Letters of Frederick Engels

To Marie Engels
In Mannheim

Source: MECW Volume 2, p. 510
Written: 29 October 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,

Next time don’t write to me via Barmen again; Mother leaves the letters lying there until she writes herself, and that is often a long time. But what I wanted to write to you — only you must not write this home, for I want to surprise them with it next spring — I now have an enormous moustache and shall presently add to it a Henry IV and goatee beard. Mother will wonder when suddenly such a long, black-bearded fellow comes across the lawn. Next year, when I go to Italy, I too must look like an Italian.

sketch of Sophie Leupold This is written by little Sophie Leupold who has just been to visit me in the office, while the Old Man [Heinrich Leupold] and Eberlein, who eats here in the house, are at a big dinner. Oh, I could tell you interesting things about this dinner, of engagements which are not yet public and of stolen kisses, but that is not for a girl in a boarding-school. You will learn it soon enough when we are back at home. Then I shall sit in the garden and you'll bring me a big mug of beer and a sausage sandwich, and then I shall say: See, my dear sister, because you have brought the beer out to me and because it is such a fine summer evening, I will tell you of a big dinner which was celebrated in the year 1840, on the twenty-ninth of the month of October, in Bremen, Martini number eleven, in the Royal Saxon Consulate. But now I can tell you only this much, that quite enormous quantities of Madeira, Port, Pouillac, Haut Sauternes, and Rhine wine will be drunk this lunchtime. For although there are only five gentlemen, they are all very good drinkers, almost as good as I. — At the moment there is a Free Market here, and although I have not the honour to be introduced to Her Royal Highness, a Grand Duchess, and many Most Serene Princesses, we still have our fun. I am fortunately so short-sighted that I do not even know what the several exalted, more exalted, and most exalted personages look like who had the honour to drive past me. When next time such a most gracious lady is introduced to you, do tell me whether she is pretty, otherwise such personages don’t interest me at all. Our noble town-hall cellar is now so well fitted out it couldn’t be better; you sit so comfortably between the barrels. Last Sunday we had a moustache evening there. For I had sent out a circular to all moustache-capable young men that it was finally time to horrify all philistines, and that that could not be done better than by wearing moustaches. Everyone with the courage to defy philistinism and wear a moustache should therefore sign. I had soon collected a dozen moustaches, and then the 25th of October, when our moustaches would be a month old, was fixed as the day for a common moustache jubilee. But I had a shrewd idea what would happen, bought a little moustache wax and took it with me; it was then found that one had a truly very fine but unfortunately quite white moustache, while another had been instructed by his principal to hack the criminal thing off. Enough, that evening we had to have at least a few, and those who had none had to paint themselves one. Then I got up and proposed the following toast:

Moustaches always were the pride
Of gallant gentlemen far and wide.
Brave soldiers faced their country’s foes
In brown or black mustachios.
So, in these times of martial glory,
Moustaches are obligatory.
Philistines shirk the burden of bristle
By shaving their faces as clean as a whistle.
We are not philistines, so we
Can let our mustachios flourish free.
Long life to every Christian
Who bears his moustaches like a man.
And may all philistines be damned
For having moustaches banished and banned.

To this doggerel glasses were clinked with great enthusiasm, and then somebody else got up. His principal would not give him a key, and so he had to be home by ten o'clock, or he would not be let in. That is the plight of many a poor devil here. He said:

A plague befall
Principals all
Who won’t hand over the key of the door.
May flies and strands of hair infest
Their supper plates for evermore
And may their nights give them no rest.

Thereupon there was more clinking of glasses. So it continued until ten o'clock, then those without keys had to leave, but we, the fortunate ones with keys, remained seated and ate oysters. I ate eight, but could not manage any more, I still don’t enjoy the things.

Since you are so fond of calculations and even want to reward me for them with the Order of the Yellow Envelope, I shall graciously regale you with the remark that Courant now stands at 106 1/2 per cent, while a year ago it stood at 114. The louis d'or are falling so that anyone here in Bremen who had a million talers a year ago now only has 900,000, that is, 100,000 talers less. Isn’t that tremendous?

You still don’t write me anything of the screed for Ida [Engels], did you get it and have you passed it on or not? It would be awkward for me if I had not sent it and it had been left lying around and got into the hands of the Old Man. [Heinrich Leupold] So write to me and make it the long six-page letter you promised me. I shall return the compliment. Here on the envelope you shall again be regaled with a few calculations which you may take to heart. That I had to copy this letter out again is the fault of Herr Timoleon Miesegans in Bremen, the same one whom the Old Man once threw out of the house two years ago. Your respectful and devoted


Bremen, Oct. 29, 1840