Poet, Philosopher, and Pioneering LGBT Rights Advocate Edward Carpenter’s Moving Love Letter of Gratitude to Walt Whitman

“Caring any person and being liked by any person is a significant risk, a significant obligation,” James Baldwin observed as he assessed same-sex love and the courage to “go the method your blood beats” in his most individual interview. The danger, naturally, is greatly higher for those of us whose enjoys live outside the heteronormative mold, and it increases greatly as we turn historys dial back towards the countless generations who paid for our flexibility with theirs– tried like Radclyffe Hall or jailed like Oscar Wilde or assassinated like Harvey Milk or obliquely killed by the federal government like Alan Turing or, like Emily Dickinson, like Hans Christian Andersen, dying the slow death of living without the possibility of making their deepest love understood in anything less coded than fairy tales and verse.

Whitman discovered the letter, later on priced estimate in Sheila Rowbothams outstanding biography Edward Carpenter: A Life of Liberty and Love (public library), to be “lovely, like a confession.” It was the beginning of a long-lasting friendship and fellowship.

In the dates before the term “LGBT” entered use, before the radical concept that taking “Pride” in it might replace coping with embarassment about it, barely any public voice has emboldened more hearts to enjoy whom they love than Walt Whitman in his courageous, uncoded verses commemorating the flexibility of the heart.

You have, as it were, offered me a ground for the love of men I thank you constantly in my heart. Females are stunning; but to some, there is that which passes the love of ladies.

Art by Margaret C. Cook from a rare 1913 edition of Leaves of Grass. (Available as a print) One dawning July morning in 1870, at the insomniac peal of 4 A.M.– which Baldwin considered the hour of self-redemption, reckoning, and misery– a young English guy who would end up being the theorist, poet, and early LGBT rights activist Edward Carpenter (August 29, 1844– June 28, 1929) got his pen and his courage, and made up an extraordinary letter to Walt Whitman. Carpenter was twenty-five, Whitman fifty-one.

After informing Whitman that he is leaving the stagnancy of Cambridge to take a trip north and lecture to working-class males and females, driven by the sense that they are yearning “to lay hold of something with a real grasp,” Carpenter commends the poet for his unselfconscious celebration of working-class masculinity. He then passes on that the day before, “a young workman with the old magnificent light in his eyes” had actually come to his door, and Carpenter had allowed himself to feel gotten rid of by unselfconscious desire; the encounter had influenced him to thank Whitman for the guts to completely populate his love of other males.

By then, a years after the release of his epoch-making Leaves of Grass, the American poet was accustomed to adoring letters from complete strangers– none more stunning than Anne Gilchrists love letters to him, none more surprising than Bram Stokers. Carpenters was laced with genuine creative adoration and kinship of spirit, it was not a love letter– it was a letter of thankfulness, stirring for its elegance of expression and twice as stirring for the palpable soul-depth of its sentiment.

Composing in an age when same-sex love was not just criminalized however rejected, Carpenter adds ruefully:

He then communicates that the day before, “a young worker with the old divine light in his eyes” had actually come to his door, and Carpenter had permitted himself to feel conquered by unselfconscious desire; the encounter had actually inspired him to thank Whitman for the nerve to fully populate his love of other men. You have, as it were, offered me a ground for the love of guys I thank you continually in my heart. After returning from India in 1891, Carpenter fulfilled the love of his life– a younger working-class male, who became his partner for the rest of his life. The relationship motivated Carpenter to write stunning works of uncommon insight into the dangers and victories of the heart, any heart– what he called “the drama of love and death.”

It suffices to live any place the divine beauty of love might flash on males; however indeed its enduring and real light appears infinitely far from us in this our day … At the last, it is enough to know that the longed-for realization is possible– will be, has been, is even now someplace– despite the fact that we discover it not.

Complement with Albert Camuss magnificent letter of appreciation to his childhood teacher, penned quickly after winning the Nobel Prize, then review Carpenter on how freedom enhances togetherness in long-lasting relationships and Whitmans deepest-feeling, furthest-seeing poem.

After returning from India in 1891, Carpenter fulfilled the love of his life– a more youthful working-class man, who became his partner for the rest of his life. The relationship motivated Carpenter to write beautiful works of unusual insight into the risks and triumphs of the heart, any heart– what he called “the drama of love and death.”