Marx-Engels Correspondence 1858

Marx To Ferdinand Lassalle
In Berlin

London, 12 November 1858

Source: MECW. Volume 40, pp. 353-355.
First published: in F. Lassalle. Nachgelassene Briefe und Schriften, Bd. III, Stuttgart-Berlin, 1922.

9 Grafton Terrace, Maitland Park, Haverstock Hill
Dear Lassalle,

Post tot pericula! [after so many dangers!] My answer to your last letter was held up by an infamous toothache. I didn’t answer your letter from Frankfurt because you gave no address.

Well, d’abord: beatus ille [first: Blessed is he] who is riot seen through Köster’s eyes but who sees with the eyes of Köster. I and Freiligrath had explained at length to Köster himself that throughout the summer the most severe liver trouble had virtually incapacitated me foiwork. And as for my ‘splendid circumstances’, Freiligrath and I had deemed fit to conjure up the brightest of pictures for the benefit of this average German bourgeois, while altogether concealing the darker side, since we both opined that even the best bourgeois of this type could not fail to derive a certain malicious satisfaction from the knowledge of what the fuorusciti’s [refugees’] circumstances were really like. So far Köster.

As regards the delay in sending off the manuscript, I was first prevented from doing so by illness, and subsequently had to catch up on the other ‘bread and butter’ work. But the real reason is this: the material was to hand and all that I was concerned with was the form. But to me the style of everything I wrote seemed tainted with liver trouble. And I have a twofold motive for not allowing this work to be spoiled on medical grounds:

1. It is the product of 15 years of research, i.e. the best years of my life.

2. In it an important view of social relations is scientifically expounded for the first time. Hence I owe it to the Party that the thing shouldn’t be disfigured by the kind of heavy, wooden style proper to a disordered liver.

My aim is not to produce an elegant expose, but only to write as I usually do, which, during these months of sickness, was impossible – at least on this subject, although over the same period I was compelled to write, and hence did write, the equivalent of at least 2 printed volumes of English leading articles de omnibus rebus et quibusdam aliis [about everything under the Sun and more].

I believe that even if someone less intelligent than you were to acquaint Mr Duncker with this state of affairs, he could not but sanction a mode of conduct which, so far as he as a publisher was concerned, merely signified the endeavour to give him the best value for his money.

I shall have finished about 4 weeks from now, having only just begun the actual writing.

There is a further circumstance which, however, you should not put to him until the arrival of the manuscript. The first section, ‘Capital in General’, is likely to run to 2 instalments since I have discovered while elaborating it that here, at the very juncture where the most abstract aspect of political economy is to be discussed, undue brevity would render the thing indigestible to the public. But on the other hand this second instalment must come out at the same time as the first. This is demanded by their intrinsic coherence, and the whole effect depends upon it.

Apropos. In your letter from Frankfurt you said nothing about your economic work. As far as our rivalry is concerned, 1 don’t believe that the German public suffers from an embarras de richesses in this field. In fact economics as a science in the German sense of the word has yet to be tackled and to that end not just the two of us but a dozen will be needed. I hope, at any rate, that my work will result in drawing a number of better brains into the same field of research.

I should be infinitely obliged to you if you could write to me from time to time about conditions in Prussia and send me the relevant newspaper clippings.

My wife sends her regards and says she is afraid Köster is as mistaken about ‘her beauty’ as he is about her husband’s health.

Freiligrath likewise sends his regards. He is completely immersed in his profession of banker. Hence you should not hold his silence against him.