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“ of thirty years; which to relate were not history, " but a piece of poetry, and would sound like a fable.”
There is, undoubtedly, a sense in which all life is miraculous; as it is an union of powers of which we can image no connexion, a succesfion of motions of which the firft cause must be supernatural: but life, thus explained, whatever it may have of miracle, will have nothing of fable; and therefore, the author undoubtedly had regard to something, by which he imagined himself diftinguished from the rest of inan-" kind.
Of these wonders, however, the view that can be now taken of his life offers no appearance. The course of his education was like that of others, such as puc him little in the way of extraordinary casualties. A fcholaftick and academical life is very uniform; and has, indeed, more safety than pleasure. A traveller has greater opportunities of adventure; but Browne traversed no unknown seas, or Arabian defarts: and, surely, a man may visit France and Italy, reside at Montpellier and Padua, and at last take his degree at Leyden, without any thing miraculous. What it was that would, if it was related, sound so poetical and fabulous, we are left to guess; I believe without hope of guessing rightly. The wonders probably were tranfacted in his own mind: self-love, co-operating with an imagination vigorous and fertile as that of Browne, will find or make objects of astonishment in every man's life: and, perhaps, there is no human being, however hid in the crowd from the observation of his fellowmortals, who, if he has leisure and disposition to recoll'ect his own thoughts and actions, will not conclude his life in some fort a miracle, and imagine himself
distinguished from all the rest of his species by many discriminations of nature or of fortune.
The success of this performance was such, as might naturally encourage the author to new undertakings. A gentleman of Cambridge *, whose name was Merryweather, turned it not inelegantly into Latin; and from his version it was again translated into Italian, German, Dutch, and French; and at Strasburg the Latin translation was published with large notes, by Lenuus Nicolaus Molifarius. Of the English annotations, which in all the editions from 1644 accompany the book, the author is unknown.
Of Merryweather, to whose zeal Browne was so much indebted for the sudden extension of his renown, I know nothing, but that he published a small treatise for the instruction of young persons in the attainment of a Latin style. He printed his translation in Holland with some difficulty of The first printer to whom he offered it carried it to Salmafius, “ who laid it by
(says he) in state for three months,” and then discouraged its publication: it was afterwards rejected by two other printers, and at last was received by Haekius.
The peculiarities of this book raised the author, as is usual, many admirers and many enemies; but we know not of more than one professed answer, written under the title of Medicus Medicatus, by Alex. ander Ross, which was universally neglected by the world.
* Life of fir Thomas Browne. + Merryweather's letter, inserted in the Life of fir Thomas Browne. Life of fir Thomas Browne.
At the time when this book was published, Dr. Browne resided at Norwich, where he had settled in 1636, by * the persuasion of Dr. Lushington his tutor, who was then rector of Barnham Westgate in the neighbourhood. It is recorded by Wood, that his practice was very extensive, and that many patients resorted to him. In 1637 of he was incorporated doctor of physick in Oxford.
He married in 1641 Mrs. Mileham, of a good family in Norfolk; “ a lady (says Whitefoot) of such “ symmetrical proportion to her worthy husband, both “ in the graces of her body and mind, that they “ seemed to come together by a kind of natural mag“ netism.”
This marriage could not but draw the raillery of contemporary wits s upon a man, who had just been wishing in his new book, " that we might procreate, “ like trees, without conjunction;" and had || lately declared, that “the whole world was made for man, “ but only the twelfth part of man for woman;" and, that “ man is the whole world, but woman only the “rib or crooked part of man.”
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, like most others, she married upon mingled motives, between convenience and inclination; she had, however, no reason to repent, for she lived happily with him one and forty years, and bore him ten children, of
* Wood's Athenæ Oxonienses.
+ Wood § Howel's Letters.
1 Religio Medici.
whom one son and three daughters outlived their parents : fhe survived him two years, and passed her widowhood in plenty, if not in opulence.
Browne having now entered the world as an author, and experienced the delights of praise and moleftations of censure, probably found his dread of the publick eye diminished; and, therefore, was not long before he trusted his name to the criticks a second time : for in 1646 * he printed Enquiries into vulgar and common Errours; a work, which as it arose not from fancy and invention, but from observation and books, and contained not a single discourse of one continued tenor, of which the latter part arose from the former, but an enumeration of many unconnected particulars, must have been the collection of years, and the effect of a design early formed and long pursued, to which his remarks had been continually referred, and which arose-gradually to its present bulk by the daily aggregation of new particles of knowledge. It is indeed to be wished, that he had longer delayed the publication, and added what the remaining part of his life might have furnished: the thirty-six years which he spent afterwards in study and experience, would doubtless have made large additions to an Enquiry into vulgar Errours. He published in 1673 the sixth edition, with some improvements; but I think rather with explication of what he had already written, than any new heads of difquisition. But with the work, such as the author, whether hindered from continuing it by eagerness of praise, or weariness of labour, thought fit to give, we must be content; and remember, that in all sublunary
*":fe of fir Thomas Browne.
things there is something to be wished which we must with in vain.
This book, like his former, was received with great applause, was answered by Alexander Ross, and translated into Dutch and German, and not many years ago inco French. It might now be proper, had not the favour with which it was at first received filled the kingdom with copies, to reprint it with notes, partly supplemental, and partly emendatory, to subjoin those discoveries which the industry of the last age has made, and correct those mistakes which the author has committed not by idleness or negligence, but for want of Boyle's and Newton's philosophy.
He appears indeed to have been willing to pay labour for truth. Having heard a flying rumour of sympathetick needles, by which, suspended over a circular alphabet, distant friends or lovers might correspond, he procured two such alphabets to be made, touched his needles with the same magnet, and placed them upon proper spindles: the result was, that when he moved one of his needles, the other, instead of taking by sympathy the same direction, “ stood like the pil6 lars of Hercules.” That it continued motionless, will be easily believed; and most men would have been content to believe it, without the labour of so hopeless an experiment. Browne might himself have obtained the same conviction by a method less operose, if he had thrust his needles through corks, and set them afloat in two basons of water.
Notwithstanding his zeal to detect old errors, he seems not very easy to admit new positions; for he never mentions the motion of the earth but with contempt and ridicule, though the opinion, which admits