Le temps qu’il fait à Bruxelles   Le temps de Bruxelles :

Dominique Meeùs
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Yvonne Kapp, Eleanor Marx, volume one, 1977

Yvonne Kapp , Eleanor Marx : Volume One, Pantheon Books, New York, 1977, 321 pages, ISBN : 0-394-73456-4.
Édition américaine de Kapp 1972. (Je mentionne là d’autres éditions.) Dans cette édition de 1977, le deuxième volume est Kapp 1977b.

As there were no fewer than 50 young children living on their side of Grafton Terrace alone […] social life at No. 9 must have lacked a certain restraint.

P. 32.

Cela me rappelle la maison ouverte que nous tenions ma femme et moi rue du Fournil à Charleroi dans les années 80 quand nos filles étaient enfants.

[…] and Shakespeare, who was “the bible of our house, seldom out of our hands or mouths”. By the time she was four she knew long passages by heart […]

P. 33.

On ne s’étonnera donc pas de ce qu’une phrase de Marx fasse écho directement à celle sur le royaume de Danemark dans Hamlet.

[…] the Critique of Political Economy. “Never, I think, was money written about under such a shortage of it”, said Marx.

P. 36.

Looking back at the age of 58 over her troubled life she [Mrs. Marx] wrote to Wilhelm Liebknecht: “In all these struggles, the harder because the pettier part falls to us women. While the men are invigorated by the fight in the world outside, strengthened by coming face to face with the enemy, by its number legion, wit sit at home and darn stockings.”

P. 41-42.

This keeping up of appearances is not to be mocked. To be sure, a century later it strikes one as grotesque that a man of such powerful intellect, a woman of such proper spirit as Karl Marx and his wife should have deigned to hide their circumstances; should have persisted in employing two domestic Servants and encouraged their almost full-grown daughters to draw and sing and thump upon the piano with indifferent talent while the household fell about their ears.

What has to be seen is that, at the time, the gulf between the respectability of the professional class to which the Marxes belonged and is alternative, a proletarian way of life, was vast and unbridgeable. It was not a question of doing without certain fribbles or cutting down on luxuries, as they would now be regarded; the Marxes did without and cut down on sheer necessities. There was often neither food nor fuel in the house. Rather it was a matter of social and historical realities pressing no less on Marx than on his contemporaries. The interesting thing about him is not that he was subject to these pressures, but that it was he who evolved an entirely new concept of both society and history. “Men’s social being determines their consciousness” he wrote and nowhere claimed exemption from the rule.

In 1861 nearly a quarter of the male and over one-third of the female population of England and Wales were illiterate, while the professional classes represented under 3 per cent: considerably less than the proportion of paupers. In every trade, nine-tenths of the workers were unskilled with an earning capacity that rarely reached 20s. a week; the Scottish miner (with a family of above the average of six children to support) earned 24s., the Manchester carpenter 28s. and the craftsman in the London building trade 32s. Their living conditions were atrocious and had not greatly changed since Engels wrote his Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844. Indeed, he was able to say in the new preface he wrote to the English edition of that work in 1892: "… the most crying abuses described… have either disappeared or have been made less conspicuous. But what of that? Whole districts which in 1844 I could describe as almost idyllic, have now, with the growth of the towns, fallen into the same state of dilapidation, discomfort and misery. Only the pigs and the heaps of refuse are no longer tolerated. The bourgeoisie have made further progress in the art of hiding the distress of the working class…. Police regulations have been as plentiful as blackberries; but they can only hedge in the distress of the workers, they cannot remove it.”

By the 1860 the arts of hiding and hedging were not yet widely cultivated. As late as 1875 “the average age at death of the Manchester upper middle class was 38 years, while the average age of the labouring class was 17; while at Liverpool those figures were represented as 95 against 15. It thus appeared that the well-to-do classes had a lease of life which was more than double the value of that which fell to the lot of the less-favoured citizens.”

Keeping up appearances meant most to Marx where his daughters were concerned. He might rail against his wife’s mild pretensions as false and pernicious, as “roasting him over a slow fire”, yet he shared her aspirations for the girls and took offence at any suggestion that they should attempt to earn their living, for which, in however restricted a field, their polite studies might be thought to have equipped them.

He lamented that they could not join in the amusements of their young friends, whose visits to the house they dreaded; he pitied them because they were not presentable enough to attend either their classes or the 1862 International Industrial Exhibition, for which he himself obtained a permanent press ticket in August as correspondent of the Vienna Presse, though it is not known that he ever took his daughters with him. But that they might become self-supporting he looked upon as a mortification outweighing any to which they were daily and hourly exposed.

P. 42-44.

Eleanor, par contre, a toujours tenu à se rendre financièrement indépendante par son travail. Kapp en reparle dans le deuxième volume.

