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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 whom one son and three daughters outlived their parents : she 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 molestations 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 Inquiries 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 tenour, 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 Inquiry 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 disquisition. But with the work, such as the authour, 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 things there is something to be wished which we must wish in vain.
* Life of Sir Thomas Browne.
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 into 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 pillars 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 basins of water.
Notwithstanding his zeal to detect old errours, 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 it, was then growing popular, and was surely plausible, even before it was confirmed by later observations.
The reputation of Browne encouraged some low writer to publish, under his name, a book called,* Nature's Cabinet unlocked, translated, according to Wood, from the physicks of Magirus ; of which Browne took care to clear himself, by modestly advertising, that “if any man t had been benefited by it, he was not so ambitious as to challenge the honour thereof, as having no hand in that work."
In 1658, the discovery of some ancient urns in Norfolk gave him occasion to write Hydriotaphia, Urn-burial, or a Discourse of Sepulchral Urns, in which he treats with his usual learning on the funeral rites of the ancient nations; exhibits their yarious treatment of the dead; and examines the substances found in his Norfolcian urns. There is, perhaps, none of his works which better exemplifies his reading or memory. It is scarcely to be imagined, how many particulars he has amassed
* Wood, and Life of Sir Thomas Browne. + At the end of Hydriotaphia.
together, in a treatise which seems to have been occasionally written; and for which, therefore, no materials could have been previously collected. It is indeed, like other treatises of antiquity, rather for curiosity than use; for it is of small importance to know which nation buried their dead in the ground, which threw them into the sea, or which gave them to birds and beasts; when the practice of cremation began, or when it was disused; whether the bones of different persons were mingled in the same urn; what oblations were thrown into the pyre; or how the ashes of the body were distinguished from those of other substances. Of the uselessness of these inquiries, Browne seems not to have been ignorant; and, therefore, concludes them with an observation which can never be too frequently recollected:
“ All or most apprehensions rested in opinions of some future being, which, ignorantly or coldly believed, begat those perverted conceptions, ceremonies, sayings, which Christians pity or laugh at. Happy are they, which live not in that disadvantage of time, when men could say little for futurity, but from reason; whereby the noblest mind fell often upon doubtful deaths, and melancholy dissolutions: with these hopes Socrates warmed his doubtful spirits against the cold potion; and Cato, before he durst give the fatal stroke, spent part
of the night in reading the immortality of Plato, thereby confirming his wavering hand unto the animosity of that attempt.
“ It is the heaviest stone that melancholy 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 ; without this accomplishment, the natural expectation and desire of such a state were but a fallacy in nature: unsatisfied considerators would quarrel at the justness of the constitution, and rest content that Adam had fallen lower, whereby, by knowing no other original, and deeper ignorance of themselves, they might have enjoyed the happiness of inferiour creatures; who in tranquillity possess their constitutions, as having not the apprehension to deplore their own natures; and being framed below the circumference of these hopes of cognition of better things, the wisdom of God hath necessitated their contentment. But the superiour ingredient and obscured part of ourselves, whereto all present felicities afford no resting contentment, will be able at last to tell us we are more than our present selves; and evacuate such hopes in the fruition of their own accomplishments."
To his treatise on Urn-burial was added The Garden of Cyrus, or the Quincunxial Lozenge, or Network Plantation of the Ancients, artificially, naturally, mystically considered. This discourse he begins with the Sacred Garden, in which the first man was placed; and deduces the practice of horticulture from the earliest accounts of antiquity to the time of the Persian Cyrus, the first man whom we actually know to have planted a quincunx; which, however, our authour is inclined to believe of longer date, and not only discovers it in the description of the hanging gardens of Babylon, but seems willing to believe, and to persuade his reader, that it was practised by the feeders on vegetables before the flood.
Some of the most pleasing performances have