« VorigeDoorgaan »
ous utterances of Forby's examples, such as | Mr. Wilkin is a very treasury of provincial muckup for muck-heap, sidus for sideways, antiquities, manners, and natural history. wammel-cheese for one meal (of milk) cheese, shunt for should not, cup for come up, and k'ye thinder for look ye yonder. "Howstrew?" (How is it true?) asks a skeptical listener: "Strewsgodsin'evn!" is the profane reply. But Shakspeare uses dup for do ope. Doff and don are still great staples with the modern-antique melodramatists. "But all these," says Forby, "are tight, compact condensations of two, or at most three short words. Some are on a larger scale." Take this. A girl employed on a task commonly allotted to boys, called herself a galcobaw—a word which might puzzle the most learned East Anglian philologist. It was found to mean a girlcow-boy.
Although it is now more than two hundred years since Browne settled in Norwich, his name is still inseparable from much that must ever be of interest to both the city and the county. Besides his examples of the respectable if not venerable Icenic phraseology, there is his "Account of Birds found in Norfolk" (iv. 313), enabling the naturalist to discover what species have been driven off by cultivation and increased population. Thus "Cranes are often seen here in hard winters, especially about the champian and fieldy part;" now, they never make their appearance. His Ichthyological Discourse is worth referring to, if only for the record, "Salmon no common fish in our rivers, though many are taken in the Ouse; in the Bure, or North river; in the Waveny, or South river; in the Norwich river but seldom, and in the winter. But four years ago, fifteen were taken at Trowse Mill, at Christmas." (iv. 384.) It is of some interest to know that two hundred years have not altered the character of certain local species. "Oysters, exceeding harge, about Burnham and Hunstanton, whereof many are eaten raw; the shells being broken with cleavers; the greater part pickled, and sent weekly to London and other parts." That he made even a brief list of Fossil Remains (iv. 454) shows that he was in advance of an age which supposed such things to be Nature's abortive failures. His Hydriotaphia arose out of “ The Sepulchral Urns lately found in Norfolk." The Vulgar Errors have been enriched by native materials; and the correspondence given by
* As thus: "Two neat pickles may be contrived, the one of oysters stewed in their own vinegar, with thyme, lemon-peel, onion, mace, pepper; adding Rhenish wine, elder vinegar, three or four pickled eucumbers."-iv. 458.
Of the edition of Sir Thomas Browne, which cost Mr. Wilkin the labor of nearly twelve years, Southey often expressed his very warm approbation and more than once he promised a reviewal, but died re infectâ. Were not the multiplicity of the laureate's tasks so well known, we might wonder, as well as regret, that he did not execute his prot. His mind would have thoroughly sympathized with Browne's in all that related to the dulce est desipere in loco. Both of them would assuredly interpret locus to be any passage or subject around which it was their pleasure to gambol and curvet. The "Doctor," in one of his freakish moods, would receive with an approving grin, rather than sift with stern criticism, Sir Thomas's speculation whether painters and sculptors are not wrong in representing Adam with the usual umbilical dimple-" seeing that he was not born of woman,' and, therefore, could not be impressed with the scar that is so ornamental to all the rest of mankind. Nor would he have quarrelled with the list of empirical remedies for the gout, which Browne drew up for the use of those "unsatisfied with the many rational medicines;"
such as "Wear shoes made of a lion's skin," and "Try the way of transplantation; give poultices taken from the part unto dogs, and let a whelp lie in bed with you;" nor with "Museum Clausum, containing rarities of several kinds, scarce or never seen by any man now living:" the very first of which, as a fair specimen, is "A poem of Ovidius Naso, written in the Getick language; found wrapt up in wax, at Sabaria, on the frontiers of Hungary, where there remains a tradition that he died in his return towards Rome from Tomos, either after his pardon or the death of Augustus."-T is sweet to trifle now and then: Southey's trifling with Browne would have been a perfect Saturnalia of learned misrule.
