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Edward Aveling

Edward Bibbens Aveling (1849 - 1898) was a socialist campaigner and the long-term lover of Karl Marx’s youngest daughter Eleanor. An outspoken atheist, Aveling wrote, lectured and taught for the National Secular Society, and by the early 1880s had also become involved with H.M. Hyndman’s Democratic Federation (later the Social Democratic Federation). In 1884, he announced that he would be living with Eleanor Marx, although he was still married to Isabel Frank, whom he had married in 1872 and never divorced. Aveling was subsequently expelled from the National Secular Society under suspicion of financial misconduct, a theme recurrent across his private as well as public life. Over the course of his relationship with Eleanor Marx he developed a reputation for sexual unscrupulousness, and was widely thought to be financially exploitative of both his wife (who died in 1892), and Eleanor. As his health deteriorated during the 1890s, he became increasingly dependent on Eleanor to look after him and support him financially. She killed herself on 31 March 1898, and Aveling died four months later.

As a close friend of Eleanor Marx’s, Schreiner was thrown into fairly frequent contact with Aveling during the mid-1880s, and Aveling had interestingly reviewed her Story of an African Farm for Progress in 1883. Schreiner had strong misgivings about Aveling from early on, writing to Havelock Ellis of her ‘horror’ of him, and describing his latest ‘villainy’. It is also clear from her letters to Dollie Radford, written after Eleanor Marx’s suicide, that Schreiner held him largely responsible for Eleanor’s troubled state of mind before her death, brought about by his financial unscrupulousness and sexual infidelities, including marriage to another woman. Schreiner consequently felt that it was a ‘mercy’ that in death Eleanor had been able to finally “escape” from Aveling.  

For further information see:
Edward B. Aveling (1883) “‘A Notable Book’: Review of The Story of an African Farm”, Progress London September 1883 (in Cherry Clayton, pp. 67-9)
Ruth Brandon (1990) The New Women & the Old Men: Love, Sex and the Woman Question London: Secker & Warburg Ltd
C.A. Creffield (2004) ‘Aveling, Edward Bibbens (1849-1898)’ Oxford Dictionary of National Biography Oxford University Press http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/40929
Yvonne Kapp (1972) Eleanor Marx: Family Life (1855-1883) London: Lawrence and Wishart
Yvonne Kapp (1976) Eleanor Marx: The Crowded Years (1884-1898) London: Lawrence and Wishart
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