To Susan Sturgis de Sastre
The Cunard Steamship Company Limited
At sea. June 12, 1910

R.M.S. “Lusitania”.

Although I don’t expect to land for thirty-six hours, I take this opportunity to write a line, which will let you know that I have reached this side of the Atlantic. It has been a voyage remarkable for good weather and good food, and for a dreadful collection of passengers. The very nouveaux riches—the Chicago stock-brokers and dry-goods millionaires,—have “caught on” to these vessels, so that all the horrors of New America (it is not the America you knew) are here in full force.

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.

To Cyril Coniston Clemens
Hotel Bristol,
Rome. June 11, 1937

Dear Clemens,

The quotation about a world that lets us laugh at it may be mine: I don’t remember where it is, but I am willing in any case to subscribe to the sentiment.

As to the medal and other honours, thank you for your flattering intention, but my one desire is to escape unobserved, as far as my old person is concerned. If people will crown my ideas in their own minds, that is a sufficient bond.

Yours sincerely

G Santayana

From The Letters of George Santayana:  Book Six, 1937–1940.  Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2004.
Location of manuscript: William R. Perkins Library, Duke University, Durham NC.

To Henry Ward Abbot
C/o Brown Shipley & Co. 123, Pall Mall, London, S.W.1
Rome. June 10, 1931

Dear Harry,

Many thanks for introducing me to Miss Millay. I had seen her name, and possibly (if she ever wrote for The Dial) I may have read some piece of hers before: but all was lost in that terrible bog of false poetry into which I hate to step. Poetry, in the sense of versified passionate eloquence, seems to be a thing of the past. But I see that Miss Millay takes the bull by the horns and dresses up her poetry in the magnificent ruff and pearls of Queen Elizabeth. It is a wonderful performance: very rarely did I feel that the sawdust of modern diction was trickling out of the beautiful fancy-dress doll. The movement, and in particular the way of repeating and heightening a word, like a theme in music, are unexampled, as far as I know, in any contemporary performance. When it comes to the thought or the morality, just because it is somewhat genuine and modern, there is less nobility: a woman who was really in love and gave herself too freely to a lover who, liking her well enough at first, got tired of her in the end. The case demands repentance and sublimation, both of which Miss Millay avoids, in her evidently pragmatic philosophy. But without sublimation or repentance the feeling could not rise to the level of the versification. It is like very good Latin versification, such as is still occasionally produced by the well-educated.

I am at work on The Last Puritan and often wish I could show you a passage and ask you if it seems to you true to the life—to the inner life especially—of our old-fashioned friends.

I agree that the last years of life are the best, if one is a philosopher.

Yours sincerely


From The Letters of George Santayana:  Book Four, 1928–1932.  Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2003.
Location of manuscript: Butler Library, Columbia University, New York NY.

To John Hall Wheelock
C/o Brown Shipley & Co. 123, Pall Mall, London, S.W.1
Venice. June 9, 1935

It is a great satisfaction to hear that The Last Puritan recommends itself to you. One of my friends—himself rather a puritan—who saw a part of it, thought it ought to be burned; and I am still afraid that some sides of it may give offence in certain quarters. However, you are a better judge of that than I; and in any case, a small scandal, if it arose, might help the book to retain people’s attention. I think this—to retain people’s attention—is more important and more appropriate in the case of my books than either a large immediate sale or unmixed approval. I have never expected everybody to sympathise or to buy. I am satisfied if a few people continue to do both.

As to the form and price of the American edition, my feeling—which it is very kind of you to take into consideration—inclines towards one volume rather than two and to the lowest possible cost. I am very glad you think it possible to offer so long a book for $2.50; and ten percent for my royalty will amply satisfy me. If I am not wrong, you have spontaneously increased my royalty in books that still sell after a good many years, and Constable & Co, in their contract for The Last Puritan have offered me twenty-percent for any sales exceeding 5000. If this book should have any such success—and it is just possible—perhaps it would be fair that you should make a similar concession; but it is not a matter of importance to me personally; I sha’n’t be alive to profit by it, and have no heirs.

From The Letters of George Santayana:  Book Five, 1933–1936.  Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2003.
Location of manuscript: Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University Libraries, Princeton NY.

To Corliss Lamont
Via Santo Stefano Rotondo, 6
Rome. June 8, 1950

The argument from the simplicity of the transcendental ego is good, I think, but does not touch the “soul,” the psyche, or the person–and the crowning argument in the Phaedo about the number 3 being immortally odd (which you don’t dwell on in your summary of the arguments there) is also good but tautological: Socrates conceived as existing can never be (conceived as) dead; but it has nothing to do with time. This play between time and eternity in the more intelligent discussions of the subject has always interested and exasperated me. You have noticed, I see, what I think about Dante’s people in Purgatory and Paradise (in Hell they are more repetitions or continuations of their life on earth) that they are only the truth or the lesson of their existence in time, and evidently will never do anything or learn anything new. They are living monuments to themselves. But Dante could never have acknowledged that this is all that salvation can be, or union with God, who is non-temporal, because a material “other life” is required by the Jewish-Christian doctrine of the resurrection of the flesh.

Has the belief in heaven been more often a longing not to live, than to live forever? I almost think so. And you know the verses of St. Theresa and St. John of the Cross: “Muero porque no muero”.

From The Letters of George Santayana:  Book Eight, 1948–1952.  Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2008.
Location of manuscript: Unknown.