Life of Sir Thomas Browne. Preface to the Posthumous Works of the Learned Sir Thomas Browne, Kt. M.D., Late of Norwich...To which is prefix'd his LIFE (1712); pp. i-xl
Sir Thomas Browne, Kt.
Homas Browne, eldest Son of Thomas Browne, Merchant, a Gentleman of a very good Family in Cheshire, was Born in St. Michael's Cheap, or in the Parish of St. Michael in Cheapside, London, on the 19th of October, Anno 1605. His Father dying while he was very Young, left him a plentiful Fortune, his Mother took her thirds, which was Three Thousand Pounds, and some Time after Married Sir Thomas Dutton, a worthy Person, who held several considerable Places in the Kingdom of Ireland; by which Means he was wholly left to the Care of his Guardians, who sent him to be Educated in Grammar Learning, in Wykeham's School, near Winchester; he was entred a Commoner of Broadgates-Hall (soon after, known by the Name of Pembroke College) in the Beginning of the Year 1623, took the degrees in Arts, as a Member of the said College; enter'd on the Physic Line, and Practis'd that Faculty for some Time in Oxfordshire.
He took the Opportunity of seeing Ireland, by accompanying his Father-in-law in a Visitation of the Forts and Castles of that Kingdom; afterwards he travell'd beyond the Seas, liv'd sometime at Montpelier and Padua, was made Doctor of Physic at Leyden, and at his Return was Incorporated a Member of the University of Oxford, Ann. 1637, about which Time, by the Persuasions of Sir Nicholas Bacon of Gillingham, Sir Justinian Lewyn, and Sir Charles Le Gros of Crostwick, he retir'd to the City of Norwich, where being settled, he was much resorted to for his admirable Skill in Physic, which he practis'd with great Success.
In the Year 1642, he publish'd that admirable Treatise, intituled, Religio Medici, 8o, which he was forced to, by reason of a spurious Copy, handed to the Press, as himelf informs us in the Preface to that Work. Had not (says he) almost every Man suffer'd by the Press, or were not the Tyranny thereof become Universal, I had not wanted Reason for Complaint: And truly had not the Duty I owe to the Importunity of Friends, and the Allegiance I must ever acknowledge unto Truth, prevailed with me; the Inactivity of my Disposition might have made these sufferings continual, and Time that brings other Things to Light, should have satisfied me in the Remedy of its Oblivion. But because Things evidently false, are not only printed, but many Things of Truth most falsly set forth; in this latter I could not but think my self engaged; for though we have no Power to redress the former, yet in the other, Reparation being within ourselves, I have at present represented unto the World a full and intended Copy of that Piece, which was most imperfectly, and surreptitiously published before.
In the Year 1645, came out an Answer to it under the following Title; Medicus Medicatus: Or, the Physician's Religion Cured, by a Lenitive or Gentle Potion, &c. 12o, By Alexander Ross, whose Name alone sufficiently evinces that his Book was not worthy of the least Notice.
About the same Time was printed an Edition of the Religio Medici, with Observations by Sir Kenelm Digby, (written at the Desire of the Right Honourable Edward, Earl of Dorset) and Annotations upon all the Obscure Passages therein, by an unknown Hand:1 About this Time also, Mr. John Merryweather, of Magdalen College, Cambridge, made an Elegant Translation of it into Latin.2
The next Piece our Author Publish'd was Pseudodoxia Epidemica: Enquiries into very many receiv'd Tenets, and commonly presum'd Truths; or Enquiries into common and vulgar Errors. Fol. 1646. This Work met with a general Reception.
Mr. Merryweather returning from his Travels in France and Holland, Anno 1649, went to Norwich to acquaint the Doctor with the different Sentiments entertain'd Abroad of the Religio Medici; but He being at that Time from Home, Mr. Merryweather left a Book with a Friend, to be presented him the first Opportunity, and shortly after writ the following Letter from Cambridge.
