Thomas Browne Criticism - Essay

Laurence Stapleton (essay date 1973)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Stapleton, Laurence. “Sir Thomas Browne and Meditative Prose.” In The Elected Circle: Studies in the Art of Prose, pp. 42-72. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1973.

[In the following essay, Stapleton offers an evaluation of Browne's major prose works.]

Sir Thomas Browne is in one way the most original prose writer of the seventeenth century; not simply for the uniqueness of tone, the individual voice imparted to every sentence, but because he evolved a form of writing that contained the seed of growth. The sermon had no future, the Baconian essay was perfected by Bacon, never to be equalled. Browne's prose, in contrast, created an encounter of...

(The entire section is 9289 words.)

James N. Wise (essay date 1973)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Wise, James N. “Browne and His Critics.” In Sir Thomas Browne's ‘Religio Medici’ and Two Seventeenth-Century Critics, pp. 1-11. Columbia, Mo.: University of Missouri Press, 1973.

[In the following essay, Wise provides a brief overview of Browne's ideas concerning the nature of divinity in the context of critical reaction from Alexander Ross and Kenelm Digby.]

Why should we look once again at the writings of three controversialists of seventeenth-century England—Sir Thomas Browne, Sir Kenelm Digby, and Alexander Ross? Browne has become so traditionally a part of the history and texture of classic English prose style that we sometimes unconsciously...

(The entire section is 4175 words.)

Laurence A. Breiner (essay date September 1977)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Breiner, Laurence A. “The Generation of Metaphor in Thomas Browne.” Modern Language Quarterly 38, no. 3 (September 1977): 261-75.

[In the following essay, Breiner contends that Browne consistently uses metaphors to convey the principles and ideas contained in his works, and that there is a commonality in the images he uses in most of his prose works.]

Thomas Browne has been variously treated as a scientist, a religious writer, and a prose stylist. But largely because of seventeenth-century tensions between science and religion, even between plain honesty and literary style, studies along these lines tend to diverge in their conclusions, and produce...

(The entire section is 6193 words.)

Mark L. Caldwell (essay date September 1982)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Caldwell, Mark L. “The Transfigured ‘I’: Browne's Religio Medici.Thought: A Review of Culture and Ideas 57, no. 226 (September 1982): 332-44.

[In the following essay, Caldwell observes that the Religio Medici derives its sense of unity from its fine melding of the personal and the eccentric, in terms of Browne's thoughts and ideas.]

Browne was once revered for a quaint willingness to share with his reader the aimless, eccentric privacies of his informal thought. The ellipses and protean divagations of his style, the chatty asides and apparent confessions of endearing prejudice, were thus viewed as inevitable marks of a personality...

(The entire section is 7050 words.)

Frank J. Warnke (essay date 1982)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Warnke, Frank J. “A Hook for Amphibium: Some Reflections on Fish.” In Approaches to Sir Thomas Browne: The Ann Arbor Tercentenary Lectures and Essays, edited by C. A. Patrides, pp. 49-59. Columbia, Mo.: University of Missouri Press, 1982.

[In the following essay, Warnke refutes Stanley Fish's critique of Browne's work, stressing that a common religious background is not a necessity when trying to appreciate the artistic or religious ideas in a work of prose.]

It was in some ways refreshing when, in his Self-Consuming Artifacts of 1972, Stanley Fish attacked Sir Thomas Browne as being “the bad physician.”1 Not since Sir Kenelm Digby's...

(The entire section is 5740 words.)

Robert Ellrodt (essay date 1987)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Ellrodt, Robert. “Time and the Body in the Works of Sir Thomas Browne.” In Multiple Worlds, Multiple Words: Essays in Honour of Irène Simon, edited by Hena Maes-Jelinek, Pierre Michel and Paulette Michel-Michot, pp. 97-101. Liège, Belgium: University of Liège, 1987.

[In the following essay, Ellrodt discusses Browne's conception of time in his works.]

Sir Thomas Browne's conception of time, though often clothed in biblical imagery, is largely derived from the Platonic tradition. Yet his medical profession seems to be responsible for the most distinctive and original features of his intuition of temporality.

A vivid consciousness of...

(The entire section is 2142 words.)

Jonathan F. S. Post (essay date 1987)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Post, Jonathan F. S. “Elements of Style and The Politics of Laughter: Comic Autobiography in Religio Medici.” In Sir Thomas Browne, pp. 57-94. Boston, Mass.: Twayne Publishers, 1987.

