Letters of Frederick Engels

To Marie Engels
In Mannheim

Source: MECW Volume 2, p. 516
Written: 9 December 1840
First published: in the Deutsche Revue, Stuttgart and Leipzig, Bd. 4, 1920

Most humble letter of thanks
of F. Engels, who has most graciously been awarded
the Order of the Yellow Envelope
Your Ladyship! Most respected Fräulein!

Your most obedient servant, whom Your Ladyship has most graciously condescended to invest most undeservedly with the Order of the Yellow Envelope, fails not most humbly to lay his most devoted thanks at Your Most Noble Highness’ exalted feet.

Nor could the same most obedient servant fail to admire the supreme grace with which Your Most Noble Highness allowed the covering note to reach Your most submissive servant open and accessible to all the world [I received your letter open. The wretched wafer had come off.-Note by Engels] so that everybody could convince himself of the lofty favour which Your Exalted gentleness and comprehensive wisdom have condescended to accord to me.

In conclusion, in most profound submission before Your Most Noble Highness, Your humble and most obedient servant commends himself to Your most gracious memory.

Fr. Engels

Bremen, Dec. 6, 1840

Dear Marie,

To fall out of the style which I chose for the first page of this letter, I am not in the least grateful to you for the poor wafers with which you seal your letters and which come off halfway. It is all the same to me which Order of the Envelope you want to honour me with, but for goodness’ sake stick a proper seal on them so that the thing does not come apart by the time it gets to Mainz. The day before yesterday, or was it yesterday, I am not sure, it was Anna [Engels]’s birthday, I celebrated it yesterday in Schwachhausen with a cup of coffee, cost me six groats, is that not brotherly love? Last Saturday week, when I became 20, I celebrated my birthday with a toothache and a swollen cheek, which was fiendishly painful. You will also have heard that Napoleon’s body has arrived in France, hey, that is going to be a row! I wish I were in Paris now, what fun! Do you read the newspaper? Did you believe there was going to be a war? What do you think of the Guizot-Soult Ministry? Do you also sing the bad song: “They shall not have it"? while, if you have good eyes, you can see the French border on the other side of the Rhine. We now have fencing lessons, I fence four times a week, today at midday too. On the other side of the page you can see how I lay about me.

sketch of swordsmen

Dec. 8th. Yesterday I had a hellish lot to do, and this morning too. Now I shall close this letter to you, and then I hope I shall be able to have a cup of coffee. Listen, for Christmas make me a new cigar case, in black, red and gold [Colours symbolising the unity of Germany], those are the only colours I like.

Oh, red as love then be our brethren’s token,
And pure as gold the purpose of our quest,
And chat in death our spirit be not broken,
Black be the riband worn around the breast.

From a banned student song. Here some blockheads have founded an association where they make speeches, and I am to be a guest and nolens volens make a speech. Oh dear, that will be a fine do! Incidentally, I can preach very well even without having studied beforehand, and when it is a matter of lying, there is no stopping me, I go on and on. If I were in the Landtag I would let nobody else get a word in. — Now I have had my portrait painted, with my moustache, and so that you can see what I look like, I copy the picture:

sketch of smoker You see, I was painted when I was furious because the cigar would not draw. At that moment I looked so intelligent that the painter [G. W. Feistkorn] implored me to let myself be painted like that. I put aside all the bad cigars and smoked one of the awful things at every sitting. That was the worst torment for me.

Be glad that you have nothing to do with sample boxes, it is first-class stupidity and muddle, there you can stand all day by the open window in the packing-house loft in this cold weather and pack linen, it is something dreadful, and in the end nothing comes of it but nonsense.

My dear sister, I am your devoted

sketch of dandy


December 9, 1840