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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Disinterring Dr Browne, 2 May 2012
By 
Samuel Romilly (London United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Major Works (English Library) (Paperback)
Browne, Thomas (1605-82). Doctor of medicine and man of letters, educated at Oxford and Leyden, Browne was the epitome of moderation and tolerance in an age of fanaticism, who found in the Bible not a battlefield but a playground. In much he was as credulous as any of his generation. Much of what he wrote raised no murmur: he discoursed learnedly on the flowers and fish of Scripture; he demonstrated that Jesus reclined rather than sat at supper. Poised between two worlds, the old one of authority and the new one of inquiry, as a scientist he was tempted to find naturalistic explanations for miracles, as a Christian he conquered this temptation "on his knees". He could not, however, curb a persistent tendency to notice inconsistencies and improbabilities in the minutiae of the Bible. He could at times reconcile both reason and revelation: on the relationship of diametric to circumference [2 Chron 4:2] one should "adhere into Archimedes who speaketh exactly rather than the Sacred text which speaketh largely". He might protest that he did not question the metamorphosis of Lot's wife into a pillar of salt, "although some conceive that expression metaphorical". He would not deny that Absolam hanged by his hair rather than by his neck "though if he had a helmet on I could not conceive it". He did not doubt that Judas hanged himself "though there is much evidence against it". He might declare that the Bible is "a most singular book" and aver that its seeming inconsistencies merely reflect human limitation. Whatever his protestations, the chink in the armour of Scriptural infallibility was revealed, and the questioning intellect aroused. Yet his was an inveterately curious rather than clinically scientific mind. Conscious as he was of human fallibility, he always kept his scepticism circumspect. He teased the sacred texts rather than criticised them. Just as he rejoiced in the natural world so there is no doubting his appetite for and enjoyment of the Bible: "it is one of the hardest books I have met with; I wish there had been more of it."

Read Thomas Browne in this or any other edition,especially Religio Medici, and luxuriate in the language as much as the sentiment. A truly great writer, though sadly little remembered, who manages to make grandiloquence sing. The above is my encomium, in which I have tried to give a little of the feel of the man.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perennial best edition of Browne, 23 Aug 2012
By 
Noverre to go (Norwich, England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Major Works (English Library) (Paperback)
Constantine Patrides 1977 edition of the major works of Sir T.B. remains by far the best available edition of the 17th century physician-philosopher's writings. Penguin books term this edition as 'a low print edition', meaning, it's not so cheap but has been permanently available for the last 35 years. Testimony indeed to it being a slow burner. Not only does this edition include an introduction of considerable insight and sympathy, but also C.A. Patrides in his 'Above Atlas his shoulders' essay, acknowledges Frank Huntley's 1962 critical book which emphasised the intimate relationship between the 1658 diptych discourses. Likewise C.A. Patrides has read up on his subject enough to include mention of Peter Green's 1959 speculation on the reason why passages of Browne's prose are unlike any other in the 17th c. may have been due to his occasional dipping into the medicine cabinet - Crucially C.A. Patrides acknowledges the vital role which Hermeticism, Neoplatonism and Neopythagorean thought played upon Browne's spirituality and creativity.

In addition to extensive foot-notes this 1977 edition includes generous chunks of 'Pseudodoxia Epidemica', Browne's major work of scientific journalism. It also includes BOTH of the 1658 diptych discourses in sequence to each other (in my 1658 edition the two discourses are appended to Pseudodoxia in this running sequence, first, both dedicatory epistles to each respective discourse, then Urn-Burial, then Garden of Cyrus).

This edition also includes the minor works, the medical-flavoured 'A Letter to a Friend', the tract On Dreams and Samuel Johnson's biography of Browne, itself including one of the few contemporary accounts of Browne. There's also a useful glossary of ancient names and a comprehensive bibliography. Highly recommended edition, not least for still being the only edition which gives the reader both 1658 discourses, as intended by Browne, not only Urn-Burial, which may be the reverse and not the obverse of the baroque coin exquisitely minted by Browne.
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The Major Works (English Library)
The Major Works (English Library) by Thomas Browne (Paperback - 30 Jun 1977)
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