The Works of George Santayana

Author: David Spiech Page 1 of 279

Letters in Limbo ~ October 6, 1931

anwhiteheadTo Daniel MacGhie Cory
Hotel de Londres
Naples, Italy. October 6, 1931

Dear Cory,

I am sending you £5 more this month in order to make up for the depreciation of sterling—a strange sign of the times to a person of my generation, accustomed to think of British credit as the bed-rock of all finance. My nephew George Sturgis writes that the nominal value of our property is terribly diminished, although the income, so far, has suffered little. In all . . . events, I have such a large margin that I hardly think I shall suffer any inconvenience. Twenty per cent of my London bank account has suddenly evaporated, however: as yet this doesn’t trouble me because I still have enough for my uses, and the American cheques coming in in future will replenish the fund faster, in £, than when British money was at par.

You quoted, with approval, in your last letter a dictum of Whitehead’s about only “experience” being knowable. Does his “experience” include what is posited (not really “given”) in the mode of causal efficacy? This positing is no doubt experienced: we do it and trust it implicitly: but the objects posited are substances assumed to act upon us. Our actual experience is only the description we make of these substances and their accidents. How literally true this description may be is another question.

Yours affectly, G.S.

From The Letters of George Santayana:  Book Four, 19281932.  Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2003.
Location of manuscript: Butler Library, Columbia University, New York NY

Letters in Limbo ~ October 5, 1936

George_SantayanaTo Benjamin P. Schwartz
C/o Brown Shipley & Co
123, Pall Mall, London, S.W.1
Rome. October 5, 1936

It seems to me that the time to publish any letters of mine that may be destined for that honour has not quite arrived. Wait until I am dead. My demise will be a good occasion for advertising for any epistles that anybody may possess. I will tell you in confidence—in case you or Mr. Buchler should wish then to undertake the task—that my principal continuous correspondence has been with Mrs. Crawford H. Toy, now living at 1 Waterhouse Street, Cambridge, Mass. I know she has preserved my letters; but she is an old lady, and may not survive me. So are most of my former correspondents—not ladies, but old—and heaven knows whether they have kept my letters, or whether their children or heirs have not burned them. However, I have written a vast number in all these years, and if they could be summoned to arise and gather themselves together at the blast of the trumpet, you would have a pretty task in reading them over.

However, there is another question involved, which is that of the advisability of printing any letters, the need of selecting the right ones, and of editing them judiciously, I don’t mean by altering them substantially (errors or slips might well be corrected) as in leaving out indiscreet words or trivial prattle. You, as I understand, are young, you haven’t known me personally, and I will tell you quite frankly that I don’t think you are the person to assume, as yet, that sort of responsibility towards the public and towards my reputation. If it were a question of merely philosophical letters, it would be different, because you and Mr. Buchler have proved, in Obiter Scripta, that you are admirable interpreters of my work. But almost all my letters, even if touching on public or theoretical questions, have been personal, and collecting and editing them would require special tact and special knowledge of my feelings about my friends.

Moreover, there is a literary executor already chosen to preside over my Nachlass, Daniel Cory; and it would naturally fall to him to collect my correspondence, as well as to edit my remaining manuscripts, if he thought it advisable. I hope, if I live long enough, to write my own life, so that a biography—especially as there are no events to record—would be superfluous.

From The Letters of George Santayana:  Book Five, 1933-1936.  Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2003.
Location of manuscript: Butler Library, Columbia University, New York NY

Letters in Limbo ~ October 4, 1930


To Henry Ward Abbot
C/o Brown Shipley & Co
123 Pall Mall, London
Villa Le Balze
Fiesole, Italy. October 4, 1930

Dear Harry,

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, 19281932.  Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2003.
Location of manuscript: Butler Library, Columbia University, New York NY

Letters in Limbo ~ October 3, 1951

Francesco_Hayez_001To Bruno Lind (Robert C. Hahnel)
Via S. Stefano Rotondo, 6
Rome. October 3, 1951

I hope you will not go in your book into the possibility of my replacing Aristotle as the accepted pagan philosopher for Catholics. The Church is founded on Judaism; it accepts a naturalism with miraculous powers secretly controlling it, and controlling each soul. My naturalism does not admit a moral or humanistic control over the cosmos; and it puts spirit at the top, and accidental ultimate self-awakening of organic formations, themselves perfectly automatic. Spirit comes and goes in the world like dew in the morning. That is not compatible with the supernatural realism and monarchical theism of the Church. There is another friend of mine, Prof. Michele Petrone, who thinks that my views might, if understood, start a sort of new spiritual discipline; but I think they offer too sporadic and unfruitful a consummation to satisfy mankind. Nietzsche said: “The great question is whether mankind can endure the truth”.

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 ~ October 2, 1933

12352519434_d613b9819b_mTo Daniel MacGhie Cory
Hotel Danieli
Venice. October 2, 1933

Dear Cory,

Strong has arrived here today and tells me he can’t send you any more cheques for the present. His London account is reduced to £2, and he can’t count on more than $5000 income altogether for next year. Margaret & George are to live with him this winter,–they have a grand apartment in Florence as well,–and will pay all his house expenses, except of course Aldo and the motor. So it is agreed that I will look after you for the present. As I explained in a recent letter, it is still possible for me to do so; but the future is uncertain, and you ought to consider what you can do to support yourself. Is life in London promising, or would it be better to try New York? When this “crisis” has passed, if things return somewhat to their old status, I may be able to invite you to come and live with me, or near me, to keep me company in my old age; nothing would please me better, than if you were willing to do so; but as yet, I can’t propose that plan, because I don’t know whether I shall be in a position to carry it out. I am sorry S. didn’t give you a longer and clearer notice of his default; but the result has its advantages. You needn’t now do any more work that goes against the grain: do just what the spirit moves you to do, and I will help you along as long and as well as I can. Probably I can send you £40 a month all this coming winter: for longer I don’t dare promise, since my London bank account will sink to nothing, like S’s, and I don’t know how much I shall have available in America. Stay in London if you prefer; in the summer, if all goes normally, I rather expect to go to London myself, with the complete M.S. of The Last Puritan; and then we can make new and I hope pleasanter plans for the future

Yours affly,

From The Letters of George Santayana:  Book Five, 1933-1936.  Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2003.
Location of manuscript: Butler Library, Columbia University, New York NY

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