Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Edward Carpenter to Walt Whitman, 23 October 1885

Date: October 23, 1885

Whitman Archive ID: loc.01239

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, "see notes Nov 27 1888," is in the hand of Horace Traubel.

Contributors to digital file: Alex Kinnaman, Stefan Schöberlein, Ian Faith, and Stephanie Blalock

page image
image 1
page image
image 2
page image
image 3
page image
image 4

Millthorpe nr Chesterfield,
23 Oct 85.

Dear Walt,

I had yours of 3 Aug1—acknowledging receipt of draft. Sorry to hear you were troubled with sunstroke. I hope you are going on pretty well again now. We were very pleased that the money came in handy—I haven't been in London lately or seen Mrs. Gilchrist2 or yr. friend Mary (?) Whittall3 whom you mention. I rather expect to be that way in about a month or so. Am laid up just now with a kick from my horse—luckily nothing very bad—he struck me (accidentally in a way—the kick being probably meant for another horse that was teasing him) just above the knee on the front of the thigh—so no bones broken, but it is a big bruise and it will be a week or two before I can get about. It is wonderful though how nature sets to work directly to put things right, and it has been peaceable & free from pain.

I have plenty to do looking over proofs—I am bringing out a 2nd edition, enlarged, of Towards Democracy—also a criticism of Modern Science wh. I am interested in & hope it will provoke some discussion—it is a direct attack on the validity of scientific 'laws' & methods generally—not that I don't think Science has been very useful, but that it is time that it should 'climb down' a bit.

Do you see anything of yr young friend McKinsey4 or has he left Philadelphia? I send you a photo I had taken a little time ago with a young fellow who is an old friend of mine—in Sheffield—it is not very good of me, though very fair of 'tother one.

The farm gets on—slowly—but still it moves, and I rather expect in a few months to put it on a distinct cooperative footing.

Prices are awfully low—owing apparently to the general depression and the fact that the mass of the people are without money—also perhaps, partly to a growing scarcity of gold.

Isabella Ford5 has had an accident since we wrote, but I do not know exact particulars. She was driving with her Mother & the ponies ran away— Isabella climbed out, probably thinking she cd render some assistance, & fell, hurting her shoulder. However, she was much better when I last heard.

Hope you keep going pretty well—I often think of you & wish we could have a chat.

With love
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. See Whitman's letter of August 3, 1885[back]

2. 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]

3. Mary Whitall Smith Costelloe (1864–1945) was a political activist, art historian, and critic, whom Whitman once called his "staunchest living woman friend." A scholar of Italian Renaissance art and a daughter of Robert Pearsall Smith, she would in 1885 marry B. F. C. "Frank" Costelloe. She had been in contact with many of Whitman's English friends and would travel to Britain in 1885 to visit many of them, including Anne Gilchrist shortly before her death. For more, see Christina Davey, "Costelloe, Mary Whitall Smith (1864–1945)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

4. Folger McKinsey (1866–1950) was a poet and columnist for The Sun. McKinsey also arranged Whitman's Lincoln lectures. [back]

5. 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]


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.