Dear Cory: I see by your letter of Jan. 29th, that you have been officially debasing my pure and legitimate English to conform with the vernacular. The substitution of on for in has been going on for ages, and no doubt is bound to go on further. We all say “on earth”, but King James’ Bible says “in earth;” and the immense difference appears more clearly in a line of Cary’s Dante: “I was a virgin sister in the earth.” That is lovely: a good translation of Io fui nel mondo vergine sorella. Imagine what a come-down if he had said “on earth”! As to passengers in ships, the Prayer Book prays only for them, not for those on ships: and I confess that, though we say “on board” and “on deck”, when I am in my cabin with perhaps three decks over my head, it seems absurd to say I am on the ship and not in her. But in (why not on?) America I suppose they would say that Jonah was three days and three nights on his whale and not in her; and she might confirm that view by complaining that he had got on her stomach.
I regard this edition of Persons & Places as a mutilated victim of war, and dream of a standard edition, which probably I shall never see, in which the original words, the omitted passages, and the marginal comments (not headings, as in the Triton edition) shall be restored and the portraits and other illustrations shall be well reproduced.
From The Letters of George Santayana: Book Seven, 1941-1947. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2006.
Location of manuscript: Butler Library, Columbia University, New York NY.