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posed subsequent to his return; and, as it is clear from several passages in Religio Medici that it was written, also, after his travels, we may perhaps safely venture to assign the same period to both;-—and conclude that he composed this celebrated treatise, in the seclusion of Shipden-Hall, as a relaxation in the intervals of his professional occupation in that neighbourhood, between the years 1633 and 1635;-after his wanderings had terminated, and some time before his residence at Norwich commenced.
There seems no sufficient reason to question the sincerity of Browne's declaration, that this piece was composed for his private exercise and satisfaction, and not intended for publication. Some years had elapsed since its completion—and his attention very probably was already occupied in collecting materials for a larger undertaking—when the appearance, in 1642, of an anonymous and surreptitious edition of his first work, together with the notice it attracted from the Earl of Dorset and Sir Kenelm Digby, determined him to acknowledge and revise it for the press. Johnson, in his notice of this circumstance, seems to suspect the author (though he professes to acquit him) of having contrived the anonymous publication of the work, in order to try its success with the public; observing, (in allusion to the author's complaint that the “broken and imperfect copy" he had lent had suffered " by frequent transcription,") that “ a long treatise, however elegant, is not often copied by mere zeal or curiosity.” No one, however, acquainted with Browne's character would hesitate to repel this insinuation :-it cannot for a moment be admitted that he was capable of using such means to obtain literary fame and certainly, if he had, he would not have risked his character on an edition so incorrect as to deserve immediate suppression. In reply to the alleged improbability of transcription, may be pleaded the fact, that there is ample proof of the work having been repeatedly transcribed, while in manuscript :— two complete copies are in my own possession ;-a third exists in the Bodleian, and part of a fourth in the British Museum:- none of them transcripts of an existing edition. One of these (MS. W.), though so nearly approaching the edition of 1642, as to lead to the belief that they had
a common origin, is clearly not a copy from it: MSS. W. 2 and R. differ from it still more widely, but resemble each other sufficiently to be considered as the descendants of a second original manuscript: the other (MS. L.) unfortunately is a fragment, but it is interesting, both as possessing a date three years earlier than the spurious edition (1639), and as containing some curious variations from every other manuscript and edition. I am, therefore, perfectly satisfied that Sir Thomas Browne had several originals written by his own hand, differing from each other. This opinion is confirmed by the information of those who knew him, “that it was his constant practice to make repeated copies of his compositions,”—as well as by an examination of his remaining manuscripts. There are, in his common-place books, many pages occupied by
3 A brief description of these MSS. follows. — MS. W. is in foolscap 8vo. 83 pp. beautifully and closely written in a very small hand, the poetry and italics in a taller, Italian hand :-about 40 lines in a page. It has the title " Religio Medici,” in the same hand.
MS. W. 2. is in 4to. pp. 186:-written in a much larger hand—and originally without title.--In a different hand, at the head of the first page, is Religio Medici: and the following notice, in the same hand, occupies the preceding fly-leaf :
Relligio Medici. Authore Medico quodain Anonymo, Anglo, vel Scoto, in
certum. Authorem hunc fuisse natione Scotum perhibent rumores quorumdam eiusdem gentis qui libellum hunc cuidam magnati Anglo loco muneris obtulerunt. Præterea, character genij & morum scriptoris in hoc eodem opere expressus non alium fuisse Scotum suadet quam Doctorem Read medicum Londinensem, hominem non ignotum, aut ignobilem, lectorem (or, as it is written on a slip of paper pasted over the last three words, nec ignobilem, sed prælectorem] Anatomia in eadem civitate, atq. non ita pridem, defunctum, nimirum, ao Aeræ Christianæ 1641. Cæterum, ex aduerso, linguæ Anglicanæ exquisita facundia ab omnibus Scotismis libera, tam in versu quam in oratione soluta, prodit authorem esse Anglum ; atq. hoc ipsum confirmatur ex ea quod se doctrinæ Ecclesia Anglicanæ addictissimum &, quasi iuratum profitetur, quorum, tamen, neutrum in homine Scoto facilè reperies : ob quas causas Anglum fuisse verosimilius iudico, & confirmatur, tandem, hæc nostra coniectura oculato teste et omni exceptione maiori, ita vt deinceps fas amplius non sit ea de re, vel minimum, dubitare; quod autem ad nomen Authoris attinet, cum satis cognitum sit, id suo tempore adifcere constituimus.
From this MS. note, it is evident that the work was widely circulated while in manuscript, some years earlier than 1641: or it could not have been attributed to Dr. Read, wbo died in that year.
MS. R. is in 4to. (very similar to the preceding,) preserved in the Rawlinson Collection, at the Bodleian, and having the following note in the Dr’s. band :-" This Copy of the Religio Medici by Sir Thomas Browne, Kt. is very different from all printed.”
MS. L. is a copy, preserved in the British Museum, among the Lansdowne MSS. (No. 489) of the first Eighteen Sections. It has not the title, but “Mr. Browne, Guy deã 1639," at the beginning. - It differs very much from all the others.
passages, which, with slight variations, occur in his printed works-especially in Hydriotaphia, Quincunx, and Christian Morals,—besides several of the Tracts entire, and of the Brampton Urns two copies, both differing from the printed copy. There is sufficient evidence too, that he was very willing to lend out his works, in manuscript; and some of his lesser pieces were even composed at the request of his friends and for their use. It is therefore easily to be supposed that one of those copies of Religio Medici, which he had lent, found its way "without his assent or privacy," to the press.
