Edward Carpenter (29 August 1844 – 28 June 1929) was an English
socialist poet, philosopher, anthologist, and early activist for
rights for homosexuals.
A poet and writer, he was a close friend of Rabindranath Tagore, and a
friend of Walt Whitman. He corresponded with many famous figures
such as Annie Besant, Isadora Duncan, Havelock Ellis, Roger Fry,
Mahatma Gandhi, Keir Hardie, J. K. Kinney, Jack London, George
Merrill, E. D. Morel, William Morris, Edward R. Pease, John Ruskin,
and Olive Schreiner.
As a philosopher he was particularly known for his publication of
Civilisation, Its Cause and Cure in which he proposes that
civilisation is a form of disease that human societies pass
An early advocate of sexual freedoms, he had an influence on both D.
H. Lawrence and Sri Aurobindo, and inspired E. M. Forster's novel
1 Early life
2 Moving to the North of England
3 Life with George Merrill
4 Later life
7 See also
10 Further reading
11 External links
Hove in Sussex, Carpenter was educated at nearby Brighton
College where his father was a governor. His brothers Charles, George
and Alfred also went to school there. When he was ten, he displayed a
flair for the piano.
His academic ability appeared relatively late in his youth, but was
sufficient to earn him a place at Trinity Hall, Cambridge. Whilst
there he began to explore his feelings for men. One of the most
notable examples of this is his close friendship with Edward Anthony
Beck (later Master of Trinity Hall), which, according to Carpenter,
had "a touch of romance". Beck eventually ended their friendship,
causing Carpenter great emotional heartache. Carpenter graduated as
10th Wrangler in 1868. After university he joined the Church of
England as a curate, "as a convention rather than out of deep
In 1871 he was invited to become tutor to the royal princes George
Frederick (late King George V) and his elder brother, Prince Albert
Victor, Duke of Clarence, but declined the position. The job instead
went to his lifelong friend and fellow Cambridge student John Neale
Dalton. Carpenter continued to visit Dalton while he was tutor,
and was presented with photographs of themselves by the princes.
In the following years he experienced an increasing sense of
dissatisfaction with his life in the church and university, and became
weary of what he saw as the hypocrisy of Victorian society. He
found great solace in reading poetry, later remarking that his
discovery of the work of
Walt Whitman caused "a profound change" in
him. (My Days and Dreams p. 64)
Moving to the North of England
Edward Carpenter in 1875
Carpenter left the church in 1874 and became a lecturer in astronomy,
sun worship, the lives of ancient Greek women and music, moving to
Leeds as part of University Extension Movement, which was formed by
academics who wished to introduce higher education to deprived areas
of England. He hoped to lecture to the working classes, but found that
his lectures were attended by middle class people, many of whom showed
little active interest in the subjects he taught. Disillusioned, he
moved to Chesterfield, but finding that town dull, he based himself in
Sheffield a year later. Here he finally came into contact
with manual workers, and he began to write poetry. His sexual
preferences were for working men: "the grimy and oil-besmeared figure
of a stoker" or "the thick-thighed hot coarse-fleshed young bricklayer
with a strap around his waist".
In Sheffield, Carpenter became increasingly radical.
Influenced by a disciple of Engels, Henry Hyndman, he joined the
Social Democratic Federation
Social Democratic Federation (SDF) in 1883 and attempted to form a
branch in the city. The group instead chose to remain independent, and
Socialist Society. While in the
city he worked on a number of projects including highlighting the poor
living conditions of industrial workers.
In May 1889, Carpenter wrote a piece in the
Sheffield the laughingstock of the civilized world and said
that the giant thick cloud of smog rising out of
Sheffield was like
the smoke arising from Judgment Day, and that it was the altar on
which the lives of many thousands would be sacrificed. He said that
100,000 adults and children were struggling to find sunlight and air,
enduring miserable lives, unable to breathe and dying of related
illnesses. In 1884, he left the SDF with
William Morris to join
When his father Charles Carpenter died in 1882, he left his son a
considerable fortune. This enabled Carpenter to quit his lectureship
to start a simpler life of market gardening in Millthorpe, near
Life with George Merrill
Carpenter and Merrill c. 1900.
On his return from India in 1891, he met George Merrill, a working
class man also from Sheffield, 22 years his junior, and the two men
struck up a relationship, eventually cohabiting in 1898. Merrill
had been raised in the slums of
Sheffield and had no formal education.
Their relationship endured and they remained partners for the rest of
their lives, a fact made all the more extraordinary by the hysteria
about homosexuality generated by the
Oscar Wilde trial of 1895.
Carpenter remarked in his work The Intermediate Sex:
Eros is a great leveller. Perhaps the true Democracy rests, more
firmly than anywhere else, on a sentiment which easily passes the
bounds of class and caste, and unites in the closest affection the
most estranged ranks of society. It is noticeable how often Uranians
of good position and breeding are drawn to rougher types, as of manual
workers, and frequently very permanent alliances grow up in this way,
which although not publicly acknowledged have a decided influence on
social institutions, customs and political tendencies.
