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Browne has, indeed, in his own preface, endeavoured to secure himself from rigorous examination, by alleging, that “many things are delivered rhetorically, many expressions merely tropical, and, therefore, many things to be taken in a soft and flexible sense, and not to be called unto the rigid test of reason.” The first glance upon his book will, indeed, discover examples of this liberty of thought and expression: “I could be content,” says he, “to be nothing almost to eternity, if I might enjoy my Saviour at the last.” He has little acquaintance with the acuteness of Browne, who suspects him of a serious opinion, that any thing can be “almost eternal,” or that any time beginning and ending is not infinitely less than infinite duration.

In this book he speaks much, and, in the opinion of Digby, too much of himself; but with such generality and conciseness, as affords very little light to his biographer: he declares, that, besides the dialects of different provinces, he understood six languages; that he was no stranger to astronomy; and that he had seen several countries; but what most awakens curiosity is, his solemn assertion, that “his life has been a miracle of thirty years; which to relate were not history, but a piece of poetry, and would sound like a fable.”

There is, undoubtedly, a sense in which all life is miraculous; as it is an union of powers of which we can image no connexion, a succession of motions, of which the first cause must be supernatural; but life, thus explained, whatever it may have of miracle, will have nothing of fable; and, therefore, the author undoubtedly had regard to something, by which he imagined himself distinguished from the rest of mankind.

Of these wonders, however, the view that can be now taken of his life offers no appearance. The course of his education was like that of others, such as put him little in the way of extraordinary casualties. A scholastick and academical life is very uniform; and has, indeed, more safety than pleasure. A traveller has greater opportunities of adventure; but Browne traversed no unknown seas, or Arabian deserts; and, surely, a man may visit France and Italy, reside at Montpellier and Padua, and, at last, take his degree at Leyden, without any thing miraculous. What it was that would, if it was related, sound so poetical and fabulous, we are left to guess; I believe without hope of guessing rightly. The wonders, probably, were transacted in his own mind; self-love, cooperating with an imagination vigorous and fertile as that of Browne, will find or make objects of astonishment in every man’s life; and, perhaps, there is no human being, however bid in the crowd from the observation of his fellow-mortals, who, if he has leisure and disposition to recollect his own thoughts and actions, will not conclude his life in some sort a miracle, and imagine himself distinguished from all the rest of his species by many discriminations of nature or of fortune.

The success of this performance was such as might naturally encourage the author to new undertakings. A gentleman of Cambridge [75], whose name was Merryweather, turned it not inelegantly into Latin; and from his version it was again translated into Italian, German, Dutch, and French; and, at Strasburg, the Latin translation was published with large notes, by Levinus Nicolaus Moltkenius. Of the English annotations, which in all the editions, from 1644, accompany the book, the author is unknown.

Of Merryweather, to whose zeal Browne was so much indebted for the sudden extension of his renown, I know nothing, but that he published a small treatise for the instruction of young-persons in the attainment of a Latin style. He printed his translation in Holland with some difficulty [76]. The first printer to whom he offered it, carried it to Salmasius, “who laid it by,” says he, “in state for three months,” and then discouraged its publication: it was afterwards rejected by two other printers, and, at last, was received by Hackius.