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Sir Thomas Browne. (1605–1682). Religio Medici.
The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.

Introductory Note

SIR THOMAS BROWNE was born in London on October 19, 1605, educated at Winchester and Oxford, and trained for the practise of medicine. After traveling on the Continent he finally settled as a physician in Norwich, and enjoyed a distinguished professional reputation. Later he became equally famous as a scholar and antiquary, and was knighted by Charles II on the occasion of the King’s visit to Norwich in 1671. In 1641 he married, and he was survived by four of his ten children. He died on his seventy-seventh birthday.   1
  His “Religio Medici” seems to have been written about 1635, without being intended for publication. In 1642, however, two surreptitious editions appeared, and he was induced by the inaccuracies of these to issue an authorized edition in 1643. Since that time between thirty and forty editions have appeared, and the work has been translated into Latin, Dutch, French, German, and Italian. Of his other works the most famous are “Pseudodoxia Epidemica, or Enquiries into Vulgar Errors” (1646), a treatise of vast learning and much entertainment; “Hydriotaphia, or Urn Burial,” a discourse on burial customs, which closes with a chapter on death and immortality, the majestic eloquence of which places Browne in the first rank of writers of English prose; and “The Garden of Cyrus,” a fantastic account of horticulture from the Garden of Eden down to the time of Cyrus, King of Persia, with much discussion on the mystical significations of the number five. His miscellaneous writings cover a great variety of subjects, religious, scientific, and antiquarian.   2
  The “Religio Medici” is an excellent typical example of the author’s style. At once obscured and enriched by his individual and sometimes far-fetched vocabulary, his full and sonorous periods remain the delight of readers with an ear for the cadences of English prose. The matter of the book also reveals a personality of great charm and humor, a mind at once surprisingly acute and surprisingly credulous, and a character of an exalted nobility.