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Sunday, July 19, 2015

Reading John Carey: Sir Thomas Browne, Religio Medici

pirated edition from 1642 of Religio Medici
(published by Andrew Crooke)
frontispiece engraved by William Marshall
source: Houghton Library at Harvard University
no copyright infringement intended

If a proof is needed to demonstrate a pompous character and a ridiculous mind, here it is:

I would be content that we might procreate like trees, without conjunction, or that there were any way to perpet6uate  the world without this trivial and vulgar act of coition. It is the foolishest act a wise man commits in all his life, nor is there anything that will more deject his cool imagination, when he shall consider what an odd and unworthy piece of folly he hath committed.

It belongs to Sir Thomas Browne: a fragment from his Religio Medici, and it is quoted everytime the name of Browne comes into picture. I found it in NY Times, also in a book of John Carey. I tried to upload the whole opus, without success (you can give a shot: it is on a site of Chicago University).

Well, John Carey gives an interesting explanation: it is not necessarily about pompous character (or ridiculous mind).

... he (Browne) is simply being rational, and comparing, in a spirit of scientific detachment, the human species and its curious means of reproduction, with other forms of life.

To understand Browne one should keep in mind that he belongs to a special epoch: watching him, his curious sentences, means watching the moment when modern world comes into being (John Carey), the epoch of two simultaneous revolutions, the Protestantism and the modern science. Simultaneous and maybe contradictory, anyway with ups and downs, with pushes forward and backward, and with an amazing mix of old and new, of superstition and free mind.

(Sir Thomas Browne)

(John Carey)

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