Democratizing Sir Thomas Browne: Religio Medici and Its Imitations

By Daniela Havenstein | Go to book overview

Preamble

Beware of them that have no more Religion, than is to be found in that unworthy Book, called Religio Medici.1

Responses to Browne's first work were both immediate and strong. The texture of Religio Medici invited condemnation and praise alike. Francis Cheynell's warning, quoted above, is pa of his attack on Archbishop Laud in 1645. He was not alone in associating Browne with Laudian politics. Alexander Ross, most famously, also put Browne into Laud's camp.2 This association has not served Browne well at the brink of the twenty-first century when, as Achsah Guibbory points out, 'his sensibilities and political stance are so at odds with the current interest in puritanism and social activism'.3 Thus Michael Wilding, most significantly, states that: 'Religio Medici is not a work that puts forward an explicit or positive political position; but negatively, in its rejection of sectarianism, mass action, millenarianism, the multitude, and any manifestations of plebeian Puritan activism, it is possible to locate the work in a cautious, conservative, law-and-order context.'4 Guibbory, however, successfully presents a more differentiated picture emphasizing that 'for all its echoes of Laudian polemic, Religio Medici is not narrowly Laudian'. 5

This interest in the 'religious politics' of Religio Medici has replaced the previously dominant fascination with Browne's prose idiom. Browne, like many writers of his period, was 'rediscovered' by a small circle of Romantic writers. Lamb, Coleridge, Hazlitt, and De Quincey, among others, discuss his role in the history of English

____________________
1
Cited in Andrew Cunningham, 'Sir Thomas Browne and Religio Medici: Reason, Nature and Religion', 36, in Ole Peter Grell and Andrew Cunningham, Religio Medici: Medicine and Religion in Seventeenth-Century England ( London, 1996).
2
Alexander Ross, Medicus Medicatus: Or, The Physicians Religion Cured, By a Lenitive or Gentle Potion: With Some Animadversion upon Sir Kenelme Digbie's Observations on Religio Medici ( London, 1645), e.g. 2 ff., 64, 66.
3
Ceremony and Community from Herbert to Milton: Literature, Religion, and Cultural Conflict in Seventeenth-Century England ( Cambridge, 1998).
4
Dragons Teeth: Literature in the English Revolution ( Oxford, 1987), 113.
5
p. 128.

-1-

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Democratizing Sir Thomas Browne: Religio Medici and Its Imitations
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • OXFORD ENGLISH MONOGRAPHS i
  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgements vii
  • Contents ix
  • List of Tables x
  • Abbreviations xi
  • Preamble 1
  • Religio Writing in the Seventeenth and Early Eighteenth Centuries 5
  • 2 - Religio Medici and the Restoration Virtuoso 27
  • 3 - Religio Medici and Grubstreet 45
  • 4 - Religio Medici and Newgate 71
  • 5 - The Resurrection of Morris W. Croll 88
  • 6 - Anatomizing Croll and Religio Medici 104
  • 7 - Anatomizing Religio Medici's Imitations 129
  • 8 - Searching for the Limbs of Osiris 149
  • 'suicide' and Other Words in Religio Medici and Its Imitations 173
  • Conclusion 198
  • Appendix: Tables of Word-Classes 205
  • Bibliography 207
  • Index 227
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