Part 2 out of 2
interesting. Her father was the Genevese banker and minister of
Louis XVI, who failed wretchedly in his attempts to save the
finances of France. Her mother, Suzanne Curchod, as a young girl,
had won the love of the famous English historian, Edward Gibbon.
She had first refused him, and then almost frantically tried to
get him back; but by this time Gibbon was more comfortable in
single life and less infatuated with Mlle. Curchod, who presently
married Jacques Necker.
M. Necker's money made his daughter a very celebrated "catch." Her
mother brought her to Paris when the French capital was brilliant
beyond description, and yet was tottering to its fall. The
rumblings of the Revolution could be heard by almost every ear;
and yet society and the court, refusing to listen, plunged into
the wildest revelry under the leadership of the giddy Marie
It was here that the young girl was initiated into the most
elegant forms of luxury, and met the cleverest men of that time--
Voltaire, Rousseau, Lamartine, Chateaubriand, Volney. She set
herself to be the most accomplished woman of her day, not merely
in belles lettres, but in the natural and political sciences.
Thus, when her father was drawing up his monograph on the French
finances, Germaine labored hard over a supplementary report,
studying documents, records, and the most complicated statistics,
so that she might obtain a mastery of the subject.
"I mean to know everything that anybody knows," she said, with an
arrogance which was rather admired in so young a woman.
But, unfortunately, her mind was not great enough to fulfil her
aspiration. The most she ever achieved was a fair knowledge of
many things--a knowledge which seemed surprising to the average
man, but which was superficial enough to the accomplished
In her twentieth year (1786) it was thought best that she should
marry. Her revels, as well as her hard studies, had told upon her
health, and her mother believed that she could not be at once a
blue-stocking and a woman of the world.
There was something very odd about the relation that existed
between the young girl and this mother of hers. In the Swiss
province where they had both been born, the mother had been
considered rather bold and forward. Her penchant for Gibbon was
only one of a number of adventures that have been told about her.
She was by no means coy with the gallants of Geneva. Yet, after
her marriage, and when she came to Paris, she seemed to be
transformed into a sort of Swiss Puritan.
As such, she undertook her daughter's bringing up, and was
extremely careful about everything that Germaine did and about the
company she kept. On the other hand, the daughter, who in the city
of Calvin had been rather dull and quiet in her ways, launched out
into a gaiety such as she had never known in Switzerland. Mother
and daughter, in fact, changed parts. The country beauty of Geneva
became the prude of Paris, while the quiet, unemotional young
Genevese became the light of all the Parisian salons, whether
social or intellectual.
The mother was a very beautiful woman. The daughter, who was to
become so famous, is best described by those two very
uncomplimentary English words, "dumpy" and "frumpy." She had
bulging eyes--which are not emphasized in the flattering portrait
by Gerard--and her hair was unbecomingly dressed. There are
reasons for thinking that Germaine bitterly hated her mother, and
was intensely jealous of her charm of person. It may be also that
Mme. Necker envied the daughter's cleverness, even though that
cleverness was little more, in the end, than the borrowing of
brilliant things from other persons. At any rate, the two never
cared for each other, and Germaine gave to her father the
affection which her mother neither received nor sought.
It was perhaps to tame the daughter's exuberance that a marriage
was arranged for Mlle. Necker with the Baron de Stael-Holstein,
who then represented the court of Sweden at Paris. Many eyebrows
were lifted when this match was announced. Baron de Stael had no
personal charm, nor any reputation for wit. His standing in the
diplomatic corps was not very high. His favorite occupations were
playing cards and drinking enormous quantities of punch. Could he
be considered a match for the extremely clever Mlle. Necker, whose
father had an enormous fortune, and who was herself considered a
gem of wit and mental power, ready to discuss political economy,
or the romantic movement of socialism, or platonic love?
Many differed about this. Mlle. Necker was, to be sure, rich and
clever; but the Baron de Stael was of an old family, and had a
title. Moreover, his easy-going ways--even his punch-drinking and
his card-playing--made him a desirable husband at that time of
French social history, when the aristocracy wished to act exactly
as it pleased, with wanton license, and when an embassy was a very
convenient place into which an indiscreet ambassadress might
retire when the mob grew dangerous. For Paris was now approaching
the time of revolution, and all "aristocrats" were more or less in
At first Mme. de Stael rather sympathized with the outbreak of the
people; but later their excesses drove her back into sympathy with
the royalists. It was then that she became indiscreet and abused
the privilege of the embassy in giving shelter to her friends. She
was obliged to make a sudden flight across the frontier, whence
she did not return until Napoleon loomed up, a political giant on
the horizon--victorious general, consul, and emperor.
Mme. de Stael's relations with Napoleon have, as I remarked above,
been among her few titles to serious remembrance. The Corsican
eagle and the dumpy little Genevese make, indeed, a peculiar pair;
and for this reason writers have enhanced the oddities of the
"Napoleon," says one, "did not wish any one to be near him who was
as clever as himself."
"No," adds another, "Mme. de Stael made a dead set at Napoleon,
because she wished to conquer and achieve the admiration of
everybody, even of the greatest man who ever lived."
"Napoleon found her to be a good deal of a nuisance," observes a
third. "She knew too much, and was always trying to force her
knowledge upon others."
The legend has sprung up that Mme. de Stael was too wise and witty
to be acceptable to Napoleon; and many women repeated with unction
that the conqueror of Europe was no match for this frowsy little
woman. It is, perhaps, worth while to look into the facts, and to
decide whether Napoleon was really of so petty a nature as to feel
himself inferior to this rather comic creature, even though at the
time many people thought her a remarkable genius.
In the first place, knowing Napoleon, as we have come to know him
through the pages of Mme. de Remusat, Frederic Masson, and others,
we can readily imagine the impatience with which the great soldier
would sit at dinner, hastening to finish his meal, crowding the
whole ceremony into twenty minutes, gulping a glass or two of wine
and a cup of coffee, and then being interrupted by a fussy little
female who wanted to talk about the ethics of history, or the
possibility of a new form of government. Napoleon, himself, was
making history, and writing it in fire and flame; and as for
governments, he invented governments all over Europe as suited his
imperial will. What patience could he have with one whom an
English writer has rather unkindly described as "an ugly coquette,
an old woman who made a ridiculous marriage, a blue-stocking, who
spent much of her time in pestering men of genius, and drawing
from them sarcastic comment behind their backs?"
Napoleon was not the sort of a man to be routed in discussion, but
he was most decidedly the sort of man to be bored and irritated by
pedantry. Consequently, he found Mme. de Stael a good deal of a
nuisance in the salons of Paris and its vicinity. He cared not the
least for her epigrams. She might go somewhere else and write all
the epigrams she pleased. When he banished her, in 1803, she
merely crossed the Rhine into Germany, and established herself at
The emperor received her son, Auguste de Stael-Holstein, with much
good humor, though he refused the boy's appeal on behalf of his
"My dear baron," said Napoleon, "if your mother were to be in
Paris for two months, I should really be obliged to lock her up in
one of the castles, which would be most unpleasant treatment for
me to show a lady. No, let her go anywhere else and we can get
along perfectly. All Europe is open to her--Rome, Vienna, St.
Petersburg; and if she wishes to write libels on me, England is a
convenient and inexpensive place. Only Paris is just a little too
Thus the emperor gibed the boy--he was only fifteen or sixteen--
and made fun of the exiled blue-stocking; but there was not a sign
of malice in what he said, nor, indeed, of any serious feeling at
all. The legend about Napoleon and Mme. de Stael must, therefore,
go into the waste-basket, except in so far as it is true that she
succeeded in boring him.
For the rest, she was an earlier George Sand--unattractive in
person, yet able to attract; loving love for love's sake, though
seldom receiving it in return; throwing herself at the head of
every distinguished man, and generally finding that he regarded
her overtures with mockery. To enumerate the men for whom she
professed to care would be tedious, since the record of her
passions has no reality about it, save, perhaps, with two
She did care deeply and sincerely for Henri Benjamin Constant, the
brilliant politician and novelist. He was one of her coterie in
Paris, and their common political sentiments formed a bond of
friendship between them. Constant was banished by Napoleon in
1802, and when Mme. de Stael followed him into exile a year later
he joined her in Germany.
The story of their relations was told by Constant in Adolphe,
while Mme. de Stael based Delphine on her experiences with him. It
seems that he was puzzled by her ardor; she was infatuated by his
genius. Together they went through all the phases of the tender
passion; and yet, at intervals, they would tire of each other and
separate for a while, and she would amuse herself with other men.
At last she really believed that her love for him was entirely
"I always loved my lovers more than they loved me," she said once,
and it was true.
