12-16-1863

George Santayana

GEORGE SANTAYANA, Spanish novelist, born (d: 1952);  A philosopher, essayist, poet and novelist and a lifelong Spanish citizen, Santayana was raised and educated in the United States, wrote in English and is generally considered an American man of letters, even though, of his nearly 89 years, he spent only 39 in the U.S. He is perhaps best known as an aphorist, and for the oft-misquoted remark, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” from Reason in Common Sense, the first volume of his The Life of Reason.

It is frequently said that Santayana’s The Last Puritan is the best novel ever written by a philosopher. It is also one of the saddest novels in literature for it relates the story of a painfully unrequited love that was Santayana’s own.

The Harvard philosopher spent almost his entire life in love with an unresponsive heterosexual who, at times, couldn’t even remember his name. And it is this lifelong love — for Bertrand Russell’s brother Frank — that is reflected in The Last Puritan. What a beauty Santayana was! What a sad story!