Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Sarah Tyndale, 20 June 1857

Date: June 20, 1857

Whitman Archive ID: hun.00046

Source: The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Transcribed from digital images or a microfilm reproduction of the original item. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Notes for this letter were created by Whitman Archive staff and/or were derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller, 6 vols. (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), and supplemented or updated by Whitman Archive staff.

Contributors to digital file: Cristin Noonan, Amanda J. Axley, Marie Ernster, Erel Michaelis, Kassie Jo Baron, Jeff Hill, and Stephanie Blalock

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Saturday Afternoon,
July 20, 18571

Dear Friend,

Do not suppose, because I have delayed writing to you, that I have forgotten you.—No, that will never be.—I often recall your visits to me, and your goodness.—I think profoundly of my friends—though I cannot write to them by the post office.—I write to them more to my satisfaction, through my poems.—

Tell Hector2 I thank him heartily for his invitation and letter—O it is not from any mind to slight him that I have not answered it, or accepted the friendly call.—I am so non–polite—so habitually wanting in my responses and ceremonies.—That is me—much that is bad, harsh, an undutiful person, a thriftless debtor, is me.—

I spent an evening with Mr. Arnold3 and Mrs. Price4 lately.—Mrs. Price and Helen5 had been out all day with the sewing machine, at Mr. Beecher's6—either Henry Ward's, or his father's. They had done a great day's work—as much, one of the Beecher ladies said, as a sempstress could have got through with in six months.—Mrs. P and Helen had engagements for a fortnight ahead, to go out among families and take the sewing machine.—What a revolution this little piece of furniture is producing.—Isn't it quite an encouragement.—

I got into quite a talk with Mr. Arnold about Mrs. Hatch.7—He says the pervading thought of her speeches is that first exists the spirituality of any thing, and that gives existence to things, the earth, plants, animals, men, women.—But that Andrew Jackson Davis8 puts matter as the subject of his homilies, and the primary source of all results—I suppose the soul among the rest.—Both are quite determined in their theories.—Perhaps when they know much more, both of them will be much less determined.—

A minister, Rev. Mr. Porter,9 was introduced to me this morning,—a Dutch Reformed minister, and editor of the "Christian Intelligencer," N.Y.—Would you believe it—he had been reading "Leaves of Grass," and wanted more?—He said he hoped I retained the true Reformed faith which I must have inherited from my mother's Dutch ancestry.—I not only assured him of my retaining faith in that sect, but that I had perfect faith in all sects, and was not inclined to reject one single one—but believed each to be about as far advanced as it could be, considering what had preceded it—and moreover that every one was the needed representative of its truth—or of something needed as much as truth.—I had quite a good hour with Mr. Porter—we grew friends—and I am to go dine with the head man of the head congregation of Dutch Presbyterians in Brooklyn, Eastern District!

I have seen Mrs. Walton10 once or twice since you left Brooklyn,—I dined there.—I feel great sympathy with her, on some accounts.—Certainly, she is not happy.—

Fowler & Wells11 are bad persons for me.—They retard my book very much.—It is worse than ever.—I wish now to bring out a third edition—I have now a hundred poems ready (the last edition had thirty–two.)—and shall endeavor to make an arrangement with some publisher here to take the plates from F. & W. and make the additions needed, and so bring out the third edition.—F. & W. are very willing to give up the plates—they want the thing off their hands.—In the forthcoming vol. I shall have, as I said, a hundred poems, and no other matter but poems—(no letters to or from Emerson—no notices, or any thing of that sort.)—I know well enough, that that must be the true Leaves of Grass—I think it (the new vol.) has an aspect of completeness, and makes its case clearer.—The old poems are all retained.—The difference is in the new character given to the mass, by the additions.—

Dear friend, I do not feel like fixing a day on which I will come and make my promised visit.—How it is I know not, but I hang back more and more from making visits even to those I have much happiness in being with.—

Mother12 is well—all are well.—Mother often speaks about you.—We shall all of us remember you always with more affection than you perhaps suppose.—Before I come to Philadelphia, I shall send you or Hector a line.—

Wishing Peace & Friendship
Walt Whitman

Sarah Thorn Tyndale (1792–1859) was an abolitionist from Philadelphia who met Walt Whitman during Amos Bronson Alcott and Henry David Thoreau's visit to the Whitman home in November 1856. For more information on Tyndale, see "Tyndale, Sarah Thorn [1792–1859]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998).


