The Works of George Santayana

Category: LETTERS Page 2 of 274

Letters in Limbo ~ July 10, 1933

Spinoza1To William Lyon Phelps
Hotel Miramonti
Cortina d’Ampezzo. July 10, 1933

I went last September to the Hague, where they had a meeting in honour of the tercentenary of Spinoza’s birth, and I read a paper which is only attached to Spinoza by way of the zenith: for, mind you, though physically every zenith is at a hopelessly different point from every other, spiritually the nearer anyone gets to his own zenith, the nearer he is to everybody else’s. This paper is to appear in a polyglot volume entitled Septimana Spinozana which was to have been issued last November, but is still delayed. Perhaps it will appear by November next.

As I approach 70 (December next the venerable number will be complete) I feel that I may abandon the future more and more to Providence. I go on working, but without being at all confident that it will be possible, or would be best, for me to accomplish anything . . . special. At present, I am crawlingly proceeding with my “novel”: this is something nobody else could do, since it gives the emotions of my experiences, and not my thoughts or experiences themselves: whereas The Realm of Truth or The Realm of Spirit might perfectly well be described by some future writer better than I should do it. However, I am very well, and not worried by the crisis or the collapse of the dollar: it makes me much poorer on paper, but I had a broad margin to my budget, and as yet have no need of changing my way of living; and it is not impossible, if I should live ten years more, that I might finish my whole programme.

This place—where I have spent three previous summers—is really delightful: warm enough in the sun to make the system exude its waste substances, and cool enough at night to kill all mosquitoes and even flies. Besides the Dolomites are highly picturesque, the peasants also, and the people at this hotel very tolerable—since I don’t have to speak to them. The trouble is that on September 1st winter sets in, and I shall have to move to Venice or elsewhere until it is time to return to my Roman diggings.

Well: You at Great Yale are probably being carried sky-high on the crest of twenty enthusiasms at least. Don’t break your neck, and God bless you! Kindest regards. Come again to Rome: it is improving yearly more than if it were in America. You will be astonished.

From The Letters of George Santayana:  Book Five, 1933-1936.  Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2003.
Location of manuscript: The Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University, New Haven CT.

Letters in Limbo ~ July 9, 1948

To Richard Colton Lyon
Via Santo Stefano Rotondo, 6
Rome. July 9, 1948

California, where I spent my last summer in America in 1911, seemed to me in its atmosphere and spirit more like Southern Europe than like the rest of the United States; but it is true that I have never been south of Washington and Baltimore. No doubt, in the way of business, life is as tight in California as in the rest of the country, and what I saw at Berkeley, in the Summer School, was business; but I moved as soon as I could to the University Club in San Francisco, and dined every evening in Italian restaurants in what they called the Barbary Coast, after walking in the Park among the eucalyptus groves: and people too seemed to me more easy-going and happy than in New England.

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 ~ July 8, 1917

hup_tumblr_logo_redTo Logan Pearsall Smith
22 Beaumont St.
Oxford, England. July 8, 1917

I have written to Scribner and to the Harvard University Press, also to Dent, whose reply I enclose. You see the result of concealing from him that you had chosen his enemy for a publisher. He smells a rat, and wants the cheese himself. I suppose you could easily leave out the passages from Dent’s books, if he is obdurate; that would be a way of reducing the selections, and limiting them to the books that are relegated to the higher shelf.

From The Letters of George Santayana:  Book Two, 1910-1920.  Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2001.
Location of manuscript: The Library of Congress, Washington DC.

Letters in Limbo ~ July 7, 1932

1024px-Versailles_chateauTo Charles P. Davis
C/o Brown Shipley & Co.
123, Pall Mall, London, S.W.
Versailles, France. July 7, 1932

Alas, a prolonged failure to respond to letters, and to everything else, has an easy explanation at our age. My sister died in February, 1929, after an illness of five days: but, as you know, she had suffered for a long time from some sort of gout or dropsy (we never understood what it was) which made it difficult and painful for her to move. She had also suffered a great deal morally, in the last years, from her husband’s avarice and other crotchets; but she had successfully maintained her American independence in money-matters, and had the consolation of being at last appreciated and even loved by her step-children and their wives and young ones, because she helped them out of the straits in which their father left them, and was the Providence of the whole family, as well as of many other poor people in Avila. Her husband himself died the following year, and my sister Josephine, who had lived with them since 1912, died in October 1930, on St. Theresa’s day. She had, by the way, reconciled herself in a half-conscious way with the Church; her confessor said he thought she had never committed a mortal sin: so that her end was peaceful also, and there were no unpleasant complications in the matter of religious rites. We had also arranged her money-matters nicely . . . and the fact that, spending very little, she had become rather rich, has been a Godsend to us in the “crisis”, since it has helped us practically not to feel the pinch—at least not yet.

My sister Susana’s money went to her husband and his family; and they have since modernized their houses, and even got automobiles—not so common in Avila as in the U.S. Altogether the memory of my sister is sweet to everyone now, although we didn’t make her life particularly sweet to her while she was in this world. I don’t know how frankly she spoke her thoughts to you: but in spite of her religious fervour and experience, she remained always passionately attached to people and circumstances and events in her surroundings. She was full of plans, even at the age of 77, about what she would do when she was free, and could rebuild their house, and make a different will, and get me to come and live with her. I should have done so with pleasure, if she had survived her husband: but human projects are seldom realized-never, perhaps, as we had formed them.

I have sometimes felt an impulse to write to you and learn how things had worked themselves out in your life. . . My own existence is absolutely monotonous. I live only in hotels; work every morning for two or three hours in a dressing-gown: I am worse than an arm-chair philosopher: I am a poet in slippers. In winter, I am in Rome: in summer often in Paris or at Cortina in the Dolomites; and I hardly see anybody. But I have more literary projects than I shall live to execute; I read a lot of beautiful and interesting books, old and new; I take a daily walk in the most approved and quiet places, wherever the priests walk; and I am, Deo gratias, in good health and in easy circumstances.

What more can one desire at seventy? Love? Faith? If I am without faith or love, I am not without a certain amused connivance at the nature of things which keeps me tolerably happy.

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 ~ July 6, 1908

Bertrand_Russell_transparent_bgTo Bertrand Arthur William Russell
Queen’s Acre
Windsor, England. July 6, 1908

Here is your article with James’s comments, both of which are entertaining, but I can’t help thinking that “pragmatism” still requires a fair historical elucidation. It seems to be a mixture of old saws and half-born intuitions, the most fundamental of them being, perhaps, despair concerning attainable truth, or agnosticism.

From The Letters of George Santayana:  Book One, [1868]-1909.  Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2001.
Location of manuscript: Mills Memorial Library, Bertrand Russell Archives, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.

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