Letters of Frederick Engels

To Levin Schücking
In Münster

Source: MECW Volume 2, p. 494
Written: 18 June 1840
First published: in the Wissenschaftliche Zeitschrift der Friedrich Schiller-Universität, Jena, jg. 7, Heft 4, 1957-58

Bremen, June 18, 1840

Dear Herr Schücking,

Once again my warmest thanks for your kindly reception and for the beautiful souvenir from Münster! [230] I read it through in Osnabrück at one sitting with great enjoyment, and I envy the poet [Annette Elisabeth Freiin von Droste-Hülshöff] for her original and tender images of nature, the many hidden splendours, the kinship with Byron, which you also, if I am not mistaken, stressed in your review. [231] It is a shame that these poems should have come and gone without making any impression; but what does this depth of feeling mean to the shallow reading public of our days? At the first opportunity I shall publicly do justice to the book. — Where is there a more beautiful ballad of its kind than Der Graf von Thal?

Now concerning our Shelley-plan, [232] had a talk with Schünemann straight away yesterday; at the mention of the fee of ten talers he shrank back as if struck by lightning and said at once he could not take it on. He is just back from the Fair where he himself inspected his masses of unsold books of every kind, pietistic novels, descriptions from Belgium, Spanish readers and other rubbish; in addition, he was foolish enough to make contracts in Leipzig for works on theology and on world and literary history at a low fee, so that he has his hands full. These stupid bookseller people believe they risk less on a commentary on the epistles of John, which costs perhaps two talers in fees and is badly produced, and will perhaps be bought by 20 students at most, than on Shelley, for which production and fees may cost relatively three times as much, but in which the whole nation will take an interest. Just now I was with Schünemann again to hear from his own mouth the final statement that on these conditions he cannot take it on; one sheet of poems, he said, contains only a quarter as much as a sheet of prose, so that the fee for a sheet would really come to 40 talers. I told him it was not child’s play to translate Shelley, and if he did not want it then he should leave it alone, for heaven’s sake; and that by the way he was standing in his own light. He: If only we would first give him a small specimen, he would print it, and then one could see what could be done. I: Schücking and Püttmann are not the people to agree to give specimens, and what specimens do for other people, their names do for them. Will you or won’t you? He: Not on these conditions. — Muy bien; to beg was beneath our dignity, so I left. — I am now of the opinion that this failure should by no means discourage us; if one will not do it, another will. Püttmann, who translated the first canto of Queen Mab, has sent it to Engelmann in Leipzig, and if he accepts, it will be easy to get him to take on the whole thing. Otherwise Hammerich in Altona and Krabbe in Stuttgart would perhaps be the ones we should approach first. But just now, immediately after the Easter Fair, is a very unfavourable moment for making our offers. If it were January I am sure Schünemann would have grabbed it with both hands. I want to go to him once more and ask him for a joke what kind of conditions he can offer us.

Friend Schünemann evaded my visits by flight; he is on an outing to the country. He would probably have offered five talers a sheet and asked, as he always loves to do, for a little specimen of three to four sheets in advance. The whole thing is the fault of none other than the pietist Wilh. Elias of Halle, on whose novel Glauben und Wissen, published by Schünemann, the latter loses about 2,000 talers. If I catch the fellow I'll challenge him to scimitars.

What do you say to all this? I shall write to Püttmann straight away today. I think it is too good a project simply to drop it. Any bookseller with a smattering of education (Schünemann is a blockhead) will take on the publication with pleasure.

I am eagerly looking forward to hearing your opinion on the matter, and in the meantime commend myself to your friendly goodwill.


Friedrich Engels

What do you say to Gutzkow’s challenge to the Hallische Jahrbücher in the Telegraph?[233] Gutzkow seems to want to renew Menzel’s and Müllner’s critical terrorism; let him take care that the younger ones do not outgrow him!