Thomas Browne Profile
Name: Thomas Browne
Full Name: Sir Thomas Browne
Birth Date: Born: October 19, 1605
Birth Place: London, United Kingdom
Died Date: October 19, 1682
Death Place: Norwich, United Kingdom
Buried Place: Saint Helena, Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha
Father's Name: Henry Browne
Mother's Name: Katherine Shelley
Wife Name: Dorothy Mileham (1621–1685)
Children: Edward Browne (Son), Anne Browne (Daughter)
Grandchildren: Frances Fairfax, Thomas Browne
1. University of Padua
2. Leiden University
3. Winchester College
4. University Montpellier
5. Pembroke College
Thomas Browne Notable Works:
1. Religio Medici
2. Hydriotaphia, Urn Burial
3. Pseudodoxia Epidemica
4. The Garden of Cyrus
5. A Letter to a Friend
6. Christian Morals
7. Musaeum Clausum Tract
Thomas Browne Biography
Sir Thomas Browne is the first notable name among the Jacobean prose writers. He may be taken as the representative of the best prose writers of the period. The seventeenth century time spirit found curious but noble expression in his worth.
He was a learned man, a humanist- astonishingly wide read. He was a physician by profession and a theologian by temperament. He was a great scholar, and studied science and natural phenomena with great care and diligence. His mind was deeply tinged with melancholy and he shared the prevalent tendency toward religious mysticism. But these qualities are oddly infused with scepticism flowing from scientific studies, a kind of dreamy half credulous scepticism, very different from Bacon's clear-cut rational view of things.
But it was more characteristic of an age in which medieval and modern ways of thought were still closely mingled together. In 1642, appeared his first work, Religio Medici, a confession of his own personal religious creed. It is in essence a mystical acceptance of Christianity. Religio Medici, meaning the religion of a physician, is a highly original work. It treats religious faith, without any religious bias, and remains singular in its queer mixture of religious devotion and scientific scepticism.
Sir Thomas Browne was quietly writing his longest work Vulgar Errors in 1646, an inquiry, half Scientific and half-credulous, into various popular beliefs and superstitions. In this book Browne first analyses the causes of mistaken popular beliefs, attributing them to the common infirmity of human nature and the inclination of mankind to error, to false deductions, to credulity, to authority and finally to the endeavours of Satan. In 1658, appeared Browne's masterpiece Urn-Burial or Hydriotaphia considered commonly to be his masterpiece, contains his reflections on human vanity and morality.
The entire conception of the work suggested by the discovery of certain Roman burial urns at Willingham is quite novel. Browne's other works are The Gardens of Cyrus (1658), Christian Morals (1716) etc. The Garden of Cyrus is a study on the conveniences and delights of the quincunx and is a curious and no doubt a designed contract exhibiting the lighter side of the 17th century quaintness, which disgusted and puzzled the 18th century readers. Christian Morals is a posthumous work of Browne and is marked with a note of religious mysticism and a didactic work on Christian morality.
Sir Thomas Browne was an artist in prose and he made the fullest use of his artistic sense in the composition of his works. With him the subject matter was not so much of importance as the manner of expressing it. His subjects are quite serious philosophical as well as theological but his treatment nowhere appears to be dry and colourless. The artist in him is found superior to the thinker in him. The writer in him possesses an admirable prose style which is, no doubt, ornate but has the cadence of poetry in it. In the making of a felicitous style in English prose, his role is indeed, immensely significant.
Browne's prose is highly imaginative. His prose is musical also he is in Milton's words, “most musical, most melancholy.” There is a note of dignity and solemnity in the prose style of Browne. The grandeur and solemnity of this style at its best is hardly to be paralleled in English prose. Browne's vocabulary is highly Latinized Browne's prose and Milton's verse are the finest fruits of seventeenth century Latinism. Another element of Browne's prose style is wit.
In short Browne belongs to that school of the 17th century prose where style dominated the writings, serving as an outlet for, variegated forms of literary expression. His meditation mood finds apt tool in his archaic diction, poetic style and rhythmic sentences.