Sir Thomas Browne: A Man of Achievement in Literature

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CHAPTER I
THE LIFE OF SIR THOMAS BROWNE

SIR THOMAS BROWNE was born on 19 October 1605 and died in 1682, on the seventy-seventh anniversary of his birth. He was twenty when Charles I came to the throne, thirty-four when the King was executed, and Charles II had reigned for twenty-two years when Sir Thomas Browne died. Yet there is nothing in his published writings to remind us of the Civil War. He seems to have pursued his studies, followed his profession and brought up his large family undisturbed. It would, however, be a mistake to conclude that he was a recluse who took little interest in public affairs. Letters to his sons after the Restoration clearly show both that he expected the boys (from the age of fourteen) to be interested in current events, and that he deeply welcomed the restoration of the monarchy and, still more, the restoration of the doctrine and ritual of the Church of England. During the Interregnum he followed his calling as a doctor of medicine and, doubtless, avoided disputes in accordance with his temperament and his belief. He had written in Religio Medici (in 1635): 'I have no Genius to disputes in Religion, and have often thought it wisedome to decline them, especially upon a disadvantage, or when the cause of truth might suffer in the weaknesse of my patronage.' But his own position is in the same work clearly set out: 'I am of that reformed new-cast Religion, wherein I mislike nothing but the name'--the name, he characteristically means, of Protestant. The same outlook is evident when he writes to his sons; he then uses the name, but lays stress on the relative unimportance of ritual differences. He writes to the fourteen-year-old Tom, then in France: 'Hold firm to the Protestant Religion and be diligent in goeing to Church when you have any Little Knowledge of the Language. God will accept of yr desires to serve him in his

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