Browne, Sir William

, a physician of the last century, and a man of a singular and whimsical cast of mind, was born in 1692, and in 1707 was entered of Peterhouse, Cambridge, where he took the degrees, B. A. 1710, M, A. 1714, and M. D. 1721, and soon after settled at Lynn, in Norfolk, where he published v Dr. Gregory’s “Elements of catoptrics and dioptrics,” translated from the Latin original, to which he added: 1. A method for finding the ibcrof all specula, as well as lenses universally; as also magnifying or lessening a given object by a given speculum, or lens> in any assigned proportion. 2. A solution of those problems which Dr. Gregory has left undemonstrated. 3. A particular account of microscopes and telescopes, from Mr. Huygens; with the discoveries made by catoptrics and dioptrics. By an epigram, many of which he provoked, he appears to have been the champion of the fair sex at Lynn, in 1748. On one | occasion, a pamphlet having been written against him, he nailed it up against his house-door. Having acquired a competency by his profession, he removed to Queen-square, Ormondstreet, London, where he resided till his death, which happened March 10, 1774, at the age of 82. A great number of lively essays, both in prose and verse, the production of his pen, were printed and circulated among his friends. Among these were: 1. “Ode in imitation of Horace,” ode 3, lib. iii. addressed to the right hon. sir Robert Walpole, on ceasing to be minister, Feb. 6, 1741; designed, he says, as a just panegyric on a great minister, the glorious revolution, protestant succession, and principles of liberty. To which was added the original ode, “defended in commentariolo.” It was inscribed to George carl of Orford, as an acknowledgement of the favours conferred by his lordship as well as by his father and grandfather. On the first institution of the militia, our author was appointed one of the earl’s deputy-lieutenants, and was named in his lordship’s first commission of the peace. 2. Opuscula varia utriusque linguae, medicinam; medicorum collegium; literas, utrasque academias; empiricos, eorum cultores; solicitatorem, prsestigiatorem; poeticen, criticen; patronum, patriam; religionem, libertatem, spectantia. Cum praefatione eorum editionem defendente. Auctore D. Gulielmo Browne, equite aurato, M. D. utriusque et medicorum et physicorum S. R. S. 175, 4to. This little volume (which was dated “Ex area dicta reginali, MDCCLXV. in nonas Januarias, ipso Ciceronis et auctoris natali”) contained, I. Oratio Harveiana, in theatro collegii medicorum Londinensis habita, 1751. II. A vin­.dication of the college of physicians, in reply to solicitorgeneral Murray, 1753. III. Ode in imitation of Horace, Ode I. addressed to the duke of Montague. With a new interpretation, in commentariolo, 1765. IV. The Ode, above-mentioned, to sir Robert Walpole. Some time before, sir William had published odes in imitation of Horace; addressed to sir John Dolben, to sir John Turner, to doctor Askew, and to Robert lord Walpole. 3. Appendix altera ad opuscula; oratiuncula, collegii medicorum Londinensis cathedrae vatedicens. In comitiis, postridie jdivi Michaelis, MDCCLXXVII. ad collegii administrationem renovandam designatis; machinaque incendiis extinguendis apta contra permissos rebelies munitis; habita a D. GuBrowne, equite aurato, praeside? “1768? 4to, This | farewell oration contains so many curious particulars of sir William’s life, that the reader will not be displeased to see some extracts from it, and with his own spelling.” The manly age and inclination, with conformable studies, I diligently applied to the practice of physic in the country; where, as that age adviseth, I sought riches and friendships. But afterwards, being satiated witn friends, whom truth, not flattery, had procured; satiated with riches, which Galen, not fortune, had presented; I resorted immediately to this college: where, in further obedience to the same adviser, I might totally addict myself to the service of honour. Conducted by your favour, instead of my own merit, I have been advanced, through various degrees of honour, a most delightful climax indeed, even to the very highest of all which the whole profession of physic hath to confer. In this chair, therefore, twice received from the elects, shewing their favour to himself, he confesseth much more than to the college, your præsident

‘Acknowledges that he has happy been;

And, now, content with acting this sweet scene,

Chooses to make his exit, like a guest

Retiring pamper’d from a plenteous feast:’

in order to attach himself and the remainder of his life, no longer, as before, solely to the college, but, by turns, also to the medicinal springs of his own country; although, as a physician, never unmindful of his duty, yet after his own manner, with hilarity rather than gravity; to enjoy liberty, more valuable than silver and gold, as in his own right, because that of mankind, not without pride, which ever ought to be its inseparable companion.

‘Now the free foot shall dance its fav’rite round.‘

Behold an instance of human ambition! not to be satiated but by the conquest of three, as it were, medical worlds lucre in the country, honour in the college, pleasure at medicinal springs! I would, if it were possible, be delightful and useful to all: to myself even totally, and equal: to old age, though old, diametrically opposite; not a censor and chastiser, but a commender and encourager, of youth. I would have mine such as, in the satire,

’ Crispus’s hoary entertaining age,

Whose wit and manners mild alike engage.'

