Browne, Thomas (1605-1682) (DNB00)
BROWNE, Sir THOMAS (1605–1682), physician and author, was born in London, Michael, Cheapside, on 19 Oct. 1605. His father was a mercer at Upton, Cheshire, but came of a good family, From a pedigree (printed by Wilkin) in the College of Arms, we learn that his mother was Anna, daughter of Paul Garraway of Lewes, Sussex. His father died prematurely; his mother, who had received 3,000l. as a third part of her husband's property, married Sir Thomas Button, and lett her young son completely under the care of rapacious guardians, Having been educated at Winchester College, Browne was sent at the beginning of 1623 as a fellow-commoner to Broadgate Hall (now Pembroke College), Oxford. He was admitted to the degree of B.A. on 31 June 1626, and proceeded M.A. on 11 June 1629. Turning his attention to the study of medicine, he practised for some time in Oxfordshire; afterwards, throwing up his practice, he accompanied his stepfather (who held some official position) to Ireland on a visitation of the forts and castles. From Ireland he passed to France and Italy; stayed at Montpellier and Podiia, where were flourishing schools of medicine ; and on his return through Holland was created doctor of medicine at Leyden circ. 1633. His name is not found in the list of Leyden students, for the Thomas Browne who graduated on 22 Aug. 1644 (see Peacock's £n/den Students) must certainly have been another person ; but the register is in a faulty state. Having concluded his travels, he established himself as a physician at Shipden Hall, near Halifax. In 1637 he removed to Norwich. Wood states that he was induced to take this step by the persuasions of Dr. Thomas Lushington, formerly his tutor, then rector of Burnham Westgate, Norfolk ; but, according to the author of the life prefixed to ' Posthumous Works,' 1712, he migrated at the solicitations of Sir Nicholas Bacon of Gillingham. Sir [or Dr.] Justinian Lewyn, and Sir Charles le Gros of Crostwick. Probably both statements are correct. A few months after he had settled at Norwich, Browne was incorporated doctor of medicine at Oxford on 10 July 1637. His fame was now established, and ' he was much resorted to for his skill in physic' (Whitefoot). In 1641 he married Dorothy, fourth daughter of Edward Mileham of Burlingham St. Peter. She bore twelve children (of whom one son and three daughters survived their parents), and died three years after her husoand. Whitefoot describes her as 'a lady of such symmetrical 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.'
The famous treatise 'Religio Medici' was surreptitiously published in 1642. It was probably written in 1635, during Browne's residence at Shipden Hall. Ho states, in the preface to the first authorised edition, pubbshed in 1643 : 'This, I confess, about seven years past, with some others of affinity thereto, for my private exercise and satisfaction, I had at leisurable hours composed.' In pt. i. § xli he says : 'As yet I have not seen one revolution of Saturn, nor hath my pulse beat thirty years;' and again, in pt. ii. § xi., we find: *Now for my life it is a miracle of thirty years.' The authors manuscript was passed among his private friends, by whom frequent transcripts were mode with more or less inaccuracy, and at length two surreptitious editions in octavo were printed in 1642 by Andrew Crooke. There is some doubt as to which of these editions is to be entitled the editio princeps (see Greenhill's Introduction to the facsimile of the first edition of 'Religio Medici,' 1883). In 1643 appeared the first authorised edition, with a preface, in which Browne informs us that he had 'represented into the world a full and intended copy of that piece which was most imperfectly and surreptitiously published before.' By transcription the work had become 'successively corrupted, until it arrived in a most depraved copy at the press.' The alterations in the authorised edition mainly consist of corrections of textual errors; but Browne also took occasion to modify various positive assertions. The treatise, on its appearance in 1642, immediately secured attention. It was commended by the Earl of Dorset to the notice of Sir Kenelm Digby, who reviewed it in a lengthy paper of 'Observations.' Hearing that these 'Observations' hud been put to press, Browne sent Digby a courteous letter (dated 3 March 1642-3), in which he stated that the treatise was unworthy of such notice, that it had been intended as a private exercise, and that the surreptitious edition was corrupt; and he concluded with a request that the 'Observations' should not be published until the authorised edition appeared. On 20 March Digby replied that on the receipt of Browne's letter he had at once sent instructions to the printer not to proceed with the 'Observations,' which were hastily put together in one sitting — the reading of the treatise and the composition of the ' Observations ' having occupied only the space of twenty-four hours. Notwithstanding Digby's instructions to the printer, the animadversions (pp. 124, 8vo) were published without delay. When the authorised edition of 'Religio Medici' appeared there was prefixed an admonition (signed 'A. B.') : 'To such as have or shall peruse the "Observations" upon a former corrupt copy of this book,' in which Digby is severely reprehended. The admonition is written much in Browne's style, and there is reason to doubt whether it was prefixed (as 'A. B.' professes) 'without the author's knowledge.' In the preface Browne endeavours to secure himself against criticism by observing that 'many things are delivered rhetorically, many expressions merely tropical, and therefore many things to be taken in a soft and flexible sense, and not to be called unto the rigid test of reason.' It is clear that he was not without misgivings as to how his treatise would be received. Wilkin protests against the view favoured by Dr. Johnson, that Browne procured the anonymous publication of the treatise in 1642 in order to try its success with the public before openly acknowledging the authorship. The authorised edition, in any case, was issued by the publisher of the surreptitious edition. The probability is that, though Browne did not personally procure the publication of the anonymous editions, he took no active steps to hinder it. A Latin translation of 'Religio Medici' (from the edition of 1643), by John Merriweather, was published in 1644. It immediately passed through two editions at Leyden, and was twice reprinted in the same year at Paris. From an interesting letter (dated 1 Oct. 1649) of Merryweather to Tirowne it appears that there was considerable difficulty in finding a publisher for the translation. In the first instance Merryweather offered it to a Leyden bookseller named Haye, who submitted it to Salmasius for approbation. Salmasius kept it for three monUis, and then retiu^ed it with the remark that 'there were indeed in it many things well said, but that it contained many exorbitant conceptions in religion, and would probably find but frowning entertainment, especially amongst the ministers ; 'so Have refused to undertake the publication. Finally, after it had been offered in two other quarters, it was accepted by Hackius. In 1645 Alexander Ross published 'Medicus Medicatus : or the Physician's Religion cured by a Lenitive or Gentle Potion,' in which he attacked both Browne and Digby — the former for his application of 'rhetorical phrase' to religious subjects, fot his leaning towards judicial astrology, and generally on the score of heresy: the latter for his Romanism and metaphysics. Browne did not reply to this attack, but issued in the same year a new edition of his treatise. A Latin edition, with prolix notes by 'L. N. M. E. M.,' i.e. Levinus Nicolaus Moltkius (or Moltkenius) Eques Misniensis (or Mecklenbergensis or Megalopolitanius), was published in 1652. To an English edition, published in 1656, were appended annotations by Thomas Keck. The title-page of the annotations has the date 1659, but the preface is dated March 1654. Dutch, French, and German translations appeared respectively in 1665, 1668, and 1680. Merry weather's version contributed to make the book widely known among continental scholars. Guy Patin (Lettres, 1683, Frankfort, p. 12), in a letter dated from Paris 7 April 1645, writes : 'On fait icy grand étât du livre intitulé "Religio Medici." Get auteur a de l'esprit. Il y a de gentilles choses dans ce livre,' &c. Browne's orthodoxy was vigorously assailed abroad for many years, and vigorously defended. The editor of the Paris edition (1644) of Merryweather's translation was convinced that Browne, though nominally a protestant, was in reality a Roman catholic; but the papal authoiities judged otherwise, and placed the treatise in the 'Index Expurgatorius.' Samuel Duncon, a quaker residing at Norwich, conceived the hope of inducing Browne to join the Society of Friends. It is not surprising that such divergence of opinion should have existed in regard to the purport of Browne's speculations; for the treatise appears to have been composed as a tour deforce of intellectual agility, an attempt to combine daring scepticism with implicit faith in revelation. At the beginning of the treatise the author tells us that he was 'naturally inclined to that which misguided zeal terms superstition,' and that he 'could never hear the Ave Mary bell without an elevation.' After stating that he subscribes to the articles and observes the constitutions of the church of England, he adds : 'In brief, where the Scripture' is silent the church is my text ; where that speaks, 'tis but my comment ; where there is a Joint silence of both, I borrow not the rules of my religion from Home or Geneva, but the dictates of my own reason.' He deprecates controversies in matters of religion, asserting that