George Merrill
Letters to Edward Carpenter
The Edward Carpenter Archive
by Simon Dawson | Comment and Feedback


George Merill is well known for the life he shared with Edward Carpenter, his same-sex lover and partner for almost forty years. But as is common with the lives of working-class men from that era, much of what we know about Merrill does not come from Merrill himself but is in the words and opinions of other more "educated" people, and especially in the words and opinions of his lover and partner Edward Carpenter. Merrill's own voice is much harder to find.

This web-page gives a number of letters written by Merrill to Carpenter, in an attempt to remedy that deficit, and gives us a chance to hear Merrill speaking for himself.

George Merrill famously met Carpenter on the platform of Dore and Totley railway station in 1891. They soon formed a close and loving friendship. But because Carpenter's home at Millthorpe was shared with George Adams and his family, Carpenter and Merrill had to conduct their relationship elsewhere.

Sometimes they lived apart, with Merrill working, for example, in a hotel and hydro at Baslow. At other times they could meet in Sheffield where Carpenter kept lodgings.

Eventually in 1899 Carpenter's housekeepers moved out from Millthorpe and Merrill was able to join Carpenter there. They then shared their lives together for almost another thirty years. These letters span both phases of that relationship.

Letter 1

Carpenter Collection MSS. 363-1

Postmark Oct 20 1896
The Hydro (at Baslow)

My dearest Ted. Just a line to say I might have stayed a little longer for Miss H. was very nice when she saw me and condescended to say good evening although I never spoke to her first; And then she would persist in serving me first at the carving table. I expected her saying something to Mr. Barber who was here for the weekend. He was rather nice and spoke kindly to me. I say dear what a long way a kind word goes.

I am afraid dearest I shall not get off anytime this week as I shall have to be on duty in the drawing room every day. But you will write me a nice long letter when you have time wonít yer, dear.

Give love to Max and all friends, and it Ďas cheered me much the little change.

So good night dear one hoping you will have a very pleasant time in London.

Yours always with fondest love


It was so nice to be with you.

["Max" is probably Max Flint, a Russian Jewish emigre disabled by tuberculosis who Carpenter and Merrill befriended and eventually cared for at Milthorpe until he died. See My Days and Dreams Chapter 10]

Letter 2:

Carpenter Collection MSS. 363-2

My dear Faithful Dad. Many thanks for note. I must say I feel such a lot better for my visit to you dear. Sorry it was only too short; but I am looking forward, if your plan works alright. I shall try my very best to help you all I can, after your great goodness and kindness to me and mine, and your love for me.

You will see by the enclosed dear I have heard from Will Duke. Poor Will he seems to have had some rather hard times of it; I have asked him to come over here next Sunday and then I can have a little time with him as we are not very busy.

I hope you enjoyed your visit to Leeds.

Fondest love to you dear yours faithfully. George.

Letter 3:

Carpenter Collection MSS. 363-3

Postmark Oct 26 1896

Many Thanks Dearest for nice long loving letter. How very good and kind of you and Mrs. D. to take such a trouble about poor me. I will try and be a good help to both. I'm so sorry sometimes for the impediment in my speech. I think I should be able to do a little good for the social cause if I could converse better, but never mind it may wear away when I get to you and read for you. I do feel it very much at times.

I thought about you all last night dear and and wondered how you got on at your lecture. I just went for a short walk in the afternoon. Iím sorry to tell you that Will Duke did not turn up. I say dear how beautiful the colouring of the trees are about here. We had a lot of snow yesterday morning, it looked very pretty on the hill in the distance.

I think Miss. H. has changed for the better. She has been very kind and nice since I came back. Earnest goes for his holiday in the morning, I may get another day or two later on.

I am getting on nicely with Adam's Peak. I like it well, itís awfully interesting.

You never told me anything dear about the great La-Touch at Leeds. Poor O. It's a shame he should be put about so with Cole. Itís too bad.

I must close now dear one for the shades of night are falling fast, and there such long mights here now. Take great care of yourself and write me when you have time and come back well and rested, and tell me about the interview with the great Edmund Russell and others.

