Sir Thomas Browne : Contribution to Prose

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      Sir Thomas Browne (1605-1682) may be taken as representative of the best prose-writers of the period. Browne provide finest literary arts on his prose.

      His Life : Thomas Browne was born in London, educated at Winchester and Oxford, and studied medicine. For a time he practised in Oxfordshire; then he travelled abroad, receiving his degree or M.D. at Leyden. Returning to England (c. 1634), he soon removed to Norwich (1637), where for the remainder of his life he successfully practised as a doctor.

Thomas Browne was born in London, educated at Winchester and Oxford, and studied medicine. For a time he practised in Oxfordshire; then he travelled abroad, receiving his degree or M.D. at Leyden. Returning to England (c. 1634), he soon removed to Norwich (1637), where for the remainder of his life he successfully practised as a doctor.
Thomas Browne

      His Works : Almost alone among his contemporaries, Browne seems to have been unaffected by the commotions of the time. His prose works, produced during some of the hottest years of civil contention, are tranquilly oblivious of unrest. His books are only five in number, are individually small in size, and are of great and almost uniform merit. Religio Medici (written c. 1635 and published 1642), his confession of faith, is a curious mixture of religious faith and scientific scepticism; Pseudodoxia Epidemica, or Vulgar Errors (1646), sharing the same mental inconsistency, resembles the work of Burton in its out of the way learning; Hydriotaphia: Urne Buriall (1658), commonly considered to be his masterpiece, contains reflections on human mortality induced by the discovery of some ancient funeral urns; The Garden of Cyrus (1658) is a treatise on the quincunx. A last work, Christian Morals, was published after his death.

      His Style : Browne's claim to fame is as a literary stylist rather than as a philosopher. He shows the ornate style of the time in its richest bloom. His diction is strongly Latinized, sometimes to the limit of obscurity; and he has the scholastic habit of introducing Latin tags and references. In this he resembles Burton; but in other respects he is far beyond the author of The Anatomy of Melancholy.

      His sentences are carefully wrought and artistically combined into paragraphs; and, most important from the purely literary point of view, the diction has a richness of effect unknown among other English prose-writers. The rhythm is harmonious, and finishes with carefully attuned cadences. The prose is sometimes obscure, rarely vivacious, and hardly ever diverting; but the solemnity and beauty of it have given it an enduring fascination. A brief extract will illustrate some of its qualities.

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