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Marx-Engels Correspondence 1866

Marx To Antoinette Philips
In Salt-Bommel

Source: MECW Volume 42, p. 241;
First published: in the language of the original, English, in the International Journal Review of Social History, Assen, 1956.

Margate, 18 March 1866
5 Lansell’s Place

My dear Child,

From the address you will see that I have been banished, by my medical adviser, to this seaside place, which, at this time of the year, is quite solitary. Margate lives only upon the Londoners, who regularly inundate it at the bathing season. During the other months it vegetates only. For my own part right glad I am to have got rid of all company, even that of my books. I have taken a private lodging which fronts the sea. In an inn or Hotel one might have been exposed to the danger of falling in with a stray traveller, or being pestered by local politics, vestry interests, and neighbourly gossip. As it is, ‘I care for nobody, and nobody cares for me’. But the air is wonderfully pure and reinvigorating, and you have here at the same time sea air and mountain air. I have become myself a sort of walking stick, running up and down the whole day, and keeping my mind in that state of nothingness which Buddhism considers the climax of human bliss. Of course, you have not forgotten the pretty little diction: ‘When the devil was sick, the devil a monk would be; when the devil was well, the devil a monk was he.'

Withdrawing a little from the seaside, and roaming over the adjacent agricultural districts, you are painfully reminded of ‘civilisation’, because from all sides you are startled by large boards, with governmental proclamations on them, headed: Cattle Disease. The ruling English oligarchs were never suspected to care one farthing for ‘der Menschheit ganzes Weh’ [all misery of mankind -Schiller], but as to cows and oxen, they feel deeply. At the opening of Parliament, the horned cattle gentlemen of both houses, commoners and lords, made a wild rush at government. All their talk sounded like a herd of cows’ lowing, translated into English. And they were not like honest king Wiswamitra, ‘der kämpfte und büsste für die Kuh Sabalah’ [who wrangled and suffered for the cow Sabalah — Heine]. On the contrary. They seized the opportunity to ‘battre monnaie[coin money] out of the cows’ ailings at the expense of the people. By the by, the East sends us always nice things — Religion, Etiquette, and the Plague in all forms.

I am very glad to hear of Waaràtje’s winding up adventure. Verily, verily, I tell thee, my sweet little cousin, I always felt deep sympathy for the man, and always hoped that one day or other he should fix his melting heart in the right direction, and not persevere performing the nasty part in the children’s tale: ‘The Beast and the Beauty’. I'm sure he will make a good husband. Is his inamorata a ‘Bommelerin’ or an importation?

A few days before leaving London, I made the acquaintance of Mr Orsini, a very fine fellow, the brother of the Orsini who was sent to the grave for sending Bonaparte to Italy. He has now left England for the U. States, in commercial matters, but during the few days of our acquaintance, he did me good service. Although an intimate friend of Mazzini’s, he is far from sharing the antiquated antisocialist and theocratical views of Mazzini. Now, during my forced and prolonged absence from the Council of the International Association, Mazzini had been busy in stirring a sort of revolt against my leadership. ‘Leadership’ is never a pleasant thing, nor a thing 1 ambition. I have always before my mind your father’s [Lion Philips] saying in regard to Thorbecke that ‘der Eselstreiber den Eseln immer verhasst ist’ [the ass-driver is always hateful to the ass]. But having once fairly embarked in an enterprise which I consider of import, I certainly, ‘anxious’ man as I am, do not like to give way. Mazzini, a most decided hater of freethinking and socialism, watched the progress of our society with great jealousy. His first attempt of making a tool of it and fastening upon it a programme and declaration of principles of his hatching, I had baffled. His influence, before that time very great with the London working class, had sunk to zero. He waxed wroth, when he saw that we had founded the English Reform League and a weekly paper, The Commonwealth, to which the most advanced men of London contribute, and of which I shall send you a copy after my return to London. His anger increased, when the editors of the Rive gauche (the journal of la Jeune France, directed by Rogeard, author of the Propos de Labienus, Longuet, etc.) joined us, and when he became aware of the spread of our society on the Continent. He improved my absence, to intrigue with some English workingmen, raise their jealousies against ‘German’ influence, and even sent his bully, a certain Major Wolff (a German by birth) to the Council there to lodge his complaints and more or less directly to denounce me. He wanted to be acknowledged as ‘the leader (I suppose par la grace de dieu) of the continental democratical movement’. In so doing, he acted so far quite sincerely, as he utterly abhors my principles which, in his eyes, embody the most damnable ‘materialism’. This whole scene was enacted behind my back, and after they had made sure that my malady would not allow me to be present. The English wavered, but, although still very weak, I rushed to the following séance, Mr Orsini accompanying me. On my interpellation, he declared them that Mazzini had lost his influence even in Italy and was, from his antecedents and prejudices, quite disabled from understanding the new movement.’ All the Foreign secretaries declared for me, and, if you, our Dutch secretary, had been present, I hope you would have also cast your vote for your humble servant and admirer. As it was, I carried a complete victory over this redoubtable adversary.’ I think that Mazzini has now had enough of me and will make bonne mine à mauvais jeu [a good face on a sad business].

I hope to receive a few lines from you. Don’t forget that I am quite an insulated hermit.

Your most sincere friend