The age of presiding, by the custom of our predecessors, was generally a lustrum, five years j although our | Sloane, now happy, like another Nestor, lived to see three ages, both as president and as man. But two years more than satisfy me: for, that each of the elects may in his turn hold the sceptre of prudence, far more desirable than power, given by Caius, which the law of justice and sequity recommends,

‘ No tenure pleases longer than a year ’

But in truth, among such endearing friendships with you, such delightful conversations, such useful communications, with which this amiable situation hath blessed me, one or two things, as is usual, have happened not at all to my satisfaction. One, that, while most studious of peace myself, I hoped to have preserved the peace of the college secure and intire, I too soon found that it was not otherwise to be sought for than by war: but even after our first adversary, because inconsiderable, was instantly overthrown, and his head completely cut off by the hand of the law, yet from the same neck, as if Hydra had been our enemy, so many other heads broke out, yea, and with inhuman violence broke into this very senate, like monsters swimming in our medical sea, whom I beheld with unwilling indeed, but with dry, or rather fixed eyes, because not suspecting’the least mischief from thence to the college, and therefore laughing, so far from fearing. The other, in reality, never enough to be lamented, that, while I flattered myself with having, by my whole power of persuasion, in the room of Orphaeaii music, raised the Croonian medical lecture as it were from the shades into day, if there could be any faith in solemn promises; that faith being, to my very great wonder, violated, this lecture, like another Eurydice, perhaps looked after by me too hastily, beloved by me too desperately, instantly slipped back again, and fled indignant to the shades below."

He used to say he resigned the presidentship because he would not stay to be beat: alluding to the attack of the licentiates.

The active part taken by sir William Browne in the contest with the licentiates, occasioned his being introduced by Mr. Foote in his “Devil upon two sticks.” Upon Foote’s exact representation of him with his identical wig and coat, odd figure, and glass stiffly applied to his eye, he sent him a card complimenting him on having so happily represented him; but, as he had forgot his muff, he had sent him his own. This good-natured method of | resenting, disarmed Foote. His next publication was: 4. “A farewell Oration, &c.” a translation of the preceding article, 1768, 4to. 5. “Fragmentum Isaaci Hawkins Browne, arm. sive Anti-Bolinbrokius, liber primus. Translated for a second Religio Medici,1768, 4to. The autlior modestly calls this “a very hasty performance;” and says, “In my journey from Oxford to Bath, meeting with continued rain, which kept me three days on the road, in compassion to my servants and horses; and having my friend a pocket companion, I found it the best entertainment my tedious baiting could afford to begin and finish this translation.” This was dated Oct. 24, 1768; and his second part was completed on the 20th of the following month: “My undertaking,” he says, “to complete, as well as I could, the Fragment of my friend, hath appeared to me so very entertaining a work, even amongst the most charming delights and most cheerful conversations at Bath; that I have used more; expedition, if the very many avocations there be considered, in performing this, than in that former translation j” and to this part was prefixed a congratulatory poem “To Isaac Hawkins Browne, esq. son of his deceased friend, on his coming of age, Dec. 7, 1766.” The good old knight’s Opuscula were continually on the increase. The very worthy master of a college at Cambridge, lately living, relates a story of him, that waiting for sir William in some room at the college, where hie was come to place a near relation, he found him totally absorbed in thought, over a fine 4to volume of these Opuscula, which he constantly, he said, carried about with him, that they might be benefited by frequent revisals.

His portrait, in his latter days, is very faithfully drawn by Warburton, in one of his letters to bishop Hurd.

When you see Dr. Heberden, pray communicate to him. an unexpected honour I have lately received. The other day, word was brought me from below, that one sir William Browne sent up his name, and should be glad to kiss my hand. I judged it to be the famous physician, whom I had never seen, nor had the honour to know. When I came down into the drawing-room, I was accosted by a little, round, well-fed gentleman, with a large muff in one hand, a small Horace, open, in the other, and a spying-glass dangling in a black ribbon at his button. After the first salutation, he informed me that his visit was indeed to me; but principally, and in. the first place, to | Prior-Park, which had so inviting a prospect from below; and he did riot doubt but, on examination, it would sufficiently repay the trouble he had given himself of coming up to it on foot. We then took our chairs; and the first thing he did or said, was to propose a doubt to me concerning a passage in Horace, which all this time he had still open in his hand. Before I could answer, he gave me the solution of this long-misunderstood passage; and, in support of his explanation, had the charity to repeat his own paraphrase of it in English verse, just come hot, as he said, from the brain. When this and chocolate were over, having seen all he wanted of me, he desired to see something more of the seat, and particularly what he called the monument, by which I understood him to mean the Prior’s tower. Accordingly, I ordered a servant to attend him thither, and when he had satisfied his curiosity, either to let him out from the Park above, into the Down, or from the garden below into the road. Which he chose, I never asked; and so this honourable visit ended. Hereby you will understand that the design of all this was to be admired. And indeed he had my admiration to the full; but for nothing so much, as for his being able at past eighty to perform this expedition on foot, in no good weather, and with all the alacrity of a boy, both in body and mind.” This portrait is correct in every thing but the age, sir William being only then (1767) seventy-five.

