The story of a great friendship

The ” Manchester Guardian ” of December 27th. last published a very interesting article under the title “Manchester arid Modern Socialism,” which we reproduce below. In the same issue of our contemporary an editorial was devoted to the subject, in which it was said : “Instances are not uncommon of men of business who have devoted their leisure or the years of their retire­ment to research, and writing, but there can be few parallels to the case of Frederick Engels, who for twenty years pursued a distasteful business car­eer in Manchester in order that he might support Karl Marx, who was then destitute in London, and enable him to pursue his studies in philo­sophy and economics and publish the results.”


The names of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels are sufficiently well known even in the non-Socialist world to lend a profound interest to the four volumes of their correspondence, which recently appeared in Germany. These men were the founders of the modern Socialist move­ment, and certainly their personalities, as they appear in their letters, are very striking. Both men lived for the greater part of their lives in England, and it was to the fact that Marx lived in London, while Engelss settled in 1850 in Man­chester and remained there for twenty years, that we owe the correspondence between them.

The circumstances which brought Engels to Manchester are interesting. His father was a large cotton manufacturer at Barmen (the firm is still in existence there) and also partner in Manchester with an old friend, Gottfried Ermen. The firm was called Ermen and Engels, and is the same which is now known as Ermen and Roby. Young Frederick was sent as a youth to Man­chester, and while there learnt a good deal from Robert Owen and the Chartists, in whose organs, the “New Moral World” and the “Northern Star,” he frequently wrote. At that time Marx was editing at Cologne a democratic paper, and Engels acted as correspondent to it. In this way the two became associated, and afterwards, in 1844, they met in Paris, and from that time until the death of Marx, in 1883, they remained faithful friends and collaborators.

The revolution of 1848 took Engels back to Germany, where he took part in the armed insurrection in Baden. He had to flee the country, went to Switzerland, and then came to England, where Marx had settled, after being successively expelled from Germany, Paris, and Brussels. Both were in straitened circumstances, but Engels, being unmarried and having a rich father, was potentially much better off than his friend, who had a wife and family and could only live by his pen. It is true that his wife, a sister of a Minister in one of the German States, had good connections, but the latter could never forgive her having married an ordinary doctor of philosophy, of Jewish extraction, who, more­over, soon developed into a dangerous revolu­tionary and Socialist agitator. In consequence, Engels decided to sacrifice his own political career and to enter the Manchester business in order that at least Marx, of whom he bad the highest possible opinion, might be enabled to continue his theoretical and practical work.

This, then, it was which finally brought Engels to Manchester, and there he remained till the autumn of 1870, working with much disgust, but with unabated zeal, in the business in order to sustain his friend. What this meant to Marx can be gathered from his letters, and especially from one which he wrote to his friend on August 16, 1867, at 2 a.m., informing him of the des­patch of the last proofs of his great work, “Capital”:

“To you and to you only I owe it that this has been possible. Without your self-sacrifice for my sake I should never have been able to do all this tremendous work. I embrace you full of thanks. . . . Salut, my dear, faithful friend.”

On an earlier occasion Marx wrote :

“Without you I would never have completed my work, and I assure you my conscience was always burdened with the heavy thought that it was chiefly for my sake that you had permitted your splendid abilities to waste away and rust in commerce, besides sharing in all my miseries into the bargain.”

This was the mere truth, for had it not been for Engels, Marx and his family would have simply starved to death. On many occasions the latter were on the brink of disaster, but each time the ungrudging hand of Eagels would come to their rescue.

The two friends, ia spite of the distance separating them, lived one life and did one work. As chiefs of the “Communist” party in Ger­many, they acted always in unison, communica­ting to each other every letter they received and every thought which occurred in their minds. Their correspondence is one huge looking-glass in which every political event in the world was reflected. And each of them was a voracious student. Marx would seek relaxation from his hard economic studies or from the miseries of his life in mathematics, natural science, and even astronomy, while Engels, who would often work till late at night, studied languages and archae­ology—Slavonic, Scandinavian, Anglo-Saxon, Irish, not to speak of Russian, Servian, Span­ish,—as well as military science, in which he attained great proficiency.

For a number of years, beginning with 1851, Marx wrote to the “New York Tribune” on international affairs, and we learn from the correspondence that almost all the articles on military matters were written really by Engels, and excited much comment in military quarters on either side of the Atlantic. He also wrote a good deal on foreign affairs for the “Manchester Guardian,” and later, at the time of the Franco-Prussian War, he contributed military comment to the “Pall Mall Gazette,” which was then edited by Greenwood. These latter articles were also much read, and even reprinted by the “Times.” It may be remarked also that Engels used regularly to transmit the “Manchester Guar­dian” to Marx, who had a great interest in following the movements of the cotton market, as one can see from the pages of “Capital.”

Engels first lived at Tennant Street, and then moved to 86, Mornington Street, Stockport Rd. His office seemed to have been situated at 7, Southgate, off Deansgate. Thither for the most part would the letters of Marx be directed under the cover of the firm, as they were believed to have frequenty been tampered with at the post office. Another convenient address was that of Professor Schorlemmer, of Owens College, the celebrated chemist, who was a great friend of tha two, and liked to discuss with them questions of natural science and political economy. Yet a third address was that of Dr. Gumpert, their “physician in-ordinary,” and of Ernest Jones, the Chartist leader, who was very attached to them. When in 1869 Engels left business a well-to-do man and could guarantee his friend a solid and steady income, Marx’s health had already been so broken that he could no longer work, and the remaining volumes of his works were left unfinished, to be edited after his death by Engels. Marx’s wife died in 1881, and two years later he followed her to the grave and was buried by her side in Highgate Cemetery. Engels died in 1895.

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