In this book I have tried to give an account of a wide range of experiments carded out since the end of the last century on the reactions of persons of all types and ages to objects commonly called "beautiful", including pictures, music, poems and the more elementary units of colours, shapes, musical harmonies and so forth.
A critical examination has followed, of conclusions drawn by the authors of the experiments, or suggested by myself; and here I have often brought in discussions not only by psychologists or philosophers, but by expert critics of any of the three arts.
In particular I have tried to show how individual psychological differences between individuals may help to account for different "taste" in judging pictures, music and poems, including highly modern examples. I am confident that only by reference to such individual psychological differences can many of the differences in "taste" be explained.
Due attention has been paid to the findings of statistical psychologists, but I have managed I hope to make these comprehensible to the general reader. Statistical summaries make an important contribution to modern aesthetics; but my own chief interest has been the study of the amazing variety of individual responses.
A small book, with the same title as this one was written by me as early as 1913, and was published in Jack "Peoples' Books". It had a wide sale in the British Isles and in the U.S.A. and an enlarged edition appeared in 1919 (with the co-operation of T. Nelson and Sons), but the book has now been out of print for several years and the copyright returned to me. I have included much of the earlier book in the present volume, but with much revision and with far more material surveyed. This present book is in fact a new one and not a new edition.
It is rather remarkable that since the publication of my earlier book, no book has been published on the same general topic either