he has 'no taint or tincture' of heresy; after which announcement ho proceeds with evident relish to discuss seeming absurdities in the scriptural narrative. In the course of the treatise he tells us much about himself. He professes to be absolutely free from national prejudices : 'all places, all airs, make unto me one countrv ; I am in England everywhere and under any meridian.' The one object that excites his derision is the multitude, 'that numerous piece of monstrosity, which, taken asunder, seem men and the reasonable creatures of God, but, confused together, make but one great beast and a monstrosity more prodigious than Hydra.' For the sorrows of others he has quick sympathy, while he is so little afflicted by his own sufferings that he 'could lose an arm without a tear, and with a few groans be Quartered into pieces.' He understands six languages, besides the patois of several provinces ; he has seen many countries, and has studied their customs and politics ; he is well versed in astronomy and botany; he has run through all systems of philosophy, but has found no rest in any. As 'death gives every fool gratis' the knowledge which is won in this life with sweat and vexation, he counts it absurd to take pride in his achievements. Like other great men of his time, Browne believed in planetary influence : 'At my nativity my ascendant was the waterj' sign of Scorpius ; I was born in the planetary hour of Saturn, and I think I have a piece of that leaden planet in me.' He is not 'disposed for the mirth and galliardise of company,' yet in one dream he can compose a whole comedy. Discoursing leisurely in this vein of whimsical semi-seriousness, from time to time he allows his imagination free scope, and embodies the loftiest thought in language of surpassing richness.
At the outbreak of the civil wars Browne’s sympathies were entirely with the royalists. He was among the 432 principal citizens who in 1643 refused to contribute to the fund for regaining the town of Newcastle, but there is no evidence to show that he gave any active assistance to the king’s cause. His great work, ‘Pseudodoxia Epidemica, or Enquiries into very many received tenets and commonly presumed truths, which examined prove but Vulgar and Common Errors,’ appeared in 1646 (fol.) On the composition of this treatise, which contains an extraordinary amount of learning and research, he must have been engaged for many years, In the preface he apologises for having undertaken single-handed a work which well deserved ‘the conjunction of many heads.’ He knows how difficult it is to eradicate cherished beliefs from men’s minds; but he does not despair of gaining a favourable hearing. His professional employment has been at once a hindrance and advantage in the pursuit of his investigations; for though physicians are led in the course of their professional practice to the discovery of many truths, they have not leisure to arrange their materials or make ‘those infallible experiments and those assured determinations which the subject sometimes requireth.’ He had originally determined to publish his treatise in Latin, but considering that his countrymen, especially the ‘ingenuous gentry,’ had a prior claim upon his services, he had abandoned his intention and written in English. Readers, however, must be prepared to find the style somewhat difficult; neologism is unavoidable in the conduct of such inquiries-besides, the writer is addressing not the illiterate many, but them discerning few. To modern readers ‘Vulgar Errors' presents an inexhanstible store of entertainment. The attainment of scientific truth was not for Browne the sole object; it is in the discussion itself that he delights, and the more marvellous a fable is, the more sedulously he applies himself to the investigation of its truth. Though he professed his anxiety to dispel popular superstitious, Browne was himself not a little imbued with the spirit of credulity. He believed in astrology, alchemy, witchcraft, and magic, and be never ahandydned the Ptolemaic system of astronomy. The subject may perhaps have been suggested by a hint in Bacon’s chapter on the ‘Idols of the Understanding.' Both at home and abroad the treatise attracted immediate attention. In 1652 Alexander Ross published ‘Arcana Microcosmi. . . with a regutation of Dr. Browne’s “Vulgar Errors,” the Lord Bacon’s “Natural History,” and Dr. Harvey’s Book “De Generatrone," “Comenius," and others, &c.,’ in which he shows amusing persistence in defending the absurdest of superstitious. John Robinson, a fellow-townsman of Browne and a (physician, passed some not unfriendly animaversions on ‘Vulgar Errors' in his ‘Ventilatio Tranquilla ’ appended to ‘Endoxa,' 1656 (englished in 1658). Isaac Gruter proposed to translate Browne’s treatise into Latin, and addressed to him five letters (preserved in Rawlinson MS. D. 391) on the subject, but the translation was never accomplished.
