Famous Marriages Karl Marx and Jenny von Westphalen Part 4

About the marriage between Communist Manifesto author Karl Marx and Jenny von Westphalen, history of life after the wedding.


Karl Marx and Jenny von Westphalen

Happily Ever After: Unfortunately, their happiness didn't last. The privations were worse than either of them had foreseen. Jenny stayed by Marx's side, as Bauer had predicted, first in the romantic little flat in Paris (where the long-admired Heine paid eloquent tribute to her charm and wit), and later in progressively less romantic flats in the Chelsea, Soho, and Haverstock Hill areas of London. The socialist movement evolved, but at bitter personal cost. Child followed child, and the family was gradually reduced from straitened circumstances to abject poverty. Jenny's family marriage dowry, a silver dinner service bearing the crest of the Scottish House of Argyll, was pawned, retrieved, pawned again, and finally sold outright. Still there was never enough to keep bread on the table, or to buy medicine for an ailing baby, or a coffin for a dying one.

Their single servant, the loyal bondsmaid Lenchen, who had been with Jenny's family since childhood, cooked, cleaned, marketed, made their clothes, carried the coal, lit the fires, did the washing, and nursed them through endless illnesses. In the middle of it all (that is, in a two-room flat already housing a family of seven), she also bore Marx a son, to his great embarrassment (not because of any moral scruples, but because of the obvious implication that he had taken advantage of a member of the proletariat). It was a blow from which Jenny, too, never quite recovered, for until then she had trusted her husband implicitly, ennobling him as the heroic champion of the poor and dispossessed; that he should have deceived her with her beloved Lenchen seemed inexcusable. The parentage of the child was carefully concealed, and it is possible that he never knew who his father was. Ironically, he was the only one of Marx's children to live to see the advent of the Russian Revolution.

Although Marx dominated Jenny even from those early days in Trier, he was always immensely proud of her and depended on her emotionally throughout their marriage. Once when revisiting Trier, he wrote back to her in London: "Almost everyone I meet asks me for news of ‘the prettiest girl in Trier,' for tidings of ‘the queen of the ballroom.' It cannot but tickle a man to find that in the fancy of a whole township his wife is enshrined as a ‘fairy princess.'"

In his own way, he always saw her so.

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