Letter from Jenny Marx to Karl

in Paris

Written: [Trier,about June 21, 1844]
Source: Marx Engels Collected Works Vol 1, pg 575-579.
Publisher: International Publishers (1975)
First Published: Marx/Engels, Werke, Erganzungsband, Teil 1, Berlin, 1968
Translated: Clemens Dutt
Transcribed: S. Ryan
HTML Markup: S. Ryan

You see, dear heart, that I don't deal with you according to the law and demand an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, and a letter for a letter; I am generous and magnanimous, but I hope that my twofold appearance before you will soon yield me golden fruit, a few lines in return, for which my heart is yearning, a few words to tell me that you are well and are longing for me a little. I should so like to know that you miss me and to hear you say you want me. But now quickly, before the holding of the daily court begins again, a bulletin about our little one, for after all she is now the chief person in our alliance and, being at once yours and mine, is the most intimate bond of our love. The poor little doll was quite miserable and ill after the journey, and turned out to be suffering not only from constipation but downright overfeeding. We had to call in the fat pig, and his decision was that it was essential to have a wet-nurse since with artificial feeding she would not easily recover. You can imagine my anxiety. But that is all over now, the dear little Clever Eyes is being fed magnificently by a healthy young wet-nurse, a girl from Barbeln, the daughter of the boatman with whom dear Papa so often sailed. In better times, Mother once provided a complete outfit of clothes for this girl, when she was still a child, and what a coincidence -- this poor child, to whom Papa used to give a kreutzer every day, is now giving life and health to our baby. It was not easy to save her life, but she is now almost out of any danger. In spite of all her sufferings, she looks remarkably pretty and is as flower-white, delicate and transparent as a little princess. In Paris we would never have got her through the illness, so this trip has already been well worth while. Besides, I am now again with my good, poor mother, who only with the greatest struggle can put up with our being separated.

She has had a very bad time at the Wettendorfs'. They are rather coarse people. Ah, if I had only known how things were with poor Mother on many occasions during the winter! But I often wept and was miserable when thinking of her, and you were always so considerate and patient. Another good thing about this wet-nurse is that she is also very useful as a maid, is willing to accompany [us] and, as it happens, served three years in Metz and therefore also speaks French. Hence my return journey is fully assured. What a stroke of luck it is, is it not! Only at present poor Mother has to bear too many expenses and is after all very poor. Edgar robs her of all she has and then writes one nonsensical letter after another, rejoices over the approaching revolutions and the overthrow of all existing conditions, instead of beginning by revolutionising his own conditions, which then always evokes unpleasant discussions and indirect attacks on the mad revolutionary youth. In general, nowhere does a longing for a transformation of the existing state of things arise more strongly than when one sees the surface looking so drearily flat and even, and yet knows what a commotion and ferment is taking place in the depths of mankind.

But let us leave the revolution and come back to our wet-nurse. I shall pay the monthly sum of four talers from the remainder of the journey money, from which I will pay also for the medicine and doctor. True, Mother does not want me to do so, but for food alone she has to bear more than she can. In spite of poverty, she keeps everything about her in decent condition. People in Trier are really behaving excellently towards her and that placates me a little. Moreover, I do not need to visit anyone, for they all come to me and I hold court from morning to night. I cannot give you the names of all of them. Today I also disposed of the patriot Lehmann, who is very well disposed by the way, and is only afraid that your thorough scientific studies might suffer over there. Incidentally, I behave towards everyone in a lordly fashion and my external appearance fully justifies this. For once I am more elegant than any of them and never in my life have I looked better and more blooming than I do now. Everyone is unanimous about that. And people constantly repeat Herwegh's compliment asking me "when my confirmation has taken place". I think to myself, too, what would be the good of behaving humbly; it does not help anyone out of a difficulty, and people are so happy if they can express their regret. Despite the fact that my whole being expresses satisfaction and affluence, everyone still hopes that you will decide after all to obtain a permanent post. 0, you asses, as if all of you were standing on firm ground. I know that we are not exactly standing on rock, but where is there any firm foundation now? Can one not see everywhere signs of earthquake and the undermining of the foundations on which society has erected its temples and shops? I think that time, the old mole, will soon stop burrowing underground -- indeed in Breslau there have been thunderstorms again. If we can only hold out for a time, until our little one has grown big. As to that, you'll put my mind at ease, won't you, my dear sweet angel, my one and only heart's beloved? How my heart went out to you on June 19! How strongly and intimately it beat out of love for you.

