Tuesday, 20 November 2007
Mortality and Dr Browne
I don't know whether it's the ending of the year, the dark nights, or wading through several inches of Welsh snow yesterday morning at six o'clock in the morning but I found myself picking up again the inimitable seventeenth century prose master Sir Thomas Browne yesterday to read on the train to London. Thomas Browne's syntax is something of a marvel (and more than once one stops to make sure one has got it) but when he is on form no one can beat him for eloquent musings. Try this from Hydriotaphia or Urne-Buriall prompted by the discovery of some funerary urns, possibly Roman, in a field in Norfolk, shortly before he wrote the book in 1658: "But the long habit of living indisposeth us for dying..." Or maybe: "But the iniquity of oblivion blindly scattereth her poppy, and deals with the memory of men without distinction to merit of perpetuity." It's the way he tells 'em.