Edward Carpenter Papers and Labour Movement Correspondence

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 133 Eng MS 1040
  • Dates of Creation
      c 1904-1922
  • Language of Material
  • Physical Description
      various sizes. 43 items; items 1-33 are bound into a ruled exercise book; items 34-43 are loose;

Scope and Content

Letters and postcards addressed (with one exception) to Richard Hawkin, relating to the Labour Movement, from:

  • Robert Peel Glanville Blatchford (1851-1943), journalist and author (no. 1);
  • Edward Carpenter (1844-1929), campaigner for homosexual equality and socialist (nos 2-27);
  • James Keir Hardie (1856-1915), founder of the Labour Party (no. 28);
  • Henry Mayers Hyndman (1842-1921), socialist leader (nos 29-32).
  • James Ramsay MacDonald (1866-1937), Labour Party leader and prime minister (no.33).
 The exception (number 25) is a letter from Edward Carpenter to Miss Uttley. Number 34 is a copy of the printed Address offered to Carpenter on his seventieth birthday, 29 August 1914. Number 35 is a copy of Carpenter's printed Reply, dated 1 September 1914. See his My days and dreams: being autobiographical notes (London: Allen & Unwin, 1916), pp. 318-22.

In addition, English MS 1040 contains the following unnumbered items relating to Edward Carpenter and the Norwegian translator and critic Illit Gröndahl:

  • Four letters from Illit Gröndahl in Norway to Edward Carpenter, 1916-17; enclosed within one is a photograph of Gröndahl with two other figures;
  • Typescript poem, Christmas Eve, from Henrik Wergeland's The Jew, translated into English by Illit Gröndahl, and annotated To Edward Carpenter with truest regards, 1915. 8 pp.;
  • Manuscript translation by Illit Gröndahl of the poem To a young poet by Henrik Wergeland, 1916;
  • Typescript draft of an article by Illit Gröndahl, Henrik Wergeland, the Norwegian poet, to appear in the American Scandinavian Review, annotated To Edward Carpenter with sincerest appreciation and thanks. 54 pp.

Administrative / Biographical History

Edward Carpenter (1844-1929), campaigner for homosexual equality and socialist writer, was born in Brighton on 29 August 1844. He attended Brighton College from 1854 to 1863, and went up to Trinity Hall, Cambridge, in 1864. He was placed as tenth wrangler in the mathematical tripos of 1868, and was elected to a clerical fellowship. He was ordained in 1870 and served as curate at St Edward's, Cambridge. Carpenter expoused the cause of university reform. He resigned holy orders and his fellowship in 1874, and lectured in Leeds and other northern towns for the university extension scheme.

In May 1880 Carpenter stayed at Totley, near Sheffield, with Albert Fearnehough, who became his lover. He achieved sexual liberation, and an inheritance of £6,000 from his father in 1882 gave him financial freedom too. He took up market gardening and built a cottage at Millthorpe, between Sheffield and Chesterfield, which he shared with the Fearnehoughs. Carpenter also began to write poetry, publishing a slim volume, Towards democracy, anonymously in 1883. For several years he had been strongly influenced by the writings of Walt Whitman, whom he had visited in New Jersey in 1877. He was increasing drawn to socialism and joined the short-lived Democratic Federation founded by H.M. Hyndman, and later the Sheffield Socialist Society and the Fabian Society. He campaigned for prison reform, the abolition of vivisection and cruel sports, and similar causes.

Carpenter was publicly reticent about his sexuality, particularly after the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1885 made all male homosexual acts liable to prosecution. However, after meeting John Addington Symonds he became an eloquent defender of homosexuality. In 1894-5 the Labour Press in Manchester published four of his pamphlets on sex: Sex-love, and its place in a free society; Woman, and her place in a free society; Marriage in free society; and Homogenic love, and its place in a free society. His The intermediate sex (1908) was widely influential. Later Carpenter espoused the cause of women's suffrage and condemned the Great War. In 1893 the Fearnehoughs left Millthorpe and Carpenter began a relationship with George Merrill. The two men moved to Guildford in 1922, where Carpenter died in 1929.

Source: Chushichi Tsuzuki, "Carpenter, Edward (1844-1929)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004. By permission of Oxford University Press - http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/32300.

Access Information

The collection is available for consultation by any accredited reader.

Acquisition Information

Donated to the John Rylands Library by Richard Hawkin esq. of Darwen, Lancashire, in June 1946.


Description compiled by Jo Humpleby, project archivist.

Other Finding Aids

Catalogued in the Hand-List of the Collection of English Manuscripts in the John Rylands Library, 1937-1951 (English MS 1040).

Related Material

The JRUL holds the Charles F. Sixsmith Collection relating to Edward Carpenter (ref.: GB 133 Eng MS 1171) and Papers of James Ramsay MacDonald (ref.: GB 133 RMD).