The Works of George Santayana

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Letters in Limbo ~ July 15, 1928

FDS_654671To William Lyon Phelps
9 Avenue de l’Observatoire
Paris. July 15, 1928

Dear Phelps,

It is very pleasant to hear from you and I hope and believe that I shall be here when you pass. Strong and I keep planning to go somewhere, together or separately, in order to avoid the heat and idleness which have settled upon us here, but neither of us can think where to go. I admire your courage and that of Mrs. Phelps in going to Madrid in August. We might apply to it a story Strong likes to tell about a delegate’s description of the summer breezes of Chicago: that not content with coming out of the very mouth of hell, they had first blown over the State of Texas. For Texas read the plains of La Mancha, and you will know what awaits you.

Do drop me a line when you reach Paris, and we will arrange a meeting.

Yours ever,

G Santayana

From The Letters of George Santayana:  Book Four, 19281932.  Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2003.
Location of manuscript: Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University, New Haven CT.

Letters in Limbo ~ July 14, 1933

santayanTo Daniel MacGhie Cory
Hotel Miramonti
Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy. July 14, 1933

This veiled threat of discontinuing your allowance is not new on S.’s part: he has spoken to me in the same sense repeatedly; and the collapse of the dollar, added to a great fall in capital, will reduce his income, in Italian money, to perhaps half what it was. As he can’t very well give up his villa or motor, or take in boarders, he may be really compelled to dismiss you with his blessing. When he has talked of leaving you (for your own good, of course) to make your way in the world, I have always said that perhaps it might really be for your ultimate interest. I feel partly responsible for having kept you so long dangling, and I should do what I could to help you in any difficulty. After all, how long are S. and I likely to live? The important point for you is that he shouldn’t revoke the legacy in which you are concerned. There is a trick about it, even as it stands; but with the old value of the dollar it would probably and ultimately have provided you with an income sufficient for all your needs, especially if you remained unmarried. But if the dollar settles down to be half a dollar, or 66 cents, that prospect becomes less smiling. Still, that is the point that really matters: and I have besought S. not to rescind his arrangements in that particular: and when he last spoke to me about it, perhaps a year ago, he seemed definitely determined not to make any change. In order to keep him in this mood, it is in your interest to continue doing what you can to keep his conscience satisfied. You know his character as well as I do: in fact, better, perhaps; because until lately I took him so completely as a matter of course, and as a . . . thoroughly conscientious and just man, that I may not have seen to the bottom of the well. His attachments are not matters of personal affection . . . He has moments in which he is enthusiastic about you: but it is because he then imagines that you will fit in beautifully into his plan of work. He has never cared for anything but for his work, his health, and his duty: his health, because necessary to his work, and his work, perhaps, because necessary to make it an absolute duty to nurse his health. He loves you, he loves us all, when, and in so far as, we fall into this picture: otherwise he feels no bond. You are therefore always in real danger of being erased from the tables of the truly deserving.

My nephew wrote the other day, saying that my income for the halfyear ending on the first of this month had been nearly $8000; even if the dollar should drop to 50 cents, or to the value of the Mexican or silver dollar which has always fascinated the democratic mind, provided American securities don’t depreciate further, I shall still have all that is requisite for keeping up my present way of life: and I could transfer something from my American capitalist income to my London bank-account, if my literary earnings are not enough to replenish the latter. It is probable, therefore, that I shall be able to keep sending you what I send at present, in any case: but the dream of wealth that visited me two or three years ago has vanished.

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 ~ July 13, 1938

800px-Benito_Mussolini_DuceTo Daniel MacGhie Cory
Hotel Savoia
Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy. July 13, 1938

It is a nice instinct in you to wish to be loyal to Strong and to comfort him as much as possible in his troubles, physical, philosophical, and social. But as to my relations with him, I think they are now in a satisfactory phase. There has been no definite break, and I can write to him or he to me at any moment, as if nothing had happened. I will do so, when I have anything to say, but certainly not in order to invite him, as it were, to come and renew those forced daily interviews, for as long a season as he may choose. I stood it as long as I could, under terrible tension; and when at last, quite without premeditation, I spoke out and stopped going to meet him at the Aragno, it was a blessed relief. I don’t want to undo that work, and have the persecution begin again, until another crisis. No: I have asserted my independence, and things must now proceed on a new basis. I wrote to him that I was willing to renew our interviews in the future, at Venice or Rome; but I didn’t say daily interviews, because if he comes to Rome for a month or several months next winter, I shall only join him occasionally, when I feel like it, and no longer like a punctual schoolboy coming to be whipped . . .