TO know and be acquainted with you, though no otherwise than by your Ingenious and Learned Writings, which now a good Part of Christendom is, were no contemptible Degree of Happiness: The Fool-hardy Enterprize of translating your Book might seem to give me some small Title to a further Pretence; but it is my great Unhappiness, that as small as this is, I have forfeited it already upon several Scores. I undertook a Design, which I knew I could not manage without certain Disadvantage and Injury to the Author; and after, though I saw the Issue no happier than I expected, yet I could not be content to conceal or burn it, but must needs obtrude to the large World, in Beggarly and Disfigured Habit, that which you sent out in so Quaint and Polisht a Dress. Besides, I might have acquainted you with it sooner, presented you with a Copy, begged Pardon sooner for these Miscarriages, which now I may justly fear is too late.
THE Truth of it is, Sir, I have some real Pleas and Jusifications for most of these Crimes; and have with Impatience, waited for some Opportunity to have represented them by Word of Mouth, rather than writing; which I hoped to have had the Happiness to have done when I was lately at Norwich, as my Honoured Friend, Mr. Preston of Beeston, will assure you, whom I desired, after we found not you in the Town, being unwilling to continue this Incivility any longer, to present you with a Copy at his first Opportunity, which I question not but by this Time you have received. Thus much, Sir, at the least I had done sooner, if I had not been hindred by a constant unwelcome Rumour, all the Time I was Abroad in the Low-Countries and France, (which was the Space of some Years after the Impression,) that you had left this Life: Upon what Ground the Report was raised I know not, but that it was so, many then with me, and some of them not unknown to your self, can witness.
WHEN I came at Paris, the next Year after, I found it Printed again, in which Edition both the Epistles were left out, and a Preface, by some Papist, put in their Place, in which making use of, and wresting some Passages in your Book, he endeavour'd to shew, that nothing but Custom and Education kept you from their Church.
SINCE my Return Home I see Hackius the Leyden Printer, hath made a new Impression, which furnished me afresh with some Copies, and whereof that which I left with Mr. Preston is one, as is easily observable by the Difference of the Pages, and the Omission of the Errata, which were noted in the first, though the Title Page be the same in both. These frequent Impressions shew the worth of the Book, which still finds Reception and Esteem Abroad, notwithstanding all that Diminution and Loss which it suffers by the Translation; which I am the willinger to observe, because it found some demurr in the first Impression at Leyden; and upon this Occasion: One Haye, a Book-Merchant there, to whom I first offered it, carried it to Salmasius for his Approbation, who, in State, first laid it by for very nigh a Quarter of a year, and then at last told him, that there were indeed in it many Things well said, but that it contained also many Exorbitant Conceptions in Religion, and would probably find but frowning Entertainment, especially amongst the Ministers, which deterred him from undertaking the Printing. After I showed it to Two more, de Vogel and Christian, both Printers; but they, upon Advice, returned it also; from these I went to Hackius, who, upon Two Days Deliberation, undertook it.
WORTHY Sir, You see how obstinately bent I was to divulge my own Shame and Impudence at your Expence; yet seeing this Confidence was built upon nothing else but the innate and essential Worth of the Book, which I perswaded my self would bear it up from all Adventitious Disadvantages, and seeing I have gained rather than failed in the Issue and Success of my Hopes, as it something qualifies the Scruples, which the Conscience of my own Rashness had in Cold Blood afterward raised, so I hope it will conduce to the easier obtaining Pardon and Indulgence from you for the Miscarriages in it. This, I am sure, I may with a clear Mind protest, and profess, that nothing so much moved me to the Enterprize as a high and due Esteem of the Book, and my Zeal to the Author's Merit, of whom I shall be ever ambitious to show my self an Admirer, and in all Things to give some Testimony that I am,
Your most Affectionate,
and most Devoted, Servant,
1652, ALEXANDER ROSS, finding that no Notice was taken of his Remarks on Religio Medici, he publish'd some other trifling Remarks upon the Pseudodoxia Epidemica, &c. under this Title, Arcana Microcosmi: Or, The hid Secrets of Man's Body discovered, &c. 8o, 1652.
