george-santayanaTo Nancy Saunders Toy
Hotel Bristol
Rome May 6, 1938

A friend—a German, a protégé of Westenholz—has willy nilly compelled me to accept the gift of Tauchnitz editions of Somerset Maughan. I could read these, enticed by the familiarity he shows with Spain, and with Spanish-Americans, in whose moral complexion I feel a certain interest; but on the whole I felt the same wonder at anybody wishing to write such stories. They are not pleasing, they are not pertinent to one’s real interests, they are not true: they are simply graphic or plausible, like a bit of a dream that one might drop into in an afternoon nap. Why record it? I suppose it is to make money, because writing stories is a profession, just as writing propaganda in the newspapers is. Are you aware that the world is now being systematically fed on partisan lies? And much more where the press is “free” than where it is controlled by the government. In Italy, for instance, the papers are monotonous and meagre, and of course partisan in sentiment; but on the whole the facts are reported responsibly, and there are no great excesses of mendacity. But a “free” press is financed by parties or interests or fanatical individuals; and there is no limit to the ignorance or the malevolence which they can display.


From The Letters of George Santayana:  Book Six, 1937-1940.  Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2004.
Location of manuscript: The Houghton Library, Harvard University, Cambridge MA