Walt Whitman (1819-1892)
Photo by Matthew Brady
|Excerpt from Gay Roots Vol. 1
THE GAY SUCCESSION
Walt Whitman Slept with Edward Carpenter
Edward Carpenter Slept with Gavin Arthur
Gavin Arthur Slept with Dean Moriarty
Dean Moriarty Slept with Allen Ginsberg
Allen Ginsberg Slept with ...
The following document first appeared in Gay Sunshine Journal 35 (1978) and was reprinted as an appendix to the Allen Ginsberg interview in the book Gay Sunshine Interviews, Volume 1, Gay Sunshine Press, 1978. Allen Ginsberg writes: "The late Gavin Arthur, San Francisco astrologer & companion of Sufi Sam, died in 1972 after a long loving life. I asked him to set account in writing of his memory of encounter with Edward Carpenter, who in turn, G.A. said, had love encounter with Walt Whitman when, as Arthur said as well, he directed Carpenter to Ramakrishna in India where Carpenter was to travel. Thus this is a document given me by Gavin Arthur in 1967, the year of the First Human Be-In in San Francisco.
Edward Carpenter (1844-1929)
in 1862, Aged 43
Edward Carpenter (1844-1929) was a writer and gay mystic and lived in England all his life. Although ordained an Anglican priest in 1869 he soon renounced religion and became a Fabian socialist. Among his works on social reform is Towards Democracy (1883-1902), a long, un- rhymed poem revealing the influence of his friend Walt Whitman. He edited the first gay literary collection, Iolaus: An Anthology of Friendship (1902) He is one of the most important precursors of present-day gay liberation. In 1924 he met with the American: Gavin Arthur (1901-1972) was grandson of President Chester Alan Arthur. Educated in fashionable boarding schools, Gavin (the name he took in preference to his real name of Chester Alan Arthur III) worked his way around the world in the merchant marine, panned gold, and even sold newspapers for a while for a living. He was a friend of Havelock Ellis, Kinsey, and the great German sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld. Arthur's own philosophy is set forth in the book The Circle of Sex (1966). He lived in San Francisco for many years before his death.
(a.k.a. Chester Alan Arthur III
Photo: San Francisco Chronicle
GAVIN ARTHUR WROTE: You asked me to tell you about my visit [in 1924--Ed.] with Edward Carpenter, who gave up the chance to be tutor to Queen Victoria's grandchildren and even as a DD crossed the Atlantic steerage to sit for a whole year at Whitman's feet. I was 23 and came up the garden path with the letter of introduction awkwardly in my hand. He seemed to know I was coming for he opened the door and held out his arms. "Welcome my son" he growled affectionately as if he had known me for ever. He did not read the letter but drew me into the cozy study by the fire and introduced me to his comrade George and George's comrade Ted. George was about 60 and was pouring tea. Ted was about 40 and was sticking flowers in a vase. Both were warm in their welcome. I was about 20 and Carpenter about 80.
They all talked to me as if we were old friends. That is what Mother used to call "Le don fatale de la familiarité which only few people like Havelock Ellis, Kinsey and F.D.R. possess. We talked about Walt and E.C. gave me the young picture which is the frontispiece of his book about WW. He said Walt would have loved me and the others agreed and my heart beat hard. He also talked about their friend Mrs. Gilchrist and how she had wanted to go to bed with Walt and how gently Walt had put her in her place and consoled her by letting her be his hostess to all the European celebrities that kept coming to see Walt.
Photo by Allen Ginsberg, San Francisco, 1955
I started back to my inn, but Carpenter insisted that I stay for supper. After supper Ted suggested a walk in the moonlight (it was June) and we talked all the time about Carpenter and he said "Why don't you spend the night? It would do Eddy so much good to sleep with a goodlooking young American like you. Even Peter the Great in his old age used to sleep between two of his healthiest guards. It used to recharge his battery, so to speak."
I said I would love nothing better--that next to Whitman I admired Carpenter more than anyman anywhere anytime. Ted said he would put a flea in the old man's ear. Which he did.
We had some matté someone had sent him from Brazil (his mail snowed in from all over the world). Carpenter asked me if I would do him a favor and sleep with him. "George and Ted need a rest," he grinned. He had a growly way of talking like an old dog that growls his affection. The other two went up to bed, and the old man and I sat by the fire. I wish I had had a camera. The firelight on that wonderfully human face with its sensitive bones and rough silver beard, the skin so coppery from the sun, the eyes so blue. He said he was looking forward to dying, to see if reincarnation was really true. I asked him if "The Secret of Time and Satan" was not the distillation of his wisdom--what he had learned from the great YANG guru in America (WW) and the great YIN guru in India. He agreed. I asked him if he had ever been to bed with a woman and he said no--that he liked and admired women but that he had never felt any need to copulate with them. "But that wasn't true of Walt, was it?" I asked.
