Marx-Engels Correspondence 1861
Source: MECW Volume 41, p. 279;
First published: abridged in Der Briefwechsel zwischen F. Engels und K. Marx, Stuttgart, 1913 and in full in MEGA, Berlin, 1930.
Habes confitentem reum. [Your prisoner has a confession to make, Cicero] But the circonstances atténuantes for my not writing were as follows: D'abord I spent, as you, know, the greater part of my time in Berlin at Lassalle’s house where it would have been impossible for me to write to you without my telling Lassalle what was in the letter, and that did not serve my purpose. Later, I was continually en route, from Berlin to Elberfeld, Cologne, Trier, Aachen, Bommel, Rotterdam, and Amsterdam. Lastly, my original plan, as I wrote and told my wife, had been to go from Rotterdam to Hull and from Hull to Manchester so that I could give you a detailed verbal report. This was frustrated by my cousin Jacques Philips. For, as I was about to leave Rotterdam, he told me he would be coming to London the following day, and he was as good as his word. So, of course, I had to proceed direct to London in order to do him the honneurs there. He did not leave here until the day before yesterday.
In any case, I now hope that you will come to us for a few days at Whitsuntide. I heard in Elberfeld that you wanted to visit your family at Whitsuntide. Even if you do, you could so arrange matters that you spend at least a couple of days with us. I have much to tell you, and this can be done better by word of mouth than in writing. Moreover, it irks my womenfolk if you always give London a miss.
First, then, to business. For a start, I squeezed £160 out of my uncle so that we were able to pay off the greater part of our debts. My mother, with whom any discussion about cash is out of the question, but who is rapidly nearing her end, destroyed some I.O.U.s I had given her in the past. That was the distinctly pleasant result of the two days I spent with her. I myself said nothing to her about money matters and it was she who took the initiative in this connection. Further, when in Berlin, I paved the way for me to establish a connection with the Vienna Presse should the need arise; in view of the present situation in America, this will doubtless prove indispensable. Finally, I have arranged through Lassalle for the second part of my political economy to be published by Brockhaus instead of Duncker. As to Duncker, Camilla Essig (alias Ludmilla Assing) rightly remarked to me that, if one wants to keep a book secret, one must get Duncker to publish it. However, I do at least figure in the recent piece by Rau-Rau — the German Say.
Apropos. With regard to your Po and Rhine, etc., I am told by la Hatzfeldt — who converses with all the Prussian generals at the house of her brother-in-law, General von Nostitz, and whose nephew Nostitz is, furthermore, an aide-de-camp to ‘handsome William’ — that your pamphlet is considered in high, if not the highest, military circles (including, inter alia, that of Prince Charles Frederick) to be the product of an anonymous Prussian general. The same thing happened in Vienna, or so I was told by assessor Friedländer (brother of the editor of the Vienna Presse). I myself have discussed it with General Pfuel, now 82, but still mentally alert and become very radical. Pfuel didn’t know, of course, that we had conferred on him the honorary title of ‘von Höllenstein’. He has, by the by, fallen out of favour and is ranked by the Court with the Jacobins, atheists, etc.
Now to political business.
In Berlin there is, of course, no haute politique. Everything revolves round the struggle with the police (not that the latter are in the least presumptuous just now, being a model of civility and tolerance) in that people would like to see Zedlitz, Patzke, etc., removed from office and punished; secondly, round the opposition between the military and civilians. It is over these issues (in bourgeois circles, other particularly sore points are the military bills and tax exemption for the landowners) that matters will come to a head. (Count Tavernier, an artillery officer, told me that they would like nothing better than to turn their batteries on the Garde du Corps.) The prevailing atmosphere is one of general dissolution, and people of every rank regard a catastrophe as inevitable. This would seem to be more the case in the capital than in the provinces. Curiously enough, military circles share the general conviction that the first clash with the crapauds will result in a trouncing for the Prussians. Berlin is in a cheeky, frivolous mood. The Chambers are despised. In one theatre I visited, a comical ditty about Vincke was sung to the accompaniment of loud applause. Among a broad section of the public there is much dissatisfaction with the existing press. At the coming new elections (in the autumn) to the Second Chamber, there is no doubt that most of the fellows who sat in the Prussian National Assembly will be elected. This is important, not on account of the said fellows, but because ‘William the Handsome’ mistakes them for red republicans. All in all, ‘handsome William’ has been dogged by the spectre rouge ever since he became king. He considers his popularity as a ‘liberal’ to be a trap set for him by the overthrow Party.
