Page images

specting Browne are, first, his own brief notice sent to Aubrey for the use of Anthony Wood ;3 secondly, the “ Minutes,” drawn up at the request of his widow, by the Rev. John Whitefoot, M.A.;4 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 Biographical Dictionary, Aikin, Chalmers, Biographie Universelle, Bayle, Jöcher, Niceron, &c. I have reprinted Dr. Johnson's

3 Vol. i, p. 467, 470. • He was but five years younger than Sir Thomas, and for 30 years bis intimate friend. Bp. Hall, in 1652, instituted him to the Rectory of Heigham, Norwich, which he resigned in 1982 to his son, the mirister 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 this Minutes was included by Dr. Johnson, in his life; and the remaining paragraphs will be found in this edition, at the foot of pp. xli, xliv, xlvii. He probably intended to write a much fuller life, and it was to this design that Abp. Tenison alluded in bis preface to the Miscelluny Tracts.

5 Vol. i, cx. 6 The article in the Biographia by Kippis is far more copious than other. It contains references to, and translations of, many criticisms on Browne, and an original letter by him, (see p. 356.)

Dr. Aikin, in a letter to the Rev. R. Barbauld, in 1775, (inserted in Miss Aikin's memoir of the Dr.) 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,


Life, adding here and there a note, corrective or explanatory ;—but reserving such additional information, or more ample notices, as I have been able to collect from preceding biographies and other sources, for a separate and Supplementary Memoir. Here I have collected 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. By the kindness of Charles George Young, Esq. York Herald, I am enabled to give two pedigrees ;-one by Sir Thomas in 1664, the other at a much later date, from the MSS. of Peter Le Neve, Esq. Norroy. In addition to these I have drawn up a full pedigree of the family, continuing it to the present in day the only surviving branch,—the Earl of Buchan and Lord Erskine; both descended from Francis Fairfax, granddaughter of Sir Thomas Browne, and sole heiress of Henry, grandson of Thomas Lord Viscount Fairfax, in Ireland. In the construction and revision of this document I have to acknowledge the kind assistance of Sir N. Harris Nicholas. 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."

because that work comes no lower than Harvey; but be 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. “ In 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 Des Cartes's hypothesis. He also wrote an Apology for the Cartesian Philosophy, in opposition to a divine, named Vogelsang.It may be conjectured that the writer had inadvertently applied to Sir T. B. the following account given by M. Bayle, of a very different person.

“ Jeau de Bruyn, Professeur a Utrecht en Physique et en Mathématique, né à Gorcum, 1620, mort à Leyde, 1675; ecrivit a 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,coutre un Théologien nommé Vogelsang."

Jöcher, in bis 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. Jesuites, du 2me, Mai, l'an 1685:- this is conclusive against our author's claims, who died 3



But no part of the work has cost me more perplexity and labour than the selection and arrangement of the CORRESPONDENCE. A great proportion, being family letters and therefore illustrative of family history, I have kept distinct; dividing the whole into Domestic and Miscellaneous Correspondence. I have placed the letters of each correspondent together; but, with the occasional exceptions arising from such grouping, the collection is arranged chronologically,—as far as it was possible.—But here arose the difficulty :—the family letters, extending through a period of twenty years, were almost all without date of the year, though supplied with that of inonth and day: and they were bound

7 See end of vol. iv, p. 463.



kind of order. To supply the omission was no easy affair. Some of 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 by Mr. Edwards9 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. The other engravings accompanying the work are, a facsimile of Sir Thomas's will, and a plan of the green yard in the precincts of the cathedral, Norwich, both from drawings by Mr. Woodward ; together with Sir Thomas's monument, and a plate of arms from the Posthumous Works. I had, at one time, a wish to give an engraving of the picture at Devonshire House, said by Walpole to be Dobson's picture of Sir Thomas and his family: and with this view I requested the Duke of Devonshire's permission. His grace not only granted it in the most prompt and obliging manner, but had the kindness himself to shew me the picture, and to favour me with his opinion,--that Walpole was decidedly wrong. The Duke's opinion being confirmed by Mr. Lyttleton's assurance to Bp. Kennet in 1712, that the picture was that of Sir Thomas's father and mother, with himself, an infant, and his brother and two sisters,-I relinquished my intention.

* Excepting also the supplementary series of letters at pages 417 and 461.

9 No. 1, Gloucester Place, Camden Town.

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 possi

« PreviousContinue »