Edward Carpenter







John Peirce

On Sunday July 11th 2010 a small contingent of people connected to the Edward Carpenter Forum joined the congregation of St. Edward’s church Cambridge for their morning service.  The service was set out as a memorial of Edward Carpenter who had been curate of this church in 1871-1873 under the then vicar F D Maurice who is known as a prime mover in the Christian Socialist Movement.  More is known to historians and to the present congregation of Maurice than of his curate - though it is arguable that the latter has had more abiding influence than the former.

This service followed from a visit by the Forum to Cambridge last September when we were welcomed to Carpenter’s old college, Trinity Hall.  It was here that he had been both as an undergraduate and as a junior fellow.  In order to take up his fellowship Carpenter had been obliged to become ordained – at that time a natural progression.  He was attached as curate to St. Edwards – a church which back in Tudor times had been transferred to Trinity Hall as part of a land swap with the adjoining King’s College.  As a result St. Edward’s church has historically been independent of the Church of England’s diocesan structure and so has been freer to accommodate liberal and radical teaching.  Carpenter was suitably well placed there.  Our September day had also included a visit to the church.

On this second visit to St. Edward’s, after opening sentences and a hymn, Thomas Dixon, an academic historian formerly of Cambridge and now at Queen Mary University of London, gave an exposition of the context of Carpenter’s life and thought.  He also drew out some of the parallels and disconnections between Edward Carpenter and Oscar Wilde.

The service itself continued with an anthem by Gustav Holst, Bible readings and prayers.  It also included extracts from a sermon preached by Edward Carpenter in that very church read on this occasion by John Baker.  The present Vicar, Canon Fraser Watts also preached a sermon demonstrating Jesus as Carpenter’s role model in service and love.

Refreshments and an informal wide-ranging discussion led by Thomas Dixon followed the service.  Both congregation and Forum members took part in this and we could have gone on talking constructively for much longer.  How did Carpenters ideas then lead in to our experience now?  Did he have a body of formalised or systematised ideas from which he taught or was he feeling his way from the ferments of the time to new constructs for the future?  References were made to his views on the equality of the sexes, his socialism and anarchism, his concern for sustainable work and care for the environment, his commitment to loving friendship (especially among men), his understanding of homosexuality – and to much more beside.  A practical suggestion raised was whether it would be appropriate that St. Edwards should have some more permanent reminder of Carpenter’s time there.

A group of us then went on for a shared lunch at the University Club.  It was a lovely hot, sunny day and Cambridge was crowded with tourists.  We had gathered from many parts of the country and looked forward to meeting again with many others at Leeds in September.  Every time we meet we get deeper into Carpenter’s thinking, we make more connections, meet new people and find more mutual support.  This is perhaps what the Forum is about!

Gathering Marks The 80th Anniversary of Edward Carpenter's Death.

ec80thanniv-005On Sunday June 28th 2009, a group from the Forum met at Guildford to mark the 80th anniversary of Edward Carpenter’s death.

A beautiful sunny afternoon, as it is recorded was also the day that Carpenter died, we went first to the grave in Mountside Cemetery. There we read Carpenter’s Farewell Message, listened to his poem ‘Into the Regions of the Sun’, which had been read at his funeral, and sang together ‘England Arise!’ We each placed a flower onto the grave from a bunch grown on a London allotment, and created a circle for a few minutes of quiet reflection and comradely embrace.






Dave and Lionel across the generations at Mountside Cemetery

After a short walk out onto ‘the Hog’s Back’, we then went to accept an invitation for tea at Carpenter’s former home on Mountside. Here we were made wonderfully welcome by Peter and Pam, whose home it now is.  Two members of our party, Lionel (sporting Carpenteresque attire) and Alan, were also celebrating their own 80th anniversaries; each having been born in March 1929, a few months before Carpenter died – and it was therefore felt appropriate that they should cut the splendid chocolate cake that our hosts had made! A strawberry cream tea followed in the sunny garden where Carpenter’s writing hut had once stood. Our party of 15 was joined by friends from the neighbouring house, who had helped in retracing the history of the house and restoring its lost link to Carpenter.


Out delightful hosts Pam and Peter.








Indeed, Peter and Pam had recently decided to restore the name of “Millthorpe” to the house; this and the chance to admire the newly arrived name plaque added to the celebrations.

"Milthorpe, Mountside" gets it name restored!







We also took the opportunity to ‘recreate’ in the sitting room the original group photograph had marked the visit of the young Gavin Arthur to Carpenter there in 1924. With Lionel playing Carpenter and Edward sitting on the floor as Gavin, John stood in for George Merrill and Lynn for Ted Inigan.


