Letters of Frederick Engels

To Marie Engels
In Mannheim

Source: MECW Volume 2, p. 501
Written: 4 August 1840
First published: slightly abridged in the Deutsche Revue, Stuttgart and Leipzig, Bd. 4, 1920, and in full in: Marx/Engels, Gesamtausgabe, Abt. 1, Bd. 2, 1930

Dear Marie,

Now I must tell you at once that for the future I shall not stand for any lessons from your pen. You must not think, my dearest little goose, that now you are at a boarding-school you can at once try to be wise and, besides, if I want any, I can get piles of books full of good instructions from the Pastor [Georg Gottfried Treviranus]. The beer stays in our office until it has been drunk, and since your arguing against it our beer trade has only improved, for we have firstly brown ale and secondly pale ale. That’s what comes of saucy little boarding-school misses interfering in the affairs of their gentlemen brothers.

So I shall not frank my letters. Only address yours: Herr F. E. in Bremen, that is enough. But leave the parson out of the address. Recently, from July 27th to 30th, we celebrated the July revolution which broke out ten years ago in Paris; we spent one evening in the town-hall cellar and the others in Richard Roth’s tavern. The fellow is still not back. There we drank the finest Laubenheimer in the world and smoked cigars-if you had seen them you would have learnt to smoke just for their sake. My cigar case has still not turned up again. Also, an acquaintance of mine [Höller], has come back, who has been in Pinselfahnien and Kaltermoria and has seen Mister Sippi (this should read Pennsylvania, Baltimore and Mississippi). This fellow is from Solingen, and the Solingen people are the most unfortunate in the world, for they cannot get rid of their Solingen German. The lad still says: im Sohmer is es sehr schön Wätter [Dialectal pronunciation of im Sommer ist es sehr schönes Wetter (in summer the weather is very fine)], and for Karoline he always says Kalinah.

It is sad, I have barely a groat left in my pocket and a mass of debts, both my own and cigar-shop debts. Now I am being pestered by the man from whom I bought plums for you, which I have not yet paid for, and the bookbinder has not been paid yet, then the three months after which I had to pay for the cigars I bought have long gone by, and Strücker does not send bills of exchange, and the Pastor is away travelling and cannot give me any money. But tomorrow he will be back, and then I shall put six louis d'or in my purse, and when I have eaten three groats’ worth of cake in a coffee-house I shall throw a double pistole on the counter: “Can you give me change?” And then he will say, “Unfortunately not”, then I shall turn out all my pockets for the three groats and go out of the door proud of my double pistoles. When I am back in the office I shall toss a pistole on the ginger-headed junior’s desk: “Derkhiem, see if you can get change”, and the fellow will be extremely happy, for, it gives him an opportunity to stay away from the office for an hour and to lounge around, which innocent pleasure he likes very much. For small change is very scarce here, and anyone who has five talers’ worth of change in his pocket is vastly content.

Recently, a pricelessly funny incident occurred here. In the paper there was an advertisement for a cook. A sturdy girl comes into the editorial office and says [The following conversation is in Low German]: “Hört Se mol, do hebb’ ick in der Zeitung lesen, dat se ‘ne Köksche sökt” [Listen, I have read in the paper that you are looking for a cook] “Jowol,” [Yes, indeed] says the clerk. “Wat mot de wol können?” [What must she be able to do?] asks the girl. “Jo, de mot Kloveer speelen un danzen un Französch, un singen, un neien un sticken — dat mot se all können.” [Well, she must play the piano and dance and speak French, and sing, and sew, and embroider- she must be able to do all that] “Donnerstag,” says the girl, “dat kann ech nit.” [Blast it, I can’t do that] But when she sees the whole office laughing, she asks: “Se wêt mek wol tom besten hebben? Donnerstag, ick lote mi nich mokeeren!” [Are you trying to make a fool of me? I don’t let people make fun of me, blast it!] And with that she goes for the clerk and wants to give him a good hiding; of course, she was gently put outside the door. The other day the Old Man [Heinrich Leupold] threw a driver out of the door. The fellow wanted Prussian gold and would not take louis d'or at the rate of 5 5/12 talers. We were having a row with him, when the Old Man came in: “What is going on here, confound it”, and took the fellow by the chest and threw him in the gutter. Thereupon the driver came quietly back and said: “So wer et nich meent, jetz will ech de Lujedor woll nehmen.” [I did not mean it like that, I will take the louis d'or now all right]

At the moment I have no envelope for my letter except this scribbled-over coffee bill, which will surely be welcome to you as a true coffee-sister.

Farewell and write soon

to your brother


Bremen, Aug. 4, 40