‘Tussy’s great delusion’ – Eleanor Marx’s death revisited (Socialist History 58, Autumn 2020)



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Publication date: October 2, 2020

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Stephen Williams and Tony Chandler

The circumstances of Eleanor Marx’s death have been the subject of discussion and some controversy since she took her own life in March 1898. Particular attention has been paid to mistreatment by Edward Aveling, her partner since 1884. The revelation of Aveling’s secret marriage of 1897 is often cited as a decisive factor leading Eleanor to suicide. The recent discovery of a previously unknown letter written by Eleanor’s close friend and fellow revolutionary, Maria Mendelson, sheds new light on shocking contemporary accusations about the circumstances leading to Eleanor’s death, including sexual crimes, cruelty, blackmail and the poignant instructions Eleanor left for others to act upon after her death. This letter is considered alongside the evidence of others and the unsuccessful attempt by Eleanor’s closest friends to pursue Aveling through the courts.