Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Edward Carpenter to Walt Whitman, 3 June 1876

Date: June 3, 1876

Whitman Archive ID: loc.01234

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 note: The annotation, "Edw Carpenter June 3 '76 2 sets sent 4 vols altogether," is in the hand of Walt Whitman.

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

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45. Brunswick Square
3. June 1876

Dear friend,

I have, yesterday, transmitted to you through the Post Office an order for £1. It is from a friend of mine,

Charles. G. Oates1

and he desires me to ask you to send him a copy of your volume 'The Two Rivulets'.2

I am reading your Memoranda &c of the war3 with great interest. How wonderful that drama of the world enacting itself—that drama of the death of Feudalism, as you call it I think, and of the birth of Democracy—& Lincoln dying in the birth! and to see it enacted through individuals whom you cd. love & hold by the hand, themselves unconscious—with their clear unsearchable eyes and hidden dramas of their own.

The sense of 'unearthliness' is somehow fused with Democracy, I think.

I hope you will get pretty well set up this summer. I was glad to hear you were better. The second pair of your volumes has not arrived for me, up to this date.

Yours, as ever,
E. 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. Charles George Oates (b. 1844) was a close friend of Edward Carpenter. The two met while studying at Cambridge University and then, as Carpenter recounted in his autobiography (My Days and Deams, Being Autobiographical Notes [1916], Chapter 5), he "resumed acquaintance, to deepen into intimacy, with C. G. Oates" when Carpenter was lecturing at Leeds University in the 1870s and Oates was living at his family's estate at Meanwood in Leeds. They carried on an extensive correspondence from 1869 to 1901, now preserved in the "The Papers of Edward Carpenter, 1844–1929," in the Sheffield, England, City Libraries. [back]

2. Published as a "companion volume" to the 1876 Author's edition of Leaves of Grass, Two Rivulets consisted of an "intertwining of the author's characteristic verse, alternated throughout with prose," as one critic from the The New York Daily Tribune wrote on February 19, 1876 (4). For more information on Two Rivulets, see Frances E. Keuling-Stout, "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. Memoranda During the War (1875) chronicles Whitman's time as a hospital volunteer during the American Civil War. Whitman began planning the book in 1863; see his letter to publisher James Redpath of October 21, 1863, in which he describes his intended book. For more about the completed volume, see Robert Leigh Davis, "Memoranda During the War [1875–1876]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]


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