Letters of Frederick Engels 1838

To Marie Engels
In Barmen

Bremen, Oct. 9, 1838

Dear Marie,

At last four full pages! Well, I shall have to praise you till you can no longer bear it, as they say. Riding is now over unfortunately, so I am mostly at home on Sundays, but I enjoy myself quite a lot. Either I listen to somebody playing or... or I write, and in the evening we do all kinds of crazy things. The day before yesterday, which, as you know, was Sunday, we put a ring in a cup of flour and then played the well-known game of trying to get it out with your mouth. We all had a turn — the Pastor’s wife, [Mathilde Treviranus] the girls, the painter [G. W. Feistkorn] and I too, while the Pastor [Georg Gottfried Treviranus] sat in the corner on the sofa and watched the fun through a cloud of cigar smoke. The Pastor’s wife couldn’t stop laughing as she tried to get it out and covered herself with flour over and over again, and when the painter’s turn came, he blew with all his might so that the flour puffed out right and left and descended like a cloud on his green and red dressing-gown. Afterwards we threw flour in each other’s faces. I blackened my face with cork, at which they all laughed, and when I started to laugh, that made them laugh all the more and all the louder. Then I laughed, ha ha ha ha ha, so loudly that all the others followed suit with he he he he he and ha ha ha ha ha, until it was just like in the story where the Jew has to dance in the bramble bush, and at last they all begged me to stop for heaven’s sake.

You are still a real goose if you let that Jettchen Troost bore you. Why don’t you tell her to go away?

Now the goose is starting to lecture me; that is touching. Tell me, goose, don’t you know the saying — I shall behave to you as you behave to me? Don’t you know that no matter how small you write, I still write twice as small? But let’s settle the matter once and for all. If you write me four pages then you shall get four pages back and there’s an end of it. Besides, if you only knew how many letters I've already written this week and how many I still have to write, you would have pity on me and be satisfied with two pages. Ask Strücker some time how much I've written to him, Ask Wurm some time — but he’s not there, so I shall tell you — at least twelve pages just like these and as much again across the page in red ink. But he writes just as much to me in reply. And I have also to write to Mother, Hermann [Engels], August [Engels, cousin], Rudolf [Engels], what do you think that adds up to? I think that as you can read the other letters you’ll be fair and only expect half as much from me as you write to me. — You say that I praise Anna [Engels] to the skies, no, so god over nit, dat do ek nit, [But not so good, I don’t do that] but if she writes me four pages and you only write three, isn’t she better than you? Apart from all this I’ll gladly admit that you are a loyal soul and write to me most diligently. But you must not presume to start such rows and quarrels with me and imagine all the right is on your side when you really ought to be on your knees begging forgiveness. — You complain about the shoulder-brace, but oh, my little goose, hold yourself straight and then they won’t put one on you. — We had the same weather here as you describe but now it’s horrible; it rains and drizzles continuously, sometimes it pours down and then we have a bit of blue sky every 24 hours and a ray of sunshine every half-year.

You want me to write what I would like for Christmas? Well, you needn’t make me what I've already got and you know what I haven’t got, so what shall I write? Embroider a cover for a cigar box or — I don’t know what, but you can keep nagging Mother a little every two or three days to send me the Goethe for Christmas Day. I really need it very badly, for you can hardly read anything without there being some reference to Goethe. Who was this man Goethe? Herr Riepe: Children, he was ... !

Your drawing of the poultry-yard I could comprehend quite easily and it is very practical — cats or polecats can’t get in and the hens can’t get out.

Last Friday I went to the theatre. They were playing Nachtlager in Granada, [An opera by Kreutzer] an opera which is very nice. Tonight they are giving Die Zauberflöte. [Mozart’s The Magic Flute] I must go to it. I really must manage to see what it is like. I hope it will be really good.

October 10. I went to the theatre. I liked Die Zaubflöte very much. I should like you to be able to come and see it with me some time, I bet you would like it very much. — Yes, Marie, what shall I write about now? Shall I grumble a bit for want of anything better? I can’t think of anything better and you will certainly be satisfied if the four pages are filled, no matter what is in them. Here in Bremen the merchants’ houses are all built in a very remarkable way. They are not built with their long sides facing the street like ours but with their short sides, so that the roofs are very close together, and the hall is very large and high, just like a small church. sketchof row of little houses They have hatches above and below, one on top of the other, which are closed by trapdoors and through which a hoist can move up and down. Up in the attic is the store-room and coffee, linen, sugar, whale-oil, etc., are brought up by the hoist. All halls have thus two rows of windows one above the other. — The Consul’s wife has now moved into town again with her four small children; they make an awful uproar. sketch of church Luckily two of them, Elisabeth and Loin (really Ludwig), go to school, so one does not have to listen to their noise all day long. But when Loin and Siegfried are together they make such a row that you just can’t stand it. The other day they started dancing on the linen chests, each armed with a gun and a sword; they challenged each other to a duel and Loin blew on his trumpet so loudly that it made your ears ring. I have a very nice place, in front of my desk there is a big window giving on to the hall and so I can see everything that happens.

Since you drew me the poultry-yard I'm drawing you the church as seen from the office. Farewell.

Your brother