Marx-Engels Correspondence 1863

Marx To Engels
In Manchester

Source: MECW Volume 41, p. 442;
First published: abridged in Der Briefwechsel zwischen F. Engels und K. Marx, Stuttgart, 1913 and in full in MEGA, Berlin, 1930.

[London,] 8 January 1863

Dear Engels,

The news of Mary [Burns]’s death surprised no less than it dismayed me. She was so good-natured, witty and closely attached to you.

The devil alone knows why nothing but ill-luck should dog everyone in our circle just now. I no longer know which way to turn either. My attempts to raise money in France and Germany have come to nought, and it might, of course, have been foreseen that £15 couldn’t help me to stem the avalanche for more than a couple of weeks. Aside from the fact that no one will let us have anything on credit — save for the butcher and baker — which will also cease at the end of this week — I am being dunned for the school fees, the rent, and by the whole gang of them. Those who got a few pounds on account cunningly pocketed them, only to fall upon me with redoubled vigour. On top of that, the children have no clothes or shoes in which to go out. In short, all hell is let loose, as I clearly foresaw when I came up to Manchester and despatched my wife to Paris as a last coup de désespoir. If I don’t succeed in raising a largish sum through a loan society or life assurance (and of that I can see no prospect; in the case of the former society I tried everything I could think of, but in vain. They demand guarantors, and want me to produce receipts for rent and rates, which I can’t do), then the household here has barely another two weeks to go.

It is dreadfully selfish of me to tell you about these horreurs at this time. But it’s a homeopathic remedy. One calamity is a distraction from the other. And, au bout du compte, what else can I do? In the whole of London there’s not a single person to whom I can so much as speak my mind, and in my own home I play the silent stoic to counterbalance the outbursts from the other side. It’s becoming virtually impossible to work under such circumstances. Instead of Mary, ought it not to have been my mother, who is in any case a prey to physical ailments and has had her fair share of life ... ? You can see what strange notions come into the heads of ‘civilised men’ under the pressure of certain circumstances.


K. M.

What arrangements will you now make about your establishment? It’s terribly hard for you, since with Mary you had a home to which you were at liberty to retreat from the human imbroglio, whenever you chose.