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When Browne settled at Norwich, mitted to a dispute, and his reply being then about thirty-six years old, came with the correct edition of the he bad already completed the Religio “Religio Medici' published at last Medici’; a desultory collection of with his name. There have been many observations designed for himself only efforts to formulate the religion of a and a few friends, at all events with no layman, which might be rightly underpurpose of immediate publication. It stood, perhaps, as something more than had been lying by him for seven years, what is called natural, yet less than circulating privately in his own extra- ecclesiastical, or professional” reliordinarily perplexed manuscript, or in gion. Though its habitual mode of manuscript copies, when, in 1642, an conceiving experience is on a different incorrect printed version from one of plan, yet it would recognise the legitithose copies, “much corrupted by macy of the traditional interpretation transcription at various hands," ap- of that experience, generally and by peared anonymously. Browne, decided implication; only, with a marked royalist as he was, in spite of seeming reserve as to religious particulars, both indifference, connects this circumstance of thought and language, out of a real with the unscrupulous use of the press reverence or awe, as proper only for a for political purposes, and especially special place. Such is the lay religion, against the king at that time. Just as we may find it in Addison, in Gray, here a romantic figure comes on the in Thackeray; and there is something scene. Son of the unfortunate young of a concession—a concession on second Everard Digby who perished on the thoughts-about it. Browne's Religio scaffold for some balf-hearted partici. Medici' is designed as the expression pation in the gunpowder plot, Kepelm of a mind more difficult of belief than Digby, brought up in the reformed that of the mere “layman”; it is religion, had returned in manhood to meant for the religion of the man of the religion of his father. In his in- science. Actually, it is something tellectual composition he had, in com- less to the point, in any balancing of mon with Browne, a scientific interest, the religious against the worldly view oddly tinged with both poetry and of things, than the proper religion of a scepticism ; he had also a strong sym- layman. For Browne, in spite of his pathy with religious reaction, and a profession of boisterous doubt, has no more than sentimental love for a real difficulties, and his religion cerseemingly vanishing age of faith, tainly nothing of the character of a which he, for one, would not think of concession. He holds that there has as vanishing A copy of that sur- never existed an atheist. Not that he reptitious edition of the Religio is credulous; but that his religion is Medici' found him a prisoner on but the correlative of himself, his suspicion of a too active royalism, peculiar character and education, a and with much time on his hands. religion of manifold association. For The Roman Catholic, although, secure
him the wonders of religion, its superin his definite orthodoxy, he finds natural events or agencies, are almost himself indifferent on many points, natural facts or processes.
“ Even in (on the reality of witchcraft, for this material fabric, the spirits walk instance,) on which Browne's more as freely exempt from the affection of timid, personally-grounded faith might time, place and motion, as beyond the indulge no scepticism, forced himself, extremest circumference.” Had not nevertheless, to detect a vein of Divine interference designed to raise rationalism in a book which on the the dead, nature herself is in act to do whole much attracted him, and hastily it,—to lead out the “incinerated” soul put forth his “ animadversions " upon from the retreats of her dark laborait. Browne, with all his distaste for tory. Certainly Browne has not, like controversy, thus found himself com- Pascal, made the “great resolution,"
by the apprehension that it is just in tigator; but it is still with a faint the contrast of the moral world to hope of something like that upon the world with which science deals fitting occasion, and on the alert althat religion finds its proper basis. It ways for surprises in nature (as if is from the homelessness of the world nature had a rhetoric, at times, to which science analyses so victoriously, deliver to us, like those sudden and its dark unspirituality wherein the surprising flowers of his own poetic soul he is conscious of seems such a style), that he listens to her everystranger, that Pascal “turns again to day talk so attentively. Of strange his rest," in the conception of a world animals, strange cures, and the like, of wholly reasonable agencies. For his correspondence is full. The very Browne, on the contrary, the light is errors he combats are, of course, the full, design everywhere obvious, its curiosities of error,—those fascinating, conclusion easy to draw, all small and irresistible, popular errors, which varigreat things marked clearly with the ous kinds of people have insisted on signature of the “ Word." The ad- gliding into because they like them. hesion, the difficult adhesion, of men Even his heresies were old ones,—the such as Pascal is an immense contri- very fossils of capricious opinion. bution to controversy ; the concession, It is as an industrious local natuagain, of a man like Addison of great
ralist that Browne comes before us significance there. But in the adhesion first, full of the fantastic minute life of Browne, in spite of his crusade in the fens and « Broads" around against “vulgar errors,” there is no Norwich, its various marsh and sea real significance. The 'Religio Medici' birds. He is something of a viviis a contribution, not to faith but, to sectionist also, which may not surprise piety; a refinement and correction, us in an age which, for the propagasuch as piety often stands in need of ; tion of truth, was ready to cut off a help, not so much to religious belief
men's ears. He finds one day in a world of doubt, as to the main- Scarabaeus capricornus odoratus," which tenance of the religious mood amid he takes “to be mentioned by Monthe interests of a secular calling. fetus, folio 150. He saith, · Nucem
From about this time Browne's moschatam et cinnamomum vere spirat' letters afford a pretty clear view of -to me it smelt like roses, santalum, his life as it went on in the house at and ambergris."
