Edward Carpenter and George Merrill,a love beyond class, convention and law.

As my last post concerning the Greystone murder/suicide was quite a dreary view of love, I had the desire to explore a love that shone bright; particularly poignant considering the repressive Victorian-Edwardian society in which it was expressed.

I am speaking of the love between the Socialist poet-philosopher Edward Carpenter and his working class partner George Merrill; having met in 1881, their love endured for 47 years until Merril died unexpectedly in June of 1928.

All we can ask for is such a sunny season for love to blossom.


Edward Carpenter & George Merrill

undated

source of image

Carpenter, a man of many talents and interests, is best known for his devotion to Socialism and the plight of the working man; we will see how that interest extended into his personal and romantic life. Aside from his role as a prominent Socialist philosopher and poet, he was the author of various Labour anthems, a devotee of Hindu mysticism and philosophy, a vegetarian, an anti-vivisectionist, a naturist, an advocate of sustainable farming, an environmentalist, and most charmingly , an advocate of the Rational Dress movement.

Carpenter, note the sandals.

Rational Dress Dandy ca. 1905

Carpenter

circa 1875

(handsome devil)

b. 29th August 1844

d. 28th june 1929

Carpenter, like his chum Walt Whitman

Walt

experienced a growing concern for the plight of the working man. Having moved to Sheffield in 1874 , he became increasingly aware of the the difficulties endured by the “working stiff”. It was during this period that he wrote the Labour anthem England Arise, the following link provides the verse. Carpenter edited the workingman’s songbook Chants of Labour, the frontispiece by Walter Crane, (the most renowned Socialist artist of his day and ours)is quite telling; the depiction of the hunky laborer clearly illustrating Carpenter’s taste in his fellow man.

Chants of Labour

edited by Edward Carpenter

illustrated by Walter Crane

A Songbook of the people with music Edited by Edward Carpenter

(there is a clearer example of this image available at the link to Chants of Labour)

In 1882 Carpenter experienced the good fortune of inheriting his father’s considerable wealth; this allowed him  to devote his energies to the joint causes of the working class and market gardening ( a dream our current locavores aspire to).In ’84 he joins the Socialist League with Master Wm. Morris, further securing his allegiance to the common man.

The year 1886 gives him a taste of love with George Hukin; this is not an emotionally satisfying relationship, as Hukins marries conventionally. This brief bout of unrequited love sharpens Carpenter’s ability to sustain a far truer, happier period of enchantment with Merrill.

George Hukin and Edward Carpenter

source of image

Having met Merrill , a man of the Sheffield slums having no formal education, in 1881 ; they do not move in together until 1898. What the reason for the delay was I am unclear, I for one, moved in with the Beloved quite soon after our initial date.

George Merrill

b. 1866

d. June 1928

(not sure why his vital info is so vague, class snobbery?)

Carpenter best expressed his attraction to “trade” in The Intermediate Sex:

“It is noticeable how often Uranians (as in Plato’s Symposium ) of good position and breeding are drawn to rougher types…”.

So taken was E.M. Forster by the “rougher type”, that when Merrill patted his bum, poor frazzled Forster “scudder-ed” ( pun intended”) home to write Maurice; the character Scudder is for the most part based upon Merrill.

I am left with an enduring respect for this couple, even in our more  tolerant climate, gay love is a challenge; these boys faced a far harsher climate yet the sweetness of their love prevails.

Thank you George and Edward.


I dedicate this post to working boys,

panel designed by Walter Crane

1885

source of image

and to my own dear spouse of 15 wonderful years.

Have a most marvelous Saint Valentine’s Day!

Babylon Baroque

image by Fred Holland Day

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8 Responses to “Edward Carpenter and George Merrill,a love beyond class, convention and law.”

  1. So sweet to hear this happy story! Happy Valentine’s Day to the both of you! Love is everywhere!

  2. It is a sweet story, I love that you like it!
    And yes, love feels to be everywhere, Happy Saint Valentine’s Day!
    LG

  3. This made me melt! I love Carpenter: never saw the happy two together in a photo, really lovely and sensitive post.

    • babylonbaroque Says:

      I’m really happy, I too thought it incredibly sweet.
      I’m afraid I always thought Carpenter a dour fellow, I attended a Victorian studies conference and began to experience a broader understanding of the man.
      Thank you for subscribing,
      Leonard

  4. Carpenter has been a “hero” of mine since the eighties, when I first read his work. What a remarkable man. And what a wonderful post!

  5. I have never been one for role models, but I think Mr. Carpenter a worth exception. Thank you for reminding me.

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