Sir Thomas, then, though born in London (1605), belongs eminently to East Anglia. After a liberal education at Winchester and Oxford, he settled at Norwich as a physician, in 1636, and retained an extensive practice in the city and county to the end of his life. In 1641 he married "Mrs. Dorothy Mileham, of a good family in Norfolk." In 1642, his Religio Medici was surreptitiously printed, and therefore there appears to us a slight anachronism in Dr. Johnson's remarks
This marriage could not but draw the raillery of contemporary wits upon a man,
who had just been wishing in his new book
The splendid success of the Religio Med ici most likely took Browne by surprise. Though possessed of a modest sense of his own ability and a respectable independence of spirit, he was far above the arrogance of vanity. It may be believed that most writers who eventually attained great popularity, although they might have some instinctive consciousness of the power within them, were yet unable to guess exactly how, or when, it would receive a public recognition. They just let their inspiration have its utterNor (in many cases at least) could they subsequently tell with precision what it was in their writings which had fastened on them so universal a sympathy. The
bond of attachment between an author and
Of those productions which take high rank in a formal list of opera omnia, the Garden of Cyrus (1658) is the least inviting, though eminently characteristic of its author, as is at once shown by the second title, viz. “The Quincuncial Lozenge, or Net-work Plantation of the Ancients, artificially, naturally, mystically, considered." Even Mr. Wilkin confesses that it has, by general consent, been regarded as one of the most fanciful of his works, and that the most eminent even of his admirers have treated it as a mere sport of the imagination. There are, as Coleridge says, "quincunxes in heaven above, quincunxes in earth below, quincunxes in the mind of man, quincunxes in tones, in optic nerves, in roots of trees, in leaves, in everything." The quinary theory of created things, as propounded by some few modern naturalists, would have been a great God-send to Browne; and Mr. Wilkin is seriously inclined to regard the Garden of Cyrus in a higher point of view than a mere jeu d'esprit. "How far," he asks, "has he anticipated in this work those who have conducted their inquiries in the midst of incomparably greater light and knowledge?" (iii. 380.) But we may safely surmise, that the pentangular speculations of Messrs. Mackleay, Vigors, and Swainson are just as capable of practical use and strict application, as are the decussated whimsies of the amiable physician and philosopher of Norwich.
The Garden of Cyrus is so styled because
"all stories do look upon Cyrus as the first splendid and regular planter. According whereto Xenophon (in Economico) described his gallant plantation at Sardis, thus rendered by Strobæus-Arbores pari intervallo sitas, rectos ordines, et his reader may be too subtle for analysis. omnia perpulchrè in quincuncem directa. That Perhaps, granting even a superabundance of is, the rows and orders so handsomely disposed, genius, with all the acquired skill of practice, or five trees so set together, that a regular angudisappointment would be the fate of him larity, and thorough prospect, was left on every who determined to sit down and compose, side; owing this name not only to the quintuple resolutely, a book which should take, as denumber of trees, but the figure declaring that cidedly and confessedly as the Pilgrim's number, which, being double at the angle, makes Progress, Robinson Crusoe, or the Religion the letter X-that is the emphatical decussation, or fundamental figure.
All Browne's subsequent works were written in Norwich; and not a few minor pieces, besides those already mentioned, are specially local. In 1671, he was knighted by Charles II., when on a visit at the ancient palace (always so styled) of the Howards in Norwich. Eleven years later he was seized with a colic, which, after having tortured him about a week, put an end to his life, on his birthday, Oct. 19, 1682-anno ætat. 76. He did lie buried in the church of St. Peter Mancroft.
"Now, though, in some ancient and modern practice, the area, or decussated plot, might be a perfect square, answerable to a Tuscan pedestal, and the quinquernio or cinque point of a dye, wherein by diagonal lines the intersection was large growing trees-and we must not deny ourrectangular-accommodable unto plantations of selves the advantage of this order; yet shall we chiefly insist upon that of Curtius and Porta in their brief description hereof. Wherein the decussis is made within in a longilateral square, with opposite angles, acute and obtuse at the intersection, and so upon progression making a rhombus or lozenge guration."-iii. 388.
