Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Edward Carpenter, 6–7 December 1888

Date: December 6–7, 1888

Whitman Archive ID: tex.00475

Source: The Walt Whitman Collection, Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, The University of Texas at Austin. The transcription presented here is derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), 4:244–245. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Contributors to digital file: Alex Ashland, Stefan Schöberlein, Ian Faith, Caterina Bernardini, and Stephanie Blalock




Camden N J U S America1
Evn'g:
Dec: 6 88

Dear Edward Carpenter

I will send a line to you even if but for good love & memories to you—for I have them always for you—Was prostrated down with ab't the sixth recurrent attack of my paralysis again and iron-bound constipation early last June & have been kept ever since in my sick room & am so yet—with even other troubles, a bladder affection, enlarged prostrate glands—a pretty complete physical wreck. Still I keep up a good part of the time—have bro't out a little book "November Boughs"2 wh' I send a copy to you same mail with this—Also am finishing a big Vol.3 comprehending all my stuff, poems & prose, makes ab't 900 pages—A good young friend, Horace Traubel4 here, has help'd me between the printing office, bringing & carrying proofs, &c, so that I have ab't finished these jobs ready for binder—I am still at 328 Mickle Street—have not been out doors for over six months—hardly out my room—Have a good young strong & helper & nurse, Ed Wilkins5—But get along better than you might think for—Your friend Mr Williams6 call'd to-day—Herbert Gilchrist7 is here at 1708 Chestnut, Philadelphia—he is well & doing well—The Staffords8 are ab't as usual—they come up here & see me

Friday noon, Dec: 7

I am up, had a partial bath, a bit of breakfast & am now sitting my big chair by the oak wood fire finishing this—fine sunny cold weather—considerable bladder troubles, pains, &c. Send me soon the Misses Fords'9 address & I will send Nov: Boughs—Love to them—Love to you, dear friend10


Walt Whitman


Correspondent:
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" (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden [1906–1996], 1:160). 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).

Notes:

1. This letter is addressed: Edward Carpenter | Millthorpe | near Chesterfield | England. It is postmarked: Camden, N.J. | Dec 7 | 8 PM | 88. [back]

2. 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]

3. Whitman's Complete Poems & Prose (1888), a volume Whitman often referred to as the "big book," was published by Philadelphia publisher David McKay in December 1888. With the help of Horace Traubel, he made the presswork and binding decisions for the volume. Frederick Oldach bound the book, which included a profile photo of the poet on the title page. For more information on the book, see Ed Folsom's Whitman Making Books/Books Making Whitman: A Catalog and Commentary. [back]

4. Horace L. Traubel (1858–1919) was an American essayist, poet, and magazine publisher. He is best remembered as the literary executor, biographer, and self-fashioned "spirit child" of Walt Whitman. During the mid-1880s and until Whitman's death in 1892, Traubel visited the poet virtually every day and took thorough notes of their conversations, which he later transcribed and published in three large volumes entitled With Walt Whitman in Camden (1906, 1908, & 1914). After his death, Traubel left behind enough manuscripts for six more volumes of the series, the final two of which were published in 1996. For more on Traubel, see Ed Folsom, "Traubel, Horace L. [1858–1919]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

5. Edward "Ned" Wilkins (1865–1936) was one of Whitman's nurses during his Camden years; he was sent to Camden from London, Ontario, by Dr. Richard M. Bucke, and he began caring for Whitman on November 5, 1888. He stayed for a year before returning to Canada to attend the Ontario Veterinary School. For more information, see Bert A. Thompson, "Edward Wilkins: Male Nurse to Walt Whitman," Walt Whitman Review 15 (September 1969), 194–195. [back]

6. As yet we have no information about this person. [back]

7. Herbert Harlakenden Gilchrist (1857–1914), son of Alexander and Anne Gilchrist, was an English painter and editor of Anne Gilchrist: Her Life and Writings (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1887). For more information, see Marion Walker Alcaro, "Gilchrist, Herbert Harlakenden (1857–1914)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

8. Susan and George Stafford were the parents of Whitman's young friend, Harry Stafford. Whitman often visited the family at their farm at Timber Creek in Laurel Springs (near Glendale), New Jersey, and was sometimes accompanied by Herbert Gilchrist; in the 1880s, the Staffords sold the farm and moved to nearby Glendale. For more, 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]

9. 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. [back]

10. Carpenter replied at length on December 27, 1889 after receiving November Boughs, which he reviewed in the April 1889 issue of The Scottish Art Review[back]


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