Browne, Sir Thomas, Md
Browne, Sir Thomas, M.D., the distinguished author of the Religio Mledci, was born in London 1605. His early education was received at Winchester and Oxford. He studied medicine subsequently, and took his degree at Leyden in 1633. In 1636 he settled at Norwich, where he remained as a practitioner during the rest of his life. His famous work, the Religio Medici, was first published surreptitiously 1642, but afterward given to the world in a new edition by the author himself. This work, on its first appearance, drew down upon the author many grave charges against his orthodoxy and even his Christian belief, which were triumphantly refuted by Browne, who was the most sincerely religious of men. It has been very often reprinted. The Religio Medici was followed by the Treatise on Vulgar Errors (1646), the Hydriotaphia, or a Treatise on Urn, Burials (1648), and the Garden of Cyrus (1658). His Christian Morals was published after his death by Dr. Jeffrey (1716). Browne died in 1682. The works of Sir Thomas Browne are marked with the odd conceits and errors of his age, but are -remarkable for their majestic eloquence and wealth of illustration. His life by Dr. Johnson was prefixed in 1756 to a second edition of Christian Morals. The Anglo-Latinity of Sir Thomas Browne is believed to have had a great influence on the style of Dr. Johnson. It is a style too peculiar and idiomatic ever to be generally liked, but Browne wrote at a time when -our language was in a state of transition, and had scarcely assumed any fixed character. If it be blamed as too Latinized, it may be answered that it would be difficult to substitute adequate English words for those which he has employed, and that he by no means seeks to give false elevation to a mean idea by sounding phrases, but that he is compelled, by the remoteness of that idea from ordinary apprehensions, to adopt extraordinary modes of speech. Coleridge (Literary Remains, vol. ii) has borne strong testimony to the great intellectual power, as well as to the quaint humor, extensive learning, and striking originality of the "philosopher of Norwich." Browne was in his own day charged with scepticism, and the charge has been repeated in later times, but many passages occur in the Religio Medidi and elsewhere, which show Browne to be a firm and sincere Christian, although, perhaps, not free from certain fanciful prejudices. His Inquiry into Vulgar Errors may be almost received as an encyclopaedia of contemporary knowledge. For critical remarks on Browne, besides the writers above named, see Edinb. Rev. lxiv, 1; North Am. Rev. 21:19; Meth.
Qu. Rev. 2l851, p. 280. His writings are collected in his Works, with Life and Corresp. (Lond. 1836, 4 vols. 8vo).