To Henry Ward Abbot
C/o Brown Shipley & Co
123 Pall Mall, London
Villa Le Balze
Fiesole, Italy. October 4, 1930
If I send you my books, it is because various little articles of yours in the papers have proved to me that you haven’t forgotten our old confabulations on ultimate things; and I wish you wouldn’t let your attention become entangled in matters of style; style is only a cumbrous vehicle, though an inevitable one, for what I have to say; and without pretending that my views are of much importance measured by the standard of absolute truth, which after all is in nobody’s hand, I think you might be interested in them as confessions and moral insights of an old friend. You say I am hard to read: I have heard that before, yet it surprises me because I take the greatest pains to be clear, not only in language but in thought, and am a very simple commonplace person in my opinions. Everybody ought to say: “Of course: that’s what I’ve always thought, only I didn’t expect a philosopher to see it”. I said this to Strong (with whom I am staying at present among these Tuscan hills) and he explained that the difficulty in reading my books came from the ornaments, which interfered with the attention and made the reader lose the outline of the thought. Is that it? If so I can only say that the ornaments, for me, are a spontaneous concomitant of the sense, like gestures in animated discourse: they are necessary, if you want to reach the true ground and flavour of the ideas. All language is rhetorical, and even the senses are poets. But people compare books with other books, not with experience. Yours sincerely
From The Letters of George Santayana: Book Four, 1928–1932. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2003.
Location of manuscript: Butler Library, Columbia University, New York NY