Sir Thomas Browne, 1605–1682

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Biographical note

Physician and miscellaneous and metaphysical writer, son of a London merchant, was educated at Winchester and Oxford, after which he studied medicine at various Continental univs., including Leyden, where he graduated. He ultimately settled and practised at Norwich. His first and perhaps best known work, Religio Medici (the Religion of a Physician) was published in 1642. Other books are Pseudodoxia Epidemica: Enquiries into Vulgar Errors [1646], Hydriotaphia, or Urn-burial [1658]; and The Garden of Cyrus in the same year. After his death were published his Letter to a Friend and Christian Morals. Browne is one of the most original writers in the English language. Though by no means free from credulity, and dealing largely with trivial subjects of inquiry, the freshness and ingenuity of his mind invest everything he touches with interest; while on more important subjects his style, if frequently rugged and pedantic, often rises to the highest pitch of grave and stately eloquence. In the Civil War he sided with the King’s party, and was knighted in 1671 on the occasion of a Royal visit to Norwich. In character he was simple, cheerful, and retiring. He has had a profound if indirect influence on succeeding literature, mainly by impressing master-minds such as Lamb, Coleridge, and Carlyle.

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