Karl and Jenny Marx

Jenny von Westphalen was four years older than Karl Marx and she came from the Prussian aristocracy. Marx himself came from a line of rabbis on both his mother's and father's side. They had seven children together although only three made it to adulthood. It always humanizes the great names of the past when you see them with their family and you know what they sacrificed to be together. Was this bourgeois portrait photo her idea?


Below is a photo of their first two children, Jenny Carolina and Jenny Laura Marx - they were named after their mother. There is humor and affection here - why is Laura not looking at the camera?


The star of the family was the youngest daughter, Eleanor "Tussy" Marx.


The allegation that Karl Marx fathered a son with their housekeeper Helene Demuth surfaced a few years ago. All we really know is that in 1851 she gave birth to a boy, who grew up to be Frederick Demuth, but she never revealed the name of the father. It would have been such a stunning act of betrayal in a close-knit family that I have trouble believing Marx was the father.

What I find much more interesting is the love of Shakespeare that all the Marx family shared, including Jenny's father who recited Shakespeare (in German, I assume) to both Jenny and Karl, even before they were married (in 1843). Marx's daughter Eleanor remembered, "As to Shakespeare, he was the Bible of our house, seldom out of our hands or mouths. By the time I was six, I knew scene upon scene of Shakespeare by heart."

That Shakespeare could stimulate the imagination of Karl Marx and perhaps sits at the heart of Marxism itself, is a wonderful notion. Ah, but which play above all? Timon of Athens? Hamlet? King Lear? The Tempest?

Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp'd tow'rs, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on; and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.