Edward Carpenter (1894) by
Roger Fry (1866-1934), oil on canvas; given
by the artist, 1930
Carpenter included among his friends the scholar, author, naturalist,
and founder of the Humanitarian League, Henry S. Salt, and his wife,
Catherine; the critic, essayist and sexologist, Havelock Ellis,
and his wife, Edith; actor and producer Ben Iden Payne; Labour
activists, John Bruce and Katharine Glasier; writer and scholar, John
Addington Symonds; and the writer and feminist, Olive Schreiner.
E. M. Forster
E. M. Forster was also close friends with the couple, who on a visit
to Millthorpe in 1912 was inspired to write his gay-themed novel,
Maurice. Forster records in his diary that Merrill "...touched my
backside - gently and just above the buttocks. I believe he touched
most people's. The sensation was unusual and I still remember it, as I
remember the position of a long vanished tooth. He made a profound
impression on me and touched a creative spring."
The relationship between Carpenter and Merrill was the template for
the relationship between Maurice Hall and Alec Scudder, the gamekeeper
in Forster's novel. Carpenter was also a significant influence on
the author D. H. Lawrence, whose
Lady Chatterley's Lover
Lady Chatterley's Lover can be seen
as a heterosexualised Maurice.
Edward Carpenter in 1905
In 1902 his anthology of verse and prose, Ioläus: An
Friendship, was published. The book was published again in
1906 by William Swan Sonnenschein.
In 1915, he published The Healing of Nations and the Hidden Sources of
Their Strife, where he argued that the source of war and discontent in
western society was class-monopoly and social inequality.
Carpenter was an advocate of the Christ myth theory. He authored
the book Pagan and Christian Creeds, 1920.
After the First World War, he had moved to Guildford, Surrey, with
George Merrill and the two lived at 23 Mountside Road. In
January 1928, Merrill died suddenly. Carpenter was devastated and
he sold their house and lodged for a short time, with his companion
and carer Ted Inigan, at 17 Woodland Avenue, just a short walk from
Mountside. They then moved to a bungalow called ‘Inglenook’ in
In May 1928, Carpenter suffered a paralytic stroke. He lived another
13 months before he died on 28 June 1929, aged 84. He was interred,
in the same grave as Merrill, at the
Mount Cemetery at
The grave of Carpenter and George Merrill at the Mount Cemetery, in
Ansel Adams was an admirer of Carpenter's writings, especially Towards
Leslie Paul was influenced by Carpenter's ideas; in
turn he passed on Carpenter's ideas to the scouting group he founded,
The Woodcraft Folk.
Carpenter has also been known as the "Saint in Sandals", the "Noble
Savage" and, more recently, the "gay godfather of the British
The Religious Influence of Art
Narcissus and other Poems
Moses: A Drama in Five Acts
Modern Money Lending
Chants of Labour
Civilisation: Its Cause and Cure
From Adam's Peak to Elephanta: Sketches in Ceylon and India
A Visit to Ghani: From Adam's Peak to Elephanta
Homogenic Love and Its Place in a Free Society
Sex Love and Its Place in a Free Society
Marriage in Free Society
Love's Coming of Age
An Unknown People
Angels' Wings: A Series of Essays on Art and its Relation to Life
The Art of Creation
Prisons, Police, and Punishment
Days with Walt Whitman: With Some Notes on His Life and Work
Anthology of Friendship
Sketches from Life in Town and Country
The Intermediate Sex: A Study of Some Transitional Types of Men and
The Drama of Love and Death: A Study of Human Evolution and
George Merrill, A True History
Intermediate Types Among Primitive Folk: A Study in Social Evolution
The Healing of Nations
My Days and Dreams, Being Autobiographical Notes
The Story of My Books
Towards Industrial Freedom
Pagan and Christian Creeds: Their Origin and Meaning
Civilisation, Its Cause and Cure, and Other Essays
The story of Eros and Psyche
Some Friends of Walt Whitman: A Study in Sex-Psychology
The Psychology of the
Christ myth theory
Christ myth theory proponents
^ Warren Allen Smith: Who's Who in Hell, A Handbook and International
Directory for Humanists, Freethinkers, Naturalists, Rationalists, and
Non-Theists, Barricade Books, New York, 2000, p. 186;
^ Excerpt from
Gay Roots Vol. 1: THE GAY SUCCESSION The following
document first appeared in
Gay Sunshine Journal 35 (1978) and was
reprinted as an appendix to the Allen Ginsberg interview in the book
Gay Sunshine Interviews, Volume 1,
Gay Sunshine Press, 1978. retrieved
September 16, 2014
^ FABIAN ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL THOUGHT Series One: The Papers of Edward
Carpenter, 1844-1929, from
Sheffield Archives Part 1: Correspondence
and Manuscripts Archived 6 October 2007 at the Wayback Machine. at
^ Carpenter, Edward. Civilisation, Its Cause and Cure.