Lynn, Edward, Lionel and John recreate 1924 photo.
1924 Photo. L-R, Ted Inigan, Gavin Arthur, Edward Carpenter, George Merrill













Edward Carpenter:In Appreciation


"Edward Carpenter: In Appreciation"

Following Edward Carpenter's death in 1929, a memorial collection of twenty nine essays by friends and colleagues, entitled ‘Edward Carpenter In Appreciation', was published in 1931. To mark the 80th anniversary of Carpenter's death, selections from some of these essays are reproduced here. These excerpts, chosen for their diversity and for what they reveal of friendship and of Carpenter's concluding years at Guildford, have been edited to facilitate the flow of text.

Henry W. Nevinson (The campaigning journalist and war correspondent, known as ‘the King of Correspondence'):

'That humorous belief in the inward and spiritual grace somewhere to be found in most people, certainly in most working people, was to myself the most attractive evidence of his rich and generous nature. With all natural things in their due order of succession he was at peace-with sky, seas, with earth and hills, with worms and butterflies, hares and dogs, savages and Hindu dreamers, with English workers in country and town. It was only against the unnatural types of mankind-the stuffy professors, the frequenters of drawing-rooms, the "public benefactors", the acquisitive plunderers - that he declared what the old Greeks called a war without herald. And yet when it came to their human personalities, I think he would often have gone to them as herald himself.

I know there are many other sides of the man upon which other friends may dwell. But this was the side I chose as most attractive and comprehensible to myself.  This was the side I loved to find in him again whenever I visited him in the quiet home at Guildford, and, amid so many memories and emotions, this was the side I had most in mind when I stood over his grave.'



Evelyn Sharp (Author and contributor to the ‘Yellow Book', who became part of the militant suffrage campaign. A pacifist during the First World War, she later wrote for the Daily Herald. Sister of Cecil Sharp, the collector of folk song and traditions, she married Henry Nevinson in 1933);

'I read Edward Carpenter's books when I was young; I wore his sandals on my summer holidays, waiting months for them as we all did while he made them with his own hands; but I did not meet the man himself until he was seventy years of age. That was in 1914, soon after the outbreak of war, and... it was a great experience to enjoy his friendship for the last fifteen years of his life, and to learn how fine and complete a thing old age can be when it is the fulfilment of a vigorous and inspired life.

(What) struck me particularly, then and always, about Edward Carpenter... was the quality of his friendship. He seemed to have mastered the art of human fellowship... He approached one as a human being, in fact, and this was especially noticeable when the companion was a woman. In the common interchange of thought and communion of spirit there was for him no difference between a man and a woman; he judged them on an absolute equality. It is perhaps difficult for the present generation to see anything remarkable in this, but to women, even of my generation in which the Suffrage movement began to revolutionize the old self-conscious relations between men and women, his matter-of-course assumption that we met on the common ground of our humanity was at least noticeable.

Perhaps the fact that, as he frankly admits more than once, women did not attract him physically may have had something to do with what one might call his detachment of mind where women were concerned. "The romance of my life went elsewhere", he says once; and again: "Perhaps on the emotional side women did not supply what I needed."... Whatever the reason, the way of his approach to women made friendship with him both real and satisfying...'

Whether one found him writing in his little wooden shelter turned towards the sun, in his Surrey garden, or walked with him along the wide green road that topped the hills at the back of his house, the impression remained of someone... who had in the best sense "arrived"...'



W.J. Godfrey   A Worker's Friendship in the Last Years:

‘It was after he arrived at Guildford, when he was living at "Millthorpe", Mountside, that I met my late comrade and friend, Edward Carpenter... It was in February 1924 that my first visit took place when he sent for me to explain the railway strike then taking place. He seemed pleased to hear of our activities and understood our difficulties at once... on my part, if it was not a case of love at first sight, I soon grew to love this young-old man, old in years, but still essentially young... I find it difficult to describe my first impression of his character, but to put it briefly I would say the outstanding impression was that of sympathetic understanding. This was strengthened on each of the many visits I paid him from that day to the end. We met, not as Edward Carpenter, philosopher and author, and Jim Godfrey, engine driver, but as equals and comrades in a great movement that will eventually mean the liberation of humanity.

On one of these early visits he showed me the Manifesto he had just received from the Trade Union Congress on the occasion of his eightieth birthday, and he who had never shouldered his way into the limelight was honestly delighted that the workers' movement recognized him and remembered his work. 

