Eleanor Marx: A Life


Product Details

Bloomsbury Paperbacks
Publish Date
5.1 X 1.4 X 7.7 inches | 1.0 pounds
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About the Author

Rachel Holmes is the author of The Secret Life of Dr James Barry and The Hottentot Venus: The Life and Death of Saartjie Baartman. She is co-editor, with Lisa Appignanesi and Susie Orbach, of Fifty Shades of Feminism and co-commissioning editor, with Josie Rourke and Chris Haydon, of Sixty-Six Books: Twenty-First Century Writers Speak to the King James Bible. She lives in Gloucestershire.


"A thrillingly revisionist book, energetically researched and convincing in its argument that Eleanor Marx's life 'was one of the most significant and interesting events in the evolution of social democracy in Victorian Britain, ' leaving a substantial legacy for coming generations." --The New York Review of Books

"It captures vividly the drama of a woman with a hunger for the world who did her damnedest to live on the largest terms possible, and to a very considerable degree succeeded." --New York Times Book Review

"Eleanor Marx is both a challenging and a stimulating subject for a biographer. In this widely researched and passionately written book, Rachel Holmes has found an original way of presenting her. She balances Eleanor's political career, centred in the Reading Room of the British Museum among her Victorian Bloomsbury group colleagues, with her sobriquet, the emotional figure of 'Tussy', whose love for Edward Aveling ends in tragedy. It is as if the biographer is conducting string and wind instruments in an orchestra. The result, surprising at first, becomes profoundly satisfying." --Michael Holroyd

"I got to the end of Rachel Holmes's Eleanor Marx and wanted to start all over again. There is so much in it and yet it reads effortlessly. The scholarship that brings the second part of the nineteenth century alive is a feast, and at the center of it all, the irrepressible daughter of Karl and Jenny Marx. A giant whose character in all its complexity steps off the page to inspire another generation." --Susie Orbach, author of BODIES

"Marx produced the first English translation of Flaubert's Madame Bovary, was the first woman to lead the British dock workers' and gas workers' trade unions and worked as personal secretary to her father Karl. Holmes' vivid biography of this Victorian intellectual brings her--and her age--to life." --Financial Times

"A tragic tale of a brilliant light eclipsed by the stifling patriarchy of her age. A full-fleshed, thrilling portrait, troubling and full of family secrets." --"Best Books of 2015", Kirkus

"Rachel Holmes has written an engaging and compelling account of a figure well worth remembering. Even 150 years later, this estimable woman can offer lessons on what it takes to be a modern woman." --The Jewish Week

"There is never a dull moment as the book moves from her early family life and her education at the feet of Marx and Friedrich Engels; an early career as her father's secretary and researcher at the British Museum; her work as a translator, educator, and advocate for new literature and theatre, and as a socialist agitator and trade union leader; and her intellectual and ultimately tragic romantic partnership with Edward Aveling." --starred review, Library Journal

"Holmes's lucidly written biography of a woman whose role in the arenas of social justice and feminism is not nearly well enough appreciated held me spellbound from beginning to end. Through Eleanor's life, Holmes paints a fascinating, extensive picture of late Victorian life in England and America and continental Europe that could easily serve as a reference point for further exploration, and yet is detailed enough to satisfy the general reader . . . Highly recommended both as a historical reference 'keeper' and as a good read." --Historical Novels Review

"[H]er book does deliver a powerful portrait of a radical mind in all its high-keyed intensity." --Wall Street Journal

"As Rachel Holmes illustrates in her engaging new biography, she (Eleanor Marx) emerged as one of the London intellectual Left's leading thinkers and activists, forcefully insisting that advances for women and advances for workers be fought for in tandem." --Bookforum

"The volume is welcome and a compelling addition to previous accounts . . . in part because Marx is a fitting match for Holmes's flair for the dramatic . . . This passionate, entertaining page-turner is most appropriate for lay readers interested in learning about a woman whose life and literary, cultural, and political contributions continue to be relevant to feminist and socialist thought today. Summing Up: Recommended. General readers." --J. Mills, John Jay College-CUNY, CHOICE

"Holmes' passionately written, well-researched biography rescues Karl Marx's youngest daughter from obscurity." --Mail on Sunday