Acknowledgments
It
occurs to me that writing acknowledgments is not really about
putting paid to a debt. Signs of gratitude don't discharge obliga-
tions, but instead model them as dischargeable-which doesn't seem
very likely to be true. Rather too like the act of writing the book
to which they are prefixed, these acknowledgments make me hope-
lessly aware of how much will be left unsaid, how poorly the little
that does get said represents the personal and intellectual terrain of
obligation.
But here goes, anyway. A book as long in the making as this one
has accrued a sedimentary history-which in turn means many succes-
sive layers of indebtedness to be worked through, brought to light,
made evidentiary to a kind of historicist consciousness that is, I guess,
not very far from the thematic interests of this book. Graduate school,
for instance: although little of New Science, New World resembles the
long-ago dissertation on Bacon he directed, John Bender has pride of
place for his early enthusiasm about the possibility of conjoining my
physics past with my literature-based present. I am also indebted to
the friends from those days, Thomas Moser Jr., Deborah Laycock, and
Deidre Lynch, and to the Whiting Foundation, for the award through
Stanford University of a Whiting Dissertation fellowship in 1984-
1985, which greatly aided my initial researches.
Subsequent ties to people and institutions-George Mason Uni-
versity, the Folger and Huntington Libraries, Wesleyan University, and
elsewhere-have sustained me in many ways both concrete and intan-
gible. On the first count: The former chair of the English department,
Johannes Bergmann, arranged unexpected and generous institutional
support at a critical moment. I am grateful to the Folger Library for a
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