MARX, Karl (1818-1883)
Plaque erected in 1967 by Greater London Council at 28 Dean Street, Soho, London, W1D 3RY, City of Westminster
Politics and Administration
KARL MARX 1818-1883 lived here 1851-56
Karl Marx settled in London in 1849 and remained in the city until his death in 1883. He is commemorated with a blue plaque at 28 Dean Street in Soho, where he worked on the first volume of Das Kapital.
ARRIVAL IN LONDON
Born in Germany (then part of Prussia) into a Jewish family, Marx made his first visit to England in 1845, arriving with his friend and collaborator, Friedrich Engels. He came again two years later – shortly before the publication of his Communist Manifesto (1848) – and, having been expelled from his homeland, settled permanently in London in 1849 with his wife Jenny, née von Westphalen (1814–81) and their family. They lived at 28 Dean Street from 1851 until 1856 having moved down the road from 64 Dean Street (now demolished).
‘THE EVIL FRIGHTFUL ROOMS’
Although Marx earned a small income from 1851 as London correspondent for the New York Daily Tribune, he lived at number 28 in considerable poverty. Two of his young children died during their time here, but the period also saw the birth of a daughter, Eleanor Marx, who later became an important socialist campaigner.
Marx initially had only two rooms on the second floor of the house – a bedroom at the back used by the whole family and a front room which served as a kitchen and living room – but he later rented a third room for use as a study. The whole ensemble was described by Jenny Marx as ‘the evil frightful rooms which encompassed all our joy and all our pain’. Despite the cramped conditions, Marx was politically active: friends and fellow radicals and refugees who visited number 28 included Wilhelm Wolff, Ernst Dronke and Ernest Jones.
He was also busy writing the first volume of his most famous work, Das Kapital (1867), regularly carrying out research at the library of the British Museum. In September 1856, with the help of Engels and an inheritance received by Jenny, Marx finally left Dean Street and moved to Kentish Town, where he remained until his death.
It was at his last address – 41 Maitland Park Road, his home from 1875 – that the first plaque to Marx was erected, in 1935. However, the plaque and its replacement were both vandalised soon after installation, and the owner of the house declined a third.
The house was later demolished, and attention turned to 28 Dean Street, where a new plaque was unveiled in 1967. Even then, the plaque wasn’t welcomed by some. The then owner of the Quo Vadis restaurant on the ground floor of the building observed:
My clientele is the very best … rich people … nobility and royalty - and Marx was the person who wanted to get rid of them all!