Living as he did, Carpenter had little contact with the outside world, yet his interest in the progress of the Socialist movement remained unflagging, and in these last few years he made me one of his sources of information. He was always immensely satisfied to be able to do the least thing to help. In November 1925 I contested as a Labour candidate the St. Nicolas Ward in which he then resided. The local papers made a personal attack on me and labelled me a "Communist". Carpenter read these papers, and when I called sought anxiously to sign my nomination paper and gave me a special message for my election address. Four times I fought this Ward, and the first three occasions he nominated me and voted. He did not live to see the success on the fourth attempt.

Discussing England, Arise! one day Edward remarked: "They are a long time about it"! "It's coming, for all that," I replied. Taking hold of my hand, he said: "Thank you so much for that note of optimism." He looked with regret upon the leaders of the Labour movement of to-day, who with its growth and attainment of power had given up their earlier Socialist outlook and were bowing and conforming to the old traditions, empty ceremonies, and smug respectability of society that they formerly fought.

I remembered clearly what must have been his last public appearance-at a Labour Rally in the Borough Hall, Guildford... when he spoke slowly and haltingly for few minutes to a working-class audience. Although possibly few of them appreciated or knew of his works, it was clear they realized that here was one who understood them, believed in them, and belonged to them. They, too, suffered with him while he delivered, with obvious difficulty, those few stumbling words, and they listened in a sympathetic silence to the end.

Turning to all workers (in Towards Democracy), he says;

 It is not a little thing, you- wherever you are- following the plough, or clinging with your feet to the wet rigging, or nursing your babe through the long day when your husband is absent, or preparing supper for his return - or you on the footplate of your engine-

*           *           *            *           *

It is not a little thing that by such a life your face should become as a lantern of strength to men;
That wherever you go they should rise up stronger to the battle, and go forth with good courage.
Nay, it is very great.
I do not forget.
Indeed, I worship none more than I worship you...

In between the bright intervals of the last few years he had periods of great feebleness when, unable to express his thoughts, he would simply take my hand, and we understood.'


C.T.Cramp (General Secretary of the National Union of Railwaymen) in ‘My Earliest Teacher':   

‘The last time I saw him was at his new home near Guildford. Already he had grown enfeebled and slightly deaf; yet his enthusiasm burned as brightly as ever and his interest in current affairs was absolutely undiminished... He was then engaged on what would be, he assured me, his last book, a work upon Eastern religions... I took him out for a little ride through the Surrey heather which was then in bloom and the sight of which gave him great delight... In spite of the weight of his years and the infirmity which I have mentioned, his intellect seemed as keen as ever and his serenity was undisturbed...  To me and to all who knew him personally he will always remain as one of the greatest and most clear-sighted teachers that society has ever known.'



Goldsworthy Lowes Dickinson (the Cambridge Don, who, out of horror at the First World War, left his King's College seclusion to play a key role in the formation of the League of Nations) in ‘Edward Carpenter as a Friend';

‘It must have been, I think, in 1885 that I first met Edward Carpenter and I believe it was at a lecture he gave in the little hall attached to William Morris's house at Hammersmith. I remember Carpenter on the platform, a tallish spare figure bearded, with a sensitive and beautiful head, but I cannot remember in any detail what he said. He must however have been preaching Socialism...  The key to Carpenter's Socialism is to be found in his personal affections. He wanted a society in which men and women could be lovers and friends, and he found our society badly organized for that purpose. To the economists and politicians of the movement this approach seemed to be sentimental nonsense.

So far as I was personally concerned, it was not in his character of Socialist worker that I knew him. We were more concerned with music, literature, and mysticism. He had a delightful touch on the piano and we used to play duets together. It was so that I made my first acquaintance with the C minor Symphony of Beethoven. He had also a little tune which he called the ‘old thing' which rings in my ears at this moment. 

My latest and most beautiful memories of Carpenter date from the latter part of his life when he was living at Guildford. His sweet and calm wisdom, his humour and his affection shone more amply and tenderly when the heat of the day was done...

Edward's grief (at George Merrill's death) was overwhelming. I remember him walking on my arm to the cemetery at Guildford where they had buried George a few days before, and where he himself was to lie a year or so later. It was a day of pouring rain, and we stood beside the grave, while Carpenter ejaculated again and again, "They have put him away in the cold ground".

He endured, indeed, in those years some of his saddest experiences, but they did not shatter him. Even physical failure, which made him helpless in mind and body, left him still the lover and the friend; and he was tended to the last with the fidelity and patience that only love can give. What he may have found on the other side we do not and shall not know. But we know the quest that inspired him to the end.'