" Musca tuliparum Norwich. Many of these letters re- moschata," again, “is small bee-like present him in corespondence with the fly of an excellent fragrant odour, singular men who shared his own half which I have often found at the poetic, half scientific turn of mind, with bottom of the flowers of tulips.” Is that impressibility towards what one this within the experience of modern might call the thaumaturgic elements entomologists? in nature which has often made men The Garden of Cyrus,' though it dupes, and which is certainly an ends indeed with a passage of wonelement in the somewhat atrabiliar derful felicity, certainly emphasises mental complexion of that
in (to say the least) the defects of England. He corresponds seriously Browne's literary good qualities. His with William Lily, the astrologer ; is chimeric fancy carries him here into acquainted with Dr. Dee, who had a kind of frivolousness, as if he felt some connection with Norwich, and almost too safe with his public, and has - often heard him affirm, some- himself not quite serious, or times with oaths, that he had seen dealing fairly with it; and with a transmutation of pewter dishes and writer such as Browne levity must of flagons into silver (at least), which the necessity be a little ponderous. Still, goldsmiths at Prague bought of him." like one of those stiff gardens, halfBrowne is certainly an honest inves- way between the mediæval garden
and the true" English garden of of knighthood ; and, above all, two Temple or Walpole, actually to be Toms, and grandson of Sir seen in the background of some of Thomas, the third Tom being the son the conventional portraits of that day, of Dr. Edward Browne, now become the fantasies of this indescribable distinguished as a physician in Lonexposition of the mysteries of the don (he attended John, Earl of quincunx form part of the complete Rochester, in his last illness at Woodportrait of Browne himself; and it is stock), and sharing his father's studies; in connection with it that, once and his childish existence, as he lives twice, the quaintly delightful pen of away from his proper home in London, Evelyn comes into the correspondence, in the old house at Norwich, two hunin connection with the “ hortulane dred years ago, we see like a thing of pleasure.” “Norwich,” he writes to to-day. Browne, “is a place, I understand, At first the two brothers, Edward much addicted to the flowery part. and Thomas (the elder), are together Professing himself a believer in the in everything.
goes operation “ of the air and genius of abroad for his studies, and Thomas, gardens upon human spirits, towards quite early, into the navy, where he virtue and sanctity,” he is all for na- certainly develops into a wonderfully tural gardens as against "those which gallant figure ; passing away, however, appear like gardens of paste-board and from the correspondence, it is unmarch-pane, and smell more of paint certain how, before he was of full age. than of flowers and verdure." Browne From the first he is understood to be is in communication also with Ashmole a lad of parts. “If you practise to and Dugdale, the famous antiquaries; write, you will have a good pen and to the latter of whom, who had written style :
a delightful, boyish a work on the history of the erbank- journal of his remains describing a ing of fens, he communicates the tour the two brothers made in Sepdiscovery of certain coins, on a piece tember, 1662, among the Derbyshire of ground, “in the nature of an island hills. “I received your two last in the fens.”
letters,” he writes to his father from Far more interesting certainly than aboard the · Marie Rose,' “and give those curious scientific letters is
you many thanks for the discourse Browne's “ domestic correspondence." you sent me out of Vossius : De motu Dobson, Charles the First's "English marium et ventorum.