Fond love from your affectionate Sonny. G X

Letter 4:

Carpenter Collection MSS. 363-4(1)

Postmark Nov 8 1896

Many Thanks Dearest One for Cigs [cigarettes ??] and short but sweet note. I was so pleased to get just a line from you dear. Iím sure you have not much time to write just now. I should have written before now only I did not know if you would be at the same address yet. I have not been very well lately dear and am not quiet myself yet. I daresay you will be rather surprised to hear I got a fortnights notice yesterday with some more of our staff. Miss. H was sorry to part with me, but cannot afford to keep us all with hardly any visitors in at the house at all. She will be glad if I will go back at xmas for a few weeks. Iím rather upset about it but itís perhaps all happened for the best. We have had some lovely sunshines here lately, but sorry to say there is a great change this morning for small rain. Itís very fine dear to see the different changes in the valley each day. Are you having a nice time dear one and not tiring yourself too much. I shall be glad to see thy dear face back again as I have such longings to kiss those sweet lips of thine. Must I write to Mrs Doncaster and let her know about my arrangements. I will wait till I hear from you, first. So I must close dear heart as I am feeling a little low and lonesome. Iím always with thee every night in spirit. Fondest love from your dear Boy G XXXX.

Oh Heart of mine, so little it is!
No laurel of mine, no prize of gold ó
Only each others hand to hold,
And each others lips to kiss.

Excuse scribble dear I'm rather teary just now.

Letter 5:

Carpenter Collection MSS. 363-4(2)

You will be rather sorry dear one to get this letter which rather upsets our future plans. Bad luck never comes singly at me. I must hope for the best. Donít worry dear.

Your boy George

Letter 6:

Carpenter Collection MSS. 363-5

Postmark Nov 11 1896
The Hydro

My Dearest Dad, I was so pleased to get your loving letter it so cheered me up so much. But was very sorry to hear of you having such a bad cold. I hope it is better by this. Itís cold I have had in my head and between my shoulders. And a little of the dumps as well, but is much better now.

I wrote to Mrs. D. on Sunday telling her of my notice. Iím sure she will be sorry. Poor thing I hope she is better. She has such a lot of things to think about and works far too hard, like you poor dear.

My time will be up on the 18th Nov so shall go home for a little time till you come back and then shall be glad to go to M.thorpe and help you all I can, dear one.

Iím pleased you had a nice time at Cambridge. What a shame dear been mixed up with all those women. Donít let them turn your head with flattery.

It's too bad of Jim not answering your letter. Iíve not heard any thing of him or G.H. [George Hukin?] or anyone it is very dull and quiet here just now.

Have you seen F. Dean yet if you do will you tell him I am leaving. The weather is lovely here just now, and the birds still sing when I feed them every morning and it makes my heart feel glad. I shall be glad to get you back, dear and have a good hug for I am wanting badly. I think of you every night and morning and wish your arms were round me.

I'm glad you liked the verse dear it was written from the heart but was not my composition.

Good night dearest and take great care of yourself and the cold, and come back well to those who love you most.

Your devoted son


George Merrill (seated) with George Hukin, Edward Carpenter and Charlie Sixsmith]

Letter 7:

Carpenter Collection MSS. 363-6

The Hydro
Nov 14 1896

My Dearest Ted, I was very pleased to hear from you. I heard from Mrs. D at the same time who I am sorry to say is ill at Scarbro . She would be pleased to see me at her social on Saturday week. So I shall go. I am glad dear you have met some one who interests you after all those wild women!

How good it is of you dear one to think of me so much with all your troubles and worries on your mind. I can imagine dear what a pull it is for you. Iím so sorry dearest that Iím such a bother to you instead of been a helpmeet. I hope the day will come soon when I am able to be so. My heart bleeds for you.

I shall go and see Jim when I am in Sheffield. I leave here tomorrow at 12.0 a.m. they all seem sorry I am going. I shall be glad to see you back dear and then we can talk things over better. I have not time to write more as we have been busy cleaning all day, and am a little tired.

I hope your cold is better dear. Mine is alright again.

Fondest love from your George XXXXXX

P.S. Thanks many for P.O [Postal Order? - a method of sending money to somebody through the post]

We have only nine people in

Letter 8:

Carpenter Collection MSS. 363-7

75 Edward St
Postmark February 12 1897
Friday morning

Very many thanks my dear faithful one, for your nice long letter. I got back from Roberts about 7:30 last night feeling much better for my out; but in rather low spirits, although R. was very nice and kind and did not tease me near so much as on my former visits, but gave me some kindly advice. I do wish dear one I could get some good and useful work. I feel it so much me being such a pull on you, when you have so many more ties. I should so much like to be of help to someone instead of being helped so much.

