the day’s work, and it works well with the female sex. But the ravished exterior of that erstwhile world-shaking high-flyer, Hess, all but disarmed me. However, the heroic deeds of the true socialists, his disciples (of whom more anon), and his own, unchanged inner self, restored my courage.  Suffice it to say that my treatment of him was so cold and scornful that he will have no desire to return. All I did for him was to give him some good advice about the clap he had brought with him from Germany. He was also a complete fiasco with a number of German painters, some of whom he had known before. Only Gustav Adolf Köttgen has remained faithful to him.
The man in Bremen [Kühtmann, publisher who could possibly print The German Ideology] is at any rate preferable to the one in Switzerland [J. M. Schläpfer]. I cannot write to the Swiss, 1. because I have forgotten his address, 2. because I don’t want to propose to the fellow a lower fee per sheet than you are proposing to the Bremen man. So [let me know] your proposals for the Bremen man, and at the same time send me the fellow’s address. He paid Bernays well for his bad Rothschild pamphlet [K. L. Bernays, Rothschild. Ein Urtheilsspruch vom menschlichen Standpunkte aus], but he cheated Püttmann, printing his stuff [Püttmann’s Prometheus], but indefinitely postponing payment of the fee on the pretext that his capital was tied up.
Splendid that you should be attacking Proudhon in French. I hope the pamphlet will be finished by the time this reaches you. That you can anticipate as much as you wish of our publication goes without saying so far as I am concerned. I too believe that Proudhon’s association amounts to the same thing as Bray’s plan. I had quite forgotten about the good Bray.
You may have read in the Trier’sche Zeitung about the new Leipzig socialist periodical called Veilchen [Violets], a sheet for inoffensive modern criticism!! [Report from Leipzig of 6 January 1847 in Trier’sche Zeitung, 12 January 1847] wherein Mr Semmig, as Sarastro, bellows:
“We know no thought of vengeance within these temple walls, where love leads back to duty who'er from duty falls, by frie-ie-ie-iendship’s kindly hand held fast, he finds the land of light at last.” [Mozart’s opera The Magic Flute]
But unfortunately, unlike the late Reichel, he hasn’t got a bass voice to match. Here Sarastro-Semmig is sacrificing to the 3 deities: 1) Hess — 2) Stirner — 3) Ruge — all in one breath. The two former have [plumbed]. the depths of knowledge. This humble sheet, or humble violet is the craziest thing I have ever read. Such unobtrusive and at the same time insolent insanity is possible only in Saxony.
If only we could rewrite the chapter on ‘true socialists’ now that they've spread in every direction, now that the Westphalian school, the Saxon school, the Berlin school, etc., etc., have set themselves up separately, alongside the lonely stars of Püttmann, etc. They could be classified according to the celestial constellations. Püttmann the Great Bear, and Semmig the Little Bear, or Püttmann Taurus, and the Pleiades his 8 children. Anyway, he deserves horns if he hasn’t already got them. Grün Aquarius and so on.
A propos Grün, I intend to revise the article on Grün’s Goethe [Grün, Über Goethe vom menschlichen Standpunkte], reducing it to a 1/2 or 3/4 sheet and adapting it for our publication [The German Ideology], if you are agreeable; write to me soon about this. The book is too characteristic; Grün extols all Goethe’s philistinisms as human, making out that Goethe, the citizen of Frankfurt and the official , is the ‘true human being’, while passing over if not reviling all that is colossal and of genius. To such an extent that this book provides the most splendid proof of the fact that human being = German petty bourgeois. This I had no more than touched on, but I could elaborate it and more or less cut out the remainder of the article, since it isn’t suitable for our thing. What do you think?
[On the back of the letter]
Monsieur Charles Marx, 42, rue d'Orléans, Faubourg de Namur, Bruxelles.