Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Edward Carpenter to Walt Whitman, 9 July 1885

Date: July 9, 1885

Whitman Archive ID: loc.01238

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.

Contributors to digital file: Alex Ashland, Stefan Schöberlein, Kyle Barton, and Nicole Gray

page image
image 1
page image
image 2
page image
image 3
page image
image 4
page image
image 5
page image
image 6

W Chesterfield
9 June 852

Dear Walt

Bessie Ford & Isabella Ford3 & I have been wanting to make you a little present so we send enclosed draft for £50—hoping you will take it as an expression of our best wishes & love, and make what use of it you think proper. Please send a line either to them or me in receipt.4

Isabella F. was here a couple of weeks ago, and one of my sisters at the same time. I have not seen the Gilchrists5 since Jany.—but heard from Mrs G the day before y'day—sorry about your ancle6 I expect it will prevent you getting about so much—

I am going on here, & like the place & work—tho' I guess I shall find it too quiet for a permanence. I must have more town life—We get grand crops—but the markets are awfully flat, nothing doing. I have been interested in Hinton's "Law Breaker" lately, have you seen it?7

Thanks for slips &c sent—The Springfield Republican last—I hope to write again before long—but am lazy now. Goodbye, dear friend,—we often think & talk about you over here. Take care of yourself—and accept what we send in the same spirit as it is sent—for any use.


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. This letter is addressed: Walt Whitman | 328 Mickle Street | Camden, New Jersey | U.S.A. It is endorsed: Carpenter. It is postmarked: CHESTERFIELD | K | JY 9 | 85; CHESTERFIELD | K | JY 9 | 85; NEW YORK | JUL | 18; PAID | H | JLY | CAMDEN, N.J. | JUL | 19 | [illegible] PM | [illegible] | REC'D. [back]

2. Carpenter misdated the letter. It was posted in July, not June. [back]

3. 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. [back]

4. See Whitman's letter to Carpenter of August 3, 1885, sending "hearty & affectionate thanks," as well as his letter to the Ford sisters, also of August 3, 1885[back]

5. Anne Burrows Gilchrist (1828–1885) was the author of one of the first significant pieces of criticism on Leaves of Grass, titled "A Woman's Estimate of Walt Whitman (From Late Letters by an English Lady to W. M. Rossetti)," The Radical 7 (May 1870), 345–59. Gilchrist's long correspondence with Whitman indicates that she had fallen in love with the poet after reading his work; when the pair met in 1876 when she moved to Philadelphia, Whitman never fully returned her affection, although their friendship deepened after that meeting. For more information on their relationship, see Marion Walker Alcaro, "Gilchrist, Anne Burrows (1828–1885)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

6. On June 11, 1885, Whitman wrote to William D. O'Connor that he was "laid by with lameness—added to by a fall two months ago & turning my ankle in." [back]

7. James Hinton (1822–1875) was a British surgeon and writer. His The Law-Breaker, and, The Coming of the Law is a treatise on natural law, depicting Jesus as a genius-figure that breaks arbitrary law and establishes a universal, natural law instead. [back]

8. "Chips" was a family nickname given to Carpenter when he was a child; he used it his whole life. [back]


Published Works | In Whitman's Hand | Life & Letters | Commentary | Resources | Pictures & Sound

Support the Archive | About the Archive

Distributed under a Creative Commons License. Matt Cohen, Ed Folsom, & Kenneth M. Price, editors.