Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Edward Carpenter to Walt Whitman, 1 March 1877

Date: March 1, 1877

Whitman Archive ID: syr.00010

Source: Walt Whitman Collection, Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Library, Syracuse, N.Y. 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: Alicia Meyer, Kirsten Clawson, Eder Jaramillo, Nicole Gray, and Kenneth Price

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34. The Mount

Dear friend,

I am again intending to cross the Atlantic.1 I think it is in some way necessary for me that I should see things from your side of the water—from the point of view of solution from old world ties (they are tight enough here!)—at any rate I am continually impelled to make this voyage.

But I should not write to you on that account, except that seeing you goes along with—is, in some sense, the main part of it all. Now I am not going to love you—I know well enough what boredom is—nor do I come as a curious, as you well know if you read the enclosed—but I think there are reasons why we should meet.

Now what I want you to do is—I do not want you to say Yes, but I want you to say No—if No is the word. For I feel that you may be unwell—altogether unable or unwilling to see strangers—then if it is so, just the one bit of kindness you can do for me is to say it (on a postcard). Will you do that?—and as soon as possible.

I am able to get away from my work towards the middle of April, and it would be then that I should undertake this journey—having probably to return to England by the end of May.

I enclose 2 or 3 specimens of much that I have been writing in spare hours of late—social complications coming into the subjects of many of them: but I shall not publish them just yet.

What must be done—and what you have largely (for a foundation entirely) done—is to form a new organic centre for the thought growth of this age. All seems clear to me at times, so simple, so luminously clear—I have no more doubt or trouble for myself—but then to express it: that is an endless business—a thing never finished.

My usual address is 45 Brunswick Square, Brighton.

Please however, if you write now, address to York as above.

Your two volumes with my name written in them are my faithful companions.

Edward Carpenter

To Walt Whitman.
1. March 1877.


1. 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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