It seemed very Tintoret,” would seem to have painted hard to me at first; but I have now a life-sized picture of Sir Thomas Browne beaten it, and I wish I had the book.” and his family, after the manner of His father is pleased to think that he those big, urbane, family groups, then is “like to proceed not only a good coming into fashion with the Dutch navigator, but a good scholar": and Masters. Of such a portrait nothing he finds the much-exacting, old-classiis now known. But in these old- cal prescription for the brave man fashioned, affectionate letters, trans- fulfilled in him. On July 16th, 1666, mitted often, in those troublous times, the young man writes—still from the with so much difficulty, we have what • Marie Rose':is almost as graphic ; group, in which, although so many of
"If it were possible to get an opportunity Browne's children died young, he was
to send as often as I am desirous to write, you
should hear more often from me, being now so happy ; with Dorothy Browne, occa
near the grand action, from which I would by sionally adding her charming, ill- no means be absent. I extremely long for spelt postscripts to her husband's that thundering day: wherein I hope you letters; the religious daughter who
shall hear we have behaved ourselves like goes to daily prayers after the Restora
and to the honour of our country. I men,
thank you for your directions for my ears. tion, which brought Browne the honour against the noise of the guns, but I have
found that I could endure it ; nor is it so Of this long, leisurely existence the intolerable as most conceive ; especially when chief events were Browne's rare litemen are earnest, and intent upon their business, unto whom muskets sound but like pop
rary publications; some of his writings guns. It is impossible to express unto indeed having been left unprinted till another how a smart sea-fight elevates the after his death ; while in the circumspirits of a man, and makes him despise all stances of the issue of every one of dangers. In and after all sea-fights, I have been very thirsty, .
them there is something accidental,
as if the world might have missed it He died, as I said, early in life. We
altogether. Even the Discourse of only hear of him later in connection Vulgar Errors,' the longest and most with a trait of character observed in
elaborate of his works, is entirely disTom the grandson, whose winning ways, cursive and occasional, coming to an and tricks of bodily and mental growth, end with no natural conclusion, but are duly recorded in these letters: the
only because the writer chose to leave reader will, I hope, pardon the follow- off just there ; and few probably have ing extracts from them :
been the readers of the book as a con“ Little:Tom is lively. She or Frank
secutive whole. At times indeed we is fayne sometimes to play him asleep with a seem to have in it observations only, fiddle. When we send away our letters he or notes, preliminary to some scribbles a paper and will have it sent to his sister, and saith she doth not know how many
orderly composition. Dip into it: fine things there are in Norwich. ... He
read, for instance, the chapter of the delights his grandfather when he comes home.” Ring.finger,' or the chapters . Of the
“ Tom gives you many thanks for his Long Life of the Deer,' and on the clothes ” (from London). • He has appeared
• Pictures of Mermaids, Unicorns, and very fine this King's day with them.” "Tom presents his duty. A gentleman at
some Others, and the part will cerour election asked Tom who hee was for ? and tainly seem more than the whole. Try he answered, 'For all four.' The gentleman to read it through, and you will soon replied that he answered like a physician's
feel cloyed ; miss, very likely, its real “ Tom would have his grandmother, his
worth to the fancy—the literary fancy, aunt Betty, and Frank, valentines : but hee which finds its pleasure in inventive conditioned with them that they should give word and phrase ; and become dull to him nothing of any kind that hee had ever the really vivid beauties of a book so had or seen before. “ Tom is just now gone to see two bears
lengthy, but with no real evolution. which are to be shown.” “ Tom, his duty.
Though there are words, phrases, conHe is begging books and reading of them.' structions innumerable, which remind “The players are at the Red Lion hard by ;
one how much the work initiated in and Tom goes sometimes to see a play.”
