To William Roscoe Thayer
22 Beaumont St.
Oxford, England. November 26, 1917

It is very pleasant to hear from my friends at Harvard where things probably have moved fast and will move faster: but the past and its good side are secure. I am full of projects and actually carry some of them out: and I lead a life of essential solitude with a little incidental society which suits me very well. The war has intercepted all my plans—even the literary ones, as I can’t fix my thoughts on remote things steadily—but it has stirred me up, and perhaps my thoughts may become truer in consequence.—Thank you many times for your letter.

From The Letters of George Santayana:  Book Two, 1910-1920.  Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2001.
Location of manuscript: The Houghton Library, Harvard University, Cambridge MA


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


Cover ArtJPEG_Essential Santayana_MSAm1371_6To Dorothy Shakespear Pound
Via Santo Stefano Rotondo, 6
Rome. November 24, 1946

Dear Mrs. Pound,
I have much appreciated your husband’s letter telling me that p. 6 of my book had reconciled him to the frivolity of the rest. I know he is very selective and “subjective”; and a ray of mutual understanding is of value with such a person. I have also received his new Canto, and should have written to him about it if a ray of light from it had been able to pierce my thick skull. But really I can’t catch the drift of his allusions.

From The Letters of George Santayana:  Book Seven, 1941-1947.  Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2006.
Location of manuscript: The Lilly Library, Indiana University, Bloomington


To Rosamond Thomas Bennett Sturgis
Via Santo Stefano Rotondo, 6
Rome. November 23, 1946

A magnificent bouquet arrived from you this morning, intended for Christmas. It serves just as well now, and I am sure that your good wishes are not confined to feast days any more than my leisure. Every day is a holiday and a birthday and a possible last day for a philosopher.

From The Letters of George Santayana:  Book Seven, 1941-1947.  Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2006.
Location of manuscript: The Houghton Library, Harvard University, Cambridge MA


To Bernard Berenson
Hotel Bristol
Rome. November 22, 1925

It is pleasant to hear that the Dialogues have entertained you. Why don’t you cut yourself a fresh quill and give us again a little of your own wisdom? There is a subject which I should be tempted to attack if people would listen to me, as they would to you, I mean aesthetic arrogance. We are living in an age of emancipated specialists, or of people who give out that they are specialists; and the public is not served, but bidden to believe and obey. These specialists, in other matters, are often persons of no culture or judgement, but one in physics, another in logic, another in economics, another in art, assure us that they are each of them infallible. . . . The liberty of craftsmen to amuse themselves and invent what toys they will, is one thing; the function of adorning a civilized city with the monuments and elegances which express its instinct, is quite another. But the result of anarchy in our society seems to be a crop of small persons who, by sheer effrontery, make themselves tyrants in their respective fields.

From The Letters of George Santayana:  Book Three, 1921-1927.  Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2002.
Location of manuscript: Villa I Tatti, Settignano, Italy