elisa_rolle (elisa_rolle) wrote,

George Santayana (December 16, 1863 - September 26, 1952)

Remembered now chiefly as an American philosopher from the age of William James and Josiah Royce, George Santayana was a poet, novelist, and literary critic, as well as a speculative thinker. Although late in fully understanding his sexual preference, he wrote a series of sonnets celebrating his love for a friend who died young and described his male friendships in rhapsodic terms in his autobiography. Santayana's place in the gay literary tradition derives perhaps less directly from his writings (though the subtle homoeroticism of The Last Puritan is a significant contribution) than from the impact of antigay bigotry on his professional life at Harvard. Although regarded as brilliant by his peers (including William James), Santayana's status as a bachelor met with the university administration's clear disapproval. By his own account, Santayana did not really understand his own sexual preference until fairly late in life. During a 1929 conversation about A. E. Housman, a favorite poet, Santayana told his secretary Daniel Cory that Housman "was really what people nowadays call 'homosexual'; the sentiment of his poems is unmistakable." Santayana then added: "I think I must have been that way in my Harvard days, though I was unconscious of it at the time." One finds Santayana's clearest homophile expression in a set of four elegiac sonnets for Warwick Potter, a young man Santayana called his "last real friend," who died of cholera following a boating accident in 1893. The sequence, "To W.P." (1894) inevitably recalls Milton's "Lycidas," though Santayana's poem is much less an exercise in literary and mythological allusion than Milton's.

Timeline & Places:

• December 16, 1863: born.

• 1870s: attended Boston Latin School, 78 Avenue Louis Pasteur, Boston, MA 02115, Stati Uniti

• 1870s: attended Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, Stati Uniti

• 1896 to 1897: attended University Of Cambridge, Cambridge CB2, Regno Unito

• September 26, 1952: died. Buried at Campo Verano, Piazzale del Verano, 1, 00185 Roma RM, Italia


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