Marx-Engels Correspondence 1884

Engels To Johann Philipp Becker
In Geneva

London, 15 October 1884

First published: abridged in Prosveshcheniye, 7-8, St Petersburg, 1913 and in full in Der Kampf, Nr. 12, Wien, 1913;
Source: MECW, volume 47, p. 203-205.

Dear Old Man,

I sent off to you yesterday my little book on the origin of the family, etc., and have today taken out a money order for five pounds. I trust you will get both very shortly.

I was glad to hear from you that Bebel had visited you during the summer. Your opinion of him is exactly the same as mine. There is no more lucid mind in the whole of the German party, besides which he is utterly dependable and firm of purpose. What is unusual is that his great oratorical talents -all the philistines recognise these and do so readily, while Bismarck told Behrens, a partner in his paper mill, that Bebel was the only orator in the whole of the Reichstag -have not trivialised him in any way. Nothing of the kind has happened since Demosthenes. All other orators have been shallow-pated.

Don’t worry about my health; it is a localised and sometimes troublesome complaint but there are no general after-effects whatever and it is not even necessarily incurable; at worst it renders me unfit for active service though I may be able to mount a horse again in a few years’ time. Having been incapable of writing for the past 4 months I have dictated instead, and am now pretty well done with the 2nd book of Capital; have also gone through the English translation (as far as it has got – about 3/8ths of the whole) of the 1st book. Moreover I have now discovered a device which is helping me to get more or less back on my feet again and I hope to make still further progress before long. Rather, my misfortune is that since we lost Marx I have been supposed to represent him. I have spent a lifetime doing what I was fitted for, namely playing second fiddle, and indeed I believe I acquitted myself reasonably well. And I was happy to have so splendid a first fiddle as Marx. But now that I am suddenly expected to take Marx’s place in matters of theory and play first fiddle, there will inevitably be blunders and no one is more aware of that than I. And not until the times get somewhat more turbulent shall we really be aware of what we have lost in Marx. Not one of us possesses the breadth of vision that enabled him, at the very moment when rapid action was called for, invariably to hit upon the right solution and at once get to the heart of the matter. In more peaceful times it could happen that events proved me right and him wrong, but at a revolutionary juncture his judgment was virtually infallible.

Marx’s youngest daughter has married a really excellent Irishman, Dr Aveling; they come here every Sunday. The other daughter,’ whom you know, is also with me just now and sends you her kindest regards. She still talks a lot and fondly about the day she spent with you in Geneva.

I trust your health is still progressing satisfactorily. But if anything should happen to you again, you must let me know at once, on the last occasion a great deal of time elapsed before I knew the least thing about it and you must not err in that way again.

I shall hunt out your letters, etc., as soon as I can really get at the papers. Since May I have been physically incapable of doing so and just now there is so much urgent Work to be attended to that I can’t even consider it. There are over 6 large boxfuls to be sorted out and not even the books are arranged in such a way as to enable me to make full use of them.

Well, take care of your health (there’s no need to tell you to keep your chin up) and be assured of the good wishes

Of your old friend
F. Engels

Borkheim sends his regards. He wrote to me a week ago-it’s always the same old story with him. No change.