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LETTER FROM SIR THOMAS BROWNE.
and exercitations thereon, will in a great part impugn the printer or transcriber, rather than the author. If, after that, you shall esteem it worth your vacant hours to discourse thereon, you shall but take that liberty which I assume myself, that is, freely to abound in your sense as I have done in my own. shall determine, you shall sufficiently honour me in the vouchsafe of your refute, and I oblige the whole world in the occasion of your pen. Your Servant,
T. B. Norwich, March 3, 1642.
SIR KE NE LM DIG B Y.
SPEEDILY upon the receipt of your letter of the third current, I sent to find out the printer that Mr. Crook (who delivered me yours) told me was printing something under my name, concerning your treatise of “Religio Medici,” and to forbid him any further proceeding therein ; but my servant could not meet with him ; whereupon I have left with Mr. Crook a note to that purpose, entreating him to deliver it to the printer. I verily believe there is some mistake in the information given you, and that what is printing must be from some other pen
than mine; for such reflections as I made upon your learned and ingenious discourse are so far from meriting the press, as they can tempt nobody to a serious reading of them. They were notes hastily set down, as I suddenly ran over your excellent piece, which is of so weighty subject, and so strongly penned, as requireth much time, and sharp attention but to comprehend it; whereas, what I wrote was the employment but of one sitting ; and there were not twenty-four hours between my receiving my Lord of Dorset's letter that occasioned what I said, and the finishing my answer to him ; and yet part of that time was taken up in procuring your book, which he desired me to read and give him an account of, for till then I was so unhappy as never to have heard of that worthy discourse. If that letter ever come to your view (1) you will see the high value I set upon your great parts : and if it should be thought I have been omething too bold differing from your sense, I hope I shall
(") See the end of “Religio Medici.”
easily obtain pardon, when it shall be considered that his lordship assigned it me as an exercitation, to oppose in it, for entertainment, such passages as I might judge capable thereof; wherein what liberty I took is to be attributed to the security of a private letter, and to my not knowing (nor my lord's) the person whom it concerned.
But, sir, now that I am so happy as to have that knowledge, I dare assure you that nothing shall ever issue from me, but savouring of all honour, esteem, and reverence both to yourself, and that worthy production of yours. If I had the vanity to give myself reputation by entering the lists in public with so eminent and learned a man as you are, yet I know right well I am no ways able to do it ; it would be a very unequal progress. I pretend not to learning ; those slender notions I have are but disjointed pieces I have by chance gleaned up here and there. To encounter such a sinewy opposite, or make animadversions upon so smart a piece as yours is, requireth such a solid stock and exercise in school-learning. My superficial besprinkling will serve only for a private letter, or a familiar discourse with lady-auditors. With longing I expect the coming abroad of the true copy of that book, whose false and stolen one hath already given me so much delight. And so, assuring you I shall deem it a great good fortune to deserve your favour and friendship, I kiss your hand, and rest,
Your most humble Servant,
Winchester House, March 20, 1642.
TO THE READER.
CERTAINLY that man were greedy of life, who should desire to live when all the world were at an end; and he must needs be very impatient, who would repine at death in the society of all things that suffer under it. Had not almost every man suffered by the press, or were not the tyranny thereof become universal, I had not wanted reason for complaint: but in times wherein I have lived to behold the highest perversion of that excellent invention, the name of his majesty defamed, the honour of parliament depraved, the writings of both depravedly, anticipatively, counterfeitly imprinted ; complaints may seem ridiculous in private persons; and men condition
may be as incapable of affronts, as hopeless of their reparations. And truly had not the duty I owe unto the importunity of friends, and the allegiance I must ever acknowledge unto truth, prevailed with me, the inactivity of my disposition might have made these sufferings continual, and time, that brings other things to light, should have satisfied me in the remedy of its oblivion. But because things evidently false are not only printed, but many things of truth most falsely set forth, in this latter I could not but think myself engaged. For though we have no power to redress the former, yet in the other, reparation being within ourselves, I have at present represented unto the world a full and intended copy of that piece, which was most imperfectly and surreptitiously published before.
This I confess, about seven years past, with some others of affinity thereto, for my private exercise and satisfaction I had at leisurable hours composed; which being communicated unto one, it became common unto many, and was by transcription successively corrupted, until it arrived in a most depraved copy at the press. He that shall peruse that work, and shall take notice of sundry particulars and personal expressions therein, will easily discern the intention was not public: and being a private exercise directed to myself, what is delivered therein, was rather a memorial unto me, than an example or rule unto any other : and therefore if there be any singularity therein correspondent unto the private conceptions of any man, it doth not advantage them : or if dissentaneous thereunto, it no way overthrows them. It was penned in such a place, and with such disadvantage, that (I protest) from the first setting of pen unto paper, I had not the assistance of any good book, whereby to promote my invention, or relieve my memory, and therefore there might be many real lapses therein, which others might take notice of, and more than I suspected my• self. It was set down many years past, and was the sense of my conception at that time, not an immutable law unto my advancing judgment at all times; and therefore there might be many things therein plausible unto my passed apprehension, which are not agreeable unto my present self. There are many things delivered rhetorically, many expressions therein merely tropical, and as they best illustrate my intention, and therefore also there are many things to be taken in a soft and flexible sense, and not to be called unto the rigid test of reason. Lastly, all that is contained therein, is in submission unto maturer discernments; and as I have declared, shall no further father them than the best and learned judgments shall authorise them; under favour of which considerations I have made its secrecy public, and committed the truth there to every ingenuous reader.