When the work had thus unexpectedly made its appearance, it must have struck the author that his name would in all probability be speedily connected with it:-at the same time, its reception (though under the disadvantage of gross inaccuracy) was so flattering, that he probably felt little hesitation in determining to anticipate discovery by avowal, and thus secure to himself the credit and advantage of the work, together with the power of giving it such revision as he wished. In doing this, it was undoubtedly his object, not only to correct the clerical and typographical errors with which the spurious edition abounded, but to modify or expunge certain passages not suited to the temper of the times, or which his more cautious feelings, or altered opinions, made him wish to suppress: he was desirous, also, of making such additions as might justify his having called the former copy “ broken and imperfect." In short, he wished to supersede, and altogether to disown, that edition, and in all probability took care to remove every trace of its original;—for scarcely a fragment of the work remains amongst the Manuscripts he has left. But while the edition of 1643 is to be regarded as that which he intended for the public eye-I am persuaded, from comparing the alterations, additions, and omissions it exhibits, with the Manuscripts and surreptitious editions, that these not only have an equal claim to rank as his composition, but that they alone must be considered to exhibit the work as originally composed “for his own private exercise and satisfaction.” In all the manuscript copies are to be found, without exception, those passages of the surreptitious edition which have been omitted in that of 1643, but not one of the numerous additions nor of the most important alterations it contains.—Now, as it has been shown that those manuscript copies most probably represent three distinct originals, their remarkable agreement with the surreptitious edition, where it differs from the genuine, strongly favours the opinion that the latter was not printed from an existing and more perfect manuscript, but from a copy then first prepared, for the express purpose of publication.—The former, in short, contains his private soliloquies, the latter his published opinions.
In the mean time, the surreptitious edition appears to have been rapidly sold, and a second impression of it was printed. Neither of these has a printed title-page, but both have an engraved frontispiece, by Marshall, representing a figure, which a hand from the clouds has caught by the arm, in the act of falling from a rock into the sea; the motto à coelo salus is engraved by the side of the figure, and Religio Medici below it: at the foot of the plate, Printed for Andrew Crooke, 1642. Will. Marshall scu. Both impressions are in very small octavo; the one has 190 pp., the other 159 pp. ;-the latter has a larger page of type, but is much more accurately and better printed, and probably is the later of the two. These impressions are extremely rare, especially the former, of which my copy is the only one I have seen. In some of the following notes, it is mentioned as Ed. 1642, W.- the other, as Ed. 1642, C.
Whether the engraved frontispiece had any other origin than the fancy of Marshall the engraver, it is difficult to say, but it seems to have pleased that of Browne ; for it appears at the head of his first, and has accompanied every subsequent, edition. The author's frontispiece however differs from the former, in not having Religio Medici in the middle of the design, nor the engraver's name; it has at foot the following words ;-A true and full copy of that which was most imperfectly and surreptitiously printed before under the name of Religio Medici. Printed for Andrew Crooke, 1643. In a perfect copy of this edition in the Dean and Chapter's Library of Norwich, the frontispiece is followed by 4 pp. To the Reader ;-then the work, 183 pp. then Letter to Digby, his reply, and the notice signed A. B. and finally, “Errata;" together 190 pages. It is in very small 8vo.
In the same year appeared, Obserrations upon Religio Medici, occasionally written by Sir Kenelome* Digby, Knight; printed in the same size, and containing 124 pages. A second edition came out in 1644: the third was published, in 1659, with the fifth edition of Religio Medici, to which work it has ever since been appended, though written with reference to the surreptitious edition.
In 1645, that remarkable personage, Alexander Ross, made an attack on both parties, in his Medicus Medicatus: or the Physician's Religion cured, by a lenitive or gentle Potion : with some animadversions upon Sir Kenelme Digby's Observations on Religio Medici. pp. 112. very small 8vo. The work is dedicated “ To my worthy and ever honoured friend, Mr. Edward Benlowes Esquire.” Browne's too great lenity towards Papists, his too free use of “ rhetorical phrase” in religious subjects, his apparent leaning to judicial astrology and other heresies, and the far too measured terms in which he questions certain opinions which Ross roundly condemns,form the general subject of his remarks; which, though often absurd, and sometimes ludicrous, are by no means devoid either of spirit or shrewdness,-though not remarkable, it must be confessed, for candour. In his animadversions on Sir Kenelm, which constitute a third of his book, he chiefly attacks the metaphysicks of the knight and his Catholicism. Some curious proofs of Ross's belief in certain of the vulgar superstitions of his day will be found in the notes, at pp. 132 and 133. The work, however, was not called into a second edition; nor did it provoke any other reply from Dr. Browne, than a fresh edition of his Religio Medici, in that year, 1645; which differs from the first only in having the last figure of the date altered in the plate, and the correspondence with Digby placed before instead of after the work :-it has 188 pages. It is the second authorized edition, but should rather be considered the Fourth edition.
Among the editions of Religio Medici enumerated by Dr. Watt, in his invaluable work, Bibliotheca Britannica, is one dated 1648; but I have never been able to meet with it, and
* An error undoubtedly; - the letter is signed,
" Kenelme Digby."