The same Year Mr. Merryweather's Translation was Re-printed at Strasburgh, and had Latin Annotations put to it by a certain German, who subscrib'd himself, L. N. M. E. M. whose Preface tells us, that the Book it self, (which is Translated into French, Italian, Dutch, German, &c.) hath been much taken into the Hands of Curious and Learned Men, who have read it with great Delight.
1656, This Year produc'd another Antagonist against our Author, one John Robinson, M.D. who Publish'd a Tract, Intituled, Eudoxa,3 seu Quæstionum quarundum Miscellanearum examen probabile, &c. in 8o, and by a like kind of Dulness, render'd himself a fit Companion for Alexander Ross.
There was Publish'd Ann. 1657, under the name of our Author, a Book in 12o, bearing this Title, Nature's Cabinet unlock'd; wherein is discover'd the Natural Causes of Metals, Stones, Precious Earths, &c. in 12o, a dull, worthless Thing, stole for the most Part out of the Physics of Magirus, by a very Ignorant Person, a Plagiary so Ignorant and Unskilful in his Author, that not distinguishing between Lævis and Levis, in the said Magirus, hath told us of the Liver, that one Part of it is Gibbous, and the other Light: And yet he had the Confidence to call this Scribble Nature's Cabinet unlock'd, an Arrogant and Fanciful Title, of which our Author's true Humility would no more have suffer'd him to have been the Father, than his great Learning could have permitted him to have been the Author of the said Book.4 For it is certain, that as he was a Philosopher very inward with Nature, so was he one that never boasted his Acquaintance with her.5
About this Time came out the Third Edition of Pseudodoxia Epidemica, &c.
1658, This Year our Author publish'd, Hydriotaphia, Urne-burial: Or, A Discourse of the Sepulchral Urnes lately found in Norfolk. Together with the Garden of Cyrus, or the Quincuncial Lozenge, or Net-work Plantations of the Ancients, Artificially, Naturally, Mystically, considered. With Sundry Observations, 8vo, at the End of which Treatise he put the following Advertisement, as from the Stationer, viz. 'I cannot omit to advertise, that a Book was publish'd not long since, Entituled, Nature's Cabinet unlock'd, bearing the Name of this Author: If any Man have been benefited thereby, this Author is not so Ambitious as to challenge the Honour thereof, as having no Hand in that Work. To distinguish of True and Spurious Pieces was the Original Criticism; and some were so handsomely counterfeited, that the Entitled Authors needed not to disclaim them. But since it is so, that either he must write himself, or others will write for him, I know no other Prevention than to act his own Part with less Intermission of his Pen.'
Sir William Dugdale being at this Time upon compiling his Learned and Historical Work, Of Imbanking and Draining the Fenns and Marshes of this Kingdom, sent out Author several Letters,6 requesting his Assistance in many difficult Particulars relating thereunto.
He was not only consulted by the most Eminent Men at Home, but likewise by the most Learned Foreigners, viz. Gruter, Windet, Theodorus Jonas of Island, &c. who often writ to him for Solutions of very Critical and Abstruse Points of Literature; and his Answers to them always contain'd some very uncommon and curious Remarks; He was made Socius Honorarius of the College of Physicians in London, Ann. 1665, and at the latter End of September, 1671, had the Honour of Knighthood conferr'd upon him by his Majesty King Charles II. then at Norwich, with special Manifestations of more than ordinary Favour.7
1673,8 This Year was Printed the Sixth Edition of the Pseudodoxia, &c. which was enlarg'd by our Author, with many Explanations, Additions, &c. without taking the least Notice of either of his Antagonists,9 having freely declar'd his Mind with Relation to Controversie. We are not (says he) 10 Magisterial in Opinions, nor have we Dictator-like obtruded our Conceptions; but in the Humility of Enquiries, or Disquisitions, have only propos'd them unto more ocular Discerners. And therefore Opinions are free, and open it is for any to think or declare the contrary. And we shall so far encourage Contradiction, as to promise no Disturbance, or re-oppose any Pen that shall fallaciously or captiously refute us; that shall only lay hold of our Lapses, single out Digressions, Corollaries, or Ornamental Conceptions, to evidence his own in as indifferent Truths. And shall only take Notice of such, whose Experimental and Judicious Knowledge shall solemnly look upon it, not only to destroy of ours, but to establish of his own; not to traduce or extenuate, but to explain and dilucidate, to add and ampliate, according to the Laudable Custom of the Ancients in their Sober Promotions of Learning. Unto whom, notwithstanding we shall not contentiously rejoin, or only to justifie our own, but to applaud or confirm his maturer Assertions; and shall confer what is in us unto his Name and Honour, ready to be swallowed in any worthy Enlarger: As having acquir'd our End, if any Way, or under any Name, we may obtain a Work, so much desir'd, and yet desiderated of Truth.