Browne’s fame for encyclopaedia knowledge being now firmly established, his aid was frequently solicited by scholars engaged on scientific or antiquarian inquiries. The bulk of his correspondence has perished, but enough remains to show that he spared neither time nor trouble in answering inquiries addressed to him. One of his earliest correspondents was Dr. llenry Power, afterwards a noted physician of Halifax, to whom he addressed in 1647 a letter of advice as to the method to be pursued in the study of medicine. There is extant a letter of Power's to Browne, dated 15 Sept. 1648, from Christ’s College, Cambridge, in which he expresses a desire to reside for a month or two at Norwich in order to have the advantage of Browne‘s personal guidance, for at Carnbridge there are ‘such few helpes’ that he tears he will ‘make but a lingering progresse.’ Another of his correspondents was Theodore Jonas, a Lutheran minister residing in Iceland, who came yearly to England and, in gratitude for some professional directions against the leprosy, never fhiled before his return to visit Browne at Norwich. Sir Hamon L’Estrange, of Hunstanton, equally zealous as a naturalist and as a parliamentarian, showed his admiration of Browne by sending him in January 1653-4 eighty-five pages of manuscript ‘Observations on the Pseudodoxia' (preserved in Sloane MS. 1839). His advice was sought in 1655 by a boomer of reputation, William How, who, after serving as an officer in a roynlist cavalry regiment, had established himself as a physician, first in Lawrence Lane, and afterwards in Milk Street. By the death of Joseph Hall, bishop of Norwich, in September 1656, Browne was deprived of a dear friend. He attended the bishop in his last illness. In 1668 Browne entered into correspondence with John Evelyn and William Dugdale. The correspondence with Evelyn was begun at the request of Mr. (afterwards Sir) Robert Paston, created earl of Yarmouth in 1673. At this time (January 1667-8) Evelyn was preparing for publication a work to be entitled 'Elysium Britannicum,' and he was anxious to receive assistance from Browne. The tract, 'Of Garlands,' and perhaps the 'Observations on Grafting,' were written at Evelyn's request. Though only a few letters have been preserved, the correspondence appears to have been kept up for some years. In ' Sylva ' Evelyn gives an extract from a letter which Browne addressed to him in 1664. The correspondence with Dugdale relates to the treatise 'On Embanking and Draining,' which Dugdale was then preparing for publication.
In 1668 appeared (1 vol. 8vo) 'Hydriotaphia. Urn Burial ; or a Discourse of the Sepulchral Urns lately found in Norfolk' and 'The Garden of Cyrus ; or the Quincuncial Lozenge, net-work plantations of the Ancients, artificially, naturally, mystically considered.' The former treatise is dedicated to Thomas Le Gros of Crostwick ; the latter to Sir Nicholas Bacon of Gillingham. In 'Hydriotaphia' Browne discusses with great learning the burial-customs that have existed in various countries at various times. More than one quotation is made from Dante ; he was among the very few men of his time who had read the 'Inferno.' The concluding chapter is a solemn homily on death and immortality, unsurpassed in literature for sustained majesty of eloquence. Lamb was an enthusiastic admirer of 'Hydriotaphia.' The ' Garden of Cyrus ' is the most fantastic of Browne's writings. Beginning with the garden of Eden, he traces the history of horticulture down to the time of the Persian Cyrus, who is credited with having been the first to plant a quincunx, though Browne discovers the figure in the hanging gardens of Babylon, and supposes it to have been in use from the remotest antiquity. The consideration of a quincuncial arrangement in horticulture leads him to a disquisition on the mystical properties of the number five. He finds (in Coleridge's words) 'quincunxes in heaven above, quincunxes in earth below, quincunxes in the mind of man, quincunxes in tones, in optic nerves, in roots of trees, in leaves, in everything.' At the end of the 'Garden of Cyrus' Browne inserted a note disclaiming the authorship of a book called 'Nature's Cabinet unlocked,' which had been impudently published under his name.
