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Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 07.djvu/74

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Browne
Browne
68

with John Evelyn and William Dugdale. The correspondence with Evelyn was begun at the request of Mr. (afterwards Sir) Robert Paston, created earl of Yarmouth in 1673. At this time (January 1667-8) Evelyn was preparing for publication a work to be entitled 'Elysium Britannicum,' and he was anxious to receive assistance from Browne. The tract, 'Of Garlands,' and perhaps the 'Observations on Grafting,' were written at Evelyn's request. Though only a few letters have been preserved, the correspondence appears to have been kept up for some years. In ' Sylva ' Evelyn gives an extract from a letter which Browne addressed to him in 1664. The correspondence with Dugdale relates to the treatise 'On Embanking and Draining,' which Dugdale was then preparing for publication.

In 1668 appeared (1 vol. 8vo) 'Hydriotaphia. Urn Burial ; or a Discourse of the Sepulchral Urns lately found in Norfolk' and 'The Garden of Cyrus ; or the Quincuncial Lozenge, net-work plantations of the Ancients, artificially, naturally, mystically considered.' The former treatise is dedicated to Thomas Le Gros of Crostwick ; the latter to Sir Nicholas Bacon of Gillingham. In 'Hydriotaphia' Browne discusses with great learning the burial-customs that have existed in various countries at various times. More than one quotation is made from Dante ; he was among the very few men of his time who had read the 'Inferno.' The concluding chapter is a solemn homily on death and immortality, unsurpassed in literature for sustained majesty of eloquence. Lamb was an enthusiastic admirer of 'Hydriotaphia.' The ' Garden of Cyrus ' is the most fantastic of Browne's writings. Beginning with the garden of Eden, he traces the history of horticulture down to the time of the Persian Cyrus, who is credited with having been the first to plant a quincunx, though Browne discovers the figure in the hanging gardens of Babylon, and supposes it to have been in use from the remotest antiquity. The consideration of a quincuncial arrangement in horticulture leads him to a disquisition on the mystical properties of the number five. He finds (in Coleridge's words) '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.' At the end of the 'Garden of Cyrus' Browne inserted a note disclaiming the authorship of a book called 'Nature's Cabinet unlocked,' which had been impudently published under his name.

Browne took a lively interest in the training of his children. His eldest son was Edward [q. v.] Thomas, the second son, was sent in 1660 at the age of fourteen, unaccompanied, to travel in France. Among the Rawlinson MSS. (D. 391) are transcripts made by Mrs. Elizabeth Lyttleton of letters written by Browne to 'honest Tom' (as the address always runs) between December 1660 and January 1661-2. The postscript of one letter concludes : 'You may stay your stomack with little pastys sometimes in cold mornings, for I doubt sea larks will be too dear a collation and drawe too much wine down; be warie, for Rochelle was a place of too much good fellowship and a very drinking town, as I observed when I was there, more than other parts of France.' There appears to have been a perfect understanding between father and son. The youth joined the navy in 1664, and had a brief but brilliant career. He disappears from 1667. There are extant two of nis letters to his father, written in May 1667, which prove him to have been a man of scholarly attainments as well as a gallant officer. Browne cherished the memory of his lost son, and often alludes to him in letters of later years. Whitefoot states that two of Browne's daughters were sent to France, but we have no account of their travels. In 1669 Browne's daughter Anne had been married to Edward Fairfax, grandson of Thomas, lord viscount Fairfax. She and her husband spent the Christmas of 1669 under her father s roof, and the visit was either prolonged or repeated, for the registers of St. Peter's, Norwich, contain entries of the birth and burial of their first child, Barker Fairfax, on 30 Aug. and 5 Sept. 1670.

An unfortunate practical illustration of Browne's credulity was given in 1664, when Amy Duny and Rose Cullender were arraigned for witchcraft before Sir Matthew Hale at Bury St. Edmunds. Browne, who was in court at the time of the trial, having been requested by the lord chief baron to give his opinion on the case, declared 'that the fits were natural, but heightened by the devils co-operating with the malice of the witches, at whose instance he did the villainies,' and he mentioned some similar cases that had lately occurred in Denmark. It is supposed that this expression of opinion helped in no slight degree to procure the poor women's conviction (Hutchinson, Historical Essay concerning Witchcraft, 118-20).

In December 1664 Browne was admitted socius honorarius of the College of Physicians, receiving his diploma on 6 July 1665. In 1666 he presented to the Royal Society some fossil bones found at Winterton in Norfolk. Two years afterwards he sent some informa-