Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Edward Carpenter to Walt Whitman, 27 December 1888

Date: December 27, 1888

Whitman Archive ID: loc.01243

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: Kirby Little, Stefan Schöberlein, Caterina Bernardini, and Stephanie Blalock

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in Chesterfield
27 Dec 88

Dear Walt—

So glad to hear from you once more—and that you keep going, not withstanding all the buffets of time & fortune. Very wearisome sometimes I fear, these long spells of illness: so complicated, never-ended. Just now I am giving every day to see an old friend, 72 yrs. of age—who is very badly down with heart disease—an old harpist—plays at country fairs, &c, a reader & admirer of your Leaves of G., communist, and dreamer of social ideals—he keeps saying "this disease of mine has no end, no sides, and no middle" I fear you must feel like that! Dear Walt—how strange it is that we are bound so & entangled in this thing we call the body, without being able to get at the connections. I got yr. November Boughs1 too for which many thanks. I like the book ever so much, both outside & in. Have just written a review of it for the Scottish Art Review—wh. I will send you when it comes out. I like the color & shape of the book—good strong sewing too. Title is a good one. Old Salt Kossabone is fine, & Red Jacket, and many others. Yonnondio I like very much. The whole book is full of yourself Walt, and the great invisible wind sweeping thro' the boughs—has a quality of its own too I sh' say, wh. is a worthy addition to L of G & Specimen Days2.

Glad to hear Herbert G.3 is doing well. Enclosed draft is only a duplicate of one we sent you in May—wh. probably you got all right—but not having heard I thought I wd. send you this instead of destroying it. You can destroy it.

Everything going well with me just now—I have George Hukin4 & his wife up here for Christmas—friends I mentioned to you a year or more ago. He & I are still close friends. The Rain is beating upon the windows—& he is reading Bucke's5 book about you.

With love to you as ever6
Edwd 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. Whitman's November Boughs was published in October 1888 by Philadelphia publisher David McKay. For more information on the book, see James E. Barcus Jr., "November Boughs [1888]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

2. The first issue of Whitman's Specimen Days and Collect was published by the Philadelphia firm of Rees Welsh and Company in 1882. The second issue was published by David McKay. Many of the autobiographical notes, sketches, and essays that focus on the poet's life during and beyond the Civil War had been previously published in periodicals or in Memoranda During the War (1875–1876). For more information on Specimen Days, see George Hutchinson and David Drews "Specimen Days [1882]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

3. Herbert Harlakenden Gilchrist (1857–1914), son of Alexander and Anne Gilchrist, was an English painter and editor of Anne Gilchrist: Her Life and Writings (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1887). For more information, see Marion Walker Alcaro, "Gilchrist, Herbert Harlakenden (1857–1914)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

4. George Hukin was a razor-grinder, fellow political activist, and lover of Carpenter. [back]

5. Richard Maurice Bucke (1837–1902) was a Canadian physician and psychiatrist who grew close to Whitman after reading Leaves of Grass in 1867 (and later memorizing it) and meeting the poet in Camden a decade later. Even before meeting Whitman, Bucke claimed in 1872 that a reading of Leaves of Grass led him to experience "cosmic consciousness" and an overwhelming sense of epiphany. Bucke became the poet's first biographer with Walt Whitman (Philadelphia: David McKay, 1883), and he later served as one of his medical advisors and literary executors. For more on the relationship of Bucke and Whitman, see Howard Nelson, "Bucke, Richard Maurice," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

6. Carpenter's closer continues on the first page of the letter. His signature appears there as well. [back]


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