C.F. Sixsmith Collection of Printed and Photographic Material

  • Reference
      GB 133 Eng Ms 1331
  • Dates of Creation
  • Name of Creator
  • Language of Material
  • Physical Description
      683 items.
  • Location
      Collection available at John Rylands Library, Deansgate.

Scope and Content

This collection of printed and photographic material was built up by Sixsmith over a long period. In addition to a series of photographic prints, it includes periodicals, cuttings from periodicals and newspapers (principally British and American), offprints, pamphlets, flyers, and posters. The largest subdivision of material relates to Carpenter; Sixsmith appears to have collected anything he came across in relation to his friend. There is also a substantial amount of printed matter relating to Whitman. Notable material includes: a range of Carpenter's own writings (articles, poems, and short stories) often as they appeared in their first published form in magazines and periodicals; reviews of some of Carpenter's major works; general and critical articles on Carpenter's life and work; similar articles on Whitman; and reviews of all the major studies and biographies of Whitman written up to the 1950s. Other Whitman- and Carpenter-related material covers such topics as book and manuscript sales, commemorative events, exhibitions, and organisations set up to promote and celebrate their work (including, in Whitman's case, some papers relating to the Bolton Whitman Fellowship), and brief references to both writers in apparently unrelated contexts.

In addition to his Whitman and Carpenter collections, Sixsmith obviously kept cuttings on any other topics in which he had an interest. Items in this collection embrace areas such as socialism, local issues, Carpenter's work as a councillor, conservation and the countryside, religion and alternative beliefs, and articles on his friends, acquaintances and other figures he admired.

The photographs in the collection consist predominantly of prints of Whitman and Carpenter, along with four prints of Bolton College members, and a number depicting friends of Whitman from America, such as Horace Traubel. The Carpenter photographs span more than 50 years and a number of them are inscribed by Carpenter himself.

The collection as a whole has obvious value for both Whitman and Carpenter studies; in particular it documents early responses, critical reception and general popularity of both authors, and it is significant in bringing together many short works by Carpenter in their first or only published form. The collection contains numerous periodicals which were retained by Sixsmith on the strength of one article relating to Whitman or Carpenter, but many of these also have a wider interest. Some of the main areas covered include: socialism and the Labour movement; the Labour Church movement in Yorkshire and Lancashire; anarchism and communism; British politics; humanitarianism; attitudes towards sexuality and homosexuality; alternative religion; vegetarianism and animal rights.

Administrative / Biographical History

Charles Frederick Sixsmith was one of six brothers from Anderton, near Chorley in Lancashire. He worked at Bentinck Mills, Farnworth, a company engaged in the dyeing and manufacture of woven cotton goods for the West African market, where he held the post of managing director for 40 years until his retirement in 1933. He was also active in local government, standing on Chorley Rural District Council for 37 years, and he was involved in the early socialist movement in Britain. He stood on a number of boards set up to discuss working conditions and industrial relations, and belonged to various associations concerned with craft, design and factory made goods.

Sixsmith also had a keen interest in literature, particularly the work of the American poet, Walt Whitman. He was introduced to Whitman by J.W. Wallace, who moved to Anderton from Bolton in 1890 and soon made the acquaintance of Sixsmith. Wallace was the leader of a small group of friends who held regular meetings to discuss literary works and ideas, with a particular emphasis on the poetry of Whitman. He and his friend, Dr John Johnston, corresponded with Whitman, and both men undertook journeys to America to visit the poet - Johnston in 1890 and Wallace in 1891. Initially known as the 'Eagle Street College' (after Wallace's original Bolton home), the group continued its activities in one form or another for many years, even after Wallace's death in 1926; it eventually came to be known as the Bolton Whitman Fellowship. Sixsmith was invited to join the group in the early 1890s, and although he and Wallace grew apart after 1910 he remained involved with the group's annual Whitman birthday celebrations until at least the late 1930s. He continued to promote Whitman's work in the North-West of England for the rest of his life.

Sixsmith's admiration of Whitman was linked to his interest in socialism. Many early socialists in Britain were attracted by Whitman's ideas on love and comradeship, democracy and nature, and J.W. Wallace was acquainted with a number of prominent socialist figures. Through Wallace, Sixsmith came into contact with many people who shared his political beliefs, most significantly the poet, writer, and campaigner, Edward Carpenter, who became a lifelong friend. Carpenter first came into contact with the Bolton group in 1891, and made frequent subsequent visits. Sixsmith often visited Carpenter at his country home in Millthorpe, Derbyshire, which he shared after 1898 with his lover, George Merrill. Sixsmith and Dr Johnston often accompanied Carpenter and Merrill on holidays abroad.

Sixsmith married in 1908 and he and his wife, Lucy, had two sons and a daughter. He died in February 1954 at the age of 83.