Harold Picton (a conscientious objector, and a member of the British Society for the Study of Sex Psychology with a concern for homosexual law reform [Edward Carpenter A Life of Liberty and Love, Sheila Rowbotham, Verso, 2008: p382])

‘Another memory... when Edward Carpenter, Magnus Hirschfeld (the German sexual theorist and campaigner for homosexual rights), Norman Haire, a young Italian barrister, and a young German architect forgathered on the little lawn of a cottage that my comrade and I then had in Surrey-a cottage far away from everywhere, and, as the village policeman said, with "no damned neighbours". Edward always preferred to talk to one at a time, and, as his hearing became less good, preferred it still more. So on this occasion (Edward was then eighty-two) he said to one after another of the guests, "Come, I want to have a talk with you," and took him off to wander round the garden. It was a somewhat perplexing assembly, for the young German had the dark hair, skin, and eyes that we should at once call "Italian", the Italian was a fair blond of "Germanic" type, Norman Haire looked rather "Prussian", Magnus Hirschfeld looked like a "Christian", and all the supposed national characteristics  were hopelessly contradicted. Edward was the international element, and was able linguistically to unite the different nationalities.

Of our last memory of him I dare write little. After George's death there was only the end to be desired. Both my friend and I were overwhelmed by the change in Edward. His life had become a cry for his comrade; the real self was already elsewhere. It was tragic, as all life must be tragic, but in no way hopeless. Something was there-I cannot express what-that remained victor. In those Guildford days, as the shadows gathered, there was one constant ray of light in the self-forgetful and devoted help given by Ted Inigan. We all know that we owe him a debt of thanks.'



Edward Inigan ("Ted") The Last Years:

‘I lived nearly seven years with Edward Carpenter in Guildford, which was the happiest time of my life, until his death occurred on June 28,1929.

I felt the loss of him very much as we were nearly always together; I used to take him out for walks which he enjoyed very much. Often he used to say to me, "Come on, let's get out; I must have some air". Many times, when I would be taking him up to bed at night, he would look out of the window and say what a lovely night it was, and then he would change his mind and we would go out for a walk, sometimes as late as 10.30 or 11 o'clock. The Hog's Back was quite close to us and we often walked out on it in the summer evenings to hear the nightingale, but I am sorry to say that I am afraid he never heard it much. He was always very fond of birds and animals and used to like to make friends with all the dogs. His one regret was that he could not hear the birds sing. He liked to see people, too, very much, and was a great admirer of the modern girl's dress and would often say how sensible it was. His house, "Millthorpe", Mountside, Guildford, was on the high side of the town and four of us-himself, George Merrill, his Norwegian friend Grondahl, and I-lived a very happy and simple life there. He was very devoted to George Merrill and felt the loss of him in January 1928 very much. They had lived together for nearly forty years, and I think that the loss of George hastened on Mr. Carpenter's death. Things were not the same afterwards. The neighbourhood was too hilly for him to get about with comfort, so he sold the house and we lived in rooms for a time until we found a suitable bungalow in the lower part of the town-"Inglenook", Joseph's Road. He bought this bungalow on a Friday, and on the following Sunday he had a seizure and he never regained his walking powers or his full mental powers. We had to take him by ambulance to his new home and he lived quite happily there until his death. He still loved to go out, and I used to wheel him out every day in his chair when the weather was fit to do so. Sometimes I would take him into the town with me when I went to do the shopping and he enjoyed this very much. A lot of his friends came to see him, but he would soon tire of them if they talked too much; sometimes he would not see people at all if he thought they would talk too much. He liked to see two neighbouring friends, Miss Long and Miss Hamblin, very much, and would see them any time. "The long and short of it", he used to call them.

I am pleased to say he did not suffer very much during his thirteen months' illness; he was always fairly cheerful and I was constantly with him, day and night.

Sometimes he would say he was a great trouble to me, but he was not, as it was only pleasure for me to do anything for him, and I would have willingly kept on doing so if only he had lived. He was like a father to me. God rest his soul.'


Gilbert Beith, friend and literary executor:

'...lovingly tended and nursed by his faithful attendant, Edward Inigan, on whom he came to rely, like a child, for all his wants... finally, after three days of semi-unconsciousness, he passed over on the perfect summer afternoon of Friday, June 28, 1929-calmly and without distress.'


