Skip to main content

Charles G. Garrison to Walt Whitman, 21 July 1891

 loc.02127.001_large.jpg Dear Mr Whitman

"Good Bye my Fancy"1 came announcing in your proper hand that it was from Walt Whitman.

I wish I could tell that same Walt Whitman somewhat of the debt I owe him. I have no apt words in which to speak of "Leaves of Grass." Other  loc.02127.002_large.jpg books, great poems or great theses whether or not in form dramatic are woven by the combination and re-arrangement of such characters and actions, such threads of thought and notions of life as prevailed at or before the authors time or were perceived by him ahead of his time.

"Leaves of Grass"  loc.02127.003_large.jpg deals in the contrary with neither accepted results nor personal concepts as finalities but refers every thing back to the raw material out of which all truth about humanity must come and to which all must go for true thought or right action.

To me it proclaims primitive truths and declares the paramount necessity of Truth itself. Its lesson  loc.02127.004_large.jpg to the heart of man is Love the truth; to his brain it says Seek the truth. An older seer said "Man know thyself"2—your higher message to man is "Know the truth about thyself and love the Truth for itself"

I have written enough to tell you that I cannot explain to you my debt so my creditor you must remain

Sincerely Yours C G Garrison

Charles Grant Garrison (1849–1924) attended medical school at the University of Pennsylvania and began his career in the field of medicine. He later pursued a legal career and went on to serve as a Justice of the Supreme Court of New Jersey for thirty years ("Judge C. G. Garrison dies," The Morning Call [April 23, 1924], 1).


  • 1. Whitman's book Good-Bye My Fancy (1891) was his last miscellany, and it included both poetry and short prose works commenting on poetry, aging, and death, among other topics. Thirty-one poems from the book were later printed as "Good-Bye my Fancy" in Leaves of Grass (1891–1892), the last edition of Leaves of Grass published before Whitman's death in March 1892. For more information see, Donald Barlow Stauffer, "'Good-Bye my Fancy' (Second Annex) (1891)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
  • 2. "Know Thyself" was a Delphic maxim and was the first of three maxims inscribed in the forecourt of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi. The Greek philosopher Socrates (c. 470–399 BC), as well as his student, the Athenian philosopher Plato (c. 428/427 or 424/423–348/347 BC), used the maxim. [back]
Back to top