1867: Karl Marx plagued by painful genital boils

History’s most famous left-wing collaboration, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, kept very little from each other. They corresponded prolifically and their letters touched on a great number of topics: from politics, economics and history, to cookery, gossip and dirty stories.

In a 1853 letter to Engels, Marx paused from discussing British foreign policy and domestic politics to a particular habit of Empress Eugenie, wife of Napoleon III:

“That angel suffers, it seems, from a most indelicate complaint. She is passionately addicted to farting, and is incapable, even in company, of suppressing it. At one time she resorted to horse-riding as a remedy. But this was later forbidden [by her husband] so she now vents herself. It’s only a noise, a little murmur… but then you know that the French are sensitive to the slightest puff of wind.”

Marx was also forthcoming about his own medical conditions, including constipation:

“I would have written to you before now, but when the whole person is clogged up for days, in my case a posteriori… it makes him totally incapable of action.”

And a complaint that plagued Marx for several years, painful boils around his genitals:

“I shan’t bore you by explaining [the] carbuncles on my posterior and near the penis, the final traces of which are now fading but which made it extremely painful for me to adopt a sitting and hence a writing posture. I am not taking arsenic because it dulls my mind too much and I need to keep my wits about me.”

Sources: Letters from Karl Marx to Friedrich Engels, dated March 23rd 1853, August 11th 1877, April 2nd 1867. Content on this page is © Alpha History 2019-23. Content may not be republished without our express permission. For more information please refer to our Terms of Use or contact Alpha History.