H. T. Kirby-Smith uses Santayana’s 1936 novel, The Last Puritan, as both an occasion and a means for bringing into focus the complex relations between Santayana’s life, his personality, and his philosophy. Opening with an account of Santayana’s various literary styles and arguing for the significance of Santayana’s writing of philosophy as literature, Kirby-Smith notes that Santayana saw the rational life as a continual adjustment and accommodation of contradictory claims. And he saw a literary style as an accommodation of the author to the reader.
Chapters 2 through 5 provide the philosophical background for a consideration of The Last Puritan, summarizing exactly how Santayana assimilated other philosophies into his own.
Chapters 6 and 7 incorporate Santayana’s three-volume autobiography, his letters and memoirs, and biographical studies by others into a psychological portrait of the author. All of this is in preparation for chapters 8 and 9, which focus on The Last Puritan. Kirby-Smith closes with a chapter that serves as a legal brief in defense of the author against the harsh, sometimes malicious attacks of his critics.