Letters of Jenny Marx 1863

Jenny Marx To Wilhelm Liebknecht
In Berlin

Source: MECW, Volume 41, p. 586
First published: in Marx and Engels, Works, Moscow, 1963.

[London, about 24 November 1863]

My dear Mr Liebknecht,

When I last wrote to your dear wife, I had little conception of the horrifying days lying immediately ahead of us. For 3 weeks my beloved Karl, was desperately ill, for he was suffering from one of the most dangerous and painful illnesses — a carbuncle on his back. I need add nothing to those few lines. You and your dear wife know how lunch you mean to its. Nor, even if I wanted to, could I tell you in detail all we went through during these weeks, so I will say no more and, at the behest of my beloved husband, now on the road to recovery, pass on to you the enclosed circular, issued by the Workers’ Society [General Association of German Workers]. Aside from the interest attaching to Polish affairs, it was, I believe, sent into the world to put a stop to the ‘pro-police movement’ on the part of certain persons. [Lassalle] The ‘Chair’ at once swallowed the thing hook, line and sinker, and asked for 50 copies for distribution to the communities.” Karl is sending it to you to make you au fait with the matter.

All the same, now that I have executed my task, let me just tell you how our family, afflictions began. Karl had already been ailing for months, he found it intensely difficult to work and in an attempt to find some alleviation, smoked twice as much as usual, and took three times as litany pills of various kinds — blue and antibillious, etc. About 4 weeks ago he got a boil on his cheek; though it was very painful, we got the better of it with the usual household remedies. Before it had quite gone, a similar one erupted on his back. Although it was inordinately painful and the swelling grew daily worse., we were foolish enough to believe we would be able to get rid of it with poultices, etc. Also, in accordance with German ideas, my poor Karl almost completely deprived himself of food, even eschewing the miserable 4 ale [ale costing 4d a quart], and lived on lemonade. At last, when the swelling was the size of my fist and the whole of his back misshapen, I went to Allen. Never shall I forget the man’s expression when he saw that back. He waved me and little Tussy out of the room, and Lenchen had to hold Karl while he made a deep, deep incision, a great gaping wound from which the blood came pouring out. Karl remained calm and still, and did not flinch. Then began a round of hot poultices, which we have now been applying night and day. every 2 hours, like clockwork, for the past fortnight. At the same time, the doctor ordered 3-4 glasses of port, and half a bottle of claret daily, and four times as much food as usual. The object was to restore the strength he had lost so as to help him withstand the frightful pain and the debilitating effect of the heavy discharge of pits. That is how we have spent the last fortnight — I need tell you two no more. Lenchen also fell ill from worry and exertion but is a little better again today. Whence I myself drew strength, I cannot tell. The first few nights I was the only one to sit up with him, for a week I took it in turns with Lenchen, and now I sleep on the floor in his room, so as to be always at hand. How I feel, now that he’s recovering, you will be able to guess.

He sends you both his cordial regards. as do my poor daughters. Please write, both of you, as soon as you can and as much as you call. He greatly enjoys getting letters. Please excuse lily writing so incoherently.

Your old friend,
Jenny Marx