Love and capital : Karl and Jenny Marx and the birth of a revolution

by Mary Gabriel

Paper Book, 2011


Brilliantly researched and wonderfully written, Love and Capital reveals the rarely glimpsed and heartbreakingly human side of the man whose works would redefine the world after his death. Drawing upon previously unpublished material, acclaimed biographer Mary Gabriel tells the story of Karl and Jenny Marx's marriage. Through it, we see Karl as never before: a devoted father and husband, a prankster who loved a party, a dreadful procrastinator, freeloader, and man of wild enthusiasms -- one of which would almost destroy his marriage. Through years of desperate struggle, Jenny's love for Karl would be tested again and again as she waited for him to finish his masterpiece, Capital. An epic narrative that stretches over decades to recount Karl and Jenny's story against the backdrop of Europe's Nineteenth Century, Love and Capital is a surprising and magisterial account of romance and revolution -- and of one of the great love stories of all time.… (more)


Checked out
Due May 20, 2024

Call number



New York : Back Bay Books / Little, Brown and Co., 2012, c2011.

User reviews

LibraryThing member jenniferochs
Most people have a preconceived notion of Karl Marx, the man who has also been referred to as "the father of socialism." This biographical account entitled Love and Capital, Karl and Jenny Marx and The Birth of a Revolution, written by Mary Gabriel, gives us a new perspective on the man. It is the
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account of his relationship with Jenny von Westphalen, the daughter of a Prussian baron, who later became his wife. Gabriel gives the reader not only the political side to Marx, but also the human side, the loving husband and father to his two daughters, amidst the tragedies suffered by their family.

Gabriel brings to light the revolutionary ideals versus the pragmatic side of Marx. The everyday life that Marx demonstrated versus the ideals he envisioned are seen throughout the many trials he and his wife suffered through. At one point, his marriage was almost destroyed. Though tested many times throughout their life together, their love kept their family strong through the tumultuous effects of historical circumstances. Gabriel includes several photographs spanning the lives of the two, including some portraits and intimate pictures of their family, as well as portraits of important figures in their life, such as Friedrich Engels. A few maps are also included as well as a political timeline, and character reference listing important figures and their role in the lives of Marx.

From a literary perspective, it was interesting that Gabriel briefly mentions how authors like Victor Hugo and Charles Dickens became popular through the use of fiction writing to describe the political sphere in which they found themselves during the19th century as a result of the effect of the Industrial Revolution.

Despite the fall of Communism, and economic problems facing western civilization today, the work of Marx and Engels has a vital role of importance, and has influenced the way many people think about the concepts of government, money, work, and society. Mary Gabriel contributes a concise biography, which is well organized, and accomplishes the theme, that despite one's perspective on socialism and Marx's theory, "Marx's ideas, which for most of their lives existed solely as a storm brewing inside his turbulent brain, and for which almost no one else acknowledged or even understood. Yet as improbable as it might have seemed during those years of hunger, Marx did what he set out to do: he changed the world."
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LibraryThing member Allizabeth
Mary Gabriel's Love and Capital is an account of the lives of Karl and Jenny Marx and their family before, during, and after Karl Marx's revolutionary idea - Capitalism/Socialism.

Being a history-buff at times, I knew I had to read Love and Capital. I have read textbooks on
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Marx' political role, but never had I read an account that talked about the man himself; his unyielding love of his wife and children, the trials that almost destroyed everything he'd ever built, and, overall, his humanity. Mary Gabriel does an outstanding job demonstrating the lives, loves, and times of the Marx family, including several pages of black and white photos, drawings, and maps. I found her biographical wring style very entertaining, there were only a few spots where I had to muddle my way through the text. Due to the book's size, there is the tendency for drifting into monotony, but I thought that it was well-organized and seldom became boring. One detail that irked me though, was that Jenny Marx wasn't really a "head-lining character". The title is a tad-bit misleading, I expected to read more about their relationship and less about debt, his affair, and his life's work. Still, it was refreshing to see Jenny Marx described as the support behind her husband, and ultimately, the mother of the Socialist revolution. Overall, I felt that this biography was written beautifully with attention paid to every detail, and I would recommend it to those who love history, or even as a reference for those studying Marx himself.

