The E-BNR aims to build a comprehensive & unique cross-artform guide to
the British neo-Romantic tradition,
from 1880 to the present day.
While the British Romantics of 1789-1824 have spawned a vast industry of
publishers, conferences & tourism, the later neo-Romantic traditions
remain largely neglected. The E-BNR is aimed at bringing this hidden
tradition to light.
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WHAT IS NEO-ROMANTICISM ?
Neo-Romantic artists have drawn their inspiration
from artists of the age of Romanticism or earlier.
Characteristic themes in their work include a
mystical approach to the British landscape...
ENTRY: Carpenter, Edward.
Edward Carpenter (b. 29 August 1844 – d. 28 June 1929) was an English poet,
anthologist, and an early homosexual activist.
Born in Brighton, Carpenter schooled like all his brothers at Brighton College where his father was a governor.
He then attended Trinity Hall, Cambridge before joining the Church of England as a curate,
"as a convention rather than out of deep conviction". He was heavily influenced by the minister at his
church, the leader of the Christian Socialist movement.
Carpenter left the church in 1874 and became a lecturer in astronomy. During this period, he moved
to Sheffield to live in a same sex relationship with George Merrill, a working class man he had met on a train.
The idyllic back-to-nature life of the two was highly influential on novelist E.M. Forster and his
utopian ideal of the "greenwood". Two men of different classes living together fairly openly as a
couple was almost unheard of in England in the 1890s, but they would remain partners for the rest
of their lives. Carpenter was also a significant influence on the author D.H. Lawrence, whose
Lady Chatterley's Lover can be seen as a heterosexualised version of Forster's Maurice.
In 1883, Carpenter joined the Social Democratic Federation, and in 1885 he left with
William Morris to join the Socialist League. Never committing to any
narrow doctrine, he dabbled in the Labour Church movement, and studied Eastern Religion,
travelling to Ceylon and India in 1890. On his return he developed a kind of "mystic socialism"
which produced campaigns against air pollution, promoted vegetarianism and "rational dress",
a reaction to stuffy late-Victorian clothing which included the making and wearing of sandals.
Carpenter achieved growing acclaim for his Walt Whitman-esque mystical/nature poetry. In the 1890s, Carpenter
began to campaign against discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. He strongly believed
that homosexuality was a natural orientation for people of a third sex. His 1908 book on the subject,
The Intermediate Sex, would become a foundational text of the gay liberation movements of the 20th century.
His groundbreaking 1908 anthology of poems, Iolaus - anthology of friendship was a huge
underground success, leading to a far more advanced knowledge of homoerotic culture. It went
to a second British edition in 1906 and a third edition in 1927. The New York 1917 edition
is now available as a free online e-book.
Carpenter was an infuence on landscape photographer Ansel Adams. In his early manhood Adams was...
"devoted to the comparative-religious poetry of Edward Carpenter, who had close links
with the Theosophical community of Halcyon, in Southern California" (Anne Hammond, Ansel Adams: Equivalent as Expression.).