I write you all this frankly, for your guidance in any conversation that you may fall into on this subject. I didn’t want to quarrel with Strong; but the only way now to avoid an open quarrel is not to overdo the inevitable strain of meeting under false pretences. Even in Paris, in the old days, I sometimes had to fly for my life; but now the incidental and family matters about which we were really friendly have almost dropped out, and there is little but stark discussion, actual or horribly imminent, on points on which we know we shall never agree. It is a morbid craving of his, not any pleasure in the exchange of ideas. If I suggest a new idea, he cuts me short and returns to the theory of perception or the wickedness of Mussolini. Bref, I should much prefer not to have to see him for the present, but if he comes to Rome, I will endeavour to behave as decently and patiently as possible.

You are not in the least to blame for this “difficulty” between Strong and me. You may have reported things sometimes that might have been kept quiet; but the trouble existed in essence before you were born, and has been naturally aggravated by old age in both of us and the consequent loss of elasticity. On the contrary, it is lucky that you are here to take the place that, to some extent, I may have filled for Strong in earlier days. It is worth your while, as it was worth my while formerly; and the milk of human kindness can always flow, even when the fundamental bond is not sentimental.

From The Letters of George Santayana:  Book Six, 1937-1940.  Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2004.
Location of manuscript: Butler Library, Columbia University, New York NY.

Letters in Limbo ~ July 12, 1934

Tgeorge-santayanao Charles Earle Funk
C/o Brown Shipley & Co.
123, Pall Mall, London, S.W.11
Fiesole, Italy. July 12, 1934

My name in Spanish is pronounced San-ta-ya´-na, all the a’s being ah’s. But I think my English-speaking friends regard the y as a vowel (it is a consonant here in the Spanish, often confused with ll) and so sound the second syllable like ay in hay. I have no objection, but it is not Spanish.

From The Letters of George Santayana:  Book Five, 1933-1936.  Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2003.
Location of manuscript: The Houghton Library, Harvard University, Cambridge MA

 

 

Letters in Limbo ~ July 11, 1933

212px-1944_portrait_of_FDR_(1)To George Sturgis
Hotel Miramonti
Cortina d’Ampezzo. July 11, 1933

If you are not happy together, and not inclined to regard life as essentially a penance, perhaps it is as well that you should separate: but what is to become of the boys? Does the Court decide this vital point, or have you made an amicable arrangement in this respect also? If you are to keep them, as I partly infer, you will have to provide an adopted mother for them, in some capacity, at least until they are old enough to go to boarding school. This is rather an ominous complication. It is wise and chivalrous of you not to wish to make any accusations against Rosamond; but I can’t help asking myself whether she is pursuing positive happiness (I mean, what she expects to be happiness) or merely fleeing from boredom. It makes a difference. But without demanding any indiscreet confidences on your part, I shall await developments with interest.

Thank you for telling me about my income for this last half-year. It is just what I wanted to know, to reassure me in the midst of this financial confusion. If the dollar comes down to 50 cents (and that I believe is about the Mexican or silver standard to which the Democrats have always looked with envy) I shall be deprived, practically, of half my income: but as I spent less than half, I shall still have enough. What Roosevelt says and thinks (to judge by what I have read of his in the papers) seems to me rubbish. He talks like a professor of economics with a bee in his bonnet.

What is a “dollar in harmony with the needs of production” (or something of that nature? Any dollar, any agreed value or coin, if it is worth anything in itself and moderately steady in value, is equally harmonious with the values of other things and equally good as a common denominator and nominal medium of exchange. What is the use, then, of changing from one sort of dollar, or one weight of gold, to another? There is a use: and though I laugh at what Roosevelt says, I see a very clear reason for what he does. By halving the value of the dollar he will not only make prices go up (double them, in fact, other things being equal)—which is pure foolishness, since things will remain really of exactly the same intrinsic and relative and exchange value–but he will halve the government expenditure for pensions, salaries, and interest on the debt—unless these payments are expressly increased by law: and at the same time he will halve the real income of idle persons like myself, living on the interest of floating capital. So that, whether Roosevelt means it or not, he is driving a nail into the coffin of capitalism; and at the same time (what is strangely undemocratic) diminishing enormously the purchasing power of wages, pensions, and all incomes fixed in quantity of money.

But I see a possible complication and mitigation of this result. In so far as my property, for instance, includes definite objects-land, factories, merchandise-its value expressed in dollars will rise at the same time that the purchasing power of the interest diminishes. To this extent, the change will be just as futile in killing capitalism (I mean especially, in killing this system of living on mere money out at interest) as it is futile in “harmonizing” currency with real values.

Cortina is pleasant, as usual, and I am passing the time quite contentedly and doing a little work on the novel-saving, too, because this excellent hotel is cheaper than the Bristol. It is true I have no sitting room. Yours affly G.S.

From The Letters of George Santayana:  Book Five, 1933-1936.  Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2003.
Location of manuscript: The Houghton Library, Harvard University, Cambridge MA.

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