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Marx-Engels Correspondence 1857

Engels To Marx
In London

Source: MECW Volume 40, p. 122;
First published: abridged in Der Briefwechsel zwischen F. Engels und K. Marx, Stuttgart, 1913 and in full in Marx and Engels, Works, Moscow, 1929.

[Manchester, 22 April 1857]

Dear Moor,

This business of the Cyclopaedia has come as a real boon to me, and to you too, no doubt. Voilà enfin a prospect of making good your loss of earnings and, for me, a prospect, of a regular occupation in the evenings. La paix allait me démoraliser [I was becoming demoralised by inactivity]; ever since there have been no more articles to write for the Tribune I have been doing far too much loafing, for which there is every inducement up here. As to the militaria, Dana must provide an immediate answer to the following questions:

1. How many volumes, roughly, will the whole amount to and how far does he propose to get in Vol. 1 or Vols. 1 and 2?

2. Are the military articles to be confined primarily to defining technical terms, e.g. Artillery, castrametation, column, with historical notes and a brief synopsis of the individual branches of military science — thus e.g. artillery: 1. Definition. 2. History and present state. 3. Résumé of the branches of the modern science of artillery (gunnery, personnel, transport, use in the field and before fortresses, etc., etc.)?

3. Or is the intention to have additional articles on military history, eg. under the head Austerlitz, Arbela, etc., etc., brief comptes rendus of the actual battles, and under Alexander, Caesar, Carnot, etc., etc., military biographies together with particulars in each case of any epoch-making progress?

Next, you must write to Steffen at once and ask him for the title or author of an encyclopaedia of military science, as short and complete as possible; one that has the most but also the shortest articles would be best, since all I want is to know at once what articles to do and to have the alphabetical material as complete and handy as possible. As soon as I have this I can start work on Letters A and B — perhaps even sooner, since I can do a lot of articles from Brockhaus alone and a few more without it.

The pay is quite profitable, even at $2 per large page; a lot of the stuff will only have to be copied or translated and the longer articles won’t involve a great deal of work. I shall take a look at one or two English encyclopaedias straight away to see what military articles they contain, but then concentrate on Brockhaus which, after all, not only provides a better basis but is also more complete and is evidently looked upon by Dana as a model.

Should there be any philological sections for the taking, e.g. the Germanic languages, Middle High German, Old High German, etc., etc., literature (likewise in the Romance languages, especially no harm would be done. Either the Jakob woman or Mr Gurowski will have taken on the Slav things; the former knows more about those languages than I do.

Which articles shall you be taking on? German philosophy, at any rate — biographies of modern English and French statesmen? Some financial pieces? Chartism? Communism? Socialism? Aristotle — Epicurus — Code Napoléon — and the like. Themes certainly harder to handle without any party tendency whatever than the good old military stuff, where needless to say one always sides with the victor.

Take as many articles as you can and set up an office by degrees. Mr Pieper can toil away, too; he will do well enough for biographical pieces and will, at the same time, get some plain wholesome information into his genius’ noddle. Lupus might also be prepared to do something in the early classical field; je verrai!

Even though the work won’t be very interesting (most of it, at any rate), I'm immensely tickled by the whole thing since it will mean an enormous lift for you. I was really hellish anxious this time about how the Tribune business would turn out, particularly when Dana tried to put you on half-pay. But now everything is going to be all right again and even though there’s no immediate prospect of payment, it’s still a very secure berth and one need have no qualms about doing one or two letters of the alphabet in advance; the money will arrive in its own good time.

Haven’t you heard anything from Olmsted about Putnam’s? I should very much like to have the article on Bazancourt; maybe I can do something with it here through Acton. Apart from that there may he a possibility of doing something further with Putnam’sprogress in the art of war, improvements in artillery, small arms, etc., etc., ships against stone walls; I'm willing to do anything so long as the fellows undertake to publish it. Dana would certainly arrange it to make you less dependent on the Tribune. By the way, get the editor of Putnam’s to write in person, cela vaut mieux.

You must also find out from Dana whether the articles should in general take up more or less space than e.g. in Brockhaus, and whether the whole is intended to be bigger or smaller than Brockhaus. Then we shall know what we are about. Also when they will pay and by when the job must be completed. It’s as well to know all this.

In your place I should offer to do the whole encyclopaedia alone; we could manage it all right. At all events, take whatever you can get. If we have 100 to 200 pages in each volume it won’t be too much. We can easily supply that amount of ‘unalloyed’ erudition so long as unalloyed Californian gold is substituted for it.

But now, warm regards to your wife and children; let me hear from you again soon.

F. Engels

Most obliged for the eye lotion. I'm still having some trouble but think it’s because I've recently been drinking more port than usual — drop that!