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ingenious poet was the son of Thomas Browne, of Tavistock, in Devonshire, gent. who, according to Prince, in his Worthies of Devon, was most probably a descendant. from the knightly family of Browne, of Brownes-Ilaslı, in the parish of Langtree, near Great Torrington, in Devonshire'. His son was born in the year 1590, and became a student of Exeter College, Oxford, about the beginning of the reign of James I. After making a great progress in classical and polite literature, he removed to the Inner Temple, where his attention to the study of the law was frequently interrupted by his devotion to the Muses. In his twenty-third year (1613) be published, in folio, the first part of his Britannia's Pastorals, which, according to the custom of the time, was ushered into the world with so many poetical eulogies, that he appears to have secured, at a very early age, the friendship and favour of the most celebrated of his contemporaries, among whom we find the names of Selden and Drayton. To these he afterwards added Davies, of Hereford, Ben Jonson, and others. That be wrote some of these pastorals before he had attained his twentieth year, has been conjectured from a passage in Book I. Song V. but there is sufficient internal evidence, independent of these lines, that much of them was the offspring of a juvenile fancy. In the following year be published, in octavo, The Shepherd's Pipe, in seven eclogues. In the fourth of these be laments the death of his friend, Mr. Thomas Manwood, under the name of Philarete, the precursor, as some critics assert, of Milton's Lycidas.
In 1616, he published the second part of his Britannia's Pastorals, recommended as before by his poetical friends, whose praises he repaid with liberality in the body of the work. The two parts were reprinted, in octavo, in 1625, and procured him, as is too frequently the case, more fame than profit. About a year before this, he appears to have taken leave of the Muses, and returned to Exeter College, in the capacity of tutor to Robert Dormer, earl of Caernarvon, a nobleman who fell in the battle of
· The facts in this short sketch are taken from Prince's Worthies, the General Dictionary, Biog. Britannica, and Wood's Athene. C. VOL. VI.
Newbury in 1643, while fighting gallantly for his king, at the head of a regiment of horse, and of whom lord Clarendon has given us a character drawn with his usual discrimination and fidelity. While guiding the studies of this nobleman, Browne was created Master of Arts, with this honourable notice in the public register : Vir omni humana literaiura et bonarum artium cognitione instructus.
After leaving the university with lord Caernarvon, he found a liberal patron in William earl of Pembroke, of whom likewise we have a most elaborate character in Clarendon, some part of which may be supposed to reflect honour on our poet. “He was a great lover of his country, and of the religion and justice, which he believed could only support it: and his friendships were only with men of those principles. And as his conversation was most with men of the most pregnant parts and understanding, so, towards any such who needed support or encouragement, though unknown, if fairly recommended to him, he was very liberal.”
This nobleman, who had a respect for Browne probably founded on the circumstances intimated in the above character, took him into his family, and employed him in such a manner, according to Wood, that he was enabled to purchase an estate. Little more, however, is known of his history, nor is the exact time of his death ascertained. Wood finds that one of both his names, of Ottery St. Mary, in Devonshire, died in the winter of 16455, but knows not whether this be the same. He hints at his person in these words : " As he had a little body, so a great mind;" a high character from this biographer, who had no indulgence for poetical failings.
Browne has experienced the fate of many of his contemporaries, whose fame died with them, and whose writings have been left to be revived, under many disadvantages, by an age of refined taste and curiosity. The civil wars, which raged about the time of his death, and whose consequences continued to operate for many years after, diverted the public mind from the concerns. of poetry. The lives of the poets were forgotten, and their works perished through neglect or wantonness. We have no edition of Browne's poems from 1625 to 1772, when Mr. Thomas Davies, the bookseller, was assisted by some of his learned friends in publishing them, in three small volumes. The advertisement, prefixed to the first volume, informs us that the gentlemen of the king's library procured the use of the first edition of Britannia's Pastorals, which had several manuscript notes on the margin, written by the rev. William Thomson, one of the few scholars of bis tiine who studied the antiquities of English poetry? Mr. Thomas Warton contributed bis copy of the Shepherd's Pipe, which was at that time so scarce that no other could be procured. Mr. Price, the librarian of the Bodleian library, sent a correct copy of the Elegy upon the death of Henry, prince of Wales, from a manuscript in that repository: and Dr. Farmer furnished a transcript of the Inner Temple Mask from the library of Emanuel College, which had never before been printed. With such helps, a correct edition might have been expected; but the truth is, that the few editions of ancient poets (Suckling, Marvell, Carew, &c.) which Davies undertook to print, are extremely deficient in correctness. Of this assertion, which the comparison of a few pages with any of the originals will amply
? See his Life and Works, vol. xv. of the present collection. C.