Art and Scientific Thought: Historical Studies Towards a Modern Revision of Their Antagonism

By Martin Johnson | Go to book overview

Foreword by Walter de la Mare

My only excuse for attempting to say a few words concerning this book is an intense interest in its contents. But this alone might certainly not have persuaded me against my better judgment if Dr. Martin Johnson had not wished me to do so, although he was well aware of the inadequacy of his envoy. There is not a shred of modesty in this confession. How could there be?--since the most unusual and arresting feature of the studies that follow is their range, their substance and authority, their insight and sensibility, and their method. Even more unusual is the angle, the standpoint, of their survey--that of a man of science who is also a devotee of music, painting, and poetry. Once upon a time a dainty dish, in the shape of a pie, was set before a king. It contained twenty-four heart-entrancing black- birds.1 Hardly less rare must be a book written in the service of so many of the Muses, a treatise vitally and richly concerned with so many of the arts and their science; and, above all, with what may be called an aesthetic contemplation of Science itself. In only one direction here can I profess to be more than a dilettante--a term however, which (as with amateur in its relation to love) need not exclude a genuine delight.

Dr. Martin Johnson mentions the many talks we have had together, most of them before any of these chapters had first appeared in print. They ranged in every direction; poetry being my centre, my headquarters, so to speak; the complete ambit of science his. Cardinal Newman once remarked that any fool can ask unanswerable questions; Dr. Samuel Johnson, that a gentleman refrains. What matter? We are as God made us; and friends don't mind. He became my most indulgent 'Enquire Within', undistressed by his friend's lifelong habit not only of indiscriminate interrogation but of insisting on arguing in relation to what that friend knew practically nothing about. How many times, I wonder, did I attempt to compel him to concede that no Universe--of any dimensions--can be of much account without a comprehensive consciousness capable of the completest appreciation of it in

____________________
1
And this by no means inappropriately reminds me of another pie which was served up to an actual king--Charles I--by the Duke of Buckingham. The removal of its crust revealed Jeffery Hudson, precisely eighteen inches high. There are statures in intellect.

-5-

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