1844 - 1929

“Great success in examinations does naturally not as a rule go with originality of thought.”

– Edward Carpenter

Transformed after reading Leaves of Grass, Carpenter’s admiration for Walt Whitman influenced the form and shape of his utopian vision, which focused on manual work, sandal making, vegetarianism, and the eradication of class distinctions. From 1883 to 1905 Carpenter published a number Whitmanesque prose-poems – social critiques – such as Civilization: its Cause and Cure, arguing that capitalism was a social and moral disease. Seeing his theory needed a spiritual component, he traveled to India to learn more about Hinduism and as a result synthesized what he termed ‘mystic socialism.’ Shortly after his return in the winter of 1889 he met George Merrill, a working class man, who came to live with Carpenter at his 7-acre country estate, Millthorpe – a place of pilgrimage for supporters of all of Carpenter’s many causes, including E. M. Forster, who was inspired to write his overtly homosexual romance, Maurice, while there. Carpenter and Merrill lived openly in a union that lasted nearly 40 years – almost unheard of for men of different social classes in the 1890s. Carpenter, who believed homosexuality was innate and should not be classified as a sin, was the only English writer before World War I to publicly defend the homosexual’s rightful place in society. His publication, The Intermediate Sex (1908), gave hope, support, and information to other gay men. In Intermediate Types among Primitive Folk (1911) he expanded on this theme by providing an overview of the spiritual roles many cultures have for homosexuals and transsexuals. His many accomplishments include founding of The Fabian Society as well as England’s Labour Party. Edward Carpenter died in 1929, one year after the passing of his beloved George. They are buried together in a grave in the Mount Cemetery, Guilford.


Gender Male

Sexual Orientation Gay

Gender Identity Cisgender

Ethnicity Caucasian/White

Nations Affiliated United Kingdom

Era/Epoch Victorian Era (1837-1901)

Field(s) of Contribution





Social Justice

Commemorations & Honors

Edward Carpenter Memorial Sculpture by Maggi Hambling to be Erected in Sheffield City Centre


Original Biography Author
Victor Salvo
Biography Edited By
Owen Keehnen
Resources Coordination
Carrie Maxwell