I miss you very much dear and am always thinking of you and your great goodness, it is impossible for me to love anyone as I love you, and always shall, to my dying day. We must try and think of something useful to do when you come back dear, for I sometimes feel very much in the way of some people and it makes me grief so. I do hope something will turn up soon. I am pleased to say mother is a little better but far from been well she sends her kind love to you and many thanks. You must let me know when you are coming back dear and I will meet you. Give my kind love to Frank and a kiss for me. I am glad you are having nice weather dear, it was very fine in the country but very dirty and the snow is going fast. It is very dark here this morning I am writing this by candle light. I should liked to have called and seen G.H. last night as I came down but was afraid he would not have got home so did not look in for I did not feel in the humour of chatting with Mrs. H. I was feeling so low at the thoughts of not having seen you when I left Roberts. I shall be glad to get you back again dear, with fondest love to you.

Always thine. George

Many thanks for P.O

Letter 9:

Carpenter Collection MSS. 363-8

Monday 8:45 p.m.
Postmark March 1 1897

My Dearest Ted

I was just reading your card when the postman brought your second note, I have just got back from my Aunts at Chapeltown, being there since Saturday. I took advantage of the fine weather and walked over but sorry to say I had the face-ache all the time and have got a bonny fat cheek now but the pain has gone.

I'm sorry I did not get back early enough to meet you today but hope to see you on Thursday. I expect I shall get a lot of chaff from R. if I go with a swollen face. I am hoping dear that some thing will turn up very soon. Iím so glad you had a nice time at L. Pool. Mother sends her love and am sorry she is troubled with the wind tonight. Iím sorry not to have seen you good night dear one.

Yours always.


Letter 10:

Carpenter Collection MSS. 363-9

Postmark March 31 1897

My Dearest Ted.

I was very pleased to get your card, and should liked to have been with you yesterday it was so nice the little time I was in the sun at the dinner hour, but what a change for the worst today. It as been very gloomy in the works as we have had to have the gas lit all day and am feeling rather tired and headachey. I should like very much to go a walk on Saturday when I hope it will be fine.

I am thinking of going to see Robert on Monday for a hour or so, so we may be back by then. Iím glad you are having a nice time of it and shall be pleased to see you on Friday but may not get to G** ** [Unclear Manuscript] till after six as I shall go home first to tea and wash, give my kind regard to W. Young.

Did you take Wallace to work for you are such a goodíun at it. I think you had better not venture all the way to Du*koi*e [Unclear Manuscript] with me for Iím afraid you would never find your way back through all the smoke and smut. So good night dear and bless you with fond love from your dear boy yours ever.


Letter 11:

Carpenter Collection MSS. 363-10

Postmark April 8 1897

Many thanks dearest, for nice loving letter. I was just dozing off to sleep when it came. I felt somehow I should hear from you for I had been thinking about you so much through the night and wishing I was with you, for the nights seem endless. I have felt very tired the last two nights but this week will soon be up. I should have written yesterday but thought I would wait to see what answer I got from the Hydro but none has come yet I hope for some things It will be favorable but I would prefer to be in Sheffd [Sheffield] if it, was more convenient at home and then we could see more of each other but am afraid dear night work would not suit me. I thought about you last night dear about 11-0 just when I was feeling sleepy and wished I was in your arms.

I am hoping to see you tomorrow at the station if I hear nothing different from you, I think it is 8:20 when the train gets here. Mother sends her love to you and I must close now for I am feeling rather fagged and try and get a hour or two's sleep although it is rather difficult. Give my love to Ives if he turns up and to Max. Iím sorry itís so dull for you dear but weíll have to grin and bear it. I think there will be a turn in the tide soon. What lovely weather we are having just now. Fond love to you dear heart always.

Yours Geo X

There is an interesting literary coincidence in this letter.

"Ives" is probably George Ives, and both Merrill and Ives have inspired two separate literary creations. Ives is allegedly an inspiration both for Frank Worthing in Oscar Wilde's The Importance of being Earnest and the Gentleman burglar Raffles in E.W. Hornung's long series. Whereas Merrill was, directly or indirectly, the probable inspiration for the gamekeeper characters in both E.M. Forster's Maurice and D.H. Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover.


Letter 12:

Carpenter Collection MSS. 363-11

Millthorpe, Thursday

Donít be cross with me dear dad, donít think because I have not written to you I have not thought about you, for I have, every hour of the day. I have had nothing of any importance to write about excepting we three have been very happy and all kept wishing you was with us. We shall all be so glad to see thee back again, especially your humble servant. And dear one I have not been idle whilst thou as been away but when near post time I have felt too lazy to write. How much I have missed thee dear no one but myself knows. I have been very good and only been out once by myself. That was last night and Kate was too tired to go with me.

