'THE GARDEN OF CYRUS'
IF we accept Sir Geoffrey Keynes's suggested dating, The Garden of Cyrus was the last work that Sir Thomas Browne prepared for the press. He had no obvious reason for writing books for publication; his life was full and busy, he was practising medicine, he was head of a large family, he was busy with experiments and he was an omnivorous reader. He was certainly not driven to write by excess of leisure, nor, I think, by ambition; he enjoyed writing, he was addicted to it. Jotting down his thoughts in notebooks did not always satisfy his craving; he needed to weave some of those notes into compositions, or ordered sequacious reflections. It would seem that, a year or more after completing Urne-Buriall, his notebooks and his meditations suggested the new theme. In his dedicatory letter: 'To my Worthy and Honoured friend, Nicholas Bacon', he apologizes for writing about gardens, being himself no gardener; he explains that he is not writing a 'Herball', for of these there are already enough and Sir Nicholas is familiar with them; he is not expecting to add to knowledge about botany; he is merely seeking a field of inquiry that has not already been fully cropped; he says to his learned friend:
You have been so long out of trite learning, that 'tis hard to finde a subject proper for you; and if you have met with a Sheet upon this, we have missed our intention. In this multiplicity of writing, bye and barren Themes are best fitted for invention; Subjects so often discoursed confine the Imagination, and fixe our conceptions unto the notions of fore-writers. Beside, such Discourses allow excursions, and venially admit of collaterall truths, though at some distance from their principals. Wherein if we sometimes take wide liberty, we are not single, but erre by great example.1