Commentary

Selected Criticism

Title:
Tyndale, Hector (1821–1880)
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.

Hector Tyndale was a prominent glass and china merchant in Philadelphia and served as a brigadier general in the Union Army. In 1868, he was narrowly defeated as the Republican candidate for mayor of Philadelphia.

Tyndale was the son of Robinson and Sarah Thorn Tyndale, who introduced him to Walt Whitman. He turned down an appointment to the United States Military Academy at the request of his mother, but during the Civil War he served in many battles, including Antietam. In 1859 Tyndale escorted John Brown's wife to visit her husband in Harper's Ferry before Brown's execution even though Tyndale did not support Brown's raid. Tyndale, a polished man who traveled widely in Europe, became a good friend of Whitman and his family. On 25 February 1857 he dined with Whitman, who asked him for advice on how to improve Leaves of Grass for the third edition. Tyndale encouraged him to use York Cathedral as a model—to focus on the massiveness of his poetry without paying too much attention to the individual parts.

Tyndale's advice and architectural metaphor seem to have influenced Whitman, who later compared writing Leaves of Grass to building a cathedral.

Bibliography

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

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

McLaughlin, John. A Memoir of Hector Tyndale. Philadelphia: Collins, 1882.

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


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