Iím busy today cleaning up stairs and baking and Max and Kate are sitting outside. It is very warm here today but not much sun. I should like to come down to Sheffield so I think I will but donít know what time but sure to be in at Glover Rd and I will come there before six. I am arranging to see my mother some where near the station to have a chat with her as I shall not be going down to Sheffield for a few more weeks. Jack and Max both send there love and are looking forward to seeing thee back.

I hope you will see G.H. tonight before he goes away. Kate and I was at there house on Wednesday night.

Fond love from thy son. Geo X

Letter 13:

Carpenter Collection MSS. 363-12


My Dearest Ted, so pleased to hear from you, but am so dreadfully busy papering, no time to write much. It looks very nice what we have done. I had a letter from Frank D. who is going to write you. I hope you had a nice time crossing for we had a fearful snowstorm here yesterday, and went pitch dark. Max is keeping well and sends love. Write soon dear. I felt rather anxious about you yesterday dear when I thought you was on the water. Much love to Arnold and much more to thyself.

Thine always. Geo.

Letter 14:

Carpenter Collection MSS. 363-13

Millthorpe, Holmesfield, in Sheffield

Envelope addressed to Mr Edward Carpenter. Poste Restante. Nice. S. France.

I am just feeling a little bit tired Dearest T. as I have just sent the Kinnys [Kennys?] off who have been here since yesterday. I had no idea the Mrs K. was coming so what with the cleaning and them and all. I do feel just a bit off. but every thing is going and looking lovely. I'm so pleased you two dear things are having a nice time of it. Ah - if I only was with you. It all sounds so sweet. G & F came through the storm last Saturday, it was so good of them, and G. was specially sweet and A Fearnhough came on the Sunday, we all enjoyed ourselves and thought of you. I sent 20/ to the Portiere R** *** [Unclear Manuscript] and am expecting the blinds tomorrow. G.H. says I can have a quid if I want one, he has promised to come up alone for a night, in Easter week. I am glad to tell you the chicks 9 of em or flourishing all fat and fine. 9 out of 10 eggs or not bad. She crushed one poor little thing. My mother as not come up this week as she is only very ill. I am sending on a letter which I think is from Ives. I hope you got those I sent on Saturday. I had a card from Stringer saying he is coming down here when you get back to find a place to pitch his tent. There is a letter from Feth***urg. Mass [Unclear Manuscript] Shall I sent it on, it is rather a heavy one, and says to be returned in five days and then another in your handwriting, how about that. The weather is as been much better since Saturday. I hope it will improve for you. I think Max is better now than ever he has not done so much cough and spit as before. If you get a ring dear let it be a twisted one or a snake shape but not in silver, and the chain a small pattern. Iím only saying (if) you know, it is too bad of Cole. Poor O. When will his troubles end. I am sending on a Chronicle today. I should have sent one sooner only there has been nought in. David Shirt came to pay the rent this morning but did not leave it. Give my love and a hug to my blue eyed boy Arnold.

Much to thee dear Dad I miss thee much at night.

Thy loving son G.

Kenny and **** [Unclear Manuscript] have come to no understanding yet but K thinks he will be able to settle some thing & is so slow.

Letter 15:

Carpenter Collection MSS. 363-14

Friday 7th

I must say Dearest T. I was pleased to hear from you. I had begun to think you had forgotten poor me with seeing too many fresh faces and I was feeling awfully depressed last night and could not shake it off. George promised to come and stay the night but he never turned up. I don't wonder it was such a wretched night wind and rain it as been awful all the week. I am glad you are having nice weathers. G. was everything that is good and nice last Sunday but sorry he did not come last night, he would have cheered me up - I miss you much - and then my sister sends word mother is very ill. I may try and go down on Monday for an hour or two, but donít let it trouble you dear, make the best of your time how lovely it all must be.