But to return to the account of events. It was not until our wedding-day that our dear little baby was well again and sucked healthily and lustily. Then I set out on my difficult journey -- you know where to. I wore my nice Paris frock and my face glowed with anxiety and excitement. When I rang, my heart was beating almost audibly. Everything went through my mind. The door opened and Jettchen appeared. She embraced and kissed me and led me into the drawing-room where your mother and Sophie were sitting. Both immediately embraced me, your mother called me "thou", and Sophie sat me on the sofa beside her. She has been terribly ravaged by illness, looks like CxC, and is hardly likely to get well again. And yet Jettchen is in an almost worse state. Only your mother looks well and flourishing, and is cheerfulness itself, almost gay and frolicsome. Alas, this gaiety seems somehow sinister. All the girls were equally affectionate, especially little Caroline. Next morning your mother came already at 9 o'clock to see the baby. In the afternoon Sophie came, and this morning little Caroline also paid a visit to our little angel. Can you imagine such a change? I am very glad about it and Mother as well, but how has it come about so suddenly? What a difference success makes, or in our case rather the appearance of success, which by the subtlest tactics I know how to maintain.

That's strange news, isn't it? Just think, how the time runs and even the fattest pigs as well; Schleicher, too, is no longer a politician, and a Socialist, that is to say, like Schmiriaks from the organism of labour, etc. It is enough to make one sick, as the Frankenthaler says. He partly considers that your clique is mad, but he thinks it is high time you attacked Bauer. Ah, Karl, what you are going to do, do it soon. And also do give me soon some sign of your life. I am being treated with great tenderness by the most gentle loving mother, my little one is being properly looked after and cared for, the whole of Trier gapes, stares, admires, and pays court, and yet my heart and soul are turned towards you. Ah, if only I could see you now and again, and ask you: what is that for? Or sing for you: "Do you know also when it will be the day after tomorrow?" Dear heart of mine, how I should like to kiss you, for such cold collations are no good, isn't that true, my dearest one? However, you should read the Trier'sche Zietung, it is quite good now. How do things look with you? It is now already eight days I have been away from you. Even here, with better-quality milk, it would not have been possible to get our baby over her illness without a wet-nurse. Her whole stomach was upset. Today Schleicher has assured me that she is now saved. 0, if only poor Mother did not have so many worries, and particularly because of Edgar, who makes use of all the great signs of the times, and all the sufferings of society, in order to cover up and whitewash his own worthlessness. Now the vacation is coming again and then once again nothing will come of the examination. All his essays are ready. It is unpardonable. Mother must deny herself everything, while he has a good time in Cologne going to all the operas, as he himself writes. He speaks with the utmost tenderness of his little sister, his little Jenny, but I find it impossible to be tender towards the scatterbrain.

Dearest heart, I am often greatly worried about our future, both that near at hand and later on, and I think I am going to be punished for my exuberance and cockiness here. If you can, do set my mind at rest about this. There is too much talk on all sides about a steady income. I reply then merely by means of my rosy cheeks, my clear skin, my velvet cloak, feather hat and smart coiffure. That has the best and deepest effect, and if as a result I become depressed, nobody sees it. Our baby has such a beautiful white colour that everyone wonders at it, and she is so fine and delicate. Schleicher is very solicitous and very nice to the child. Today he did not want to go away at all, then there came God's Wrath, and then Reverchon, then Lehmann, and then Poppey, and so it goes on all the time. Yesterday the Tree-frog too, was here with his parchment better half. I did not see them. The members of your family have just paid a call in passing, including Sophie in full fig. But how ill she looks!!! -- Give greetings from me to Siebenkas and the Heines, if you see them. I shall have news of you soon, isn't that so? And are you bravely singing the postillion of Longjumeau?

Only don't write with too much rancour and irritation. You know how much more effect your other articles have had. Write either in a matter-of-fact and subtle way or humorously and lightly. Please, dear heart of mine, let your pen run over the paper, even if it should on occasion stumble and fall, and the sentence with it. Your thoughts all the same stand erect like the grenadiers of the old guard, so honourably firm and courageous, and they could say like the old guard: elle meurt mais elle ne se rend pas. What does it matter if occasionally the uniform hangs a bit loosely and is not so tightly buttoned up? What is so very nice about the French soldiers is their free and easy appearance. When you think of our stilted Prussians, doesn't it make you shudder? -- Just slacken the strappings and remove the cravat and helmet -- let the participles take their course and set down the words just as they come of themselves. Such an army does not have to march in such strict order. And your troops are taking the field, are they not? Good luck to the general, my dusky master! Good-bye, dearest heart, my beloved, my entire life. For the present I am in my little Germany, with everything around me, including my little one and my mother, and yet my heart is sad because you are absent; it yearns for you, and it hopes for you and your black messengers.


Your Schipp and Schribb