This material was originally stored together in one large trunk. It was recorded in the Library's accessions register as accompanying Sixsmith's collection of printed books and was itself allocated accession numbers R101315-8. It appears to have been treated as a discrete collection from the outset, however, and this is reflected in the current catalogue. A few of the items are marked with accession numbers and where this is the case these references have been noted.

The material was stored in no obvious order, and Sixsmith's own original ordering of the material is unclear. The material has therefore been arranged according to archival principles, with the aim of reflecting Sixsmith's reason for retaining each item. There are some obvious divisions in the material: the photographs had largely been separated from the printed material and these form a discrete group; the printed material is divided between items relating to Whitman, Carpenter, and general topics. The printed items have not been classified according to physical form (cuttings separated from complete journals and so on) as the emphasis is on Sixsmith's motivation for keeping the material. There are some bundles of material which had clearly been brought together by Sixsmith himself (eg. reviews of particular works by Carpenter), and where this is the case, these original groupings have been preserved.

There is a small amount of material which does not strictly fit into the printed category, but which has been left in place: this is predominantly typescript material, although there are some manuscript items; the latter, however, tend to be accompanying printed or photographic material.

A small number of items which were clearly misplaced have been removed to other collections: two letters addressed to Minnie Whiteside which obviously came to the Library from the recipient have been moved to her collection (Eng MS 1186); three sheets of rough manuscript notes by Sixsmith have been moved to his collection of miscellanea (Eng MS 1330); and three items have been moved to Eng MS 1171 (Sixsmith's collection of manuscript material relating to Carpenter), as they seem to be more appropriately housed there. These consist of two British Library reading room tickets signed by Carpenter, four telegrams to Sixsmith from Ted [Edward Inigan] sending news of Carpenter's last illness, and a small manuscript note.

This collection has been divided into subgroups as follows:

  • /1 Printed material relating to Walt Whitman
  • /2 Printed material relating to Edward Carpenter
  • /3 General printed material
  • /4 Photographs and artistic representations

Within each series, the material is arranged chronologically, with undated items placed at the end.

Access Information

Open to any accredited reader.

This finding aid may contain personal or sensitive personal data about living individuals. Under Section 33 of the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA), The John Rylands University Library (JRUL) has the right to process such personal data for research purposes. The Data Protection (Processing of Sensitive Personal Data) Order 2000 enables the JRUL to process sensitive personal data for research purposes. In accordance with the DPA, the JRUL has made every attempt to ensure that all personal and sensitive personal data has been processed fairly, lawfully and accurately, according to the Data Protection Principles.

Other Finding Aids


Custodial History

The collection was amassed by C.F. Sixsmith over a long period and was bequeathed to the John Rylands Library in March 1954, along with a printed book collection and a number of manuscript collections.

Related Material

In addition to Sixsmith's collection of Whitman- and Carpenter-related books, the John Rylands University Library holds a number of manuscript collections bequeathed by Sixsmith which bear relevance to this collection: Eng Ms 1170 contains material relating to Whitman, including a bundle of autograph letters sent to Whitman during 1880; Eng Ms 1171 contains papers and photographs relating to Edward Carpenter; Eng Ms 1172 is a collection of letters to Sixsmith, J.W. Wallace and Dr Johnston from Whitman's close friend, Horace Traubel; Eng Ms 1330 is a collection of miscellaneous papers relating to Sixsmith's work in the cotton business and some of his interests.

In addition, there is a collection of papers relating to J.W. Wallace and the Bolton Whitman Fellowship, donated by Wallace's companion and adopted daughter, Minnie Whiteside ( Eng Ms 1186).

A much larger collection of Bolton Whitman Fellowship material is held at Bolton Archive Service, based in the Central Library, Bolton, Lancashire ZWN. This includes: some original letters from Walt Whitman to Wallace, Johnston and others, copies of these, and copies of their letters to him; large quantities of other correspondence, between members of the Bolton circle and with Whitman enthusiasts overseas (including extensive Traubel correspondence); numerous papers relating to the Bolton group and its activities; photographs; mementos and ephemera.

The most extensive British collection of correspondence, papers and literary manuscripts relating to Edward Carpenter is held at Sheffield Archives, Sheffield, South Yorkshire.


A Bibliography of Edward Carpenter (Sheffield: Sheffield City Libraries, 1949).

Blodgett, Harold, Walt Whitman in England (New York: Cornell University Press. London: Humphrey Milford, 1934).

Grant, Douglas, Walt Whitman and his English admirers: an inaugural lecture (Leeds: Leeds University Press, 1962).

Kaplan, Justin, Walt Whitman: a life (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1980).

Myerson, Joel, Walt Whitman: a descriptive bibliography (Pittsburgh and London: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1993).

Salveson, Paul, 'Loving comrades: Lancashire's links to Walt Whitman', Walt Whitman Quarterly Review, 14, nos. 2-3 (1997), 57-84.

Tsuzuki, Chushichi, Edward Carpenter 1844-1929: Prophet of human fellowship (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1980).