The Works of George Santayana

Author: David Spiech Page 1 of 283

Letters in Limbo ~ June 18, 1950

SchopenhauerTo Richard Colton Lyon
Via Santo Stefano Rotondo, 6
Rome. June 18, 1950

I have never been a great reader of Milton and I may misjudge him: but I suspect that if I had read him more I should like him less, so that it is as well to give you only my superficial impressions. I don’t at all agree with Ezra Pound in hating him. I used to know Lycidas by heart and to delight in saying it over-E. P. might say that this explains how bad my verses were, for that was just the misguided period of my life when I wrote them. But in Paradise Lost it is not the absence of a philosophy but the evident sub-presence of a sort of mummified Old Testament philosophy that fills his sails. I admit that he is sublime in his poses: but it is the sublimity of terror not of joy. And he doesn’t understand at all the position of a real angel rebelling against a monarchical God. It would be the position of Berkeley rebelling against matter. He would not choose evil rather than good. That is only the nursery-maid’s “naughty” and “nice”. He would be choosing the immediate, the obvious, the inescapable, the Schopenhauerian “the world is my idea”, for faith of any sort which is only an impulse to bet, to jump in the dark. I am very glad to see that at the end of your essay you suggest the question what Milton understood by “the good”. He understood by it what the Calvinistic catechism calls good: the nursery-maid’s “nice” translated into the cry of superstitious escape from terror. “Duty” also needs to be analysed etymologically. It means what is owed, what you are bound by contract to perform.

From The Letters of George Santayana:  Book Eight, 1948-1952.  Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2008.
Location of manuscript: The Houghton Library, Harvard University, Cambridge MA.

Letters in Limbo ~ June 17, 1941

22-116wilkersoneastviewTo Daniel MacGhie Cory
Grand Hotel
Rome. June 17, 1941

It is pleasant to know that you have given a brilliant lecture at Columbia and drawn the enemy fire. You can’t persuade a philosopher against his will; but you may feel a wind of doctrine blowing through his defenses against him. Opinions get very rapidly stale in our time.

From The Letters of George Santayana:  Book Seven, 1941-1947.  Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2006.
Location of manuscript: Butler Library, Columbia University, New York NY.

Letters in Limbo ~ June 16, 1939

italy-and-switzerland-in-one-day-lake-como-and-lugano-from-milan-in-milan-153646To George Sturgis
C/o Brown, Shipley & Co.
123, Pall Mall, London, S.W.1
Rome. June 16, 1939

Dear George,

Here is Mercedes’ receipt for your cheque. She writes in her most excited exaggerated style of thanks, but adds that you forgot to sign the letter, and that food is very dear, and many things are hard to find, in consequence of the after-war condition of business and finance. She has got the cheque, and hopes, by the help of influence, to get it cashed soon and favourably.

I am going in two days to Lugano, a new place for me; but I had reasons for not returning to Cortina this summer, and Switzerland is safer for communication with London (where I have a new edition of an old book in the press, viz. “Egotism in German Philosophy”) and also with America, in the improbable event of war. But I have chosen Lugano with forethought, and a double intention. It might be a good place all the year round. I have never seen it, but know what it looks like: a pretty lake region, where palms can grow, and Italian is spoken, and where my hotel will still be the “Hotel Bristol”. I might, therefore, return there eventually for good. The other day I saw my landlord Pinchetti; he is half paralyzed with arthritis-(if that is the word) and the clerk, afterwards assured me that it was serious and that presently all would be over: which tragic thought he expressed by imparting his blessing to the hotel ledger. So that apart from wars and rumours of war, I may before long be compelled to change my quarters; because I assume that on Pinchetti’s death this hotel will be pulled down, the whole new street now being of quite another character.

Cory, and perhaps Strong, are coming to see me at Lugano: but I may find it too warm there for my work (I have the last chapter of “Spirit” to compose) and may go higher up into the Alps.

Yours affly, G.S.

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.

Letters in Limbo ~ June 15, 1951

santayanTo Cyril Coniston Clemens
Via Santo Stefano Rotondo, 6
Rome. June 15, 1951

I am supposed to be resting after a trying winter. Visitors (not old friends) are forbidden; and please don’t ask me if I have read or known people I never heard of, or send any one with a letter of introduction to me here.

Fidelium animae requiescant in pace, even in this world.

From The Letters of George Santayana:  Book Eight, 1948-1952.  Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2008.
Location of manuscript: William R. Perkins Library, Duke University, Durham NC.

Letters in Limbo ~ June 14, 1947

santayana-3To Daniel MacGhie Cory
Via Santo Stefano Rotondo, 6
Rome. June 14, 1947

[Material things] are perceived just as they appear to each observer, according to his eyesight and other senses: and this is known to everybody without optics or epistemology. That there is a dynamic or material reality, on the same plane as one’s self or psyche (not transcendental spirit) is assumed and required, as you say, in action: and action includes any movement of alarm, attraction, or attention. Animal faith posits the rat in the hole, by smell, in the dog. That the smell, as a datum, is “in” the brain, I should not say, because in that capacity I think it is an essence, and non-existent anywhere: but the feeling or inarticulate intuition of it exists, and its organ is no doubt in the brain; although the intuition as a living act belongs to the realm of spirit, and is not in space.

This old analysis of mine, which I don’t think it worth while to reconsider, makes me feel that your position is unnecessarily paradoxical, resting on what seems to me the radical error of British empiricism, namely, having turned “ideas” from being essences, into being perceptions. The knowledge we have of the world is a system of ideas; but it is not our psychological life, which is only feeling diversified. It is the function of parts of that life, in its vital alertness, to be the signs of existent objects and of their virtual character in terms of our own possible experience. We live in imagination, which we regard, often virtually with sufficient justification, as knowledge. But it is all theoretical, poetical, vaguely and floatingly sensuous; and it is science, as you say, that refines and consolidates it into literal exact abstract knowledge of the “skeleton” of dynamic-nature.

From The Letters of George Santayana:  Book Seven, 1941-1947.  Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2006.
Location of manuscript: Butler Library, Columbia University, New York NY.

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