‘The London Residences of Karl Marx’ by John Spargo, photographs by T. Jefferson, from The Comrade. Vol. 2 No. 6. March, 1903.

46 (Formerly No. 9) Grafton Terrace.

In 1902 John Spargo made it a point to document with photographs the London homes of the Marx family before loss of memory and changing landscapes erased them from history. In this article he visits that process and gives us brief glimpses of their lives in each place. And of course, the photographs.

‘The London Residences of Karl Marx’ by John Spargo, photographs by T. Jefferson, from The Comrade. Vol. 2 No. 6. March, 1903.

IN those wonderfully tender. and all too scanty “Memoirs” of Marx, Liebknecht tells of “A Voyage of Discovery” which he made in 1896. With him went Eleanor, the brilliant but ill-fated daughter of Marx, and the man whose name she bore; the erratic genius whose vagaries so sadly blighted her bright and hopeful life- Edward B. Aveling. The object of this “Voyage” through London’s busy streets was to discover, if possible, the three respective houses in which Marx had lived with his family: houses perfectly well known to Liebknecht in the days when he was a fellow-exile with Marx; It is well that the “voyage” ended satisfactorily, and that beyond all possible chances of mistake Liebknecht was able to identify the first London residence of the Marx family (the first, save only for a brief lodging in Camberwell), which Engels and “Lenchen”- Helene Demuth- that faithful friend and assistant of whom all the members of the Marx family spoke with such reverent love- had failed to find.

It was, I have reason to suppose, the intention of Liebknecht and Mrs. Eleanor Marx-Aveling to have photographs of this and the two later residences made. At least, so Dr. Aveling told me soon afterward. But apparently, the intention was never carried out by them. All three have died since then: Eleanor-broken in spirit, by her own hand; Aveling- who shall say that his death was not of his own desire and choice? –  and Liebknecht, the veteran in the fight, the strong, brave leader, who bore all the burdens of life without flinching, and met death squarely in the thick of the fight.

Perhaps I am sentimental, and the Socialist movement leaves small room to indulge such sentiment, but it seemed to me that, with the identification complete, the opportunity of making and preserving a photographic record of these houses where the illustrious Marx made his home should be grasped ere they are swept away or the means of identifying them are lost once more. So, with Liebknecht’s identification, and the co-operation of a mutual friend who satisfied himself that nothing had been changed in any way since 1896, and that, therefore, there could be no confusion, I obtained the assistance of a good London comrade, who is a photographer, to that end.

’28 Dean Street, where “The Eighteenth Brumaire” was written.’

After having had some trouble in their lodgings in Camberwell, the landlord being insolvent, and the creditors having seized their furniture, the Marx family stayed for a while in a family hotel, and then moved, in June, 1850, to No. 28 Dean Street, off Oxford Street, Soho. Liebknecht has refuted the one-time common lie about Marx: that he lived in luxurious extravagance, while his fellow-refugees were starving- let this picture also give answer to the calumny, for Liebknecht bears witness that the house bore much the same appearance in 1896 as when Marx lived there. Just as at that time it and the neighboring houses were occupied by foreign refugees, so today it is inhabited by foreigners, many of whom went in and out during the time the photographer sought to secure the proper view. And here let it be recorded that but for the friendly aid of a policeman the picture could not have been obtained, for Dean Street is narrow, the houses are tall, and the traffic is great.

The Marx family occupied the second floor. They lived here for about seven years-lived in penury and exile. Here Marx wrote his “Eighteenth Brumaire,” and made his enormous preliminary notes for “Capital.” Here, too, he wrote the letters to the New York Tribune, under Charles A. Dana’s editorship, which have been collected and published under the titles of “Revolution and Counter Revolution” and “The Eastern Question.” Here the Marx family lived, when, in 1852, Liebknecht took two of the children to witness the funeral procession of the great “Iron Duke,” when they so narrowly escaped death- an event which Liebknecht describes in the “Memoirs” under the heading, “A Bad Quarter of an Hour.”

The extreme poverty of the family at this time has been delicately brought out by Liebknecht in a number of incidents. Of these, one only must I quote. It is a diary note by Mrs. Marx in which she tells of the death of one of the children who died here: “On Easter of the same year-1852-our poor little Francisca died of severe bronchitis. Three days the poor child was struggling with death. It suffered so much. Its little lifeless body rested in the small back room; we all made our beds on the floor. There the three living children were lying at our side, and we cried about the little angel who rested cold and lifeless near us. The death of the dear child fell into the time of the most bitter poverty. (The money for the burial was missing.) I went to a French refugee living in the vicinity who had visited us shortly before.

“He at once gave me two pounds sterling ( about $10), with the friendliest sympathy. With this money the little coffin was purchased in which my poor child now slumbers peacefully. It had no cradle, when it entered the world, and the last little abode also was for a long time denied to it. What we did suffer, when it was carried away to its last place of rest!”

