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Edward Carpenter to Walt Whitman, 27 January 1889

Dear Walt Whitman.

Yours of 11 Jan.1 received. It is a bother about that draft—as I think probably it has been cashed already, and that you won't get the money.2 However, please send a line saying what happens. The original was posted about the 25th May last (I may have a note of exact date somewhere, but am away from home just now). I got no answer from you, but news came about that time that you were much out of sorts, and then later appeared a paragraph in the papers from you saying you had been ill and thanking friends for birthday letters remaining unanswered—so I supposed it was all right. If the original letter has merely been lost, the duplicate draft will of course be cashed: but if it has been, as I guess, intercepted, there is no practical remedy. I am almost certain that I registered the letter, which perhaps is an unwise thing to do in these cases, as it's like showing one's hand—and I may have the p.o. receipt for the letter at home, but of that I am not sure. Anyhow, let me know by p.c. how matters stand, but don't worry about it—as the letter (if necessary) would have to be traced from this end. The sum in question was from the Miss Fords,3 R.D. Roberts,4 W. Thompson and friends,5 Frank Deas,6 and myself:—as a little birthday remembrance—and we shall only be sorry at your receipt of it having been so delayed.

I saw Ernest Rhys7 a day or two back in London—seems pretty well—told me a good bit about you. I am glad from this present letter that you seem a bit better, Walt. Shall be glad to see the 900-pounder edition!8 a fine literary cannonball.

The Fords' address is Adel Grange, near Leeds.

I am lecturing around a bit, in London and neighborhood, enjoying life well—a wonderful feeling of new social life in the air—though the days are foggy and we see no sun.

Greetings to Henry9 and to yourself. Edward Carpenter

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. See Whitman's January 11, 1889, letter to Carpenter. [back]
  • 2. Whitman explained the error at length (with many interpolations) in The Commonplace-Book: "A very bad (never so bad before) lapse of my own memory. Edw'd Carpenter sent me a bank draft $174:37, last part of May, '88, wh' by Lou or Mrs: D[avis] I deposited (I was very ill at the time bedfast) in Bank July 2. Then in Jan: '89, not hearing of the first draft & fearing it lost, E C sent me the same draft in duplicate, & I forgetting all ab't the first (I had not rec'd it & supposing it lost) deposited it & was credited in Bank. Of course on presenting it for payment (to J M Shoemaker & Co. bankers) they spoke of the paid original draft, & I gave the Camden bank my cheque $174:37" (The Commonplace-Book, Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). See Whitman's January 16, 1889, letter to Carpenter, and Carpenter's reply on January 27, 1889. See also Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Sunday, February 17, 1889. [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. In Carpenter's July 1, 1880, letter to Whitman, he describes Roberts as a "Cambridge fellow lecturer . . . a Welshman." [back]
  • 5. Joseph William Thompson was a lawyer from London and member of the Middle Temple, one of the four Inns of Court of the city. He was called to the bar in 1879. Thompson was the 5th son of Charles Thompson of Preswylfa near Cardiff, a member of the Society of Friends (Joseph Foster, Men-at-the-bar: A Biographical Hand-list of the Members of the Various Inns [London and Avlesbury: Hazell, Watson and Viney, Limited, 1885], 464). [back]
  • 6. Francis "Frank" William Deas (1862–1951) was a Scottish architect and landscape designer. He was also an amateur landscape painter. [back]
  • 7. Ernest Percival Rhys (1859–1946) was a British author and editor; he founded the Everyman's Library series of inexpensive reprintings of popular works. He included a volume of Whitman's poems in the Canterbury Poets series and two volumes of Whitman's prose in the Camelot series for Walter Scott publishers. For more information about Rhys, see Joel Myerson, "Rhys, Ernest Percival (1859–1946)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
  • 8. Whitman often referred to Complete Poems & Prose (1888) as his "big book." The volume was published by the poet himself in an arrangement with publisher David McKay, who allowed Whitman to use the plates for both Leaves of Grass and Specimen Days—in December 1888. With the help of Horace Traubel, Whitman made the presswork and binding decisions, and Frederick Oldach bound the volume, which included a profile photo of the poet on the title page. For more information on the book, see Ed Folsom, Whitman Making Books/Books Making Whitman: A Catalog and Commentary (University of Iowa: Obermann Center for Advanced Studies, 2005). [back]
  • 9. It is unclear to whom Carpenter is referring; he could be misremembering Harry Stafford's first name, or Horace Traubel's, for that matter. [back]
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