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Religio Medici and Urne-Buriall (New York…

Religio Medici and Urne-Buriall (New York Review Books Classics)

by Sir Thomas Browne, Sir Thomas Browne

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I found myself wandering down a rather unexpected reading rabbit hole: I finished Jill Lepore's Book of Ages (a biography of Ben Franklin's sister Jane), and that led me to Virginia Woolf's Orlando; when I finished Orlando the thing I wanted to read right off was Sir Thomas Browne's Religio Medici. The trajectory actually makes a great deal of sense now that I've finished all three books, but in the moment I kept thinking about the strangeness of it all.

There's a very good reason Browne's works are still published and enjoyed: the two pieces included in this volume, though written in the middle years of the seventeenth century, are among the most clearly written and well argued essays I've ever read. While I do not always agree with his conclusions (and in some areas of Urne-Buriall he's just completely wrong), Browne's utterly brilliant use of language is a real treat. There were more than a few times where I found myself reading out loud, just to hear how the prose felt when spoken.

Not only as an example of beautiful prose, Religio Medici is also a truly provocative attempt to reconcile science and religion, and both works here meditate on human mortality and aging. The two are separated by a fair number of years, though, and the differences in Browne's own style and attitudes are evident in the later work. I liked both, but in rather different ways. And it would have been fascinating to see what Browne thought of Religio Medici later in life, as his own views on family life, other religions, and mortality evolved over time.

Highly recommended, and this edition made be particularly good as an introduction to Browne's works. I confess, I've already been hunting down some others since I finished this ... ( )
  JBD1 | Oct 17, 2014 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Sir Thomas Browneprimary authorall editionscalculated
Browne, Sir Thomasmain authorall editionsconfirmed
Greenblatt, StephenEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Targoff, RamieEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Here this baroque master's two most enduring and admired works. 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.… (more)

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