[In the following essays, Post outlines the main elements of Browne's style, focusing on his Religio Medici and characterizing it as a text that lends itself to loose interpretation due to Browne's use of wit and comic improvisation.]

Whatever Browne's achievements were as a scientist and an Anglican apologist, he is best known today as a stylist who created one of the most distinctive and recognizable voices in the history of English prose. The “stylist,”...

(The entire section is 18906 words.)

Michael Wilding (essay date 1987)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Wilding, Michael. “Religio Medici in the English Revolution.” In Dragons Teeth: Literature in the English Revolution, pp. 89-113. Oxford, England: Clarendon Press, 1987.

[In the following essay, Wilding offers a critical reading of Browne's Religio Medici in the context of the English Revolution, especially as it relates to the breakdown of censorship during the time the work was composed.]


Not only radicals wrote in a coded, careful, cautious way. Sir Thomas Browne, generally deemed to offer an escape from the political strife of his age, emerges upon analysis, as so many supposedly apolitical figures so often do...

(The entire section is 9623 words.)

Victoria Silver (essay date winter 1990)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Silver, Victoria. “Liberal Theology and Sir Thomas Browne's ‘Soft and Flexible’ Discourse.” English Literary Renaissance 20, no. 1 (winter 1990): 69-105.

[In the following essay, Silver offers a detailed analysis of Browne's Religio Medici in response to previous critical analyses of the work, including its famed dismissal by Stanley Fish. Silver admits that while she dismisses Fish's arguments against Browne in general, she agrees with the critic when he states that Browne is often defended to the extreme by his admirers, who fail to recognize the conservative and often “luscious” nature of Browne's writing.]

Near the end of her fine and...

(The entire section is 15005 words.)

Marta Straznicky (essay date September 1990)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Straznicky, Marta. “Performing the Self in Browne's Religio Medici.Prose Studies, History, Theory, Criticism 13, no. 2 (September 1990): 211-29.

[In the following essay, Straznicky studies the strategy of self-presentation as used by Browne, contending that this duality is presented most clearly by Browne in the speaking voice of the text.]

… at my death I meane to take a totall adieu of the world, not caring for a Monument, History, or Epitaph, not so much as the bare memory of my name to be found any where but in the universall Register of God.1

To whom does this voice belong? Apart...

(The entire section is 9488 words.)

Andrew Cunningham (essay date 1996)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Cunningham, Andrew. “Sir Thomas Browne and his Religion Medici: Reason, Nature, and Religion.” In Religio Medici: Medicine and Religion in Seventeenth-Century England, edited by Ole Peter Grell and Andrew Cunningham, pp. 12-61. Aldershot, England: Scolar Press, 1996.

[In the following essay, Cunningham explores the relationship between Browne's role as a physician and his contributions to the understanding of religion; also includes an overview of Browne's life and works, focusing in detail on his Religio Medici.]


Sir Thomas Browne was the first to use the expression Religio Medici for...

(The entire section is 21108 words.)

Adam H. Kitzes (essay date winter 2002)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Kitzes, Adam H. “Hydriotaphia: ‘The Sensible Rhetorick of the Dead.’” Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900 42, no. 1 (winter 2002): 137-54.

[In the following essay, Kitzes studies the problem of decay in language as it is addressed by Browne in his Hydriotaphia, writing that in this work, Browne clearly concluded that the decay experienced by society is a result of its own constitution and not of any external influences.]

In Philosophy where truth seemes double-faced, there is no man more paradoxicall then my self; but in Divinity I love to keepe the road, and though not in an implicite, yet an humble faith, follow...

(The entire section is 7660 words.)

Samuel Glen Wong (essay date winter 2003)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Wong, Samuel Glen. “Constructing a Critical Subject in Reigio Medici.Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900 43, no. 1 (winter 2003): 117-36.

[In the following essay, Wong explores the reasons why Browne's work became such an integral part of the public and literary discourse concerning authorial intention and critical interpretation.]

This essay reexamines the relationship among three works: the Religio Medici of Sir Thomas Browne which first appeared in 1642; Browne's preface to the 1643 Religio; and Observations upon “Religio Medici,” the commentary written by Sir Kenelm Digby near the end of 1642. Read in concert,...

(The entire section is 8046 words.)