ON PRINCIPLE it would seem futile as well as egotistical for an author to explain himself and tell the public what they ought to think of him. He has once for all surrendered his work to their jurisdiction, and even surrendered his own person and private history, which they are now at liberty, if they choose, to make an object of investigation or conjecture: and he cannot be sure, when he thinks their praise or censure to be ill grounded, that after all they may not be right: for who is man, especially histrionic rhetorical man, to see the truth of his own doings?
Nevertheless, in respect to The Last Puritan I have been asked for explanations; and in the Prologue and Epilogue I have already given the critics some hints: rashly, perhaps, since sometimes they have taken advantage of my frankness to exaggerate my limitations. For instance, when I say that my characters all speak my language and are in some sense masks for my own spirit, that is no reason for assuming without examination that they must be a philosopher's puppets and not "living." On the contrary, if these characters are expressions of actual experience, and only dressed, like an actor on the stage, for their several parts, they ought to be all the more profoundly alive, being impersonations of the soul and not sketches taken by a social tourist. When a man has lived as long as I have with his characters--forty-five years--they seem to him to speak and act of their own free will, and without prompting. No doubt this only happens because they are parts of himself; yet these parts were originally contrasted and spontaneous potentialities within him, and by no means vehicles for his own later conventional personality or approved thoughts. If the book
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Publication information: Book title: Essays in Literary Criticism of George Santayana. Contributors: Irving Singer - Editor, George Santayana - Author. Publisher: Charles Scribner's Sons. Place of publication: New York. Publication year: 1956. Page number: 246.
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