Religio Medici and Urne-Buriall

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New York Review of Books, Aug 7, 2012 - Philosophy - 224 pages
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Sir Thomas Browne is one of the supreme stylists of the English language: a coiner of words and spinner of phrases to rival Shakespeare; the wielder of a weird and wonderful erudition; an inquiring spirit in the mold of Montaigne. Browne was an inspiration to the Romantics as well as to W.G. Sebald, and his work is quirky, sonorous, and enchanting.

Here this baroque master’s two most enduring and admired works, Religio Medici and Urne-Buriall, appear in a new edition that has been annotated and introduced by the distinguished scholars Ramie Targoff and Stephen Greenblatt (author of the best-selling Will in the World and the National Book Award–winning The Swerve). In Religio Medici Browne mulls over the relation between his medical profession and his profession of the Christian faith, pondering the respective claims of science and religion, questions that are still very much alive today. The discovery of an ancient burial site in an English field prompted Browne to write Urne-Buriall, which is both an early anthropological examination of different practices of interment and a profound meditation on mortality. Its grave and exquisite music has resounded for generations.
 

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Contents

To the Reader
3
The Second Part sections115
65
To My Worthy and Honoured Friend 9 3
93
Glossary of Names and Places
143
Copyright

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2012)

Sir Thomas Browne (1605–1682) was the son of a prosperous London merchant who died while his son was still young. Browne attended Winchester College and Oxford, then spent several years studying medicine at Montpellier, Padua, and Leiden, before receiving his MD in 1633. In 1637 he settled in Norwich where he practiced medicine and lived for the rest of his life. Religio Medici was first published in 1642, without the author’s consent; a year later he approved a new printing (with some of the controversial material removed), and the book became a best seller, subsequently translated into several European languages (and placed on the Papal Index). Browne’s eccentric encyclopedia, Pseudodoxia Epidemica, was first published in 1646 and went through six editions. His last work to be published in his lifetime, Urne-Buriall, appeared in 1658. Browne was knighted in 1671, when King Charles II, his queen, and his court came to Norwich.

Stephen Greenblatt is one of the founders of New Historicism, and the author of many books, including Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare and The Swerve: How the World Became Modern (winner of the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize). He is the John Cogan University Professor of the Humanities at Harvard.


Ramie Targoff is the author of Common Prayer: The Language of Public Devotion in Early Modern England; John Donne: Body and Soul; and the forthcoming Posthumous Love: Eros and the  Afterlife in Renaissance England. She is the Jehuda Reinharz Director of the Mandel Center for  the Humanities and a professor of English at Brandeis.

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