Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Edward Carpenter to Walt Whitman, 17 September 1877

Date: September 17, 1877

Whitman Archive ID: syr.00011

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 Bones, Eder Jaramillo, Grace Thomas, and Nicole Gray

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45 Brunswick Square
17. Sept. 1877.

Dear Walt,

I am sending you a P.O. order for £10.1 Some of my friends want your books and are forwarding the money through me. I also want one or two copies to give away.

You had better, I think, send the books direct to the following:

Both vols (Leaves of Grass & Two Rivulets) to

E. Seymer Thompson
Christ's College
Cambridge—ditto to

Clement Templeton
Abernethy House
Mount Vernon

One vol (Two Rivulets) to

J. J. Harris Teall
University Extension Lecturer

The rest you had better send to me. But do not send them immediately. I will write again when I know my address at Sheffield (where I am going shortly), and when I know which volumes are wanted.

I have not seen (or heard) anything of Buchanan2 since I have been in England: but I shall bear in mind your message if ever I come across him. I looked at Augusta Webster's3 poems the other day at a library: but they seemed to me commonplace—rather inclining to be intellectual—and I don't think you would care about them. They were not miscellaneous poems, but one vol: a drama and the other a Chinese story. I have made enquiries but I can not hear of any other vol. If however by any chance you want to have one of these vols write & tell me and I will send it.

I had a letter from Arunachalaen—my Bengalese friend—whose photo: you have, not long ago. Speaking about you he says 'I have for some time been seriously thinking of writing to him to express my love & reverence'. He also says 'Do send me a photograph of him. I know of no means of getting it. I want if possible also a big one that I could frame & hang up'. I have sent him one of the small photographs that I have.

By the bye, I wish very much that you would not have that photograph on the fly leaf of Two Rivulets. I do not like it at all. I don't think it is like you. Could you not put, instead, the head of 1871, or that of 1872 (which I admire much)? I have been showing the photographs you gave me to my sister Dora4—whose likeness you have. She is very much impressed with particularly the last mentioned and wants to make a painting after it in oils. She is getting on finely I think and if I can get it I shall send you a photograph of one of her last—a couple of dogs, a pug and a King Charles.

I am finishing up my preparations for my winter course of lectures. I have got a whole lot of apparatus down here to illustrate 'sound'—organ pipes and tuning forks and speaking tubes and piano wires stretched on sound boards &c—and am practising experiments on them much to the delight of a small nephew, who understands everything at once—in the most alarming way—

Remember me to Harry5—I would like to know what he is doing—

Edward Carpenter


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]

2. Robert Buchanan (1841–1901), Scottish poet and critic, had lauded Whitman in the Broadway Annual in 1867, and in 1872 praised Whitman but attributed his poor reception in England to the sponsorship of William Michael Rossetti and Algernon Charles Swinburne. See Harold Blodgett, Walt Whitman in England (1934), 79–80, and Gay Wilson Allen, The Solitary Singer (1955), 445–446. Swinburne's recantation later in 1872 may be partly attributable to Buchanan's injudicious remarks. For more on Buchanan, see Philip W. Leon, "Buchanan, Robert (1841–1901)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

3. Augusta Webster (1837–1894) was a British poet, essayist, and translator, who published her first book of poetry (Blanche Lisle, and other Poems) under the pen name Cecil Home in 1860. For more, see Elizabeth Lee, "Webster, Augusta," in Dictionary of National Biography, 1885–1900 60:115–16. [back]

4. Dora Carpenter was one of the six sisters of Edward Carpenter. She committed suicide in 1912. [back]

5. Walt Whitman met the 18-year-old Harry Lamb Stafford (1858–1918) in 1876, beginning a relationship which was almost entirely overlooked by early Whitman scholarship, in part because Stafford's name appears nowhere in the first six volumes of Horace Traubel's With Walt Whitman in Camden—though it does appear frequently in the last three volumes, which were published only in the 1990s. Whitman occasionally referred to Stafford as "My (adopted) son" (as in a December 13, 1876, letter to John H. Johnston), but the relationship between the two also had a romantic, erotic charge to it. In 1883, Harry married Eva Westcott. For further discussion of Stafford, see Arnie Kantrowitz, "Stafford, Harry L. (b.1858)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]


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