Now, under the circumstances it might, in fact, not be inopportune if we could bring out a paper in Berlin next year, although I personally find the place unpleasant. 20-30,000 talers would have to be got together in association with Lassalle, etc. But hic jacet. Lassalle put the proposal to me direct. At the same time, he confided that he would have to be editor en chef along with myself. And Engels? I inquired. ‘Well, if three aren’t too many, Engels can also be editor en chef, of course. Though you two ought not to have more votes than me, for other-wise I would always be outvoted.’ As reasons why he, too, must take the helm he stated: 1. that he was generally regarded as being closer to the bourgeois party and hence could procure funds more easily; 2. that he would have to sacrifice his ‘theoretical studies’ and his theoretical tranquillity and ought, after all, to get something out of it, etc. If, however, we were unwilling, he went on: ‘I would still be prepared, as before, to assist the paper financially and in literary ways; that would be an advantage to me; for I should have the benefit of the paper without the responsibility for it,’ etc. This was just sentimental hot air, of course. Lassalle, dazzled by the esteem earned him in certain learned circles by his Heraclitus and, in another circle, consisting of spongers, by his good wine and food, doesn’t know, of course, that he is of ill repute with the public at large. And then his intractability; his obsession with the ‘speculative concept’ (the fellow actually dreams of a new Hegelian philosophy raised to the second power, which he intends to write), his inoculation with early French liberalism, his arrogant pen, importunity, tactlessness, etc. If subjected to rigid discipline, Lassalle might be of service as one of the editors. Otherwise, we would simply make fools of ourselves. But, in view of the great friendliness he showed me, you can see how difficult it was for me to speak my mind. So, I was generally non-committal and told him I could settle nothing without prior discussion with you and Lupus. (That was the main reason why I didn’t write to you from Berlin, for I didn’t want to have a reply from you about this while I was there.) If we decide against it, the countess and Lassalle intend to set out on a year’s trip to the East or to Italy. But here’s the rub. He now expects me to give him an answer, which I can’t put off any longer. Qu'en dis-tu?
He’s a frightfully pompous fellow, and so I had no alternative but to be constantly ironical at his expense, which wounded his amour-propre, the more so in that it aroused in the countess, whom he has impressed as a universal genius, a disquieting urge to emancipate herself from this Buddha. At certain times, strangely enough, la Hatzfeldt’s voice has a Jewish intonation that has been acquired from and instilled in her by him.
Lupus’s reservations about the Prussian police are quite out of place. The only difficulty that still remains can at most affect those who had formerly taken the military oath of allegiance. Assessor Friedländer tells me that Lupus is still the most popular man in Breslau and in another district of Silesia as well, I forget the name. Elsner has turned into a good-for-nothing on the Schlesische Zeitung, just as Stein has on the Breslauer. Nevertheless, a go-ahead democratic party has again been formed in Breslau. The enclosed excerpt from the Preussische Gerichts-Zeitung was inserted at my instigation by its editor, Stadtrichter Hiersemenzel. Actuarius Stein, who has returned to Berlin from Zurich, sends Lupus his kindest regards.
You shall hear of my negotiations with the Prussian government and/or police in my next letter.
Apropos. I have a present for you from Lassalle, a fine military atlas, which you must come and fetch in person.
Salut to you, Lupus and Gumpert.