One of my Books of the Week this week is Chushichi Tsuzukis' biography of Edward Carpenter. Carpenter (1844-1929) is a fascinating figure: "a utopian gay man who lived for much of his life in a large rural house amongst a group of his friends and lovers. EM Forster described him as 'a poet, a prose writer, a mystic, a manual labourer, an anti-vivisectionist, an art critic'" (quote from the Edward Carpenter Community website).
Edward Carpenter was a pioneering socialist and radical prophet of a new age of fellowship in which social relations would be transformed by a new spiritual consciousness. The way he lived his life, perhaps even more than his extensive writings, was the essence of his message. It is perhaps not surprising that his reputation faded quickly after his death, as he lived much of his life modestly spreading his message by personal contact and example rather than by major literary works or through a national political career. He has been described as having that unusual combination of qualities: charisma with modesty. His ideas became immensely influential during the early years of the Socialist movement in Britain: perhaps Carpenter's most widely remembered legacy to the Socialist and Co-operative movements was his anthem England Arise! but it is his writings on the subject of homosexuality and his open espousal of this identity that makes him unique.