With this lozenge as his sole semaphore | and guide, Browne starts at full gallop on his literary steeple-chase; if he halts a moment for refreshment, it can only be at the sign of the Chequers. He gets more and more excited by the game, but diamonds are trumps at every hand. He finds even the Garden of Eden laid out in the Dutch style, and probably full of quincunxes. Since in Paradise itself the tree of knowledge was placed in the middle of the garden, whatever was the ancient figure, there wanted not a centre and rule of decussation." iii. 393. Of course not; where there's a will there's a way to lozenges.
"The net-works and nets of antiquity were little different in the form from ours at present. As for that famous net-work of Vulcan, which inclosed Mars and Venus, and caused that unex
tinguishable laugh in heaven-since the gods
themselves could not discern it, we shall not pry into it.. Heralds have not omitted this order or imitation thereof, while they symbolically adorn their scutcheons with mascles, fusils, and saltyres, and while they dispose the figures of ermines, and varied coats in this quincuncial method. The same is not forgot by lapidaries, while they cut their gems pyramidally, or by æquicrural triangles. Perspective pictures in their base, horizon, and lines of distances, cannot escape these rhomboidal decussations. Sculptors, in their strongest shadows, after this order do draw their double hatches."-iii. 396.
And so on, ad infinitum it might be. Browne stops only because he chooses to stop, not because he has run himself dry. There are digressions, it is true, but not of wide circuit. We do not regret them when they contain passages like the following:
"Light that makes some things seen, makes some invisible; were it not for darkness and the shadow of the earth, the noblest part of the creation had remained unseen, and the stars in heaven as invisible as on the fourth day, when they were created above the horizon with the sun, or there was not an eye to behold them. The greatest mystery of religion is expressed by adumbration, and in the noblest part of Jewish types we find the cherubim shadowing the mercy-seat. Life itself is but the shadow of death, and souls departed but shadows of the living. All things fall under this name. The sun itself is but the dark simulacrum, and the light but the shadow of God."-iii. 436.
.But the moment the clock strikes five in any way, Browne is back again amidst his sylva of pentagons and lozenges. He nauseates
"crambe verities and questions over-queried," and informs us that "the noble Antoninus doth in some sense call the soul itself a rhombus." This proposition is the sum of all things, and therefore, as he says, "'tis time to close the five ports of knowledge" on this transcendental matter. But we cannot even walk away from his symmetrical garden without being reminded, finally, that "the incession or local motion of animals is made with analogy unto this figure, by decussative diametrals, quincuncial lines, and angles ;" and that even in the motion of man the legs "do move quincuncially by single angles with some resemblance of a V, measured by successive advancement from each foot, and the angle of indenture greater or less, according to the extent or brevity of the stride."
Cyrus is the Hydriotaphia-originally pub
Far more valuable than the Garden of
lished also in 1658. This Discourse of the Sepulchral Urns lately found in Norfolk" is made the homely ribbon on which pearls of learning and bright gems of fancy few earthen vessels, containing the ashes of are profusely strung. The disinterment of a our Roman conquerors, is the spell which calls up a complete kaleidoscope of sparkling visions, the changes and contrasts of which are inexhaustible. Time," he "which reveals old things in heaven, makes new discoveries in earth, and even earth itself a discovery. That great antiquity America. lay buried for thousands of years, and a large part of the earth is still in the urn to us." When a writer is thus able to stretch forth his tentacula in a thousand directions, it is quite impossible to follow him, or to compress him within the limits of a Review. From many treatises the cream may be skimmed ; but when an essay is all cream, a taste here and there is the only way to convey an idea
of the dish.
"That carnal interment was of the elder date, the old examples of Abraham and the patriarchs God himself, that are sufficient to illustrate. buried but one, was pleased to make choice of this way, collectible from Scripture expression, and the hot contest between Satan and the Archangel about discovering the body of Moses. Others, by preferring the fiery resolution, politically declined the malice of enemies. Which consideration led Sylla unto this practice; who having thus served the body of Marius, could not but fear a retaliation his own. upon
Browne little suspected (in 1658) how
shortly Cromwell was to afford a new instance of posthumous indignity. Again:"Christians dispute how their bodies should lie in the grave. In urnal interment they clearly escaped this controversy. To be gnawed out of our graves, to have our skulls made drinking bowls, and our bones turned into pipes, to delight and sport our enemies, are tragical abominations escaped in burning burials."
