He was born in Hove and went to school lin Brighton. During his time as an undergraduate at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, he began to develop romantic attachments for other men. He became a priest in the Church of England, but became disillusioned with the Church and left the ministry to become a lecturer. While living in Sheffield he became very aware of the poor living conditions of the working classes, and became active in the socialist movement. In 1882 a legacy from his father enabled him to embrace the rural life as a market gardener at Millthorpe, Derbyshire. In 1890, having been influenced by Hindu mysticism, he travelled to Ceylon and India.
On returning from India, Carpenter began a relationship with a working-class man, George Merrill. They set up house together at Millthorpe in 1898, moving to Guildford in 1922, and remained together until Merill's death in 1928. They managed to escape scandal and arrest, at a time when homosexual acts were illegal (and Oscar Wilde and others were prosecuted and sent to prison). The relationship between Carpenter and Merrill is thought to have been the inspiration for E M Forster's Maurice.
Carpenter's The Intermediate Sex was one of the first books to call for the ending of discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. He also wrote on a number of causes, including pacifism, socialism, vegetarianism, and women's liberation.
Carpenter's works, and his brand of socialism, became unfashionable and forgotten after his death, but later influenced the beginnings of the gay liberation movement. The writer Noel Greig helped to revive interest, with his play The Dear Love of Comrades for Gay Sweatshop, and his television play Only Connect (both 1979).
Carpenter's life and writings was the inspiration for The Edward Carpenter Community of Gay Men.
The Friends of Edward Carpenter are a small group of people who are dedicated to establishing a permanent memorial to Edward Carpenter in Sheffield City Centre, recognising his historical and social importance and unique association with the city.
The Edward Carpenter Archive: http://www.edwardcarpenter.net/
The Edward Carpenter Forum: http://www.edwardcarpenterforum.org/