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peated, and flow on, carrying the reader along, deafened, wearied, halfdrowned, unable to touch ground in the deluge. Burton is inexhaustible. There are no ideas which he does not iterate under fifty forms : when he has expended his own, he pours out upon us other men's—the classics, the rarest authors, known only by savants—authors rarer still, known only to the learned; he borrows from all. Underneath these deep caverns of erudition and science, there is one blacker and more unknown than all the others, filled with forgotten authors, with crackjaw names, Besler of Nuremberg, Adricomius, Linschoten, Brocarde, Bredenbachius. Amidst all these antediluvian monsters, bristling with Latin terminations, he is at his ease ; he sports with them, laughs, skips from one to the other, drives them all at once. He is like old Proteus, the bold runner, who in one hour, with his team of hippopotami, makes the circuit of the ocean.
What subject does he take? Melancholy, his individual mood; and he takes it like a schoolman. None of St. Thomas' treatises is more regularly constructed than his. This torrent of erudition is distributed in geometrically planned channels, turning off at right angles without deviating by a line. At the head of every part you will find a synoptical and analytical table, with hyphens, brackets, each division
subsections : of the malady in general, of melancholy in particular, of its nature, its seat, its varieties, causes, symptoms, its prognosis ; of its cure by permissible means, by forbidden means, by dietetic means, by pharmaceutical means. After the scholastic process, he descends from the general to the particular, and disposes each emotion and idea in its labelled case. In this framework, supplied by the middle-age, he heaps up the whole, like a man of the Renaissance,—the literary description of passions and the medical description of mental alienation, details of the hospital with a satire on human follies, physiological treatises side by side with personal confidences, the recipes of the apothecary with moral counsels, remarks on love with the history of evacuations. The discrimination of ideas has not yet been effected ; doctor and poet, man of letters and savant, he is all at once; for want of dams, ideas pour like different liquids into the same vat, with strange spluttering and bubbling, with an unsavoury smell and odd effect. But the vat is full, and from this admixture are produced potent compounds which no preceding age had known.
IV. For in this mixture there is an effectual leaven, the poetic sentiment, which stirs up and animates the vast erudition, which will not be confined to dry catalogues; which, interpreting every fact, every object, disentangles or divines a mysterious soul within it, and agitates the whole spirit of man, by representing to him the restless world within and without him as a grand enigma. Let us conceive a kindred spirit to Shakspeare's, a scholar and an observer instead of an actor and a poet, who in place of creating is occupied in comprehending, but who, like Shakspeare, applies himself to living things, penetrates their internal structure, puts himself in communication with their actual laws, imprints in himself fervently and scrupulously the smallest details of their figure ; who at the same time extends his penetrating surmises beyond the region of observation, discerns behind visible phænomena a world obscure yet sublime, and trembles with a kind of veneration before the vast, indistinct, but populous abyss on whose surface our little universe hangs quivering. Such a one is Sir Thomas Browne, a naturalist, a philosopher, a scholar, a physician, and a moralist, almost the last of the generation which produced Jeremy Taylor and Shakspeare. No thinker bears stronger witness to the wandering and inventive curiosity of the age. No writer has better displayed the brilliant and sombre imagination of the North. No one has spoken with a more eloquent emotion of death, the vast night of forgetfulness, of the all-devouring pit, of human vanity, which tries to create an immortality out of ephemeral glory or sculptured stones. No one has revealed, in more glowing and original expressions, the poetic sap which flows through all the minds of the age.
But the iniquity of oblivion blindly scattereth her poppy, and deals with the memory of men without distinction to merit of perpetuity. Who can but pity the founder of the pyramids? Herostratus lives that burnt the temple of Diana, he is almost lost that built it. Time hath spared the epitaph of Adrian's horse, confounded that of himself. In vain we compute our felicities by the advantage of our good names, since bad have equal duration ; and Thersites is like to live as long as Agamemnon. Who knows whether the best of men be known, or whether there be not more remarkable persons forgot than any that stand remembered in the known account of time? Without the favour of the everlasting register, the first man had been as unknown as the last, and Methuselah's long life had been his only chronicle.
