FABIAN ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL THOUGHT:
Series One: The Papers of Edward Carpenter, 1844-1929, from Sheffield Archives, Sheffield Libraries and Information Services
Part 1: Correspondence and Manuscripts
Part 2: Manuscripts, Cuttings, Pamphlets and Selected Publications
This microfilm collection captures all of Carpenter’s correspondence from Sheffield Archives together with an impressive collection of manuscript material focusing upon manuscript lecture notes and original manuscripts of all his published writings. In addition there are newspaper cuttings, photographs, pamphlets, extracts from periodicals, and first editions or earlier surviving editions (frequently annotated versions) of all his major works.
Democratic author and poet and one of the leading personalities in the revival of Socialism in England during the 1880s, Carpenter strived to create a more just society, with Fabian ideals and a strident challenge to old concepts and beliefs. There is much material in these papers on Gender Roles, especially the introduction of Birth Control and modern attitudes on Sex and Sexuality.
In 1884 Carpenter joined the Fellowship of New Life. Other founding members including Havelock Ellis, Olive Schreiner and Henry Salt, all of whom also feature in the correspondence files, as do Margaret Sanger and Marie Stopes. The members of the Fellowship later formed the Fabian Society and Carpenter was a regular guest speaker, as well as a full member from 1908-1929.
Edward Carpenter was also involved in the foundation of a number of socialist societies. With William Morris he put up the £300 which launched Justice, the SDF Journal. With Ramsey MacDonald and Katherine Conway (later Bruce-Glazier) he helped to form the Bristol Socialists. All three are featured in Carpenter’s extensive correspondence, as are other leading political figures such as: Annie Besant, Robert Blatchford, Mahatma Gandhi, James Keir Hardy, N M Hyndman, Peter Kropotkin, and Edward R Pease.
Perhaps Carpenter’s greatest legacy was to modern literature. His own works are not much read today, even though his great free verse poem ‘Towards Democracy’ was favourably compared with Whitman. However, Carpenter had a seminal influence on Siegfried Sassoon, Robert Graves, D H Lawrence and E M Forster and anyone studying these authors would do well to examine this collection, which includes copies of all of his literary works.
These papers also document Carpenter’s two visits to meet Walt Whitman in 1877 and 1884, and included his correspondence with figures such as Walter Crane, Roger Fry, Sanshira Ishikawa, Jack London, John Masefield, John Ruskin and Rabindranath Tagore.
George Bernard Shaw called Carpenter “The Noble Savage.” Influenced by Hinduism and Socialism, he had a vision of a more just society, and working with groups such as the Fabians he strived to create that society. This collection will allow scholars to examine his influence and will be of particular value to those studying Human Sexuality and Gender Roles, the Birth of Socialism, and Modern Literature.
Part 1 covers 24 Guard Books of correspondence (MS 270-271 and MS 339-390) featuring individuals such as Margaret Sanger, Havelock Ellis, Olive Schreiner, Marie Stopes, Ramsey MacDonald, Annie Beasant, Robert Blatchford, Mahatma Gandhi, Keir Hardie, Kropotkin, Edward Pease, John Ruskin, Walter Crane, Roger Fry and Rabridranath Tagore, many of whom have already been mentioned above.
Additional correspondence and related papers (MS 391-402) and manuscript material, c.1866-1914 (MS 1-187) make up the balance of the first part of the microfilm set.
This Manuscript material includes the Cambridge University Extension Lectures and manuscripts for Towards Democracy’s Civilization; the Breakdown of Industrial Society; the Future of Labour; Marriage; Homogenic Love; the Changed Ideal of Society; Love’s Coming of Age; Forecasts of the Coming Century; A Visit to Walt Whitman; Angels’ Wings; Eros and Psyche; Monte Carlo; The Dream World and the Real World; Iolaus; the Art of Creation; Prisons, Police and Punishment; Days with Walt Whitman; Morocco; the Village and the Landlord; the Awakening of China; Mortality; Sketches from Life; State Interference with Industry; Socialism and Modern Industry; the Intermediate Sex; Women’s Suffrage; the Larger Socialism, the Socialist Outlook; the Teaching of the Upanishads; the Status of Women in Early Greek Times; and Intermediate Types among Primitive Folk.
Part 2 completes the sequence of Manuscript material (MS 188-269 and MS 272-338). Added to this are Newscuttings, Photographs, a section on Art and Travel, Pamphlets, Periodicals (extracts by or about Carpenter), and Selected Printed Items. (First and second editions of works by Carpenter and a number of Appreciations written by others on the subject of Carpenter).
The manuscript material includes The Heading of Nations; War and Peace; My Days and Dreams; Carpenter’s Autobiography; Towards Industrial Freedom; The Liberation of Industry ; Back to the Land; Pagan and Christian Creeds; some Friends of Walt Whitman; Primitive Life in the Maine Woods; The Psychology of the Poet Shelley; Light from the East (incorporating Birth-Control and Bi-Sexuality); and the Breakdown of our Industrial System. Other significant highlights include Diaries, 1915-1920; 1915-1920; Notebooks and Commonplace Books.
Carpenter’s correspondence with his publishers, in particular an interesting series of exchanges with Stanley Unwin, throw useful light upon book publishing history before and after the First World War. Royalty statements provide evidence on how well Carpenter’s publications sold.
Cambridge Life, his University Extension Lectures and tours of the northern towns of England, socialist circles in Sheffield, and later Millthorpe, as “a rendezvous for all classes and conditions of society” are documented in some detail.
At Millthorpe, a Derbyshire village not far from Sheffield, Carpenter, friends and visitors such as George Bernard Shaw, Bertrand Russell, D H Lawrence, Cecil Reddie and others of the same mentality, gathered to discuss their ideas. Carpenter, one of the great figures of utopian socialism, crossed the divide between class, gender and monogamy. His mission was a form of simple living; he eschewed the city and embraced the elements. He threw open the windows and threw off his clothes in an effort to cast off the curse of respectability.
He wanted to reunite people with the landscape. Carpenter believed it was easier to write well “bathed in sunlight”. At Millthorpe he would bathe in the nude with his manservant at 6am in the summer before starting the day’s work. His emphasis on fresh air and sunshine was combined with running an orchard and market garden at Milllthorpe.
Sandal-making was another important activity. Sandals were a “symbol of the simple life” and “a liberation from the leather coffin”. They were part of the movement for dress reform and also a significant part of the economy at Millthorpe. The trade in sandals received a mixed reception from the visitors. George Bernard Shaw obtained a pair, but upon wearing them for the first time, he cut his feet and vowed never to wear them again.
As time went on, Carpenter devoted more time to writing and less to marketing and gardening. He stayed at Millthorpe until 1922. The “socialist community” there became a place of pilgrimage for all those interested in Socialism and Carpenter’s philosophies.
For more comprehensive information please see the Contents of Reels and Detailed Listings which appear on Reels 1 and 23 of the microfilm and also in this guide. Please see also A Bibliography of Edward Carpenter (Sheffield City Libraries 1949) and A Catalogue of Additional Manuscripts (Sheffield City Libraries) at the start of Reel 1. Finally, I would like to thank Ruth Harman and her colleagues at the Sheffield Archives, for all their help with this microfilm project.