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who had just been wishing in his new book that we might procreate like trees without conjunction;” and, “Whether the lady had been yet informed of these contemptuous positions, or whether she was pleased with the conquest of so formidable a rebel, and considered it as a double triumph to attract so much merit, and overcome so powerful prejudices; or whether, &c. &c.” The correspondence shows that Mrs. Dorothy, amidst her domestic duties, was not likely to care two straws about what her man thought or wrote on such matters, so be it he did but keep the pot boiling respectably, and provided “sheus,” “cotts,” “briches,” and “manto-gowns” for the little Brownes, whether cuttings or seedlings, which she presented him with in not slow succession. In authorship she would allow him to be eccentric ; but if, in family matters, he resembled other every-day, good-sort of doctors, she was satisfied and happy. The splendid success of the Religio Medici most likely took Browne by surprise. Though possessed of a modest sense of his own ability and a respectable independence of spirit, he was far above the arrogance of vanity. It may be believed that most writers who eventually attained great popularity, although they might have some instinctive consciousness of the power within them, were yet unable to guess exactly how, or when, it would receive a public recognition. They just let their inspiration have its utterance. Nor (in many cases at least) could they subsequently tell with precision what it was in their writings which had fastened on them so universal a sympathy. The bond of attachment between an author and his reader may be too subtle for analysis. Perhaps, granting even a superabundance of genius, with all the acquired skill of practice, disappointment would be the fate of him who determined to sit down and compose, resolutely, a book which should take, as decidedly and confessedly as the Pilgrim's Progress, Robinson Crusoe, or the Religio Medici. All Browne's subsequent works were written in Norwich ; and not a few minor pieces, besides those already mentioned, are specially local. In 1671, he was knighted by Charles II., when on a visit at the ancient palace (always so styled) of the Howards in Norwich. Eleven years later he was seized with a colic, which, after having tortured him about a week, put an end to his life, on his birthday, Oct. 19, 1682—anno attat. 76. He did lie buried in the church of St. Peter Mancroft.
Of those productions which take high rank in a formal list of opera omnia, the Garden of Cyrus (1658) is the least inviting, though eminently characteristic of its author, as is at once shown by the second title, viz. “The Quincuncial Lozenge, or Net-work Plantation of the Ancients, artificially, naturally, mystically, considered.” Even Mr. Wilkin confesses that it has, by general consent, been regarded as one of the most fanciful of his works, and that the most eminent even of his admirers have treated it as a mere sport of the imagination. There are, as Coleridge says, “quincunxes in heaven above, quincunxes in earth below, quincunxes in the mind of man, quincunxes in tones, in optic nerves, in roots of trees, in leaves,...in everything.” The quinary theory of created things, as propounded by some few modern naturalists, would have been a great God-send to Browne; and Mr. Wilkin is seriously inclined to regard the Garden of Cyrus in a higher point of view than a mere jeu d'esprit. “How far,” he asks, “has he anticipated in this work those who have conducted their inquiries in the midst of incomparably greater light and knowledge 2" (iii. 380.) But we may safely surmise, that the pentangular speculations of Messrs. Mackleay, Vigors, and Swainson are just as capable of practical use and strict application, as are the decussated whimsies of the amiable physician and philosopher of Norwich.
The Garden of Cyrus is so styled because
“all stories do look upon Cyrus as the first splendid and regular planter. According whereto Xenophon (in QEconomico) described his gallant plantation at Sardis, thus rendered by Strobaeus-– Arbores pari interrallo sitas, rectos ordines, et omnia perpulchre in quincuncem directa. That is, the rows and orders so handsomely disposed, or five trees so set together, that a regular angularity, and thorough prospect, was left on every side; owing this name not only to the quintuple number of trees, but the figure declaring that number, which, being double at the angle, makes up the letter X:—that is the emphatical decussation, or fundamental figure. “Now, though, in some ancient and modern practice, the area, or decussated plot, might be a perfect square, answerable to a Tuscan pedestal, and the quinquernio or cinque point of a dye, wherein by diagonal lines the intersection was rectangular—accommodable unto plantations of large growing trees—and we must not deny ourselves the advantage of this order; yet shall we chiefly insist upon that of Curtius and Porta in their brief description hereof. Wherein the decussis is made within in a longilateral square, with opposite angles, acute and obtuse at the in
tersection, and so upon progression making a
rhombus or lozenge figuration.”—iii. 388.
