How could you be a great mind like Walt Whitman and not have people be drawn to you? I’m sure it’s possible in some cases but Whitman not only had close friends who adored him, he had followers who based their course of life off of his words. That’s influence for you. Two such people were Edward Carpenter and Robert Ingersoll. These men, like many others, were so greatly affected by Whitman and in different ways. One was a devout follower of Whitman, more of a disciple, if you will. The other was a close friend and was actually an object of Whitman’s own admiration. Both of them were lucky enough to have a creative mind like Whitman’s in their lives.
Edward Carpenter was born in Hove, England and attended Brighton College. Although he would go on to Cambridge, Carpenter didn’t have a feeling for academics at a young age. Instead he discovered his attachment to nature and this relationship is one that lasted him the rest of his life. While attending University, Carpenter discovered his attraction to men and didn’t feel outwardly comfortable about his feelings right away.
Following his college years, and some time experimenting with men, Carpenter decided to become a Curate in the Anglican Church. Before long, he became unhappy with his life there. He seemed to find the Victorian era, in its entirety, a hypocrisy. His only way out of this fraudulent life he was living was through poetry. Carpenter received his first copy of Leaves of Grass in1868 and the rest is history.
Something in Whitman’s poetry moved him so much that Carpenter decided that he needed to educate the working class of the world. He picked up is life with the church and moved on to become a lecturer of astronomy and outspoken Socialist. After his father died and left him a considerable amount of money, he sought out a home in Milthrope and adapted a more natural lifestyle. This included, among other things, harvesting his own crops and vegetarianism. It was here in his life that he came to terms with his sexual orientation. Because of his new lifestyle away from the Victorian era, his creativity blossomed. One of his great works “Towards Democracy” was written during this time and was greatly influenced, as was the rest of his works, by Whitman.
Carpenter got the chance to visit Whitman in 1877 as well as in 1886 and chronicled these visits in his work, Days with Whitman. Carpenter wouldn’t have become who he was without Whitman giving him the strength to be radical and live how he wants to live. Whitman’s work was the driving factor in Carpenters decision to educate the lower class and that made all the difference in his life.
Whitman’s friend, Robert Ingersoll, was born in 1883 in Dresden, NY. He was the product of an intelligent, abolitionist family. He began studying law and during his time as a law clerk he opened his own practice with his brother, which they named “E.C. & R. G. Ingersoll”. When the Civil War broke out he took command of the 11th Illinois Cavalry Regiment. He was captured during this time and subsequently released on the grounds of giving his word to never fight again, which was common practice at the time. Following the war, Ingersoll became Attorney General of Illinois. His views were very radical for the time period and he was very outspoken. This did not help his political career, but helped his life as an orator greatly. He was incredibly affluent and his lectures ranged in many different genres, however he was very passionate about the ideas humanitarianism and free thought. Needless to say, his ideas appealed to Whitman. He considered Ingersoll to be the greatest orator of all time. Ingersoll was so admired by him that he was chosen to give the eulogy at his funeral, which must have been an incredible honor.
All three of these men shared a common bond; they all seem to be ahead of their time. Each one was filled with ideas that seemed radical for the late nineteenth century. Regardless of the time, they still put themselves out there in a way no one had done before. They paved the way for leaders to come. It’s obvious that great minds connect to one another, and these friendships and admirations illustrate that fact.