Yet, on the other hand, she was frankly false to all of them, and
hence arose these intervals. In one of them she fell in with a
young Italian named Rocca, and by way of a change she not only
amused herself with him, but even married him. At this time--1811
--she was forty-five, while Rocca was only twenty-three--a young
soldier who had fought in Spain, and who made eager love to the
she-philosopher when he was invalided at Geneva.
The marriage was made on terms imposed by the middle-aged woman
who became his bride. In the first place, it was to be kept
secret; and second, she would not take her husband's name, but he
must pass himself off as her lover, even though she bore him
children. The reason she gave for this extraordinary exhibition of
her vanity was that a change of name on her part would put
"In fact," she said, "if Mme. de Stael were to change her name, it
would unsettle the heads of all Europe!"
And so she married Rocca, who was faithful to her to the end,
though she grew extremely plain and querulous, while he became
deaf and soon lost his former charm. Her life was the life of a
woman who had, in her own phrase, "attempted everything"; and yet
she had accomplished nothing that would last. She was loved by a
man of genius, but he did not love her to the end. She was loved
by a man of action, and she tired of him very soon. She had a
wonderful reputation for her knowledge of history and philosophy,
and yet what she knew of those subjects is now seen to be merely
the scraps and borrowings of others.
Something she did when she introduced the romantic literature into
France; and there are passages from her writings which seem worthy
of preservation. For instance, we may quote her outburst with
regard to unhappy marriages. "It was the subject," says Mr.
Gribble, "on which she had begun to think before she was married,
and which continued to haunt her long after she was left a widow;
though one suspects that the word 'marriage' became a form of
speech employed to describe her relations, not with her husband,
but with her lovers." The passage to which I refer is as follows:
In an unhappy marriage, there is a violence of distress surpassing
all other sufferings in the world. A woman's whole soul depends
upon the conjugal tie. To struggle against fate alone, to journey
to the grave without a friend to support you or to regret you, is
an isolation of which the deserts of Arabia give but a faint and
feeble idea. When all the treasure of your youth has been given in
vain, when you can no longer hope that the reflection of these
first rays will shine upon the end of your life, when there is
nothing in the dusk to remind you of the dawn, and when the
twilight is pale and colorless as a livid specter that precedes
the night, your heart revolts, and you feel that you have been
robbed of the gifts of God upon earth.
Equally striking is another prose passage of hers, which seems
less the careful thought of a philosopher than the screeching of a
termagant. It is odd that the first two sentences recall two
famous lines of Byron:
Man's love is of man's life a thing apart;
'Tis woman's whole existence.
The passage by Mme. de Stael is longer and less piquant:
Love is woman's whole existence. It is only an episode in the
lives of men. Reputation, honor, esteem, everything depends upon
how a woman conducts herself in this regard; whereas, according to
the rules of an unjust world, the laws of morality itself are
suspended in men's relations with women. They may pass as good
men, though they have caused women the most terrible suffering
which it is in the power of one human being to inflict upon
another. They may be regarded as loyal, though they have betrayed
them. They may have received from a woman marks of a devotion
which would so link two friends, two fellow soldiers, that either
would feel dishonored if he forgot them, and they may consider
themselves free of all obligations by attributing the services to
love--as if this additional gift of love detracted from the value
of the rest!
One cannot help noticing how lacking in neatness of expression is
this woman who wrote so much. It is because she wrote so much that
she wrote in such a muffled manner. It is because she thought so
much that her reflections were either not her own, or were never
clear. It is because she loved so much, and had so many lovers--
Benjamin Constant; Vincenzo Monti, the Italian poet; M. de
Narbonne, and others, as well as young Rocca--that she found both
love and lovers tedious.
She talked so much that her conversation was almost always mere
personal opinion. Thus she told Goethe that he never was really
brilliant until after he had got through a bottle of champagne.
Schiller said that to talk with her was to have a "rough time,"
and that after she left him, he always felt like a man who was
just getting over a serious illness. She never had time to do
anything very well.
There is an interesting glimpse of her in the recollections of Dr.
Bollmann, at the period when Mme. de Stael was in her prime. The
worthy doctor set her down as a genius--an extraordinary,
eccentric woman in all that she did. She slept but a few hours out
of the twenty-four, and was uninterruptedly and fearfully busy all
the rest of the time. While her hair was being dressed, and even
while she breakfasted, she used to keep on writing, nor did she
ever rest sufficiently to examine what she had written.
Such then was Mme. de Stael, a type of the time in which she
lived, so far as concerns her worship of sensibility--of
sensibility, and not of love; for love is too great to be so
scattered and made a thing to prattle of, to cheapen, and thus
destroy. So we find at the last that Germaine de Stael, though she
was much read and much feted and much followed, came finally to
that last halting-place where confessedly she was merely an old
woman, eccentric, and unattractive. She sued her former lovers for
the money she had lent them, she scolded and found fault--as
perhaps befits her age.
But such is the natural end of sensibility, and of the woman who
typifies it for succeeding generations.
THE STORY OF KARL MARX
Some time ago I entered a fairly large library--one of more than
two hundred thousand volumes--to seek the little brochure on Karl
Marx written by his old friend and genial comrade Wilhelm
Liebknecht. It was in the card catalogue. As I made a note of its
number, my friend the librarian came up to me, and I asked him
whether it was not strange that a man like Marx should have so
many books devoted to him, for I had roughly reckoned the number
at several hundred.
"Not at all," said he; "and we have here only a feeble nucleus of
the Marx literature--just enough, in fact, to give you a glimpse
of what that literature really is. These are merely the books
written by Marx himself, and the translations of them, with a few
expository monographs. Anything like a real Marx collection would
take up a special room in this library, and would have to have its
own separate catalogue. You see that even these two or three
hundred books contain large volumes of small pamphlets in many
languages--German, English, French, Italian, Russian, Polish,
Yiddish, Swedish, Hungarian, Spanish; and here," he concluded,
pointing to a recently numbered card, "is one in Japanese."
My curiosity was sufficiently excited to look into the matter
somewhat further. I visited another library, which was appreciably
larger, and whose managers were evidently less guided by their
prejudices. Here were several thousand books on Marx, and I spent
the best part of the day in looking them over.
What struck me as most singular was the fact that there was
scarcely a volume about Marx himself. Practically all the books
dealt with his theory of capital and his other socialistic views.
The man himself, his personality, and the facts of his life were
dismissed in the most meager fashion, while his economic theories
were discussed with something that verged upon fury. Even such
standard works as those of Mehring and Spargo, which profess to be
partly biographical, sum up the personal side of Marx in a few
pages. In fact, in the latter's preface he seems conscious of this
defect, and says:
Whether socialism proves, in the long span of centuries, to be
good or evil, a blessing to men or a curse, Karl Marx must always
be an object of interest as one of the great world-figures of
immortal memory. As the years go by, thoughtful men and women will
find the same interest in studying the life and work of Marx that
they do in studying the life and work of Cromwell, of Wesley, or
of Darwin, to name three immortal world-figures of vastly
Singularly little is known of Karl Marx, even by his most ardent
followers. They know his work, having studied his Das Kapital with
the devotion and earnestness with which an older generation of
Christians studied the Bible, but they are very generally
unacquainted with the man himself. Although more than twenty-six
years have elapsed since the death of Marx, there is no adequate
biography of him in any language.
Doubtless some better-equipped German writer, such as Franz
Mehring or Eduard Bernstein, will some day give us the adequate
and full biography for which the world now waits.
Here is an admission that there exists no adequate biography of
Karl Marx, and here is also an intimation that simply as a man,
and not merely as a great firebrand of socialism, Marx is well
worth studying. And so it has occurred to me to give in these
pages one episode of his career that seems to me quite curious,
together with some significant touches concerning the man as apart
from the socialist. Let the thousands of volumes already in
existence suffice for the latter. The motto of this paper is not
the Vergilian "Arms and the man I sing," but simply "The man I
sing"--and the woman. Karl Marx was born nearly ninety-four years
ago--May 5, 1818--in the city which the French call Treves and the
Germans Trier, among the vine-clad hills of the Moselle. Today,
the town is commonplace enough when you pass through it, but when
you look into its history, and seek out that history's evidences,
you will find that it was not always a rather sleepy little place.
It was one of the chosen abodes of the Emperors of the West, after
Rome began to be governed by Gauls and Spaniards, rather than by
Romans and Italians. The traveler often pauses there to see the
Porta Nigra, that immense gate once strongly fortified, and he
will doubtless visit also what is left of the fine baths and
Treves, therefore, has a right to be termed imperial, and it was
the birthplace of one whose sway over the minds of men has been
both imperial and imperious.
Karl Marx was one of those whose intellectual achievements were so
great as to dwarf his individuality and his private life. What he
taught with almost terrific vigor made his very presence in the
Continental monarchies a source of eminent danger. He was driven
from country to country. Kings and emperors were leagued together
against him. Soldiers were called forth, and blood was shed
because of him. But, little by little, his teaching seems to have
leavened the thought of the whole civilized world, so that to-day
thousands who barely know his name are deeply affected by his
ideas, and believe that the state should control and manage
everything for the good of all.