E.M. Forster   Some Memories:

‘ is a lovely day to-day, the kind he liked, wind as well as sunlight; a chaffinch is still singing, a fly pretending to be a wasp hovers over this piece of paper, and I must try to put down upon the paper why our friend was not only charming and lovable, but great. His greatness scarcely got into his books. They were famous in their day and did much good, but they are unlikely to live many years now... The depths of his humanity! The words are so oratorical and smug, but the best one can find. And it was a humanity deeper than most of us can conceive. If I am as deep as a pond and you as a lake, Edward Carpenter was the sea. He touched everyone everywhere. Even when he wasn't intimate he was in direct contact, and as for intimacy, as for personal relationships-they were to him the final reality; art, science, and literature were trifles beside them, and religion only acceptable if it promised personal immortality. To say that he made a cult of friendship is again to become oratorical and smug. It was an impulse, not a cult. But it reigned over every province of his life, and he expected it to be acknowledged by others, and perhaps he never understood that for many people personal relationships are unimportant for the reason that their hearts are small. His own heart was great, and made him a great man. This is his secret so far as it can be put into words; the greatness of his heart, the depth of his humanity, the water that not only reflects the sky on its surface, but stretches down towards the centre of the globe, where all lines meet, and the many become the one.

I only knew Edward Carpenter during the last twenty years of his life, when the saint was gaining on the prophet, and cannot say what he was like in the fieriness of his prime. I knew him fairly well, not very well, and I was perhaps too intellectualized and mentally fidgety quite to suit him... Occasionally, for instance, when I was in the middle of some intelligent if useless remark, he would say very gently, "Oh, do sit quiet". How he hated restlessness! It was to him the antithesis both of calm and of passion, it was a disease of civilization, it troubled the lake and clouded the sun, and I am afraid that he would find this very book restless, and would say to its worthy contributors, "Oh, do sit quiet". Or perhaps he would say, "Why don't you all go out for a walk instead?" He was always going for a walk himself... escaping from the words of men into the sunshine, and it is out of doors, rather than in a memorial volume, that he will expect to be remembered by his friends.'


The above quotations are taken from Edward Carpenter In Appreciation, edited by Gilbert Beith, published by George Allen & Unwin Ltd, London, 1931.The Edward Carpenter Forum has made every effort to obtain permission from literary executors and copyright holders to reproduce these excerpts. We would be grateful to hear from anyone else with an interest in this regard, or who can give us further information. Our thanks go to the following for their kind permissions; Reading City Library in regard to Gilbert Beith, the Trustees of the Michael Ayrton Estate in regard to Henry Nevinson and Evelyn Sharp, and King's College Cambridge in regard to Goldsworthy Lowes Dickinson and E.M. Forster.


Edward Carpenter Exhibition At the San Francisco Public Library


sfpl-7January 2009 saw the San Francisco Public Library mount an exhibition on Edward Carpenter curated by ECF member Joey Cain. Drawing on his collection of rare Carpenter books, photos and ephemera, Joey filled two handsome display cases to the brim. The exhibit ran for a month at the Main Library and was held in conjunction with Sheila Rowbotham's appearance at the Library in support of her biography, Edward Carpenter: A Life of Liberty and Love. Both the exhibit and Sheila's appearance were great successes, garnering large turn outs and very positive articles and reviews in the local press. Many thanks to the staff of the San Francisco Public Library and especially Everett Erlandson, Curator in the Office of Exhibitions and Programming and Karen Sundhiem, Program Manager for the Library's James C. Hormel Gay and Lesbian Center for their encouragement and help in mounting the exhibition. Thanks also to the Sheffield Public Library for permission to use photos from the Edward Carpenter Archives.

The Edward Carpenter Forum is pleased to present this web version of the exhibit.


Sheila Rowbotham at the Exhibit
Edward Carpenter Exhibit, San Francisco Main Library













Exhibit Case 1
Exhibit Case 2














My Days and Dreams:
The Worlds of Edward Carpenter,
Gay Freedom Pioneer



One of the earliest advocates of freedom for the people he termed “Homogenic”, Edward Carpenter (1844-1929) set the stage over one hundred years ago for what would become today’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Freedom Movement.  At a time when same sex loving men were imprisoned for their desire, he lived openly for nearly 40 years with his dear “boy”, George Merrill. Carpenter’s writings and life inspired several generations of homosexual people, including the novelist EM Foster, who wrote his novel Maurice after visiting him. Carpenter’s influence on Mattachine Society and Radical Fairies founder Harry Hay directly contributed to the birth of the modern LGBT movement.  Even the poet Allen Ginsberg traces his gay poetic lineage back to Walt Whitman through Carpenter.

Yet Edward Carpenter in his own time was widely know as many things: a poet, socialist, critic of “Civilization”, mystic, vegetarian, rational dress advocate, anarchist, simple life advocate, women’s freedom supporter, pagan; in short, a harbinger of the many new worlds of the mind and body that were overthrowing the certainties of the Victorian era and giving birth to the Modern period. This exhibit looks at some of the worlds that Carpenter dreamed of and which, through his writings and lived example, helped to bring about.



