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‘Between The Paws Of A Sphinx’: The Contexts Of Thomas Browne

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Chapter Summary

The history of twentieth-century scholarship on Thomas Browne might be described as his slow extraction from a comfortable incumbency between the paws of the Sphinx. This is the introductory chapter of the book, which moves from biographical studies of the environments in which Browne lived, through the circumstances and procedures of the composition of his works, through the intellectual and political contexts of those works themselves, and finally to the contexts in which those works were read. The book suggests fruitful new ways of considering Browne, and thickens the texture of the background against which we read his works. Browne?s text acted as a barometer of religious opinion in the many contexts in which it was read in the seventeenth century, passing through thirteen editions in English, seven in Latin, three in Dutch and one in French.

Keywords: political contexts; Thomas Browne



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