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Edward Carpenter to Walt Whitman, 17 May 1890

 loc.01244.003_large.jpg Dear Walt

How quickly the year comes round!—and I haven't sent a word to you I believe since last May. It is too bad. I got the newspaper however with account of your lecture—and I hear there is a poem of yours reprinted in the Review of Reviews which I haven't seen yet. Bucke2 writes occasionally & gives me news of you.


The two Ford sisters3 and Wm Thompson4 & R. D. Roberts & myself saw our usual little remembrance, dear Walt—enclosed first of exchange for $203[.]65 on the Tradesmens' National Bank, Phila—(£42)—with much love & good wishes to you, always the same. Roberts has lately married and sends "warmest & good wishes & greetings from us both."5

The eldest Miss Ford (Bessie) has been very ill for some months (internal loc.01244.005_large.jpg complaint) but is getting better now—sits out under the trees. Isabella has written a little novel in Murray's Magazine6 wh. is quite a success. I am going over to see them in a few days.

How do you manage, Walt, about getting out now? Do you get out much in your chair, or are you kept in a good deal. It does make such a difference if one can be out. Have you seen Havelock Ellis'7 new book on The New Spirit. There is a fine loc.01244.006_large.jpg essay on W. W. and the book is interesting all thro'—but no doubt he has sent it you.

We go on much the same here—the social question grows daily & seems likely to absorb all other interests. A new hope in the breasts of the millions of Europe's toiling masses—a new light in their eyes.

I have taken up the sandal trade, and make quite elegant leather sandals at 10/6 a pair. Will you have a pair??

Send us a line on receipt8 of this & believe us ever yr. loving friends

 loc.01244.001_large.jpg  loc.01244.002_large.jpg Ed. Carpenter &c

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. This letter is addressed: Walt Whitman | 328 Mickle Street | Camden | N.J | U.S. America. It is postmarked: Camden, N.J. | May | 26 | 9 AM | 1890 | Rec'd; New York | May | 25 | 90; Chesterfield | K | MY17 | 90. [back]
  • 2. Richard Maurice Bucke (1837–1902) was a Canadian physician and psychiatrist who grew close to Whitman after reading Leaves of Grass in 1867 (and later memorizing it) and meeting the poet in Camden a decade later. Even before meeting Whitman, Bucke claimed in 1872 that a reading of Leaves of Grass led him to experience "cosmic consciousness" and an overwhelming sense of epiphany. Bucke became the poet's first biographer with Walt Whitman (Philadelphia: David McKay, 1883), and he later served as one of his medical advisors and literary executors. For more on the relationship of Bucke and Whitman, see Howard Nelson, "Bucke, Richard Maurice," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
  • 3. 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 Whitman. [back]
  • 4. As yet we have no information about this person. [back]
  • 5. R. D. Roberts had a master's degree from Cambridge, and Charles R. Ashbee was a Cambridge undergraduate; see Carpenter's letter of May 17, 1886. On May 10, 1883, Whitman sent three copies of Leaves of Grass and Specimen Days to William Thompson in Nottingham, England (Whitman's Commonplace Book, Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). The Ford sisters had given Whitman £50 in 1885 (see the letter from Whitman to Carpenter of August 3, 1885). On this date Whitman noted receipt of $216.75 from Carpenter and $145.58 from William M. Rossetti (Whitman's Commonplace Book). [back]
  • 6. Isabella Ford's novel, Miss Blake of Monshalton, was published in book form later in 1890. [back]
  • 7. Henry Havelock Ellis (1859–1939) was an English physician and sexologist. He co-wrote Sexual Inversion (published in German 1896; English translation in 1897) with Whitman correspondent John Addington Symonds. His book The New Spirit, with a chapter on Whitman, appeared in 1890. [back]
  • 8. The conclusion of the letter is written sideways in the left margin, on the recto of the first page. [back]
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