Photo by Elsa Dorfman
"No, Walt was ambigenic," he said. "His contact with women was far less than his contact with men. But he did engender several children and his greatest female contact was that Creole in New Orleans. I don't think he ever loved any of them as much as he loved Peter Doyle."
I suppose you slept with him?" I blurted out half scared to ask.
"Oh yes--once in a while--he regarded it as the best way to get together with another man. He thought that people should 'know' each other on the physical and emotional plane as well as the mental. And that the best part of comrade love was that there was no limit to the number of comrades one could have--whereas the very fact of engendering children made the man-woman relationship more singular."
"Had he no interest in bringing up his own children--in the husband-father relationship?
"No. He said his women had been married to men of wealth and social standing who could not engender children of their own, but who wanted the children Walt engendered to regard them as father. He said he felt that his mission as Answerer did not require specific paternity and that all the young men of America were his spiritual sons and all the young women his spiritual daughters."
"How did he make love?" I forced myself to ask.
"I will show you," he smiled. "Let us go to bed." It was a warm night and we had just a light eiderdown over us. We were both naked and we lay side by side on our backs holding hands. Then he was holding MY head in his two hands and making little growly noises, staring at me in the moonlight "This is the laying on of hands" I thought reverently. "Walt. Then him. Then me. ' I had recently seen some neophytes made priests in Maynooth and their faces had shown the same emotions as I now felt.
He snuggled up to me and kissed my ear. His beard tickled my neck. He smelled of the leaves and ferns and soil of autumn woods. A song my shipmates used to sing intruded rudely into my worshipful thoughts. "If you can't get a woman, get a clean man!" Is that what he wanted from me? I remembered Walt's indignant denial to Symond's inquiry was he a pederast. The old man at my side was stroking my body with the most expert touch. It was as exquisite as the little bubbles that come up from decaying vegetation in a mud bath, caressing the flesh with a feather lightness.
I just lay there in the moonlight that poured in at the window and gave myself up the loving old man's marvelous petting. Every now and then he would bury his face in the hair of my chest, agitate a nipple with the end of his tongue, or breathe in deeply from my armpit. I had of course a throbbing erection but he ignored it for a long time. Very gradually, however, he got nearer and nearer, first with his hand and later with his tongue which was now flickering all over me like summer lightning. I stroked whatever part of him came within reach of my hand but I felt instinctively that this was a one-sided affair, he being so old and I so young, and that he enjoyed petting me as much as I delighted in being petted. There are so many possible relationships, and one misses so much if one limits oneself to one sex or color or age.
At last his hand was moving between my legs and his tongue was in my bellybutton. And then when he was tickling my fundament just behind the balls and I could not hold it any longer, his mouth closed just over the head of my penis and I could feel my young vitality flowing into his old age. He did not suck me at all. It was really karezza, which I knew he recommended in his books. I had not learned the control necessary to karezza and he did not want to waste that life-giving fluid. As he said afterward, "It isn't the chemical ingredients which are so full of vitality--it's the electrical content, like you get in milk if you get it direct from the cow--so different from cold milk!" He was in no sense a succubus like so many old men, draining the young men of all the vitality they can get, like a vampire. The emphasis was on the caressing and loving. I fell asleep like a child safe in father-mother arms, the arms of God. And dreamed of autumn woods with their seminal smell.
The next morning he made love to me again, this time gazing at my body rapturously between kisses and growling ecstatically. And the same thing happened at the end. I had the distinct feeling that he felt my coming as if he were coming himself--that in that moment he was me. Afterwards he said: "When I was a clergyman I thought at Communion I was at one with God. But I realize now that this is a much more intimate communion--for is not Man made in the image of God? And I have reason to believe that this was the beginning of the Communion Service--the young man laid out on the altar to be circumcised--and all his male relatives eating his 'body' and drinking his blood." Much later I heard Kinsey lecture on this subject and say this was still practiced in very remote Jewish communities near the Caucasus. Carpenter had been dead for many years but in that western lecture hall I could see him bending over me so reverently and hear his loving growl.