Browne took a lively interest in the training of his children. His eldest son was Edward [q. v.] Thomas, the second son, was sent in 1660 at the age of fourteen, unaccompanied, to travel in France. Among the Rawlinson MSS. (D. 391) are transcripts made by Mrs. Elizabeth Lyttleton of letters written by Browne to 'honest Tom' (as the address always runs) between December 1660 and January 1661-2. The postscript of one letter concludes : 'You may stay your stomack with little pastys sometimes in cold mornings, for I doubt sea larks will be too dear a collation and drawe too much wine down; be warie, for Rochelle was a place of too much good fellowship and a very drinking town, as I observed when I was there, more than other parts of France.' There appears to have been a perfect understanding between father and son. The youth joined the navy in 1664, and had a brief but brilliant career. He disappears from 1667. There are extant two of nis letters to his father, written in May 1667, which prove him to have been a man of scholarly attainments as well as a gallant officer. Browne cherished the memory of his lost son, and often alludes to him in letters of later years. Whitefoot states that two of Browne's daughters were sent to France, but we have no account of their travels. In 1669 Browne's daughter Anne had been married to Edward Fairfax, grandson of Thomas, lord viscount Fairfax. She and her husband spent the Christmas of 1669 under her father s roof, and the visit was either prolonged or repeated, for the registers of St. Peter's, Norwich, contain entries of the birth and burial of their first child, Barker Fairfax, on 30 Aug. and 5 Sept. 1670.
An unfortunate practical illustration of Browne's credulity was given in 1664, when Amy Duny and Rose Cullender were arraigned for witchcraft before Sir Matthew Hale at Bury St. Edmunds. Browne, who was in court at the time of the trial, having been requested by the lord chief baron to give his opinion on the case, declared 'that the fits were natural, but heightened by the devils co-operating with the malice of the witches, at whose instance he did the villainies,' and he mentioned some similar cases that had lately occurred in Denmark. It is supposed that this expression of opinion helped in no slight degree to procure the poor women's conviction (Hutchinson, Historical Essay concerning Witchcraft, 118-20).
In December 1664 Browne was admitted socius honorarius of the College of Physicians, receiving his diploma on 6 July 1665. In 1666 he presented to the Royal Society some fossil bones found at Winterton in Norfolk. Two years afterwards he sent some information on the natural history of Norfolk to Dr. Christopher Merrett, who was then contemplating a third and enlarged edition (which never appeared) of his 'Pinax Rerum Naturalium Britannicarum.' He also lent a number of coloured drawings to Ray, who acknowledged in his editions of Willoughby's 'Ornithology' and 'Ichthyology' the assistance that he had received from Browne, but was at no pains to return the drawings.
On 28 Sept. 1671, Charles II paid a state visit to Norwich. He was anxious to confer the dignity of knighthood as a memorial of the visit on one of the leading inhabitants. As the mayor declined the honour, Browne was knighted. Early in October Evelyn, who was staying at Euston as the guest of the Earl of Arlington, drove over with Sir Thomas Clifford to join the royal party at Norwich. His chief desire was to see Browne, and he has left a brief but interesting account of a visit paid to 'that famous scholar and physician.' He found the house and garden 'a paradise and cabinet of rarities, and that of the best collections, especially medails, books, plants, and natural things.' He took particular notice of Browne's extensive collection of birds' eggs. After inspecting the rarities, he was conducted round the city by Browne, who pointed out to him whatever was worthy of observation. In the following year Browne bore personal evidence (in a note dated 20 July 1672) to the marvellous precocity of William Wotton [q. v.] He communicated in March 1672–3 to Antony à Wood through Aubrey some notices concerning his former tutor, Dr. Lushington, and others, also some biographical particulars about himself. In answer to inquiries of Elias Ashmole respecting Dr. John Dee, he sent some curious information that he had derived from the alchemist's son, Dr. Arthur Dee, himself a firm believer in alchemy, who had resided at Norwich for many years.
Browne published nothing after 1658, but he appears to have had the intention of collecting his scattered manuscript tracts for publication. In the biographical notice of himself that he sent through Aubrey to Wood, he says that he had 'some "Miscellaneous Tracts" which may be published.' To the close of his life he continued to make observations and experiments. His last extent letter to his son Edward was written on 16 June 1683. It is a gossipy letter, relating to his daughter Elizabeth, who had married Captain George Lyttleton, and was settled in Guernsey. Dr. Edward Browne wrote on 3 Oct. to ask his father to 'thinke of some effectuall cheape medicines for the hospitall.' A few days afterwards Browne was seized with a sharp attack of colic, to which he finally succumbed on 19 Oct., the day on which he completed his seventy-seventh year. He was buried in the church of St. Peter Mancroft at Norwich, where a mural monument was erected to his memory by his widow. In August 1840, while some workmen were digging a vault in the chancel of the church, his coffin-lid was broken open by a blow from a pickaxe. The bones were found to be in good preservation, and the fine auburn hair had not lost its freshness (Proceedings of The Archæological Institute, 1847). On the brass coffin-plate was found a curious inscription (perhaps written by his son) which supplied matter for antiquarian controversy. His skull is now kept, under a glass case in the museum at the Norwich hospital.
