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Prefixed to the Edition published in 1836.
NEARLY twelve years have elapsed since the present edition was undertaken ; and it affords me no small gratification to have at length accomplished, however imperfectly, a task which has been attended by a degree of labour proportioned to the difficulty of the work, and the competency of the workman. The delay, though not my own, and incurred in the hope of securing a corresponding advantage to my readers, cannot, I fear, be justified:
-and, when I consider how often plans have been defeated, assurances forfeited, and character thus sacrificed, by a spirit of procrastination, I cannot but rejoice that my own intentions have survived that which threatened their frustration, and that I have been permitted, though late, to redeem my pledge by the publication of these volumes.
Respecting the Works of Sir Thomas Browne, I need say the less here, because explanatory
prefaces accompany the principal of them. Religio Medici, Pseudodoxia Epidemica, and the volume containing Hydriotaphia and the Garden of Cyrus, were published by himself; after his decease, and in consonance no doubt with his understood intentions, appeared the Miscellany Tracts, Letter to a Friend, Posthumous Works, and Christian Morals. The last of these, we are informed by his daughter,'
a continuation of his Religio Medici, drawn up in his elder years," and seems to have been left in readiness for the press. Of his lesser pieces he had probably intended to make a complete collection, and either to publish, or leave them for publication in a revised form; for he has informed us himself that he had “some miscellaneous tracts which might be published.” The collection which was brought out by Abp. Tenison does not appear to me to have been so complete or so revised and arranged, as the author would have left it. It will be expected that I should say a few words respecting
See last page of Supplementary Memoir, and Archdeacon Jeffery's Preface to the Christian Morals. VOL. I.
the LIFE and CORRESPONDENCE. The only original and authentic biographical materials which exist respecting Browne are, first, his own brief notice sent to Aubrey for the use of Anthony Wood; secondly, the “Minutes,” drawn up at the request of his widow, by the Rev. John Whitefoot, M.A. ;' thirdly, some additional information given by Mrs. Lyttleton to Bp. Kennet. The first life which appeared accompanied the Posthumous Works, in 1712, and included the Minutes. In 1736 a second was prefixed to the 13th edition of Religio Medici : and in 1756 Dr. Johnson wrote his biography for the 2nd edition of the Christian Morals. I am not aware of any other distinct Life of Browne", but he is noticed more or less copiously in the principal biographical collections foreign as well as English: especially the Biographia Britannica, Aikin, Chalmers, Biographie Universelle, Bayle, Jöcher, Niceron,* &c. I have reprinted Dr.
2 He was but five years younger than Sir Thomas, and for thirty years his intimate friend. Bp. Hall, in 1652, instituted him to the rectory of Heigham, Norwich, which he resigned in 1682 to his son, the minister of St. Peter's Mancroft, whose portrait is in the vestry of that church. The Biographia Britannica mentions a letter from Mr. Whitefoot to Lady Browne, respecting his proposed life, but I have not been able to trace it. He died in 1699, aged 89, and was buried in St. Gregory's, Norwich. The greater part of the Minutes was included by Dr. Johnson, in his life ; and the remaining paragraphs will be found in this edition, at the foot of pp. xxvi. xxvii
. xxix. He probably intended to write a much fuller life, and it was to this design that Abp. Tenison alluded in his preface to the Miscellany Tracts.
3 The article in the Biographia by Kippis is far more copious than any other. It contains references to, and translations of, many criticisms on Browne, and an original letter by him.
Dr. Aikin, in a letter to the Rev. R. Barbauld, in 1775 (inserted in Miss Aikin's memoir of the doctor), says, “I have lately been writing the life of a very extraordinary man, Sir Thomas Browne, &c.” Miss Aikin, in reply to an inquiry what had become of this Life, says, “It was not printed in the Biographical Memoirs of Medicine, the only work of my father's on medical biography, because that work comes no lower than Harvey : but he inserted it, I apprehend, in an abridged form, in the General Biography.”
I forgot to notice, in my Preface to the Pseudodoxia, that M. du Petit Thouars (who wrote the article in Biographie Universelle) ascribes the French translation of that work to the Abbé Souchay.