Towards Democracy and Millthorpe

Edward - 1857
Edward Carpenter was born in 1844 into an upper middle-class family in Brighton, England.  While attending Cambridge University in the 1860s he discovered the writings of Walt Whitman celebrating male - male love and extolling a transcendental vision of radical democracy. Ordained a minister in the Church of England in 1870, he renounced his Orders a few years later. As part of the University Extension Movement he worked as a traveling lecturer in the industrialized North of England where he saw first hand the poverty brought upon the working masses by capitalism.



What he experienced combined with the influences of Whitman, Emerson and Ruskin, leading him to question the basic assumptions of Victorian society: property and possessions as a measure of self worth; Christianity’s setting of the spirit against the body; modern science’s complete reliance on the intellect as a way of knowing at the expense of the intuitive; “civilization’s”  assumed superiority over and exploitation of “primitive” cultures; social propriety’s forbidding of the expression and fulfillment of sexual needs and the desire for love.


In 1883 Carpenter published, Towards Democracy, his book of visionary poetry.

Towards Democracy, 1883, First Edition.
Towards Democracy, Title Page, 1883.
Towards Democracy ... has been the start point and kernel of all my later work, the center from which all the other books have radiated. Whatever obvious weaknesses and defects it may present, I have still always been aware that it was written from a different plane from the other works, from some predominant mood or consciousness superseding the purely intellectual.”

My Days and Dreams: Being Autobiographical Notes, 1916







Carpenter employed Walt Whitman’s free verse form for his own deepest feelings and would continue to add poems to the collection through 4 editions, completing it in 1905. The book became a source of inspiration and spiritual renewal for many activists in Britain’s Socialist and Anarchist movements during the first decades of the 20th Century.


Towards Democracy, Second Edition, 1885.
Towards Democracy, .Third Edition, 1892
Towards Democracy: Complete Edition In Four Parts, 1905.
Who Shall Command The Heart: Towards Democracy Part IV, 1902.


Millthorpe, Carpenter's farm and home from 1882-1923

Seeking a way of living that would fulfill his desires for manual work and “the absolute necessity for a more open air life”, Carpenter purchased a small land holding called Millthorpe, outside the northern city of Sheffield, England. There he worked the land as a market gardener, selling his produce in the local towns. He put into practice his ideas about creative labour and free association.



The House at Millthorpe. Merrill in doorway, Carpenter & friends on right.





George Merrill feeding the chickens at Millthorpe, 1905.









Over the next 4 decades Millthorpe would became a symbol and retreat for those who were inspired by the way of life that Carpenter, his friends and lovers developed there: manual work on the land, equality and honesty in personal relations, a 'simplification of life', vegetarianism, a rejection of soul deadening consumerism and the breaking down of class distinctions.
Edward in his garden at Millthorpe, circa 1910.














Socialism and the New Life

When not market gardening, Carpenter worked as a Socialist activist in the industrial city of Sheffield.  A center for steel manufacturing in England, Sheffield was a city ravaged by pollution & poverty, a glaring example of the class inequality wrought by capitalism.


Englands Ideal and Other Papers On Social Subjects, 1887.
Towards Industrial Freedom, 1917

The real value of the modern socialist movement… has lain not so much in it’s actual programme as (1) in the fact that it has provided a text for a searching criticism of the old society and of the lives of the rich, and (2) the fact that it has enshrined a most glowing and vital enthusiasm towards the realization of a new society.”
 My Days and Dreams: Being Autobiographical Notes







Civilization: It's Cause and Cure, and other Essays, 1889

Carpenter’s lectures and articles in socialist periodicals though out the 1880s gained him a following amongst the radicalized intelligentsia debating poverty, class inequality, sexual relations, new ethical codes and alternative spiritualities. These radicals sought to transform themselves and create a “New Life” in order to bring about the social revolution. Carpenter appealed to them with his advocacy of a “larger socialism”, one that embraced the liberation of the emotional and spiritual life along with the economic.




Sheffield Socialists at Millthorpe with Carpenter (front right).




Philosophically sympathetic to Anarchism, he worked with all the elements of the socialist movement, believing “we are all on the same road” to a society free of exploitation and domination, whether that domination be of capitalist over worker, men over woman, humans over nature or the spiritual over the body. Carpenter put his ideas into practice in his own life, helping to start several important Socialist organizations, papers and a publishing company. His form of ‘ethical socialism' became a vehicle for a whole series of idealistic campaigns including efforts to stop air pollution, promote vegetarianism and oppose vivisection and cruelty to animals.