Browne left considerable property, both real and personal. On 2 Dec. 1679 he prepared a will, by which ample provision was made for his widow and his two unmarried daughters, Elizabeth and Frances. Elisabeth was married some time before his death to Captain Lyttleton. At the request of Dame Dorothy Browne 'Some Minutes for the Life of Sir Thomas Browne' were drawn up by his old and intimate friend the Rev. John Whitefoot, rector of Heigham. In these 'Minutes' we are told that Browne's 'stature was moderate, and habit of body neither fat nor lean, but εὔσαρκος.' He was simple in his dress, and 'kept himself always very warm, and thought it most safe so to do.' His modesty 'was visible in a natural habitual blush, which was increased upon the least occasion, and oft discovered without any observable cause.' He attended church very regularly and read the best English sermons, but had no taste for controversial divinity. He was liberal 'in his house entertainments and in his charity.' It has been already mentioned that he subscribed towards building a new library in Trinity College, Cambridge. Kennet (Register, p. 345) records another instance of his generosity — that he contributed 130l. towards the repairs of Christ Church, Oxford. From Rawlinson MS. D. 391 we learn that he gave 130l. 'towards the building of a new school in the college near Winton.'
Various writings of Browne were published posthumously. In 1684 appeared a collection of 'Miscellany Tracts,' 8vo, under the editorship of Archbishop Tenison, who states in the preface that he 'selected them out of many disordered papers and disposed them into such a method as they were capable of.' These tracts chiefly consist of letters in reply to inquiries of correspondents. A copy that belonged to Wilkin contains a manuscript note by Evelyn: 'Most of these letters were addressed to Sir Nicholas Bacon.' The contents are: 1. 'Observations upon several Plants mentioned in Scripture.' 2. 'Of Garlands and Coronary or Garland Plants,' against which in Evelyn's copy is the note: 'This letter was written to me from Dr. Browne; more at large in the Coronarie plants.' 3. 'Of the Fishes eaten by our Saviour with his Disciples after his Resurrection from the Dead. 4. 'An Answer to certain Queries relating to Fishes, Birds, and Insects.' 5. 'Of Hawks and Falconry, ancient and modern.' 6. 'Of Cymbals,' &c. 7. 'Of Ropalic or Gradual Verses,' &c. 8. 'Of Languages, and particularly of the Saxon Tongue.' 9. 'Of Artificial Hills, Mounts, or Burrows in many parts of England,' addressed to ' E. D.,' an evident mistake for 'W. D.,' i.e. William Dugdale. 10. 'Of Troas,' &c. 11. ' Of the Answers of the Oracle of Apollo at Delphos to Crœsus, King of Lydia,' from which tract (as from a passage of 'Religio Medici') it appears that Browne believed in the satanic origin of oracles. 12. 'A Prophecy concerning the Future State of several Nations.' 13. ' Musæum Clausum, or Bibliotheca Abscondita,' a whimsical jeu d'esprit, suggested (as Warburton supposed) bv Rabelais' catalogue of the books in tHe library of St. Victor. These tracts were republished in the 1686 folio of Browne's works. The fine and solemn 'Letter to a Friend upon occasion of the death of his intimate friend' was issued in 1690 as a folio pamphlet by Dr. Edward Browne. It closes with a string of maxims which reappear with slight variations in 'Christian Morals.' A manuscript copy of the 'Letter,' differing largely from the printed text, is preserved in Sloane MS. 1862. In 1712 appeared 'Posthumous Works of the learned Sir Thomas Browne, knt., M.D., late of Norwich: printed from his original manuscripts,' &c. The volume opens with a short life of Browne, to which are appended Whitefoot's 'Minutes,' and the diploma given to Browne by the College of Physicians when he was chosen socius honorarius. The miscellanies embrace: 1. 'An Account of Island, altos Iceland, in the year 1662.' 2. 'Repertorium, or some Account and Monuments in the Cathedral Church of Norwich,' written in 1680. In the preface to the 1684 collection Archbishop Tenison, speaking of Browne's unpublished manuscripts, referred to this tract in the following terms: 'Amongst these manuscripts there is one which gives a brief account of all the monuments of the cathedral of Norwich. It was written merely for private use, and the relations of the author expect such justice from those into whose hands some imperfect copies of it are fallen, that, without their consent first obtained, they forbear the publishing of it. The truth is, matter equal to the skill of the antiquary was not there afforded.' 