With this lozenge as his sole semaphore and guide, Browne starts at full gallop on his literary steeple-chase; if he halts a moment for refreshment, it can only be at the sign of the Chequers. He gets more and more excited by the game, but diamonds are trumps at every hand. He finds even the Garden of Eden laid out in the Dutch style, and probably full of quincunxes. “Since in Paradise itself the tree of knowledge was placed in the middle of the garden, whatever was the ancient figure, there wanted not a centre and rule of decussation.” iii. 393. Of course not; where there's a will there's a way to lozenges.
“The net-works and mets of antiquity were little different in the form from ours at present. As for that famous net-work of Vulcan, which inclosed Mars and Venus, and caused that unextinguishable laugh in heaven—since the gods themselves could not discern it, we shall not pry into it. . Heralds have not omitted this order orimitation thereof, while they symbolically adorn their scutcheons with mascles, fusils, and saltyres, and while they dispose the figures of ermines, and varied coats in this quincuncial method. The same is not forgot by lapidaries, while they cut their gems pyramidally, or by a quicrural triangles. Perspective pictures in their base, horizon, and lines of distances, cannot escape these Thomboidal decussations. Sculptors, in their strongest shadows, after this order do draw their double hatches.”—iii. 396.
And so on, ad infinitum it might be. Browne stops only because he chooses to stop, not because he has run himself dry. There are digressions, it is true, but not of wide circuit. We do not regret them when they contain passages like the following:—
“light that makes some things seen, makes Some invisible; were it not for darkness and the shadow of the earth, the noblest part of the creation had remained unseen, and the stars in heaven as invisible as on the fourth day, when they were created above the horizon with the sun, or there was not an eye to behold them. The greatest mystery of religion is expressed by adumbration, and in the noblest part of Jewish types we find the cherubim shadowing the mercy'seat, Life itself is but the shadow of death, and souls dePorted but shadows of the living. All things fall under this name.
The sun itself is but the dark
“crambe verities and questions over-queried,” and informs us that “the noble Antoninus doth in some sense call the soul itself a rhombus.” This proposition is the sum of all things, and therefore, as he says, “’tis time to close the five ports of knowledge” on this transcendental matter. But we cannot even walk away from his symmetrical garden without being reminded, finally, that “the incession or local motion of animals is made with analogy unto this figure, by decussative diametrals, quincuncial lines, and angles;” and that even in the motion of man the legs “do move quincuncially by single angles with some resemblance of a V, measured by successive advancement from each foot, and the angle of indenture greater or less, according to the extent or brevity of the stride.”
Far more valuable than the Garden of Cyrus is the Hydriotaphia—originally published also in 1658. This “Discourse of the Sepulchral Urns lately found in Norfolk” is made the homely ribbon on which pearls of learning and bright gems of fancy are profusely strung. The disinterment of a few earthen vessels, containing the ashes of our Roman conquerors, is the spell which calls up a complete kaleidoscope of sparkling visions, the changes and contrasts of which are inexhaustible. “Time,” he says, “which reveals old things in heaven, makes new discoveries in earth, and even earth itself a discovery. That great antiquity America lay buried for thousands of years, and a large part of the earth is still in the urn to us.” When a writer is thus able to stretch forth his tentacula in a thousand directions, it is quite impossible to follow him, or to compress him within the limits of a Review. From many treatises the cream may be skimmed; but when an essay is all cream, a taste here and there is the only way to convey an idea of the dish.
“That carnal interment was of the elder date, the old examples of Abraham and the patriarchs are sufficient to illustrate. God himself, that buried but one, was pleased to make choice of this way, collectible from Scripture expression, and the hot contest between Satan and the Archangel about discovering the body of Moses. Others, by preferring the fiery resolution, politically declined the malice of enemies. Which consideration led Sylla unto this practice; who having thus served the body of Marius, could not but fear a retaliation upon his own.”
