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Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Edward Carpenter and Gay Rights

Edward Carpenter played an important role in the campaign for Gay Rights in the UK. By 1880 Carpenter had acknowledged his homosexuality and had moved in with Albert Fearnhough, a scythe riveter from Sheffield. When Charles Carpenter died in 1882 he left his son a considerable amount of money. This enabled Edward Carpenter to purchase a farm in Millthorpe, near Baslow in Derbyshire and to concentrate on his writing.

By the 1880s Carpenter had established himself as a poet of democracy and socialism with books like Towards Democracy (1883) and England's Ideal (1887). He also wrote socialist songs and hymns such as England Arise! that were used by the Labour Church movement in the 1890s.

Carpenter believed that homosexuality was innate and should not be classed as a sin. A strong advocate of sexual freedom, Carpenter wrote several pamphlets on the subject including Sex Love and Its Place in a Free Society (1894), Women and her Place in a Free Society (1894), Marriage in a Free Society (1894) and Homogenic Love and Its Place in a Free Society (1895).

George Merrill moved in with Carpenter at his home in Baslow. After the House of Commons passed the Criminal Law Amendment Act that made all homosexual acts illegal, Carpenter had to abandon his campaign for sexual tolerance. In 1908 Carpenter returned to this theme with his book Intermediate Sex. Although the book created a great deal of hostility it had a strong influence on literary figures such as Siegfried Sassoon, D. H. Lawrence and E. M. Forster.

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