Rating: On the Run (4/5)

*** I received this book from Little, Brown and Company, (Hachette Book Group), in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.
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LibraryThing member lostinalibrary
It is hard to view Karl Marx objectively regardless of where you lie on the political spectrum. One tends to see him only in terms of his political and economic theories and rarely gets a glimpse at the man behind these theories. It is even rarer to get a glimpse of his home life, his family, his
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friendships, or his faults. In Love and Capital, author Mary Gabriel takes us on a highly readable stroll through the Marxes' private lives and gives us a peek at a very complex and also very human man and the woman he was married to.

She gives us a portrait of a man who dearly loved his wife but had an illegitimate child with their housekeeper; who was a loving and patient 'papa' with very advanced views on child rearing but failed to ensure they had a stable home life; who grieved at the deaths of several of his children but was indifferent towards the grief of his best friend, Friederich Engels when his common-law wife died, showing a glaring lack of empathy and tact at the very least, especially given that the Marxes depended on Engels most of their married life for financial support; who raised his daughters to be well-read and independent at a time when women had little freedom. Perhaps not surprisingly, two of his three daughters would eventually commit suicide. But we also see a man who loved a good party, drank too much on occasion, was considered a damn fine dancer and once, upon reading a critique of his theories, exclaimed, "I am not a Marxist!"

The picture of his wife, Jenny, is less clear perhaps, again, not surprising. What we do see is a beautiful woman born into a fairly wealthy and titled family (she was a baroness) but who showed little class bias and seemed to attract the love and respect of everyone who knew her including her extremely conservative half-brother who was very influential in Bismark's government in Prussia; a woman who was very well-educated, well-read, and extremely intelligent in her own right but who was willing to follow her husband across Europe and was willing to sacrifice everything for him including her pride; a woman who loved her children and, like her husband, had advanced ideas about what a woman could accomplish but was content, herself, to play the role of dutiful wife. She was also generous, kind, welcoming to all of the displaced immigrants who showed up on their doorstep (and it seemed like everyone trying to escape the crushing tyranny in the rest of Europe did), and was always willing to help anyone she could despite the Marx's own poverty.

We also get a very accurate picture of the tumultuous times in which the Marxes lived. Gabriel discusses many of the horrors of early industrialization and looks at some of the factors which led Marx and, for that matter, many other writers of the time to condemn the excesses of the wealthy classes and the hypocritical and self-serving morality they used to justify the horrible working conditions of the time. She also discusses the actions members of the burgeoning working class all across Europe took to combat these conditions.

In Love and Capital, Gabriel gives us a well-researched and well-documented portrait of a very complex man and the woman who loved him. Even better, she gives us an extremely engrossing and surprisingly entertaining glimpse of who the Marxes were when they were at home.
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LibraryThing member gayla.bassham
Fascinating, but a bit long. And so sad -- I lost track of all the different people (especially children) who died of mysterious flulike illnesses. This is the first time I remember openly sobbing over a biography. (Also, I had a fever last night and between this and Downton Abbey, I was more than
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a little freaked out.)
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LibraryThing member vanjr
This was a very interesting read about Karl Marx and his family. It made me wonder if indeed if all biographies should be in the context of family-the family tells us so much more than the mere individualistic pictures sometimes presented. This book certainly made me more aware of Marx's concerns
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and ideas. However it is interesting the end of the family and repercussions of his life. It reminds me of a quote, "There is a way that seems right to a man, but there in is the way of death."
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National Book Award (Finalist — Nonfiction — 2011)
Pulitzer Prize (Finalist — 2012)
National Book Critics Circle Award (Finalist — Biography — 2011)
Salon Book Award (Nonfiction — 2011)


Original publication date



0316066125 / 9780316066129
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