Letters of Marx and Engels, 1846

Engels To Marie Blank
In London

Source: MECW Volume 38, p. 35;
Written: 7 March 1846;
First published: in Friedrich Engels, 1820- 1895. Leben und Werk. Eine Ausstellung der Stadt Wuppertal bearbeitet von Dieter Dowe, 1970;

Brussels, 7 March 1846
7, rue de l'Alliance, Saint-Josse-ten-Noode

Dear Marie,

Great was my joy on hearing the news that you had been blessed with a strong, sturdy boy who bears a close resemblance to your beloved spouse. I should have long since sent you my congratulations, having had Mother’s notification in my pocket for almost six days now. But so ordinary a letter of congratulation is so ordinary and ceremonious a thing that I should have been truly ashamed to send off promptly by return a polite, conventional communication of this kind to you, my most dearly beloved sister. On the contrary, I have waited six days in order that you may see that I speak from the heart. Anyone can send congratulations by return, but to wait six days is only possible for someone who is particularly affectionate; to send congratulations by return proves absolutely nothing and when done for purely formal reasons is in any case hypocrisy. To wait six days is to show proof of a deep emotion which cannot find expression in words. For that same reason I shall desist from sending the customary good wishes to the young comrade and for a long string of little brothers and sisters to follow him. This last would be superfluous, especially as you are in London where Queen Victoria sets so excellent an example [46] and besides enough space will probably be left at the end of this letter to enable you to copy out for yourself a sufficiency of choice felicitations, benisons, etc., etc., from whichever letter writer’s vade-mecum you may happen to light upon. True, I am sorry that, through your agency, I should already have become an uncle at the age of 26, being in any case too young for that and wanting in the necessary decorum. But the fact that little Elise has already become an aunt at the age of twelve, which is much worse, is some consolation and I can but assure you that I shall be as diligent as possible in the performance of my duties (of which I am totally ignorant) as uncle, provided you think it worth your while to explain them to me in detail beforehand. As I have seven more fellow-sufferers, co-aunts and co-uncles, the one-eighth [there were eight children in the Engels family — Frederick, Hermann, Emil, Rudolf, Anna, Hedwig, Elise and Marie] of the duties devolving upon myself will not in any case prove so very onerous and that is a further consolation. I am happy you are well and that I am too, and hope to see you in Ostend this summer at the latest. I am truly curious to observe you as a mama and to see what effect the earnestness of life, to which as ‘wife and mother’ you are now obliged to pay heed, has had on you. Lest that effect should become too great, I have written in as jovial a manner as possible.

But I would ask you for a reply, a reply, what’s more, that gives some hint of the earnestness of life, of the wife and mother, of the painstaking materfamilias or, as the Dutch would say, welgeliefde Echtgenoot [dearly beloved spouse]. So now it is your turn to write when you have the opportunity.

Love to Mother, Emil and Hermann.