Letter from Heinrich Marx to son Karl

in Bonn

Written: Trier, about May or June 1836
Source: Marx Engels Collected Works Vol 1, pg 653-655.
Publisher: International Publishers (1975)
First Published: Marx/Engels, Gesamtausgabe, Abt. 1, Hb. 2, 1929
Translated: Clemens Dutt
Transcribed: S. Ryan
HTML Markup: S. Ryan

Dear Karl,

Your letter, which I received only on the 7th, has strengthened my belief in the uprightness, frankness and loyalty of your character, which means more to me than the money, and therefore we will not say anything more about that. You are receiving 100 talers herewith and, if you ask for it, you will receive the rest. However, you will surely become somewhat wiser, and also will have to concern yourself with the smaller things, for, God knows, in spite of all philosophy, these smaller things give one many grey hairs.

And is duelling then so closely interwoven with philosophy? It is respect for, indeed fear of, opinion. And what kind of opinion? Not exactly always of the better kind, and yet!!! Everywhere man has so little consistency. -- Do not let this inclination, and if not inclination, this craze, take root. You could in the end deprive yourself and your parents of the finest hopes that life offers. I think a sensible man can easily and decently pay no heed to it, tout en imposant.

Dear Karl, if you can, arrange to be given good certificates by competent and well-known physicians there, you can do it with a good conscience. Your chest is weak, at least at present. -- If you like, I will send you one from Herr Berncastel, who treats you. But to be consistent with your conscience, do not smoke much.

You have not kept your word to me -- you remember your promise -- and I rather prided myself on the recognition of my criticism. However, like political optimists, I take the actual state of things as it is, but I did wish to have some knowledge of my own of the matter, i.e., of the negotiations conducted, which perhaps I would have been able to check better than Schafer -- and if possible also knowledge of the matter in question -- but if this last involves too much trouble, I shall wait till your arrival. Farewell, dear Karl, always remain frank and true, always look on your father and your good mother as your best friends. I could not keep anything secret from her, because otherwise she would have been anxious at your long silence. She is economical, but for her love of life is [...]-- and everything is secondary to this. I embrace you affectionately.

Your faithful father,


I must, however, inform you about something peculiar.

Your friend Kleinerz wrote to me that he is being badly persecuted (probably because he left) and has even had to take the school examination, which, however, to his astonishment he passed brilliantly. He fears very many difficulties. Of very effective assistance to him would he a recommendation from your bishop to the Dean of the Medical Faculty, Herr Professor Muller, who in his youth received much kindness from this worthy man.

And lo and behold, good Herr Gorgen undertook to speak to the bishop, and the latter at once agreed, and said I should draw up the paper myself (without, however, in the slightest wanting to admit his relation to Herr Muller). I sent the recommendation post-paid to Herr Muller and informed Herr Kleinerz about it.

The latter displayed great tact because at once, and in order to safeguard my position to some extent in relation to the friend who trusted my bare word, he sent me, without waiting for the result, his service testimonials, which are really splendid. Moreover, he seemed to have no doubt of success.

How chance plays with human beings!

Your dear mother greets and kisses you. It is too late to write any more -- until next time.

[Added on the first page of the letter]

At the moment I could not send you any more. In the next few days you will probably receive 20 talers through Rabe.

Your faithful father,