on 7 October 2015
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.
on 22 July 2013
The final book to complete a set. Not really sure what to expect however it turns out to be a treatise on Mans futility at trying to achieve immortality. I haven't read it, as it was a present for my husband, but we have been treated to quotes and explanations since it arrived. The language is difficult to follow but it does stretch you. He loves it - well worth it.