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Sarah Tyndale to Walt Whitman, 24 June 1857

 loc_vm.00691_large.jpg My Dear Friend

Being a professed Associationist I am allowed the liberty of following my attractions, when they are, what all the world will say, harmless, even in despite of common etiquette which would demand a longer delay before answering your good letter of the 20th. Hector1 wished me to leave it with him for a few days and so 'tis not before me or I might take up the several points of interest in order, but no matter I feel like writing to you, and the order may come some other time, I cannot help feeling a little gratified at finding that I am not so different from other thinking people, in that I am disposed to think some bad things of myself, we ought not to be partial to ourselves, ought we? in your case however I must say that I think your judgment of yourself is rather severe, I have not changed my opinion, which I gave you when speaking of the false report of Emmersons2 fastidiousness  loc_vm.00692_large.jpg that if he or any one else expected common etiquette from you, after having read Leaves of Grass they were sadly mistaken in your character where etiquette, or what is called refined and exquisite taste predominate. I never expect to find much originality of character, however this is rather an implication where I did not intend it I will have none of it, but try to be myself

I entirely coincide with you in what will be the result of greater experience on the part of the exponents of the two views of matter & spirit as to the priority of either. I find them always coexisting, and do not intend to trouble myself for any other solution, I only ask to use in refference​ to each, the terms that will convey my ideas to the minds of others as truely as I am capable of conveying them. I do think that the greater part of the difficulties that exist among men on all most​ all theological and phylosophical​ subjects arise from the different modes of expressing the same ideas.

I am glad you have been to see Mrs W. I felt the same sympathy for her, her life is not exactly in accordance with her highest views of humanity  loc_vm.00693_large.jpg hence the unhappyness​ , but she will ultimately be the better woman for the experience, do any of us live up to our highest sense of human privileges? I supose​ you come nearer to it, than anyone I know but I doubt the propriety of entire disenthralment blind instinct must govern where it is the governing faculty, but in man reason predominates & must govern, no matter what mere instinct proposes as a means of happiness. if the great family is not ready to go with the idea, we must yield to their needs, we can not, ought not, live alone.

You have made my heart rejoice by telling me of the breadth of the Revd Mr Porter,3 is it? (I have not the letter here) verily us, would be progretionists are put on the back ground by some who have been by them pronounces pharasees and hypocrates, Were you not pleased with Mr Bellows'4 views of the Drama? I find in myself a propensity to feel and to say, (and why should I not say it?) Thank God for the great influx of light, love, joy, and beauty which is every where manifest. I can not help comparing the present with past earas​ of cruelty and carnage. When men dare not express a thought outside the Church inclosure. I am not blaming the good people who inflicted the tortures, if they thought they were sending a brother to Heaven thereby—  loc_vm.00694_large.jpg I am only rejoicing that the race is so expanded that each now (in this glorious land of the seting​ sun at least) dare to speak for himself taking only for his bound, the best interests of Man as he is, and not the dogmas of any set of men only see how I am running on, as if I were writing to school boy who had never thought all these childish things. but you will forgive me since 'tis myself, and I will try to do better

There was one expression in your letter, which I hope you will allow me to refer too, in good faith. You say that Fowler & Wells5 are not the right men to publish Leaves of Grass. I am sure they are not, I can tell you more of their malpractice about it, when you come. You say also that they are willing to give up the plates, now it occured to me that it was quite possible that some trifeling​ money consideration prevented you from obtaining them, and although I have now but little money at my command I thought I would take the liberty of saying to you that if the small sum of Fifty Dollars would be of any use to you for the purpose I should be most happy to send that amount to you. I feel that I shall be understood and therefore make no apology.

A young friend of mine Miss Matty Griffith6 a native of Kentucky author of Autobiography of a Female Slave, and an excellent & lovely woman had her book published by I think Redfield7 & he also has I understand treated her very meanly although he knows she is poor, and is suffering

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. 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]
  • 2. Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882) was an American poet and essayist who began the Transcendentalist movement with his 1836 essay Nature. For more on Emerson, see Jerome Loving, "Emerson, Ralph Waldo [1809–1882]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
  • 3. Whitman is referring to Reverend Elbert S. Porter, who was the editor of the Christian Intelligencer. [back]
  • 4. Henry Whitney Bellows (1814–1882), a Boston native, was educated at Harvard and became well known as a pulpit orator and lyceum lecturer. He was a clergyman and leader in the Unitarian Church, and he became the president of the United States Sanitary Commission during the American Civil War. [back]
  • 5. 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]
  • 6. Martha "Mattie" Griffith Browne (d. 1906) was a white abolitionist and suffragist who wrote poetry and anti-slavery fiction. She was the author of Autobiography of a Female Slave, which was first published in 1857. [back]
  • 7. James S. Redfield, a publisher at 140 Fulton Street, New York, was a distributor of Whitman's books in the early 1870s. [back]
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