A biographical sketch of Edgar Bauer (1820-1886)

Submitted by Ross Arctor on October 9, 2014

Edgar Bauer, born in Charlottenburg in 1820, is one of the most ambiguous figures among the radical publicists who in the 1840s in Prussia announced the revolution of 1848/1849. He belonged to the circle around Arnold Ruge, Karl Marx, and Frederik Engels for whose newspapers and journals he wrote a great number of brilliant articles. Due to this radical literary activity, the Young Hegelian, student of theology, philosophy and history — brother of the famous Bruno Bauer — had to undergo a term of imprisonment in the citadel of Magedeburg from 1845 until 1848. In Berlin, during the bourgeois-democratic revolution of 1848, Edgar Bauer agitated for democracy for some months. After the suppression of the revolution in 1849 he fled to Altona in Holstein where he at first stood up for the Schleswig-Holstein movement of independence. Yet in 1851 he changed sides and henceforth advocated the Danish claim to the duchies. With Danish support he emigrated to England in October 1851, became member of various London refugees' organizations and collaborated in different emigrants' newspapers. As to his political point of view, however, Bauer stood in direct opposition to all groupings in English exile. At the beginning, it is true, he mainly earned his living by his journalist occupation. But from 1852 up to 1861 he was also payed for reports he wrote for the Danish police which he informed about the plans and actions of the European revolutionaries who had emigrated to England. These reports, the manuscripts of which have been preserved up to now, often contain details which are of considerable importance for the history of the democrats' and working men's movement in the 19th century. After the amnesty of 1861 Bauer returned to Prussia and continued his activity as a spy for the Danish police making out reports about the debates of the Berlin Reichstag. Besides he acted as political advisor for the Danish members of the North German Reichstag. In the 1870s he placed his pen at the disposal of the Guelph Party which had been compelled from Hanover by the Prussians. This, of course, blocked up a further career as a publicist in the German Empire. As different journalistic and editorial projects failed, Bauer and his family were mainly dependent on the charity of their patrons in Denmark and Hanover. When in 1886 Bauer died in poverty in Hanover, his death did not cause any great sensation in the German newspapers. The radical Young Hegelian had long since fallen into obscurity.

Bauer's literary estate has not been preserved. The present biographical sketch described his external life on the basis of widely scattered materials: correspondences, spy and police reports, etc. The interested reader will be able to trace—although not without gaps—Bauer's personal development from a Young Hegelian to a spy for the Danish police. This biographical part is complemented by a bibliography of Bauer's publications, an appendix containing extracts from his unpublished London reports, and well as 8 illustrations [none of which are of Edgar Bauer].

Source, with minor alterations: Eric Gamby, Edgar Bauer. Junghegelianer, Publizist und Polizeiagent (Germany: Karl-Marx-Haus, 1985), p. 98.