Sir Thomas Browne: A Man of Achievement in Literature

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CHAPTER III
'RELIGIO MEDICI' (PART I)1

'THE Iniquity of Oblivion blindly scattereth her poppy', and the distinction of mind and charm of character revealed in Sir Thomas Browne's life and correspondence would not have caused him to be remembered for nearly three hundred years. Many are totally forgotten, others are remembered only in the history of science, who shared Sir Thomas Browne's patience in collecting facts and his wide-ranging curiosity. His memory is green because he was a master of English prose. He enjoyed the art of writing; we perceive this when we notice the contrast between the merely workmanlike or useful style of the letters and the subtle and elaborate use of language in the published works. He enjoyed discovering and expressing precisely what he thought and felt. He always chose subjects which allowed him to explore his own mind, not confining him too closely to particular facts, nor requiring him to keep within too narrow a framework. As he says in the Epistle Dedicatory to the Garden of Cyrus, he liked subjects which 'allow excursions and venially admit of collateral truths, though at some distance from their principals'. In his first published work, Religio Medici, the subject is his own religious faith and its relation to his profession. This allows him scope to glance at some odd varieties of human temperament and belief as well as at his own doubts and vagaries of thought, which are restrained by his serenely confident acceptance of basic Christian doctrine and his willing submission to Anglican orthodoxy. In the preface to the authorized edition in 1643 he writes:

This I confesse about seven yeares past, with some others of affinitie thereto, for my private exercise and satisfaction, I had at leisurable

____________________
1
The numbers after the quotations indicate the Part and Section of Religio Medici. The text is that of Denonain ( 1953).

-53-

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Sir Thomas Browne: A Man of Achievement in Literature
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Foreword vii
  • Chapter I The Life of Sir Thomas Browne 1
  • Chapter II Domestic Correspondence 25
  • Chapter III 'Religio Medici' (part I) 53
  • Chapter IV 'Religio Medici' (part Ii) 98
  • Chapter V 'Pseudodoxia' (book I) 125
  • Chapter VI 'Pseudodoxia' (books Ii-Vii) 158
  • Chapter VII 'Hydriotaphia, Urne-Buriall' 188
  • Chapter VIII 'the Garden of Cyrus' 205
  • Chapter IX Posthumous Works 220
  • Index 251
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