Notes from Edward Carpenter: a life of liberty and love by Sheila Rowbotham

p. 96 “Henry Salt was one of the first who tried to live out Carpenter’s ideas about the simple life. Inspired by Carpenter’s account of Millthorpe, he left his job at Eton and went with his wife Kate to live in the Surrey village of Tilford. Salt would later explain that to social movements had attracted those like himself who were breaking away from bourgeois backgrounds in the 1880s. “Socialism, the more equitable distribution of wealth, and simplification, the saner method of living.”… He had studied at Cambridge, where Jim Joynes had encouraged him to rebel against the inner sinews of class privilege. Salt, like Joynes, decided that it was wrong to live off the labour of others and to eat animals. Accordingly, in 1884 he went to the headmaster, Dr Edmund Warre, to hand in his resignation from Eton, declaring he was a vegetarian, had lost his faith in the public school system and had become socialist. Horrified by this roll call of apostasies, Warre exploded, “then blow us up, blow us up! There is nothing left for it but that.”… Salt was soon in conflict with the Socialist league newspaper, Commonweal, which declared vegetarianism was an employers’ plot to force workers to accept a lower standard of living…. Henry and Kate Salt’s move, accompanied by books and piano, to a labourer’s cottage at Tilford hardly seems remarkable today, but it caused a minor media stir in 1884, after Hyndman announced a public meeting that Salt had left Eton. Resolutely Salt cupped his academic down into strips of fastening creepers to walls and used his top hat the shading a young vegetable marrow.”
p. 111 “Carpenter and Hukin experienced the heady joy of working together filled with hope in a cause that seems indubitable. Through the summer and autumn of 1886 mounting unemployment and the acute distress it brought with it were gaining an audience for the socialists’ street meetings. Carpenter fulminated against landlords and railway shareholders (like himself) who collected millions to doing nothing. … They began to attract crowds of around 2 to 300 people, competing with the Salvation Army and barrel organ men at the corner of Fargate and Surrey Street. When the police tried to close them down, the excitement which ensued added to the audience. Jonathan Taylor, wily in local politics, began an outraged letter writing campaign presenting himself as a member of the public, upset at the curtailing of free speech. By September their listeners were reaching 4 to 500. Having your own premises signaled that you had arrived on the local political scene. In February 1887 when the new premises in Scotland Street formally opened as the Commonwealth cafe, the sympathetic Sheffield Weekly Echo reported that the Sheffield socialists, who, “some little time back… might have been counted on the fingers”, now not only had their own hall, but could filll it to overflowing, while the Sheffield and Rotherham Independent noted that there were even a few ladies in the audience, though it derided their shrill ‘hear hears’. The ethos was open and eclectic. The unemployed will welcome along with speakers of varying political hues: William Morris, Annie Besant and Havelock Ellis from the London socialist mileau, Peter Kropotkin and Charlotte Wilson from the anarchist.”
p. 112 “Socialism was not merely a movement for industrial emancipation, it “aimed at the entire regeneration of society in art, in science, in religion and literature and the building up of the new life in which industrial socialism was the foundation”. William Morris to concede Socialism is a new culture, worrying away over how the discontent of the unemployed could transmute into the birth of a new society, though Carpenter put greater stress on creating a new way of living and stimulating new desires.”
p. 135 “the new unions proved difficult to sustain institutionally, a weakness exacerbated in Sheffield by the anarchists’ resolve to form exclusively revolutionary unions. … Local labour conditions resulted in new Unionism being rather a damp squib. In the late 1880s the labour movement in Sheffield still consisted of the grinders, forges, hardeners and cutters of the metal trades, along with bricklayers, masons, tailors and printers. The small craft societies that represented them responded to threats of mechanisation not by creating a new trades unionism that by amalgamating…. It was not until the 1890s that the trades union movement established a permanent base in the large steel works then developing as arms producers.

