world-war-2-historical-sites-in-italy-rome-tankTo Victor Wolfgang von Hagen
Via Santo Stefano Rotondo, 6,
Rome. December 4, 1941

Dear Mr. von Hagen:

Your letter of October 9, addressed to the Hotel Bristol, has just reached me here, after travelling a good deal, for that hotel was pulled down two or three years ago, and though the shell is now rebuilt in a sky-scraper style, the place is not yet reopened. If I live long enough I shall probably return there, because the proprietor has all my books in storage, and the situation is convenient for my purposes. Being driven from there, just when the war was preparing, has unsettled me unpleasantly. The first winter I staid in Venice. a terribly bleak place at that season; the second winter (i.e. last winter) I lived at the Grand Hotel here in Rome; but this year I have come from there to the top of the Caelius, to a nursing home kept by an English Order of Sisters called the Little Company of Mary, not that I am particularly ill, but that I am short of funds, not because the source is dried up but because the conduit is stopped up, not yet entirely, but very seriously. These Sisters have establishments all over the Englishspeaking world, besides three in Italy. This is their Mother House, and a complete hospital, convent, and guest-house; and the Mother Superior has made a special arrangement with me, in view of my strange situation, by which I live here gratis, while a donation will be made for me, more or less equivalent, to their place near Chicago. I shall therefore have food and lodging even if my funds are blocked altogether. I found insuperable difficulties in the attempt to move to Switzerland or to Spain; this arrangement suits me better, in spite of some discomforts involved.

. . . This war affects me, morally, much less than the other, although I think (and hope) that the consequences may be far more important and lasting: a really new era in human history, but not at all what people, on either side, think they are fighting for. Words and things were never further apart than in our uneducated times.

Yours sincerely
G Santayana

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


harvardTo Benjamin Apthorp Gould Fuller
Rome. December 3, 1904

Your letter comes to remind me that a place I have often heard of called Harvard College actually exists: it seems from here a rather improbable myth; and quite an unnecessary complication in the world, that has a complete history already. I am glad that you take to your native country so well; I wonder why in a land where so much is potential the potential has not been allowed any place in philosophy, whereas an Aristotle, who lived in a finished world, made so much of the potential in his speculation. This is a sign, I suppose, that speculation is seldom a genuine expression of life, but rather a parasitic tradition expressing what is effete in the contemporary world.

From The Letters of George Santayana:  Book One, [1868]-1909.  Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2001.
Location of manuscript: The Houghton Library, Harvard University, Cambridge MA.


Russell_in_1938To Charles Augustus Strong
Hotel Bristol
Rome. December 2, 1927

Perhaps I may abandon “Symptoms” for a while and turn to the “Realm of Matter”. Russell’s latest book ought to have helped to revive interest in this direction, but I have been disappointed. It is nice to see him insisting on his newly acquired conviction that “percepts are in our heads”: it ranges him among my examples of latent materialism in idealists. But does he conceive his whole philosophy, in the moment when he is most aware of it, to be a single constituent of the series of events which make up one of the electrons in his brain? It seems monstrous (to use one of his words) to give so rich a substance (to use one of my words) to so minute a phenomenon. It would seem to me more plausible to say that his awareness of his philosophy was an event engaging a great many gyrations of a great many electrons: it would therefore have no punctiform locus in space-time, and could not be identified with a single constituent of the physical world. But I agree with him, and with you, that the mental world, in so far as it has a locus in nature at all, has it in the head—or in objects arranged, like books and pictures, to excite certain events in the head. As to the mental or moral world in itself, Berty is a poor witness: here is a book entitled “The Outlines of Philosophy” in which there is nothing but spleen, behaviourism, relativity, and babies. He has come down terribly in the world: I suppose this is a set of lectures cooked up for America: there is nothing in it that he hasn’t said as well or better elsewhere, and there is an unreadable amount of improvised commonplaces, and chance polemics. I have had to skip a good deal: but I haven’t missed here and there an extraordinarily witty passage, like that about the behaviourist seeing the rat not seen by his friend, and thinking that he must give up that bootlegged whiskey

From The Letters of George Santayana:  Book Three, 1921-1927.  Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2002.
Location of manuscript: Rockefeller Archive Center, Sleepy Hollow NY.


persons-and-placesTo Lawrence Smith Butler
Via Santo Stefano Rotondo, 6
Rome. December 1, 1944

 . . . Much as I should like to see you, I shouldn’t advise you to come to Italy until you hear that things have returned somewhat to the normal. In Rome, as you know, there has been little damage done to buildings: but the country has been thoroughly pillaged by the two friendly foreign armies that have passed over it; communications and victualling are difficult; and people have no work and no means of carrying on their trades. Food is scarce and bad, and the value of money and the price of everything are uncertain. We also lack coal, and electric light shines decently only every third day. Life would therefore not be comfortable or easy for a traveller. I myself have been lucky in being taken in by these Sisters. They have a nicely furnished house and nice English ideas of food and comfort, and we manage very well, in spite of all difficulties. Of late, too, I have received various presents, as well as many visits, from American army men, and am revelling in the lost luxuries of tea, marmalade, cheese, anchovies, shaving-cream, and even peanuts. I have been photographed and interviewed to exhaustion; but I am happy like a sky without clouds, and still at work with the pen. In the second volume of Persons & Places, you are commemorated among “Americans in Europe.” I hope you won’t be angry at the past tense: but I write of everything as if it were ancient history. Motto: Veritas.


Yours affly,
G Santayana

From The Letters of George Santayana:  Book Seven, 1941-1947.  Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2006.
Location of manuscript: The University Club, New York NY.


vintage-postcard-1912-florence-italy-fierenze-piazza-delia-signoria-divided-back-e69eb0d54394e7fafe09077791ed7695To Elizabeth Stephens Fish Potter
C/o Brown Shipley & Co.
123 Pall Mall
I Tatti
Florence, Italy. November 30, 1912

You have not heard, perhaps, that my mother died soon after I left America. It was not an unexpected loss, and in one sense, as you know, it had really occurred long before, as my mother had not been herself for some years. Nevertheless, her death makes a tremendous difference in all our lives, as she had always been the ruling influence over us. She had a very strong will and a most steadfast character, and her mere presence, even in the decline of her faculties, was the central fact and bond of union for us. Now, everything seems to be dissolved.

. . . I was forgetting to tell you what is perhaps the only important fact—that I have resigned my professorship altogether, and don’t expect to go back to America at any fixed time. As you know, my situation at Harvard has never been to my liking altogether, and latterly much less so, because I began to be tired of teaching and too old for the society of young people, which is the only sort I found tolerable there. The arrangement I had made with Mr. Lowell for teaching during half of each year, I should have carried out had my mother lived; but it was never meant, in my own mind, to last for ever. Now, it seemed that the moment to make the change had come. My brother assures me that I shall have a little income that more than supplies my wants; Boston, with no home there, with no place to dine in night after night but that odious Colonial Club, is too distressing a prospect. Here, on the other hand, everything is alluring. My books (the only earthly chattels I retain) are at the avenue de l’Observatoire; that is my headquarters for the present. Meantime I am looking about, and if some place or some circle makes itself indispensable to my happiness, there I will stay. Intellectually, I have quite enough on hand and in mind, to employ all my energies for years.

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.