Reference > Cambridge History > Cavalier and Puritan > Antiquaries > Pseudodoxia Epidemica
  Browne’s style and vocabulary Browne’s “scepticism”  


The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume VII. Cavalier and Puritan.

X. Antiquaries.

§ 4. Pseudodoxia Epidemica.

At any rate, his next and largest work (1646) is of a much less esoteric character. Its Greek and English titles Pseudodoxia Epidemica and (for short) Vulgar Errors are not, as has been sometimes erroneously thought, translations of each other. “Pseudodoxy” is opposed, in the abstract, to “orthodoxy”; but the treatise, after a few chapters on the general subject, divagates, with most obvious gusto, into an enormous collection of particular examples which Browne subjects to treatment with the mild but potent acid of his peculiar scepticism.   12
  Perhaps, though it is less attractive to purely modern tastes of the most diverse kinds than the smaller works, an appreciation of Pseudodoxia is the real touchstone of appreciation of Browne generally. It is not unnatural that, to the mere man of science or the mere modernist of any kind, it should seem a scrap-heap of out-of-date observations, and its criticism hardly more valuable than its credulity. But it is surprising that even Walter Pater should have complained of Browne’s having “no true sense of natural law,” as Bacon had, of his having achieved “no real logic of fallacies.” If recrimination were argument, or if argument of any kind on the subject were in place here, one might retort that Bacon’s true sense of natural law did not prevent him from being as much of an anti-Copernican as Browne was, and that an elaborate exposure of fallacies, nearly always on strict logical principles, is no bad preparation for that “real logic” of them which can probably only be achieved when the last human being has achieved his last example of fallacy itself.   13

  Browne’s style and vocabulary Browne’s “scepticism”  

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