Tracks in the Snow: Studies in English Science and Art

Tracks in the Snow: Studies in English Science and Art

Tracks in the Snow: Studies in English Science and Art

Tracks in the Snow: Studies in English Science and Art

Excerpt

'. . . THE principles of these sciences, and a taste for books of natural history contributed to multiply my ideas and images; and the anatomist and chemist may sometimes track me in their own snow.'

'Imagine two lines, two straight lines, one running through Isaac Newton, Hunter, Monboddo, and [Erasmus] Darwin, the other through William Law and the mystics. Between them the wavy line of romantic sensibility. The three lines intersect in a few great men.'

With these two quotations as my text I propose to embark on a short voyage of discovery. When we look back at the thick and seemingly matted forest of English literature through which we have already passed, bewildered by the medley of trees our eyes are inclined to focus only on the main track, well beaten by the regular passage of the professorial chariot-wheels. If, by some odd chance, our eyes should wander towards some half- hidden and overgrown or tangled pathway, it is in search of an obscure or underrated author of poetry or literary prose that they do so and seldom to seek out the writer whose interests and works are primarily unconcerned with literary or aesthetic considerations. Generally, it can be said that we lack a proper curiosity about such a writer's influence when his small path comes up against the major way.

In the following notes, which connect almost enough quotations to make a small anthology, I hope to give some indication of the manner in which the work of the scientists of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries impacted upon those who followed them and whose interests were more purely aesthetic.

If many of my examples are taken from the works of Christopher Smart, William Blake and John Clare, that . . .

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