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Garland on Veritism

During the last ten years of his life, Garland developed a friendship with a Ph.D. student, Eldon Hill, who was writing a dissertation upon his life and work. Over the years Garland responded to all sorts of questions from Hill about his life, influences, works, and acquaintances, including a query about the meaning of the term "veritism." The following carbon copy of a letter to Hill, dated 14 February 1939, is housed in the Hamlin Garland Papers, the Doheny Library, University of Southern California.


Eldon Hill


     Dear Mr. Hill:

You ask about my use of the word VERITIST. I began to use it in the late nineties. Not being at that time a realist in the sense in which the followers of Zola use it, I hit upon the word veritist which I may have derived from Veron. In truth I was an impressionist in that I presented life and landscape as I personally perceived them but I sought a deeper significance in the use of the word, I added a word which subtended verification. I sought to verify my impressions by comparing impressions separated [by] an interval of time. I sought to get away from the use of the word realism which implied predominant use of sexual vice and crime in the manner of Zola and certain of the German novelists. For the most part, the men and women I had known in my youth were normal, hardworking and decent in word and action. Their lives were hard and unlovely, sometimes drab and bitter but they were not sexual perverts. As a veritist, I argued that one could be as real and as true in presenting the average man and woman as in describing cases of incest, adultery and murder. I found as Whitman told me he had found in the life of the average American, a certain decorum and normality. As a veritist I recorded my perceptions.


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