Sunday, September 20, 2015

Engels — his 20 years in Manchester (1934)

From the October 10th, 1934 issue of The Manchester Guardian

Frederick Engels, the friend and adviser of Karl Marx, lived in Manchester for more then twenty years. But historians, in this country at any rate, have paid little attention to the details of his stay, and some facts which have recently come to light may be worth publishing.

Engels first came to Manchester in 1842. He then held the radical views which later developed into the Socialist theoretical position. He had direct association with the working-class movement and was familiar with the Chartist leaders. He was friendly with Fergus O'Connor and George Julian Harney.

Engels's first known article was "The Progress of Social Reform," which occupied the front page of the "New Moral World." On December 27, 1842, an able analysis of the Corn Laws appeared in the "Neue Rheinische Zeitung." This was followed by his first work on economics, "Umrisse zu einer Kritik der Nationalekonomie" (The Outlines of a Criticism of National Economy) printed in the "Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher," 1844. More important was the "Condition of the Working Class in England." These works, all written in Manchester, expressed the proletarian ideology, at that time time unknown to Marx.

Nevertheless, Engles gravitated to the bourgeois circles appropriate to his social status. He joined the Albert Club, them situated in Clifford Street, Chorlton-on-Medlock, and became a friend of the brothers Ernst and Julius Delius, the latter father of the famous musician.

Engels left Manchester in 1844 for his home at Barmen, visiting Marx in Paris on the way. The next year he and Marx visited Manchester expressly to observe social conditions and stayed several weeks.

Returning to Manchester in 1850, Engels lived at first in Strangeways, at 70, Great Ducie Street; in May, 1852, the number was altered to 44, and in October to 40. About this time both he Marx were held suspect by the authorities, and had to evade the inquisitiveness of the police by correspondence through intermediaries—Marx asked Engels (October 28, 1852) to write to him "c/o A. Johnson. Esq., Bullion Office, Bank of England." Engels, a fortnight earlier, had asked Marx to address him "c/o Dr. J. W. Hudson, secretary of the Manchester Athenæum." Another intermediary was Karl Schorlemmer, Professor of Organic Chemistry at Owens College, to whom the calico printing and dyeing industries are greatly indebted. Engels in one of his letters describes how Schorlemmer openly upheld Marxism in the dining-room of the Faculty—the first eminent scientist to endorse the Marxian position.

Engels had during his first visit made the acquaintance of an Irish working girl, Mary Burns, who by her knowledge and experience of factory life gave impetus to his revolutionary fervour and induced him to investigate the history of the Irish people. Depressed at the social conditions of the workers in Manchester, he became sympathetic with the miserable situation of the Irish people.

Mary Burns impressed Engels, and the pair became attached to each other. When Engels settled down in Manchester in 1850 he provided for her, and later they lived as man and wife until her death in the first week of January, 1863.

Engels's sympathy for the Irish became active, and he gave some support to the Fenians in 1867, until Marx made him realise the foolishness of such conduct. Engels admitted it and, after the execution of the Manchester Martyrs, abandoned his previous attitude.

Engels left Strangeways with Mary in April, 1858, and lived at 6. Thorncliffe Grove, Oxford Road. Next, he, Mary, and her sister Lizzie took rooms at 252, Hyde Road, Gorton, next door but one to the gaol. After a return to Thorncliffe Grove they moved to Tennant Street. On September 2, 1864, he took up his final residence at 86, Mornington Street, Stockport Road.

Engels established a reputation as an authority on military strategy by the military articles contributed to the "New American Cyclopædia." He wrote a series of articles on the Volunteer movement for the "Lancashire and Cheshire Volunteer Journal," published by W. H. Smith and Son, and printed by the "Guardian" Steam Press. One of these created a stir in the United States, and was printed—in another form—in the New York "Tribune." The greatest impression was made by the publication of a pamphlet in February, 1860, with the title of "Where shall England rally her Volunteers?" Engels signed it "A General Officer."

