Letter from Jenny Marx to Karl

in Brussels

Written: [March 24, 1846] Trier
Source: Marx Engels Collected Works Vol 38, pg 529.
Publisher: International Publishers (1975)
First Published: MEGA-2 Abt III, Bd I, Berlin, 1975
Translated: Peter and Betty Ross
Transcribed: S. Ryan
HTML Markup: S. Ryan.

A thousand thanks, my dearly beloved Karl, for your long, dear letter of yesterday. How I longed for news of you all during those days of anxiety and sorrow when my heart scarcely dared to hope any more, and how long, how very long, did my yearning breast remain unsatisfied. Every hour contained in itself an eternity of fear and worry. Your letters are the only gleams of light in my life just now. Dear Karl, pray let them shine for me more often and cheer me. But maybe I shall not need them much longer, for my dear mother's condition has taken such a turn for the better that the possibility of her recovery has become almost a probability. This time we all of us hope that the improvement that has set in is not an illusory one as is so often the case in insidious afflictions such as nervous disorders. She is recovering her strength and her mind is no longer oppressed by worries and fears, real or imaginary. I had composed myself for any eventuality and, had the worst happened, should have found comfort and solace enough, but nevertheless my heart is now jubilant with all the joy and rapture of spring. It's a strange thing about the life of someone you love. It is not so readily relinquished. You cling to it with every fibre of your being and, when the other's breathing falters, feel as though those fibres have been abruptly severed. I believe that recovery is now on the way and will rapidly accomplish its task. Now it is a matter of banishing all gloomy thoughts while constantly conjuring up cheerful images before her mind's eye. I now have to think up all kinds of tales which must nonetheless have about them some semblance of truth. All this is most difficult and is rendered easier only by the love I bear my dear mother and the blessed hope that, when all this is over, I shall be able to hasten back again and rejoin you, my darling, and my dear, sweet, little ones. Stay fit and well, all you my dear ones, and keep a careful watch over their sweet little heads. How I look forward to seeing the children's little faces again!

It seems that murder and mayhem has broken loose among you! I am glad that this radical breach should not have taken place until after my departure. Much of it would have been attributed to the machinations of that ambitious woman, Lady Macbeth, [Mary Burns] and not without reason. For I have, to be sure, for too long again been carping at circumstances and exercising la petite critique. But it is better thus. Now as regards this critical woman, Engels was perfectly right, as opposed to yourselves, in finding such a woman 'as she ought to be' as the eternal antithesis, very arrogant and hence in making a great fuss about very little I myself, when confronted with this abstract model, appear truly repulsive in my own eyes and would like to be sure of finding out all its faults and weaknesses in return. Moreover, it is quite false, or at any rate very mistaken, to speak, in respect of Engels, of a 'rare exemplar'. Then he is right in maintaining that 'such is not to be found'. But that is precisely where the argument falls to the ground. There is an abundance of lovely, charming, capable women, they are to be found all over the world and are only waiting for a man to liberate and redeem them. Any man can become the redeemer of a woman.

Present-day women, in particular, are receptive to all things and very capable of self-sacrifice. True, one would have to acquire a somewhat wider knowledge of one's wares if one was not to renounce all taste which, more than anything else, is reprehensible in a salesman who has long been dealing in such articles. Who could accuse Rabbi Rabuni of a blunder, a display of ignorance, in respect of a commercial transaction? To him, all cats are of the same colour and he is satisfied at that. On the other hand, when he sees rosy tints appear in far-away Poland, he forgets that the colour of these blood-red roses is not genuine; they are pleasing to the eye and necessary and have, 'for all that and all that', created a great stir, but how can one establish any connection between this attempt and attempts to attempt an attempt? Who can understand that? Things have come to such a pass that, along with the perfectly justified aim and intention of conceiving the real flesh-and-blood human being, with all his needs and desires, as the be-all and end-all, of seeing man as humankind—that, along with this, almost all idealism has gone by the board and been replaced by nothing but fantasticism. Once again the mania for practical reality is firmly in the saddle. And when men like Hess, who are, in fact, nothing but ideologists, who actually have no real flesh and blood but only, as it were, an abstraction of the same, when such men suddenly parade the knife and fork question as their mission in life, then they are bound to plunge neck and crop into fantasticism. Hess will constantly beguile himself with bogus projects while still continuing to exercise a mysterious, inexplicable, magical, personal sway over the weak. Such is indeed his calling—to act, as it were, the prophet and high priest. So let him go to Babel-Jerusalem-Elberfeld if he will. Weitling's hullaballoo about his fantastical projects is also quite explicable. Just as he, coming from the artisan class, is perforce incapable of anything more elevated than to herald drinking bouts in popular poetry, so too he is capable of nothing more elevated than ill-fated undertakings which are obviously foolhardy and fail. He has no sense of the ridiculous, and what a fiasco it would have been on this occasion. That is now plain for all to see. I am happy beyond words, my dear Karl, that you are still keeping your spirits up and continuing to master your impatience and your longings. How I love you for this courage of yours. You are my husband, and I am still thankful for this! To remain calm and clear-headed in the midst of the hurly-burly and to be in harmony with the times! The most repulsive thing about the ill-starred insurrection is that wretched Prussia, with its spinelessness and pseudo-humanism, is again acclaimed by those idiots the French and all the rest of its admirers as against crude, brutish Austria. This besottedness with progress is truly repulsive. But now, my beloved Karl, I shall dwell on the subject of progress and enlarge on it as regards you, my dear master. How are you getting on with Stirner and what progress have you made? Above all, apply yourself to your book. Time marches inexorably on. I myself am besieged with inquiries here. Schleicher has already asked after it twice and complained bitterly about the literature that comes their way. And it's true, they are very badly off.

They are all having to grapple with Grun and Ruge and do not know which way to turn. Schleicher asked whether the Rabbi was by any chance Hess. Even Schleicher is prepared to swallow anything. But there is altogether too great a lack of knowledge. The false prophets have done so much to queer the pitch....