3. 'Concerning some Urnes found in Brampton Field, Norfolk, ann. 1667,' a supplement to 'Urn Burial' 4. 'Some Letters which pass'd between Mr. Dugdale and Dr. Browne, ann. 1658; a letter "Concerning the too nice curiosity of censuring the Present or judging into Future Dispensations;" a note "Upon reading Hudibras."' 6. 'A Letter to a Friend,' &c. (originally published in 1690). The first edition of 'Christian Morals' was published in 1716 by Archdeacon Jeffery. It is supposed that this treatise was intended as a continuation of 'Religio Medici.' A correspondent of the 'European Magazine' (xi. 89) found in a copy of the 1686 edition of Browne's works a manuscript note by White Kennet stating, on information derived from Mrs. Lyttleton, that when Tenison returned Browne's manuscripts to Dr. Edward Browne the choicest papers, which were a continuation of his 'Religio Medici,' could not be found. This note is supported by the statement of Jeffery in the preface, that the reason why the treatise had not been printed earlier was 'because it was unhappily lost by being mislaid among other manuscripts for which search was lately made in the presence of the Lord Archbishop of Canterbury, of which his grace, by letter, informed Mrs. Lyttleton when he sent the manuscript to her.' It may be assumed with certainty that Browne never intended 'Christian Morals' for publication in its present shape. Of all his works it is the weakest, and has the appearance of being a collection of fragmentary jottings from notebooks—a piece of patchwork. Of course it contains some noble passages, but too often the thought is thin and the language turgid.
The manuscripts of Browne and of his son and grandson, Dr. Edward Browne and Dr. Thomas Browne, were sold after the death of the grandson. Most of them were purchased by Sir Hans Sloane, and are now preserved in Sloane MSS. 1825-1923. A full list of these manuscripts is given by Wilkin at the end of the fourth volume of the 1835 edition of Browne. All the pieces in the collection that could be shown to be by Browne were printed by Wilkin. Among these are: 1. 'Account of Birds, Fish, and other Animals found in Norfolk.’ 2. ‘Oratio Anniversaria Harveiana,’ written to be delivered by his son. 3. ‘On the Ostrich,’ a paper drawn up for his son's use. 4. ‘On Dreams,’ a striking fragment. 5. ‘Observations on Grafting,’ probably written for Evelyn. 6. ‘Hints and Extracts’ (from commonplace books), set down for the use of his son. ‘They are not trite or vulgar,’ says Browne, ‘and very few of them anywhere to be met with. I set them not down in order, but as memory, fancy, or occasional observation produced them; whereof you may take the pains to single out such as shall conduce unto your purpose.’ 7. ‘De Enecante Garrulo,’ a quaint specimen of humorous invective. From memoranda in Sloane MS. 1843 it appears that Browne meditated writing (1) ‘A Dialogue between an Inhabitant of the Earth and of the Moon,’ and (2) ‘A Dialogue between two Twins in the Womb concerning the world they were to come into.’ In the fourth chapter of ‘Urn Burial’ he observes: ‘A dialogue between two infants in the womb concerning the state of this world might handsomely illustrate our ignorance of the next, whereof methinks we yet discourse in Plato's den, and are but embryo philosophers.’ Whether the dialogues were ever actually written is uncertain. A ‘Conjectural Restoration of the lost Dialogue between two Twins, by Sir Thomas Browne,’ was published in 1855 by B. Docray. The ‘Fragment on Mummies,’ which Wilkin received without suspicion and printed in the fourth volume of Browne's Works (1835), was written by James Crossley. An anonymous manuscript play, called ‘The Female Rebellion,’ has been ascribed to Browne, without the slightest show of probability, by a correspondent of ‘Notes and Queries’ (5th ser. iii. 341–4). A few unpublished letters of Browne on professional subjects are preserved in private libraries (Hist. MSS. Comm. Reps.)
