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pleasure to common readers; for whether it be that the world is very uniform, and therefore he who is resolved to adhere to truth will have few novelties to relate; or that Dr. Browne was, by the train of his studies, led to inquire most after those things by which the greatest part of mankind is little affected; a great part of his book seems to contain very unimportant accounts of his passage from one place where he saw little, to another where he saw no more.
Upon his return, he practised physick in London ; was made physician first to Charles II. and afterwards, in 1682, to St. Bartholomew's Hospital. About the same time he joined his name to those of many other eminent men, in “a translation of Plutarch's lives." He was first censor, then elect, and treasurer of the college of physicians; of which in 1705 he was chosen president, and held his office till in 1708 he died in a degree of estimation suitable to a man so variously accomplished, that king Charles had honoured him with this panegyrick, that “he was as learned as any of the college, and as well-bred as any of the
Of every great and eminent character, part breaks forth into publick view, and part lies hid in domestick privacy. Those qualities, which have been exerted in any known and lasting performances, may, at any distance of time, be traced and estimated; but silent excellencies are soon forgotten; and those minute peculiarities which discriminate every man from all others, if they are not recorded by those whom personal knowledge enables to observe them, are irrecoverably lost. This mutilation of character must have happened, among many others, to Sir Thomas Browne, had it not been delineated by his friend Mr. Whitefoot, “who esteemed it an especial favour of Providence, to have had a particular acquaintance with him for two thirds of his life." Part of his observations I shall therefore copy.
“ For a character of his person, his complexion and hair was answerable to his name; his stature was moderate, and habit of body neither fat nor lean, but surápxos.
“In his habit of clothing, he had an aversion to all finery, and affected plainness both in the fashion and ornaments. He ever wore a cloak, or boots, when few others did. He kept himself always very warm, and thought it most safe so to do, though he never loaded himself with such a multitude of garments, as Suetonius reports of Augustus, enough to clothe a good family.
“ The horizon of his understanding was much larger than the hemisphere of the world : all that was visible in the heavens he comprehended so well, that few that are under them knew so much : he could tell the number of the visible stars in his horizon, and call them all by their names that had any; and of the earth he had such a minute and exact geographical knowledge, as if he had been by Divine Providence ordained surveyor-general of the whole terrestrial orb, and its products, minerals, plants, and animals. He was so curious a botanist, that, besides the specifical distinctions, he made nice and elaborate observations, equally useful as entertaining.
“ His memory, though not so eminent as that of Seneca or Scaliger, was capacious and tenacious, insomuch as he remembered all that was remarkable in any book that he had read; and not only knew all persons again that he had ever seen at any distance of time, but remembered the circumstances of their bodies, and their particular discourses and speeches.
“In the Latin poets he remembered every thing that was acute and pungent: he had read most of the bistorians, ancient and modern, wherein his observations were singular, not taken notice of by common readers; he was excellent company when he was at leisure, and expressed more light than heat in the temper of his brain.
“He had no despotical power over his affections and passions (that was a privilege of original perfection, forfeited by the neglect of the use of it), but as large a political power over them, as any stoick, or man of his time, whereof he
gave so great experiment, that he hath very rarely been known to have been overcome with
of them. The strongest that were found in him, both of the irascible and concupiscible, were under the control of his reason. Of admiration, which is one of them, being the only product, either of ignorance, or uncommon knowledge, he had more and less than other men, upon the same account of his knowing more than others; so that though he met with many rarities, he admired them not so much as others do.
“ He was never seen to be transported with mirth, or dejected with sadness ; always cheerful but rarely merry, at any sensible rate; seldom heard to break a jest; and, when he did, he
would be apt to blush at the levity of it: his gravity was natural, without affectation.
“His modesty was visible in a natural habitual blush, which was increased upon the least occasion, and oft discovered without any observable cause.
They that knew no more of him than by the briskness of his writings, found themselves deceived in their expectation, when they came in his company, noting the gravity and sobriety of his aspect and conversation; so free from loquacity or much talkativeness, that he was something difficult to be engaged in any discourse; though when he was so, it was always singular, and never trite or vulgar. Parsimonious in nothing but his time, whereof he made as much improvement with as little loss as any man in it: when he had any to spare from his drudging practice, he was scarce patient of any diversion from his study; so impatient of sloth and idleness, that he would say, he could not do nothing.
“Sir Thomas understood most of the European languages; viz. all that are in Hutter's Bible, which he made use of. The Latin and Greek he understood critically; the Oriental languages, which never were vernacular in this part of the world, he thought the use of them would not answer the time and pains of learning them; yet had so great a veneration for the matrix of them, viz. the Hebrew, consecrated to the oracles of God, that he was not content to be totally ignorant of it; though very little of his science is to be found in any books of that primitive language. And though much is said to be written in the derivative idioms of that tongue, especially the Arabick, yet
he was satisfied with the translations wherein he found nothing admirable.
“In his religion he continued in the same mind which he had declared in his first book, written when he was but thirty years old, his Religio Medici, wherein he fully assented to that of the church of England, preferring it before any in the world, as did the learned Grotius. He attended the publick service very constantly, when he was not withheld by his practice; never missed the sacrament in his parish, if he were in town; read the best English sermons he could hear of, with liberal applause; and delighted not in controversies. In his last sickness, wherein he continued about a week's time, enduring great pain of the colick, besides a continual fever, with as much patience as hath been seen in any man, without any pretence of Stoical apathy, animosity, or vanity of not being concerned thereat, or suffering no impeachment of happiness—Nihil agis, dolor.
“His patience was founded upon the christian philosophy, and a sound faith of God's providence, and a meek and holy submission thereunto, which he expressed in few words. I visited him near his end, when he had not strength to hear or speak much; the last words which I heard from him were, besides some expressions of dearness, that he did freely submit to the will of God, being without fear: he had often triumphed over the king of terrours in others, and given many repulses in the defence of patients; but, when his own turn came, he submitted with a meek, rational, and religious courage.
“He might have made good the old saying of