Marx seems to have inherited little from either of his parents.
His father, Heinrich Marx, was a provincial Jewish lawyer who had
adopted Christianity, probably because it was expedient, and
because it enabled him to hold local offices and gain some social
consequence. He had changed his name from Mordecai to Marx.
The elder Marx was very shrewd and tactful, and achieved a fair
position among the professional men and small officials in the
city of Treves. He had seen the horrors of the French Revolution,
and was philosopher enough to understand the meaning of that
mighty upheaval, and of the Napoleonic era which followed.
Napoleon, indeed, had done much to relieve his race from petty
oppression. France made the Jews in every respect the equals of
the Gentiles. One of its ablest marshals--Massena--was a Jew, and
therefore, when the imperial eagle was at the zenith of its
flight, the Jews in every city and town of Europe were
enthusiastic admirers of Napoleon, some even calling him the
Karl Marx's mother, it is certain, endowed him with none of his
gifts. She was a Netherlandish Jewess of the strictly domestic and
conservative type, fond of her children and her home, and
detesting any talk that looked to revolutionary ideas or to a
change in the social order. She became a Christian with her
husband, but the word meant little to her. It was sufficient that
she believed in God; and for this she was teased by some of her
skeptical friends. Replying to them, she uttered the only epigram
that has ever been ascribed to her.
"Yes," she said, "I believe in God, not for God's sake, but for my
She was so little affected by change of scene that to the day of
her death she never mastered German, but spoke almost wholly in
her native Dutch. Had we time, we might dwell upon the unhappy
paradox of her life. In her son Karl she found an especial joy, as
did her husband. Had the father lived beyond Karl's early youth,
he would doubtless have been greatly pained by the radicalism of
his gifted son, as well as by his personal privations. But the
mother lived until 1863, while Karl was everywhere stirring the
fires of revolution, driven from land to land, both feared and
persecuted, and often half famished. As Mr. Spargo says:
It was the irony of life that the son, who kindled a mighty hope
in the hearts of unnumbered thousands of his fellow human beings,
a hope that is today inspiring millions of those who speak his
name with reverence and love, should be able to do that only by
destroying his mother's hope and happiness in her son, and that
every step he took should fill her heart with a great agony.
When young Marx grew out of boyhood into youth, he was attractive
to all those who met him. Tall, lithe, and graceful, he was so
extremely dark that his intimates called him "der neger"--"the
negro." His loosely tossing hair gave to him a still more exotic
appearance; but his eyes were true and frank, his nose denoted
strength and character, and his mouth was full of kindliness in
its expression. His lineaments were not those of the Jewish type.
Very late in life--he died in 1883--his hair and beard turned
white, but to the last his great mustache was drawn like a bar
across his face, remaining still as black as ink, and making his
appearance very striking. He was full of fun and gaiety. As was
only natural, there soon came into his life some one who learned
to love him, and to whom, in his turn, he gave a deep and unbroken
There had come to Treves--which passed from France to Prussia with
the downfall of Napoleon--a Prussian nobleman, the Baron Ludwig
von Westphalen, holding the official title of "national adviser."
The baron was of Scottish extraction on his mother's side, being
connected with the ducal family of Argyll. He was a man of genuine
rank, and might have shown all the arrogance and superciliousness
of the average Prussian official; but when he became associated
with Heinrich Marx he evinced none of that condescending manner.
The two men became firm friends, and the baron treated the
provincial lawyer as an equal.
The two families were on friendly terms. Von Westphalen's infant
daughter, who had the formidable name of Johanna Bertha Julie
Jenny von Westphalen, but who was usually spoken of as Jenny,
became, in time, an intimate of Sophie Marx. She was four years
older than Karl, but the two grew up together--he a high-spirited,
manly boy, and she a lovely and romantic girl.
The baron treated Karl as if the lad were a child of his own. He
influenced him to love romantic literature and poetry by
interpreting to him the great masterpieces, from Homer and
Shakespeare to Goethe and Lessing. He made a special study of
Dante, whose mysticism appealed to his somewhat dreamy nature, and
to the religious instinct that always lived in him, in spite of
his dislike for creeds and churches.
The lore that he imbibed in early childhood stood Karl in good
stead when he began his school life, and his preparation for the
university. He had an absolute genius for study, and was no less
fond of the sports and games of his companions, so that he seemed
to be marked out for success. At sixteen years of age he showed a
precocious ability for planning and carrying out his work with
thoroughness. His mind was evidently a creative mind, one that was
able to think out difficult problems without fatigue. His taste
was shown in his fondness for the classics, in studying which he
noted subtle distinctions of meaning that usually escape even the
mature scholar. Penetration, thoroughness, creativeness, and a
capacity for labor were the boy's chief characteristics.
With such gifts, and such a nature, he left home for the
university of Bonn. Here he disappointed all his friends. His
studies were neglected; he was morose, restless, and dissatisfied.
He fell into a number of scrapes, and ran into debt through sundry
small extravagances. All the reports that reached his home were
most unsatisfactory. What had come over the boy who had worked so
hard in the gymnasium at Treves?
The simple fact was that he had became love-sick. His separation
from Jenny von Westphalen had made him conscious of a feeling
which he had long entertained without knowing it. They had been
close companions. He had looked into her beautiful face and seen
the luminous response of her lovely eyes, but its meaning had not
flashed upon his mind. He was not old enough to have a great
consuming passion, he was merely conscious of her charm. As he
could see her every day, he did not realize how much he wanted
her, and how much a separation from her would mean.
As "absence makes the heart grow fonder," so it may suddenly draw
aside the veil behind which the truth is hidden. At Bonn young
Marx felt as if a blaze of light had flashed before him; and from
that moment his studies, his companions, and the ambitions that he
had hitherto cherished all seemed flat and stale. At night and in
the daytime there was just one thing which filled his mind and
heart--the beautiful vision of Jenny von Westphalen.
Meanwhile his family, and especially his father, had become
anxious at the reports which reached them. Karl was sent for, and
his stay at Bonn was ended.
Now that he was once more in the presence of the girl who charmed
him so, he recovered all his old-time spirits. He wooed her
ardently, and though she was more coy, now that she saw his
passion, she did not discourage him, but merely prolonged the
ecstasy of this wonderful love-making. As he pressed her more and
more, and no one guessed the story, there came a time when she was
urged to let herself become engaged to him.
Here was seen the difference in their ages--a difference that had
an effect upon their future. It means much that a girl should be
four years older than the man who seeks her hand. She is four
years wiser; and a girl of twenty is, in fact, a match for a youth
of twenty-five. Brought up as she had been, in an aristocratic
home, with the blood of two noble families in her veins, and being
wont to hear the easy and somewhat cynical talk of worldly people,
she knew better than poor Karl the un-wisdom of what she was about
She was noble, the daughter of one high official and the sister of
another. Those whom she knew were persons of rank and station. On
the other hand, young Marx, though he had accepted Christianity,
was the son of a provincial Jewish lawyer, with no fortune, and
with a bad record at the university. When she thought of all these
things, she may well have hesitated; but the earnest pleading and
intense ardor of Karl Marx broke down all barriers between them,
and they became engaged, without informing Jenny's father of their
compact. Then they parted for a while, and Karl returned to his
home, filled with romantic thoughts.
He was also full of ambition and of desire for achievement. He had
won the loveliest girl in Treves, and now he must go forth into
the world and conquer it for her sake. He begged his father to
send him to Berlin, and showed how much more advantageous was that
new and splendid university, where Hegel's fame was still in the
In answer to his father's questions, the younger Marx replied:
"I have something to tell you that will explain all; but first you
must give me your word that you will tell no one."
"I trust you wholly," said the father. "I will not reveal what you
may say to me."
"Well," returned the son, "I am engaged to marry Jenny von
Westphalen. She wishes it kept a secret from her father, but I am
at liberty to tell you of it."
The elder Marx was at once shocked and seriously disturbed. Baron
von Westphalen was his old and intimate friend. No thought of
romance between their children had ever come into his mind. It
seemed disloyal to keep the verlobung of Karl and Jenny a secret;
for should it be revealed, what would the baron think of Marx?
Their disparity of rank and fortune would make the whole affair
stand out as something wrong and underhand.
The father endeavored to make his son see all this. He begged him
to go and tell the baron, but young Marx was not to be persuaded.
"Send me to Berlin," he said, "and we shall again be separated;
but I shall work and make a name for myself, so that when I return
neither Jenny nor her father will have occasion to be disturbed by
With these words he half satisfied his father, and before long he
was sent to Berlin, where he fell manfully upon his studies. His
father had insisted that he should study law; but his own tastes
were for philosophy and history. He attended lectures in
jurisprudence "as a necessary evil," but he read omnivorously in
subjects that were nearer to his heart. The result was that his
official record was not much better than it had been at Bonn.
