Frederick Carter letters to Tom Turner

Biographical and Historical Notes

Frederick Carter (1883-1967)

English author and artist Frederick Carter (1883-1967) wrote poetry, short stories and articles for newspapers and magazines; as well as illustrated books and created etchings, drawings, and paintings.

Born in Bradford, Yorkshire, England, Frederick Carter was originally trained as a civil engineer and a surveyor. Later Carter took up art, studying in Paris, Antwerp, and London, which led in 1910, and again in 1922, to his election as an Associate of the Royal Society of Etchers and Engravers (A.R.E.). Between 1922 and 1927, Carter taught etching at the Liverpool School of Art. During World War I, Frederick Carter was a cartoonist, but the horror of the war caused him to cease etching until after 1918.

In addition to being a writer and artist, Frederick Carter was interested in mysticism, which led to his friendship with D. H. Lawrence. Together they planned to a joint project on the Apocalypse, but ultimately abandoned it because of their divergent views.

Several of Carter's books focused on mysticism, including Symbols of Revelation (1931), Dragon of Revelation (1932), and D. H. Lawrence and the Body Mystical (1932). D. H. Lawrence's last book, Apocalypse, published posthumously in 1931, began as an introduction to Carter's book Dragon of Revelation.

Extensive biographical information and a complete bibliography of Frederick Carter's work is available in Richard Grenville Clark's Frederick Carter A.R.E. 1883-1967: A Study Of His Etchings (Apocalypse Press 1998).


"Frederick Carter," on the Apocalypse Press website. (accessed July 3, 2013)

"Frederick Carter," on a website by Holly Hofmann. (accessed July 3, 2013)

Tom Turner (1870-1949)

Tom Turner (1870-1949) was a British post office official and an ardent bibliophile.

Turner was named "Tom" rather than "Thomas" because his mother, against the advice of the parson, felt that he should be christened the name he would inevitably be called. Turner began working at the Bradford Post office at age 16 and remained there for 44 years, retiring in 1930 from his post as assistant superintendent.

Turner loved to collect books (although he did not like to be called a "collector") and amassed a library of thousands of volumes. Unlike many bibliophiles, he enjoyed sharing his books, lending and giving away as many as he kept for himself. He befriended and regularly corresponded with several authors, notably L. A. G. Strong, whose The Sacred River: An Approach to James Joyce was dedicated to Turner. His library, containing over 8,000 volumes, was purchased by the University of Illinois in 1952.


Ray, Gordon Norton. Books As a Way of Life. (New York: The Grolier Club, 1988). 372-375.

Scope and Content Note

English author and artist Frederick Carter (1883-1967) wrote to English poet and bibliophile Tom Turner regarding mutual friends, current literature, W. B. Yeats, Carter's paintings, book collecting, Carter's writing, and other topics.

The detailed letters in this collection began in January of 1917, and continued until 1919, then, resumed from 1944 to 1948. The tone and content of the first letter suggest that Carter and Turner were acquainted and had exchanged ideas in the past. This initial letter forwards two essays written by Carter for critique by Turner.

The letters which follow discussed Carter's current writing projects, including essays and poetry, as well as his philosophical ideas. In an early letter, Carter conveyed his despondency following the death of friends during World War I, some of whom were known to Turner.

Occasionally, Carter asked Turner to purchase hard-to-acquire books for him, or mentioned books which he had recently purchased which might be of interest to the bibliophile Turner. On another note, he wrote of his "painting journeys," of how his artistic techniques were developing, and of an oil painting he planned to deliver as a gift to Turner.

Carter's correspondence with Turner was rekindled in 1944, with the receipt of Turner's inscribed recent book of verse, to which Carter responded, "it's good to come on the work of esteemed and loved friends of times past...."

Carter, living in London in 1944, described the city as "a hazzard looking place" because of World War II, and hoped Bradford (Turner's home) was more fortunate. These later letters mentioned book inscriptions for Turner, discussed the landscapes Carter was painting, and articles he wrote for The Dublin Magazine. Over several letters, Carter mentioned "taking refuge in W. B. Yeats for a study of symbols" and discussed the questions and ideas this posed, including the thought that, "my study of Yeats is not a pastime but a study of my own life's exploration of imagination, comparing it with his [and] seeking its relations."

Carter lamented the recent deaths of several friends and family, particularly, the sudden death of Thomas Burke; and consequently reminisced on his past friends, life's cycles, outliving success, and observing the new generation.

In the final letter in this collection, written on December 23, 1948, Carter sent a Christmas greeting and noted that he was indulging in writing "light verse." Enclosed with this letter is a draft of a poem, titled "Shellback," which Carter sent in lieu of a Christmas card.