1. Whitman made an error in dating this letter; he wrote "July" instead of "June." The error, noted by Edward Haviland Miller, is evident from Tyndale's responses to Whitman's letter on June 24 and on July 1 (See Edwin Haviland Miller, ed., Walt Whitman: The Correspondence (New York: New York University Press, 1961–77), 1:42n1. [back]

2. Hector Tyndale (1821–1880), son of Sarah Tyndale and Robinson Tyndale, was a Philadelphia merchant and importer like his father. During the Civil War, he played a significant role at the Battle of Antietam and rose to the rank of brigadier general in the Union Army. Whitman described a meeting with him on February 25, 1857 (The Complete Writings of Walt Whitman [New York: G. P. Putnam, 1902], 9:154–155). Louisa Van Velsor Whitman apparently made an impression on Tyndale. Whitman wrote to his mother that Tyndale "has been to see me again—always talks about you" (see Whitman's June 29, 1866, letter to Louisa). [back]

3. John Arnold lived with his daughter's family in the same house as the Abby and Edmund Price family. Helen Price, Abby's daughter, described Arnold as "a Swedenborgian," with whom Whitman frequently argued without "the slightest irritation between them" (Richard Maurice Bucke, Walt Whitman [Philadelphia: David McKay, 1883], 26–27). [back]

4. Abby H. Price (1814–1878) was active in various social-reform movements. Abby Price's husband, Edmund, operated a pickle factory in Brooklyn, and the couple had four children—Arthur, Helen, Emily, and Henry (who died in 1852, at 2 years of age). During the 1860s, Price and her family, especially her daughter, Helen, were friends with Whitman and with Whitman's mother, Louisa Van Velsor Whitman. In 1860 the Price family began to save Walt's letters. Helen's reminiscences of Whitman were included in Richard Maurice Bucke's biography, Walt Whitman (Philadelphia: David McKay, 1883), and she printed for the first time some of Whitman's letters to her mother in Putnam's Monthly 5 (1908): 163–169. In a letter to Ellen M. O'Connor from November 15, 1863, Whitman declared with emphasis, "they are all friends, to prize and love deeply." [back]

5. Helen E. Price (1841–1927) was the daughter of Whitman's close friend, women's rights activist Abby Price. Helen wrote about Whitman's friendship with her mother in a chapter in Richard Maurice Bucke's 1883 biography of the poet and in a 1919 newspaper article. For more on Price, see Sherry Ceniza, "Price, Helen E. (b. 1841)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

6. Henry Ward Beecher (1813–1887), Congregational clergyman and brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe, accepted the pastorate of the Plymouth Church, Brooklyn, in 1847. Whitman described him briefly in the Brooklyn Daily Advertiser of May 25, 1850, reprinted in The Uncollected Poetry and Prose of Walt Whitman, 2 vols., ed. Emory Holloway (Garden City, New York: Doubleday, Page, 1921), 1:234–235. See also Walt Whitman, Emory Holloway, and Vernolian Schwarz, I Sit and Look Out: Editorials from the Brooklyn Daily Times (New York: Columbia University Press, 1955), 84–85, and Horace Traubel, ed., With Walt Whitman in Camden, Friday, May 11, 1888. Henry Beecher's father, Lyman Beecher (1775–1863), was also a clergyman, who upon his retirement lived with his son in Brooklyn. [back]

7. Cora Tappan (then Hatch) (1840–1923) was a medium. At age ten, as she sat with slate and pencil in hand, "she lost external consciousness, and on awaking she found her slate covered with writing." At fourteen she was a public speaker, and at sixteen married Dr. B. F. Hatch, who published and wrote an introduction to her Discourses on Religion, Morals, Philosophy, and Metaphysics (1858). Whitman became acquainted with Tappan in 1857. In 1871, she self-published a collection of poems titled Hesperia; the section "Laus Natura" was dedicated to "Walt Whitman, the Poet of Nature." See also Emma Hardinge, Modern American Spiritualism (New York, 1870), 149. [back]

8. Andrew Jackson Davis (1826–1910) was an American Spiritualist. He described himself as "the Poughkeepsie Seer" and published approximately 30 books in his lifetime.  [back]

9. Whitman is referring to Reverend Elbert S. Porter, who was the editor of the Christian Intelligencer[back]

10. As yet we have no information about this person. [back]

11. Lorenzo Niles Fowler (1811–1896) and Orson Squire Fowler (1809–1887) were brothers from Cohocton, New York, and well-known phrenologists. They established a Phrenological Cabinet in Clinton Hall in New York City in 1842, where Whitman received a phrenological examination in 1849. The Fowlers' brother-in-law Samuel R. Wells also joined the firm, which later came to be known as Fowler and Wells. The firm published numerous books and magazines on phrenology, reform, and self-help topics, and anonymously published Whitman's second edition of Leaves of Grass in 1856. For more information, see Madeline B. Stern, "Fowler, Lorenzo Niles (1811–1896) and Orson Squire (1809–1887)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

12. Louisa Van Velsor Whitman (1795–1873) married Walter Whitman, Sr., in 1816; together they had nine children, of whom Walt Whitman was the second. For more information on Louisa and her letters, see Wesley Raabe, "'walter dear': The Letters from Louisa Van Velsor Whitman to Her Son Walt" and Sherry Ceniza, "Whitman, Louisa Van Velsor (1795–1873)." [back]


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