Marx Family Biography / Women and Marxism

Biographical Comments on Karl Marx

by his daughter
Eleanor Marx

Karl was a young man of seventeen when he became engaged to Jenny. For them, too, the path of true love was not a smooth one. It is easy to understand that Karl's parents opposed the engagement of a young man of his age ... The earnestness with which Karl assures his father of his love in spite of certain contradictions is explained by the rather stormy scenes his engagement had caused in the home. My father used to say that at that time he had been a really ferocious Roland. But the question was soon settled and shortly before or after his eighteenth birthday the betrothal was formally recognised. Seven years Karl waited for his beautiful Jenny, but "they seemed but so many days to him, because he loved her so much".

On 19 June 1843 they were wedded. Having played together as children and become engaged as a young man and girl, the couple went hand in hand through the battle of life.

And what a battle! Years of bitter pressing need and, still worse, years of brutal suspicion, infamous calumny and icy indifference. But through all that, in unhappiness and happiness, the two lifelong friends and lovers never faltered, never doubted: they were faithful unto death. And death has not separated them.

His whole life long Marx not only loved his wife, he was in love with her. Before me is a love letter the passionate, youthful ardour of which would suggest it was written by an eighteen-year-old. Marx wrote it in 1856, after Jenny had borne him six children. Called to Trier by the death of his mother in 1863, he wrote from there saying he had made "daily pilgrimages to the old house of the Westphalens (in Roemerstrasse) that interests me more than the whole of Roman antiquity because it reminds me of my happy youth and once held my dearest treasure. Besides, I am askcd daily on all sides about the former 'most beautiful girl in Trier' and 'Queen of the ball'. It is damned pleasing for a man to find his wife lives on in the imagination of a whole city as a delightful princess..."

Marx was deeply attached to his father. He never tired of talking about him and always carried an old daguerrotype photograph of him. But he would never show it to strangers because, he said, it was so unlike the original. I thought the face very handsome, the eyes and brow were like those of his son but the features were softer about the mouth and chin. The type was in general definitely Jewish, but beautifully so. When, after the death of his wife, Marx undertook a long, sad journey to recover his health -- for he wanted to complete his work -- he always had with him the photograph of his father, an old photograph of my mother on glass (in a case) and one of my sister -- Jenny. We found them after his death in his breast pocket. Engels laid them in his coffin.

Written in German for the Neue Zeit, Vol. 1, 1897-8,
on the publication of the young Marx's letter to his father.
Online version: transcribed by Zodiac,
html markup by Brian Baggins