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Walt Whitman to Edward Carpenter, 3 August 1885

Dear Edward Carpenter

Yours of June 9th with the draft for £50 has reached me & I have the money.2 Hearty & affectionate thanks to you, dear friend, and to Bessie and Isabella Ford3

I have suffered from the great heat here—have had two or three bad fits of vertigo (thermal fever the doctor calls it)—but shall soon almost certainly be around as usual—

Walt Whitman

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: Edward Carpenter | Millthorpe | near Chesterfield | England. It is postmarked: Camden | Aug | (?) | 8 PM | 1885 | N.J.; Philadelphia | Aug | 3 | 1885 | (?). [back]
  • 2. In American currency the gift amounted to $239.83 (Whitman's Commonplace Book). Although Carpenter dated his letter "9 June," and Whitman cited the same date, it was actually written on July 9, as the postmark on the envelope indicates. [back]
  • 3. Bessie (d. 1919) and Isabella (1855–1924) Ford were sisters who lived together in Leeds, were friends and disciples (as well as cousins) of Carpenter, and active social reformers, working for women's suffrage, trade unionism, and an independent labor party. [back]
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