“Tussy has returned from Ireland a stauncher Irishman than ever”, Jenny reported to the Kugelmanns and when the petitions for the release of the Fenians had been refused by Gladstone, Eleanor not only went but insisted upon her father, mother and Jenny going to Hyde Park, where on 22 October [1869] some 100,000 demonstrators protested. Jenny described the event to the Kugelmanns: the vast crowds, the red, green and white banners, the defiant placards — “Disobedience to Tyrants is a Duty to God”, “Keep your Powder Dry” — the “profusion of red Jacobin caps” hoisted higher than the flags to the strains of the Marseillaise, were all impressive and profoundly stirring. Except to the press, which dismissed the whole affair as “an utter failure”. It was Marx who pointed out its real significance: “The main feature of the demonstration had been ignored, it was that at least a part of the English working class had lost their prejudice against the Irish.” 33

P. 117-118.

Il est évident qu’Yvonne Kapp exècre Edward Aveling. Elle lui consacre cependant une partie du livre : « Part IV — The Nonconformist ». Elle montre d’abord comment la révolution anglaise, par le protestantisme des Dissenters, peut conduire à l’indépendance d’esprit, puis comment Aveling, né dans une famille de Dissenters, de scientifique libre-penseur devient socialiste. Elle essaie aussi de comprendre son caractère, mais le qualifie sans indulgence de gasbag.

Though he was able to move vast audiences […] in cold print his speeches, punctuated at the time by prolonged applause and even cheers, appear sorry stuff: pompous, florid, empty and so much hot air. Aveling, in fact, was a gasbag whom time has rudely deflated. The same cruel fate has overtaken his articles which lie today in the files of old newspapers whose pages testify that his contributions to the secularist and socialist press, save in his own field of the natural sciences, are less convincing, less original and far more embarrassing than most of the matter published in these proselytizing journals.

P. 270.

His motives, like those of most people, were exceedingly mixed, and it would be crass to claim that principle played no part in them. “No man is scrupulous all round. He has, according to his faculties and interests, certain points of honour, while in matters that do not interest him he is careless and unscrupulous. […]”, wrote Shaw, referring to Aveling, “was morbidly scrupulous as to his religious and political convictions and would have gone to the gallows sooner than recant a syllable of them. But he had absolutely no conscience about money and women. […]”

Shaw repeated the same view when he wrote to a friend in 1946 that Aveling had been “quite a pleasant fellow who would have gone to the stake for Socialism or atheism, but with absolutely no conscience in his private life”. Shaw further told his biographer, Hesketh Pearson, that Aveling’s case was not unique and that he, Shaw, had been “on pleasant terms with three others, two clergymen and a retired colonel… with a total lack of conscience in money and sexual relations”.

P. 270-271.

Although his excessive facility enabled Aveling to pour forth lectures, journalism, pamphlets, plays, reviews, reports and a multitude of ephemera that have come down to us, his voice is not merely without character: it is muted, dead. Nothing rings through the words. Nothing at all.

P. 272.

À l’occasion de tensions entre Eleanor et Laura sur la succession de Marx, elle a un jugement sévère sur le couple Lafargue (et on peut dire de la note in cauda venenum) :

Notwithstanding Paul’s valuable contribution to the French socialist movement, †-p281 when all is said and done the Lafargues were a trivial pair. Leaving aside the dedication and majesty of her father’s labours, the sacrifices of her mother and the yoke Engels had borne uncomplainingly for the best years of his life, Laura’s circumstances have only to be matched against the sufferings of her sister Jenny, so lately dead, and Eleanor’s stalwart efforts to become self- supporting, to see her pettishness at this juncture as both indelicate and undignified.

P. 281.

Those who have read thus far will have noted that in the course of this book I have frequently taken refuge in such phrases as “nothing has been traced” and “the reason is obscure”.

They do not mean that the matter is untraceable or need remain forever in the dark. They should be regarded not only as admissions of pure ignorance but also as so much bait laid to catch younger and more diligent researchers.

P. 288.

C’est en quelque sorte une perche tendue par avance à Rachel Holmes (Holmes 2014).

Reçu le 22 mai 2018 d’un ami, plus sérieux que moi et me sachant moins sérieux que lui, qui voulait faire de la place dans son appartement.
Documents of the first international, Lawrence & Wishart, Londres, 1963-1968, vol. III. [Rachel Holmes (Holmes 2014) donne vol. 4. Ni Kapp ni Holmes ne donnent de numéro de page. J’en donne une autre source et un commentaire. D. M.]
He is perhaps best known to English readers for his splendid pamphlet The Right to be Lazy, on which subject he was an expert.
Dominique Meeùs. Date: 2017-2019