Chasing down some material for ‘Engels and the Good Life’, I realised I would need to get hold of Tristram Hunt’s annoying and superficial biography of Engels. However, when I went searching two titles came up. I had heard of the first, but not the second. The first one:
The first champagne socialist, reads the inside cover. And here he is, tarted up and ready to hit the town.
But then another book appeared:
This one is obviously more militant, with an older Engels, good old communist red splashed all over the place, bold letters, etc. And on later covers you even find that old left warhorse, Eric Hobsbawn, quoted: ‘the best biography of one of the most attractive inhabitants of Victorian England’.
Bloody brilliant, I thought. Hunt has written two biographies, one stressing the personal, the other the political. But then a close look reveals that they have exactly the same page numbers, came out within a year of one another, that they are the same book.
Why the name change? The spin is that the second title is for release in the USA. Crap. Even though the first obviously suits Hunt’s own petty-bourgeois British Labour preferences (he was one of the few Labour people actually to win a seat at the 2010 election – a parachuted in candidate for Stoke-on-Trent Central), it simply did not resonate with the main readership for a book like this, which is long way to the left of Hunt’s own position. So ‘Marx’s General’ trumps ‘The Frock-Coated Communist’.