Tho' Gentlemen of our Author's Profession are thought to have but little Religion, yet was this Learned and Worthy Physician a steadfast Member of that Church, whereof he had so Nobly express'd himself in his Writings. There is no Church, (says he,) whose every Part so squares unto my Conscience, whose Articles, Constitutions, and Customs, seem so Consonant unto Reason, and as it were fram'd to my particular Devotion, as this whereof I hold my Belief, the Church of England, to whose Faith I am a sworn Subject; and therefore in a double Obligation subscribe unto her Articles, and endeavour to observe her Constitutions; whatsoever is beyond, as Points indifferent, I observe according to the Rules of my private Reason, or the Humour and Fashion of my Devotion; neither believing this, because Luther affirm'd it, or disproving that, because Calvin hath disavouch'd it. I condemn not all Things in the Council of Trent, nor approve all in the Synod of Dort. In brief, where the Scripture is Silent the Church is my Text; where that speaks 'tis but my Comment: Where there is Joint Silence of both I borrow not the Rules of my Religion from Rome or Geneva, but the Dictates of my own Reason.11
He died at his House in Norwich on the 19th of October, (the Day of his Birth,) 1682, in the Seventy-seventh Year of his Age, and was buried in the Church of St. Peter's Mancroft, in Norwich, where upon a Mural Monument, fix'd to the South Pillar of the Altar, are these Inscriptions.
Hic situs est THOMAS BROWNE, M.D.
Ao 1605. Londini natus
Generosa Familia apud Upton
In agro Cestriensi oriundus.
Scholâ primum Wintoniensi, postea
In Coll. Pembr.
Apud Oxonienses bonis literis
Haud leviter imbutus.
In urbe hâc Nordovicensi medicinam
Arte egregia, & fælici successu professus,
Scriptis quibus tituli, RELIGIO MEDICI
Et PSEUDODOXIA EPIDEMICA alijsque
Per Orbem notissimus.
Vir Prudentissimus, Integerrimus, Doctissimus;
Obiit Octobr. 19, 1682.
Pie posuit mæstissima Conjux
Da Doroth. Br.
Near the Foot of this Pillar
Lies Sir Thomas Browne, Kt. and Doctor in Physick,
Author of Religio Medici, and other Learned Books
Who practis'd Physick in this City 46 Years,
And died Octr. 1682, in the 77 Year of his Age.
In Memory of whom
Dame Dorothy Browne, who had bin his Affectionate Wife
41 Years, caused this Monument to be Erected.
Opposite to this, upon the North Pillar, there is another Mural Monument, with an English Inscription, in Verse, upon his Lady.
To the Memory of the Lady
DOROTHY BROWNE of NORWICH,
In the County of NORFOLK.
She died Febr. 24. 1685.
In the Sixty-third Year of her Age.
Reader, thou mai'st believe this Pious Stone,
It is not common Dust thou tread'st upon;
'Tis hallow'd Earth, all that is left below,
Of what the World admir'd and honor'd too.
The Prison of a Bright Celestial Mind,
Too Spacious to be longer here confin'd;
Which after all that Virtue could inspire,
Or unaffected Piety require:
In all the Noblest Offices of Life,
Of Tenderest Benefactress, Mother, Wife,
To those Serene Abodes, above is flown,
To be adorn'd with an Immortal Crown.