The "Manchester Guardian" published several military articles by Engels. On February 16, 1864, there was a letter dealing with the disposition of the troops in Schleswig-Holstein. Later, during the Austro-Prussian conflict, a series of five articles was inserted in the "Manchester Guardian." They were headed "Notes on the War." They appeared on June 20,25,38, July 3 and 6. It is amusing to read the rehashing of these articles by the London periodicals.

Engels mentions that the "Manchester Guardian" paid him better than the "Pall Mall Gazette," for which also he wrote on military topics.

This was work done by Engels to provide Marx with funds and time to complete his "Capital." Engels denied himself many things in order to help Marx. During the years 1850-1883 Engels provided Marx with about £4,000, mostly after 1864.

A very interesting episode in the life of Engels in Manchester was his association with the Schiller-Anstalt. In November, 1859, Germans throughout the world celebrated the centenary of Schiller. In Manchester the festival was held at the Free Trade Hall on November 11. Though an artistic success the deficit was £150. This did not deter the German community, and it was resolved to form a Schiller-Anstalt. The organiser was Karl Siebel, a nephew of Engels, an admirable fellow and poet. Engels refused to participate, but attended the rehearsals of the theatrical troupe. The institution was started, the old Mechanics' Institute in Cooper Street being rented at £225 per annum, with a lease ending in June, 1867. Karl Siebel was the first president, a position he retained until 1864. Engels remained aloof because he objected to the rules and statutes but when these were altered joined the club.

On September 20, 1861, V. Stoessel, the librarian of the Schiller-Anstalt, addressed a note to Engels demanding the immediate return of a book to the library, and imposing a fine of £1 1s. 7d., with a proviso that if the book were not returned within 24 hours the fine would be increased to £2 1s. 6d. This enraged Engels, who wrote to the committee complaining of the tone of the librarian, observing that it was reminiscent of Prussian police tyranny, and that such a disgusting act would not be tolerated in the other club (the Albert), of which he was a member. An apology was demanded, but whether this was forthcoming is not known. To pacify Engels he was invited to address the members, an offer he indignantly declined.

However, on July 7, 1864, he was installed president, retaining the office for four years. During this period the institute prospered, and Engels saw to it that the library was improved. By the end of his tenure of office there were 4,000 volumes (some of which were in no other library except the British Museum), fifty-five german periodicals, and the principal English dailies. New premises being desirable, Engels addressed an appeal to the German citizens of Manchester asking for subscriptions for the erection of a new building at a cost of £11,500. In a few days £1,200 was subscribed, but little progress was recorded after that. The old lease expiring, new premises were decided upon in the All Saints' area. In the meantime the landlord of the premises in Cooper Street permitted an extension of the lease for one year at £450. A removal was made to Rylands House in Oxford Street, and finally the premises in Nelson Street were taken over on December 18, 1885, where the society remained until the dissolution in 1911. In 1866 there was a membership of 300, but this was doubled later on by affiliation of the Turnverein and the Liedertafel.

Until his departure from Manchester at the end of September, 1870, Engels remained on the committee and attended all its meetings. He severed his connection when he went to London, but retained his membership in the Albert Club. He was a member of the Committee of the Society for the Relief of Distressed Foreigners, and, what is more surprising, when the German community started a fund for the alleviation of distress created by the Franco-Prussian War Engels headed the list with the first subscription of £50.

He did not return again to Manchester. He forced a good price for the dissolution of his partnership in Ermen and Engels, enough for him to guarantee Marx 350 a year and to live independently himself for the remaining years of his life. He died on August 5, 1895, was cremated, and his ashes scattered at sea three miles from Eastbourne.
Moses Baritz


imposs1904 said...

The 3000th post on the blog,

Moses Baritz was an incredibly active and able propagandist for 'impossibilist' revolutionary socialism for thirty years both in Britain and overseas.

For more background on a fascinating individual, check out the following link:

Hat tip to 'Pik Smeet' and ALB for digging out this old piece from The Guardian.

ajohnstone said...

A BBC report on the Albert Club