But on the other hand :
"When Alexander opened the tomb of Cyrus, the remaining bones discovered his proportion, whereof urnal fragments afford but a bad conjecture, and have this disadvantage, that they leave us ignorant of most personal discoveries."-p. 479.
The passage is almost prophetic of the fate of Browne's own remains. Strange specialties touching cremation are also given in great abundance:
"To burn the bones of the king of Edom for lime, seems no irrational ferity; but to drink of the ashes of dead relations a passionate prodigality.
"Šome bones make best skeletons, some bodies quick and speediest ashes. Who would expect a quick flame from hydropical Heraclitus? The poisoned soldier (in Plutarch), when his belly brake, put out two pyres. Though the funeral pyre of Patroclus took up an hundred foot, a piece of an old boat burnt Pompey; and if the burthen of Isaac were sufficient for an holocaust, a man may carry his own pyre."
The Hydriotaphia contains many passages of a higher tone:
"Oblivion is not to be hired. The greater part must be content to be as though they had not been; to be found in the register of God, not in the record of man. Twenty-seven names make up the first story before the flood, and the recorded names ever since contain not one living century. The number of the dead long exceedeth all that
"Who cares to subsist like Hippocrates' patients, or Achilles' horses in Homer, under naked nominations, without deserts and noble acts, which are the balsam of our memories, the entelechia and soul of our subsistences? To be nameless in worthy deeds exceeds an infamous history. The Canaanitish woman lives more happily with out a name than Herodias with one. And who had not rather have been the good thief than Pilate ?
"Were the happiness of the next world as closely apprehended as the felicities of this, it would be a martyrdom to live; and unto such as consider none hereafter, it must be more than death to die, which makes us amazed at those audacities that durst be nothing and return into their chaos again.
"The particulars of future being must needs be dark unto ancient theories, which Christian philosophy yet determines but in a cloud of opin ions. A dialogue between two infants in the womb, concerning the state of this world, might handsomely illustrate our ignorance of the next, whereof methinks we yet discourse in Plato's den, and are but embryo philosophers.
"Happy are they which live not in that disadvantage of time, when men could say little for futurity, but from reason; whereby the noblest minds fell often upon doubtful deaths and melancholy dissolutions. With hopes, Socrates warmed his doubtful spirits against that cold potion; and Cato, before he durst give the fatal stroke, spent part of the night in reading Plato, thereby confirming his wavering hand unto the animosity of the attempt. It is the heaviest stone that Melancholy can throw at a man, to tell him he is at the
end of his nature; or that there is no further state otherwise made in vain." to come, unto which this seems progressional, and
The Christian Morals (posthumous, 1716), though searched out by an archbishop and published by an archdeacon, hardly answer to the title which stands at their head. Those who refer to them for Christian morality, will find much that they did not go for, and be disappointed of much which they did expect. The treatise is not even a formal specimen of sound Gentile ethics, but a compendium of sensible maxims of worldly wisdom, such as might have come from a less insincere Chesterfield or a less cynical Rochefoucauld. "Good admonitions," says Sir Thomas, "knock not always in vain;" but his taps are as feeble as the didactic lesson of grandmamma: "Now, dear Johnny, be sure you be a good little boy!" Browne himself had a well-regulated, fully-employed mind, with passions of but slight intensity, and seems scarcely to have known the force of the ejaculation, "The good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.
O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?"
"Rest not in an ovation, but a triumph over thy passions. Let anger walk hanging down the head; let malice go manacled and envy fettered after thee. Behold within thee the long train of thy trophies, not without thee. Make the quarrelling Lapithytes sleep and Centaurs within lie quiet. Chain up the unruly legion of thy breast. Lead thine own captivity captive, and be Cæsar within thyself.
