Agreeing to write the biography of Karl Marx

Engels, Friedrich, political theorist (1820-1895). Autograph letter signed ("F. Engels").

London, 31. III. 1873.

8vo. 1¼ pp. on bifolium.

 450,000.00

To the publisher Maurice Lachâtre, detailing his conditions for an envisaged biography of Karl Marx and a history of the Communist Party: "Dans votre lettre du 16 mars, vous paraissez croire que 'je vous présente un livre sur le parti communiste' tandis que c’est vous qui, en me demandant d’écrire une biographie sérieuse de Marx, m’aviez demandé l’histoire de ce parti. Marx ayant mené une vie essentiellement active, raconter sa vie, c’est faire l’histoire du mouvement philosophique & révolutionnaire allemand & international depuis 1842 pour y tracer sa participation personnelle & l’influence de ses écrits. Si vous ne désirez qu’une biographie de reporter, c’est déjà fait. L’Illustration en a publié une, & si vous m’en envoyez un exemplaire, je suis prêt d’y faire les corrections nécessaires. L’étude que je comptais faire devant être un travail sérieux, j’aurais cru vous faire injure en supposant que vous qui dans cette affaire commerciale prenez le rôle de capitaliste, vous auriez voulu échapper à cette première règle sociale, appliquée même dans notre société bourgeoise, que le capitaliste paie le travailleur proportionnellement à son travail. Cependant, comme vous dites que vous n’agrandissez votre capital que pour le mettre au service de la communauté, je consens à donner mon travail, à la condition que vous consacrerez une somme à la fondation d’un organe international hebdomadaire dont le besoin est impérieux pour le parti, & que Marx rédigerait [...]". ("In your letter of March 16 you appear to believe that 'I present you a book on the Communist Party' although it is you who, in asking me to write a serious biography of Marx, has asked me for a history of the party. As he led an essentially active life, to recount Marx's life is to write the history of the German and international philosophical and revolutionary movement since 1842, so as to trace his personal participation and the influence of his writings. If you just expect a reporter's biography, that has already been done. 'L'Illustration' published one and if you send me a copy of it I am willing to do the necessary corrections. The study that I hoped to undertake must be a serious work. I would have believed to have wronged you in supposing that you, who in this commercial matter takes the role of the capitalist, would have wished to escape from that first social rule which is applied even in our bourgeois society that the capitalist pays the worker in proportion to his labor. However, since you say that you only increase your capital in order to allocate it to the community, I consent to give my labour under the condition that you will grant a sum to the foundation of an international weekly organ that is urgently needed by the party and that Marx would edit [...]").

In a letter to Lachâtre from 16 March 1872, Engels had quite enthusiastically agreed to the project in principle but urged the publisher to set out his conditions. The response apparently left Engels dissatisfied. Although he was still willing to collaborate with Lachâtre, the project never came about. The present letter reveals the interesting detail that Engels planned to publish a weekly organ for the First International with Karl Marx as editor. Between 1872 and 1875 Maurice Lâchatre published the first French translation of "Das Kapital" and was therefore in close contact with Marx.

Slightly creased with traces of dog-ears to the lower corners.

Not in: Marx/Engels, Werke vol. 33 (Briefe Juli 1870 - Dezember 1874).