Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Elizabeth Ford and Isabella O. Ford to Walt Whitman, 30 December 1888

Date: December 30, 1888

Whitman Archive ID: loc.02093

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, "Bessie & Isabella Ford," is in the hand of Walt Whitman.

Contributors to digital file: Ryan Furlong, Alex Ashland, Ian Faith, Caterina Bernardini, and Stephanie Blalock

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Adel Grange.1
30 Dec: 1888.

Dear Mr. Whitman

Edward Carpenter2 sent us on a letter he had received from you—in which you ask him for our address. Here it is at the top.

Thank you very much for remembering Bessie & me. We never never forget you—nor the great great debt we owe you for all you have written. We shall like to have an "Autumn Boughs"3 very much—it is good of you to think of sending us one. I wish you were feeling better & stronger.

A friend of your's saw you lately in America—& wrote to us about his visit to you.

Goodbye. Both Bessie & I send you our warmest greetings for the New Year & for all times.

Your friends,

Bessie & Isabella Ford

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.


1. This letter is addressed: Walt Whitman | 328 Mickle Street | Camden | New Jersey | U.S.A.. It is postmarked: LEEDS | N59 | DE 30 | 88; 447; LEEDS | N59 | DE 30 | 88; 447; CAMDEN NJ | JAN | 14 | 6AM | [illegible] | REC'D. There are two additional postmarks, but only the city of New York and the year ("89") are visible. [back]

2. 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). [back]

3. 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]


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