"Be not a Hercules furens abroad and a poltroon within thyself. To chase our enemies out of the field, and be led captive by our vices; to beat down our foes, and fall down to our concupiscences, are solecisms in moral schools, and no laurel attends them. To well manage our affec
tions and wild horses of Plato, are the highest Circenses; and the noblest digladiation is in the theatre of ourselves; for therein our inward antagonists, not only, like common gladiators, with ordinary weapons and down-right blows make at us; but also, like retiary and laqueary combatants, with nets, frauds, and entanglements, fall upon us."-iv. 70.
of Jonathan, to fall beside the mark. Too many there be to whom a dead enemy smells well, and who find musk and amber in revenge. But patient meekness takes injuries like pills, not chewing but swallowing them down, laconically suffering, and silently passing them over; while angered pride makes a noise, like Homerican Mars, at every scratch of offences. Since women do most delight in revenge, it may seem but feminine manhood It is true, he adds, that in such combats to be vindictive. If thou must needs have thy "not the armor of Achilles, but the armature revenge of thine enemy, with a soft tongue break of St. Paul, gives the glorious day, and tri- his bones, heap coals of fire on his head, forgive umphs, not leading up to capitols, but to the him, and enjoy it. If thou hast not mercy for highest heavens;" but he immediately falls others, yet be not cruel unto thyself. To rumiback into the old strain-"Let right reason beries, and be too acute in their apprehensions, is to nate upon evils, to make critical notes upon injuthy Lycurgus!" &c.; and the treatise proceeds add unto our own tortures, to feather the arrows as a pleasing hint-book for decent conduct, of our enemies, to lash ourselves with the scorand not in the least as a manual of Christian pions of our foes, and to resolve to sleep no more; morals, or a foundation of Christian strength. for injuries long dreamt on take away at last all The Letter to a Friend, to which this is in- rest, and he sleeps but like Regulus who busieth tended as a corollary and supplement, is far more edifying, as well as far more touching and beautiful.
With this knowledge of what Browne's Christian Morals are not, they are well worth looking into now and then for the shrewd, honest, practical notions they con
As in his other works, metaphors and illustrations are produced in such rapid succession, as almost to fatigue the reader's attention. It is a Chinese feast of a hundred little dishes, served in a hundred different ways, yet all rather stimulant than satisfying. One of his less decorated passages is as follows:
"When thou lookest upon the imperfections of others, allow one eye for what is laudable in them, and the balance they have from some excellency which may render them considerable.
"Since goodness is exemplary in all, if others have not our virtues, let us not be wanting in theirs; nor, scorning them for their vices whereof we are free, be condemned by their virtues wherein we are deficient. For perfection is not, like light, centred in any one body; but, like the dispersed seminalities of vegetables at the creation, scattered through the whole mass of the earth, no place producing all, and almost all some. So that tis well if a perfect man can be made out of many men, and, to the perfect eye of God, even out of mankind."
The following may be taken as a good specimen both of the style and temper of the writer:
"Make not one in the Historia Horribilis; flay not thy servant for a broken glass; supererogate not in the worst sense. Be not stoically mistaken in the equality of sins, nor commutatively iniquitons in the valuations of transgressions. Let thy arrows of revenge fly short, or be aimed, like those
his head about them."
The Religio Medici, though written much earlier, was first published, as we have seen, by a pirate in 1642. Its precise tendency time to this; its ability has been unanimousand object have puzzled the world from that ly acknowledged. By some the writer has been stigmatized as an infidel, by others
lauded as a Roman Catholic under the com
pulsory disguise of a member of the Church Rome the honors of the Index Expurgatorius. of England. Meanwhile the book attained at Mr. Wilkin refers those who do not perceive in it its own vindication to the eloquent and conclusive observations of the author's great admirer and biographer, Dr. Johnson ;* while the annotator to the edition of 1656, Mr. Thomas Keck, asserts that no more is meant by the title Religio Medici, or endeavored to be proved in the book, "than that (contrary to the opinion of the unlearned) physicians have religion as well as other
"It is, indeed, somewhat wonderful that he should be placed without the pale of Christianity, who declares that he assumes the honorable style of a Christian, not because it is the religion of his country, but because, having 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 authorized, and the martyrs confirmed;' who, though paradoxical in philosophy, loves in self, that he has no taint of heresy, schism, or divinity to keep the beaten road,' and pleases himerror;' to whom, where the Scripture is silent, the church is a text; where that speaks, 'tis but a comment;' and who uses not 'the dictates of his own reason but where there is a joint silence of both." Life by Johnson.