[In Our Time] Sir Thomas Browne

Sir Thomas Browne

06/06/2019 by BBC Radio 4

Web player: http://podplayer.net/?id=72733581
Episode: http://open.live.bbc.co.uk/mediaselector/6/redir/version/2.0/mediaset/audio-nondrm-download/proto/http/vpid/p07ccpqk.mp3

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the range, depth and style of Browne (1605-82) , a medical doctor whose curious mind drew him to explore and confess his own religious views, challenge myths and errors in science and consider how humans respond to the transience of life. His Religio Medici became famous throughout Europe and his openness about his religion, in that work, was noted as rare when others either kept quiet or professed orthodox views. His Pseudodoxia Epidemica challenged popular ideas, whether about the existence of mermaids or if Adam had a navel, and his Hydriotaphia or Urn Burial was a meditation on what matters to humans when handling the dead. In 1923, Virginia Woolf wrote, “Few people love the writings of Sir Thomas Browne, but those that do are the salt of the earth.” He also contributed more words to the English language than almost anyone, such as electricity, indigenous, medical, ferocious, carnivorous ambidextrous and migrant.


Claire Preston
Professor of Renaissance Literature at Queen Mary University of London

Jessica Wolfe
Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill


Kevin Killeen
Professor of English at the University of York

Producer: Simon Tillotson

Listen Date: 2019-06-21

Notes: I don’t really know why this guy was notable enough for an episode – but I did end up wishlisted Pseudodoxia Epidemica anyway to see if it lives up to the hype that the panel gave it. And it also reminded me of the overjoyed discussion of the Royal Society and friends and the general time period in The Baroque Cycle, so there’s that.

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