Marxist Valentine

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Excerpt from Marx’s love letter to his wife – Jenny. Marx’s wife Jenny and their three daughters stayed in Trier from 22 May to about 10 September 1856. She went there to visit her sick mother, Caroline von Westphalen, who died on 23 July. Marx’s letter was sent from Manchester, where he was staying with Engels.


Manchester, 21 June 1856
34 Butler Street, Greenheys

My darling Sweetheart,

I am writing to you again because I am alone and because it is irksome to converse with you all the time in my head without you knowing or hearing or being able to answer me. Bad as your portrait is, it serves its end well enough, and I now understand how it is that even the least flattering portraits of the mother of God, the ‘Black Madonnas’, could have their inveterate admirers – more admirers, indeed, than the good portraits. At any rate, none of these ‘Black Madonna’ portraits has ever been so much kissed and ogled and adored as your photograph which, while admittedly not black, has a crabbed expression and in no way reflects your dear, lovely, kissable, dolce countenance. But I put right what the sun’s rays have wrongly depicted, discovering that my eyes, spoiled though they are by lamplight and tobacco smoke, can nevertheless paint not only in the dreaming but also in the waking state. There you are before me, large as life, and I lift you up in my arms and I kiss you all over from top to toe, and I fall on my knees before you and cry: ‘Madame, I love you.’ And love you I do, with a love greater than was ever felt by the Moor of Venice. Falsely and foully doth the false and foul world all characters construe. Who of my many calumniators and venomous-tongued enemies has ever reproached me with being called upon to play the romantic lead in a second-rate theatre? And yet it is true. Had the scoundrels possessed the wit, they would have depicted ‘the productive and social relations’ on one side and, on the other, myself at your feet. Beneath it they would have written: LOOK TO THIS PICTURE AND TO THAT.C But stupid the scoundrels are and stupid they will remain, in seculum seculorum.

Temporary absence is good, for in a person’s presence things look too much alike for them to be distinguished. At close quarters even towers appear dwarfed, whereas what is petty and commonplace, seen close at hand, assumes undue proportions. So, too, with the passions. Little habits which, by their very proximity, obtrude upon one, and thus assume the form of passions, vanish as soon as their immediate object is out of sight. Great passions which, by the proximity of their object, take on the form of little habits, wax large and resume their natural proportions under the magical effect of distance. So it is with my love. Mere spatial separation from you suffices to make me instantly aware that time has done for my love just what the sun and the rain do for plants—made it grow. My love for you, as soon as you are away from me, appears for what it is, a giant, and into it all the vigour of my mind and all the ardour of my heart are compressed. I feel myself once more a man because I feel intense passion, and the multifariousness in which we are involved by study and modern education, no less than the scepticism which inevitably leads us to cavil at every subjective and objective impression, is calculated to render each one of us petty and weak and fretful and vacillating. But love, not for Feuerbachian Man, not for Moleschottian metabolism, not for the proletariat, but love for a sweetheart and notably for yourself, turns a man back into a man again.

You will smile, my dear heart, and wonder ‘why diis rhetoric all of a sudden?’ But if I could press your sweet white bosom to mine, I would be silent and say not a word. Since I cannot kiss with my lips I must kiss with my tongue and frame words. I could, indeed, even frame verse, German Books of Sorrow after the manner of Ovid’s Libri Tristium. He, however, had merely been banished by the Emperor Augustus; I have been banished from you, and that is something Ovid could not understand. There are, indeed, many women in the world, and a few of them are beautiful. But where else shall I find a face of which every lineament, every line even, reawakens the greatest and sweetest memories of my life? In your sweet countenance I can read even my infinite sorrows, my irreplaceable losses, and when I kiss your sweet face I kiss away my sorrow. ‘Buried in her arms, revived by her kisses’ – in your arms, that is, and by your kisses – and let the Brahmins and Pythagoras keep their doctrine of re-birth, and Christianity its doctrine of resurrection […].

Farewell my dear heart. A thousand kisses to you, and the children too, from


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