Open main menu

Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 07.djvu/76

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

These tracts chiefly consist of letters in reply to inquiries of correspondents. A copy that belonged to Wilkin contains a manuscript note by Evelyn: 'Most of these letters were addressed to Sir Nicholas Bacon.' The contents are: 1. 'Observations upon several Plants mentioned in Scripture.' 2. 'Of Garlands and Coronary or Garland Plants,' against which in Evelyn's copy is the note: 'This letter was written to me from Dr. Browne; more at large in the Coronarie plants.' 3. 'Of the Fishes eaten by our Saviour with his Disciples after his Resurrection from the Dead. 4. 'An Answer to certain Queries relating to Fishes, Birds, and Insects.' 5. 'Of Hawks and Falconry, ancient and modern.' 6. 'Of Cymbals,' &c. 7. 'Of Ropalic or Gradual Verses,' &c. 8. 'Of Languages, and particularly of the Saxon Tongue.' 9. 'Of Artificial Hills, Mounts, or Burrows in many parts of England,' addressed to ' E. D.,' an evident mistake for 'W. D.,' i.e. William Dugdale. 10. 'Of Troas,' &c. 11. ' Of the Answers of the Oracle of Apollo at Delphos to Crœsus, King of Lydia,' from which tract (as from a passage of 'Religio Medici') it appears that Browne believed in the satanic origin of oracles. 12. 'A Prophecy concerning the Future State of several Nations.' 13. ' Musæum Clausum, or Bibliotheca Abscondita,' a whimsical jeu d'esprit, suggested (as Warburton supposed) bv Rabelais' catalogue of the books in tHe library of St. Victor. These tracts were republished in the 1686 folio of Browne's works. The fine and solemn 'Letter to a Friend upon occasion of the death of his intimate friend' was issued in 1690 as a folio pamphlet by Dr. Edward Browne. It closes with a string of maxims which reappear with slight variations in 'Christian Morals.' A manuscript copy of the 'Letter,' differing largely from the printed text, is preserved in Sloane MS. 1862. In 1712 appeared 'Posthumous Works of the learned Sir Thomas Browne, knt., M.D., late of Norwich: printed from his original manuscripts,' &c. The volume opens with a short life of Browne, to which are appended Whitefoot's 'Minutes,' and the diploma given to Browne by the College of Physicians when he was chosen socius honorarius. The miscellanies embrace: 1. 'An Account of Island, altos Iceland, in the year 1662.' 2. 'Repertorium, or some Account and Monuments in the Cathedral Church of Norwich,' written in 1680. In the preface to the 1684 collection Archbishop Tenison, speaking of Browne's unpublished manuscripts, referred to this tract in the following terms: 'Amongst these manuscripts there is one which gives a brief account of all the monuments of the cathedral of Norwich. It was written merely for private use, and the relations of the author expect such justice from those into whose hands some imperfect copies of it are fallen, that, without their consent first obtained, they forbear the publishing of it. The truth is, matter equal to the skill of the antiquary was not there afforded.' 3. 'Concerning some Urnes found in Brampton Field, Norfolk, ann. 1667,' a supplement to 'Urn Burial' 4. 'Some Letters which pass'd between Mr. Dugdale and Dr. Browne, ann. 1658; a letter "Concerning the too nice curiosity of censuring the Present or judging into Future Dispensations;" a note "Upon reading Hudibras."' 6. 'A Letter to a Friend,' &c. (originally published in 1690). The first edition of 'Christian Morals' was published in 1716 by Archdeacon Jeffery. It is supposed that this treatise was intended as a continuation of 'Religio Medici.' A correspondent of the 'European Magazine' (xi. 89) found in a copy of the 1686 edition of Browne's works a manuscript note by White Kennet stating, on information derived from Mrs. Lyttleton, that when Tenison returned Browne's manuscripts to Dr. Edward Browne the choicest papers, which were a continuation of his 'Religio Medici,' could not be found. This note is supported by the statement of Jeffery in the preface, that the reason why the treatise had not been printed earlier was 'because it was unhappily lost by being mislaid among other manuscripts for which search was lately made in the presence of the Lord Archbishop of Canterbury, of which his grace, by letter, informed Mrs. Lyttleton when he sent the manuscript to her.' It may be assumed with certainty that Browne never intended 'Christian Morals' for publication in its present shape. Of all his works it is the weakest, and has the appearance of being a collection of fragmentary jottings from notebooks—a piece of patchwork. Of course it contains some noble passages, but too often the thought is thin and the language turgid.

The manuscripts of Browne and of his son and grandson, Dr. Edward Browne and Dr. Thomas Browne, were sold after the death of the grandson. Most of them were purchased by Sir Hans Sloane, and are now preserved in Sloane MSS. 1825-1923. A full list of these manuscripts is given by Wilkin at the end of the fourth volume of the 1835 edition of Browne. All the pieces in the collection that could be shown to be by Browne were printed by Wilkin. Among these are: 1. 'Account of Birds, Fish, and