Browne litttle suspected (in 1658) how shortly Cromwell was to afford a new instance of posthumous indignity. Again:
“Christians dispute how their bodies should lie in the grave. In urnal interment they clearly escaped this controversy. To be gnawed out of our graves, to have our skulls made drinking bowls, and our bones turned into pipes, to delight and sport our enemies, are tragical abominations escaped in burning burials.”
But on the other hand:—
“When Alexander opened the tomb of Cyrus, the remaining bones discovered his proportion, whereof urnal fragments afford but a bad conjecture, and have this disadvantage, that they leave us ignorant of most personal discoveries.”—p. 479.
The passage is almost prophetic of the fate of Browne's own remains. Strange specialties touching cremation are also given in great abundance:—
“To burn the bones of the king of Edom for lime, seems no irrational serity; but to drink of the ashes of dead relations a passionate prodigality.
“Some bones make best skeletons, some bodies quick and speediest ashes. Who would expect a quick flame from hydropical Heraclitus 2 The poisoned soldier (in Plutarch), when his belly brake, put out two pyres. Though the funeral pyre of Patroclus took up an hundred foot, a piece of an old boat burnt Pompey; and if the burthen of Isaac were sufficient for an holocaust, a man may carry his own pyre.”
The Hydriotaphia contains many passages of a higher tone:—
“Oblivion is not to be hired. The greater part must be content to be as though they had not been ; to be found in the register of God, not in the record of man. Twenty-seven names make up the first story before the flood, and the recorded names ever since contain not one living century. The number of the dead long exceedeth all that shall live.
“Who cares to subsist like Hippocrates' patients, or Achilles' horses in Homer, under naked nominations, without deserts and noble acts, which are the balsam of our memories, the entelechia and soul of our subsistences 2 To be name. less in worthy deeds exceeds an infamous history. The Canaanitish woman lives more happily without a name than Herodias with one. And who had not rather have been the good thief than Pilate 2
“Were the happiness of the next world as closely apprehended as the felicities of this, it would be a martyrdom to live; and unto such as consider none hereafter, it must be more than death to die, which makes us amazed at those audacities that durst be nothing and return into their chaos again.
“The particulars of future being must needs be dark unto ancient theories, which Christian philosophy yet determines but in a cloud of opinions. A dialogue between two infants in the womb, concerning the state of this world, might handsomely illustrate our ignorance of the next, whereof methinks we yet discourse in Plato's den, and are but embryo philosophers.
“Happy are they which live not in that disadVantage of time, when men could say little for futurity, but from reason; whereby the noblest minds fell often upon doubtful deaths and melancholy dissolutions. With hopes, Socrates warmed his doubtful spirits against that cold potion; and Cato, before he durst give the fatal stroke, spent part of the night in reading Plato, thereby confirming his wayering hand unto the animosity of the attempt. It is the heaviest stone that Mélancholy can throw at a man, to tell him he is at the end of his nature; or that there is no further state to come, unto which this seems progressional, and otherwise made in vain.”
The Christian Morals (posthumous, 1716), though searched out by an archbishop and published by an archdeacon, hardly answer to the title which stands at their head. Those who refer to them for Christian morality, will find much that they did not go for, and be disappointed of much which they did expect. The treatise is not even a formal specimen of sound Gentile ethics, but a compendium of sensible maxims of worldly wisdom, such as might have come from a less insincere Chesterfield or a less cynical Rochefoucauld. “Good admonitions,” says Sir Thomas, “knock not always in vain;” but his taps are as feeble as the didactic lesson of grandmamma: “Now, dear Johnny, be sure you be a good little boy!” Browne himself had a well-regulated, fully-employed mind, with passions of but slight intensity, and seems scarcely to have known the force of the ejaculation, “The good that I would I do not : but the evil which I would not, that I do. O wretched man that I am who shall deliver me from the body of this death o'
tions and wild horses of Plato, are the highest Circenses; and the noblest digladiation is in the theatre of ourselves; for therein our inward antagonists, not only, like common gladiators, with ordinary weapons and down-right blows make at us; but also, like retiary and laqueary combatants, with nets, frauds, and entanglements, fall upon us.”—iv. 70.
