[Ads-l] Quote: Life is not a spectacle or a feast; it is a predicament (Attributed to George Santayana)

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Sun Jun 27 22:24:56 EDT 2021

An inquiry about the saying in the subject line was sent to me
recently. Now there is a Quote Investigator article available here:


I was unable to find an exact match within the writings and speeches
of George Santayana. The closest match I found occurred within a
lecture titled “The Unknowable” which Santayana delivered at Oxford
University in 1923.

The keywords "feast" and "predicament" were present in the passage
below, and the word "entertainment" provided an inexact match for

[ref] 1923, The Unknowable: The Herbert Spencer Lecture, Delivered at
Oxford, 24 October 1923 by George Santayana (Formerly Professor of
Philosophy in Harvard University), Quote Page 10, Oxford University
Press, London. (Google Books Full View) link [/ref]


[Begin excerpt]
Poets and philosophers sometimes talk as if life were an
entertainment, a feast of ordered sensations; but the poets, if not
the philosophers, know too well in their hearts that life is no such
thing; it is a predicament. We are caught in it; it is something
compulsory, urgent, dangerous, and tempting. We are surrounded by
enormous, mysterious, only half-friendly forces.
[End excerpt]

Conjecture: The saying under examination was constructed as a
paraphrase of the statement above by an unknown person. The saying was
subsequently reassigned directly to Santayana. This is a known
misquotation mechanism.

Feedback welcome,

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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