Oblivion is not to be hired. The greater part must be content to be as though they had not been, to be found in the register of God, not in the record of man. Twenty-seven names make up the first story before the flood, and the recorded names ever since contain not one living century. The number of the dead long exceedeth all that shall live. The night of time far surpasseth the day, and who knows when was the equinox? Every hour adds unto the current arithmetick which scarce stands one moment. And since death must be the Lucina of life, and even Pagans could doubt, whether thus to live were to die ; since our longest sun sets at right declensions, and makes but winter arches, and therefore it cannot be long before we lie down in darkness, and have our light in ashes ; since the brother of death daily haunts us with dying mementos, and time, that grows old in itself, bids us hope no long duration ;-diuturnity is a dream, and folly of expectation.
Darkness and light divide the course of time, and oblivion shares with memory a great part even of our living beings; we slightly remember our felicities, and the smartest strokes of affliction leave but short smart upon us. Sense endureth no extremities, and sorrows destroy us or themselves. To weep into stones are fables. Afflictions induce callosities; miseries are slippery, or fall like snow upon us, which notwithstanding is no unhappy stupidity. To be ignorant of evils to come, and forgetful of evils past, is a merciful provision of nature, whereby we digest the mixture of our few and evil days; and our delivered senses not relapsing into cutting remembrances, our sorrows are not kept raw by the edge of repetitions. . . . All was vanity, feeding the 'wind, and folly. The Egyptian mummies, which Cambyses or time hath spared, avarice now consumeth. Mummy is become merchandise, Mizraim cures wounds, and Pharaoh is sold for balsams. ... Man is a noble animal, splendid in ashes, and pompous in the grave, solemnizing nativities and deaths with equal lustre, nor omitting ceremonies of bravery in the infancy of his nature . . . Pyramids, arches, obelisks, were but the irregularities of vain glory, and wild enormities of ancient magnanimity.'
These are almost the words of a poet, and it is just this poet's imagination which urges him onward into science, Amidst the productions of nature he abounds with conjectures, generalisations; he gropes about, proposing explanations, making trials, extending his guesses like so many flexible and vibrating tentacula into the four corners of the globe, into the most distant regions of fancy and truth. As he looks upon the tree-like and foliated crusts which are formed upon the surface of freezing liquids, he asks himself if this be not a regeneration of vegetable essences, dissolved in the liquid. At the sight of curdling blood or milk, he inquires whether there be not something analogous to the formation of the bird in the egg, or in that coagulation of chaos which gave birth to our world. In presence of that impalpable force which makes liquids freeze, he asks if apoplexies and cataracts are not the effects of a like power, and do not indicate the presence of a congealing agency. He is in presence of nature as an artist, a literary man, in presence of a living countenance, marking every feature, every movement of physiognomy, so as to be able to divine the passions of the inner disposition, ceaselessly correcting and reversing his interpretations, kept in agitation by the invisible forces which operate beneath the visible envelope. The whole of the middle-age and of antiquity, with their theories and imaginations, Platonisin, Cabalism, Christian theology, Aristotle's substantial forms, the specific forms of the alchemists,_all human speculations, strangled or transformed one within the other, meet simultaneously in his brain, so as to open up to him vistas of this unknown world. The mass, the pile, the confusion, the inner fermentation and swarming, mingled with vapours and flashes, the tumultuous overloading of his imagination and his mind, oppress and agitate him. In this expectation and emotion his curiosity is enlisted in everything; in reference to the least fact, the most special, the oldest, the most chimerical, he conceives a chain of complicated investigation, calculating how the ark could contain all creatures, with their provision of food; how Perpenna, in his feast, arranged the invited so as to strike Sertorius,
1 The Works of Sir Thomas Browne, ed. Wilkin, 1852, 3 vols. Hydriotaphia, iii. ch. v. 44 et passim.
? See Milsand, Etude sur Sir Thomas Browne, Revue des deux Mondes, 1858.
his guest; what trees must have grown on the banks of Acheron, supposing that there were any; whether quincunx plantations had not their origin in Eden, and whether the numbers and geometrical figures contained in the lozenge-form are not met with in all the productions of nature and art. You may recognise here the exuberance and the strange caprices of an inner development too ample and too strong. Archæology, chemistry, history, nature, there is nothing in which he is not interested to the extent of a passion, which does not cause his memory and his ingenuity to overflow, which does not summon up within him the idea of some force, certainly admirable, possibly infinite. But what finishes in depicting him, what signalises the advance of science, is the fact that his imagination provides a counterbalance against itself. He is as fertile in doubts as he is in explanations. If he sees the thousand reasons which tend to one view, he sees also the thousand which tend to the contrary. At the two extremities of the same fact, he raises up to the clouds, but in equal piles, the scaffolding of contradictory arguments. Having made a guess, he knows that it is but a guess; he pauses, ends with a perhaps, recommends verification. His writings consist only of opinions, given as such; even his principal work is a refutation of popular errors. After all, he proposes questions, suggests explanations, suspends his judgments; nothing more, but this is enough: when the search is so eager, when the paths in which it proceeds are so numerous, when it is so scrupulous in making certain of its basis, the issue of the pursuit is sure; we are but a few steps from the truth.
