Marx-Engels Correspondence 1863
Source: MECW Volume 41, p. 444;
First published: in Der Briefwechsel zwischen F. Engels und K. Marx, Stuttgart, 1913.
I thought it advisable to allow some time to elapse before replying. Your position, on the one hand, and mine, on the other, made it difficult to view the situation ‘dispassionately’.
It was very wrong of me to write you that letter, and I regretted it as soon as it had gone off. However, what happened was in no sense due to heartlessness. As my wife and children will testify, I was as shattered when your letter arrived (first thing in the morning) as if my nearest and dearest had died. But, when I wrote to you in the evening, I did so under the pressure of circumstances that were desperate in the extreme. The landlord had put a broker in my house, the butcher had protested a bill, coal and provisions were in short supply, and little Jenny was confined to bed. Generally, under such circumstances, my only recourse is cynicism. What particularly enraged me was the fact that my wife believed I had failed to give you an adequate account of the real state of affairs.
Indeed, your letter was welcome to me in as much as it opened her eyes to the ‘non possumus’ for she knows full well that I didn’t wait for your advice before writing to my uncle; that I couldn’t, in London, have recourse to Watts whose person and office are both in Manchester; that since Lassalle’s latest dunning notice I have been unable to draw a bill in London and, lastly, that £25 in February would not enable us to live in January, still less avert the impending crisis. As it was impossible for you to help us, despite my having told you we were in the same plight as the Manchester workers, she could not but recognise the non possumus, and this is what I wanted, since an end has got to be put to the present state of affairs — the long ordeal by fire, ravaging heart and head alike, and, on top of that, the waste of precious time and the keeping up of false appearances, this last being as harmful to myself as it is to the children. Since then we have been through three weeks such as have at last induced my wife to fall in with a suggestion I had made long ago and which, for all the unpleasantness it involves, not only represents the only way out, but is also preferable to the life we have led for the past three years, the last one in particular, and which will, besides, restore our self-esteem.
I shall write and tell all our creditors (with the exception of the landlord) that, unless they leave me alone, I shall declare myself insolvent by the filing of a Bill in the Court of Bankruptcy. This does not, of course, apply to the landlord, who has a right to the furniture, which he may keep. My two elder children will obtain employment as governesses through the Cunningham family. Lenchen is to enter service elsewhere, and I, along with my wife and little Tussy, shall go and live in the same City Model Lodging House in which Red Wolff once resided with his family.
Before coming to this decision, I naturally first wrote to sundry acquaintances in Germany, naturally without result. At all events, this will be better than going on as we are, which is impracticable, in any case. It was as much as I could do, and involved all manner of humiliations, to obtain by dint of false promises the peaceable withdrawal of the landlord and butcher, together with the broker and a bill of exchange. I haven’t been able to send the children to school for the new term, since the old bill hasn’t been paid; nor, for that matter, were they in a presentable state.
But by adopting the above plan I shall, I think, at least attain tranquillity without intervention of any kind by third parties.
Finally, a matter unconnected with the above. I'm in considerable doubt about the section in my book that deals with machinery. I have never quite been able to see in what way self-actors changed spinning, or rather, since steam power was already in use before then, how it was that the spinner, despite steam power, had to intervene with his motive power.
I'd be grateful if you could explain this.
Apropos. Unbeknown to me, my wife wrote and asked Lupus for £1 for immediate necessities. He sent her two. It’s distasteful to me, but factum est factum.
Abarbanel is dead. Sasonow, too, has died in Geneva.