Socialism and Agriculture, The Fabian Socialist series 2, 1908 containing Carpenter's "The Village and the Landlord.
Carpenter composed the song “England Arise” which became the anthem of the workers movement in Britain in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. He included it in his collection of songs, Chants of Labour: A Song Book of the People.
Chants of Labour: A Song Book of the People, 1888. Illustrations by Walter Crane.



Consciousness and Evolution

"The Gnani" from A Visit To A Gnani or Wise Man of the East, 1911.

Edward Carpenter believed that there were,

“three great stages of Consciousness: the simple consciousness (of the animal or primitive man), the self-consciousness (of the civilized or intellectual man), and the mass-consciousness or cosmic consciousness of the coming man… and though we may not yet be in a position to define the conception very exactly, still it is quite evident, I think, that some such evolution into a further order of consciousness is the key to the future…” 
My Days and Dreams: Being Autobiographical Notes




From Adam's Peak to Elephanta: Sketches In Ceylon and India, Frontispiece and Title Page.
From Adam's Peak to Elephanta, 1898. Cover.






A Visit To A Gnani or Wise Man of the East, 1911. Title Page.






This idea of a new consciousness evolving formed the bedrock of Carpenter’s life and work. Through his writings he attempted to explore the who, what, when and how of this emerging state of consciousness. It led him to the study of religions, particularly Hinduism and European paganism. In 1890 he traveled to India and Ceylon and spent time with a Gnani, or teacher. He delved into pre-christian myths and rituals as sources for understanding of the unconscious.


Pagan and Christian Creeds: Their Origins and Meanings, 1920.




The Drama of Love and Death, 1912.
The Teaching of the Upanishads, 1920.














Sex Radicalism and Homogenic Love

George and Ed, 1905.
Since the day in 1869 when he first read Walt Whitman’s poems espousing the “life-long love of comrades”, Edward Carpenter had dreamed of being part of a group of Loving Comrades with whom to share his life and “move the world”.  He began to make that dream manifest in the 1880’s when he moved to his farm, Millthorpe.

It was in 1886 that his first great love entered his life, a razor-grinder named George Hukin whom he met through the Sheffield Socialist movement. Even after Hukin married and Carpenter was living with another man, they remained extremely close and intimate. Next was a man named George Adams, who lived with Carpenter at Millhorpe. Another, a socialist comrade named Alf Mattison from Leeds. But all of these relationships were with men whose sexuality was ambiguous and who eventually married.

Then, in 1892 while traveling home on a train, Carpenter and the man who was to become his constant Comrade for the next 36 years exchanged glances. George Merrill, like Carpenter, had been sexually drawn to men all his life. Unlike Carpenter, he had grown up in the working class slums of Sheffield, had held a series of different jobs, and was sexually sure of himself from an early age.  The two began a relationship and in 1898 George Merrill moved in with Carpenter at Millthorpe.  They were to live together in a loving but non-monogamous partnership until George’s death in 1928.  Drawing other same-sex loving men and women to Millthorpe, they provided inspiration, comradeship and a living example of sexual freedom that crossed the rigid class boundaries of the time.

At the same time as his relationship with Merrill was developing, Carpenter started writing the pamphlets and books that would lay the early intellectual ground work for the birth of today’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Freedom Movement.


Edward Carpenter died a year after George Merrill, on June 28th, 1929, exactly 40 years to the day before the first rock was thrown at police outside the Stonewall Bar in New York City, sparking the riot that would lead to the ongoing fulfillment of his dream.


Love's Coming of Age, 1896.
Throughout 1894 Carpenter wrote a series of pamphlets that brought the issue of sex out of hiding and into open discussion. In them he challenged the sexual and emotional limits placed on women and men by Victorian society. The pamphlets dealing with opposite sex passion and love were published in 1896 as Love’s Coming of Age: A Series of Papers on the Relations of the Sexes.  The book sold in the hundreds of thousands, becoming Carpenter’s most successful book.  It influenced both left wing activists and the emerging women’s movement around the world by providing a starting point for an honest and frank discussion of the relationship between the sexes.



Among the series of pamphlets on sex that Carpenter wrote in 1894, one was so radical it could not be published with his other writing on sex. That pamphlet was Homogenic Love and It’s Place in a Free Society.  Carpenter relied on history, anthropology and science to advance his ideas that Homogenic people not only contributed to the health of society, but had a unique role in the ongoing evolution of humanity. Using the skills gained as a socialist activist and writer, Carpenter proposed that homosexuals were part of the struggle for individual freedom and rights, the same as women and the working class.


