Letters of Frederick Engels

To Marie Engels
In Mannheim

Source: MECW Volume 2, p. 503
Written: 20 August 1840
First published: in the Deutsche Revue, Stuttgart and Leipzig, Bd. 4, 1920

My very dear Soeur,

I have just received your letter, and since I have nothing to do at the moment, I shall scribble you a few lines. Our office has been considerably improved. Up to now it was always very annoying to have to dash straight to the desk from a meal, when you are so dreadfully lazy, and to remedy this we have fixed up two very fine hammocks in the packing-house loft and there we swing after we have eaten, smoking a cigar, and sometimes having a little doze. I am convinced you will find this arrangement most suitable. Today I also had a letter from Roth, he will be back next Sunday [after] an absence of 4 months. So that you know: 1,700 marks banco at 137 per cent are 776 talers 24 groats louis d'or. I have checked it, it is quite correct. Herewith an engraving.

two portraits of drinkers

An old connoisseur of wines who has been given sour wine to drink. The one next to him is the commercial traveller from whom he bought the sour wine. I will also draw you a picture of the hair style for young gentlemen here:

The fellows look like calves

Confound it! When I had written this I went home to eat, and when I came back I lit a cigar to lie down in the hammock. But it immediately broke down under me and when I went to hammer new nails in, the infamous Derkhiem called me, and now I can’t get away from the office again.

Thank God, I did have my siesta after all. I stole out of the office and took cigars and matches with me and ordered beer; then I went to the upper packing-house loft and lay down in the hammock and swung very gently. Then I went to the middle packing-house loft and packed two cases of platillas, and at the same time I consumed a cigar and a bottle of beer and sweated profusely, for it is so warm today that in spite of barely having got rid of a cold I want to go swimming in the Weser again. The other day I bathed and had a fellow row after me, and thus I swam four times across the Weser in one go, which no one in Bremen will so easily imitate.

Confound it! For two reasons: first, it is raining, second, my amiable young principal [Wilhelm Leupold] simply will not leave the office, and so I must let my cigar go out again. But I will chase him away all right. Do you know how I do it? I go into the kitchen and call out very loud: “Kristine, a cork-screw!” Then I open a bottle of beer and pour out a glass for myself. If then he has but half a groat’s worth of honour in him, he must go out, for that means as much as “Be off, Don Guillermo!”

So you now speak English so splendidly? Just wait, when you come home again I will teach you Danish or Spanish so that you can speak with me in a language the others don’t understand. Danske Sprag fagre Sprag, y el Espa˝ol es lengua muy hermosa. [Danish is a charming language, and Spanish is a most beautiful language] Or would you prefer Portuguese? O portugues he huma lengoa muito grašosa, e os Portuguezes sa§ naša§ muito respeitavel. [Portuguese is a most graceful language, and the Portuguese are a most respectable nation] smoker in a hammock

But since you have not yet got so far I will spare you that.

Here you can see my hammock, containing myself smoking a cigar.

I have just heard that another 500 cases of sugar, that is, 250,000 lbs., have been sold. That can sweeten many a cup of coffee. Who knows whether the sugar in your cup won’t come from the same case from which I had to take samples! But all your sugar on the Rhine comes from Holland, where it is made from lumps, lumps of sugar, not of cotton-rag.

Soon there will be big manoeuvres in Falkenberg, 3 hours from here, where the Bremen, Hamburg, LŘbeck and Oldenburg troops, a whole regiment all together, will show their tricks. They are poor, pathetic things, three of them together have not as much moustache as I have when I have not had a shave for three days; one can count every thread in their coats and they have no sabres, but Speckńńle. A Speckaal is a smoked eel, but in soldiers’ language it is a leather scabbard for the bayonet which they carry instead of a sabre. For if they put the bayonet on the end of the rifle, these poor creatures would be very likely to run each other through the mug with it when they were marching, so they are sensible enough to carry it on their backs. They are miserable fellows, Kashubs and Ledshaks.

I just can’t think what else to write about.
God knows, my matter’s melted all away,
Yet I must fill this page up anyway,
Although it takes me pliers to pull it out;
And since by writing verses one can say
Little, and make it go a long, long way,
I end with rhyming doggerel, though I fear
That Pegasus, outraged, will surely rear
And throw me forcibly upon the sand.
The sun is setting. Darkling lies the land,
Save where through Western cloud-veils, bright and clear
Blazes the sunset’s incandescent brand.
It is a solemn, holy fire up there,
Flaming upon the tombstone of a day
That brought us many a thing so loved and dear,
Now dead and gone from us. The night holds sway
And gently draws her star-shot mantle over
Earth’s territories, near and far away.
And silence reigns. Birds in their nests seek cover,
Beasts hide in brushwood on the forest floor.
The midges’ dizzy evening dance is over;
Closed for the night is Life’s enchanting door.
As on the Third one of the Seven Days,
When only trees had been created for
Earth’s ornament, and beasts were yet to graze
In the green fields — so, ‘midst the leaves again
Only the wind intones his hoary lays.
It is the Almighty’s Spirit, who doth rain
On Earth a torrent of tremendous song.
He drives the storm on wings of cloud and rain,
He blows eternally, forever young,
But me, I've puffed the rhymes out of my lungs.

Full stop. If you understand it you are educated and can put a word in.

Adios, yours,


Bremen, Aug. 20, 40

Aug. 25. Roth came back the day before yesterday.