Frederick Engels 1886

“Johann Philipp Becker”


Source: Marx Engels On Literature and Art, Progress Publishers, 1976;
Written: 9 December, 1886;
First Published: in Der Sozialdemokrat, 17 December, 1886;
Transcribed: by Andy Blunden.

Becker was a man of rare character. A single word gives a complete description of him; that word is healthy: he was healthy in both body and mind to the very last. A handsome man of powerful build and tremendous physical strength, thanks to his happy disposition and healthy activity he developed his unschooled but in no way uncultured mind just as harmoniously as his body. lie was one of the few men who need only follow their own natural instincts to go the right way. This is why it was so easy for him to keep step with each development of the revolutionary movement and to stand just as keenly in the front ranks in his seventy-eighth year as in his eighteenth. The boy who in 1814 played with the Cossacks passing through his country and in 1820 saw the execution of Sand, Kotzebue’s assassin, developed ever further from the indefinite oppositionist of the twenties and was still at the peak of the movement in 1886. Nor was he a gloomy, high-principled ignoramus like the majority of “serious” republicans of 1848, but a true son of the cheerful Pfalz, a man with a zest for life who loved wine, women and song like anyone. Having grown up in the country of the Nibelungenlied near Worms, he appeared even in his latter years like a character from our old epic poem: cheerfully and mockingly hailing the enemy between sword thrusts and composing folk songs when there was nothing to hit — thus and only thus must he have appeared, Volker the Fiddler!