The same sort of restlessness, too, took possession of him when he
found that Jenny would not answer his letters. No matter how
eagerly and tenderly he wrote to her, there came no reply. Even
the most passionate pleadings left her silent and unresponsive.
Karl could not complain, for she had warned him that she would not
write to him. She felt that their engagement, being secret, was
anomalous, and that until her family knew of it she was not free
to act as she might wish.
Here again was seen the wisdom of her maturer years; but Karl
could not be equally reasonable. He showered her with letters,
which still she would not answer. He wrote to his father in words
of fire. At last, driven to despair, he said that he was going to
write to the Baron von Westphalen, reveal the secret, and ask for
the baron's fatherly consent.
It seemed a reckless thing to do, and yet it turned out to be the
wisest. The baron knew that such an engagement meant a social
sacrifice, and that, apart from the matter of rank, young Marx was
without any fortune to give the girl the luxuries to which she had
been accustomed. Other and more eligible suitors were always
within view. But here Jenny herself spoke out more strongly than
she had ever done to Karl. She was willing to accept him with what
he was able to give her. She cared nothing for any other man, and
she begged her father to make both of them completely happy.
Thus it seemed that all was well, yet for some reason or other
Jenny would not write to Karl, and once more he was almost driven
to distraction. He wrote bitter letters to his father, who tried
to comfort him. The baron himself sent messages of friendly
advice, but what young man in his teens was ever reasonable? So
violent was Karl that at last his father wrote to him:
I am disgusted with your letters. Their unreasonable tone is
loathsome to me. I should never had expected it of you. Haven't
you been lucky from your cradle up?
Finally Karl received one letter from his betrothed--a letter that
transfused him with ecstatic joy for about a day, and then sent
him back to his old unrest. This, however, may be taken as a part
of Marx's curious nature, which was never satisfied, but was
always reaching after something which could not be had.
He fell to writing poetry, of which he sent three volumes to
Jenny--which must have been rather trying to her, since the verse
was very poor. He studied the higher mathematics, English and
Italian, some Latin, and a miscellaneous collection of works on
history and literature. But poetry almost turned his mind. In
later years he wrote:
Everything was centered on poetry, as if I were bewitched by some
Luckily, he was wise enough, after a time, to recognize how
halting were his poems when compared with those of the great
masters; and so he resumed his restless, desultory work. He still
sent his father letters that were like wild cries. They evoked, in
reply, a very natural burst of anger:
Complete disorder, silly wandering through all branches of
science, silly brooding at the burning oil-lamp! In your wildness
you see with four eyes--a horrible setback and disregard for
everything decent. And in the pursuit of this senseless and
purposeless learning you think to raise the fruits which are to
unite you with your beloved one! What harvest do you expect to
gather from them which will enable you to fulfil your duty toward
Writing to him again, his father speaks of something that Karl had
written as "a mad composition, which denotes clearly how you waste
your ability and spend nights in order to create such
monstrosities." The young man was even forbidden to return home
for the Easter holidays. This meant giving up the sight of Jenny,
whom he had not seen for a whole year. But fortune arranged it
otherwise; for not many weeks later death removed the parent who
had loved him and whom he had loved, though neither of them could
understand the other. The father represented the old order of
things; the son was born to discontent and to look forward to a
new heaven and a new earth.
Returning to Berlin, Karl resumed his studies; but as before, they
were very desultory in their character, and began to run upon
social questions, which were indeed setting Germany into a
ferment. He took his degree, and thought of becoming an instructor
at the university of Jena; but his radicalism prevented this, and
he became the editor of a liberal newspaper, which soon, however,
became so very radical as to lead to his withdrawal.
It now seemed best that Marx should seek other fields of activity.
To remain in Germany was dangerous to himself and discreditable to
Jenny's relatives, with their status as Prussian officials. In the
summer of 1843, he went forth into the world--at last an
"international." Jenny, who had grown to believe in him as against
her own family, asked for nothing better than to wander with him,
if only they might be married. And they were married in this same
summer, and spent a short honeymoon at Bingen on the Rhine--made
famous by Mrs. Norton's poem. It was the brief glimpse of sunshine
that was to precede year after year of anxiety and want.
Leaving Germany, Marx and Jenny went to Paris, where he became
known to some of the intellectual lights of the French capital,
such as Bakunin, the great Russian anarchist, Proudhon, Cabet, and
Saint-Simon. Most important of all was his intimacy with the poet
Heine, that marvelous creature whose fascination took on a
thousand forms, and whom no one could approach without feeling his
Since Goethe's death, down to the present time, there has been no
figure in German literature comparable to Heine. His prose was
exquisite. His poetry ran through the whole gamut of humanity and
of the sensations that come to us from the outer world. In his
poems are sweet melodies and passionate cries of revolt, stirring
ballads of the sea and tender love-songs--strange as these last
seem when coming from this cynic.
For cynic he was, deep down in his heart, though his face, when in
repose, was like the conventional pictures of Christ. His
fascinations destroyed the peace of many a woman; and it was only
after many years of self-indulgence that he married the faithful
Mathilde Mirat in what he termed a "conscience marriage." Soon
after he went to his "mattress-grave," as he called it, a hopeless
To Heine came Marx and his beautiful bride. One may speculate as
to Jenny's estimate of her husband. Since his boyhood, she had not
seen him very much. At that time he was a merry, light-hearted
youth, a jovial comrade, and one of whom any girl would be proud.
But since his long stay in Berlin, and his absorption in the
theories of men like Engels and Bauer, he had become a very
different sort of man, at least to her.
Groping, lost in brown studies, dreamy, at times morose, he was by
no means a sympathetic and congenial husband for a high-bred,
spirited girl, such as Jenny von Westphalen. His natural drift was
toward a beer-garden, a group of frowsy followers, the reek of
vile tobacco, and the smell of sour beer. One cannot but think
that his beautiful wife must have been repelled by this, though
with her constant nature she still loved him.
In Heinrich Heine she found a spirit that seemed akin to hers. Mr.
Spargo says--and in what he says one must read a great deal
between the lines:
The admiration of Jenny Marx for the poet was even more ardent
than that of her husband. He fascinated her because, as she said,
he was "so modern," while Heine was drawn to her because she was
It must be that Heine held the heart of this beautiful woman in
his hand. He knew so well the art of fascination; he knew just how
to supply the void which Marx had left. The two were indeed
affinities in heart and soul; yet for once the cynical poet stayed
his hand, and said no word that would have been disloyal to his
friend. Jenny loved him with a love that might have blazed into a
lasting flame; but fortunately there appeared a special providence
to save her from herself. The French government, at the request of
the King of Prussia, banished Marx from its dominions; and from
that day until he had become an old man he was a wanderer and an
exile, with few friends and little money, sustained by nothing but
Jenny's fidelity and by his infinite faith in a cause that crushed
him to the earth.
There is a curious parallel between the life of Marx and that of
Richard Wagner down to the time when the latter discovered a royal
patron. Both of them were hounded from country to country; both of
them worked laboriously for so scanty a living as to verge, at
times, upon starvation. Both of them were victims to a cause in
which they earnestly believed--an economic cause in the one case,
an artistic cause in the other. Wagner's triumph came before his
death, and the world has accepted his theory of the music-drama.
The cause of Marx is far greater and more tremendous, because it
strikes at the base of human life and social well-being.
The clash between Wagner and his critics was a matter of poetry
and dramatic music. It was not vital to the human race. The cause
of Marx is one that is only now beginning to be understood and
recognized by millions of men and women in all the countries of
the earth. In his lifetime he issued a manifesto that has become a
classic among economists. He organized the great International
Association of Workmen, which set all Europe in a blaze and
extended even to America. His great book, "Capital"--Das Kapital--
which was not completed until the last years of his life, is read
to-day by thousands as an almost sacred work.
Like Wagner and his Minna, the wife of Marx's youth clung to him
through his utmost vicissitudes, denying herself the necessities
of life so that he might not starve. In London, where he spent his
latest days, he was secure from danger, yet still a sort of
persecution seemed to follow him. For some time, nothing that he
wrote could find a printer. Wherever he went, people looked at him
askance. He and his six children lived upon the sum of five
dollars a week, which was paid him by the New York Tribune,
through the influence of the late Charles A. Dana. When his last
child was born, and the mother's life was in serious danger, Marx
complained that there was no cradle for the baby, and a little
later that there was no coffin for its burial.
