Letter from Heinrich Marx to son Karl

in Berlin

Written: Trier, February 10, 1838
Source: Marx Engels Collected Works Vol 1, pg 691-694.
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,

For already two months now I have had to keep to my room, and for one whole month to my bed, and so it has come about that I have not written to you Today I intend to be up for a few hours and to see how far I can succeed in writing a letter. True, I manage rather shakily, but I do manage, only I shall of course have to be somewhat shorter than I should be and would like to be.

When I wrote you a rather blunt letter, the mood in which I was had naturally to be taken into account, but that mood did not make me invent anything, although of course it could make me exaggerate.

To embark again on a discussion of each separate complaint is what I am now least capable of doing, and in general I do not want to engage with you in the art of abstract argument, because in that case I should first of all have to study the terminology before I could as much as penetrate into the sanctum, and I am too old for that.

All right, if your conscience modestly harmonises with your philosophy and is compatible with it.

Only on one point, of course, all transcendentalism is of no avail, and on that you have very wisely found fit to observe an aristocratic silence; I am referring to the paltry matter of money, the value of which for the father of a family you still do not seem to recognise, but I do all the more, and I do not deny that at times I reproach myself with having left you all too loose a rein in this respect. Thus we are now in the fourth month of the law year and you have already drawn 280 talers. I have not yet earned that much this winter.

But you are wrong in saying or imputing that I misjudge or misunderstand you. Neither the one nor the other. I give full credit to your heart, to your morality. Already in the first year of your legal career I gave you irrefutable proof of this by not even demanding an explanation in regard to a very obscure matter, even though it was very problematic. -- Only real faith in your high morality could make this possible, and thank heaven I have not gone back on it. -- But that does not make me blind, and it is only because I am tired that I lay down my arms. But always believe, and never doubt, that you have the innermost place in my heart and that you are one of the most powerful levers in my life.

Your latest decision is worthy of the highest praise and well considered, wise and commendable, and if you carry out what you have promised, it will probably bear the best fruits. And rest assured that it is not only you who are making a big sacrifice. The same applies to all of us, but reason must triumph.

I am exhausted, dear Karl, and must close. I regret that I have not been able to write as I wanted to. I would have liked to embrace you with all my heart, hut my still poor condition makes it impossible.

Your last proposal concerning me has great difficulties. What rights can I bring to bear? What support have I?

Your faithful father


[Postscript by Marx's mother]

Dear beloved Carl,

For your sake your dear father has for the first time undertaken the effort of writing to you. Good father is very weak, God grant that he may soon regain his strength. I am still in good health, dear Carl, and I am resigned to my situation and calm. Dear Jenny behaves as a loving child towards her parents, takes an intimate part ill everything and often cheers us up by her loving childlike disposition, which still manages to find a bright side to everything. Write to me, dear Carl, about what has been the matter with you and whether you are quite well again. I am the one most dissatisfied that you are not to come during Easter; I let feeling go before reason and I regret, dear Carl, that you are too reasonable. You must not take my letter as the measure of my profound love; there are times when one feels much and can say little. So good-bye, dear Carl, write soon to your good father, and that will certainly help towards his speedy recovery.

Your ever loving mother

Henriette Marx

[Postscript by Marx's sister Sophie]

You will be glad, dear Karl, to hear from Father; my long letter now appears to me so unimportant that I do not know whether I should enclose it, since I fear that it might not be worth the cost of carriage.

Dear Father is getting better, it is high time too. He will soon have been in bed for eight weeks, and he only got up for the first time a few days ago so that the bedroom could be aired. Today he made a great effort to write a few lines to you in a shaky hand. Poor Father is now very impatient, and no wonder: the whole winter he has been behindhand with business matters, and the need is now four times as great as before. I sing to him daily and also read to him. Do send me at last the romance you have so long promised me. Write at once, it will be a pleasant distraction for us all. Karoline is not well, and Louise is also in bed; in all probability she has scarlet fever. Emilie keeps cheerful and in good spirits, and Jette is not exactly in the most amiable humour.