To Robert Traill Spence Lowell Jr.
Via Santo Stefano Rotondo, 6,
Rome. June 24, 1948

Dear Lowell,

Today, to honour la festa della Natività di San Giovanni Battista, your generous box of food has arrived. I am at this moment munching the chocolate, but feel that on the whole you are taking at Washington too tragic and charitable a view of the state of things in Italy, at least in establishments like this of the “Blue Sisters”. We have everything we need to eat, not always (the bread, for instance) of the best quality, but no scarcity of the stock things like butter and sugar. It is true that at my age I don’t ask for much in the way of meat, which is not of good quality always; so that I feel the shortage less than would a normal person. What I feel is the disorder of international policy and the absence of competent leaders in all the nations. But I won’t go into this because my information is not good and I don’t want to antagonize anybody. Let them boil in their own broth.

Is your engagement at Washington coming to an end? What are your plans? And when shall we see more poems? Don’t send me any more boxes but come yourself if you can and want a change of air.

Yours sincerely

G Santayana

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.

To Robert Shaw Barlow
C/o Brown Shipley & Co. 123, Pall Mall, London, S.W.1
Paris. June 22, 1936

I have just finished Faulkner’s “Sanctuary” and I think I have understood all the pornographic part, corncob, etc, and the character of Popeye which is like any villain in melodrama, just as Miss Reba and her establishment and her genteel friends entertained after the funeral; all this being very well done, so as to seem . . . life-like, at least to the uninitiated. I found myself also absorbed in the story as a whole, without exactly following the thread of it, which it would have taken me a second reading to disentangle. But frankly I don’t think it worth bothering about. Like all these recent writers, the author is too lazy and self-indulgent and throws off what comes to him in a sort of dream, expecting the devoted reader to run about after him, sniffing at all the droppings of his mind. I am not a psychological dog, and require my dog-biscuit to be clearly set down for me in a decent plate with proper ceremony. But Faulkner, apart from those competent melodramatic or comic bits, has a poetic vein that at times I liked extremely; in describing landscape or sheer images. This matter of images is very interesting, but confused. The image-without-thought poets often jump from the images supposed to appear to a particular observer, as in a dream, to images visible only to another observer, to the author in his omniscient capacity, as if they were the substance of the physical world common to all sane people. But there are no common images; there are only common objects of belief: and confusion in this matter of psychological analysis renders these modern writers bewildering, because they are themselves bewildered.

Faulkner’s language I like well enough when it is frank dialect, or unintended poetry: but I wish he wouldn’t, in his own person, say “like” for “as”, “like they do down South”. And the trick of being brutally simple and rectilinear in describing what people do, or rather their bodily movements, becomes tiresome after a while; especially when these bodily movements have no great significance but again are mere images strung along because they happen to appear to the author’s undirected fancy.

The absence of moral judgements or sentiments helps to produce this impression of conscious automata, wound up, and running round and round in their cages. I think there is biological truth in that view, but we have also a third, a vertical, dimension. We can think: and it is in that dimension that experience becomes human.

From The Letters of George Santayana:  Book Five, 1933–1936.  Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2003.
Location of manuscript: The Houghton Library, Harvard University, Cambridge MA.

To Daniel MacGhie Cory
Hotel Savoia,
Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy. June 21, 1937

Dear Cory,

Capital that you should have come to know so characteristic a man as Ezra Pound at close quarters. Will you tell me, or can you draw from him, how he connects his sympathy with Eliot and with Mussolini with his otherwise extreme romantic anarchism?

. . . My journey had uncomfortable features: it rained hard in Venice, and during the first day they had no suitable room for me at Danieli’s; but I got one in the evening, and no unpleasant consequences followed. The motorbus coming here was absolutely full up, complete, and I was so squeezed next to another fat old man that I had to have my clothes pressed, something which as you know I don’t ordinarily do. However, the weather that day was lovely, and the ‘bus was able to pull us up the steep hills on good time.