It is true, he adds, that in such combats “not the armor of Achilles, but the armature of St. Paul, gives the glorious day, and triumphs, not leading up to capitols, but to the highest heavens;” but he immediately falls back into the old strain—“Let right reason be thy Lycurgus!” &c.; and the treatise proceeds as a pleasing hint-book for decent conduct, and not in the least as a manual of Christian morals, or a foundation of Christian strength. The Letter to a Friend, to which this is intended as a corollary and supplement, is far more edifying, as well as far more touching and beautiful.
With this knowledge of what Browne's Christian Morals are not, they are well worth looking into now and then for the shrewd, honest, practical notions they contain. As in his other works, metaphors and illustrations are produced in such rapid succession, as almost to fatigue the reader's attention. It is a Chinese feast of a hundred little dishes, served in a hundred different ways, yet all rather stimulant than satisfying. One of his less decorated passages is as follows:—
“When thou lookest upon the imperfections of others, allow one eye for what is laudable in them, and the balance they have from some excellency which may render them considerable.
“Since goodness is exemplary in all, if others have not our virtues, let us not be wanting in theirs; nor, scorning them for their vices whereof we are free, be condemned by their virtues wherein we are deficient. For perfection is not, like light, centred in any one body; but, like the dispersed seminalities of vegetables at the creation, scattered through the whole mass of the earth, no place producing all, and almost all some. So that
'tis well if a perfect man can be made out of
many men, and, to the perfect eye of God, even Out of mankind.”
The following may be taken as a good specimen both of the style and temper of the writer:—
“Make not one in the Historia Horribilis; flay not thy servant for a broken glass; supererogate not in the worst sense. Be not stoically mistaken in the equality of sins, nor commutatively iniquitousin the valuations of transgressions. Let thy arrows of revenge fly short, or be aimed, like those
of Jonathan, to fall beside the mark. Too many there be to whom a dead enemy smells well, and
who find musk and amber in revenge. But patient
meekness takes injuries like pills, not chewing but
swallowing them down, laconically suffering, and
silently passing them over; while angered pride
makes a noise, like Homerican Mars, at every* scratch of offences. Since women do most delight in revenge, it may seem but feminine manhood to be vindictive. If thou must needs have thy
revenge of thine enemy, with a soft tongue break
his bones, heap coals of fire on his head, forgive
him, and enjoy it. If thou hast not mercy for others, yet be not cruel unto thyself. To ruminate upon evils, to make critical notes upon injūries, and be too acute in their apprehensions, is to add unto our own tortures, to feather the arrows
of our enemies, to lash ourselves with the scor
pions of our foes, and to resolve to sleep no more;
for injuries long dreamt on take away at last all
rest, and he sleeps but like Regulus who busieth
his head about them.”
The Religio Medici, though written much earlier, was first published, as we have seen, by a pirate in 1642. Its precise tendency and object have puzzled the world from that time to this ; its ability has been unanimously acknowledged. By some the writer has been stigmatized as an infidel, by others lauded as a Roman Catholic under the compulsory disguise of a member of the Church of England. Meanwhile the book attained at Rome the honors of the Index Expurgatorius. Mr. Wilkin refers those who do not perceive in it its own vindication to the eloquent and conclusive observations of the author's great admirer and biographer, Dr. Johnson ;” while the annotator to the edition of 1656, Mr. Thomas Keck, asserts that no more is meant by the title Religio Medici, or endeavored to be proved in the book, “than that (contrary to the opinion of the unlearned) physicians have religion as well as other
* “It is, indeed, somewhat wonderful that he should be placed without the pale of Christianity, who declares that “he assumes the honorable style of a Christian, not because it is the religion of his country, but because, having in his riper years and confirmed judgment seen and examined all, he finds himself obliged, by the principles of grace and the law of his own reason, to embrace no other name but this; who, to specify his persuasion yet more, tells us that “he is of the reformed religion; of the same belief our Saviour taught, the Apostles disseminated, the fathers authorized, and the martyrs confirmed;’ who, though “paradoxical in philosophy, loves in divinity to keep the beaten road,' o pleases him. self, that “he has no taint of heresy, schism, or error;' to whom, “where the Scripture is silent, the church is a text; where that speaks, 'tis but a comment;' and who uses not ‘the dictates of his own reason but where there is a joint silence of both.”— Ilife by Johnson.
men.” The words of his personal friend Mr. Whitefoot are perhaps those which ought to be relied upon in forming an opinion of the inmost sentiments of a mind so honorable though flighty as his, who candidly says of himself, “When I cannot satisfy my reason, I love to humor my fancy.”—ii. 14.
