Notes to Letter to a Friend

1. [Persius Satire III.105 (which edition reads "in portam").]

2. [see a note from Notes and Queries referring this to a story in George Sandys's Relation of a Journey begun An. Dom. 1610.]

3. [Plautus Captivi III.iv:646-648 "Dicam tibi:/ macilento ore, naso acuto, corpore albo, oculis nigris,/subrufus aliquantum, crispus, cincinnatus."]

4. [Parts of East Anglia being known for healthy air; see, for instance, Defoe's Tour through the Eastern Counties of England (1722): "[St. Edmunds] is a town famed for its pleasant situation and wholesome air, the Montpelier of Suffolk, and perhaps of England." (He goes on to say that the monks transferred St Edmund's body to the place because of its healthy air, which seems too little, too late; cum mors venerit....) The "nitre" in nitrous air is putative.]

5. Cum mors venerit, in medio Tibure Sardinia est. [Martial Epig. iv.60.5]

6. In the King's Forest they set the Figure of a broad Arrow upon Trees that are to be cut down.

7. Hippoc. Epidem.

8. Bellonius de Avibus.

9. [1690 has "Sheep" here and below "Sheep let" rather than "Sleep lets".]

10. [Or Lucina, at Juno's behest: Ovid Metamorphoses IX]

11. Monstra contingunt in medicina Hippoc. Strange and rare Escapes there happen sometimes in Physick.

12. Angeli Victorii Consultationes.

13. Matth. iv. 25.

14. Aristoteles nullum animal nisi oestu recedente expirare affirmat: observatum id multum in Gallico Oceano & duntaxat in Homine compertum, lib. 2. cap. 101. [Pliny NH ii.220; in Holland's translation, Chap. XCVIII.]

15. [Night, daughter of Chaos: Hesiod Theogony 124; Night, mother of Sleep, Death, Strife, etc., 211 ff..]

16. Auris pars pendula Lobus dicitur, non omnibus ea pars est auribus; non enim üs qui noctu nati sunt, sed qui interdiu, maxima ex parte. Com. in Aristot. de Animal. lib. I.

17. [1690 has "ear, most"]

18. [At the Battle of Pavia, February 24, 1525. Charles V was born on February 24, 1500 and crowned Emperor (of the Holy Roman Empire) in Bologna on February 24, 1530.]

19. [1690 (and other editions): "Feast"; but MS Sloan 1862 has "Fever"; Pliny vii.51 says that Antipater was afflicted with an annual fever.]

20. [Referring to the so-called "precession of the equinoxes" which yields the "Ages" (of Aquarius, of Pisces, etc.). The calculation is fraught with difficulties, if not impossibilities, the first of them being the exact location the "beginning". The equinox precesses one sign in approximately 2,100 years.]

21. [Cf. Religio Medici XXXI, p. 70 giving Paracelsus' view and Browne's comment.]

22. According to the Egyptian Hieroglyphick.

23. Turkish History. [Knolles, General History of the Turks. ]

24. [Something that puffs up the cheeks — hence, a satisfying meal.]

25. In the Poet Dante his description. [See Browne's note in Chapter III of Hydriotaphia.]

26. De morbis Puerorum.

27. [As in Pseudodoxia V.xxiii, as above.]

28. Morta, the Deity of Death or Fate.

29. When Mens Faces are drawn with resemblance to some other Animals, the Italians call it, to be drawn in Caricatura.

30. Ulmus de usu barbæ humanæ.

31. [Louis II, crowned the last king of Hungary in 1508 (at the age of 2), said to have been "sickly but intelligent" as a child; he died at the disastrous battle of Mohács on August 29, 1526, possibly by drowning in the Danube. Hungary was subsequently divided between the Ottoman and the Habsburg empires.]

32. The Life of a man is Threescore and Ten. [Or fourscore, for the strong; Psalm 90:10.]

33. See Picotus de Rheumatismo. [Morgellons, crinons, masclous: a pediatric skin disease possibly caused by a worm, as in the dracunculus of tropical areas. See "Sir Thomas Browne and the Disease called the Morgellons" for a discussion of the disease. The reference to Picotus does not seem to belong here, as Picotus does not discuss this disease. See note 36.]

34. {MS. Sloan 1862, in Wilkin, continues:

Though hairs afford but fallible conjectures, yet we cannot but take notice of them. They grow not equally on bodies after death: women's skulls afford moss as well as men's, and the best I have seen was upon a woman's skull, taken up and laid in a room after twenty-five years' burial. Though the skin be made the place of hairs, yet sometimes they are found on the heart and inward parts. The plica or gluey locks happen unto both sexes, and being cut off will come again: but they are wary of cutting off the same, for fear of headache and other diseases.

