Mister Marx’s Beautiful Daughter 24

Eleanor Marx by Grace Black

This is not about the co-founder of Marks and Spencer’s.

There’s more to life than shopping!

Nor about Groucho…

Harpo…

Chico…

Zeppo…

It’s Karl!

Karl Marx?

Honestly, it’s like getting blood from a stone!

Karl Marx was born in Prussia in 1818. After failing at fiction he turned to essay writing particularly economic and political essays. In 1843 he became co-editor of a radical Leftist newspaper in Paris. Despite the first issue being successful -Prussia confiscated and burned all copies it found- the paper folded acrimoniously before the second issue. Marx went to work for another radical paper.

Marx was already inspired by the principles of fraternity, liberty and equality espoused by the French and American Revolutions, to these he applied ideas from the social and economic philosophers: Rousseau’s Social Contract, Adam Smith’s the Wealth of Nations, John Stuart Mill and Georg Hegel’s ideas of social liberty and ethical politics: providing government for the people by the people.

In Paris he met Friedrich Engels who became his lifelong friend. Engels, the son of a wealthy German textile manufacturer, had recently returned from Manchester. He showed Marx his newly published investigation into living conditions of England’s industrial working class. They were, he concluded, paradoxically becoming worse off as the nation’s wealth grew.

Their friendship resulted in Engels financially supporting Marx while he wrote his seminal work Das Kaptial and collaborating with him on The Communist Manifesto, which stated: in advanced industrial societies wealth should be shared by the workers who produce it.

Pressure from Prussia on France saw Marx expelled from Paris. He fled to Brussels, where his radical views and the social unrest across Europe leading to the 1848 Revolution, saw him flee to Cologne. Harassed by the police, he fled back to Paris where he was expelled by the city authorities. He and his family arrived in London in 1850, where he lived for the rest of his life.

Marx with daughters & Engels (Marxists.org)

Marx and his wife had 7 children. Possibly due to poverty and insanitary conditions only three girls survived to adulthood. Marx, a doting father, educated his daughters as sons. All were beautiful and clever. All were involved in politics. All died tragically. The apple of his eye and possibly the most brilliant of them was his youngest daughter, Eleanor, born in London in 1855.

Eleanor was a prodigy, who could recite Shakespeare by the age of three. She developed an interest in politics as a child, probably because she played in her father’s study while he was writing Das Kapital. To divert himself, Marx made up stories with political and social morals to entertain her. At sixteen she became his secretary, accompanying him to Socialist conventions.

She fell in love with a man twice her age, a radical French journalist, part of the 1871 Paris Commune, who fled after its collapse, and collaborated with him on writing its history. Her father disapproved of their personal relationship. When it ended Eleanor, suffering from anorexia, returned home to look after her aging parents.

Her mother died in 1881. In January 1883 her 38 year old sister, herself a political journalist and married to a radical French journalist, died of bladder cancer. Her father followed 2 months later, after tasking her to prepare his unfinished manuscripts for publication and translate his works into English.

After her father’s death her political career began in earnest. She joined the Socialist Democratic Federation, leaving within the year to found the Socialist League. The following year found her involved in the Women’s Trade Union Movement. She supported the match-girls’ strike at the Bryant and May factory, where the working conditions were horrific: fourteen-hour days, poor pay, excessive fines and hideous health issues.

Phossy jaw was caused by the white phosphorus used in matches contaminating the women’s lunches. It started with painful toothaches and swelling gums before developing into stinking abscesses in the jawbone, which glowed greenish-white in the dark as the bone rotted away. The only remedy was a disfiguring amputation of the jaw before the poisoning caused brain damage and organ failure.

The following years saw Eleanor publish many political books and articles, organise the Socialist Congress in Paris, tour the United States, get involved with the London Dock Strike of 1889 and organise the Gas-workers Union. She was great friends with the founder of the Arts and Craft Movement William Morris and George Bernard Shaw. She learned Norwegian to translate Ibsen’s plays into English and translated literary works such as Flaubert’s satirical Madam Bovary: about a bored bourgeois housewife who sees herself as a tragic romantic heroine after being seduced by a callous rake.

The vicarish philanderer Edward Aveling (Marxist internet archive)

Perhaps Eleanor translated Madam Bovary because she identified with the ‘heroine’. After her father’s death she fell hopelessly in love with undistinguished Edward Aveling, whose clergyman’s looks masked a dislikeable wastrel and serial lothario. Or at least so his contemporaries claimed, largely due his role in Eleanor’s death, in which he was viewed as being complicit, if not worse.

