Title: Edward Carpenter to Walt Whitman, 1 July 1880
Date: July 1, 1880
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: Charles Sixsmith Collection at the John Rylands Library, University of Manchester
Whitman Archive ID: man.00028
Contributors to digital file: Alicia Meyer, Eder Jaramillo, Nima Najafi Kianfar, Nicole Gray, and Stefan Schöberlein
Totley nr Sheffield.
I had a call a week or two ago1 from a Cambridge fellow lecturer R. D. Roberts—a Welshman. He is starting for America the 20th of this month—going to Iowa to spend some time on a farm there, then returning to England. Wants very much to see you en route. He has asked me to write and find out where you will be the first week of August. I suppose you won't mind seeing him if anywhere within call. He seems a very genuine fellow (I never saw him before) but is rather diffident about bothering you. Says you mention Wales or the Welsh twice in your book! Could you send a postcard Robert D. Roberts Post Office, New York—saying where you will be early in August? Anyhow I will tell him to call at your address in Camden.
I have received a letter from Dr. Bucke2—which I shall answer presently. I like his address to the Teachers Association very much. Thanks for several papers you have sent lately. I do enjoy this outdoor life and digging potatoes—and never mean to abandon either again! I am living with a man—the best friend I ever had or could think to have—an iron worker, scythe riveter, and his little family. He often says 'I wish Walt Whitman would come over here'. Below my window here there is a wooded bank running down to some water, and beyond again about 2 miles off the hilly undulating line of the Derbyshire moors—from which there comes a broad fresh breeze—like being near the sea.
Yours, dear friend,
1. 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). [back]
2. Richard Maurice Bucke (1837–1902) was a Canadian physician and psychiatrist who grew close to Whitman after reading Leaves of Grass in 1867 (and later memorizing it) and meeting the poet in Camden a decade later. Even before meeting Whitman, Bucke claimed in 1872 that a reading of Leaves of Grass led him to experience "cosmic consciousness" and an overwhelming sense of epiphany. Bucke became the poet's first biographer with Walt Whitman (Philadelphia: David McKay, 1883), and he later served as one of his medical advisors and literary executors. For more on the relationship of Bucke and Whitman, see Howard Nelson, "Bucke, Richard Maurice," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]