France by Madame de RambouilletAnd then one day he stirs old work, done for England, we may think memories
perhaps imperfectly, in the next cen“The fairings were welcome to Tom. He tury by Johnson and othersfinds about the house divers things that were really needed ; yet the capacities of your brother's” (the late Edward's), “and Browne's manner of writing, coming Betty sometimes tells him stories about him, so that he was importunate with her to write
as it did so directly from the man, are his life in a quarter of a sheet of paper, and
felt even in his treatment of matters read it unto him, and will have still some
of science. As with Buffon, his full, more added."
ardent, sympathetic vocabulary, the “Just as I am writing” (learnedly about a comet, Jan. 7th, 1680-1) “ Tom comes and
poetry of his language, a poetry intells me the blazing star is in the yard, and
herent in its elementary particles—the calls me to see it. It was but dim, and the word, the epithet—helps to keep his sky not clear. I am very sensible of this
eye, and the eye of the reader, on the sharp weather.”
object before it, and conduces directly He seems to have come to no good to the purpose of the naturalist, the end, riding forth one stormy night. observer. Requiescat in pace!
But, only one half observation, its
other half very out-of-the-way book- questions as “Whether men weigh lore, this book displays Browne still heavier dead than alive ?” being chain the character of the antiquary, as racteristic questions, is designed with that age understood him. He is a much ambition, under its pedantic Greek kind of Elias Ashmole, dealing with title “Pseudodoxia Epidemica,' as a crinatural objects; which are for him, ticism, a cathartic, an instrument for in the first place, and apart from the the clarifying of the intellect. He remote religious hints and intimations begins from “that first error in Parathey carry with them, curiosities. He dise," wondering much at “man's seems to have no true sense of natural deceivability in his perfection”. law, as Bacon understood it; nor even such gross deceit." He enters in this of that immanent reason in the natu- connection, with a kind of poetry of ral world, which the Platonic tradition scholasticism, which may interest the supposes. “ Things are really true,' student of ‘Paradise Lost,' into what
as they correspond unto we may call the intellectual and moral God's conception; and have so much by-play of the situation of the first verity as they hold of conformity unto man and won an in Paradise, with that intellect, in whose idea they had strange queries about it. Did Adam, their first determinations.” But for instance, already know of the fall actually, what he is busy in the record of the Angels? Did he really believe of, are matters more or less of the in death till Abel died? It is from nature of caprices; as if things after Julius Scaliger that he takes his all were significant of their higher motto, to the effect that the true verity only at random, in a sort of knowledge of things must be bad surprises, like music in old instruments from things themselves, not from suddenly touched into sound by a books; and he seems as seriously wandering finger, among the lumber concerned as Bacon to dissipate the of people's houses. Nature, “the art crude impressions of a false “ of God," as he says (varying a little a sense,” of false science, and a fictitious phrase used also by Hobbes, in a work authority. Inverting, oddly, Plato's printed later), Nature, he seems to theory that all learning is but remiprotest, is only a little less magical, its niscence, he reflects with a sigh how processes only a little less in the way much of oblivion must needs be inof alchemy, than you had supposed; volved in the getting of any true or rather not quite after the manner knowledge. “ Men that adore times you so lightly thought. We feel that, past, consider not that those times as with that disturbed age in England were once present (that is, as our own generally, (and it is here that he, with are at this present), and ourselves unto it, is so interesting, curious, old-world, those to come, as they unto us at and unlike ourselves,) his supposed present." That surely, coming from experience might at any moment be one both by temperament and habit broken in upon by a hundred forms of so great an antiquary, has the touch a natural magic, only not quite so of something like an influence in the marvellous as that older sort of magic, atmosphere of the time. That there or alchemy, he is at so much pains to was any actual connection between expose ; and the large promises of Browne's work and Bacon's is but a which, its large words, too, he still surmise. Yet we almost seem to be regretfully enjoys.
hearing Bacon when Browne disAnd yet the Discourse of Vulgar courses on the “use of doubts, and Errors,' seeming, as it often does, to the advantages which might be derived be a serious refutation of fairy tales, from drawing up a calendar of doubts, arguing, for instance, against the falsehoods, and popular errors ;” and, literal truth of the poetic statement as from Bacon, one gets the impresthat “ The pigeon hath no gall"; such sion that men really have been very