Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Isabella O. Ford to Walt Whitman, 12 May 1891

Date: May 12, 1891

Whitman Archive ID: loc.02094

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: Blake Bronson-Bartlett, Ian Faith, Alex Ashland, and Stephanie Blalock

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Adel Grange,
nr Leeds.1
May 12. 1891.

Dear Mr. Whitman

My sister Bessie & I both thank you very warmly for the present you sent us of your book. Edward Carpenter2 sent it on to us—we send you our warmest greetings & best wishes for your birthday—we never forget it—& always wish you all good.

Your's very sincerely
Isabella O. 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 the aged poet. The Ford sisters also helped form the Leeds Women's Suffrage Society. In 1875, Isabella Ford met Carpenter, who introduced her to socialism; they joined The Fabian Society in 1883.


1. This letter is addressed: Walt Whitman | 328 Mickle Street | Camden | N.J | U.S. America. It is postmarked: Sheffield | 14 6 | MY 14 | 91; PAID | K | [illegible]; New York | May | [illegible]; Camden, N.J. | May | 24 | [illegible]PM | 1891 | Rec'd. [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]


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