MANILA -- Was it impossible for Rizal to escape the influence of the socialist movement in London?
Dr. Jose Rizal was 26 years old when he arrived in London 131 years ago.
In less than a year, he met with some of the most influential Orientalists in London, published articles, read, copied, researched, and annotated an important work on Philippine history.
He arrived in England on 24th May 1888 via Liverpool before proceeding to London by train the following day. He may have marveled at the sight of the Grand Hotel Midland, the train's final stop, more familiar in today's London as St. Pancras Renaissance London Hotel, the facade of which doubled as King's Cross station to Harry Potter's Platform 9 3/4.
Rizal went on to settle as a lodger with the family of Charles Beckett at No. 37 Chalcot Crescent in Primrose in a week's time.
Not long after, Rizal was invited to a tea-party, his first, by the German Dr. Reinhold Rost who also lived in Primrose Hill, reportedly at 1 Elsworthy Terrace or a short walk of about 800 meters northwest of Chalcot Crescent.
During Sundays on his way to Rost's residence, while on foot along Rothwell Street, just before crossing Regent's Park Road, Rizal may have noticed the wealthy house a few doors away on his right, 122 Regent's Park Road which was home from 1870 to another German, Friedrich Engels.
Karl Marx was dead in 1883 but Engels was still active at the time Rizal was at Primrose. Engels at that time completed the preparation and publications of Das Kapital Volume ll and Das Kapital Volume III in 1885 and 1884, respectively.
Also in 1884, Engels published his The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State which was translated into a number of European languages throughout the decade.
In 1885, Engels' The Condition of the Working Class in England was translated to English and was published in 1887. Das Kapital, Marx's most important work, also appeared in English edition in 1887.
It was noted that Engels' interests included Sunday parties for London's left-wing intelligentsia. Was it likely that Rizal noticed a group of left-wing intellectuals heading to House 122 on his Sunday strolls to Rost's?
A question was asked whether “it was impossible for Rizal to escape the influence of the socialist movement" especially at the time when he was in London.
Socialist publications of Marx and Engels were ripe at the time of his arrival. The man himself was just in the neighborhood less than 150 meters away, a fact impossible to ignore.
Was it likely that Marx nor Engels did not ever come up as a subject matter in any given Sunday afternoon tea with Rost?
As an Orientalist and linguist, Rost may have had no interest in socialism. But as a German, it is very unlikely that he was not familiar with Marx or Engels. A recent study on Marx's early associates revealed a point of connection.
When Marx and Engels published their Communist Manifesto in Brussels in February 1848, the London German Gazette serialized the publication from 3 March- 28 July 1848.
When Marx arrived in London in 1849, he placed an announcement on a meeting in September of the German Workers' Educational Society.
It was supposed that Marx likely met a certain Dr. William Plate in that meeting.
Dr. Plate, a regular contributor to the London German Gazette, was not only German but trustee and Honorary Foreign Secretary of the Syro-Egyptian Society and was highly regarded as an Arabist or an Orientalist for that matter and a registered reader at the British Museum. He was also known to fellow Society member Samuel Birch of the British Museum and Sir Henry Ellis, the Principal Librarian.
And so it came that on 12 June 1850, Karl Marx was admitted as a new reader to the Reading Room with Dr. Plate as his referee.
Some three years before Marx was admitted, on 24 July 1847, Dr. Plate extended his extraordinary kindness to another German Orientalist, a new arrival in London, by giving him a letter of introduction to the Director of the British Museum. That other German was no other than Dr. Rost.
While not much is known about Rizal and Rost's encounters in London during Sunday afternoons, socialism was likely off the menu.
Rizal himself was adamant that his work, the Noli, was not "socialistic" and denied this accusation as "false".
(About the author: Geronimo Suliguin took his postgraduate course in historical studies at the Oxford University and is currently taking Diplomatic Studies at the Lincoln College, Oxford University. Suliguin served as the Acting Director of the Department of Foreign Affairs-Office of Public Diplomacy)