The italics in this extract are mine- what a tale of sacrifice and heroic devotion to the cause they indicate! Liebknecht says that Marx wrote “Mr. Vogt” in the Dean Street house, but this is evidently a mistake, as may be seen even from the “Memoirs.” And there is other evidence, including an article on Eleanor Marx-Aveling, written by Liebknecht in 1898, shortly after her death. Eleanor was born in 1856, and when she was a year old the family moved into a better and more comfortable house, No. 9 Grafton Terrace-now bearing a new number, 46. “Mr. Vogt” was not written until three years later- 1860.

’46 (Formerly No. 9) Grafton Terrace, where “Value, Price and Profit”, “Mr. Vogt”, “Capital” etc. were written.’

Marx, as is well known, wrote “Mr. Vogt” partly in self defense, Carl Vogt being one of his most bitter and unscrupulous calumniators. Marx, ever a formidable opponent, caused something of a sensation by openly charging Vogt with being in the pay of Napoleon. Ten years later, in 1870, when the French Government of National Defence published a list of the Bonapartist hirelings, under the letter “V” appeared: “Vogt, received August, 1859, 40,000 francs.”

Not only “Mr. Vogt.” but the “Zur Kritik der Politischen Ooekonomie,” 1859, “Value, Price and Profit,” 1865, the first volume of “Capital,” 1867, and “The Civil War in France,” 1871,were written wholly or in part in this cottage and prepared for publication. Constantly suffering ill-health, and harassed by poverty, the industry of the man during these years was remarkable.

Of the struggle for existence during this period I quote from one of Marx’s letters to his friend, Dr. Kugelmann, published some time ago in the Neue Zeit. The date is October 13, 1866,shortly before the first volume of “Capital” was sent to the printer’s:

“Owing to my long illness, and in consequence of the many things I have had to give up, my private affairs have become embarrassed and I am in the midst of a financial crisis. This, in addition to the unpleasantness for my family, is especially awkward in London, where so much depends on appearances. What I wanted to know from you was whether you knew one or more persons who would lend me about 1,000 thalers at 5 or 6 per cent for two years. (I need hardly say that this is strictly private.) At present I am paying 20 to 50 per cent interest for the small sums which I borrow, and I do not know where to tum for money, and if it goes on there must soon be a crash.”

Our illustration shows the little balcony from which Mrs. Marx, when recovering from an attack of smallpox, used to greet her three daughters as they stood in the roadway below. Lastly, the house in which the last ten years of Marx’s life were spent from 1872-73 to 1883. The house where the faithful wife, after long months of torture from cancer, died with the name of her beloved “Karl” -and ours -last upon her lips; the house where, on the afternoon of March 14, 1883, “the greatest mind of the second half of our century had ceased to think.” He had gone from his bedroom to his study and sat down in his armchair. Alarmed at his great weakness, the members of the household were in tears when “the General” (Engels) called. Lenchen said he was “half asleep,” but Engels found him in a sleep from which he would never again awaken. Marx was dead.

’41 (Formerly No. 1) Maitland Park Road, where Marx died.’

They laid him to rest in the Highgate cemetery beside the faithful wife whose death was really his also. A few days later their little grandson, Harry Longuet, was laid in the same grave, and seven years later the faithful and well-beloved “Lenchen.” In a modest grave marked by a simple stone they lie together. The inscription upon the low marble slab reads:

Jenny von Westphalen
The beloved wife of
Karl Marx
Born 12 February, 1814
Died 2 December; 1881.
And Karl Marx
Born May 5, 1818; died March 14, 1883.
And Harry Longuet
Their Grandson
Born July 4, 1878; died March 20, 1883.
And Helene Demuth
Born January 1, 1823; died November 4, 1890.

No word of his devotion to the cause he loved so well, no word of his genius, or of his colossal work; but that bare inscription, the name alone, is sufficient sculptured memorial. Standing a few years ago by the grave of Adam Smith, as I read the ornate inscription upon his tombstone I asked myself what need of monument of stone to perpetuate his memory who left “The Wealth of Nations” for monument? And so long as the story of humanity’s struggle shall be told, the name and memory of Karl Marx shall be enshrined in countless hearts in every land. And in those long, far-off years, when every trace of the wrongs against which he struggled have disappeared, this simple, unpretentious grave will perhaps be the object of many a pilgrimage of free men and women where they will tell their children how great was his work for them.

‘The Marx Family Grave: Highgate Cemetery, London.’

The Comrade began in 1901 with the launch of the Socialist Party, and was published monthly until 1905 in New York City and edited by John Spargo, Otto Wegener, and Algernon Lee amongst others. Along with Socialist politics, it featured radical art and literature. The Comrade was known for publishing Utopian Socialist literature and included a serialization of ‘News from Nowhere’ by William Morris along work from with Heinrich Heine, Thomas Nast, Ella Wheeler Wilcox, Edward Markham, Jack London, Maxim Gorky, Clarence Darrow, Upton Sinclair, Eugene Debs, and Mother Jones. It would be absorbed into the International Socialist Review in 1905.

PDF of full issue: https://www.marxists.org/history/usa/pubs/comrade/v02n06-mar-1903-The-Comrade.pdf

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