Various versions of Eleanor’s tragic death were circulated by the Socialists who considered their star a victim of a callous manipulative bully. Aveling was supposed to have married his first wife, an heiress, for her money and had no compunction borrowing, even from those worse off, with no intentions of repaying. He had many affairs and married his mistress in secret before abandoning Eleanor. He was disliked by the socialist circles he and Eleanor moved in and her literary and artistic friends.

According to Eleanor’s letters, Aveling started visiting her after being diagnosed with a kidney disease. He asked her to pay for his operation and could not believe Eleanor was not grateful to do so. Although veiled about details, Eleanor’s letters show she was desperate and considering suicide as a way out. It is possible he threatened Eleanor with an alleged scandal about her father’s illegitimate child with the family’s unpaid housekeeper. The boy had been brought up as Engels’ son.

Aveling got his operation and Eleanor cared for him while he was convalescing, despite the fact he told her he had no intention of leaving his wife. A 1898 article claims Aveling was in the house when Eleanor signed his name on a note to the pharmacist for chloroform and a small amount of Prussic Acid ‘for her dog’. The man, who was bed-ridden the day before, then went to London for 6 hours. When he returned to find Eleanor dead, he turned over her rooms, burning incriminating letters and looking for any money, and her will naming him beneficiary.

Another story claimed he talked Eleanor into a suicide pact. Before they took poison he confessed he could not bear to watch her die. He left while she killed herself promising to join her on his return. Dressed in a white wedding dress, Eleanor drank Prussic Acid and died a slow, lonely and agonising death.

Prussic Acid got its name because it was first discovered in the pigment Prussian Blue. It is not acid, but hydrogen cyanide: fast acting and relatively painless. When it reacts with stomach acid it causes heart failure in less than 3 minutes. Because of this, it is the suicide pill of choice for spies everywhere.

According to her maid, Eleanor signed the pharmacist’s receipt book, and asked her to return it. Eleanor then wrote a brief suicide note, undressed, got into bed, and took the poison. The maid discovered her barely alive and called for a doctor. Eleanor expired before he arrived. She was 43.

The coroner returned a verdict of ‘suicide while temporarily insane’. Although Aveling was cleared of any criminal charges, he was reviled by the Socialists as the cause of Eleanor’s suicide. When he died 4 months later of his kidney disease, no member of the Socialist Movement or Labour Party attended his funeral.

Eleanor’s sisters Carolina (Standing – died of cancer) & Laura (suicide) (Marxists.org)

Eleanor’s older sister and her husband committed suicide in 1911 after deciding they had nothing left to give the Marxist movement to which they had dedicated their lives. Theirs was a long planned act, intended to prevent them falling into pitiless old age; stripped of physical and mental powers. They injected Prussic Acid. She was 66 and he was 69.

Vladimir Lenin applauded them, saying: ‘When one cannot work for the Party any longer, one must be able to die like the Lafargues.’ Happily, Lenin was spared the embarrassment of eating his words when, after suffering his third stroke in 1923, Stalin probably had him murdered in case he recovered.

 

24 thoughts on “Mister Marx’s Beautiful Daughter

  1. Reply Olga Núñez Miret Oct 2,2017 11:24 am

    A very sad and tragic story indeed. I agree with you about your point on communism. It is a beautiful ideal but, so far, its implementation has been terrible.

    • Reply Paul Oct 2,2017 8:07 pm

      Absolutely Olga. Marx would probably say because the wrong countries tried to implement it. It was designed for highly industrialised societies where the excessive wealth was already being produced and not developing economies needing to first produce that wealth.
      But I also think, our curse as intelligent, educated and liberal people with hearts in the right place and brought up in the Western tradition, that from bubble we underestimate the desperate. My brother was a policeman in Liverpool and once told me the Russian Mafia were trying to muscle in. The Liverpudlian gangsters were terrified. Whereas they would go round with pickax handles to argue and threaten and perhaps get involved in a punch up, the Russians from a more volatile and brutal underworld would knock on the door and shoot you in the face when you answered. No threat, no argument, just eliminate the problem. We pontificate about fair societies from our comfortable position. We really cannot comprehend how the ruthless will turn any situation to their advantage simply because we don’t really know people like that. I know this is a shocking and radical think to say. And it is not meant as a solution, or an argument for action or inaction, merely an observations.

  2. Reply Mary Smith Sep 29,2017 7:51 pm

    Excellent article, Paul, but what a tragic story.

