To Mary Williams Winslow
C/o Brown Shipley & Co.
123 Pall Mall, London. S.W.1.
Rome. February 1, 1922
In a previous letter you asked me what news of Boston or Harvard it would interest me to hear, and in my walks I have sometimes asked myself the question again, and haven’t found it easy to answer. It is not that my interest has waned—on the contrary, I feel I should like so much to see (through a peep-hole) all that may be going on and to understand it. But what is going on? My ideas are too vague for the inquiry to start at all. Of course, I can see the electric cars going over the Harvard Bridge and I can imagine others, much longer and swifter, going through the subway; and I can imagine you and Fred and (by a stretch) the children as they must look in your library in Clarendon street; but what is going on under all those appearances? They tell me everything is quite different morally: Boylston Beal, the Potters, your dear friend Apthorp Fuller (who is here with his mother) inform me that when at home they feel like fish out of water, and that America is fast going to the dogs—or, more accurately, that it is sinking into a bog of commonplaceness and youthful folly which makes them feel like frustrate ghosts. Now, I don’t believe a word of it; and if you will sometimes give me a hint of what has changed, and in what direction, I think I could supply the rest out of my old knowledge . . . You, who know my friends (as Mrs Toy doesn’t), could show me how the wind blows in this social quarter—more interesting romantically than the political world, and even more important, because at bottom it controls the turn of public affairs—I mean, that moral changes in society, if they don’t determine political events, certainly colour the result and give it all its importance . . . Are the poorer classes in America still hopeful and loyal to the established order, or are there any signs of revolution? I ask all these semi-political questions because I have a feeling that we are approaching a great revolution and impoverishment of the world, such as has actually occurred in Russia, and I look for signs, not so much of its coming soon, but of the angle at which it will attack our old society, and the elements of it that may survive. Of course, I think the revolutionists, if they succeed, will suffer a horrid disappointment, because most of them will have to die off: the two great conditions for improving the lot of mankind are a much smaller population and a much larger proportion of people devoted to agriculture.
From The Letters of George Santayana: Book Three, 1921-1927. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2002.
Location of manuscript: The Houghton Library, Harvard University, Cambridge MA.