The Last Puritan
A Memoir in the Form of a Novel
Publication Date: August 1995
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Published in 1935, George Santayana's The Last Puritan was the American philosopher's only novel. It became an instant best-seller, immediately linked in its painful voyage of self discovery to The Education of Henry Adams. It is essentially a novel of ideas, expressed in the birth, life, and early death of Oliver Alden.The Last Puritan is volume four in a new critical edition of The Works of George Santayana that restores Santayana's original text and provides important new scholarly information. Books in this series - the first complete publication of Santayana's works - include an editorial apparatus with notes to the text (identifying persons, places, and ideas), textual commentary (including a description of the composition and publication history, along with a discussion of editorial methods and decisions), discussions of adopted readings, lists of variants and emendations, and line-end hyphenations.
Irving Singer's new introduction to this edition takes up Santayana's philosophical and artistic concerns, including issues of homosexuality raised by the depiction of the novel's two protagonists, Oliver and Mario, and of the relationship between Oliver and the rogue character Jim Darnley. In his thoughtful analysis Singer finds the term "homosexual novel" too reductionist and imprecise for what Santayana is trying to achieve. Singer brings to light the author's skillful and inventive methods for perceiving and interpreting reality, including ideal forms of friendship, and his success in exploring the pervasive moral problems that people face throughout their existence.
Herman J. Saatkamp, Jr., is Head of the Department of Philosophy and Humanities at Texas A&M University.