“In his religion he continued in the same mind which he had declared in his first book, written when he was about thirty years old,—his Religio Medici, wherein he fully assented to that of the Church of England, preferring it before any in the world, as did the learned Grotius. He attended the public service very constantly, when he was not withheld by his practice; never missed the Sacrament in his parish, if he were in town; read the best English sermons he could hear of, with liberal applause, and delighted not in controversies.”—i. xvl.
The hardest and most painful hits that Browne ever received on account of the Religio Medici were those, probably, which were given by the envious sneers of Sir Kenelm Digby. The tone of the “Observations” is conveyed by a single sentence from them : “Assuredly one cannot err in taking this author for a very fine ingenious gentleman, but, for how deep a scholar, 1 leave unto them to judge that are abler than I am.” (ii. 129.) And the wounds were now and then envenomed by the insertion of a minute point of stinging truth: “What should I say of his making so particular a narration of personal things and private thoughts of his own, which 1 make account is the chief end of his writing this discourse 2" Digby is thankful that he is not as other men are, superstitious and credulous, even as this Browne :
“I acknowledge ingenuously our physician's experience hath the advantage of my philosophy in knowing there are witches. And I confess I doubt as much of the efficacy of those magical rules he speaketh of, as also of finding out of mysteries by the courteous revelation of spirits.”—ii. 29.
And yet he, Digby, soberly explains why “terrene souls appear oftenest in cemeteries and charnel-houses” (ii. 131), and that to the same cause “peradventure may be reduced the strange effect which is frequently seen in England, when, at the approach of the murderer, the slain body suddenly bleedeth afresh.”—ii. 135.
The re-perusal of these deep debates between Browne and his assailants emboldens us to the confession that we never greatly cared
“On metaphysic jade to prance,
The attempt of the soul thoroughly to grasp itself and its relations to a higher order of beings involves an utter impossibility. It is as if a watchmaker were resolved to construct a watch that would regulate, and set, and wind up itself. The floating straw, carried along by the stream, demands to regulate the force and direction of the current. An Irishman might liken the philosopher who would obey the Yvold, asaurov with the degree of intimate and transcendental knowledge that has been attempted by certain celebrities and unintelligibilities, to the Herculean Paddy, who, by some sleight of hand, took himself up in his own arms, lifted himself from the ground, and then ran away with himself. Brown truly said, “God hath not made a creature that can comprehend him; ’tis a privilege of his own nature” (ii. 16); but he might have used similar expressions in reference to topics many degrees lower than the nature of the Godhead.
“What do you read, my lord 2 Words, words, words !”
—not half so entertaining, and perhaps not so edifying as the “slanders—that old men have gray beards ; that their faces are wrinkled; and that they have a plentiful lack of wit, together with most weak hams.” Browne’s “words” are neither better nor worse than many others of the same sample. He might well say, that “with the wisdom of God he recreates his understanding—with his eternity he confounds it.” The satisfactory results which he attained may be believed attributable to his making the study of the wisdom and the works of God a corrective of his passion for the solitary recreation of “posing his apprehension with involved enigmas” (ii. 13)—the same which are related to have been found baffling in another sphere—where more potent intelligences
“reasoned high Of providence, foreknowledge, will, and fate; Fixed fate, free will, foreknowledge absolute; (Vain wisdom all, and false philosophy :) And found no end, in wandering mazes lost.”
Let us contrast two not far disjacent passages of the Religio Medici:—
“The world was made to be inhabited by beasts, but studied and contemplated by man: 'tis the debt of reason we owe unto God, and the