Dr. Thomas Tenison, (now Archbishop of Canterbury,) publish'd from our Author's Manuscripts, Anno 1684,12 a small Octavo Volume, under this Title,
Certain Miscellany Tracts, written by Thomas Browne, Kt. and Doctor of Physick, late of Norwich.
I. Observations upon several Plants mention'd in Scripture.
II. Of Garlands, and Coronary, or Garland-Plants.
III. Of the Fishes eaten by our Saviour with his Disciples, after the Resurrection from the Dead.
IV. An Answer to certain Queries related to Fishes, Birds, and Insects.
V. Of Hawks and Falconry, Ancient and Modern.
VI. Of Cymbals, and other Musical Instrumnts.
VII. Of Ropalic, or Gradual Verses.
VIII. Of Languages, and particularly of the Saxon Tongue.
IX. Of Artificial Hills, Mounts, or Boroughs in many Parts of England: What they are, and to what end rais'd, and by what Nations.
X. Of Troas, what Place is meant by that Name. Also of the Situation of Sodom, Gomorrah, Zeboim, in the Dead-Sea.
XI. Of the Answers of the Oracle of Apollo at Delphos, to Croesus, King of Lydia.
XII. A Prophecy concerning the future State of several Nations; in a Letter written upon occasion of an Old Prophecy sent to the Author from a Friend, with a Request that he would consider it.
XIII. Musæum Clausum, or Bibliotheca Abscondita: Containing some remarkable Books, Antiquities, Pictures, and Rarities of several Kinds, scarce, or never seen by any Man now Living.
In the Year 1686 his Works were collected into a Folio Volume, together with the Tracts abovemention'd, and his Effigies prefix'd.
Some MINUTES for the Life of SirTHOMAS BROWNE, by John Whitefoot, M.A. late Rector of Heigham, in NORFOLK.
Had my Province been only to preach a Funeral Sermon for this Excellent Person, I might perhaps have been allow'd upon such a singular Occasion to have chosen my Text out of a Book, which though it be not approv'd to be Canonical, yet is not permitted only, but order'd to be read pubickly in our Church, and for the eminent Wisdom of the contents, well deserving that Honour, I mean that of Syracides, or Jesus, the Son of Syrach commonly call'd Ecclesiasticus, which in the 38th Chapter, and the First Verse, hath these Words, Honour a Physician with the Honour due unto him; for the Use which you may have of him, for the Lord hath created him; for of the most High cometh Healing, and he shall receive Honour of the King? (as ours did that of Knighthood from the present King, when he was in this City,) The Skill of the Physician shall lift up his Head, and in the Sight of Great Men shall be in Admiration; so was this Worthy Person by the Greatest Men of this Nation that ever came into this Country, by whom also he was frequently and personally visited.
But a further Account of his extraordinary Merits, whereby he obtain'd so great a Degree of Honour from all that knew him, remains to be given in the History of his Life: And had that been written by himself, as hath been done by many Eminent Persons both Ancient and Modern, Hebrews, Greeks, Latins, and others,13 it would not only have gratified, but oblig'd, the World beyond what is possible to be done by any other Hand, much more by that, into which (upon divers particular Obligations) that Task is fallen: For what Man knows the things of a Man, save the Spirit of a Man, which is in him.14 And though that must needs know more of any Man, than can be known by others, yet may it be, and generally is, (being blinded with that Original Sin of Self-Love,) very defective in the Habit and Practice of that Original Precept, that is said to have come down from Heaven, gnw=qe se/auton, Know thy self: Two Things there are in Nature, which are the greatest Impediments of Sight, viz. Nearness, and Distance of the Object, but of the Two, Distance is the greater; in ordinary Cases every Man is too near himself, others are too far distant from him, to observe his Imperfections; some are greater Strangers to themselves, than they are to their Neighbours; this Worthy Person had as complete an Intelligence of himself as any other Man, and much more perfect than most others have, being a singular Observer of every Thing that belong'd to himself, from the Time that he became capable of such Observation, whereof he hath given several remarkable Instances in his Religio Medici, of which I shall have Occasion to speak more hereafter.
