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SIR WILLIAM BROWNE.
THIS worthy old Knight was the son of a Physician. He was born in 1692; and in 1707 was entered at Peter house, Cambridge; where he describes himself, in 1711, as in his Soph's year, and attentively studying the Articles of the Church of England. He took the degree of B. A. 1710; M. A. 1714; and M. D. 1721; soon after which he settled at Lynn, where he practised with considerable success; though even then he shewed some degree of eccentricity. Once, in particular, a pamphlet having been written against him, he nailed it up against his house-door.
In 1735 he commenced author, by publishing the third edition of "Dr. Gregory's Elements of Catoptrics and Dioptries. Translated from the Latin Original, by William Browne, M. D. at Lynn Regis in Norfolk. By whom is added, 1. A Method for finding the Foci of all Specula, as well as Lens's universally; as also magnifying or lessening a given Object by a given Speculum, or Lens, in any assigned Proportion. 2. A Solution of those Problems which Dr. Gregory has left undemonstrated. 3. A particular Account of Microscopes and Telescopes, from Mr. Huygens; with the Discoveries made by Catoptrics and Dioptrics. The second edition, illustrated with useful cuts, curiously and correctly engraven by Mr. Senex, Svo. Price 5s. *"
* To this edition was prefixed a recommendatory introduction by Dr. Desaguliers, who added an Appendix, containing the History of the two reflecting telescopes, with their several improvements at that time.
By the epigram transcribed below*, he appearsto have been the champion of the fair sex at Lynn in the year 1748.
Having acquired a competency by his profession, he removed to Queen's Square, Ormond Street, London, where he seems to have cultivated his attachment for Apollo, as the Patron both of Poetry and Physic; and a great number of lively essays, both in prose and verse, the production of his pen, were printed and circulated among his friends.
As a member of the Royal College of Physicians, he was appointed in 1751 to deliver the Harveian Oration; and in 1765 had the honour of being chosen President of the College; an office which he held for two years; and on quitting the chair, delivered an Oration, in which he thus delineates his own character:
"The manly age and inclination, with conformable studies, I diligently applied to the practice of physic in the country: where, as that age adviseth, I sought riches and friendships. But afterward, being satiated with friends, whom truth, not flattery, had procured, satiated with riches, which Galen, not Fortune, had presented, I resorted immediately to this College: where, in farther obedience to the same adviser, I might totally addict myself to the service of honour. Conducted by your favour, instead of my own merit, I have been advanced through various degrees of honour, a most delightful climax indeed, even to the very highest of all which the whole profession of Physic hath to confer. In
* Domino Wilhelmo Browne, Militi.
Be thou, O Knight, the Giant's scourge and dread,
this chair therefore, twice received from the Elects, shewing their favour to himself, he confesseth, much more than to the College, your Praesident Acknowledges, that he has happy been,
And, now, content with acting this sweet scene,
in order to attach himself and the remainder of his life, no longer, as before, solely to the College, but, by turns, also to the medicinal springs of his own country; although, as a Physician, never unmindful of his duty, yet after his own manner, with hilarity rather than gravity: to enjoy liberty more valuable than silver and gold, as in his own right, because that of mankind, not without pride, which ever ought to be its inseparable companion.
Now the free foot shall dance its favourite round. Behold an instance of human ambition! not to be satiated, but by the conquest of three, as it were, medical worlds; lucre in the country, honour in the College, pleasure at medicinal springs! I would, if it were possible, be delightful and useful to all: to myself even totally, and aequal: to old age, though old, diametrically opposite, not a censor and chastiser, but a commender and encourager, of youth. I would have mine such as, in the Satire,
Crispus's hoary entertaining age,
Whose wit and manners mild alike engage. The age of praesiding, by the custom of our praedecessors, was generally a lustrum, five years; although our Sloane, now happy, like another Nestor, lived to see three ages, both as Praesident, and as man. But two years more than satisfy me: for, that each of the Elects may in his turn hold the sceptre of prudence, far more desirable than power, given by Caius, which the law of justice and aequity recommends,
No tenure pleases longer than a year. But, in truth, among such endearing friendships with you, such delightful conversations, such use
ful communications, with which this amiable situation hath blessed me, one or two things, as is usual, have happened, not at all to my satisfaction. One, that, while, most studious of peace myself, I hoped to have praeserved the peace of the College secure and intire, I too soon found that it was not otherwise to be sought for than by war: but, even after our first adversary, because inconsiderable, was instantly overthrown, and his head completely cut off by the hand of the Law, yet from the same neck, as if Hydra had been our Enemy, so many other heads broke out, yea, and with inhuman violence broke into this very Senate, like monsters swimming in our medical sea, whom I beheld with unwilling indeed, but with dry or rather fixed eyes, because not suspecting the least mischief from thence to the College, and therefore laughing, so far from fearing. The other, in reality never enough to be lamented, that, while I flattered myself with having, by my whole power of pursuasion, in the room of Orphaean music, raised the Croonian Medical Lecture as it were from the shades into day, if there could be any faith in solemn promises; that faith being, to my very great wonder, violated, this Lecture, like another Eurydice, perhaps looked after by me too hastily, beloved by me too desperately, instantly slipped back again, and fled indignant to the shades below." He used to say he resigned the Presidentship because he would not stay to be beat:-alluding to the attack of the Licentiates.
The following verses were sent to Sir William Browne, by unknown initials, D. G. (or rather written by himself) vindicating him against the abuse, and anger, of Scots Rebel Licentiates. AD FVSCVM, EQVITEM, PRAESIDEM, Horace, Ode XXII. B. I. Integer vitæ, scelerisque purus, Non timet Scoti obloquium, neque iram, Nec venenatis gravidam sagittis, FVSCE, pharetram.
Pone Te Scotis ubi nulla campis
TO BROWNE, KNIGHT, PRAESIDENT.
As soon as he was out of office, he entered on his plan of visiting the medical springs. Whilst he was at Bath, he paid a visit to Bp. Warburton at Prior Park; and the learned Prelate has exhibited a most capital literary portrait of him; which every one who knew
"When you see Dr. Heberden, pray communicate to him an unexpected honour I have lately received. The other day, word was brought me from below, that one Sir William Browne sent up his name, and should be glad to kiss my hand. I judged it to be the famous Physician, whom I had never seen, nor had the honour to know. When I came down into the drawing-room, I was accosted by a little, round, well-fed gentleman, with a large muff, in one hand, a small Horace, open, in the other, and a spying-glass dangling in a black ribbon at his button. After the first salutation, he informed me that his visit was indeed to me; but principally, and in the first place, to Prior-Park, which had so inviting a prospect from below; and he did not doubt but, on examination, it would sufficiently repay the trouble he had given himself of coming up to it on foot. We then took our chairs; and the first thing he did or said, was to propose a doubt to me concerning a passage in Horace, which all this time he had still open in his band. Before I could answer, he gave me the solution of this