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A Visit to Karl Marx's Apartment

August 4, 2005

Lew Rockwell recently mentioned Karl Marx. From the Portable Karl Marx, here is a Prussian police agent's report on a visit to Marx's apartment in London:

In his private life he is a highly disorderly, cynical human being and a bad manager. He lives the life of a gypsy, of an intellectual Bohemian; washing, combing and changing his linen are things he does rarely, he likes to get drunk. He is often idle for days on end, but when he has work to do, he will work day and night with tireless endurance.

For him there is no such thing as a fixed time for sleeping and waking. He will often stay up the whole night and then lie down on the sofa, fully dressed, around midday and sleep till evening, untroubled by the fact that the whole world comes and goes through his room.

Marx lives in one of the worst, and therefore one of the cheapest, quarters of London. He occupies two rooms. One of then looks out on the street—that is the salon. The bedroom is at the back. There is not one clean and solid piece of furniture to be found in the whole apartment: everything is broken, tattered and torn; there is a thick coat of dust everywhere; everywhere, too, the greatest disorder.

In the middle of the salon stands a large old-fashioned table covered with oil cloth. On it lie his manuscripts, books and newspapers, then the children's toys, his wife's mending and patching, together with several cups with chipped rims, dirty spoons, knives, forks, lamps, an ink-pot, glasses, dutch clay pipes, tobacco ash—in one word everything is topsy turvy, and all on the same table. A rag-and-bone man would step back ashamed from such a remarkable collection.

When you enter Marx's room, smoke and tobacco fumes make your eyes water so badly, that you think for a moment that you are groping about in a cave. Gradually your eyes become accustomed to the fog and you can make out a few objects. Everything is dirty and covered with dust. It is positively dangerous to sit down. One chair has only three legs. On another chair, which happens to be whole, the children are playing at cooking. This one is offered to the visitor but the children's cooking has not been wiped away: if you sit down you risk a pair of trousers. None of this embarrasses Marx or his wife.

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