I ever esteemed it a special Favour of Divine Providence to have had a more particular Acquaintance with this Excellent Person, for Two Thirds of his Life, than any other Man, that is now left alive; but that which renders me a willing Debtor to his Name, and Family, is the special Obligations of Favour that I had from him, above most Men.
Two and Thirty Years, or thereabouts, of his Life, was spent before I had any Knowledge of him, whereof I can give no other Account than I received from his Relations; by whom I am informed, that he was Born in the Year 1605, in the City of London.
For a Character of his Person, his Complexion and Hair was answerable to his Name, his Stature was moderate, and Habit of Body was neither fat nor lean, but e)usa/rkoj.
In his Habit of Cloathing, he had an Aversion to all Finery, and affected Plainness, both in the Fashion and Ornaments. He ever wore a Cloak, or Boots, when few others did. He kept himself always very warm, and thought it most safe so to do, though he never loaded himself with such a multitude of Garmnts, as Suetonius reports of Augustus, enough to cloath a good Family.
The Horizon of his Understanding was much larger than the Hemisphere of the World: All that was visible in the Heavens he comprehended so well, that few that are under them knew so much: He could tell the number of the visible Stars in his Horizon, and call them all by their Names that had any; and of the Earth he had such a minute and exact Geographical Knowledge, as if he had been by Divine Providence ordained Surveyor-General of the whole Terrestrial Orb, and its Products, Minerals, Plans, and Animals. He was so curious a Botanist, that besides the specifical Distinctions, he made nice and elaborate Observations, equally useful as entertaining.
His Memory, tho' not so Eminent as that of Seneca, or Scaliger, was Capacious and Tenacious, insomuch as he remembred all that was Remarkable in any Book that he had read; and not only knew all Persons again that he had ever seen at any distance of time, but remembred the Circumstances of their Bodies, and their particular Discourses and Speeches.
In the Latin poets he remembred every Thing that was Acute and Pungent; he had read most of the Historians, Antient and Modern, wherein his Observations were singular, not taken Notice of by Common Readers; He was Excellent Company when he was at leisure, and express'd more Light than Heat in the Temper of his Brain.
He had no Despotical Power over his Affections and Passions, (That was a Privilege of Original Perfection, forfeited by the Neglect of the Use of it,) but as large a Political Power over them, as any Stoick, or Man of his Time, whereof he gave so great Experiment, that he hath very rarely been known to have been overcome with any of them. The strongest that were found in him, both of the Irascible and Concupiscible, were under the Controul of his Reason. Of Admiration, which is one of them, being the only Product, either of Ignorance, or uncommon Knowledge, he had more, and less, than other Men, upon the same Account of his knowing more than others; so that tho' he met with many Rarities, he admired them not so much as others do.
He was never seen to be transported with Mirth, or dejected with Sadness; always Chearful, but rarely Merry, at any sensible Rate, seldom heard to break a Jest; and when he did, he would be apt to blush at the Levity of it: His Gravity was Natural and without Affectation.
His Modesty was visible in a Natural Habitual Blush, which was increased upon the least Occasion, and oft discover'd without any observable Cause.
They that knew no more of him than by the Briskness of his Writings, found themselves deceived in their Expectation, when they came in his Company, noting the Gravity and Sobriety of his Aspect and Conservation; so free from Loquacity, or much Talkativeness, that he was something difficult to be engaged in any Discourse; though when he was so, it was always Singular, and never Trite or Vulgar. Parsimonious in nothing but his Time, whereof he made as much Improvement, with as little Loss as any Man in it; when he had any to spare from his drudging Practice, he was scarce patient of any Diversion from his Study; so impatient of Sloth and Idleness, that he would say, he could not do nothing.
In his Papers left behind him, which were many, nothing was found that was Vulgar, but all savouring of much Ingenuity, and Curiosity, some of them designed for the Press, were often Transcribed, and Corrected by his own Hand, after the Fashion of Great and Curious Wits.
He had Ten Children by his Surviving only wife,15 a Lady of such a Symetrical Proportion to her Worthy Husband, both in the Graces of her Body and Mind, that they seemed to come together by a kind of Natural Magnetism.