    • Reply Paul Sep 29,2017 11:15 pm

      Dear Mary Thank you. Now I don’t want to be a blog-hog but if you look at my first comment on the previous post ‘Who was Arthur’ you will see a very special thank you to someone who made me dig deeper and embellish the post! It’s only fair credit is given where it’s due! So thanks for your input. http://www.paul-andruss.com/who-was-arthur/

  3. Reply dgkaye Sep 29,2017 5:38 am

    Fascinating, as always Paul. Amazing to learn about Marx’ family and all the evils that prevailed even way back then – blackmail, illegitimate children, adultery an so on. Quite the history! 🙂 x

  4. Reply Mary A Clark Sep 29,2017 2:24 am

    I knew nothing of Marx’s family. This is a story of high ideals and harsh reality. Eleanor was in a difficult situation, daughter of a famous, or infamous, father, brilliant herself, but without much support for a self-sufficient life. She made a choice many women have before, to care for another, a man, or sibling, or parents, while trying to keep her own vision, independence, and work going. Anne Bronte wrote about this before Eleanor was born.

    Both communism and capitalism look good on paper, but there are always some people who will cheat, steal, and subvert any process for their own gain.

    • Reply Paul Sep 29,2017 11:19 pm

      Wise words Mary. I don’t know much about the Brontes but from what little I do I am full of admiration. You have definitely sparked my curiosity and I will have to investigate further. Thank you for your input. Best Paul

  5. Pingback: Smorgasbord Reblog – Writer in Residence – Mister Marx’s Beautiful Daughter by Paul Andruss | Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life

  6. Reply Shehanne Moore Sep 28,2017 10:52 pm

    Brilliantly engrossing post Paul. I didn’t know the half of this about poor Eleanor. And I have to say I do like your last bit!

  7. Reply Robbie Cheadle Sep 26,2017 6:02 am

    Ah, Paul, I know you to well now. I knew this was about Karl Marx’s daughter as soon as I read the heading. A wonderful piece of research about Marx’s family. I really didn’t know much about his daughters at all. A terrible tragedy. Communism, in theory, really isn’t a bad concept. The problem is it discounts human nature, greed and power grabbing.

    • Reply Paul Sep 26,2017 7:57 pm

      Robbie you are spot on. All forms of communism ( infact all forms of government) end up being exploited by the selfish greedy and corrupt. Noble ideals give way to the purges of Stalin, Mao, Kim Jong-un and the Kymer Rouge. There has never been a communistic system that worked or acted for the benefit of the majority of its people. I don’t mean to praise Capitalism but at least our democracy has managed to produce a limited kleptocracy… i.e those at the top can only steal so much!
      PS You guessed! Damnit Robbie, I’m getting too predictable!!!!!

  8. Reply sally cronin Sep 25,2017 4:02 pm

    Another brilliant look behind the headlines and in this case Das Kapital. So much focus on Karl Marx in history lessons and nothing about his family. What a tragic family from child mortality to dying alone influenced by a rat. Eleanor was born before her time and how brilliant she might have been if she had only been born in the mid- 1950s onwards. She would have eaten certain labour leaders for Breakfast.. I will of course reblog in the Friday slot.. Amazing as always.. you are a star.

    • Reply Paul Sep 26,2017 8:05 pm

      Dear Sally, I cannot believe there are still regimes on this world that denigrate women… even some that seemingly praise women by saying they are just making them free to be wives and mothers… shades of the Handmaiden’s Tale! Being a wife and mother is great if that is what you want to be. But not when that is all you are allowed to be. I do think the problem with Eleanor and one still around today with both men and women is that you might be brilliant and brave in your professional life but inside you are still that child looking for love and approval- alone and vulnerable which allow these manipulators to get power over you. ( that is why I decided to include the line about her anorexia as a young women in her twenties when she returned home to look after her parents.) Perhaps our new personal Mantra should be: I DESERVE A BETTER FUTURE! If it goes from an individual mantra to an international one, perhaps we will finally get that Better Future we so richly deserve

  9. Reply patriciaruthsusan Sep 25,2017 10:47 am

    This was interesting. I knew little of Marx or his family. Women didn’t have it easy in those days even if they were brilliant. What a pity they did good work helping others but two of the girls died because they felt their lives were empty at the time. It seems that was a time in history when death was romanticized. It was so sad also that Marx thought a person should die when they couldn’t do more for the party. This is a good post, Paul. —- Suzanne