In this band of scholars, dreamers, and enquirers, appears the most comprehensive, sensible, originative of the minds of the age, Francis Bacon, a great and luminous intellect, one of the finest of this poetic progeny, who, like his predecessors, was naturally disposed to clothe his ideas in the most splendid dress: in this age, a thought did not seem complete until it had assumed a form and colour. But what distinguishes him from the others is, that with him an image only serves to concentrate meditation. He reflected long, stamped on his mind all the parts and joints of his subject; and then, instead of dissipating his complete idea in a graduated chain of reasoning, he embodies it in a comparison so expressive, exact, transparent, that behind the figure we perceive all the details of the idea, like a liquor in a fair crystal vase. Judge of his style by a single example:
'For as water, whether it be the dew of Heaven or the springs of the earth, easily scatters and loses itself in the ground, except it be collected into some receptacle, where it may by union and consort comfort and sustain itself (and for that cause, the industry of man has devised aqueducts, cisterns, and pools, and likewise beautified them with various ornaments of magnificence and state, as well as for use and necessity); so this excellent liquor of knowledge, whether it descend from divine inspiration or spring from human sense, would soon perish and vanish into oblivion, if it were not preserved in books, traditions, conferences, and especially in places appointed for such matters as universities, colleges, and schools, where it may have both a fixed habitation, and means and opportunity of increasing and collecting itself.'?
“The greatest error of all the rest, is the mistaking or misplacing of the last or farthest end of knowledge: for men have entered into a desire of learning and knowledge, sometimes upon a natural curiosity and inquisitive appetite ; sometimes to entertain their minds with variety and delight; sometimes for ornament and reputation; and sometimes to enable them to victory of wit and contradiction ; and most times for lucre and profession; and seldom sincerely to give a true account of their gift of reason, to the benefit and use of men : as if there were sought in knowledge a couch whereupon to rest a searching and restless spirit; or a terrace, for a wandering and variable mind to walk up and down with a fair prospect; or a tower of state, for a proud mind to raise itself upon; or a fort or commanding ground, for strife and contention; or a shop, for profit or sale ; and not a rich storehouse, for the glory of the Creator, and the relief of man's estate.'?
This is his mode of thought, by symbols, not by analysis ; instead of explaining his idea, he transposes and translates it, -translates it entire, to the smallest details, enclosing all in the majesty of a grand period, or in the brevity of a striking sentence. Thence springs a style of admirable richness, gravity, and .vigour, now solemn and symmetrical, now concise and piercing, always elaborate and full of colour, There is nothing in English prose superior to his diction.
Thence is derived also his manner of conceiving of things. He is not a dialectician, like Hobbes or Descartes, apt in arranging ideas, in educing one from another, in leading his reader from the simple to the complex by an unbroken chain. He is a producer of conceptions and of sentences. The matter being explored, he says to us : Such it is; touch it not on that side ; it must be approached from the other.' Nothing more; no proof, no effort to convince: he affirms, and does nothing more; he has thought in the manner of artists and poets, and he speaks after the manner of prophets and seers. Cogita et visa, this title of one of his books might be the title of all. The most admirable, the Novum Organum, is a string of aphorisms,-a collection, as it were, of scientific decrees, as of an oracle who foresees the future and reveals the truth. And to make the resemblance complete, he expresses them by poetical figures, by enigmatic abbreviations, almost in Sibylline verses : Idola specûs, Idola tribûs, Idola fori, Idola theatri, every one will recall these strange names, by which he signifies the four kinds of illusions to which man is subject. Shakspeare and the seers do not
1 Bacon's Works. Translation of the De Augmentis Scientiarum, Book i.; To the King
Ibid. Book i. The true end of learning mistaken. 3 Especially in the Essays.
4 See also Novum Organum, Books i. and ii. ; the twenty-seven kinds of examples, with their metaphorical names: Instantice crucis, divortii januae, Instantic innuentes, polychresta, magicæ, etc.