I had rather a busy time from Saturday to Easter Monday allthough only F & G and the Buerly family turned up and stayed till Monday night. I had to bake twice instead of once, but it was nice to have them. I donít know what as become of Jim or Joe, none of them turned up. I hope Arnold will have a pleasant journey home how terrible that ship wreck was. Do be careful dear what should I do if anything was to happen (to) you. I have had such feelings lately. I hope you get back before the daffys [Daffodil flowers] are over, they look very pretty against the green ground of the wall paper in the house. I have nearlyÖ

Miss Stibbard has just dropped in, out of a fearful storm she says she swam here. You will be pleased to hear that all the chicken family are all alive and doing well. G & F are coming tomorrow. I like G more and more every time, you donít mind dear do you. I shall be glad to have thee back, only another week and then, oh - I have nearly done all the cleaning I hope it will suit you dear, and have set some radish seeds and others, cleaned the apples out and the loft and the spadgers nest out. [house sparrows] Oh, and donít know what, there is rather a heavy letter from Dartford.

Much love to thee dearest one - thine ever G.

Letter 16:

Carpenter Collection MSS. 363-15


Many thanks Dearest Ted for letter. You seemed to have started well, going home at 1-30. I hope you are having better weather than we here, for it is now raining, blowing, and snowing so I am thinking of sending letters by the butcher so don't be surprised if you don't get them till next week.

Yes dear I think you will say the house and kitchen looks very nice. We have both worked hard and cleaned every corner out, but I am afraid I tired my sister out and then she would not keep still. We shall not do Maxís room till after Easter. And what do you think dear I am Father of ten pretty little chickens. I do hope they all live, they look like it just now, but this weather will try them. And the robins have started to swing on the fat meat on the tree. I am sending you on a letter which I think is from E.R.S [unclear manuscript - middle letter may be B or K] and one from Gibraltar which may possibly be for me but donít think so. That stupid Mr Greaves never brought the things up, and I got every thing ready for him to take down and never turned up, so I donít suppose he will bring them today. It was a lovely day yesterday too, but am afraid the storm will spoil G & F from coming up I hope not. I expect Arnold will be jabbering to us in French when we see him next.

I think I must stop dear or else the letter will be too heavy. Oh the measurement of my finger is 2 3/4 inches round that will mean inside the ring. Don't get a silver one dear I donít like em. Max sends love to A. and yourself and much from thy boy to you both dear things.

Thine allways. Geo.

Yes I got your ship written card.

Letter 17:

Carpenter Collection MSS. 363-16

Postmark March 2 1912
Millthorpe, Holmesfield, Near Sheffield

I was pleased to get yours Dearest this morning, but so sorry to hear you have no news of your dear Sister. The nights have been so rough this week that I have slept very little + lay thinking about the cruel sea washing + tossing her dear body about; I heard from Fannie our little seagull is dead perhaps it was a messenger.

[Carpenter's younger sister Dora took her own life in early 1912, after a long period of depression.]

I am feeling better than ever bodily but my throat and chest as been very bad these last few days & the cough with it. I had to come down at 4-45 this morning & get dome rubbing stuff & take some Friars Balsam. It was very tiresome, but donít you worry dear Iím alright & itís so good to know you are keeping well. Yes and so is my heart very sore for her & you all. It relieves one sometimes to let the flood gates of tears open. George came yesterday and was very sweet and kind. I saw him shed a few tears once or twice. I'm going to see them now & then on to meet Charlie to help to carry the slides. G & F is coming here to a meal at 6-30 & then to the Lecture, D.T.

If your nephew Francis is at Weymouth would he be able to search about the coast do you think or what are they doing at Weymouth did she send the letter to Kensington or did they find it with her things or at the home.

Thank your sister for the very touching letter I got from her. Will it be allright if I go to Sheffield on Tuesday or would you rather I stayed at home. I will do so willingly if you think I had better. I expect Charlie will want me to go back with him but I don't want to go so far away. I suppose I could not be any good to you in London.

Today is a raging cold wind & cannot have the door open. D.T. I took the liberty to send Joey *as**m [unclear manuscript] for a ton of coals from the common side and they are splendid no dirt and all hard for 12/6. [Twelve shillings and Six pence] Have I done right as the colliers there have to come out on Monday. I only got yours this morning I asked Jim last night if there were any & he said no. Heís got cold all over & his throat is bad + he spits nasty stuff up at morning. I hope you have better news dear one next time and relieve us of this bad suspense.

Love to you all ever thine. George

Postscript to letter

Just arrived and I am so glad to be here, as G is feeling in such a way and me rather a sobbing state. He came to meet me and we were touched to read your letter. I will write tommorrow to tell you how we go on.

My thanks to my fellow Carpenter enthusiast Shicong (Mav) who extracted the copies of these letters from the Sheffield Archive and did the hard work of deciphering GM's handwriting.

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