Democratizing Sir Thomas Browne: Religio Medici and Its Imitations

By Daniela Havenstein | Go to book overview

4
Religio Medici and Newgate

Religio Libertini: ∣ Or, the Faith of a Converted ∣ Atheist. ∣ Occasionally set forth by ∣ Mr. Richard Burridge, ∣ Who was lately Convicted of ∣ Blasphemy, Before the Right Honourable ∣ Sir Thomas Parker, ∣ Lord Chief Justice of England. ∣ To which is prefixed ∣ A Narration of his Life, from his Birth ∣ to the Time of his Sufferings; An Account of ∣ what pass'd on his Tryal at the Sessions-House ∣ in the Old Baily; A Relation of the Cause of the ∣ Prosecution commenced against him; With an ∣ Abjuration and Recantation, which ∣ he publickly made in the Chappel of Newgate, ∣ on Sunday the Sixth Of July, 1712. impartially ∣ written with the Author's own Hand, whilst under Confinement.1

Apart from two, very brief references Religio Libertini has not attracted the attention of critics.2 Richard Burridge, its author, has fared no better.3 Whereas Mackenzie and Dunton both achieved some fame in their time, Burridge belongs to the great legion of eighteenth-century hacks who failed to make a name for themselves. His most ingenious move, it would appear, was to create a link between himself and Browne by adopting the title of the latter's work. Keynes swallowed Burridge's bait, and this has led to the inclusion of Religio Libertini among Religio Medici's imitations.

What kind of book is Religio Libertini? Its title-page, as cited above, offers some clues. The words 'atheist', 'convicted', 'blasphemy', 'abjuration', 'recantation', and 'Newgate' would have had a certain appeal for an eighteenth-century audience. Given the considerable appetite for crime and prison literature in this period, Burridge's title-page was geared to capitalize on this interest. ReligioLibertini

____________________
1
Religio Libertini, title-page. Hereafter RL. References to RL will be inserted in the text.
2
Keynes mentions Religio Libertini in his Bibliograpby but does not provide any further comment, p. 249. Don Cameron Allen refers to Burridge's book. Cf. Doubt's Boundless Sea: Skepticism and Faith in the Renaissance ( Baltimore, 1964) 212 n. 62.
3
R. Watt Bibliotheca Britannica ( 1824) merely lists Burridge's name and the title of his book. Modern dictionaries are equally brief. References in the Index Bio- Bibliographicus Notorum Hominum ( 1982) and in British Bibliographical Index ( 1990) mention his name, the title of his Religio and categorize Burridge as a 'religious author'. The DNB has no entry for Burridge.

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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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