^ Andrew Harvey, ed. (1997). The Essential
^ a b c d "Edward Carpenter, My Days and Dreams, London: Unwin,
^ a b c d e f Rowbotham 2009
^ "Carpenter, Edward (CRPR864E)". A Cambridge Alumni Database.
University of Cambridge.
^ Philip Taylor's Biography of Carpenter, Philip Taylor 1988
^ Aronson p.48
^ Aronson p.50
^ Aronson p.49 citing d'Arch Smith, Love in Earnest p. 192
^ Edward Carpenter, Letter,
Sheffield Independent (25 May 1889)
Edward Carpenter The Intermediate Sex, p.114-115
^ George and Willene Hendrick (1989). The Savour of Salt: A Henry Salt
Anthology. Centaur Press. p. 153.
^ Gray, Stephen. 2013. Two Dissident Dream-Walkers: The Hardly
Explored Reformist Alliance between
Olive Schreiner and Edward
Carpenter. English Academy Review: Southern African Journal of English
Studies Volume 30, Issue 2, 2013.
^ a b Rowse, A. L. (1977). Homosexuals in History: A Study of
Ambivalence in Society, Literature, and the Arts. New York, New York:
Macmillan. pp. 282–283. ISBN 0-88029-011-0.
^ Smith, Helen (5 October 2015). "Masculinity, Class and Same-Sex
Desire in Industrial England, 1895-1957". Springer – via Google
^ The 1917 New York edition is now available as a free e-book
^ Z "People with a History: An Online Guide to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual,
and Trans* History" Check url= value (help). fordham.edu. 1997.
Retrieved 24 March 2018.
^ Carpenter, Edward; Corey, D. Steven (24 March 2018). "Ioläus :
an anthology of friendship". London : Swan Sonnenschein ;
Manchester: the author ; Boston : Goodspeed. Retrieved 24
March 2018 – via Internet Archive.
^ Carpenter, Edward (10 September 2017).
[hhttps://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/000200439 "Ioläus: an
anthology of friendship"]. Swan Sonnenschein.
^ Larson, Martin Alfred. (1977). The Story of Christian Origins: Or,
The Sources and Establishment of Western Religion. J. J. Binns. p. 304
^ Brighton Ourstory Project - Lesbian and
Gay History Group at
^ a b "
Edward Carpenter (1844 – 1929)". exploringsurreyspast.org.uk.
2012. Retrieved 24 March 2018.
Ansel Adams and the American Landscape: A Biography by Jonathan
Spaulding, University of California Press, 1998.
^ Derek Wall, Green History : A Reader in Environmental
Literature, Philosophy and Politics, London, Routledge, 1993.
ISBN 041507925X (pp. 232-34)
Edward Carpenter by Eliot Smith - Books - The Guardian".
Aronson, Theo (1994). Prince Eddy and the Homosexual Underworld.
London: John Murray. ISBN 0-7195-5278 8.
Beith, Gilbert (ed), Edward Carpenter: In Appreciation, George Allen
& Unwin, 1931.
Greig, Noël: Dear Love of Comrades: London:
Gay Men's Press, 1979.
Lewis, Edward, Edward Carpenter: An Exposition and an Appreciation,
Rowbotham, Sheila (2009). Edward Carpenter: A Life of Liberty and
Love. London: Verso. ISBN 9781844674213.
Toibin, Colm. "Urning". London Review of Books. LRB (29 January
Edward Carpenter 1844-1929 Prophet of Human
Fellowship, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1980.
Twigg, Julia The Vegetarian Movement in England 1847-1981, PhD (LSE)
thesis, 1981, in particular Chapter Six e, i, as on the International
Vegetarian Union website.
Edward Carpenter and Tony Brown (1990),
Edward Carpenter and Late
Victorian Radicalism, Routledge, ISBN 978-0-71463-400-5
Stanley Pierson, "Edward Carpenter, Prophet of a Socialist
Millennium," Victorian Studies, vol. 13, no. 3 (March 1970),
Sheila Rowbotham, "In Search of Edward Carpenter," Radical America,
vol. 14, no. 4 (July-Aug. 1980), pp. 48–59.
Wikisource has original works written by or about:
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Media related to
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edwardcarpenter.net - A web-based archive of works by Edward Carpenter
Edward Carpenter at Project Gutenberg
Works by or about
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LibriVox (public domain audiobooks)
Information about the
Edward Carpenter Collection at Sheffield
ISNI: 0000 0000 8632 8883
BNF: cb121899169 (data)