Marx-Engels Correspondence 1862

Marx To Ferdinand Lassalle
In Berlin

Source: MECW Volume 41, p. 355;
First published: in F. Lassalle. Nachgelassene Briefe und Schriften, Stuttgart-Berlin, 1922.

London, 28 April 1862
9 Grafton Terrace, Maitland Park, Haverstock Hill

Dear Lassalle,

You'll be terribly angry with me, old boy, and justifiably so, but, at the same time, with absolutely no justification. If I postponed writing to you from one day to the next, it was because I was hoping from one day to the next to put my affairs so far in order as to be able at least to pay off the £10 I owed you and, besides, write to you with an easy mind. Instead, the situation has grown worse every day. The Tribune, with which I had taken up again — though at 1/3 of my former income — has finally got rid of all its foreign correspondents. So, I now find myself in a complete vacuum. I have no intention of treating you to a tale of woe of any sort; it’s a wonder I haven’t actually gone mad. If I mention the beastly mess at all, it’s simply so that my other misfortunes should not be compounded by a misunderstanding with you.

What you say about J. Ph. Becker in your last letter is absolutely wrong. I. e., you don’t know the man except from hearsay. He is one of the noblest German revolutionaries there has been since 1830, a man who can be reproached with nothing save an enthusiasm which fails to take account of circumstances. As for his connections with the Italians, a bosom friend of Orsini’s has entrusted me with papers that leave no room for doubt on this score, whatever the Italians, and even Garibaldi, may say. As for his relationship with Türr — whom I had denounced over here in The Free Press even before 1859 — all it amounts to is this: During the Baden campaign Becker made Türr a lieutenant. Hence a kind of comradely relationship. Had Becker intended to exploit this connection and accept the offers made him in Paris by Türr in the presence of one of my London friends, he would not have endured the martyrdom which he, a man of 60, is in fact enduring. I know full well the sources whence Becker has obtained his exiguous financial support. They are confined to people within our closest circle. True, he fell foul of some of the Italians because his strongly Teutonic sentiments caused him to reject certain well-intentioned plans. It is indeed exasperating that men of Becker’s stamp should be so egregiously slandered.

As for my book [second instalment of Critique of Political Economy] it won’t be finished for another two months. During the past year, to keep myself from starving, I have had to do the most despicable hackwork and have often gone for months without being able to add a line to the ‘thing’. And there is also that quirk I have of finding fault with anything I have written and not looked at for a month, so that I have to revise it completely. At all events, the work loses nothing thereby, and pro anno the German public has, after all, far weightier things to think about.

Ad vocem your book which I have of course now quite finished, and individual chapters reread, it strikes me that you apparently haven’t read Vico’s ‘new science’. Not that you'd have found anything in it immediately to your purpose; but it does provide a philosophical view of the spirit of Roman law, contrasting with that of the legal philistines. You would scarcely be able to work your way through the original, as it is not only written in Italian but in a very peculiar Neapolitan idiom. However, I commend the French translation, La Science nouvelle, etc.; traduite par 1'auteur de l'essai sur la formation du dogme catholique. Paris, Charpentier, Editeur — 1844. To whet your appetite, I shall do no more than quote the following sentences:

‘Ancient Roman law was a grave poem and ancient jurisprudence austere poetry which contained the first attempt to formulate legal metaphysics... ancient jurisprudence was highly poetical in that it supposed true those facts that were not so, and refused to admit the truth of facts that were so indeed; in that it regarded the living as dead, and the dead as living in their inheritance.’ ‘The Latins called heroes heri: whence comes the word hereditas ... the heir ... represents, vis-à-vis the inheritance, the deceased pater familias.’

Vico contains in embryo Wolf (Homer), Niebuhr (Römische Königsgeschichte), the fundamentals of comparative linguistics (even if in fanciful form) and a whole mass of really inspired stuff. So far, I have never been able to get hold of his legal writings proper.

Under the circumstances in which I now find myself (and have found myself for the better part of a year) I shall not be able to do a critique of your book until by and by. On the other hand, I should be grateful, not for my own sake, but for that of my wife, if, without a prior quid pro quo on my part, you could let Brockhaus advertise the first part of the political economy.

Never have the English middle classes (and aristocracy) put their foot in it with such effrontery as during the great struggle that is taking place on the far side of the Atlantic. By contrast, the English working class, which suffers most from the bellum civile, has never before shown itself as heroic and noble. This is the more admirable when one knows, as I do, all the mechanisms that were set in motion, both here and in Manchester, to incite them to stage a demonstration. The only major organ they still have, the Newspaper owned by that low-down scoundrel Reynolds, has been bought by the Southerners, as have the most important of their lecturers. But all in vain!

Varnhagen’s book interested me a great deal and I can understand how timely its appearance was. On no account must you fail to congratulate Ludmilla about it on my behalf. Nevertheless, this has not raised Varnhagen in my esteem. I find him shallow, insipid and paltry and would ascribe his abhorrence of Counsellor to the Legation Kölle to the shock of encountering his own double.

Please return the enclosed letter from the régicide Simon Bernard. Do you think I should get involved in the matter? I rather think not.

My kindest regards to the Countess. She shall soon have a letter from me all to herself. I hope she has never allowed herself to be misled by trifles such as my omitting to write, nor ever doubted the lasting attachment and admiration I feel for her.

K. M.