Nineteenth Century Philosophy


Did Karl Marx live in poverty himself?

Yes. After he was kicked out of Brussels and Paris for his revolutionary writing, Marx and his family found refuge in London. In 1850 they were ejected from their two-room flat in Chelsea for failing to pay the rent. They found cheaper accommodation in Soho, where they stayed for six years. In order to help Marx with an income, Friedrich Engels returned to work for his father in Germany. The two kept in constant contact, and over the next 20 years they wrote to each other about every other day. During this time, Marx sought to understand capitalism by reading back issues of The Economist, as well as journal articles, in the Reading Room of the British Museum.

The Marxes’ fifth child, Franziska, was born at their Soho flat, but she only lived for a year. Eleanor was born in 1855, but later that year Edgar became the Marxes’ third child to die. The family owned very little, and some days Marx could not leave the house because Jenny had to pawn his trousers to buy food. But on some Sundays, they all went to Hampstead Heath for picnics.

After Marx began earning money from his articles for the New York Daily Tribune, and Jenny’s mother left her a small inheritance, they were able to move to Kentish Town. In 1856, Jenny had a baby that was still-born, and after that she caught smallpox. Although she survived this illness, it left her deaf and badly scarred. Marx also grew ill, and he wrote to Engels that “such a lousy life is not worth living.” But when he had an outbreak of boils in 1863, he was consoled that it was “a truly proletarian disease.”


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