Marx had ceased to believe in marriage, despised the church, and
cared nothing for government. Yet, unlike Wagner, he was true to
the woman who had given up so much for him. He never sank to an
artistic degeneracy. Though he rejected creeds, he was
nevertheless a man of genuine religious feeling. Though he
believed all present government to be an evil, he hoped to make it
better, or rather he hoped to substitute for it a system by which
all men might get an equal share of what it is right and just for
them to have.
Such was Marx, and thus he lived and died. His wife, who had long
been cut off from her relatives, died about a year before him.
When she was buried, he stumbled and fell into her grave, and from
that time until his own death he had no further interest in life.
He had been faithful to a woman and to a cause. That cause was so
tremendous as to overwhelm him. In sixty years only the first
great stirrings of it could be felt. Its teachings may end in
nothing, but only a century or more of effort and of earnest
striving can make it plain whether Karl Marx was a world-mover or
a martyr to a cause that was destined to be lost.
FERDINAND LASSALLE AND HELENE VON DONNIGES
The middle part of the nineteenth century is a period which has
become more or less obscure to most Americans and Englishmen. At
one end the thunderous campaigns of Napoleon are dying away. In
the latter part of the century we remember the gorgeousness of the
Tuileries, the four years' strife of our own Civil War, and then
the golden drift of peace with which the century ended. Between
these two extremes there is a stretch of history which seems to
lack interest for the average student of to-day.
In America, that was a period when we took little interest in the
movement of affairs on the continent of Europe. It would not be
easy, for instance, to imagine an American of 1840 cogitating on
problems of socialism, or trying to invent some new form of
arbeiterverein. General Choke was still swindling English
emigrants. The Young Columbian was still darting out from behind a
table to declare how thoroughly he defied the British lion. But
neither of these patriots, any more than their English compeers,
was seriously disturbed about the interests of the rest of the
world. The Englishman was contentedly singing "God Save the
Queen!" The American, was apostrophizing the bird of freedom with
the floridity of rhetoric that reached its climax in the "Pogram
Defiance." What the Dutchies and Frenchies were doing was little
more to an Englishman than to an American.
Continental Europe was a mystery to English-speaking people. Those
who traveled abroad took their own servants with them, spoke only
English, and went through the whole European maze with absolute
indifference. To them the socialist, who had scarcely received a
name, was an imaginary being. If he existed, he was only a sort of
offspring of the Napoleonic wars--a creature who had not yet
fitted into the ordinary course of things. He was an anomaly, a
person who howled in beer-houses, and who would presently be
regulated, either by the statesmen or by the police.
When our old friend, Mark Tapley, was making with his master a
homeward voyage to Britain, what did he know or even care about
the politics of France, or Germany, or Austria, or Russia? Not the
slightest, you may he sure. Mark and his master represented the
complete indifference of the Englishman or American--not
necessarily a well-bred indifference, but an indifference that was
insular on the one hand and republican on the other. If either of
them had heard of a gentleman who pillaged an unmarried lady's
luggage in order to secure a valuable paper for another lady, who
was married, they would both have looked severely at this abnormal
person, and the American would doubtless have added a remark which
had something to do with the matchless purity of Columbia's
If, again, they had been told that Ferdinand Lassalle had joined
in the great movement initiated by Karl Marx, it is absolutely
certain that neither the Englishman nor the American could have
given you the slightest notion as to who these individuals were.
Thrones might be tottering all over Europe; the red flag might
wave in a score of cities--what would all this signify, so long as
Britannia ruled the waves, while Columbia's feathered emblem
shrieked defiance three thousand miles away?
And yet few more momentous events have happened in a century than
the union which led one man to give his eloquence to the social
cause, and the other to suffer for that cause until his death.
Marx had the higher thought, but his disciple Lassalle had the
more attractive way of presenting it. It is odd that Marx, today,
should lie in a squalid cemetery, while the whole western world
echoes with his praises, and that Lassalle--brilliant, clear-
sighted, and remarkable for his penetrating genius--should have
lived in luxury, but should now know nothing but oblivion, even
among those who shouted at his eloquence and ran beside him in the
glory of his triumph.
Ferdinand Lassalle was a native of Breslau, the son of a wealthy
Jewish silk-merchant. Heymann Lassal--for thus the father spelled
his name--stroked his hands at young Ferdinand's cleverness, but
he meant it to be a commercial cleverness. He gave the boy a
thorough education at the University of Breslau, and later at
Berlin. He was an affectionate parent, and at the same time
tyrannical to a degree.
It was the old story where the father wishes to direct every step
that his son takes, and where the son, bursting out into youthful
manhood, feels that he has the right to freedom. The father thinks
how he has toiled for the son; the son thinks that if this toil
were given for love, it should not be turned into a fetter and
restraint. Young Lassalle, instead of becoming a clever silk-
merchant, insisted on a university career, where he studied
earnestly, and was admitted to the most cultured circles.
Though his birth was Jewish, he encountered little prejudice
against his race. Napoleon had changed the old anti-Semitic
feeling of fifty years before to a liberalism that was just
beginning to be strongly felt in Germany, as it had already been
in France. This was true in general, but especially true of
Lassalle, whose features were not of a Semitic type, who made
friends with every one, and who was a favorite in many salons. His
portraits make him seem a high-bred and high-spirited Prussian,
with an intellectual and clean-cut forehead; a face that has a
sense of humor, and yet one capable of swift and cogent thought.
No man of ordinary talents could have won the admiration of so
many compeers. It is not likely that such a keen and cynical
observer as Heinrich Heine would have written as he did concerning
Lassalle, had not the latter been a brilliant and magnetic youth.
Heine wrote to Varnhagen von Ense, the German historian:
My friend, Herr Lassalle, who brings you this letter, is a young
man of remarkable intellectual gifts. With the most thorough
erudition, with the widest learning, with the greatest penetration
that I have ever known, and with the richest gift of exposition,
he combines an energy of will and a capacity for action which
astonish me. In no one have I found united so much enthusiasm and
No better proof of Lassalle's enthusiasm can be found than a few
lines from his own writings:
I love Heine. He is my second self. What audacity! What
overpowering eloquence! He knows how to whisper like a zephyr when
it kisses rose-blooms, how to breathe like fire when it rages and
destroys; he calls forth all that is tenderest and softest, and
then all that is fiercest and most daring. He has the sweep of the
Lassalle's sympathy with Heine was like his sympathy with every
one whom he knew. This was often misunderstood. It was
misunderstood in his relations with women, and especially in the
celebrated affair of the Countess von Hatzfeldt, which began in
the year 1846--that is to say, in the twenty-first year of
In truth, there was no real scandal in the matter, for the
countess was twice the age of Lassalle. It was precisely because
he was so young that he let his eagerness to defend a woman in
distress make him forget the ordinary usage of society, and expose
himself to mean and unworthy criticism which lasted all his life.
It began by his introduction to the Countess von Hatzfeldt, a lady
who was grossly ill-treated by her husband. She had suffered
insult and imprisonment in the family castles; the count had
deprived her of medicine when she was ill, and had forcibly taken
away her children. Besides this, he was infatuated with another
woman, a baroness, and wasted his substance upon her even contrary
to the law which protected his children's rights.
The countess had a son named Paul, of whom Lassalle was extremely
fond. There came to the boy a letter from the Count von Hatzfeldt
ordering him to leave his mother. The countess at once sent for
Lassalle, who brought with him two wealthy and influential
friends--one of them a judge of a high Prussian court--and
together they read the letter which Paul had just received. They
were deeply moved by the despair of the countess, and by the
cruelty of her dissolute husband in seeking to separate the mother
from her son.
In his chivalrous ardor Lassalle swore to help the countess, and
promised that he would carry on the struggle with her husband to
the bitter end. He took his two friends with him to Berlin, and
then to Dusseldorf, for they discovered that the Count von
Hatzfeldt was not far away. He was, in fact, at Aix-la-Chapelle
with the baroness.
Lassalle, who had the scent of a greyhound, pried about until he
discovered that the count had given his mistress a legal document,
assigning to her a valuable piece of property which, in the
ordinary course of law, should be entailed on the boy, Paul. The
countess at once hastened to the place, broke into her husband's
room, and secured a promise that the deed would be destroyed.
No sooner, however, had she left him than he returned to the
baroness, and presently it was learned that the woman had set out
Lassalle and his two friends followed, to ascertain whether the
document had really been destroyed. The three reached a hotel at
Cologne, where the baroness had just arrived. Her luggage, in
fact, was being carried upstairs. One of Lassalle's friends opened
a trunk, and, finding a casket there, slipped it out to his
companion, the judge.
