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and yet not differ much from one another: the rigorous persecutors of error, should, therefore, enlighten their zeal with knowledge, and temper their orthodoxy with charity; that charity, without which orthodoxy is vain; charity that “thinketh no evil,” but "hopeth all things,” and “endureth all things.”
Whether Browne has been numbered among the contemners of religion, by the fury of its friends, or the artifice of its enemies, it is no difficult task to replace him among the most zealous professors of Christianity. He may, perhaps, in the ardour of his imagination, have hazarded an expression, which a mind intent upon faults may interpret into heresy, if considered apart from the rest of his discourse; but a phrase is not to be opposed to volumes: there is scarcely a writer to be found, whose profession was not divinity, that has so frequently testified his belief of the sacred writings, has appealed to them with such unlimited submission, or mentioned them with such uuvaried reverence.
It is, indeed, somewhat wonderful, that he should be placed without the pale of Christianity, who declares, that “ he assumes the honourable style of a Christian,” not because it is “the religion of his country,” but because “ baving in his riper years and confirmed judgment seen and examined all, he finds himself obliged, by the principles of grace, and the law of his own reason, to embrace no other name but this :" who, to specify his persuasion yet more, tells us, that “he is of the reformed religion; of the same belief our Saviour taught, the apostles disseminated, the fathers authorised, and “the martyrs confirmed:” who, though“ paradoxical in philosophy, loves in divinity to keep the beaten road;" and pleases himself, that “he has no taint of heresy, schism, or error:” to whom “where the Scripture is silent, the church is a text; where that speaks, 't is but a comment;" and who uses not "the dictates of his own reason, but where there is a joint silence of both :” who “blesses himself, that he lived not in the days of miracles, when faith had been thrust upon him; but enjoys that greater blessing, pronounced to all that believe and saw not.” He cannot surely be charged with a defect of faith, who “believes that our Saviour was dead, and buried, and rose again, and desires to see him in his glory:” and who affirms, that “this is not much to believe;” that “as we have reason, we owe this faith unto history;" and that “they only had the advantage of a bold and noble faith, who lived before his coming; and, upon obscure prophecies and mystical types, could raise a belief.” Nor can contempt of the positive and ritual parts of religion be imputed to him, who doubts, whether a good man would refuse a poisoned eucharist; and “who would violate his own arm, rather than a church.”2
The opinions of every man must be learned from himself: concerning his practice, it is safest to trust the evidence of others. Where these testimonies concur, no higher degree of historical certainty can be obtained ; and they apparently concur to prove, that Browne was a zealous adherent to the faith of Christ, that he lived in obedience to his laws, and died in confidence of his mercy.
2 rather than, &c.] To the foregoing added his own resolutions for the guidarguments in vindication of Browne's at- ance of his conduct, and the regulation of tachment to Christianity, may well be his heart.—See vol. iv, 420.
I should be glad to kuow the authority of the following assertion attributed to Dr. Johnson :—“I remember the remark of Sir Thomas Browne ;-- Do the Devils lie?! No; for then hell could not subsist."-- Croker's Johnson, vol. iv, p. 152.
SCARCELY a trace remains of the earlier events of Browne's life ; nor are we possessed of any memorials whatever, from his own pen, respecting those travels and various adventures which preceded his residence at Norwich. An interesting piece of autobiography must, therefore, have perished; for it is impossible to suppose, that he travelled without observing, or that he observed without recording. And, although (as Johnson has remarked) “he traversed no unknown seas or Arabian deserts,” Browne was not the man to have visited even “France and Italy, or resided at Montpellier and Padua,” without having stored his note books with much that would have amply repaid the perusal. Besides which, his family connexions were sufficient to have provided him with introductions to foreigners of character and eminence, of which he would eagerly have availed himself. To all these we should have been introduced, and every thing worth remembering in his intercourse with them, would have been preserved. It has, indeed, been conjectured, that "he was an absent and solitary man;” 1 but I can by no means adopt this opinion: on the contrary, I am persuaded, that his social deportment must have been distinguished by the kindliest courtesy; and, though "free from loquacity," he was too ardent in the pursuit of knowledge, not to have improved to the utmost every opportunity of increasing his stores, by conversation with those who were capable of enriching them. I am satisfied, in short, that had his earlier journals been preserved, they would have exhibited him to us as a traveller, in just as striking a point a view, as that in which "his diligence and curiosity,” his originality of thought and fervour of feeling, and the creative richness of his fancy, have placed him under other characters.
