A Philosophical Novelist: George Santayana and the Last by Associate Professor H. T. Kirby-Smith A.B. M.A.

By Associate Professor H. T. Kirby-Smith A.B. M.A.

H. T. Kirby-Smith makes use of Santayana’s 1936 novel, The final Puritan, as either an get together and a method for bringing into concentration the complicated family among Santayana’s existence, his character, and his philosophy. beginning with an account of Santayana’s quite a few literary types and arguing for the importance of Santayana’s writing of philosophy as literature, Kirby-Smith notes that Santayana observed the rational existence as a continuous adjustment and lodging of contradictory claims. And he observed a literary variety as an lodging of the writer to the reader.Chapters 2 via five give you the philosophical history for a attention of The final Puritan, summarizing precisely how Santayana assimilated different philosophies into his own.Chapters 6 and seven include Santayana’s three-volume autobiography, his letters and memoirs, and biographical reports by way of others right into a mental portrait of the writer. All of this is often in education for chapters eight and nine, which specialize in The final Puritan. Kirby-Smith closes with a bankruptcy that serves as a criminal short in protection of the writer opposed to the tough, occasionally malicious assaults of his critics.

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As he approaches the end of the introduction, Singer touches on a quality in Santayana that some have found unattractive: The ludicrous, and even grotesque, traits of these characters intrigue us because we see them from the Olympian vantage of Santayana's satire and burlesque. His epigrammatic insights encourage us to feel that we too can share his great amusement in observing, at a comfortable distance, the foibles and stupidities of other people. In giving us access to this display, which is not always pleasant to watch, Santayana may often seem cruel and possibly malicious.

In his middle years, he swung from the vigorous expository criticism of Three Philosophical Poets to the Hazlitt/Lamb manner of the informal essays in Solioquies in England and then back to the spirited excoriation of philosophical idealism in Egotism in German Philosophy. It is true that throughout these stylistic shiftings of fieldsome would say, tergiversationsthere is always evident an abiding gift for the gracefully turned figure of speech, for the deliciously suspended sentence. But there is definitely a shift in tone from one work to the otherand sometimes in genre as well, as in Dialogues in Limbo (which, though interesting, are like conversations counterfeited by a none-too-competent ventriloquist).

It has been customary, partly because of the drama surrounding its publication and partly because of its success, to refer to the first volume of Santayana's autobiography as Persons and Places, which was subtitled The Background of My Life. The second and third installments of the autobiography are generally known by their separate titles, The Middle Span and My Host the World, although Scribner's chose to refer to them as volumes 2 and 3 of Persons and Places. In the rare instance when I cite the newer, one-volume edition of the autobiography, Persons and Places (1986), I give the date in parentheses to distinguish it from the original first volume published in 1944.

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