Unfortunately, the latter had no means of hiding it, and when the
baroness's servant shouted for help, the casket was found in the
possession of the judge, who could give no plausible account of
it. He was, therefore, arrested, as were the other two. There was
no evidence against Lassalle; but his friends fared badly at the
trial, one of them being imprisoned for a year and the other for
From this time Lassalle, with an almost quixotic devotion, gave
himself up to fighting the Countess von Hatzfeldt's battle against
her husband in the law-courts. The ablest advocates were pitted
against him. The most eloquent legal orators thundered at him and
at his client, but he met them all with a skill, an audacity, and
a brilliant wit that won for him verdict after verdict. The case
went from the lower to the higher tribunals, until, after nine
years, it reached the last court of appeal, where Lassalle wrested
from his opponents a magnificently conclusive victory--one that
made the children of the countess absolutely safe. It was a battle
fought with the determination of a soldier, with the gallantry of
a knight errant, and the intellectual acumen of a learned lawyer.
It is not surprising that many refuse to believe that Lassalle's
feeling toward the Countess von Hatzfeldt was a disinterested one.
A scandalous pamphlet, which was published in French, German, and
Russian, and written by one who styled herself "Sophie Solutzeff,"
did much to spread the evil report concerning Lassalle. But the
very openness and frankness of the service which he did for the
countess ought to make it clear that his was the devotion of a
youth drawn by an impulse into a strife where there was nothing
for him to gain, but everything to lose. He denounced the
brutality of her husband, but her letters to him always addressed
him as "my dear child." In writing to her he confides small love-
secrets and ephemeral flirtations--which he would scarcely have
done, had the countess viewed him with the eye of passion.
Lassalle was undoubtedly a man of impressionable heart, and had
many affairs such as Heine had; but they were not deep or lasting.
That he should have made a favorable impression on the women whom
he met is not surprising, because of his social standing, his
chivalry, his fine manners, and his handsome face. Mr. Clement
Shorter has quoted an official document which describes him as he
was in his earlier years:
Ferdinand Lassalle, aged twenty-three, a civilian born at Breslau
and dwelling recently at Berlin. He stands five feet six inches in
height, has brown, curly hair, open forehead, brown eyebrows, dark
blue eyes, well proportioned nose and mouth, and rounded chin.
We ought not to be surprised, then, if he was a favorite in
drawing-rooms; if both men and women admired him; if Alexander von
Humboldt cried out with enthusiasm that he was a wunderkind, and
if there were more than Sophie Solutzeff to be jealous. But the
rather ungrateful remark of the Countess von Hatzfeldt certainly
does not represent him as he really was.
"You are without reason and judgment where women are concerned,"
she snarled at him; but the sneer only shows that the woman who
uttered it was neither in love with him nor grateful to him.
In this paper we are not discussing Lassalle as a public agitator
or as a Socialist, but simply in his relations with the two women
who most seriously affected his life. The first was the Countess
von Hatzfeldt, who, as we have seen, occupied--or rather wasted--
nine of the best years of his life. Then came that profound and
thrilling passion which ended the career of a man who at thirty-
nine had only just begun to be famous.
Lassalle had joined his intellectual forces with those of Heine
and Marx. He had obtained so great an influence over the masses of
the people as to alarm many a monarch, and at the same time to
attract many a statesman. Prince Bismarck, for example, cared
nothing for Lassalle's championship of popular rights, but sought
his aid on finding that he was an earnest advocate of German
Furthermore, he was very far from resembling what in those early
days was regarded as the typical picture of a Socialist. There was
nothing frowzy about him; in his appearance he was elegance
itself; his manners were those of a prince, and his clothing was
of the best. Seeing him in a drawing-room, no one would mistake
him for anything but a gentleman and a man of parts. Hence it is
not surprising that his second love was one of the nobility,
although her own people hated Lassalle as a bearer of the red
This girl was Helene von Donniges, the daughter of a Bavarian
diplomat. As a child she had traveled much, especially in Italy
and in Switzerland. She was very precocious, and lived her own
life without asking the direction of any one. At twelve years of
age she had been betrothed to an Italian of forty; but this dark
and pedantic person always displeased her, and soon afterward,
when she met a young Wallachian nobleman, one Yanko Racowitza, she
was ready at once to dismiss her Italian lover. Racowitza--young,
a student, far from home, and lacking friends--appealed at once to
the girl's sympathy.
At that very time, in Berlin, where Helene was visiting her
grandmother, she was asked by a Prussian baron:
"Do you know Ferdinand Lassalle?"
The question came to her with a peculiar shock. She had never
heard the name, and yet the sound of it gave her a strange
emotion. Baron Korff, who perhaps took liberties because she was
so young, went on to say:
"My dear lady, have you really never seen Lassalle? Why, you and
he were meant for each other!"
She felt ashamed to ask about him, but shortly after a gentleman
who knew her said:
"It is evident that you have a surprising degree of intellectual
kinship with Ferdinand Lassalle."
This so excited her curiosity that she asked her grandmother:
"Who is this person of whom they talk so much--this Ferdinand
"Do not speak of him," replied her grandmother. "He is a shameless
A little questioning brought to Helene all sorts of stories about
Lassalle--the Countess von Hatzfeldt, the stolen casket, the
mysterious pamphlet, the long battle in the courts--all of which
excited her still more. A friend offered to introduce her to the
"shameless demagogue." This introduction happened at a party, and
it must have been an extraordinary meeting. Seldom, it seemed, was
there a better instance of love at first sight, or of the true
affinity of which Baron Korff had spoken. In the midst of the
public gathering they almost rushed into each other's arms; they
talked the free talk of acknowledged lovers; and when she left, he
called her love-names as he offered her his arm.
"Somehow it did not appear at all remarkable," she afterward
declared. "We seemed to be perfectly fitted to each other."
Nevertheless, nine months passed before they met again at a
soiree. At this time Lassaller gazing upon her, said:
"What would you do if I were sentenced to death?"
"I should wait until your head was severed," was her answer, "in
order that you might look upon your beloved to the last, and then
--I should take poison!"
Her answer delighted him, but he said that there was no danger. He
was greeted on every hand with great consideration; and it seemed
not unlikely that, in recognition of his influence with the
people, he might rise to some high position. The King of Prussia
sympathized with him. Heine called him the Messiah of the
nineteenth century. When he passed from city to city, the whole
population turned out to do him honor. Houses were wreathed;
flowers were thrown in masses upon him, while the streets were
spanned with triumphal arches.
Worn out with the work and excitement attending the birth of the
Deutscher Arbeiterverein, or workmen's union, which he founded in
1863, Lassalle fled for a time to Switzerland for rest. Helene
heard of his whereabouts, and hurried to him, with several
friends. They met again on July 25,1864, and discussed long and
intensely the possibilities of their marriage and the opposition
of her parents, who would never permit her to marry a man who was
at once a Socialist and a Jew.
Then comes a pitiful story of the strife between Lassalle and the
Donniges family. Helene's father and mother indulged in vulgar
words; they spoke of Lassalle with contempt; they recalled all the
scandals that had been current ten years before, and forbade
Helene ever to mention the man's name again.
The next scene in the drama took place in Geneva, where the family
of Herr von Donniges had arrived, and where Helene's sister had
been betrothed to Count von Keyserling--a match which filled her
mother with intense joy. Her momentary friendliness tempted Helene
to speak of her unalterable love for Lassalle. Scarcely had the
words been spoken when her father and mother burst into abuse and
denounced Lassalle as well as herself.
She sent word of this to Lassalle, who was in a hotel near by.
Scarcely had he received her letter, when Helene herself appeared
upon the scene, and with all the intensity of which she was
possessed, she begged him to take her wherever he chose. She would
go with him to France, to Italy--to the ends of the earth!
What a situation, and yet how simple a one for a man of spirit! It
is strange to have to record that to Lassalle it seemed most
difficult. He felt that he or she, or both of them, had been
compromised. Had she a lady with her? Did she know any one in the
What an extraordinary answer! If she were compromised, all the
more ought he to have taken her in his arms and married her at
once, instead of quibbling and showing himself a prig.
Presently, her maid came in to tell them that a carriage was ready
to take them to the station, whence a train would start for Paris
in a quarter of an hour. Helene begged him. with a feeling that
was beginning to be one of shame. Lassalle repelled her in words
that were to stamp him with a peculiar kind of cowardice.
Why should he have stopped to think of anything except the
beautiful woman who was at his feet, and to whom he had pledged
his love? What did he care for the petty diplomat who was her
father, or the vulgar-tongued woman who was her mother? He should
have hurried her and the maid into the train for Paris, and have
forgotten everything in the world but his Helene, glorious among
women, who had left everything for him.
What was the sudden failure, the curious weakness, the paltriness
of spirit that came at the supreme moment into the heart of this
hitherto strong man? Here was the girl whom he loved, driven from
her parents, putting aside all question of appearances, and
clinging to him with a wild and glorious desire to give herself to
him and to be all his own! That was a thing worthy of a true
woman. And he? He shrinks from her and cowers and acts like a
simpleton. His courage seems to have dribbled through his finger-
tips; he is no longer a man--he is a thing.
