Yvornne Kapp's 1977 biography of Eleanor Marx-Aveling established the identity of one of Marx's three daughters--and rightly...


THE DAUGHTERS OF KARL MARX: Family Correspondence 1866-98

Yvornne Kapp's 1977 biography of Eleanor Marx-Aveling established the identity of one of Marx's three daughters--and rightly so, since Eleanor played an important role in the British socialist movement. The other Marx daughters, Jenny and Laura, took back-seats to their political activist French husbands, Charles Longuet and Paul Lafargue, respectively. Nevertheless, this volume of correspondence--letters exchanged by the three and their husbands, and from them to their parents--is more than a record of the comings and goings of the Marx family. The Marx daughters were all politically aware, educated women who suffered a great deal in terms of material deprivation and personal loss. So we find Laura, in a letter to Jenny, complaining of her ill treatment by her mother-in-law, reporting the latest political news of the Franco-Prussian War, and showing the strain of caring for a sick child. All of Laura's three children died in infancy, as did one of Jenny's, and Jenny herself died at age 38. These details of family life--not only the personal losses and discontent over domestic duties, but also the ubiquitous family nicknames (Marx had several, Eleanor was Tussy and Quo-Quo, Jenny was Que-Que and Laura Kakadou)--help to recreate the everyday existence underlying the Marxes political involvements. Some anti-Semitic sentiments (Marx's father was a Jew who converted to Christianity), characteristic of the period, turn up: a Rothschild is described by Laura as ""altogether too Jewish""; at Carlsbad, Laura notes that ""there are as many Jews as ever, and more anxious than ever to get as much water as possible."" (This, despite their mutual commitment to the liberation of others.) Ultimately, it is Eleanor who demands the attention--as she cares for her sick parents while hoping to make something of her life. In a dark letter written to Laura after their mother's death and while she was nursing Marx, she begins to give in to the fatigue: ""What I most dread is the consulting of doctors. They cannot and will not see that mental worry is as much an illness as any physical ailment could be."" A week later: ""much and hard as I have tried I could not crush out my desire to try something."" It is the jumble of Victorian attitudes, radical politics, and the struggle of the ""new woman"" to deal with old circumstances that makes this collection an engaging one.

Pub Date: March 12, 1982


Page Count: -

Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1982