Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Edward Carpenter to Walt Whitman, 8 April 1876

Date: April 8, 1876

Whitman Archive ID: loc.01232

Source: The Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. . 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.

Editorial notes: The annotations, "Edwd Carpenter," "sent books April 25 by mail," "one set of books sent, & rec'd," and "Two sets sent," are in the hand of Walt Whitman.

Contributors to digital file: Alex Kinnaman, Elizabeth Lorang, Ashley Lawson, Eder Jaramillo, John Schwaninger, Caterina Bernardini, Marie Ernster, Erel Michaelis, Amanda J. Axley, and Stephanie Blalock

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8. April 1876.

Dear friend,

Many thanks for your two enclosures of printed extracts &c. I wrote to Mr. Buchanan1 about his plan of forming a society for the circulation of your works, but he has not given me very definite information of what is intended; meanwhile for the time I have been absorbed by the news of the death of one of my brothers in India. This brings with it the additional pang to me that it will probably prevent my intended journey to the States this Summer. I had made all arrangements, and was carried forward on the hope of seeing you, and now I am greatly disappointed.

I must ask instead that you will send me your two volumes2 when ready—two copies of each—I am anxious to see them. Please forward them as soon as you can to me at 45 Brunswick Square, Brighton. I have got a P.O.O for £4 wh. I enclose; I was trusting to what I think Robert Buchanan said that £1 was the price per vol., but I do not feel sure this is right as $5 would be more than that. However you will let me know if there is any excess due to you & I will forward the sum. It is difficult for us in England to know what is the truth among all the conflicting reports. I hope that the latest namely that you are not suffering from any immediate want is the right one, tho' I feel that you must often be under some pressure of difficulty. Of one thing I3 am sure—from internal evidence so to speak—namely that your books have never been a source of profit to you—tho' they may have been to others

For the present, farewell.
Yr. unforgetful friend
Edward Carpenter

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." 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. Robert Buchanan (1841–1901), Scottish poet and critic, had lauded Whitman in the Broadway Annual in 1867, and in 1872 praised Whitman but attributed his poor reception in England to the sponsorship of William Michael Rossetti and Algernon Charles Swinburne. See Harold Blodgett, Walt Whitman in England (1934), 79–80, and Gay Wilson Allen, The Solitary Singer (1955), 445–446. Swinburne's recantation later in 1872 may be partly attributable to Buchanan's injudicious remarks. For more on Buchanan, see Philip W. Leon, "Buchanan, Robert (1841–1901)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

2. During the centennial celebration of the U.S. in 1876, Whitman reissued the fifth edition of Leaves of Grass in the repackaged form of a "Centennial Edition" and "Author's Edition," with most copies personally signed by the poet. Two Rivulets was published as a companion volume to the book. Notable for its experimentations in form, typography, and printing convention, Whitman's two-volume set marks an important departure from previous publications of Leaves of Grass. For more information, see Frances E. Keuling-Stout, " Leaves of Grass, 1876, Author's Edition," "Two Rivulets, Author's Edition [1876]," and "Preface to Two Rivulets [1876]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

3. Carpenter concludes and signs this letter on the first page. This part of the letter is written sideways in the left margin of the first page. [back]


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