p. 147 “the book… Undermined assumptions about science and indeed the very processes of knowing. Carpenter contested the negative view of health in Western medicine. Instead of a narrow definition of health is the absence of disease, he invoked old words which embraced body, mind and spirit; heal, hallow, hale, whole, wholesome, adding the Sanskrit ‘atman, breath or soul for good measure… Carpenter challenged sciences claims to be value-free. He was as interestingly in mathematics and the physical sciences as he had been when he was young, it was the overweening authority of science he disliked Carpenter argued that scientific work was framed by the assumptions of particular cultures and epochs and that the scientist did not stand outside the object of study in either the physical or the social sciences. Consequently “science” did not offer in itself proof, and the findings of scientists will always open to question.”
p. S63 1890 “the small band of anarchists hurtled through that summer and autumn in a flurry of defiance. In June, when the idolised explorer Henry Morton Stanley came to speak in Sheffield, Creaghe and John Bingham took gallery seats and sold a pamphlet … Documenting the Africans Stanley had killed in the course of his explorations. Commonweal frankly announced how Stanley’s exploits, or, civilising Africa had “sold like hot cakes” because the audience, not seeing the irony in the title, had believed it to be praising the explorer.”
p. 170 “Carpenter now had an established lecturing circuit, speaking not only in Sheffield, Rotherham and Chesterfield, that extending outwards to west Yorkshire and Lancashire, along with Nottingham and Derby. He was also frequently in Bristol and London and did tours of Scotland. Completely eclectic in accepting invitations, in 1893 he addressed the social Democratic Federation in London, as well as the Fabians and the Liberal club in Sheffield. Not only did he range widely, he could gather huge crowds of around 1000 people some of these meetings. Carpenter continued his university extension habit of having a basic stash of lectures which he recycled in differing places. In the first half of the 1890s these were: the future society, parties and the labour movement, the way out, the changed ideal society, the future of labour…. Carpenter really grappled in these lectures with how to reach the utopian future, searching for an alternative to both the state and the self-defeating defiance of the anarchists to he noted “tear their hair at one”.
p. 307 “he called the state ownership of the mines and the milk supply, approving public administration of gas, water and transport. But he remained uneasy about relying on state interference, voicing his fears in talks with the Fabians in Sheffield, the social Democrats in Chesterfield, and Didsbury Socialists society in Manchester over the course of 1908. … His political libertarianism led him to suspect the state as inherently coercive and he looked around for voluntary social alternative is which could foster opposing collective values to capitalism. Land nationalisation, labour colonies and cooperatives were all being mooted in the early 1900, while groups of unemployed men had resorted to direct action and were farming orchard land… Inspired by experimental projects in Europe, Carpenter proposed corporative smallholdings in property of agricultural associations … Carpenter envisaged the rural economy transformed by corporative banks, along with a network of corporative is that in collecting, the buying of foodstuffs and selling products. Though Carpenter accepted that land should be publicly owned, both nationally and by local authorities, he wanted state ownership to be combined with cooperative ventures and private smallholdings. This was partly because of his dislike state intervention and also because he was convinced, like Kropotkin, that smallholdings encouraged enterprise, attention to detail and all-round skills.

p. 311 “Carpenter’s life at Millthorpe had taught him that change had to be acceptable to local people and this meant it must grow out of existing roots…. He imagined afforestation schemes and proposed that the wild moors and mountains should be preserved by county councils or by the state is animal and bird sanctuaries, nature reserves where everyone could wander. His campaigns against Sheffield’s smoke pall had brought home damaging impact the city could have on the countryside and led him to think up positive ways in which people from the towns and cities could relate to the countryside. … Carpenter’s ideas resonated both among those concerned to conserve the countryside and those who wanted to foster a better relationship between town and country. However these diverging lobbies did not automatically recognise a common cause. Conservationists were not necessarily sympathetic to working class ramblers … Vegetarians were not all socialists and many socialists scoffed at them and at antivivisectionists.”

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