Eleanor Marx (16 January 1855 – 31 March 1898),
sometimes called Eleanor Aveling and known to her family as Tussy, was
the English-born youngest daughter of Karl Marx. She was herself a
socialist activist who sometimes worked as a literary translator. In
March 1898, after discovering that Edward Aveling, her partner and a
prominent British Marxist, had secretly married a young actress in
June of the previous year, she committed suicide by poison. She was
1.1 Early years
1.2 Political career
1.3 Involvement in theatre
1.4 Death and legacy
3 Publications by
Eleanor Marx Aveling
5 Further reading
6 External links
Eleanor Marx (middle) with her two sisters - Jenny Longuet, Laura
Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels
Eleanor Marx was born in
London on 16 January 1855, the sixth child
and fourth daughter of Marx and his wife Jenny von Westphalen. She
was called "Tussy" from a young age. 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. Her father's story-telling also inspired an interest in
literature in her, she could recite passages by
William Shakespeare at
the age of three. By her teenage years this 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
Karl Marx was writing his major work
Capital in the family home,
his youngest daughter Eleanor played in his study. Marx invented and
narrated a story for Eleanor based on an antihero called Hans Röckle.
Eleanor reports that this was one of her favourite childhood stories.
The story is significant because it offered Eleanor lessons through
allegory of Marx's critique of political economy which he was writing
in Capital. As an adult, Eleanor was involved in translating and
editing volumes of Capital. She also edited Marx's lectures Value,
Price and Profit and Wage Labour and Capital, which were based on the
same material, into books. Eleanor Marx's biographer, Rachel
Holmes, writes: "Tussy's childhood intimacy with [Marx] whilst he
wrote the first volume of
Capital provided her with a thorough
grounding in British economic, political and social history. Tussy and
Capital grew up together".
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 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 between the
Lissagaray being 34 years old. Eleanor then moved away from home
Brighton working as a schoolteacher; she lived at 6 Vernon Terrace
in the Montpelier suburb.
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. She
terminated the relationship in 1882.
Eleanor Marx, pencil drawing by Grace Black in 1881
In the early 1880s, she had to nurse her ageing parents, but her
mother died in December 1881. Her elder sister, Jenny Longuet, died in
January 1883, of bladder cancer, and her father died in March 1883.
Before his death, her father gave her the task of taking care of the
publication of his unfinished manuscripts and the English language
version of his main work, Capital.
Eleanor Marx with
Wilhelm Liebknecht in 1886.
In 1884, Eleanor joined the
Social Democratic Federation
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. The split had two root
causes: personality problems, as Hyndman was accused of leading the
SDF in a dictatorial fashion, and disagreements on the issue of
internationalism. In this point Hyndman was accused by Marx among
others of nationalist tendencies. He was, for example, opposed to
Marx's idea of sending delegates to the
French Workers' Party
French Workers' Party calling
the proposal a "family manoeuvre", since Eleanor Marx's sister Laura
and her husband
Paul Lafargue were members of that party. Therefore,
both Marx and Aveling became founding members of the Socialist League,
whose most prominent member was William Morris.
Marx regularly wrote a regular column called "Record of the
Revolutionary International Movement" for the Socialist League's
monthly newspaper, Commonweal.
In 1884, Marx also met Clementina Black, a painter and trade unionist,
and became involved in the Women's Trade Union League. She would go on
to support numerous strikes including the Bryant & May strike of
1888 and the
London Dock Strike of 1889. She spoke to the Silvertown
strikers at an open meeting in November 1889 alongside her friends
Edith Ellis and Honor Brooke. She helped organise the Gasworkers'
Union and wrote numerous books and articles.
In 1885, she helped organise the International Socialist Congress in
Paris. The following year, she toured the United States along with
Aveling and the German socialist Wilhelm Liebknecht, raising money for
the Social Democratic Party of Germany.
By the late 1880s, the Socialist League was deeply divided between
those advocating political action and its opponents – who were
themselves split between those like
William Morris who felt that
parliamentary campaigns represented inevitable compromises and
corruptions, and an anarchist wing which opposed all electoral
politics as a matter of principle. Marx and Aveling, as firm advocates
of the principle of participation in political campaigns, found
themselves in an uncomfortable minority in the party. At the 4th
Annual Conference of the Socialist League the Bloomsbury branch, to
which Marx and Aveling belonged, moved that a meeting of all socialist
bodies should be called to discuss the formation of a united
organisation. This resolution was voted down by a substantial margin,
as was another put forward by the same branch in support of contesting
seats in both local and parliamentary elections. Moreover, the
Socialist League at this occasion suspended the 80 members of the
Bloomsbury branch on the grounds that the group had put up candidates
jointly with the SDF, against the policy of the party. The Bloomsbury
branch thus exited the Socialist League for a new, albeit brief,
independent existence as the Bloomsbury Socialist Society.
