To Elizabeth Stephens Fish Potter
Venice. May 26, 1940
Dear Mrs. Potter,
You don’t know how much I am touched by your constancy in thinking of me in these troubled times, and wishing to let me take refuge in a safe place. But I am afraid that, morally and perhaps even materially, you are suffering more from the war in America than I suffer in Italy. We have three meatless days a week, but “meat” does not include ham, tongue, bacon, sweetbreads, brains, liver, or sausage, so that there is no lack of animal substance provided for us; and coal is going to be rationed next winter, but I shall have a sitting-room with a fire-place where I can burn wood, if the central heating proves insufficient. The summer I expect to spend at Cortina d’Ampezzo in the Dolomites, as far as possible from any military front; and in the winter, as I have no settled abode, I shall see what the circumstances are, and choose my lodgings accordingly. And although it is announced that Italy may come at any moment into the war, people seem perfectly calm and cheerful; and my own state of mind is infinitely calmer than it was during the other war, when I was in England, and so distressed that I couldn’t work—at least in the last two years—but only read Dickens and walked in the country, having bread and cheese and a pint of “bitter” in some country inn for luncheon—there was nothing else to be had—and writing melancholy soliloquies in a small notebook. Now I can go on with my regular occupations undisturbed, and don’t expect to hear any bombs dropping, as I did in London during the first Zeppelin raid. All this is horribly casual and egotistical: yet if I went to America I should be distracted by the hysterical excitement which seems to prevail there, and my work— for I actually have prescribed work to do for a book of joint authorship to be published in America—would be interrupted and embittered. The only danger for me is that the U.S. should come in and I shouldn’t be able to get any money: but there are ways of circumventing even that difficulty, if it arises. My Spanish friends also urge me to join them; but there too I should be terribly disturbed, and the journey alone would seriously upset me. So don’t worry about me, dear Mrs. Potter, but hope for the early return of peace.
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.