I must not omit to remark that some of his biographers have attributed to Browne works which he did not write. " În the Life prefixed to Religio Medici, 1736, it is asserted that he wrote a treatise, entitled De Lucis Causa et Origine, in a letter to Isaac Vossius, with whom he had a dispute upon that subject (printed at Amsterdam in 1663, and criticising Vossius's work, De Natura et Proprietate Lucis), wherein he strongly maintains Descartes's hypothesis. He also wrote
Johnson's Life, adding here and there a note, corrective or explanatory ;-but reserving such additional information, as I have been able to collect from preceding biographies and other sources, for a separate and Supplementary Memoir. Here I have col. lected all the information in my power respecting the family of Sir Thomas, his literary and scientific pursuits and habits, his correspondents, his works, and the various criticisms they met with both abroad and at home. Respecting the MSS. which he left, I have drawn up (by the help of a catalogue in the Bodleian Library) rather a full notice, partly in order to prove that I have left nothing unpublished, and partly to point out, that the far greater part of the collection is still preserved, in about 100 volumes, extending from No. 1824 to 1924 in the Sloanian MSS. of the British Museum. My account of the family of Sir Thomas is considerably fuller than those hitherto given :-and if in this memoir I have been reluctantly compelled to leave many points of interest in obscurity, I must console myself with Dr. Johnson's reflection that in all sublunary things, there is something to be wished which we must wish in vain."
But no part of the work has cost me more perplexity and labour than the selection and arrangement of the CORRESPONDENCE. The family letters, extending through a period of twenty years, were almost all without date of the year, though bearing that of month and day; and they were bound up without any
kind of order. To supply the omission was no easy affair. Some of
an Apology for the Cartesian Philosophy, in opposition to a divine, named Vogelsang.” It may be conjectured that the writer had inada vertently applied to Sir T. B. the following account given by M. Bayle, of a very different person. “Jean de Bruyn, Professeur à Utrecht en Physique et en Mathématique, né à Gorcum, 1620, mort à Leyde, 1675; écrivit à Isaac Vossius une lettre de 68 pages in 4to. De Lucis Causis et Origine ; qui fut imprimée à Amsterdam, 1668. Il a fait aussi une Apologie de la Philosophie Cartésienne, contre un Théologien nommé Vogelsang."
Jöcher, in his Allgemeines Gelehrten Lexicon, erroneously attributes to him two other works, viz. The History of the Life and Reign of the famous Princesse Elizabeth, —which is Camden's tomus alter et idem ; or, the History of the Life and Reign of the famous Princesse Elizabeth, by Thos. Brown, D.D. Lond. 1629, 4to., and Jani Philadelphi Consultatio desultoria de optima Christianorum Secta, et Vitiis Pontificiorum. Prodromus Religionis Medici, small 8vo. Patav. 1688. Jöcher asserts that Janus Philadelphus was an assumed name :-it might be so ; and, though Sir Thomas died 1682, the book might have appeared posthumously, like several other of his works--but in the course of it, the author refers to Avis aux RR. PP. Jésuites, du 2me Mai, l'an 1685 :—this is conclusive against our author's claims, who died three years before.
the letters indeed contained incidents which determined the year, and in a few the day of the week was mentioned, but in the great majority I was compelled to judge by the connection of their subjects with those which I had already dated. It was in short a process of approximation, which, after all, has left many very doubtfully, and several, I fear, wrongly arranged. Some of little interest I rejected, from utter inability to place them ;and, could I have foreseen the bulk of the volume, the rejections would have been more unsparing.
A copious INDEX closes the whole. The portrait at the head of this work has been engraved from White's, in the folio of 1686, compared with a copy taken, by Dr. Bandinell's kind permission, from the original picture in the schools at Oxford,-a decidedly better picture than that presented by Dr. Howman to the vestry of St. Peter's, Norwich,--and, I believe, than that which is in the College of Physicians.
Nothing now remains but to express my sense of obligation to the kindness of numerous friends who have rendered me advice, assistance, and encouragement. To enumerate them, were it possible to do so without omission after such a lapse of yearsmight have rather the appearance of parade than of gratitude: while a solitary omission would expose me to the mortifying and undeserved imputation of ingratitude. I shall therefore name but one,—to whom indeed both the first and the last place may be fairly said to belong :-and through whose introduction the far greater number of my other literary obligations have been incurred. I mean my kind friend Thomas Amyot, Esq., who from the very commencement of my undertaking to its completion, has rendered me, in every possible way, and with an unsparing munificence of time, labour, and patience, his own various aid, and has ever been prompt to obtain for me, among his extensive acquaintance, the help of others. To him, and to every other individual from whom I have received the smallest particle of assistance, I beg to offer my most cordial thanks.
And here I close my labours ;-content to bespeak for them the favourable reception of the public in the quaint language of one of old :-“If I have done well, it was that which I desired ; and if slenderly and meanly, it was that which I could attain unto.”
S. W. Norwich, Jan. 28th, 1836.