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Walt Whitman to Edward Carpenter, 29 May 1886

Thanks, thanks indeed, dear friend—to yourself, Mr Roberts, Bessie and Isabella Ford, C R Ashbee, Wm Thompson,2 & brother & sister, for the kind & generous birthday gift—for your letter with the £45 which has just reached me—

We have fine weather here, & I am enjoying it—My health remains nearly as usual, but there is a little decline & additional feebleness every successive year—as is natural.

The Staffords are all living and well—I drive down there Sundays & they often speak of you. Harry (at Marlton, New Jersey)3—and Ruth4 (in Kansas) are some time married, & have children.

Love to you & to B[essie] and I[sabella] F[ord]— 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 | Chesterfield | England. It is postmarked: Camden | May | 29 | 3 PM | 86 | N.J.; Philadelphia | May | (?) | 1886 | (?). [back]
  • 2. 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]
  • 3. Whitman's young friend and companion, Harry Stafford, had married Eva Westcott in 1884. [back]
  • 4. Harry Stafford's sister, Ruth (Stafford) Goldy and her daughter Amy had returned to Topeka, Kansas, on March 23 (Whitman's Commonplace Book). [back]
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