A previously undocumented archive of writings by Edward Carpenter, the well-connected socialist poet and gay rights pioneer, sold for a hammer price of £4200, more than eight times its upper estimate, at Bamfords in Derby this month.
Extracted from Antiques Trade Gazette | Frances Allitt
Carpenter was a poet, philosopher and anthologist, famously writing Civilisation, Its Cause and Cure, in which he proposes that civilisation is a sort of disease that humanity must pass through. He is remembered in part for his openly homosexual cohabitation with George Merrill, and he was an advocate of sexual freedom, influencing authors such as DH Lawrence and EM Forster.
‘The simple life’
He was a friend of poet Walt Whitman and an avid correspondent of many major figures including Isadora Duncan, Mahatma Ghandi and Roger Fry. However, his radical socialist activities brought him into contact with people from the lower and working classes as well, popularising the phrase ‘the simple life’ in England’s Ideal (1887).
The archive, which had a presale estimate of £300-500, comprised correspondence and ephemera between the poet-philosopher and the Ashmore family of Victoria Street, London which later relocated to Chesterfield in Derbyshire. It covers 1878-1913.
Included are daguerreotypes; correspondence covering Carpenter’s life and residency in Brighton; autographed photo portraits of Carpenter as a student; portraits of the Ashmore family; poems; articles on socialism; a poster for the Chesterfield & District Working Men’s Radical Association public tea event in 1885; and much more.
The correspondence is generally gentle and sometimes humorous including anecdotes and observations of daily life.
The writer is believed to have met the Ashford family through his contemporary Samuel Ashmore, a plasterer in Chesterfield. Carpenter lived in Chesterfield for a year before moving to Sheffield in 1882 and then, with his father’s legacy, to Millthorpe in Derbyshire with Merrill.
The archive passed from the Ashmore family to their last housekeeper, the mother of the vendor.
It was included in Bamfords’ Gentlemen’s Library, Grand Tour and Curiosities Sale.
Buyer’s premium is 25%.