23 January 2014

A Page of Sir Thomas

Leslie Stephen, "Sir Thomas Browne," Hours in a Library, Vol. II (New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1907), pp. 39-40:
One should often stop to appreciate the full flavour of some quaint allusion, or lay down the book to follow out some diverging line of thought. So read in a retired study, or beneath the dusty shelves of an ancient library, a page of Sir Thomas seems to revive the echoes as of ancient chants in college chapels, strangely blended with the sonorous perorations of professors in the neighbouring schools, so that the interferences sometimes produce a note of gentle mockery and sometimes heighten solemnity by quaintness.

That, however, is not the spirit in which books are often read in these days. We have an appetite for useful information, and an appetite for frivolous sentiment or purely poetical musing. We cannot combine the two after the quaint fashion of the old physician. And therefore these charming writings have ceased to suit our modern taste; and Sir Thomas is already passing under that shadow of mortality which obscures all, even the greatest, reputations, and with which no one has dwelt more pathetically or graphically than himself. 
All four volumes of this handsome edition:
Volume I
Volume II
Volume III
Volume IV
Edwaert Collier, Vanitas (1698)