Engels, farts and the lamb of God

This would have to be one of my favourite passages in the whole 50 volumes of the Marx-Engels Collected Works. Soon after the two had met, Engels returns to his home town of Elberfeld to spend some quality time with his Reformed parents. On 17 March, 1845, he writes to Marx:

Just now I’m leading a real dog’s life. The business of the meetings and the ‘dissolute conduct’ of several of our local communists, with whom I, of course, consort, have again aroused all my old man’s religious fanaticism … while my public appearance as a communist has also fostered in him bourgeois fanaticism of truly splendid proportions. Now put yourself in my place. Since I am going away in a fortnight or so, I don’t want to cause ructions; I never take umbrage and, not being used to that, they are waxing bold. If I get a letter it’s sniffed all over before it reaches me. As they’re all known to be communist letters they evoke such piously doleful expressions every time that it’s enough to drive one out of one’s mind. If I go out — the same expression. If I sit in my room and work — communism, of course, as they know — the same expression. I can’t eat, drink, sleep, let out a fart, without being confronted by this same accursed lamb-of-God expression. Whether I go out or stay at home, remain silent or speak, read or write, whether I laugh or whether I don’t — do what I will, my old man immediately assumes this lamentable grimace … I spent yesterday evening with Hess in Elberfeld, where we held forth about communism until two in the morning. Today, of course, long faces over my late return, hints that I might have been in jug. Finally they plucked up enough courage to ask where I had been. — With Hess. — ‘With Hess! Great heavens!’ — Pause, intensified Christian dismay in their faces. — ‘What company you keep!’ — Sighs, etc. It’s enough to drive one mad. You have no idea of the malice of this Christian persecution of my ‘soul’.


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