Out of all the multitude of Lassalle's former admirers, there is
scarcely one who has ventured to defend him, much less to laud
him; and when they have done so, their voices have had a sound of
mockery that dies away in their own throats.
Helene, on her side, had compromised herself, and even from the
view-point of her parents it was obvious that she ought to be
married immediately. Her father, however, confined her to her room
until it was understood that Lassalle had left Geneva. Then her
family's supplications, the statement that her sister's marriage
and even her father's position were in danger, led her to say that
she would give up Lassalle.
It mattered very little, in one way, for whatever he might have
done, Lassalle had killed, or at least had chilled, her love. His
failure at the moment of her great self-sacrifice had shown him to
her as he really was--no bold and gallant spirit, but a cringing,
spiritless self-seeker. She wrote him a formal letter to the
effect that she had become reconciled to her "betrothed
bridegroom"; and they never met again.
Too late, Lassalle gave himself up to a great regret. He went
about trying to explain his action to his friends, but he could
say nothing that would ease his feeling and reinstate him in the
eyes of the romantic girl. In a frenzy, he sought out the
Wallachian student, Yanko von Racowitza, and challenged him to a
mortal duel. He also challenged Helene's father. Years before, he
had on principle declined to fight a duel; but now he went raving
about as if he sought the death of every one who knew him.
The duel was fought on August 28, 1864. There was some trouble
about pistols, and also about seconds; but finally the combatants
left a small hotel in a village near Geneva, and reached the
dueling-grounds. Lassalle was almost joyous in his manner. His old
confidence had come back to him; he meant to kill his man.
They took their stations high up among the hills. A few spectators
saw their figures outlined against the sky. The command to fire
rang out, and from both pistols gushed the flame and smoke.
A moment later, Lassalle was seen to sway and fall. A chance shot,
glancing from a wall, had struck him to the ground. He suffered
terribly, and nothing but opium in great doses could relieve his
pain. His wound was mortal, and three days later he died.
Long after, Helene admitted that she still loved Lassalle, and
believed that he would win the duel; but after the tragedy, the
tenderness and patience of Racowitza won her heart. She married
him, but within a year he died of consumption. Helene, being
disowned by her relations, prepared herself for the stage. She
married a third husband named Shevitch, who was then living in the
United States, but who has since made his home in Russia.
Let us say nothing of Lassalle's political career. Except for his
work as one of the early leaders of the liberal movement in
Germany, it has perished, and his name has been almost forgotten.
As a lover, his story stands out forever as a warning to the timid
and the recreant. Let men do what they will; but there is just one
thing which no man is permitted to do with safety in the sight of
woman--and that is to play the craven.
THE STORY OF RACHEL
Outside of the English-speaking peoples the nineteenth century
witnessed the rise and triumphant progress of three great tragic
actresses. The first two of these--Rachel Felix and Sarah
Bernhardt--were of Jewish extraction; the third, Eleanor Duse, is
Italian. All of them made their way from pauperism to fame; but
perhaps the rise of Rachel was the most striking.
In the winter of 1821 a wretched peddler named Abraham--or Jacob--
Felix sought shelter at a dilapidated inn at Mumpf, a village in
Switzerland, not far from Basel. It was at the close of a stormy
day, and his small family had been toiling through the snow and
sleet. The inn was the lowest sort of hovel, and yet its
proprietor felt that it was too good for these vagabonds. He
consented to receive them only when he learned that the peddler's
wife was to be delivered of a child. That very night she became
the mother of a girl, who was at first called Elise. So
unimportant was the advent of this little waif into the world that
the burgomaster of Mumpf thought it necessary to make an entry
only of the fact that a peddler's wife had given birth to a female
child. There was no mention of family or religion, nor was the
record anything more than a memorandum.
Under such circumstances was born a child who was destined to
excite the wonder of European courts--to startle and thrill and
utterly amaze great audiences by her dramatic genius. But for ten
years the family--which grew until it consisted of one son and
five daughters--kept on its wanderings through Switzerland and
Germany. Finally, they settled down in Lyons, where the mother
opened a little shop for the sale of second-hand clothing. The
husband gave lessons in German whenever he could find a pupil. The
eldest daughter went about the cafes in the evening, singing the
songs that were then popular, while her small sister, Rachel,
collected coppers from those who had coppers to spare.
Although the family was barely able to sustain existence, the
father and mother were by no means as ignorant as their squalor
would imply. The peddler Felix had studied Hebrew theology in the
hope of becoming a rabbi. Failing this, he was always much
interested in declamation, public reading, and the recitation of
poetry. He was, in his way, no mean critic of actors and
actresses. Long before she was ten years of age little Rachel--who
had changed her name from Elise--could render with much feeling
and neatness of eloquence bits from the best-known French plays of
the classic stage.
The children's mother, on her side, was sharp and practical to a
high degree. She saved and scrimped all through her period of
adversity. Later she was the banker of her family, and would never
lend any of her children a sou except on excellent security.
However, this was all to happen in after years.
When the child who was destined to be famous had reached her tenth
year she and her sisters made their way to Paris. For four years
the second-hand clothing-shop was continued; the father still
taught German; and the elder sister, Sarah, who had a golden
voice, made the rounds of the cafes in the lowest quarters of the
capital, while Rachel passed the wooden plate for coppers.
One evening in the year 1834 a gentleman named Morin, having been
taken out of his usual course by a matter of business, entered a
BRASSERIE for a cup of coffee. There he noted two girls, one of
them singing with remarkable sweetness, and the other silently
following with the wooden plate. M. Morin called to him the girl
who sang and asked her why she did not make her voice more
profitable than by haunting the cafes at night, where she was sure
to meet with insults of the grossest kind.
"Why," said Sarah, "I haven't anybody to advise me what to do."
M. Morin gave her his address and said that he would arrange to
have her meet a friend who would be of great service to her. On
the following day he sent the two girls to a M. Choron, who was
the head of the Conservatory of Sacred Music. Choron had Sarah
sing, and instantly admitted her as a pupil, which meant that she
would soon be enrolled among the regular choristers. The beauty of
her voice made a deep impression on him.
Then he happened to notice the puny, meager child who was standing
near her sister. Turning to her, he said:
"And what can you do, little one?"
"I can recite poetry," was the reply.
"Oh, can you?" said he. "Please let me hear you."
Rachel readily consented. She had a peculiarly harsh, grating
voice, so that any but a very competent judge would have turned
her away. But M. Choron, whose experience was great, noted the
correctness of her accent and the feeling which made itself felt
in every line. He accepted her as well as her sister, but urged
her to study elocution rather than music.
She must, indeed, have had an extraordinary power even at the age
of fourteen, since not merely her voice but her whole appearance
was against her. She was dressed in a short calico frock of a
pattern in which red was spotted with white. Her shoes were of
coarse black leather. Her hair was parted at the back of her head
and hung down her shoulders in two braids, framing the long,
childish, and yet gnome-like face, which was unusual in its
At first she was little thought of; but there came a time when she
astonished both her teachers and her companions by a recital which
she gave in public. The part was the narrative of Salema in the
"Abufar" of Ducis. It describes the agony of a mother who gives
birth to a child while dying of thirst amid the desert sands. Mme.
de Barviera has left a description of this recital, which it is
worth while to quote:
While uttering the thrilling tale the thin face seemed to lengthen
with horror, the small, deep-set black eyes dilated with a fixed
stare as though she witnessed the harrowing scene; and the deep,
guttural tones, despite a slight Jewish accent, awoke a nameless
terror in every one who listened, carrying him through the
imaginary woe with a strange feeling of reality, not to be shaken,
off as long as the sounds lasted.
Even yet, however, the time had not come for any conspicuous
success. The girl was still so puny in form, so monkey-like in
face, and so gratingly unpleasant in her tones that it needed time
for her to attain her full growth and to smooth away some of the
discords in her peculiar voice.
Three years later she appeared at the Gymnase in a regular debut;
yet even then only the experienced few appreciated her greatness.
Among these, however, were the well-known critic Jules Janin, the
poet and novelist Gauthier, and the actress Mlle. Mars. They saw
that this lean, raucous gutter-girl had within her gifts which
would increase until she would he first of all actresses on the
French stage. Janin wrote some lines which explain the secret of
All the talent in the world, especially when continually applied
to the same dramatic works, will not satisfy continually the
hearer. What pleases in a great actor, as in all arts that appeal
to the imagination, is the unforeseen. When I am utterly ignorant
of what is to happen, when I do not know, when you yourself do not
know what will be your next gesture, your next look, what passion
will possess your heart, what outcry will burst from your terror-
stricken soul, then, indeed, I am willing to see you daily, for
each day you will be new to me. To-day I may blame, to-morrow
praise. Yesterday you were all-powerful; to-morrow, perhaps, you
may hardly win from me a word of admiration. So much the better,
then, if you draw from me unexpected tears, if in my heart you
strike an unknown fiber; but tell me not of hearing night after
night great artists who every time present the exact counterpart
of what they were on the preceding one.
