Marx-Engels Correspondence 1884

Engels to Laura Lafargue


Source: Marx Engels on Literature and Art, Progress Publishers, 1976;
Transcribed: by Andy Blunden.

January 14, 1884

Paul’s examples of victorious German “goût” are mostly as old as the hills. That German gravures pour enfants (Bilderbogen) are generally good, is simple enough. For more than 50 years they have been made chiefly at Dusseldorf, Munich, etc., and the designs are by young and often rising artists who do this work to earn a little money. 40 years ago, however, I recollect that French gravures of that sort came to Germany, a good many by Adam the horse-and-soldier-painter, and they were immensely superior to the German ones in chic and life. If that has not been continued by French artists, they must have found no market. — As to toys, the German superiority is 1) cheapness, domestic industry at starvation level (described lately by Dr. Emanuel Sax, die Hausindustrie in Thüringen, very good) and 2) in that they are invented by peasants; townspeople never will be fit to invent for children, least of all French townspeople who hate their own children. — For furniture Paul gives the reason himself: the stupid fiscal policy of the French Government. — Flowers similar: division of labour and low wages: who can compete against the East End of London and Germany in cheapness? Generally speaking, bourgeois taste is getting so much out of taste that even the Germans may hope to be able to satisfy it. And if any trade has become broken down enough to make “cheap and nasty” its market-rule, then you may be sure the Germans will step in and defeat all competition by starving their own work-people. And as this is the rule generally now for all trades, it explains the appearance of German goods in all trades and all markets.