To Rosamond Thomas [Sturgis] Little
Via Santo Stefano Rotondo, 6
Rome. November 25, 1951
Christmas is approaching and I am writing to Mr. Wheelock of Scribner’s asking him to send you my prosaic present, as on recent years he has been kind enough to do. Don’t send me flowers, as they are rather wasted in my little room, which is crowded with books and tables, and not meant as a stage setting for poetry and philosophical vistas, as ideally it should be. But many years ago I gave up all dreams of finding beautiful quarters and surroundings. They would prove more a burden and a tether than a stimulus to pleasant thoughts. Possessions, when I was younger were a nuisance for one who wanted to travel, and in time to return regularly to a fixed circle of chosen places, easily reached, as were Rome, Venice and Cortina; and now that I am in the last stage of my journey what I enjoy without qualification is to read, especially history. I have just finished (in three days, as if it were an exciting novel, a long book by a man named Brandon on the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, and its effect upon Christianity, which he thinks was decisive. And the excursuses in Toynbee, which I had skipped on first reading his six volumes, are better than his text, and almost inexhaustible. You travel all over the world and through all ages without leaving your den. This is what most of the critics of my “Dominations & Powers” evidently never do, for I notice that they are blind to everything except current events and current questions, as if they could have any true vision of such things if they were ignorant altogether of the world in which these things arise and pass away.
Another, but perfectly normal difficulty that my critics have is that they don’t know my philosophy, which is not an arbitrary “creation” of my fancy but simply the result or sediment left in my mind by living. For that reason I am compelled to imply and to illustrate it in all I say about anything; so that if they have a different philosophy or no philosophy laid up in their minds, of course they cannot see how what I say hangs together.
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