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Eleanor Marx (1855 - 1898)

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Eleanor "Tussy" Marx aka Aveling
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Categories: Famous Authors of the 19th Century.


Eleanor Marx Aveling (16 January 1855 – 31 March 1898), also known as Jenny Julia Eleanor "Tussy" Marx , was the English-born youngest daughter of Karl Marx. She was a prominent socialist activist writer and a literary translator. From an early age she worked as her father's secretary and was curator of some of his works after his death in 1883. She published her works between 1885 and 1896, and also took up acting and involvement in theater. From her early thirties she became a lifelong partner of her fellow socialist Edward Aveling. In March 1898 she committed suicide by poison at age 43.

Her parents were from Trier, a town then part of the Kingdom of Prussia's Province of the Lower Rhine. [1] That town and region was folded into West Germany[2] after World War II, and since the 1990s has been part of the consolidated Republic of Germany.

Her mother Jenny von Westphalen was born in Salzwedel to a prominent Prussian aristocrat family. [3]

Jenny von Westphalen and Eleanor's father Karl Marx became friends as children, although Jenny was four years older than Karl. Karl was ancestrally Jewish, but he and his siblings were baptised Lutheran after his father converted under pressure from the newly independent Prussian government following the defeat of Napoleon in 1815. [1] They eventually married on June 19, 1843 in the Protestant Kreuznacher Pauluskirche (the Kreuznach church of Saint Paul), Bad Kreuznach.[3][1] [2]

The Marx couple became expatriates when he moved to Paris, France, where he continued his early career as a writer and editor for the radical newspaper Jahrbücher in Paris.[2] [3] There they had their first child, Jenny Caroline on 1 May 1844.

In January 1845 the Prussian government pressured France to banish Marx from Paris, and so Marx moved to Brussels, Belgium.[2] Jenny thus gave birth to her second child, Laura, in Brussels, followed by the third, Charles Louis Henri Edgar, who died young.[3]

In 1848 the Marx family was expelled from Brussels and so they briefly returned to Paris and then moved to Cologne.[3] In the fall of 1849 Marx and his family settled in London, where they lived at Dean Street. [2][3] There they had two more infants, who died young. In 1850 Karl's collaborator Friedrich Engels settled in Manchester, where he began a twenty year career in the firm of Ermen and Engels, through which he helped support Marx and Jenny over the next period of their lives.[2]

Eleanor Marx, nicknamed "Tussy" was born in London on 16 January 1855, the sixth child and fourth daughter of Marx and his wife Jenny von Westphalen. She showed an early interest in politics, even writing to political figures during her childhood. The hanging of the Manchester Martyrs when she was twelve, for example, horrified her and shaped her lifelong sympathy for the Fenians. By her teenage years her love of Shakespeare led to the formation of the 'Dogberry Club' at which she, her family and the family of Clara Collet, all recited Shakespeare whilst her father watched.[4]

In 1856 the Marxes moved to Grafton Terrace, near Hampstead Hill in London, where they lived on the money given to Jenny by her mother when she died in 1856. 9 Grafton Terrace, then at the outskirts of "civilized" London, had a small garden and two floors with seven rooms, including the kitchen. [3]

At the age of sixteen, Eleanor became her father's secretary and accompanied him around the world to socialist conferences. A year later, she fell in love with 34-year old Lissagaray, a journalist and participant of the Paris Commune, who had fled to London after the Commune's suppression. Although he agreed with the man politically, Karl Marx disapproved of the relationship because of the age gap. Eleanor then moved away from home to Brighton to work as a schoolteacher; she lived at 6 Vernon Terrace in the Montpelier suburb.[4]

A year later she helped Lissagaray write History of the Commune of 1871, and translated it into English. Her father liked the book but was still disapproving of his daughter's relationship with its author. By 1880 Karl changed his view of the situation, allowing her to marry him. However, by then Eleanor herself was having second thoughts, and terminated the relationship in 1882.[4]

After her father's death Eleanor had the task of taking care of the publication of his unfinished manuscripts and the English language version of his main work, Capital.[4]

In 1884, Eleanor joined the Social Democratic Federation (SDF) led by Henry Hyndman and was elected to its executive. During her work in the SDF, she met Edward Aveling, with whom she would spend the rest of her life. In the same year, a split of the organisation led her to leave it and found the rival Socialist League. [4]

Eleanor regularly wrote a regular column called "Record of the Revolutionary International Movement" for the Socialist League's monthly newspaper, Commonweal.[4]

In the 1880s Eleanor helped organise the Gasworkers' Union, and the International Socialist Congress in Paris, and wrote numerous books and articles.[4]

She also then became more interested in theatre arts as a socialist and feminist tool, and took up acting. In 1886, she performed a groundbreaking if critically unsuccessful reading of Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House in London, with herself as Nora Helmer, Aveling as Torvald Helmer, and George Bernard Shaw as Krogstad.[4]

Her translations of literary works included the first English translation of Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary. She expressly learned Norwegian in order to translate Ibsen's plays into English, and in 1888, was the first to translate An Enemy of Society, and she also translated Ibsen's The Lady from the Sea in 1890.[4]

On 31 March 1898, Eleanor swallowed poison and died at age 43.[4]

A subsequent coroner's inquest delivered a verdict of "suicide while in a state of temporary insanity," clearing Aveling of criminal wrongdoing, but he was widely reviled throughout the socialist community as having caused Eleanor to take her life.[4]

A funeral service was held in a room at the London Necropolis railway station at Waterloo on 5 April 1898, attended by a large throng of mourners. Speeches were made by Aveling, Robert Banner, Eduard Bernstein, Pete Curran, Henry Hyndman and Will Thorne. Following the memorial, Eleanor Marx's body was taken by rail to Woking and cremated. An urn containing her ashes was subsequently kept safe by a succession of left wing organisations, including the Social Democratic Federation, the British Socialist Party, and the Communist Party of Great Britain, before finally being buried alongside the remains of Karl Marx and other family members at Highgate Cemetery in London in 1956.[4]

On 9 September 2008 an English Heritage blue plaque was placed on the house on Jews Walk, Sydenham, south-east London, where Eleanor spent the last few years of her life.[4]


  • Source: Mehring, Franz. Karl Marx: The Story of His Life. New York, 1957 (this is the standard biography of Marx, per anthologist Robert C. Tucker
  • Source S60: Tucker, Robert C., Ed. "Chronology: The Lives of Marx and Engels" and "Introduction" in The Marx-Engels Reader, Second Edition, W. W. Norton & Co., New York, 1972, 1978


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Source: #S50 Wikipedia on Karl Marx
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Source: #S60 Tucker
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 Source: #S120 Wikipedia on Jenny von Westphalen
  4. 4.00 4.01 4.02 4.03 4.04 4.05 4.06 4.07 4.08 4.09 4.10 4.11 4.12 Source: #S150: Wikipedia article on Eleanor

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