Keir Hardie founded the
Independent Labour Party
Independent Labour Party (ILP), Marx
attended the founding conference as an observer, while Aveling was a
delegate. Their goal of shifting the ILP's positions towards Marxism
failed, however, as the party remained under a strong Christian
socialist influence. In 1897, Marx and Aveling re-joined the Social
Democratic Federation, like most former members of the Socialist
Involvement in theatre
In the 1880s,
Eleanor Marx became more interested in theatre and took
up acting. She believed in the arts as a socialist and feminist
tool. In 1886, she performed a groundbreaking if critically
unsuccessful reading of Henrik Ibsen's
A Doll's House
A Doll's House in London, with
herself as Nora Helmer, Aveling as Torvald Helmer, and George Bernard
Shaw as Krogstad.
She also translated various literary works, including the first
English translation of Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary. She expressly
learnt Norwegian in order to translate Ibsen's plays into English, and
in 1888, was the first to translate An Enemy of Society. Two years
later, the play was revised and renamed
An Enemy of the People
An Enemy of the People by
William Archer. Marx also translated Ibsen's
The Lady from the Sea
The Lady from the Sea in
Death and legacy
In 1898, Eleanor discovered that the ailing
Edward Aveling had
secretly married a young actress, to whom he remained committed.
Aveling's illness seemed to her to be terminal, and Eleanor was deeply
depressed by the faithlessness of the man she loved.
On 31 March 1898, Eleanor sent the maid to the local chemist with a
note to which she signed the initials of the man the chemist knew as
"Dr. Aveling," asking for chloroform (some sources say "padiorium")
and a small quantity of hydrogen cyanide (then called "prussic acid")
for her dog. On receiving the package, Eleanor signed a
receipt for the poisons, sending the maid back to the chemists to
return the receipt book. Eleanor then retired to her room, wrote two
brief suicide notes, undressed, got into bed, and swallowed the
The maid discovered Eleanor in bed, scarcely breathing, when she
returned. A doctor was called for but Eleanor had died by the time he
arrived. She was 43. A post mortem examination determined the cause of
death to have been poison. 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.
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
Karl Marx and other family members in the Tomb of Karl Marx
Highgate Cemetery in
London in 1956.
On 9 September 2008 an English Heritage blue plaque was placed on the
house at 7 Jews Walk, Sydenham, south-east London, where Eleanor spent
the last few years of her life.
Ancestors of Eleanor Marx
16. Schmuel Mordechai ha-Levi
8. Marx Levi Mordechai
17. Malka Spira
4. Heinrich Marx
18. Moïse Lwow
9. Eva Lwow
19. Bella Eger
2. Karl Marx
20. Hirschl Michl Heymann Preßburg
10. Isaac Hijman Jitschak Preßburg
21. Heintje Isaac Kutsch
5. Henrietta Preßburg
22. Salomon David Cohen-Chazzan
11. Nanette Salomon Cohen
23. Sara Brandes
1. Eleanor Marx
24. Isaac Johann Christian Westphal
12. Christian Philip Heinrich von Westphalen
25. Anna Elisabeth Henneberg
6. Ludwig von Westphalen
26. George Wishart
13. Jeanie Wishart
27. Anne Campbell
3. Jenny von Westphalen
28. Johann Michael Heubel
14. Julius Christoph Heubel
29. Anna Christiane Zimmermann
7. Amalia Julia Carolina Heubel
30. Julius Ernst Wiegand Heubel
15. Sophie Friederike Heubel
31. Marie Elisabeth Alexandrine Storch
Eleanor Marx Aveling
The Factory Hell. With Edward Aveling. London: Socialist League
The Woman Question. With Edward Aveling. London: Swan Sonnenschein
& Co., 1886.
Shelley's Socialism: Two Lectures. London: privately printed, 1888.
Israel Zangwill / Eleanor Marx: "A doll's house" repaired. London
(Reprinted from: "Time", March 1891)
The Working Class Movement in America. With Edward Aveling. London:
Swan Sonnenschein & Co., 1891.
The Working Class Movement in England: A Brief Historical Sketch
Originally Written for the "Voles lexicon" Edited by Emmanuel Wurm.
London: Twentieth Century Press, 1896.
