LGBT People Of History Part Ninety Edward Carpenter
Edward Carpenter was born in Hove, Brighton in Southern England on the 29th of August 1844. He was to become a legend in gay history as an English socialist, poet, socialist philosopher and anthologist. Also he was one of the earliest gay activists in Britain.
He was educated at Brighton College and in his late youth his academic talent would gain him a place at Trinity Hall, Cambridge. He began exploring his feelings towards men at this time, having an affair with Edward Anthony Beck who later became the Master of Trinity Hall.
Sadly Beck eventually ended their friendship which caused great emotional hurt to Edward. The ending of this relationship and the rejection of Beck made him very uneasy with his sexuality. This caused him to visit male prostitutes in Paris. Edward always stated that his relationship with Beck had a touch of romance.
After graduating from university, Edward went on to join the Church of England becoming a curate. This only lasted for a couple of years as Edward became very dissatisfied with his life in the church stating that he had become weary of the hypocrisy of Victorian Society.
He began to read Walt Whitman’s poetry. This caused a huge change in Edward’s life for the better making him decide that he wanted to dedicate his life to helping the working class gain their right to an education.
After leaving the church in 1874 he became a lecturer of Astrology, moving to Leeds, Chesterfield and then finally Sheffield where he came in to contact with the working-class. He worked on many projects highlighting the poor living conditions of industrial workers. He even wrote an article in the Sheffield Independent (Newspaper) that called Sheffield the laughing stock of the civilized world in 1889.
He had become quite radical and even wrote a marching song known as ‘England Arise’ which promoted left wing politics.
He later moved to Derbyshire. When his father died in 1882 he was left a considerable fortune that enabled him to stop lecturing and take up market gardening. This new life enabled him to fully acknowledge his sexuality and tapped in to his creativity, and he wrote ‘Kind of Wooden Sentinel Box’. These were poems that later became his book of verse known today as ‘Towards Democracy.’
In 1886 Edward met and had a brief affair with George Hukin who worked in the Sheffield razor trade. George was married and it caused a rift between him and Edward, but they eventually became very close lifelong friends.
In the 1880s Edward found he had a passion for Hindu mysticism and Indian philosophy. He received a pair of sandals from a friend in India and he loved wearing them so much that he began making them himself. This is the first known introduction of sandals to Britain.
Later he travelled to India and Ceylon in 1890 where he spent some time with a Hindu teacher known as Gnani. In Edward’s later work ‘Adam’s Peak to Elephanta’ he describes Gnani.
He found and embraced mystical socialism that later inspired him to begin various campaigns against air pollution, promoting vegetarianism and opposing vivisection.
He later returned to England in 1891 where he met his lifelong partner George Merrill, a working class man also from Sheffield. The two soon fell in love. Their loving partnership inspired Edward to write ‘The Intermediate Sex’ where he states that at sometime in the future, gay people would be the cause of radical social change in the social conditions of man.
Edward became a leading figure during the 19th and the early 20th centuries in Britain. He was instrumental to the foundation of the ‘Fabian Society’ and the ‘Labour Party.’
He was to become a close friend of Walt Whitman as well as many other leading figures at that time such as
1. Mahatma Gandhi
2. Roger Fry
3. Annie Besant
He also had much influence on two very famous writers ‘D.H Lawrence’, the author of the book ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’ and also ‘E.M Forster’ who was the author of the book ‘Maurice’ which is believed to be based on the partnership of Edward and George.
He was an early advocate of sexual freedoms and a legend in the history of LGBT.
Sadly in the January of 1928 Edward’s partner George died suddenly. This left Edward grief stricken and heartbroken. In the May of 1928 Edward suffered a stroke that left him paralysed and he died on Friday 28th June 1929.
His works are still inspirational to gay people today and also inspired Harry Hay to be the founder of the ‘Mattachine Society’ which started advancing gay rights in America.
I am truly proud to have been able to write about such a great and legendary man.
Callum & Ian
With Thanks To Wikipedia
Here Are Links To Our Many Other LGBT People Of History Series
- LGBT People Of History Collection
Here are the links to each of the LGBT People Of History hubs that Ian and I have wrote. As mentioned above, each time a new one is published you will find it on here.
- Raiders Of The LGBT Vault - Raiders of the LGBT Vault
Our site brings to light our LGBT History and Biographies Of International LGBT People of the past. Some you will know and some you wont know about. Our aim is to educate and bring the lives of legendary historical LGBT people to light and give insig