Four of his Children survived, a Son and Three Daughters, all of them remarkably Partakers of his Ingenuity and Vertues; who were Left behind to propagate that eu)fu=ia, that excell'd in his Person. Tho' Health, Grace, and Happiness, are no Hereditary Portions, yet Good Nature generally is.
His surviving Son,16 was his eldest Child, a Person of Eminent Reputation in the City of London; and hath seen the best Part of Europe, France, Italy, Lower and High Germany, Croatia, and Greece, as far as Larissa, has been in four of the greatest Princes Courts that border upon the Mediterranean, viz. that of the EMPEROR, that of FRANCE, the POPE, and the GRAND SIGNIOR.
Sir Thomas understood most of the European Languages, viz. all that are in Hutter's Bible, which he made Use of. The Latin and Greek he understood Critically; the Oriental Languages, which never were vernacular in this Part of the World, he thought the Use of them would not answer the Time and Pains of learning them, yet had so great a Veneration for the Matrix of them, viz. the Hebrew, Consecrated to the Oracles of God, that he was not content to be totally ignorant of it; tho' very little of his Science is to be found in any Books of that Primitive Language. And tho' much is said to be written in the derivative Idioms of that Tongue, especially the Arabick, yet he was satisfied with the Translations, wherein he found nothing admirable.
In his Religion he continued in the same Mind which he had declared in his first Book, written when he was but Thirty Years Old, his Religio Medici, wherein he fully assented to that of the Church of England, preferring it before any in the World, as did the Learned Grotius. He attended the Publick Service very constantly, when he was not withheld by his Practice. Never missed the Sacrament in his Parish, if he were in Town. Read the best English Sermons he could hear of, with liberal Applause; and delighted not in Controversies. In his last Sickness, wherein he continued about a Weeks Time, enduring great Pain of the Cholick, besides a continual Fever,17 with as much Patience as hath been seen in any Man, without any Pretence of Stoical Apathy, Animosity, or Vanity of not being concerned thereat, or suffering no Impeachment of Happiness. Nihil agis dolor.
His Patience was founded upon the Christian Philosophy, and a sound faith of God's Providence, and a meek and humble Submission thereunto, which he expressed in few Words: I visited him near his End, when he had not Strength to Hear or Speak much; the last Words which I heard from him, were, beside some Expressions of Dearness, that he did freely submit to the Will of God, being without Fear: He had oft triumphed over the King of Terrors in others, and given many Repulses in Defence of Patients; but when his own Turn came, he submitted with a Meek, Rational, and Religious Courage.
He might have made good the Old Saying of Dat Galenus opes, had he lived in a Place that could have afforded it. But his Indulgence and Liberality to his Children, especially in their Travels, Two of his Sons in divers Countries, and Two of his Daughters in France, spent him more than a little. He was liberal in his House Entertainments, and in his Charity; he left a comfortable, but no great Estate, both to his Lady and Children, gained by his own Industry, having spent the greatest Part of his Patrimony18 in his Travels.
Such was his Sagacity and Knowledge of all History, Ancient and Modern, and his Observations thereupon so singular, that it hath been said by them that knew him best, that if his Profession, and Place of Abode, would have suited his Ability, he would have made an extraordinary Man for the Privy-Council, not much inferior to the Famous Padre, Paulo, the late Oracle of the Venetian State.
Tho' he were no Prophet, nor Son of a Prophet, yet in that Faculty which comes nearest it, he excelled, i. e. the Stochastick, wherein he was seldom mistaken, as to future Events, as well Publick as Private; but not apt to discover any Presages or Superstition.
Sir Thomas Browne,
College of Physicians, London,
When he was Chosen an Honorary-Fellow thereof.
