Letter from Heinrich Marx to son Karl,
in Berlin

Written: Trier, November 9, 1836
Source: Marx Engels Collected Works Vol 1, pg 661-663.
Publisher: International Publishers (1975)
First Published: First published in Marx/Engels, Gesamtausgabe, Abt. 1, Hb. 2, 1929
Translated into English by Clemens Dutt for the Collected Works
Transcribed: S. Ryan
HTML Markup: S. Ryan

Dear Karl,

We had, it is true, already received news of you before getting your letter, because Herr Jaehnigen was kind enough to write to me. His letter is very courteous towards you and me. He even very kindly asks me to recommend that you should comply with his desire and visit him and his family quite often sans g~ne; and as I play such a small part in the world, I have all the less reason to doubt his sincerity, since in general I have always seen him behaving as a man most worthy of respect and most noble. It does one good to enjoy the esteem of such a man, whose heart and mind rank him amon~g the privileged.

That Herr Esser treated you with such respect, I found rather unexpected, and it does you honour, for this circumstance proves that, in spite of your strict principles, you are able to associate with the most diverse kinds of people on human terms. These principles remind me of my bygone youth, and the more so since they were all I possessed. I was not adroit, and that can easily be explained. Your mother says that you are a favourite of fortune. I have no objection to that. Please God that you believe it! At least, in this respect I do not for a moment doubt your heart, that you are serious in counting yourself lucky to have your parents. Alld surely a little exaggeration is nowhere more pardonable than on this point, and no harm is done if here the head is ruled by the heart.

Even if Herr Reinhard is ill, nevertheless he must have a clerk who should surely know something about my son.

Herr Sandt is not von, he is the brother of the Attorney General Sandt of Cologne and has a post at the Court of Appeal. Herr Meurin knows him well. If necessary, he can inform you about my case, in which he is probably the opponent.

That you like Herr Meurin so much gives me great pleasure, for I have a special liking for him. He is one of the rare people who retain goodness of heart along with polite manners. His practical mind certainly puts to shame many very learned persons.

I am particularly glad that you live with well-educated people and do not associate much with young people, at least those whom you don't know well enough. The only thing I ask of you is not to overdo your studying, but to keep physically fit and spare your badly impaired eyesight. You have been attending many and important courses -- naturally, you have every reason to work a great deal, but do not exhaust yourself. You have still a long time to live, God willing, to the benefit of yourself and your family and, if my surmise is not mistaken, for the good of mankind.

For the moment, I have not yet settled on any-commercial firm. I want to talk to Herr von Nell about it. For the time being I am sending you herewith 50 talers. You must at present be able to estimate approximately the amount you absolutely need each year, and that is what I should like to know.

I wrote to you from Frankfurt, where I was because of Hermann. Herr Donner conveyed the letter to the Hofrat. It was sent on October 20. You seem not to have received it yet. It contained rather a lot of sermonising, so I won't engage in that for a long time to come. But I should like a reply to that letter. Because of the one and, of course, extremely important item, I beg you even to enclose, besides the special letter for me, an extra-special one. True, as a rule I never keep anything secret from your good mother. But in this matter I am concerned at present about her all too great anxiety, which is not, as in the case of the husband, adequately countered by the more lively feeling of strict duty.

I am no angel, it is true, and I know that man does not live by bread alone. But in the face of a sacred duty to be fulfilled, subsidiary intentions must give way. And, I repeat, there is no more sacred duty for the husband than that which he undertakes towards his wife, who is weaker. Therefore, in this, as in every other respect, be quite frank with me as with a friend. But if, after self-examination, you really persist in your resolve, you must at once show yourself to be a man. That, all the same, does not prevent poetic ardour, the aspiration to fulfil one's duty is also very poetic.

Today Hermann has gone to Brussels, where he is entering a good house. But he has to pay 1,000 fr. immediately for the entree. In return, the house is merely bound to introduce him to all the commercial transactions that occur, without stipulation of period, so that it depends on his diligence and understanding to put himself as quickly as possible in a position to become independent. I expect a good deal from his diligence, but all the less from his intelligence. Understandably, he is not living at the businessman's house, and for the present he has to keep himself entirely. It is a pity that this well-meaning youth has not got a better brain. Menni" attends the gymnasium and, it seems, he does want to show rather more zeal.-- The girls are good and diligent. My hair srands on end when I reflect that this commodity now is only sought after if gilded, and I understand so little of that art.

Why have you not told me any details about Kleinerz? I am very interested to know what has become of him.

Well, God take care of you, dear Karl, and always love your father as he loves you.