- Sir Thomas Browne*
Professor of English, University College, University of Toronto
* Joan Bennett, Sir Thomas Browne. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (Toronto: Macmillan). 1962. Pp. viii, 255. $5.00.
F. L. Huntley, Sir Thomas Browne: A Biographical and Critical Study. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press (Toronto: Ambassador Books). 1962. Pp. x, 283. $6.75.
Sir Thomas Browne, Religio Medici, edited and annotated by James Winny. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (Toronto: Macmillan). 1963. Pp. xxxiv, 154. $1.80.
1. According to the Acts of the Privy Council (P.C.2/38–39), the step-father, Sir Thomas Dutton, was given a pass to go to Ireland, with his whole family, trunks of apparel, and much livestock, in July, 1628. That would seem to be when he settled. In July 1629 he was given another pass to “return” into Ireland with his whole family and retinue, etc. The tempest which so upset Browne’s digestion and produced verse was at Michaelmas. In November 1629 he signed in London for his portion of the estate. Was there an appropriate great tempest in 1629? Or 1630? Is there evidence of some other kind?
2. Both Mr. Huntley and Mrs. Bennett refer to biographical facts about Browne’s mother and stepfather, and “orphanage” difficulties, discovered by the present reviewer, and disagree with some deductions. Referring to the verses m Browne’s notebooks about duelling, and their connection with Dutton’s having killed his colonel, Sir Hatton Cheke, Mrs. Bennett says that if there is a reference “it seems more likely that they reflect the stepfather’s remorse” than young Thomas’s “impressions of that time,” since he was only five years old in 1610. She adds, “The rash young man of the Siege of Juliers may after all have become a worthy stepfather.” Mrs. Bennett also doubts the propriety of connecting the tone or character of Browne’s remarks on marriage, second marriage, filial feeling, and friendship, with his own (unknown) personal experience. Mr. Huntley, who unfortunately completely misreads the financial figures involved, also speaks of Browne’s age and refers to the remoteness of 1610 from “Thomas Birch’s 1760 account” of the events.
These are not very important matters, but it seems worth noting that Sir Edward Cecil’s letters to Prince Henry were written at the time, and the description of the whole affair is by Arthur Wilson, who knew the court, was in the Low Countries for some years a little later, and must have known Dutton (and his “crabbed temper”) at first or second hand. The various evidence I presented about Dutton’s later life (and death from a blow in a quarrel “with some Low Countries friends”) was intended to suggest that he had not changed. But the particular point of a statement by Strafford about Dutton “lowering” upon him, “as if because he had killed Hatton Cheek no man shall dare call upon him for any Duty” (Strafford having told him he had the worst troop of horse in Ireland) is that it comes from 1633 (not 1610), the year before Dutton’s death, and not more than two years before the writing of Religio. The significant sentence of MSS and the 1642 texts “I was never yet once and am resolved never to be married twice,” Mrs. Bennett does not refer to at all in this context, but elsewhere in a discussion of style describes the modification “and commend their resolution who never marry twice” (of the authorized text) as “more impersonal and entertaining,” an alteration “to increase euphony” or “convey a finer shade of meaning.” Possibly; but it was written in its first form—not very warm as a record of friendliness to a deceased stepfather—not very long after Dutton...