    • Reply Paul Sep 26,2017 8:13 pm

      This is a really difficult one Suzaanne. Was death romanticised then or is fear of death romanticised now?
      I think there is a contrast between the two sisters deaths, one borne from desperation and the other (hopefully) born of affirmative action. I certainly don’t believe you should kill yourself because it is convenient for the state
      (I believe you should live as long healthy and happy life to get as much of a pension out of the buggers for as long as you can: after all its your money!)
      In those days the state punished those who attempted suicide and failed, which they had no right to do.
      Like all the difficult decisions in this life they are for the individual to make at the time they are faced with unfaceable choices and people can only do what is right for them at the given time. The unforgivable thing for Eleanor was he seemed to encourage if not actually aid and abet her for his own material gain. But then he was a scumbag. (Allegedly!)

  10. Reply D. Wallace Peach Sep 24,2017 11:04 pm

    This is fascinating, Paul. I really don’t know much about Marx and nothing about his family. I can understand why his work was so vilified since it challenged the elite of the time – rich white males. Hmmm, sounds familiar, for some reason.

    Eleanor’s story is sad – the stories of the family as a whole. It’s the human story that parallels the political one and enriches both.

    • Reply Paul Sep 24,2017 11:26 pm

      Hi Diana, I think you are spot on about why his work was so vilified. He never intended somewhere like Russia to have a Communist revolution as he would not have classed the country as sufficiently industrialised, although the western cities were becoming so. In truth this might partly be to blame why the Soviet Communist agrarian revolution failed- along with the genetic ideas of Lysencko who adopted a Lamarkian view- that striving produced genetic change: i.e. the giraffe got its long neck not because of natural selection but through reaching for the highest branches. The failure of Lysenko’s theories produced wide spread famine as obviously the wheat did not want to grow in -40C enough!!! Research about Marx’s family left me wondering what would have happened to Jesus’ family if he had one… especially if he had only had daughters as Holy Blood Holy Grail/The Da Vinci Code claimed.

  11. Reply BRIGID GALLAGHER Sep 24,2017 6:50 pm

    Goodness Paul, they suffered such tragic deaths. What a great pity to feel so desperate.

    • Reply Paul Sep 24,2017 7:36 pm

      I know Brigid, I do feel sorry for Eleanor and Carolina, but to be controversial, Laura’s suicide, as long as it was not coerced by her husband, is to me a valid decision. the thing that really hit me was the nerve of Lenin!! Politicians they make me sick with these grand pronouncements, they consider should only ever apply to other people and not them!!!

  12. Reply Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, MCC, SCAC Sep 24,2017 3:56 am

    Thanks for another wonderful post back-filling my education, Paul. I was unaware of any of the info about Marx’s daughters – strange for an avowed feminist, yes? So sad to me that such a brilliant woman continued to fall victim to what sounds like, shall I say, less than honorable men. Daddy issues, perhaps? Or maybe simply a victim of the times?

    Although, well over a century later, I still see too many wonderful women who are like fish seeking bicycles, believing themselves incomplete without “a man to call their own” (despite even clear evidence to the contrary, at least as far as “own”ership is concerned.)

    I am also appalled by the descriptions of the conditions that the Marxist movement attempted to counter/correct, and wonder if America’s current not-my-president could do with just a bit of their insight.

    I suppose we can “thank” the vile McCarthy and that particularly embarrassing chapter in America’s history for the increasing rise in Corporate Capitalism that today seems to aggrandize the pursuit of personal wealth while it runs roughshod over humanitarian concerns of many types.

    Will we NEVER learn?

    xx,
    mgh
    (Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMORE dot com)
    ADD/EFD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder
    “It takes a village to transform a world!

    • Reply Paul Sep 24,2017 7:30 pm

      Madelyn I think Eleanor’s death is particularly sad. As you say with fish looking bicycles, there is nothing sadder than pinning your life on another person who consistently lets you down. But heartless as it sounds- it is not the fault of the person who lets them down but the person who allows it to happen. Although as we both know from our studies abuse tends to grow gradually in a relationship like some dance macabre when one partner then the other take the lead in an an ever-spiraling descent. Though I suppose if we had the gift of foresight we would not let it happen. I think Communism is a wonderful idea a true ideal. However I am not sure if we as a species are ready for it – there is too much self interest. It starts with people taking that tiny bit more not cause they need it but simply because they can and ends in a regime as bad as the one it replaced – Stalinst Russia, Mao’s China and heaven knows where the next one will be. I hope we learn one day but I wonder how.

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