Letters of Jenny Marx 1859

Jenny Marx to Engels
In Manchester

Source: MECW Volume 40, p. 573;
First published: in Marx and Engels, Works, Moscow, 1962.

[London, 23 or 24 December 1859]

My dear Mr Engels,

My most heartfelt thanks for the Christmas hamper. The champagne will be a tremendous help in tiding us over the otherwise gloomy holiday, and will ensure a merry Christmas Eve. The sparkling bubbles of the champagne will make the dear children forget the lack of a little Christmas tree this year, and be happy and jolly for all that.

I have been terribly irritated by fleshy philistine Freiligrath and his Westphalian rectitude and respectability. On the other hand I was greatly amused today by your letter about the fat man and the lean woman, and I cannot understand why I sometimes let the wretches’ behaviour upset me so. Had we been ‘better off’ this year, I'd have seen the funnier side of all this trouble, but humour goes by the board when one is constantly having to struggle against the pettiest misère, never have I found it so oppressive as now, when our dear little girls, who are blossoming so sweetly, have to endure it too. And then, on top of that, the secret hopes we had long nourished in regard to Karl’s book were all set at naught by the Germans’ conspiration de silence, only broken by a couple of wretched, belletristic feuilleton articles which confined themselves to the preface and ignored the contents of the book. The second instalment may startle the slugabeds out of their lethargy and then they will attack its line of thought the more ferociously for having kept silent about the scientific nature of the work. Nous verrons. I am, too, particularly curious to see what Ephraim Artful is going to hatch out. For his conduct in the matter is not altogether clear; Prussian Blue, like Ferdinand the Pure, must be treated with great circumspection just now, and an official breach with the latter must still be postponed. He’s only so thick with Blind because the latter was his man-servant in the great Kinkel affair and stood up for his rights on the boozy Schiller committee. Because Blind helped by seeing to it that the bust of Schiller was unveiled (the green serge cover positively refused to come off until 4 men had tugged at and tussled with it) during his cantata and not during the low comedian’s semaphoring, he now has to stand publicly side by side with the arrant liar and cover the latter’s mendacity and cowardice with his own political loyalty and purity. Fazy’s miserable lackey! But enough of these dratted people! I am also sending you my brother’s book through Chaplin. It might interest you and provide you with matter for a review. Actually mon cher frère has virtually done us out of the legacy and it was a downright lie when he wrote and told me some years ago that these papers were nothing but useless disjointed notes with which absolutely nothing could be done, and which didn’t even have any ‘exchange value’. I have ample cause to pick a quarrel with him, nor would anything be easier, in view of his present precarious political position, than to compromise him thoroughly. The Schleinitzes and Dunckers would be glad to take up the matter. Well, last week, without Karl’s knowledge, I approached him about money. Since every attempt Karl had made to raise money had failed, I resolved in this extreme emergency to take the unpleasant step which I had hitherto avoided, even in the darkest days. Although Ferdinand refused to make me an ‘advance’, ‘himself restricted to his pension’, my letter has put me in a false position in regard to him, and my hands are completely tied. For the present I shall have to confine myself to reproaching him for the peculiar way he has treated my father in the preface. Even the crazy, egoistic brother, who embittered my father’s existence and, up to the last year of his life, extorted from my mother a yearly allowance paid out of her small widow’s income, is dealt with better, more decently and in greater detail than our humane, truly noble and magnanimous father. The latter, it is true, ‘knew his Shakespeare better than his Bible’, a crime which is not forgiven him even in the grave by his pietistic son. Moreover it was exceedingly strange that, touching as he did on our family circumstances, he should have omitted all mention of my father’s second marriage and failed to name the second mother, who was the light of my father’s life and who tended and nurtured her step-children with loyalty and love and devotion such as a woman’s own children seldom meet with. This enabled him skilfully to cheat my brother Edgar and myself of her existence which he found intrusive. But this last is a matter of complete indifference and affects me very little; only father and mother should not have been treated and passed over in this way — and for that he must do penance. I am anxious to know what you will have to say about the military part of the book. Today little Jenny is copying the article in my place. I believe my daughters will soon put me out of business, and I shall then come on the register of ‘those entitled to assistance’. A pity that there’s no prospect of getting a pension after my long years of secretarial duties. Goodbye for today. Warmest regards from all, including your

Jenny Marx