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Cecil Reddie to Walt Whitman, 14 June 1891

 loc.03578.001_large.jpg Dear Mr. Walt Whitman

I expect you are plagued with a good many letters, so I want to explain why all the same I mean to write this & ask you to do something for us.

Shd. I care in yr. place to be plagued by "sympathizers" wanting things? Probably not. But yet it cheers one to think one's words are welcome & have borne fruit in distant lands. So anyway I thought you wd. like to know that we here (my boys & we masters) had been reading yr. "Gospel of Comradeship,"—yes in our School Chapel too, not caring for brother Grundy & old wifes talk of "Inspiration" & "Canons  loc.03578.002_large.jpg of Scripture; but reading that Gospel with many more. This we thought would cheer you up, & hoped, knowing how "Leaves of Grass" had cheered up us English, men & boys.

Now our fellows here have taken the Gospel to heart & have wished "The Love of Comrades" for their School Song.1 And one boy has tried to give it an English & school dress, to suit our case. I enclose the result.

Now I don't believe you will be offended at his presumption. Yr. song is for Americans, & this one here like most good Englishmen today feel America more than a cousin, yet we want loc.03578.003_large.jpg a song more suited to our purpose.

Now it wd. be a swell thing to have a song straight from yr. fingers, or a least a line from you about this. So I write, this feeling it an intrusion when you have so many to think of, to ask if you will not write us a few lines.

We are using the music written by a friend of mine for that comrade song in Edward Carpenter's2 Chants of Labour,3 no. 35, which book I send.  loc.03578.004_large.jpgWe are trying to educate our boys to be men. For English Education has been & is too much a function of neat trousers a mere tiny affair.

We want them to have something rousing for their song—not merely English but world-wide. England is having queer times, but the juice is still here. Give us a Battle Cry; we will get music & lungs & hearts. And whether you feel well enough to do this for us accept our love & gratitude for yr life & example.

For my boys & colleagues truly yours Cecil Reddie.

Cecil Reddie (1858–1935) was a progressive educational reformer and founder of the Abbotsholme School in Staffordshire, England, where he served as Headmaster from 1889 to 1927. Reddie is author of several books, including Abbotsholme 1889–1899, or Ten Year's Work in an Educational Laboratory (London: George Allen, 1900) and John Bull: His Origin of Character (London: George Allen, 1901). For more information on Reddie, see William A. C. Stewart, Progressives and Radicals in English Education 1750–1970 (London: The Macmillan Press, 1972). The full text of the Abbotsholme song, "The Love of Comrades," was published with commentary in an article by Clive Bemrose. See "A Whitman Poem and An 1890 English School's Song," Walt Whitman Review 22.4 (December 1976), 168–170).


  • 1. The author is referring to Whitman's poem "For You O Democracy" from the "Calamus" cluster of Leaves of Grass. [back]
  • 2. 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]
  • 3. Chants of Labour: A Song Book of the People, edited by Edward Carpenter, appeared in 1888 and was reissued in numerous editions into the 1920s. It was one of the earliest socialist songbooks. [back]
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