Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Elizabeth and Isabella Ford, 11 August [1885]

Date: August 11, 1885

Whitman Archive ID: bol.00003

Source: Walt Whitman Collection, Bolton Central Library, Bolton, England. 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.

Notes for this letter were created by Whitman Archive staff and/or were derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller, 6 vols. (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), and supplemented or updated by Whitman Archive staff.

Contributors to digital file: Stefan Schöberlein, Kyle Barton, and Kevin McMullen

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328 Mickle Street
Camden New Jersey U S America
Aug: 111

—The letter from EC arrived,2 with contents—all safe. I return heartfelt thanks—am only middling well in health, but get about the house, & write a little3

Walt Whitman

Isabella Ford (1855–1924) was an English feminist, socialist, and writer. Elizabeth (Bessie) Ford was her sister. Both were introduced to Whitman's writings by Edward Carpenter and they quickly became admirers of Whitman.


1. This postcard is addressed: Bessie and Isabella Ford | 5 Hyde Park Mansions | London nw England. It is postmarked: CAMDEN | AUG 11 | 2PM | 1885 | N.J. ; PHILADELPHIA, PA | AUG [11?] | 1885 | PAID ; LONDON N.W. | [A7?] | AU 20 | 85. [back]

2. Whitman is referring to Edward Carpenter. 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]

3. Perhaps Whitman had forgotten his earlier acknowledgment of the gift in his letter to Elizabeth and Isabella Ford on August 3, 1885[back]


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