Commentary

Selected Criticism

Title:
Tyndale, Sarah Thorn [1792-1859]
Author:
Kohn, Denise
Print source:
J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings, eds., Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998), reproduced by permission.

Sarah Thorn Tyndale was an abolitionist and Fourierist from Philadelphia. She was married to Robinson Tyndale, a glass and china merchant, and was the mother of Hector Tyndale, a brigadier general in the Union Army. 

Sarah Tyndale first met Whitman when she visited him in Brooklyn with Bronson Alcott and Henry David Thoreau on 10 November 1856. Whitman received them in his attic bedroom—the bed he shared with his brother Edward was unmade and the chamber pot was in view. He told his visitors that he bathed daily in midwinter and enjoyed riding atop the city omnibus all day. Alcott's efforts to foster conversation between Thoreau and Whitman failed, but Tyndale stayed to talk more with Whitman after her companions had left. She and Whitman became friends and began a correspondence. She later introduced her son Hector to the poet. On 20 July 1857 Whitman wrote to her that he had a hundred poems for a third edition of Leaves of Grass and wanted to buy the plates of the second edition from the publishers Fowler and Wells, who he believed were not helping his career. Tyndale concurred with his assessment of his publishers in her reply on 27 July 1857 and offered to lend him $50 to buy the plates. 

Tyndale was important to Whitman as a friend and confidante. Although she was concerned that some of his poetry might be misunderstood and thus dangerous to the weak-minded, the two seemed to share many of the same beliefs and interests. 

Bibliography 

Allen, Gay Wilson. The Solitary Singer: A Critical Biography of Walt Whitman. 1955. Rev. ed. 1967. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1985. 

Johnson, Allen, and Dumas Malone, eds. Dictionary of American Bibliography. New York: Scribner's, 1964. 

Kaplan, Justin. Walt Whitman: A Life. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1980. 

Reynolds, David S. Walt Whitman's America: A Cultural Biography. New York: Knopf, 1995. 

Zweig, Paul. Walt Whitman: The Making of the Poet. Basic Books: New York, 1984.


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