Evan Pritchard's Reviews > Edward Carpenter: A Life of Liberty and Love

Edward Carpenter by Sheila Rowbotham
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's review
Sep 30, 2011

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Recommended for: Patient readers interested in late 19th century England; Whitmanites
Read from October 01 to 15, 2011

I didn’t even know I wanted to read a biography of a late 19th century gay British socialist. I saw this book prominently displayed on the New Biographies shelf at the library and impulsively picked it up. Who was Edward Carpenter and why would somebody write a biography about him? Though my questions were answered, this book was not the easiest of reads. Wading through the detailed analysis of his works is a bit of a chore. The book is more entertaining when focusing on the man and his passions, both sexual and political. The book, while primarily about Edward Carpenter and his work, also paints a clear picture of the events and some of the people that steered the political and cultural climate in England just before and after the turn of the century...the century before last.

I don't know this for a fact, but I believe Rowbotham was caught a bit off guard by finding out that Carpenter was an anti-Semite. It seems she tries to qualify it by stating that he was only opposed to Jews as 'rhetorical categories' and not as 'individual Jewish people,' but it must have been a profound enough aspect of his character for G.B. Shaw to call him out on it in The Perfect Wagnerite.

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