[Plica, plica polonica, a matted condition of the hair, common in Poland of former days, resulting from disease, dirt and insects; said largely to have disappeared by the late 19th century.]}

35. His upper and lower Jaw being solid, and without distinct rows of Teeth. [Plutarch, Pyrrhus III.6, says that Pyrrhus had only one upper tooth, with slight incised lines where teeth would be separated. He says nothing about the lower tooth or teeth. On the state of ancient teeth, Lanciani, Pagan and Christian Rome, makes much the same observation on dentists in Rome: he is surprised at the number of dentists buried (their tombs marked with symbols of their craft) compared to the very good quality of the teeth of Roman corpses. Perhaps they were very good dentists.]

36. Twice tell over his Teeth never live to threescore Years. [It is probably here that the note (33) on Picotus belongs. Bannyans, or banians, a caste or group of Indians who were familiar because they were traders, refers to Hindus in general.]

37. {Wilkin supplies from MS. Sloan 1862 a paragraph that followed here:

Affection had so blinded some of his nearest relations, as to retain some hope of a postliminious life, and that he might come to life again, and therefore would not have him coffined before the third day. Some such virbiasses [so in MS.] I confess we find in story, and one or two I remember myself, but they lived not long after. Some contingent re-animations are to be hoped in diseases wherein the lamp of life is but puffed out and seemingly choaked, and not where the oil is quite spent and exhausted. Though Nonnes will have it a fever, yet of what disease Lazarus first died, it is uncertain from the text, as his second death from good authentic history; but since some persons conceived to be dead do sometimes return again unto evidence of life, that miracle was wisely managed by our Saviour; for had he not been dead four days and under corruption, there had not wanted enough who would have cavilled the same, which the scripture now puts out of doubt; and tradition also confirmeth, that he lived thirty years after, and being pursued by the Jews, came by sea into Provence, by Marseilles, with Mary Magdalen, Maximinus, and others: where remarkable places carry their names unto this day. But to arise from the grave to return again into it, is but an uncomfortable reviction. Few men would be content to cradle it once again: except a man can lead his second life better than the first, a man may be double condemned for living evilly twice, which were but to make the second death in scripture the third, and to accumulate in the punishment of two bad livers at the last day. To have performed the duty of corruption in the grave, to live again as far form sin as death, and arise like our Saviour for ever, are the only satisfactions of well-weighed expectations.

[Biliminous: In Roman law, "biliminium" is the legal right of a person banished or held hostage to return to his home (to cross the threshold); hence, Browne's use as a metaphor for returning to life. Virbias: presumably vir + bi-, twice a man?]}

38. [1690: "many have been become strong"; MS Sloan 1862 reads "I have seen many to have become strong"; Wilkin "many have become"]

39. [The disease of rickets is presumed to be ancient, although archeological evidence is scant. According to Alfred Hess, Rickets, (Lea & Febiger, Philadelphia, 1929), the first "satisfactory description of rickets" — that is, a description that meets the current clinical descriptions of the disease — was given by Soranus of Ephesus around A.D. 100; Galen also gives a description of the disorder. (It is, of course, only conjectural that the disorder they are describing is rickets, but it sounds like it.) When it began to reappear, or began to be noticed again, in the late 16th century, it was thought of as a new disease. John Mayow, in his De rachitide of 1668, says

There has been only one, as far as I know, who has written anything on the subject of rickets, namely, the distinguished Dr Glisson; and that may seem strange, because as a rule disease scarcely rages so much as the incurable passion of writing about it....
     This disease made its appearance some forty years ago in the western parts of England; and since then (as it is the way of diseases and other evils to spread themselves) has infested infants' cradles through nearly the whole of England, though more rarely in the northern part.

This latter remark is strange, given the etiology of rickets, which scarcely ever occur in sunny climates; perhaps the air of southern England was already sufficiently smoggy to render the south less sunny than the north. Nevertheless, it is remarkable that the disease seemed new to the English physicians, who were mostly thoroughly conversant with classical medical treatises. The name itself, whose etymology is controversial, is almost certainly English. The Germans called it, and still call it sometimes, "die englische Krankheit". Hess, however, remarks that the disease had earlier been described by Guillimeau (1609, translated into English in 1612) and by Paré (1633), both of whom treat the disorder as common. It first appears in the London Bills of Mortality in 1634, when it caused 14 deaths; by 1659, the number of deaths was 476, and, according to Hess, from 1655-1658 it reached 1598, a scarcely credible number. The 1731 bills of mortality for London list 54 deaths from rickets, about half the number of deaths from measles and less than a third the number of deaths from "stoppage of the stomach", whatever that might be. But rickets was to make a hideous come-back in the nineteenth century before the early twentieth-century discoveries of its etiology and treatment rendered it more or less a curiosity in the developed world.]

