Sir Thomas Browne

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Browne, Sir Thomas,

1605–82, English author and physician, b. London, educated at Oxford and abroad, knighted (1671) by Charles II. His Religio Medici, in which Browne attempted to reconcile science and religion, was written about 1635. After circulating in manuscript, it was first published in a pirated edition (1642); an authorized edition followed (1643). Inspired by the discovery of funeral urns near Norwich, he wrote Hydriotaphia: Urn Burial (1658), a solemn reflection on death and immortality, in which he expressed a belief in the futility of things here on earth. Published with Urn Burial was the more optimistic The Garden of Cyrus, a work devoted to the mystic symbolism of the number five. Browne's philosophy is now primarily of historical interest. It is the quality of his faith and, particularly, his elegant mode of expression that make him one of the outstanding figures in the history of English literature. His other notable works are Pseudodoxia Epidemica (1646), commonly known as Vulgar Errors, and Christian Morals (1716). Browne coined more than 750 English words including electricity, medical, hallucination, and ferocious.


See edition of his works (ed. by G. Keynes, 6 vol., 1928–31); biographies by J. S. Finch (1950) and J. F. Post (1987); biographical study by H. Aldersey-Williams (2015); studies by J. Bennett (1962), L. Nathanson (1967), and C. A. Patrides, ed. (1982).

References in periodicals archive ?
44) Sir Thomas Browne was extremely interested in Robert Boyle's experiments; (45) perhaps that led him to pass on to Lyttelton a verse translation of Juvenal, 'Vnto the wiser Gods the care permit' (p.
470, and Geoffrey Keynes, The Commonplace Book of Elizabeth Lyttelton, Daughter of Sir Thomas Browne (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1919).
Finch, A Catalogue of the Libraries of Sir Thomas Browne and Dr Edward Browne, His Son: A Facsimile Reproduction (Leiden: Leiden University Press, 1986).
Another possible author might be Sir Philip Woodhouse who sent three Latin anagrams to Sir Thomas Browne, recorded in his commonplace book (Keynes, Works, 111, 273-74).
Hee is very old, yet very pleasant in his discourse, and hearty; hee is much followed, is a Gallenist, and doth often laugh at the chymists"; see Wilkin, Works of Sir Thomas Browne, I, 63.
24-25, 26-30; Wilkin, Works of Sir Thomas Browne, I, 70.
34) Wilkin, Works of Sir Thomas Browne, I, 110-11, 111-14; Oldenburg to Robert Boyle, 24 August 1665; in ibid.
223v, 221r; Wilkin, Works of Sir Thomas Browne, I, 103.
picturesque with Livy and Carlyle, musical with Cicero and Newman, mystical and intimate with Plato and Michelet and Sir Thomas Browne.
Pater is not recommending in "Style" what he called the intimacy of Sir Thomas Browne.
More controversial, and somewhat less convincing, is Seelig's claim that Thoreau writes with a "metaphysical wit" (87) reminiscent of Sir Thomas Browne, with whom he is said to share a "dual" or "paradoxical" world view (5) - that is, a view of reality "simultaneously mundane and universal," the "central point of connection" between the two authors being "a sense of the cosmic, the metaphysical implications of everyday actions, and the linguistic and rhetorical means by which that conception is represented" (83).