Engels Biography


by Fanni Kravchinskaya


Source: Marx Engels On Literature and Art, Progress Publishers, 1976;
Transcribed: by Andy Blunden.

There were heated arguments among the guests, who got excited, shouted, and asked Engels for the answer to the question.

Suddenly Engels turned to me and, taking into account the fact that I knew no foreign languages, spoke Russian. He quoted from Pushkin:


Since but a random education
Is all they give us as a rule,
With us, to miss a reputation
For learning takes an utter fool.
The strict and never doubting many
Maintained the notion that Yevgeny
Was “quite a learned lad,” you see,
But “with a turn for pedantry.”
Our hero had the lucky talent
Of making witty repartees,
Of speaking with unwonted ease,
Of looking wise and keeping silent
And of provoking ladies’ smiles
By unpremeditated guiles.


None really care for Latin lately:
Our friend’s sufficed him to translate,
Although not very adequately,
An epigraph, at any rate;
To say a word on Juvenale,
To wind a letter up with Vale
And cite, with just a slip or two,
A pair of Virgil’s lines to you.
He had no itch to dig for glories
Deep in the dust that time has laid,
He let the classic laurel fade.
But all the most amusing stories
Of every century and clime
He could recall at any time.


Unable to divine the pleasure
Of sacrificing life on rhyme,
He couldn’t tell a single measure
However much we wasted time.
He chid Theocritus and Homer,
But might have won a Grand Diploma
For having tackled Adam Smith,
And knowing all the means wherewith
A state may prosper, what it needed
To live, and how it might abide
The lack of gold if it provide
Itself with simple product; heeded
He wasn’t by his father, who
Mortgaged his lands without ado.

He recited the whole by heart in wonderful Russian. I clapped, but Engels said: “Alas, that’s as far as my knowledge of Russian goes!”

The impression he produced on me was indelible, he was so hospitable and open-hearted.