Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Edward Carpenter to Walt Whitman, 19 December 1891

Date: December 19, 1891

Whitman Archive ID: loc.01249

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, "Jan 9 '92 sent 2 pockets to Carpenter & 1 complete W. to Muirhead," and "wrote C. 2/2/92," are in the hand of Walt Whitman. The annotation, "see notes Feb 3 1892," is in the hand of Horace Traubel.

Contributors to digital file: Andrew David King, Cristin Noonan, and Stephanie Blalock



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Holmesfield
on Sheffield1
19 Dec '91

Dear Walt

I enclose a Postal order for £4, and want you to mail one copy of your great big volume complete edition2 to my friend Robert F. Muirhead3 174 Bath Row, Birmingham and two copies of your pocket book edition of Leaves of Grass4 printed on thin paper to me as above.

This is on the supposition that your big vol. costs £2 and the other one £1: but I am not sure (writing from Birmm) of the prices—anyhow send a copy of each—and if you wd write Muirhead's name in the big vol he wd be pleased.

If you see Traubel5 will you thank him for me for various letters & papers rec?, wh. I ought to have acknowledged I suppose we shall see his & Bucke's6 joint vol. out soon.7

I wonder how you are, dear Walt. Is anything being done about an edition, complete, of Leaves of G. in England—because I have no doubt it wd go off pretty well, and many people do not get the book now because they do not know where to apply? I suppose you have not much respite from bodily ailments—troubles. If you are not feeling well do not trouble about this letter—but hand it over to Warry8 or Traubel.

I am finely well & happy with much love to you
Ed: Carpenter


Correspondent:
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).

Notes:

1. This letter is addressed: Walt Whitman | 328 Mickle Street | Camden | N. Jersey | U.S. America. It is postmarked: BIRMINGHAM | BE35 | DE 19 | 91 | 75; BIRMINGHAM | BE35 | DE 19 | 91 | 75; BIRMINGHAM | BE35 | DE 19 | 91 | 75; NEW YORK | DEC | 23; PAID | M | ALL; CAMDEN, N.J. | DEC 29 | 6AM | 91 | REC'D. [back]

2. Whitman often referred to Complete Poems & Prose (1888) as his "big book." The volume was published by the poet himself in an arrangement with publisher David McKay, who allowed Whitman to use the plates for both Leaves of Grass and Specimen Days—in December 1888. With the help of Horace Traubel, Whitman made the presswork and binding decisions, and Frederick Oldach bound the volume, which included a profile photo of the poet on the title page. For more information on the book, see Ed Folsom, Whitman Making Books/Books Making Whitman: A Catalog and Commentary. [back]

3. Robert Franklin Muirhead (1860–1941) was a Scottish mathematician. At the University of Glasgow he earned the four-year George A. Clark Scholarship, then continued his studies at the University of Cambridge. In the early 1890s, he was a lecturer in Mathematics at Mason Science College (later Birmingham University), and in 1893 he married and settled in Glasgow, where he founded the Glasgow Tutorial College. He published numerous mathematical papers, but is best known for authorting Muirhead's Inequality Theory. [back]

4. Whitman had a limited and pocket-book edition of Leaves of Grass printed in honor of his 70th birthday, on May 31, 1889, through special arrangement with Frederick Oldach. Only 300 copies were printed, and Whitman signed the title page of each one. The volume also included the annex Sands at Seventy and his essay A Backward Glance O'er Traveled Roads. For more information on the book see Ed Folsom, Whitman Making Books/Books Making Whitman: A Catalog and Commentary [back]

5. Horace L. Traubel (1858–1919) was an American essayist, poet, and magazine publisher. He is best remembered as the literary executor, biographer, and self-fashioned "spirit child" of Walt Whitman. During the mid-1880s and until Whitman's death in 1892, Traubel visited the poet virtually every day and took thorough notes of their conversations, which he later transcribed and published in three large volumes entitled With Walt Whitman in Camden (1906, 1908, & 1914). After his death, Traubel left behind enough manuscripts for six more volumes of the series, the final two of which were published in 1996. For more on Traubel, see Ed Folsom, "Traubel, Horace L. [1858–1919],"Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

6. 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]

7. Horace Traubel and Canadian physician Richard Maurice Bucke were beginning to make plans for a collected volume of writings by and about Whitman. Bucke, Traubel, and Thomas Harned—Whitman's three literary executors—edited In Re Walt Whitman (Philadelphia: David McKay, 1893), which included the three unsigned reviews of the first edition of Leaves of Grass that were written by Whitman himself, William Sloane Kennedy's article, "Dutch Traits of Walt Whitman," and Robert Ingersoll's lecture Liberty in Literature (delivered in honor of Whitman at Philadelphia's Horticultural Hall on October 21, 1890), as well as writings by the naturalist John Burroughs and by James W. Wallace, a co-founder of the Bolton Whitman Fellowship in Bolton, England. [back]

8. Frank Warren Fritzinger (1867–1899), known as "Warry," took Edward Wilkins's place as Whitman's nurse, beginning in October 1889. Fritzinger and his brother Harry were the sons of Henry Whireman Fritzinger (about 1828–1881), a former sea captain who went blind, and Almira E. Fritzinger. Following Henry Sr.'s death, Warren and his brother—having lost both parents—became wards of Mary O. Davis, Whitman's housekeeper, who had also taken care of the sea captain and who inherited part of his estate. [back]


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