Title: Edward Carpenter to Walt Whitman, 20 April 1887
Date: April 20, 1887
Source: Transcribed from digital images or a microfilm reproduction of the original item. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.
Location: The Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
Whitman Archive ID: loc.01241
Contributors to digital file: Alex Kinnaman, Stefan Schöberlein, Ian Faith, and Stephanie Blalock
Commonwealth Café, Scotland St:
20 Ap .87
Dear Old Walt—
I was right glad to get your card and find you hadn't forgotten me; and that you still keep going along, fairly cheerful. You must feel rather lonely at times. I have been wondering all night whether there is any sense in the world at all—and I don't know what to make of it! I have had a baddish time the last few days and feel tired out & sick. A very dear friend of mine — we have been companions day & night for many months now — has taken to girl whom I can't say I much care for. She is right enough — & they both have behaved awfully well to me; but just now I feel as if I had lost him and am rather dumpy — tho' I don't know that it will be altogether bad in the end.
I am occupying a large attic here in a crowded & smoky part of Sheffield, & below am running a coffee tavern in conjunction with one or two Socialist friends. We (our Soct Society) have also a large room on the premises, and we have meetings pretty often, sociable evenings, lectures singing &c. My friend of whom I spoke is in the cutlery trade, a razor grinder—very warmhearted free & natural. Most of our fellows are very friendly & sociable in their ways, & we have good times. I still keep the place going at Millthorpe,1 & spend part of my time there—and it is good to get out into the country from here. The Fearnehoughs2 are still at Millthorpe, but Annie the girl has left and come into Sheffield to learn dress-making. Glad to hear from you any time, Walt. Write now & then if you can. I suppose you will see Herbert Gilchrist3 before long. With love to you as ever— & we do not forget you over here.
Edward Carpenter (1844–1929) was an English writer and Whitman disciple. Like many other young disillusioned Englishmen, he deemed Whitman a prophetic spokesman of an ideal state cemented in the bonds of brotherhood. Carpenter—a socialist philosopher who in his book Civilisation, Its Cause and Cure posited civilization as a "disease" with a lifespan of approximately one thousand years before human society cured itself—became an advocate for same-sex love and a contributing early founder of Britain's Labour Party. On July 12, 1874, he wrote for the first time to Whitman: "Because you have, as it were, given me a ground for the love of men I thank you continually in my heart. . . . For you have made men to be not ashamed of the noblest instinct of their nature" (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden [1906–1996], 1:160). For further discussion of Carpenter, see Arnie Kantrowitz, "Carpenter, Edward [1844–1929]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998).
1. Carpenter used part of his inheritance from his father to buy acreage in Millthorpe, a village near Sheffield, where he gardened and built a country retreat. [back]
2. Albert Fearnehough was a scythe maker from Bradway, Sheffield. Edward Carpenter describes him as "a muscular, powerful man [...], quite 'uneducated' in the ordinary sense... but well-grown and finely built" (Edward Carpenter, My Days and Dreams [London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd, 1916], 102). [back]
3. Herbert Harlakenden Gilchrist (1857–1914), son of Alexander and Anne Gilchrist, was an English painter and editor of Anne Gilchrist: Her Life and Writings (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1887). For more information, see Marion Walker Alcaro, "Gilchrist, Herbert Harlakenden (1857–1914)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]