harvard_seal_lg2To Benjamin Apthorp Gould Fuller
C/o Brown Shipley & Co, London
Seville, Spain. February 7, 1914

They will persecute you, like all the Apostles of sweetness and light, and especially of liberty, that thing unknown to America; it was foretold of the Lord. I trust, however, that you will be victorious in the end and become one of the patriarchs of the orthodox church–I mean of the life of reason.

I note with pleasure that you are to be in Paris in the Summer. You will find me there, and you will tell me, I hope, all about these physical and moral transformations which Harvard is undergoing. What I hear from time to time confirms me in the feeling that I quitted most opportunely. The wonder is that I endured and was endured so long. The only Harvard that in any measure held my affections and with which I could have almost identified myself was that of the “nineties” or rather, of 1890-1895; but the awful cloud of Eliot then overhung it, and made life impossible. Before and after that, Harvard was only an accident and a temporary necessity in my life; and especially since I became a professor I did nothing but save money so as to get out of it quam celerrime. It took a great many years, partly for other reasons, and I wrote a great many bad books in the interval; otherwise it seems a stretch of desert. However, I have still senses and life enough left to see, and perhaps to do, something; and I am perfectly happy. “Of course he is”, said an Italian scholar of peasant origin at the Berensons, when this confessed beatitude of mine was reported to him, “Of course, he has such a strong digestion!”

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

hearseTo Susan Sturgis de Sastre
Queen’s Acre
Windsor, England. February 6, 1912

I have just got a telegram, like one you must have received also, saying that Mother died yesterday.
What a tremendous change this is! Mother was the absolutely dominating force in all our lives. Even her mere existence, in these last years, was a sort of centre around which we revolved, in thought if not in our actual movements. We shall be living henceforth in an essentially different world. I hope you and I may be nearer rather than farther from one another in consequence.

From The Letters of George Santayana:  Book Two, 1910-1920.  Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2001.
Location of manuscript: Alderman Library, University of Virginia at Charlottesville

1936-baseball-season-2To Rosamond Thomas Bennett Sturgis
Hotel Bristol
Rome. Feb. 5, 1936

Dear Rosamond,
You are very good to want to come and nurse me, and I am sure you would do it better than the Blue Sisters to whom I expect to be consigned, if I have a long illness. If you came, I should feel as Oliver did when Edith (who had a trained nurse’s certificate) went to see him at the Stillman Infirmary–not that I am very like Oliver or you, thank God, very like Edith; but perhaps my last illness won’t be prolonged, and it won’t matter much who telephones for the undertaker. My ups and downs in health are very marked and very sudden. Now I feel all right again, only perhaps a little lazier physically, although mentally I was very fit even when confined to my room, and wrote a long article in my best style–unless I am in my dotage, and pleased with anything I may reel out.

The editor (of Scrutiny) to whom I sent it, however, and who doesn’t pay his contributors, said he was highly honoured. I fence in it a little with T. S. Eliot, who was once a pupil of mine, but never by any chance refers to me. Cory says he is afraid of me, as of a sort of devil. But you don’t know who Cory is. He will probably be the person to look after me when I get more dotty. He is an American but has now been ten years in Europe, and has helped me and my old friend Strong with some of our books. I call him my secretary, and he is to be my literary executor. At this moment, however, he is in London, giving some Sporting Cockneys lessons in baseball, for which he gets 30 shillings each time, and his fare from Bournemouth, where he likes to [illegible] waste the best years of his life playing golf. But he is half Irish and very human for a quasi-philosopher.

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

SargeantTo Martin Birnbaum
Via Santo Stefano Rotondo, 6
Rome, Feb. 4, 1946

Dear Mr. Birnbaum,
I write to thank you very much for your reminiscences of Sargent,1 including those of Henry James and the plates of some of Sargent’s paintings and drawings. I wish that you had gone more systematically into the problem of naturalistic versus eccentric or symbolic painting. It is a subject about which my own mind is undecided. My sympathies are initially with classic tradition, and in that sense with Sargent’s school; yet for that very reason I fear to be unjust to the eccentric and abstract inspiration of persons perhaps better inspired. Two things you say surprise me a little: one that Sargent was enormous physically. I remember him as a little stout, but not tall: and I once made a voyage by chance in his company, and thereafter a trip to Tangier; so that I had for a fortnight at least constant occasions to go about with him; and being myself of very moderate stature I never felt that he was big. The other point is that he saw and painted “objectively”, realistically, and not psychologically. Now, certainly he renders his model faithfully; but in the process, which must be selective and proper to the artist, I had always thought that, perhaps unawares he betrayed analytical and satirical powers of a high order, so that his portraits were strongly comic, not to say moral caricatures. But in thinking of what you say, and quote from him, on this subject, I begin to believe that I was wrong, that he may have been universally sympathetic and cordial, in the characteristically American manner, and that the satire that there might seem to be in his work was that of literal truth only: because we are all, au fond, caricatures of ourselves, and a good eye will see through our conventional disguises and labels. And this would explain what to some persons seems the “materialism” of Sargent’s renderings; his interest in objets d’art for instance, rather than in the vegetable kingdom or in the life of non-sensuous reality at large. Crowding his house with pictures, and his memory with innumerable friends and innumerable anecdotes about them, shows a respect for the commonplace, a love of the world, that prevents the imagination from taking high flights or reflecting ultimate emotions.

Is there, I wonder, any truth in such a suspicion?

Yours sincerely,
G Santayana

1. John Singer Sargent, January 12, 1856-April 15, 1925: A Conversation Piece (New York: W. E. Rudge’s Sons, 1941).

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

George in JammiesTo Christopher George Janus
Room No..77
[February? 1937] . [Rome, Italy]

Dear Mr. Janus,
If you can come here this afternoon, or any other day, between 6. and 7.30, you will find me in dressing-gown and slippers, doing nothing in particular and very glad to see you.

Yours sincerely,

From The Letters of George Santayana:  Book Six, 1937-1940.  Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2004.
Location of manuscript: Santayana Edition, Indianapolis, IN