40. AsfalestatoV kai rhistoV seucrissima & facillimæ Hippocrat.

41. Pro febre quartana raro sonat campana. [The original saying meaning, of course, that quartan ague rarely caused death; Browne is saying that, whatever was formerly the case, it causes frequent deaths in his day. The Penguin editor adds a peculiar gloss about the hours of divine services, indicating he's not paying much attention, one of the common side-effects of editing Browne. There are several types of malaria, the quartan being probably the least serious. It's doubtful, however, that seventeenth century physicians distinguished among the various forms, some of which were apparently new.]

{Wilkin supplies a paragraph that follows this in the MS. (Sloan 1862):

Some I observed to wonder how, in his consumptive state, his hair held on so well, without that considerable defluvium which is one of the last symptoms in such diseases; but they took not notice of a mark in his face,which if he had lived was a probable security against baldness (if the observation of Aristotle will hold, that persons are less apt to be bald who are double-chinned), nor of the various and knotted veins in his legs, which they that have, in the same author's assertions, are less disposed to baldness (according as Theodorus Gaza renders it: though Scaliger renders the text otherwise).}

42. [In a manner of speaking; in the Republic 405d he accuses moderns of living luxuriously and then giving names to and requiring treatments for the discomforts or diseases that result (or possibly are just noticed), using Homer as a reference. In fact, it's really just Plato on one of his high and eccentric horses; probably not too much should be made of it as an historical comment.]

43. [The caul or omentum; lining of the stomach and intestines.]

44. Sir A. J. [Sir Arthur Jenny. 1690 has "So A. F.".]

45. Cardan in his Encomium Podagræ reckoneth this among the Dona Podagræ, that they are delivered thereby from the Pthysis and Stone in the Bladder.

46. [See Pseudodoxia Epidemica for another brief treatment of this question. The Problemata of Pseudo-Aristotle, X.]

47. [P. Vegetius Renatus' Mulomedicina, usually published with Q. Gargilius Martialis' (fragmentary) De curis boum.]

48. [Nor have I found anything that indicates that crocodiles cough. The crocodile is incapable of expectorating; anything in its mouth, such as excess water, simply dribbles out. An elongated palatal structure insures against inhaling water. It has, however, a diaphragm-like organ, the septum posthepaticum, so it is perhaps capable of coughing if necessary. Again, none of the sources on crocodilian anatomy makes any mention of such a motion. They seem to be inordinately healthy beasts after crocodilette-hood, when their chief discomfort is that of being eaten; maybe they simply never need to cough.]

49. Hippoc. de Insomniis.

50. Hippoc. de Insomniis.

51. Tabes maxime contingunt ab anno decimo octavo ad trigesimum quintum, Hippoc. [in the Aphorisms, V, 9.]

52. [This word, more common in seventeenth century use than now, has a rich theological history, particularly with regard to (1) original sin and (2) the nature of the soul. Browne uses it to mean "transmission" in many senses; see the miscellany tract On Languages; Pseudodoxia Epidemica I.i, where it is used twice in two different meanings; Religio Medici, page 81; etc.]

53. A sound Child cut out of the Body of the Mother.

54. Natos ad flumina primum deferimus fævoq; gelu duramus & undis. [Virgil Æneid IX.603-604.]

55. [That is, like an auction; cf. Pepys, 3 September 1662: "After dinner we met and sold the hulkes, where pleasant to see how backward men are at first to bid; and yet when the candle is going out how they bawl." A candle was used as a timer for the acceptance of bids.]

56. Julii Cæsaris Scaligeri quod fuit. Joseph Scaliger in vita patris.

57. [The dead "intimate friend", not Scaliger.]

58. [This use (= "comparatively small or unimportant"), common today, is a "favourite use with Sir T. Browne, and common in subsequent writers", says the OED.]

59. ["Cicero, the worst of Poets": Religio Medici. The epitaphs on the present tombs of Dante and of Petrarch are not, so far as I can tell, their own work.]

60. [1690: "Decipiency"; etymologically, a lack of understanding; foolishness, trifling.]

61. [Not "theoretical".]