On a controversy for a raker in the parish where he lived in London, carried on so warmly as to open taverns for men, and coffee-house breakfasts for ladies, he exerted himself greatly; wondering a man bred at two universities should be so little regarded. (He had been expelled one, and therefore taken degrees at another.) A parishioner answered: “he had a calf that sucked two cows, and a prodigious great one it was.” He used to frequent the annual ball at the ladies’ boarding-school, Queen-square, merely as a neighbour, a good-natured man, and fond of the company of sprightly young folks. A dignitary of the church being there one day to see his daughter dance, and finding this upright figure stationed there, told him he believed he was Hermippus redivivus, who lived anhelitu puellarum. At the age of eighty, on St. Luke’s day, 1771, he came to BaU son’s coffee-house in hisjaced coat and band, and fringed white gloves, to shew himself to Mr. Crosby, then lord-mayor. A gentleman present observing that he looked very well, | he replied, “he had neither wife nor debts.” He next published, “Fragmentum I. Hawkins completum,1769, 4to. 7. “Appendix ad Opuscula;” six Odes, 1770, 4to, comprising: I. De senectute. Ad amicum D. Roger um Long, apud Cantabrigienses, aulse custodem Pembrokianae, theologum, astronomum, doctissimum, jucundissimum, annum nonagesimum agentem, scripta. Adjecta versione Anglica. Ab amico D. Gulielmo Browne, annum agente fere octogesimum. IL De choreis, et festivitate. Ad nobilissimum ducem Leodensem, diem Walliae principis natalem acidulis Tunbrigiensibus celebrantem, scripta. A theologo festivo, D. Georgio Lewis. Adjecta versione Anglica ab amico, D. Gulielmo Browne. III. De ingenio, et jucunditate. Ad Lodoicum amicum, sacerdotem Cantianum, ingeniosissimum, jucundissimum, scripta. Adjecta versione Anglica. A. D. Gulielmo Browne, E. A. O. M. L. P. S. R. S. IV. De Wilkesio, et libertate. Ad doctorem Thomarn Wilson, theologum doctissimum, liberrimum, tarn mutui amici, Wilkesii, amicum, quam suum, scripta. V. De otio medentibus debito. Ad Moysseum amicum, medicum Bathoniac doctissimum, humanissimum, scripta. VI. De potiore metallis libertate: et omnia vincente fortitudine. Ad eorum utriusque patronum, Gulielmum ilium Pittium, omni et titulo et laude majorem, scripta. 8. Three more Odes, 1771, 4to. 9. “A Proposal on our Coin, to remedy all present, and prevent all future disorders. To which are prefixed, preceding proposals of sir John Barnard, and of William Shirley, esq. on the same subject. With remarks,1774, 4to, dedicated “To the most revered memory of the right honourable Arthur Onslow, speaker of the house of commons during thirty-three years; for ability, judgement, eloquence, integrity, impartiality, never to be forgotten or excelled; who sitting in the gallery, on a committee of the house, the day of publishing this proposal, and seeing the author there, sent to speak with him, by the chaplain; and, after applauding his performance, desired a frequent correspondence, and honoured him with particular respect, all the rest of his life, this was, with most profound veneration, inscribed.” 10. A New-Y.ear’s Gift. A problem, and demonstration on the XXXIX Articles,“1772, 4to.” This problem and demonstration,“he informs us,” though now first published, on account of the present controversy concerning these articles, owe their birth to my | being called upon to subscribe them, at an early period of life. For in my soph’s year, 1711, being a student at Peter-house, in the university of Cambridge, just nineteen years of age, and having performed all my exercises in the schools (and also a first opponency extraordinary to an ingenious pupil of his, afterwards Dr. Barnard, prebendary of Norwich) on mathematical qusestions, at the particular request of Mr. proctor Laughton, of Clare-hall, who drew me into it by a promise of the senior optime of the year), I was then first informed that subscribing these articles was a necessary step to taking my degree of B. A. as well as all other degrees. I had considered long before at school, and on my admission in 1707, that the universal profession of religion must much more concern me through life, to provide for rny happiness hereafter, than the particular profession of physic, which I proposed to pursue, to provide for my more convenient existence here: and therefore had selected out of the library left by my father (who had himself been a regular physician, educated under the tuition of sir J. Ellis, M. D. afterwards master of Caius college), Chiilingworth’s Religion of a Protestant; the whole famous Protestant and Popish controversy; Commentaries on Scripture; and such other books as suited my purpose. I particularly pitched upon three for perpetual pocket-companions; Bleau’s Greek Testament; Hippocratis Aphoristica, and Elzevir Horace;*