Edward Bernstein, Ferdinand Lassalle as a Social Reformer. London:
Swan Sonnenschein & Co. 1893.
Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary: Provincial Manners. Vizetelly &
Henrik Ibsen, An Enemy of the People. Walter Scott Publishing Co.,
The Pillars of Society and Other Plays. London: W.
Henrik Ibsen, The Lady from the Sea. Fisher T. Unwin,
Henrik Ibsen, The Wild Duck: A Drama in FIve Acts. W.H. Baker, Boston
Prosper-Olivier Lissagaray, History of the Commune of 1871. Reeves /
Anarchism and Socialism. Twentieth Century Press,
^ a b c d e Brodie, Fran:
Eleanor Marx in Workers' Liberty. Retrieved
23 April 2007.
^ a b Marx Family in Encyclopedia of Marxism. Retrieved 23 April 2007.
^ a b c d e f g h
Eleanor Marx Archived 19 February 2004 at the
Wayback Machine. in Spartacus Educational. Retrieved 23 April 2007.
^ McDonald, Deborah (2004).
Clara Collet 1860–1948: An Educated
Working Woman. London: Woburn Press.
^ Holmes, Rachel. Eleanor Marx: A Life. London: Bloomsbury. 2014. pgs
^ Holmes, Rachel. Eleanor Marx: A Life. London: Bloomsbury. 2014. pgs
^ Holmes, Rachel. Eleanor Marx: A Life. London: Bloomsbury. 2014. pg.
^ Holmes, Rachel. Eleanor Marx: A Life. London: Bloomsbury. 2014. pg
^ Collis, Rose (2010). The New Encyclopaedia of Brighton. (based on
the original by Tim Carder) (1st ed.). Brighton:
Brighton & Hove
Libraries. p. 75. ISBN 978-0-9564664-0-2.
^ Yvonne Kapp, Eleanor Marx: Volume 2. New York: Pantheon Books, 1976;
^ Kapp, Eleanor Marx: Volume 2, pp. 264–265.
^ Ronald Florence, Marx's Daughters, New York: Dial Press, 1975
^ Bernstein, Susan David (2013). Roomscape: Women Writers in the
British Museum from George Eliot to Virginia Woolf. Edinburgh
University Press. pp. 47–48.
Eleanor Marx bibliography[permanent dead link] on marxists.org.
Retrieved 23 April 2007.
^ Kapp, Eleanor Marx: Volume 2, pg. 696.
^ a b Gwyther, Matthew (23 September 2000). "Inside story: 7 Jew's
Walk". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 14 September
^ a b Kapp, Eleanor Marx: Volume 2, pp. 696–697.
^ Kapp, Eleanor Marx: Volume 2, pp. 702–703.
^ Kapp, Eleanor Marx: Volume 2, pp. 703–704.
^ "Marx, Eleanor (1855–1898)".
Rachel Holmes, Eleanor Marx: A Life. London: Bloomsbury, 2014.
Yvonne Kapp, Eleanor Marx: Volume 1: Family Life, 1855–1883. London:
Lawrence and Wishart, 1972. Also: New York: Pantheon Books, 1976.
Yvonne Kapp, Eleanor Marx, Volume 2: The Crowded Years, 1884–1898.
London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1976. Also: New York: Pantheon Books,
Olga Meier and Faith Evans (eds.), The Daughters of Karl Marx: Family
Correspondence, 1866–1898. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich,
Eleanor Marx (1855–1898): Life, Work, Contacts.
Aldershot: Ashgate, 2000.
Chūshichi Tsuzuki, The Life of Eleanor Marx, 1855–1898: A Socialist
Tragedy. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1967.
McLellan, David (2004). "Marx, (Jenny Julia) Eleanor". Oxford
Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University
Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/40945. (Subscription or UK public
library membership required.)
Works written by or about
Eleanor Marx at Wikisource
Eleanor Marx at Project Gutenberg
Works by or about
Eleanor Marx at Internet Archive
Eleanor Marx at
LibriVox (public domain audiobooks)
Eleanor Marx Internet Archive, at Marxists Internet Archive.
Eleanor Marx biography on Women of
Jenny von Westphalen
Karl Marx: The Story of His Life
Karl Marx: His Life and Environment
Karl Marx: His Life and Thought
The Young Karl Marx
International Workingmens Association
Other cultural depictions
Assassin's Creed Syndicate
Marx in Soho
"The Philosophers' Football Match"
"World Forum/Communist Quiz"
Timeline of Karl Marx
ISNI: 0000 0001 0854 7447
BNF: cb11914927j (data)