Friday, December 10, 2010

Brains... with a Little Twist

Coleridge on Sir Thomas Browne:

…he is a quiet and sublime Enthusiast with a strong tinge of the Fantast, the Humorist constantly mingling with & flashing across the Philosopher, as the darting colours in shot silk play upon the main dye. In short, he has brains in his Head, which is all the more interesting for a little Twist in the Brains.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge, “Letter on Browne,” March 10, 1804

I found this in Sir Thomas Browne: The Major Works, C.A. Patrides (Editor). You can find the full letter on Wikisource.


  1. Yeah its beautiful, Coleridge was bonkers about Sir T.B. like Melville and De Quincey. I put the quote on Wikisource there many years ago (2004) now. I confess ALL and EVERY piece on the Wikisource site was posted by yours truly during quite lulls in a hospital Acccident and Emergency, what you call the Emergency Room ? on the winter night-shift of 2004. Even more amazing is this verse I identified by Coleridge written about Browne but used by Carl Jung's secretary to describe him , it prefaces Jung's autobiography, but as i say it's on Browne .

    He looked at his own soul
    With a Telescope.
    What seemed all irregular, he shewed
    to be beautiful constellations.
    And he added to the consciousness
    Hidden Worlds within worlds.

    1st use of the word consciousness attributed to William Wordsworth 1801

    Looks like we have several composers, films and books in common, Lord Christopher!

  2. Whoops! To be honest and truthful now i remember i only pasted 'Cyrus' and 'A letter to a friend' onto the Wikisource minor works of Browne page, Chris.

    Hope this confession makes me look less the fanatic, but still the remainder is rather a disconcerting volume of text.

  3. I love that bit of verse!

    You seem to be a brilliant resource for Browne on the web—thanks for taking the time to share with us. I'd not heard of Browne except perhaps as an occasional passing reference until Paul wrote about him. I'm intending to work through everything in the Penguin volume I've got. Looking forward to Hydriotaphia and The Garden of Cyrus -- descriptions of the latter remind me of Borges. And I seem to recall reading that Browne was important for Borges -- perhaps in the Patrides essay?

  4. I'm prone to applauding literary fanaticism.

  5. Many of Borges writings allude or quote Browne. He was crazy about him from his youth in Cambridge until the very last story he wrote before dying.

  6. Borges is an inspiration for me. If not directly in his stories (many of which I love), it is in his mind, his attitude -- truly a catholic intellect, curious about everything. I would that I were that kind of reader.


Don't be a jerk.