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 divergent types.
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 amphitheater.