Sir Thomas Browne: A Man of Achievement in Literature

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IN Part I of Religio Medici Browne central theme is his religious belief. It is a work which could only have been written by this one man at this one time; highly individual and characteristic, it also reveals a conception of the world and of the cosmos impregnated with classical and medieval ideas, modified by notions coming to birth in the seventeenth century. A part of the attraction of all Browne's writings is this combination, a markedly individual mind and style vividly expressing the thought of a particular time. In Part II the central theme is Christian Charity; it begins: 'Now for that other Vertue of Charity, without which Faith is a meer notion, and of no existence, I have ever endeavoured to nourish the mercifull disposition, and humane inclination I borrowed from my Parents. . . .' He expands what he has already said in Part I about his temperamental tolerance, applying it now not to beliefs and modes of worship, but to tastes and sympathies:

I have no antipathy, or rather Idiosyncrasie, in dyet, humour, ayre, any thing; I wonder not at the French for their dishes of frogges, snailes, and toadstooles, nor at the Jewes for Locusts and Grasse-hoppers, but being amongst them, make them my common viands; and I finde they agree with my stomach as well as theirs; I could digest a Sallad gathered in a Church-yard, as well as in a Garden. I cannot start at the presence of a Serpent, Scorpion, Lizard, or Salamander; at the sight of a Toad or Viper, I feele in me no desire to take up a stone to destroy them.

In short, he has a natural aversion to nothing except the Devil, and is contemptuous of nothing, except a crowd:

If there be any among those common objects of hatred which I can safely say I doe contemne and laugh at, it is that great enemy of reason, vertue and religion, the multitude; that numerous piece of monstrosity, which taken asunder seeme men, and the reasonable creatures of God; but confused together, make but one great beast, and a monstrosity


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Sir Thomas Browne: A Man of Achievement in Literature


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