62. [1690: "Democratism"]

63. Summum nec metuas diem nec optes. [Martial, Epigrams x.lxvii]

64. Who upon some Accounts, and Traditions, is said to have lived 30 Years after he was raised by our Saviour. Baronius. [Cardinal Cesare Baronio, 1538-1607]

65. In the Speech of Vulteius in Lucan, animating his Souldiers in a great struggle to kill one another. Decernite Lethum & metus omnis abest, cupias quodcunq; necesse est. All fear is over do but resolve to dye, and make your Desires meet Necessity. [Lucan IV.486-487.]

66. [Æneid VIII 205.]

67. Wisdom cap. iv. [4:8-9; in the KJV: "For honourable age is not that which standeth in length of time, nor that is measured by number of years. But wisdom is the gray hair unto men, and an unspotted life is old age."]

68. [The climacterical years are 49, 63, and 81. See Pseudodoxia Epidemica IV.xii.]

69. [The remainder of the Letter to a Friend is largely reproduced in Christian Morals. Wilkin's edition stops at this point and refers the reader to that work.]

70. [See the note to Christian Morals on Cebes' Pinax.]

71. Through the Pacifick Sea, with a constant Gale from the East.

72. ["Sudden gusts or violent attacks of bad weather" — Dr. Johnson's note to the corresponding section of Christian Morals. Hereafter "Dr. J."]

73. Who is said to have castrated himself.

74. [1690: "Mitre", but Christian Morals has "Mite". Luke 21, the story of the widow's mites: "And he said, Of a truth I say unto you, that this poor widow hath cast in more than they all: For all these have of their abundance cast in unto the offerings of God: but she of her penury hath cast in all the living that she had."]

75. [Acts 5, 22.]

76. [As in Pseudodoxia Epidemica I.i; the targums are amplified paraphrases of scripture. Thus, "allow the teaching of the New Testament to gloss the law of the Old".]

77. [Cæsar's crossing of the Rubicon with force in 49 B.C. essentially ended the Republic and forever altered the balance of power in the Roman state in favor of demagogues, dictators, and the army.]

78. [1690: "Recipiscency"; a recovery of one's senses followed, presumably, by regret.]

79. Ira furor brevis est. [Horace Epist. I.ii.62.]

80. [Dr. J, quoting Thomas Creech's translation of the 13th Satire of Juvenal, lines 185-187:

.... Dulcique senex vicinus Hymetto,
Qui partem acceptæ sæva inter vincla cicutæ
Accusatori nollet dare — Juv.

Not so mild Thales, nor Chrysippus Thought;
Nor the good man who drank the pois'nous draught
With mind serene, and could not wish to see
His vile accuser drinkn as drink as deep as he:
Exalted Socrates! — Creech.]

81. See Arist. Ethicks. Chapt. of Magnanimity.

82. [Although almost universally accepted, the Epistle has its detractors; doubts about its origin date from the early Church, but Protestants especially disliked its emphasis on justification by works (the Easton Bible Encyclopedia attempts to reconcile the difference by asserting that James is speaking of "justification before men"). Luther called it a "letter of straw". See the article in the Catholic Encyclopedia.]

83. Holy, Holy, Holy. [Properly "ter-sanctus"; "trisagion" (= "trishagion") in Christian Morals.]

84. Even when the days are shortest.

85. Alluding to the Tower of Oblivion mentioned by Procopius, [in History of the Wars I, 4-5], which was the name of a Tower of Imprisonment among the Persians: whoever was put therein, he was as it were buried alive, and it was Death for any but to name him.

86. [Dr. J.: "An epicycle is a small revolution made by one planet in the wider orbit of another planet. The meaning is, 'Let not ambition form thy circle of action, but move upon other principles; and let ambition only operate as something extrinsic and adventitious.' "]

87. [1690: "to Designs", but Christian Morals has "of"]

88. Matthew xi. [12: "And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force."]

89. [1690: "Zeno, King". Cicero De finibus bonorum et malorum, cap. III. Dr. J: "That is, 'the king of the stoics,' whose founder was Zeno, and who held, that the wise man alone had power and royalty."]

90. Ovation a petty and minor kind of Triumph.

91. [Ps. 68:18 and, less familiarly, Jud. 5:12]

92. [Dr. J quotes Horace Epist. I.iv.13-14 and Francis' translation:

Omnem crede diem tibi diluxisse supremum,
Grata superveniet quæ non sperabitur hora.
Believe, that ev'ry morning's ray
Hath lighted up thy latest day;
Then, if no to-morrow's sun be thine,
With double lustre shall it shine.]


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