Picking on Karl Marx’s carbuncles

Reuters reports that a British scholar claims that Karl Marx, the great daddy of Communism, suffered from a skin condition that must have affected his writings. University of East Anglia dermatologist Professor Sam Shuster believes that Marx suffered from hidradenitis suppurativa, aka HS, or Acne Inversa. This curse (as Marx himself referred to his condition) results in inflamed, painful boils in skin-to-skin areas (armpits, groin, breasts, etc.). According to HS-USA, HS is a ‘physically, psychologically, and socially disabling disease.’

Without access to The Man (Marx died in 1883) Prof. Shuster resorted to analysing Marx’s writings for clues about his medical condition. Shuster quotes, for example, Marx’s outburst to Friedrich Engels, as it appeared in an 1867 letter: “The bourgeoisie will remember my carbuncles until their dying day.

The last statement got my attention. Surely, if the bourgeoisie despised Marx as much as he despised them, they would rejoice in the thought that he suffers great pain? Was it therefore a self-pitying statement – Marx imagining his sworn enemies blessing each and every one of his boils?!

Was Marx metaphorically naming his opinions and theories “carbuncles”? If so, did he mean it in the sense of “I’ll be like a carbuncle on their butt“, or was he using the term in its positive form? Note, for example, that in alchemy, the philosophers’ stone is referred to as “the carbuncle, elixir, lapis, pearl, phoenix, and quintessence” – was Marx actually saying “The bourgeoisie will remember my [pearls] until their dying day“?

More examples of the use of the term ‘carbuncle’ on the Questia website.