Edward Carpenter, born in Brighton into a privileged family, was educated at the then new Brighton College and Trinity Hall, Cambridge. He was destined for a life in academia and immediately on graduating was offered a fellowship at his college and was ordained into the ministry of the Church of England. His introduction to the writings of Walt Whitman brought into focus his dis-satisfaction with his elevated lifestyle. He moved to the industrial towns of the north of England, where he was involved in the burgeoning Workers’ Education movement. This too proved to be more privileged than he wanted and he eventually bought a small-holding, where he could live by the labours of his own hands, building around himself a small community to share his way of life.
From this base he wrote and lectured on a wide variety of subjects, travelling extensively in the north country, walking for miles to do so; journeying to London, forming links abroad, visiting the Indian sub-continent – forever widening his contacts and his ideas. He was a social reformer, committed to the rights of women, to prison reform, to a new understanding of human relationships and sexuality, to the improvement of working conditions – in short to equality and human rights. He was an early socialist, non-combatant, vegetarian – constantly seeking to conform his life to his beliefs. He had a wide circle of friends and links to fellow reformers across the world. He was fluent in a number of languages, a proficient pianist and composer of music. He still lends his name to a number of causes that aspire to follow his ideas, even in the 21st century.