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The Last Puritan: A Memoir in the Form of a Novel Paperback – August 4, 1995

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About the Author

William G. Holzberger is Professor of English Emeritus at Bucknell University.

Herman J. Saatkamp, Jr., is Head of the Department of Philosophy and Humanities at Texas A&M University.

George Santayana (1863--1952) was a philosopher, poet, critic, and novelist. He is the author of The Last Puritan (MIT Press) and many other works.

Irving Singer was Professor of Philosophy at MIT. He was the author of the trilogies The Nature of Love and Meaning in Life, P hilosophy of Love: A Partial Summing-Up, Mozart and Beethoven: The Concept of Love in Their Operas, all published by the MIT Press, and many other books.

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Product Details

  • Series: The Works of George Santayana
  • Paperback: 672 pages
  • Publisher: A Bradford Book (August 4, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262691787
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262691789
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,741,152 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

50 of 50 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 13, 1998
Format: Paperback
One of the finest books of the 20th century, The Last Puritan was a sensation when published in the 1930's. It tells the triumph and tragedy of Oliver Alden, a youth born into a strict, "Progressive" Unitarian family in late 19th Century Boston. As his life progesses, he struggles to reconcile the harsh idealism in which he was raised with the beautifully chaotic nature of the real world. This conflict gives Santayana the ability to discuss God, love, morality, politics and the permanence of human nature all without ever losing sight of one man's heroic and tragic attempt to find his place in a world not meant for him. The Last Puritan remains the only book that has ever driven me to tears, and the only novel that has ever truly changed my life. If you've ever counted yourself a "lost soul" in the world, this book will hit home like nothing you've ever read.
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30 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Jane Wilson on March 18, 2004
Format: Paperback
Our hero has everything - intelligence, beauty, wealth, education, wisdom, steadfastness, imagination, an athlete's grace and strength - but somehow that is not enough and this is the story of his unfolding consciousness and gradual recognition of fatal spiritual strengths and weaknesses. This sounds very dull, but one is wonderfully swept along from an overprotected childhood in New England, to his father's yacht and to English student life at Oxford. Oliver cannot be called a wit, a social lion or a womanizer; but he admires those who are, and two of his close friends are merry, sophisticated men of the world. A thoughtful, well-endowed young man with time on his hands, he seeks the meaning of life from a certain distance, and we explore this theme with him from many fascinating angles. He does suffer. His father considers him weak and indecisive and his mother thinks him heartless and inconsiderate; he fights to gain his independence from them both and succeeds. He despairs and agonizes over his course of action, scrutinizes his motives for hypocrisy, dishonesty and self-delusion. Aesthetic beauty, ethics, the spiritual life and poetry are centrally recurring themes. Love also is explored. Our poor hero who has everything turns out to be the most awkward, ungainly, pathetic wooer imaginable. But Oliver is worth it all, and you emerge heartened and profoundly enriched by having known him and survived the various turns of his exacting life.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Stephen Orlon on June 5, 2000
Format: Paperback
This is the finest coming of age novel in the known and unknown universe. It has everything..philosophy, memoirs of a world gone by, lots of quirkiness, and a great sense of heart. The best thing of to have a copy of the 1936 edition. The yellowed pages of the edition are a perfect touch for a book written about time gone by.GREAT
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12 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Mary E. Sibley VINE VOICE on November 10, 2003
Format: Paperback
THE LAST PURITAN is a sort of education of Oliver Alden. The atmosphere of the work is that of a Henry James novel. Initially the chief subject is Nathaniel Alden. Unitarianism has replaced prayers at breakfast with wholesome food. The book is cool and funny. Nathaniel Alden is an awful snob and is supernaturally quiet and unengaged. He has vowed to abstain from carriage travel and so must walk. He lives in Boston in the Back Bay.

His younger brother Peter is being sent to camp in the west prior to beginning preparation for Harvard at Exeter. The camp life in Wyoming is to Peter a godsend after living under the dictates of Nathaniel. Genuine cowboys would sometimes ride into the camp. Peter grows up to attend Harvard and to acquire a medical degree. He never practices medicine. His son Oliver is born. His wife is from Great Falls, Connecticut. Oliver manages to escape almost all the ills of childhood. He has a foreign governess, a German woman.

While boating with his father, Oliver is given THE LEAVES OF GRASSS to read. Oliver and his father visit an old kinsman, Caleb Wetherbee. During the winter Caleb resides on Mount Vernon Street on Beacon Hill. He is a cripple and has adopted the Catholic religion and has become highly knowledgeable about European matters. He invites Oliver to to participate in his Sunday evening parties when Oliver attends Harvard. Observers find Caleb's deep religious interests to be a clear case of sublimation.

Olivers's mother is apt to take no notice of genius or style, she is concerned with social propriety. Oliver, invited by his father to spend a year abroad, makes a decision to stay at his day school in Connecticut and live with his mother for the final year before college.
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