It was at the Theatre Francais that she won her final acceptance
as the greatest of all tragedians of her time. This was in her
appearance in Corneille's famous play of "Horace." She had now, in
1838, blazed forth with a power that shook her no, less than it
stirred the emotions and the passions of her hearers. The princes
of the royal blood came in succession to see her. King Louis
Philippe himself was at last tempted by curiosity to be present.
Gifts of money and jewels were showered on her, and through sheer
natural genius rather than through artifice she was able to master
a great audience and bend it to her will.
She had no easy life, this girl of eighteen years, for other
actresses carped at her, and she had had but little training. The
sordid ways of her old father excited a bitterness which was
vented on the daughter. She was still under age, and therefore was
treated as a gold-mine by her exacting parents. At the most she
could play but twice a week. Her form was frail and reed-like. She
was threatened with a complaint of the lungs; yet all this served
to excite rather than to diminish public interest in her. The
newspapers published daily bulletins of her health, and her door
was besieged by anxious callers who wished to know her condition.
As for the greed of her parents, every one said she was not to
blame for that. And so she passed from poverty to riches, from
squalor to something like splendor, and from obscurity to fame.
Much has been written about her that is quite incorrect. She has
been credited with virtues which she never possessed; and, indeed,
it may be said with only too much truth that she possessed no
virtues whatsoever. On the stage while the inspiration lasted she
was magnificent. Off the stage she was sly, treacherous,
capricious, greedy, ungrateful, ignorant, and unchaste. With such
an ancestry as she had, with such an early childhood as had been
hers, what else could one expect from her?
She and her old mother wrangled over money like two pickpockets.
Some of her best friends she treated shamefully. Her avarice was
without bounds. Some one said that it was not really avarice, but
only a reaction from generosity; but this seems an exceedingly
subtle theory. It is possible to give illustrations of it,
however. She did, indeed, make many presents with a lavish hand;
yet, having made a present, she could not rest until she got it
back. The fact was so well known that her associates took it for
granted. The younger Dumas once received a ring from her.
Immediately he bowed low and returned it to her finger, saying:
"Permit me, mademoiselle, to present it to you in my turn so as to
save you the embarrassment of asking for it."
Mr. Vandam relates among other anecdotes about her that one
evening she dined at the house of Comte Duchatel. The table was
loaded with the most magnificent flowers; but Rachel's keen eyes
presently spied out the great silver centerpiece. Immediately she
began to admire the latter; and the count, fascinated by her
manners, said that he would be glad to present it to her. She
accepted it at once, but was rather fearful lest he should change
his mind. She had come to dinner in a cab, and mentioned the fact.
The count offered to send her home in his carriage.
"Yes, that will do admirably," said she. "There will be no danger
of my being robbed of your present, which I had better take with
"With pleasure, mademoiselle," replied the count. "But you will
send me back my carriage, won't you?"
Rachel had a curious way of asking every one she met for presents
and knickknacks, whether they were valuable or not. She knew how
to make them valuable.
Once in a studio she noticed a guitar hanging on the wall. She
begged for it very earnestly. As it was an old and almost
worthless instrument, it was given her. A little later it was
reported that the dilapidated guitar had been purchased by a well-
known gentleman for a thousand francs. The explanation soon
followed. Rachel had declared that it was the very guitar with
which she used to earn her living as a child in the streets of
Paris. As a memento its value sprang from twenty francs to a
It has always been a mystery what Rachel did with the great sums
of money which she made in various ways. She never was well
dressed; and as for her costumes on the stage, they were furnished
by the theater. When her effects were sold at public auction after
her death her furniture was worse than commonplace, and her
pictures and ornaments were worthless, except such as had been
given her. She must have made millions of francs, and yet she had
very little to leave behind her.
Some say that her brother Raphael, who acted as her personal
manager, was a spendthrift; but if so, there are many reasons for
thinking that it was not his sister's money that he spent. Others
say that Rachel gambled in stocks, but there is no evidence of it.
The only thing that is certain is the fact that she was almost
always in want of money. Her mother, in all probability, managed
to get hold of most of her earnings.
Much may have been lost through her caprices. One instance may be
cited. She had received an offer of three hundred thousand francs
to act at St. Petersburg, and was on her way there when she passed
through Potsdam, near Berlin. The King of Prussia was entertaining
the Russian Czar. An invitation was sent to her in the shape of a
royal command to appear before these monarchs and their guests.
For some reason or other Rachel absolutely refused. She would
listen to no arguments. She would go on to St. Petersburg without
"But," it was said to her, "if you refuse to appear before the
Czar at Potsdam all the theaters in St. Petersburg will be closed
against you, because you will have insulted the emperor. In this
way you will be out the expenses of your journey and also the
three hundred thousand francs."
Rachel remained stubborn as before; but in about half an hour she
suddenly declared that she would recite before the two monarchs,
which she subsequently did, to the satisfaction of everybody. Some
one said to her not long after:
"I knew that you would do it. You weren't going to give up the
three hundred thousand francs and all your travelling expenses."
"You are quite wrong," returned Rachel, "though of course you will
not believe me. I did not care at all about the money and was
going back to France. It was something that I heard which made me
change my mind. Do you want to know what it was? Well, after all
the arguments were over some one informed me that the Czar
Nicholas was the handsomest man in Europe; and so I made up my
mind that I would stay in Potsdam long enough to see him."
This brings us to one phase of Rachel's nature which is rather
sinister. She was absolutely hard. She seemed to have no emotions
except those which she exhibited on the stage or the impish
perversity which irritated so many of those about her. She was in
reality a product of the gutter, able to assume a demure and
modest air, but within coarse, vulgar, and careless of decency.
Yet the words of Jules Janin, which have been quoted above,
explain how she could be personally very fascinating.
In all Rachel's career one can detect just a single strand of real
romance. It is one that makes us sorry for her, because it tells
us that her love was given where it never could be openly
During the reign of Louis Philippe the Comte Alexandre Walewski
held many posts in the government. He was a son of the great
Napoleon. His mother was that Polish countess who had accepted
Napoleon's love because she hoped that he might set Poland free at
her desire. But Napoleon was never swerved from his well-
calculated plans by the wish of any woman, and after a time the
Countess Walewska came to love him for himself. It was she to whom
he confided secrets which he would not reveal to his own brothers.
It was she who followed him to Elba in disguise. It was her son
who was Napoleon's son, and who afterward, under the Second
Empire, was made minister of fine arts, minister of foreign
affairs, and, finally, an imperial duke. Unlike the third
Napoleon's natural half-brother, the Duc de Moray, Walewski was a
gentleman of honor and fine feeling. He never used his
relationship to secure advantages for himself. He tried to live in
a manner worthy of the great warrior who was his father.
As minister of fine arts he had much to do with the subsidized
theaters; and in time he came to know Rachel. He was the son of
one of the greatest men who ever lived. She was the child of
roving peddlers whose early training had been in the slums of
cities and amid the smoke of bar-rooms and cafes. She was tainted
in a thousand ways, while he was a man of breeding and right
principle. She was a wandering actress; he was a great minister of
state. What could there be between these two?
George Sand gave the explanation in an epigram which, like most
epigrams, is only partly true. She said:
"The count's company must prove very restful to Rachel."
What she meant was, of course, that Walewski's breeding, his
dignity and uprightness, might be regarded only as a temporary
repose for the impish, harsh-voiced, infinitely clever actress. Of
course, it was all this, but we should not take it in a mocking
sense. Rachel looked up out of her depths and gave her heart to
this high-minded nobleman. He looked down and lifted her, as it
were, so that she could forget for the time all the baseness and
the brutality that she had known, that she might put aside her
forced vivacity and the self that was not in reality her own.
It is pitiful to think of these two, separated by a great abyss
which could not be passed except at times and hours when each was
free. But theirs was, none the less, a meeting of two souls,
strangely different in many ways, and yet appealing to each other
with a sincerity and truth which neither could show elsewhere.
The end of poor Rachel was one of disappointment. Tempted by the
fact that Jenny Lind had made nearly two million francs by her
visit to the United States, Rachel followed her, but with slight
success, as was to be expected. Music is enjoyed by human beings
everywhere, while French classical plays, even though acted by a
genius like Rachel, could be rightly understood only by a French-
speaking people. Thus it came about that her visit to America was
only moderately successful.
She returned to France, where the rising fame of Adelaide Ristori
was very bitter to Rachel, who had passed the zenith of her power.
She went to Egypt, but received no benefit, and in 1858 she died
near Cannes. The man who loved her, and whom she had loved in
turn, heard of her death with great emotion. He himself lived ten
years longer, and died a little while before the fall of the