Here I am tolerably well settled, have an electric stove in case of cold weather, and a pleasant enough outlook. My books from Blackwell’s have arrived and I am in harness; working on Dom. &; but nothing prevents me from thinking or writing about Spirit if the spirit itself should prompt. I have also brought from Rome The Marble Faun and The House of the Seven Gables, cut up for the pocket, to read when I have my coffee or tea in the town. Have nearly finished the first, and am disappointed. Hawthorne has moments of dramatic intuition. There is a scene at the Capuchins’ in Rome which I wish Shakespeare had written and not Hawthorne: but his mind in general is weak and helplessly secondary: more a slave of his time than Poe.

From The Letters of George Santayana:  Book Six, 1937–1940.  Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2004.
Location of manuscript: Butler Library, Columbia University, New York NY.

To Logan Pearsall Smith
Richmond Hill Hotel
Richmond, England. June 20, 1919

Dear Smith,

You see, I am still where you last saw me—or rather, very nearly in the same place, because after going away to town in the hope of getting my passport properly endorsed, I have returned to a still better room on the top floor of Wick House, with a really magnificent view on two sides and the feeling of being in a castle tower overlooking some smiling champaign. It is quite delightful as a retreat for working: only marred by the necessity of descending to the dining room two or three times a day. The reason for my return here, as you may conjecture, is the obduracy of the French authorities who will not give a visa for one’s beaux yeux, but require all sorts of proofs of business activities, services during the war, living to earn, wife to rescue from starvation or dishonour, or some other work of moral or national importance. It is still possible that I may get away next week, if Cerberus is satisfied with a sop (which he has asked for and promised to be appeased by—but what are promises to Cerberus?) in the form of an affidavit that I really lived in Paris before the war. I wonder how Berenson manages to travel so like a lord or an Irish emissary: is it his business or his fame that propitiates people, or his American nationality? I should be sorry not to see Strong, who has been philosophically rather lonely as well as laid up physically for the last year: otherwise I should be really glad to give up all thought of travel and return to peace and happiness at Oxford. You are very generous in wishing me to have all the profit of the Little Essays, if profit there is to be: let us not have a quarrel of disinterestedness about it. But it would really be simpler for me if you took half the royalties, let us say, to invest in the beautiful book which should serve as a memento of your labours. I am not a connaisseur in books; but it occurs to me that the right thing would be a copy of the great Essays of Bacon or Montaigne, with an inscription witnessing that seeing thou hast been faithful over little essays, thou shalt be made master over great essays. If I return to Oxford, I will ask Blackwell if he has an attractive edition of either of these, and send it to you so inscribed.

Thank you very much for wanting me to come to Big Chilling. Of course I should like to, but can make no plans at present. Thank you, too, for Mrs Berenson’s card, from which I am happy to infer that she is quite well again.


G. S.

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.

To Charles Scribner’s Sons
Messrs Charles Scribner’s Sons New York
Cambridge, Massachusetts.  June 19, 1904


I am much pleased that you find the Life of Reason so promising that you will publish it on the ordinary terms; I had supposed that would hardly be possible, because it will take years, I expect, for the edition to be sold out. However, you are the best judges in such a matter, and I gladly accept your proposition to give me the ten per cent “royalty” I had no desire to intervene in the publication, and much prefer that you should undertake it yourselves, seeing you are disposed to do so.

As to publishing serially, that is of no consequence to me, and any arrangement you think best will suit me. Indeed, in one way, I find the suggestion very convenient, as the revision I am now at work on is taking longer than I expected—the book had grown up in seven years, so that it was full of repetitions and inconsistencies—and I need not send you all the MS at once. The next three books—Reason in Society, Religion, and Art— I will entrust to you before I go abroad; they will be ready, and safer in your keeping, and you can go on with the printing at such intervals as you think suitable. The last book—Reason in Science—I can send to you later, and as it is in many ways the most important it will perhaps do no harm to meditate a little longer on it before giving it a final shape.

I have tried to make the books nearly equal in length, but the attempt has been a failure: the matter could not be pressed, and I hardly wished to expand it. Book II, IV, and V, will be shorter than I, and III (Religion) a little longer. At least, I think so, although I am not good at counting words. . . .

G Santayana

From The Letters of George Santayana:  Book One, [1868]–1909.  Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2001.
Location of manuscript: Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University Libraries, Princeton NY.