Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Edward Carpenter to Walt Whitman, 2 March 1884

Date: March 2, 1884

Whitman Archive ID: nyp.00557

Source: The Oscar Lion Papers, 1914–1955, New York Public Library, New York, N.Y. The transcription presented here is derived from Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1953), 4:76–77. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Contributors to digital file: Alex Kinnaman, Stefan Schöberlein, and Nicole Gray

Millthorpe near Chesterfield,
March 2, 1884.

Dear Walt:

Just a line to give you my changed address. I have been here since October last—very busy all last summer getting a little homestead built, and this winter digging and planting—have about seven acres altogether—we are gardening about two acres; fruit, flowers and vegetables; have about two and a half acres grass and about the same quantity part wheat for ourselves and part oats for the horse. My friends the Fearnehoughs1 have come with me, and we are employing one or two extra hands beside, just now. It is a beautiful valley right up against the Derbyshire moors, but warm; we are about eight miles form Sheffield and five and a half from Chesterfield—three and a half from the nearest station.

I got your bit about the American aborigines.2 Thanks.

There is a quite old flour mill here, from which the place no doubt takes its name; very quaint old wooden wheels and cogs—the stream which feeds it runs at the bottom of my three fields—lots of wood and water all about the valley. Millthorpe itself is a small hamlet of a dozen houses or so.

Have not seen the Gilchrists3 for some time, but I heard from Grace the other day.

I was reading Rolleston's4 translation into German of your Answerer this morning. It is as far as I can judge very exact and natural.

I hope you are well and enjoying yourself. I often think about you. Best remembrances to the Staffords5 when you see them.

Your affectionate
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. Albert Fearnehough was a scythe maker from Bradway, Sheffield. Edward Carpenter describes him as "a muscular, powerful man [...], quite 'uneducated' in the ordinary sense... but well-grown and finely built" (Edward Carpenter, My Days and Dreams [London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd, 1916], 102). [back]

2. Whitman sent "An Indian Bureau Reminiscence" to Baldwin's Monthly, published by "Baldwin, the Clothier"; it was printed in February, 1884, and was reprinted in To-Day in May, 1884. [back]

3. Anne Burrows Gilchrist (1828–1885), widow to Alexander Gilchrist, and her four children Beatrice, Grace, Percy and Herbert. Anne Gilchrist wrote 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)," 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 visited Philadelphia, Whitman never fully returned her affection, although their friendship deepened after that meeting. Anne's son Herbert (1857–1914) was a painter and shared his mother's fascination for Whitman. For more on Whitman and the Gilchrists, see Marion Walker Alcaro, "Gilchrist, Anne Burrows," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

4. Thomas William Hazen Rolleston (1857–1920) was an Irish poet and journalist. After attending college in Dublin, he moved to Germany for a period of time. He wrote to Whitman frequently, beginning in 1880, and later produced with Karl Knortz the first book-length translation of Whitman's poetry into German. In 1889, the collection Grashalme: Gedichte [Leaves of Grass: Poems] was published by Verlags-Magazin in Zurich, Switzerland. See Walter Grünzweig, Constructing the German Walt Whitman (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1995). For more information on Rolleston, see Walter Grünzweig, "Rolleston, Thomas William Hazen (1857–1920)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

5. "The Staffords" refers to the family of Harry Lamb Stafford (1858–1918), a young man who Whitman befriended in 1876 in Camden. Harry's parents, George (1827–1892) and Susan Stafford (1833–1910), were tenant farmers at White Horse Farm near Kirkwood, New Jersey, where Whitman visited them on several occasions. In the 1880s, the Staffords sold the farm and moved to nearby Glendale. For more on Whitman and the Staffords, see David G. Miller, "Stafford, George and Susan M.," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]


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