1 I refer to a series of papers in the Athenæum, No. 93, 1829, entitled The Humourists, the first of which is devoted to Sir Thomas Browne; from which I subjoin the following passage :-“We have endeavoured to rescue Sir Thomas Browne from the imputation of being merely a 'curious thinker,' while we have ever admitted that the philosopher and the humourist are strangely blended in his character. Of his domestic manners and relations little is known. But we may conjecture, from various passages in his works, that the same melancholy enthusiasm and eternal speculation which appear in them, tinged, also, with sad and solemn colours, his daily habits. In all likelihood, he was an absent and solitary man, extracting the ood of serious contemplation from all objects indifferently, and busied in perpetual abstractions. Ceremonious in observing times and seasons, as reverencing the inner mysteries of custom. Attached to old manners, as apprehending hidden wisdom in their properties, and as connecting him with remembrance and speculations on the past; curious, probably, in casting the fashion of uncertain evil, and, therefore, little inclined to innovation. He was at once Sir Roger de Coverley, directing the psalmody of the village church, and the melancholy humourist of Milton,
Nor do we find either journals, or correspondence, (except a very few letters on scientific or literary subjects,) to guide us through the first twenty years of his residence at Norwich. To account for this almost total absence of autobiographical memoranda, I have sometimes felt inclined to suspect, that Browne might have occasionally indulged himself in the expression of opinions relating to the political aspect of affairs in his own country, which his subsequent position, especially when the civil war actually broke out, led him to think it most prudent to suppress. For though a royalist, he was utterly averse to all that was arbitrary, especially in matters of religion; and, therefore, might have seen much to disapprove in the measures of the court, as well as in the subsequent outrages of the popular party, which he was very likely, both in his private memoranda and in his confidential correspondence, to have denounced in terms which would have rendered him obnoxious to both parties, if "the liberty of those times had committed them to the press.” But let this pass as an idle speculation: it is just as useless to regret the want of these materials, as it is to conjecture whether they ever existed, or what has become of them. We have them not; and must, therefore, proceed to do our best without them.
* Whose lamp at midnight hour
It appears, that when Browne left the university, he took up his first residence somewhere (but we are not informed where) in Oxfordshire, and practiced physick probably for about two years, from the end of 1629 or beginning of 1630. He then commenced his travels, by visiting Ireland with his father-in-law, Sir Thomas Dutton. Mr. Le Neve, in his pedigree of the Browne family, has (erroneously) called this gentleman Sir Ralph Dutton. The epithet bestowed on him by Mrs. Lyttleton does not agree with the account with which Dr. Birch has given : of a Sir Thomas Dutton, whom he elsewhere affirms to be the individual here spoken of; “the same Sir Thomas Dutton who killed Sir Hatton Cheke in a duel."4 In allusion to which, very possibly, it was, that Browne composed the following lines, preserved in MS. Sloan. 1869:
: "A worthy person."-See her account of her father, in Preface to the Life.
3 In his Life of Prince Henry, 8vo. Lond. 1760, p. 199, 200; where he gives a letter from Sir Edward Cecil, commander of “the English forces employed in the war about the succession to the deceased Duke of Cleves, written on the 29th of July, 1610, from the camp before Juliers, to Prince Henry, relating to the progress of the siege; in which letter is the following passage :-'I am only unhappy in one thing, that the mutinous and unworthy carriage of Sir Tbomas Dutton, whom your highness was pleased to favour beyond his merit, hath from time to time disturbed lhe course of the service; having even, at his first arrival here, braved me at the head of the troops, daring to tell me, to my face, that it seemed his majesty had given me a commission to abuse men, when there was nothing in question but the doing of the duty of a captain, which he ought not to dispute amungst us, seeing it was the first time that even he or his company came into the field amongst us: and ever since, in all meetings, he hath disputed my commission and authority so far, and with so much scorn, that, though hitherto, in respect to your highness, I have contained myself; yet seeing that now again, in a public assembly, he hath contemptibly spoken of my commission, and, upon base advantage, hurt Sir Hatton Cheke, his colonel, who took upon him the defence of it, I most humbly beseech pour highness will be rather pleased to allow of that which justice here shall allot him; presuming that your highness's princely judgment will find it expedient that I be discharged of such a bad member, which, in the heat of his majesty's service, dare contest with me, and be content, upon any terms, to murder his commander.' Dr. Birch adds, in a note, that Sir Hatton Cheke was, soon after the surrender of Juliers, killed in a duel, on Calais sands, by Sir Thomas Dutton. The Biographia Brittanica says, "that he enjoyed an honourable post in the government of Ireland:" what this post was he does not say, nor can I.
* In a copy of Christian Morals, presented by Dr. Johnson to Birch, is this memorandum, in the hand-writing of the latter.