A very careful bibliography of ‘Religio Medici’ has been drawn up by Dr. Greenhill. He enumerates thirty-three English editions, ranging from 1642 to 1881. Of the Latin translation ten editions were published between 1644 and 1743; a Dutch translation appeared in 1665, and was reprinted in 1668 and 1683; a French translation, made from the Dutch, is dated 1668, and Watt mentions an edition in two volumes, 12mo, 1732; a German translation was published in 1680, and republished in 1746. In a letter to Aubrey, dated 14 March 1672–3, Browne states that the treatise had been already translated into high Dutch and Italian. No such Italian translation has been discovered. Five manuscript copies of ‘Religio Medici’ are known (see Gardiner's Preface to Rel. Med. 1845, p. vi. note). ‘Pseudodoxia Epidemica’ was originally published (in pot folio) in 1646. The second edition, which is typographically the best, appeared in 1650. Two editions are dated 1658, one in folio, and the other (which includes ‘Hydriotaphia’ and ‘The Garden of Cyrus’) in quarto. The fifth edition, 1669, 4to, has a portrait of the author which bears little resemblance to the other portraits. The sixth edition, 1672, 4to, with a portrait by Van Hove, was the last that appeared in the author's lifetime, and contains his final corrections. A Dutch translation was published in 1668 by Gründahl, and a German translation in 1680 by Christian Knorr (Peganius). In the British Museum there is an Italian translation, in 2 vols. 12mo, published at Venice in 1737. The Italian translation was made (as we learn from the title-page) from the French; but the earliest French translation yet discovered is dated 1738. The first collective edition of Browne's works was published in 1686, fol. It contains everything that had been printed in his lifetime, together with the ‘Miscellany Tracts’ that Tenison had edited in 1683. ‘Hydriotaphia’ and the ‘Garden of Cyrus,’ originally published in 1658, reached their sixth edition in the folio of 1686. In 1736 Curll reprinted ‘Hydriotaphia’ and a portion of the ‘Garden of Cyrus,’ including in the same collection the tract on Brampton urns and the ninth of the miscellany tracts. No new edition of ‘Hydriotaphia’ appeared until 1822, when it was edited (with ‘A Letter to a Friend’ and ‘Musæum Clausum’) by James Crossley. The ‘Garden of Cyrus’ is included in Wilkin's editions of Browne's complete works; it has not been published in a separate form. Of a ‘Letter to a Friend’ Dr. Greenhill describes eleven editions, ranging from 1690 to 1869; his own edition, accompanying ‘Religio Medici’ (1881), is the twelfth. The ‘Posthumous Works,’ 1712, were not reissued in a separate form, but are included in Wilkin's editions. ‘Christian Morals,’ 1716, was republished in 1756, with a life of Browne by Dr. Johnson and notes. The editions of 1761 and 1765 are merely the unsold copies (with fresh title-pages) of the 1756 edition. ‘Christian Morals’ has been appended to several modern editions of ‘Religio Medici.’ The only complete collection of Browne's works is Pickering's edition in four volumes, 1835–6, edited by Simon Wilkin. This is a worthy edition of a great English classic. Wilkin spent twelve years in collecting and arranging his material; he spared himself no trouble and left no source of information unexplored. The three-volume reprint, 1852, of Wilkin's edition is far inferior to the 1835 edition; some of the most interesting portions of the correspondence and several miscellaneous pieces are omitted. Dr. Greenhill's edition of ‘Religio Medici,’ 1881, displays great care and learning.
Portraits of Browne are preserved in the Royal College of Physicians, in the vestry of St. Peter's, Norwich, and at Oxford.
[Wood's Athenæ (Bliss), iv. 56–9; Wood's Fasti, i. 426, 451, 498; Life, and Whitefoot's Minutes, prefixed to Posthumous Works, 1712; Life by Dr. Johnson and Supplementary Memoir by Simon Wilkin; Blomefield's Norfolk, iii. 414, iv. 193–194; Works (ed. Wilkin), 1835–6; Greenhill's editions of Religio Medici, 1881 and 1883; Coleridge's Literary Remains, i. 241–8, ii. 398; Proceedings of the Archæological Institute, 1847; The Palatine Note-book, vol. iii. No. 34.]