About Me

Edward Carpenter's Biography (Books)

To Authors Index

Edward Carpenter (29 August 1844 - 28 June 1929) was an English socialist poet, philosopher, anthologist, and early LGBT activist.

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, James Keir Hardie, J. K. Kinney, Jack London, George Merrill, E D Morel, William Morris, E R Pease, John Ruskin, and Olive Schreiner.

As a philosopher he is 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 through.

An early advocate of sexual freedoms, he had an influence on both D. H. Lawrence and Aurobindo, and inspired E. M. Forster's novel Maurice.

Born in 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 enough 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 Conviction".

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)

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 nearby 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 course-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 (SDF) in 1883 and attempted to form a branch in the city. The group instead chose to remain independent, and became the Sheffield 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 Independent calling 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 the Socialist League.

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 Barlow, Derbyshire.

Edward Carpenter's Works:

- The Religious Influence of Art, 1870
- Narcissus and other Poems, 1873
- Moses: A Drama in Five Acts, 1875
- Towards Democracy, 1883
- Modern Money Lending, 1885
- England's Ideal, 1887
- Chants of Labour, 1888
- Civilisation: Its Cause and Cure, 1889
- From Adam's Peak to Elephanta: Sketches in Ceylon and India, 1892
- A Visit to Ghani: From Adam's Peak to Elephanta, 1892
- Homogenic Love and Its Place in a Free Society, 1894
- Sex Love and Its Place in a Free Society, 1894
- Marriage in Free Society, 1894
- Love's Coming of Age, 1896
- Angels' Wings: A Series of Essays on Art and its Relation to Life, 1898
- The Art of Creation, 1904
- Prisons, Police, and Punishment, 1905
- Days with Walt Whitman: With Some Notes on His Life and Work, 1906
- Iolaus: Anthology of Friendship, 1902
- Sketches from Life in Town and Country, 1908
- Non-governmental society, 1911
- The Intermediate Sex: A Study of Some Transitional Types of Men and Women, 1912
- The Drama of Love and Death: A Study of Human Evolution and Transfiguration, 1912
- George Merrill, A True History, 1913
- Intermediate Types Among Primitive Folk: A Study in Social Evolution, 1914
- The Healing of Nations, 1915
- My Days and Dreams, Being Autobiographical Notes, 1916
- Never Again!, 1916
- Towards Industrial Freedom, 1917
- Pagan and Christian creeds, 1920
- Civilisation, Its Cause and Cure, and Other Essays, 1921
- Towards Democracy, 1922
- The story of Eros and Psyche, 1923
- Some Friends of Walt Whitman: A Study in Sex-Psychology, 1924
- The Psychology of the Poet Shelley, 1925

Source: wiki

To Authors Index