UM jam per Lustra admodum quadraginta, Regum Reginarum & Parliamentorum gratia, data sit Collegio Medicorum Londinensium potestas, de Medicis domi forsique Doctoratus gradum adeptis cognoscendi, & cum iisdem pro merito communicani prærogativas, quibus Ipsa fruerentur Nos EDVARDUS ALSTON, Eques Auratus Medicinæ Doctor, & Collegij Præses, faventibus Electorum & Sociorum suffragiis, ante aliquot menses adscivimus in ordinem Sociorum Honorariorum virtute & literis ornatissimum Virum THOMAM BROWNE, jampridem in celeberrima Oxoniensi Academia Doctorali purpura insignitum Eundemque dignum judicavimus, qui per totam Angliam Artem Medicam exerceat, atque hic etiam Londini, præter praxeos libertatem omnium nobiscum immunitatum atque privilegiorum beneficio gaudeat. Inque plenam hujus rei fidem, hoc Instrumentum Collegii nostro Sigillo munivimus, sexto Calendas Julij Anno Christi supra millesimum sexcentesimum sexagesimo quinto, Regisque nostri Caroli Secundi decimo septimo.
GEO. ENT, Eq. Aur. M.D. Coll. Med. Lond. Socius, Elector, & Registrarius.19
1. [The Observations were published in 1643; Digby apparently had the unauthorized first edition in front of him. He temporizes about them in the letter to Browne printed in the 1645 edition of Religio Medici. Keck's Annotations appeared in 1654 and were first published with the Religio Medici in the 1656 edition (and were published in every subsequent edition through the 17th and 18th centuries).]
2. [Merryweather: the Paris edition is dated 1644. The Strasbourg edition of 1652 has the (in)famous notes of "LNMEM", much disparaged by Keck, who identifies the author of the notes as German from their content, without speculating on exactly which German.]
3. [The tract, and its translation by the author, is in fact entitled (less presumptuously) Endoxa. But the Endoxa properly speaking is not the part that deals with Browne's work; that part is entitled (in the English) A Calm Ventilation of Pseudoxia Epidemica. All of the early lives of Browne, including Dr. Johnson's, get this title wrong. But the author of this life is certainly correct about its dullness, erring only in that its dullness greatly exceeds that of the Arcana Microcosmi.]
4. See, Athen. Oxon. ubi supra. [The passage beginning "dull, worthless thing" to the end of the paragraph (and complaining about plagiarism and error) is taken from Wood, who in turn takes it from Tenison, who probably takes it from some other source, although there is presumably an end somewhere. The complaint about the mistake of laevis for levis is inaccurate. See the note in Wood's Life of Browne.]
5. See, A Discourse, by Way of Introduction to BACONIANA: Or, Certain genuine Remains of Francis. Visc. S. Alban, printed Lond. 1679, 8vo, Page 76, 77. Written by Thomas Tenison, D.D. [This note is taken from the biography by Wood; but the author has mistaken its extent, for, as noted above, the entire passage is from Tenison.]
6. See the Miscellanies annex'd to this Work.
7. [The usual story as related these days of Sir Thomas's knighthood is that Charles just wanted to knight somebody -- anybody -- and Thomas Browne was handy. That story hardly accords with "special Manifestations of more than ordinary Favour".]
8. [The sixth edition is dated 1672.]
9. [With one possible exception, where Browne added a sentence to editions subsequent to 1646, possibly in response to Ross's criticism of his reading of a passage of Pliny. See Ross, Arcana Microcosmi II.21 and note.]
10. In the preface to Pseudodoxia Epidemica. [(Unnumbered) pages 9-10. The preface is found in all editions from the first.]
11. See, Relig. Med. pag. 6. [Part I, sect. 5.]
12. [The Miscellany Tracts bear the date 1683 on the title page.]
13. Moses, Josephus, Antoninus, Cardan, Junius, Bishop Hall, &c.
14. i. Cor. 2. 11.
15. Whose Maiden Name was Mileham, a Gentlewoman of a very considerable Family, in the County of Norfolk.
16. Dr. Edward Browne, late President of the College of Physicians.
17. [This description of Browne's final illness would seem to put paid to Evelyn's assertion that the doctor died of a surfeit of venison.]
18. He was likewise very much defrauded by one of his Guardians.
19. [The catchword at the end of page 40 is "MISCEL-" (presumably for "Miscellany Tracts"), although the next item is the Repertorium.]
This page is by James Eason.