Homogenic Love and Its Place In A Free Society, 1895.

Though dated 1894, Homogenic Love appeared in the fateful year of 1895, just months before the very public trials and imprisonment of the poet and play write Oscar Wilde on the charge of ‘Gross Indecency’, stemming from his homosexual relationships. The anti-gay hysteria generated by the trials made it especially difficult to advocate for same-sex love. Undaunted by that fear and reaction, Carpenter published another pamphlet, An Unknown People in 1897.  In this work he challenged the assumed binary gender roles imposed on men and women. Drawing once again on history, anthropology and science, he looked at individuals who combined varying elements of masculine and feminine, the Intermediate Types as he call them, and what their characteristics and contributions to society were.

An Unknown People, Title Page.
An Unknown People, 1897











Iolaus: An Anthology of Friendship, Author's Edition, 1902.

Iolaus; An Anthology of Friendship, published in 1902 in both England and the United States, was the first collection of its kind to trace the history of passionate same-sex friendships from ancient to modern times with the deliberate intention of tracing a “Homogenic” history. The book became a token of love among same-sex loving people, discreetly inscribed and given by lovers to their beloved.  In some circles it was known as ‘the bugger’s bible”.

Iolaus: An Anthology of Friendship. Pages from Author's Edition, 1902.










Appearing 100 years ago, 1908’s The Intermediate Sex: A Study of Some Transitional Types of Men and Woman, incorporated Carpenter’s two earlier pamphlets plus more. It was first translated and released in Germany, under the title Das Mittelgeschlect, a year before finding a British publisher willing to bring it out. Once published however, the English edition would go through 6 printings between publication and 1930, becoming one of the largest selling and best know works on the subject. Published in the USA in 1912, the young Harry Hay found it in a locked case in the LA Public Library in 1922 and read it. It contributed to his ideas about homosexuals; ideas that would eventually lead him to start the Mattachine Society in 1950 and found the modern phase of the Gay Movement.

Das Mittelgeschlecht, 1907.
Das Mittelgeschlecht, Title Page.
The Intermediate Sex, Title Page.
The Intermediate Sex: A Study of Some Transitional Types of Men and Women, 1908.











1914’s study, Intermediate Types among Primitive Folks: a Study in Social Evolution continued Carpenter’s research into the social roles performed by Intermediate Types in various cultures.  He identified several distinct roles and the preponderance of his evidence lead him to explore two in greater depth: the religious (priest, wizard, witch, inventor of arts and crafts) and the warrior.



Carpenter was to write two more works dealing with same-sex affection. The 1924 pamphlet, Some Friends of Walt Whitman: a Study In Sex Psychology was based on a lecture he gave at the British Society for the Study of Sex-Psychology. He had helped found the Society which was dedicated to addressing sexuality, and especially homosexuality, in an enlightened way. The other work was co-written a year later and explored the bi-sexuality of the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley entitled, The Psychology of the Poet Shelley.

Some Friends of Walt Whitman: A Study in Sex-Psychology, 1924.
Psychology of the Poet Shelley, 1925.
L-R: George Hukin, Edward, Charles Sixsmith, George Merrill in front.














Walt Whitman, Edward Carpenter, Gavin Arthur, Neil Cassidy, Allen Ginsberg:

A San Francisco Connection



L-R: Ted Inigan, Gavin Arthur, Edward Carpenter, George Merrill, 1924.
Edward Carpenter was seen as a prophet by many in the early 20th century. One who viewed him so was a young American man named Chester Allen Arthur, who went by the name Gavin Arthur and was the grandson of President Chester A. Arthur. The 24 year old Gavin made a pilgrimage to see Carpenter, then in his 80’s, in 1924. Arthur later wrote an account of his visit in which he describes spending the night with Edward and their sexual intimacy. At one point after their love making, Gavin asked if this was what he had done with Walt Whitman, whom Carpenter had visited. Carpenter answered in the affirmative.


Gavin Arthur's personal copy of Towards Democracy containing his hand writtern notes.





In the 1940’s Gavin Arthur moved to San Francisco where he was a well known astrology teacher and became a favorite news item for legendary daily columnist Herb Caen. In the early 1960s he befriended and become a spiritual teacher or guru to the Beat Generation luminary Neil Cassidy and his wife Carolyn.  In an interview in Gay Sunshine magazine in 1973, the beat poet Allen Ginsberg traced back a line of poetic tantric sexual transmission from himself, who had slept with Neil Cassidy, “who slept with Gavin Arthur, who slept with Edward Carpenter, who slept with Whitman".



The End

Added thanks to Everette Erlandson for the photos of exhibit case 1 and 2.