Saturday, November 26, 2005


A Heck of a Job, Brownie

Sir Thomas Browne's 1658 work Urne Buriall was one of the closest models for The Trouble With Tom, and the source of the book's opening epigraph: "Who knows the fate of his bones, or how often he is to be buried? Who hath the oracle of his ashes, or whither they are to be scattered?”

Until now, though, you couldn't find a cheap copy of it. But today's Guardian carries word that Penguin has released a splendid little £3.99 edition. Nicholas Lezard explains:

Urne-Burial was conceived in response to the archaeological discoveries that helped to inaugurate a new era of antiquarianism in England, and begins as a meditation on the burial practices of the ancients. As Browne points out, "men have lost their reason in nothing so much as their religion ... the religion of one seems madnesse unto another".... you'll soon find that, like Hamlet, it is full of quotes. "A Dialogue between two Infants in the womb concerning the state of this world, might handsomely illustrate our ignorance of the next"; "the long habit of living indisposeth us for dying"... Browne is a miniaturist, an elegant raiser of ideas and a provoker of ideas in others: it was in a long note made in his copy by Coleridge that the very word "marginalia" was invented.
Buy this one and shelve it right next to Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy. You'll have to get it off Amazon UK, though: there's still no US edition. (What gives, Penguin?)

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?