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Coming-of-Age: Edward Carpenter on Sex and Reproduction

Thiele, B. (2013) Coming-of-Age: Edward Carpenter on Sex and Reproduction. In: Brown, T. and Corns, T.N., (eds.) Edward Carpenter and Late Victorian Radicalism. Routledge as part of the Taylor and Francis group, pp. 100-125.

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In Britain, two texts bracketed the late-nineteenth-century socialist debate on the woman question: Harriet Adams Walther's translation of August Bebel's Woman in the Past, Present and Future (1886) and Edward Carpenter's Love's Coming-oj-Age (1896). Both were popular, but the latter was unique because as well as documenting the material conditions of women under capitalism, it mapped the inner life of struggle and personal transformation involved in realising the "new life" under socialism. It did so, moreover, during a period when mainstream socialist groups in Britain were becoming increasingly pragmatic and intolerant of "diversions": "when the movement which carried the connection between personal change and socialist revolution was beginning to wane. "I At that time, as Carpenter recorded in his autobiography, "sex-questions . .. were generally tabooed and practically not discussed at all, though they now have become almost an obsession of the public mind."2 In January 1894, for example, when Carpenter first canvassed his idea of a pamphlet series on the subject, he was advised by Robert Blatchford, editor of The Clarion, to "let it alone." "Perhaps I'm a prejudiced old Tory," Blatchford wrote, "but the whole subject is 'nasty' to me."3 Blatchford went on to underscore his reluctance by arguing that such topics "seriously retarded" the socialist programme: reform of "sexual relations must Jollow the economic and industrial change" and socialists' energies should not be diverted from the main task which "will need all our energy and consume all the years we are likely to live."

Item Type: Book Chapter
Publisher: Routledge as part of the Taylor and Francis group
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