In his will, he says, “On my coffin, when in the grave, I desire may be deposited in its leather case, or coffin, my pocket Elzevir Horace, Comes Viac Vitaeque dulcis etutilis, worn out with and by me.

expecting from the first to draw divinity, from the second physic, and from the last good sense and vivacity. Here I cannot forbear recollecting my partiality for St. Luke, because he was a physician; by the particular pleasure I took in perceiving the superior purity of his Greek, over that of the other Evangelists. But I did not then know, what I was afterwards taught by Dr. Freind’s learned History of Physic, that this purity was owing to his being a physician, and consequently conversant with our Greek fathers of physic. Being thus fortified, I thought myself as well prepared for an encounter with these articles, as so young a person could reasonably be expected. I therefore determined to read them over as carefully and critically as I could; and upon this, met with so many difficulties, utterly irreconcileable by me to the divine original, that I | almost despaired of ever being able to subscribe them. But, not to be totally discouraged, I resolved to re-consider them with redoubled diligence; and then at last had the pleasure to discover, in article VI. and XX. what appeared to my best private judgement and understanding a clear solution of all the difficulties, and an absolute defeazance of that exceptionable authority, which inconsistently with scripture they seem to assume. I subscribe my name to whatever I offer to the public, that I may be answerable for its being my sincere sentiment: ever open, however, to conviction, by superior reason and argument.

William Browne."

His next was a republication. 11. The pill plot. To doctor Ward, a quack of merry memory, written at Lynn, Nov. 30, 1734, 1772, 4to. 12. “Corrections in verse, from the father of the college, on son Cadogan’s Gout dissertation; containing false physic, false logic, false philosophy,1772, 4to. Although these corrections are jocular, it is not intended that they should be less, but more sensibly felt, for that very reason: according to the rule of Horace,

————————Ridiculum acri

Fortius et melius magnas plerumque secat res.

Ad Filivm.

Vapulans lauda baculum paternum,


Fili, fuge suspicari,

Cujus ἕξ denum trepidavit aetas

Claudere lustrum.

The author repeated these verses to Dr. Cadogan himself, who censured their want of rhyme; he answered, that “the gout had a fourth cause, study, which was never his case: if he did not understand law and gavelkind, he would not talk to him; for there were two sorts of gout, freehold and copyhold; the first where it was hereditary, the other where a person by debauchery took it up.” 13. “Speech to the Royal Society,1772, 4to. 14. “Elogy and address,1773, 4to. 15. A Latin version of Job, unfinished, 4to.

We shall subjoin a well-known epigram by sir William Browne, which the critics have pronounced to be a good one:

"The king to Oxford sent a troop of horse,

For tories own no argument but force;

With equal skill, to Cambridge books he sent,

For whigs admit no force but argument."

| But the following, by an Oxonian, which gave rise to that by sir William, is at least as good:

"The king, observing with judicious eyes,

The state of both his universities,

To Oxford sent a troop of horse: and why?

That learned body wanted loyalty:

To Cambridge books, as very well discerning,

How much that loyal body wanted learning."

Sir William Browne’s will, an attested copy of which is now before us, is not the least singular of his compositions, and may be said to be written in Greek, Latin, and English. From many of the legacies, however, and particularly his mode of introducing them, we perceive the kindness and benevolence of his heart, which, in the circle of his more immediate friends, probably atoned for his many oddities. The above account of his works sufficiently shows that he was a very weak man, and with all the conceit which usually accompanies defective judgment. With the periodical critics, he was long an object of ridicule, and conquered them only by writing faster than they had patience to read. Unsuccessful, however, as he was himself, he determined that better writers should not be without encouragement, and therefore by his will, directed three gold medals, of five guineas each, to be given yearly to three undergraduates of Cambridge on the Commencement day, when the exercises are publicly read, and copies of them sent, by the successful candidates, to sir Martin Folkes, his grandson by his only daughter. The first, to him who writes the best Greek ode in imitation of Sappho; the second for the best ode in imitation of Horace; the third for the best Greek and Latin epigrams, the former after the manner of Anthologia, the latter after the model of Martial. These have been adjudged since 1775. He also left a perpetual rent charge of 2 1/, per annum, upon sundry estates, for founding a scholarship, which is tenable for seven years; but the possessor, if of another college, must remove to the founder’s college, Peter-house, and reside there every entire term during his under-graduatesbip. 1


Life in the preceding edit, of this Dictionary, Nichols’s Life of Bowyer.