Saturday, April 14, 2018

'Walk through Walls' - Rodulfo's Yarmouth Collection



Within a few years of relocating his home and studio the visionary artist Peter Rodulfo (b.1958) has assembled an extraordinary portfolio of artwork which focuses upon the architecture and landmarks, street-life and social activities of Great Yarmouth. Rodulfo's Yarmouth Collection was exhibited at Skippings Gallery in Great Yarmouth  from April 14th until the 20th April 2018.

The Yarmouth Collection takes as its springboard observations made by the artist on walks throughout the town. Rodulfo's paintings depict the coastal town in both well-known and little-known guises. The walls which the artist invites the viewer to walk through are those of indifference and inattentiveness to one's everyday environment. Viewing the many gems of Rodulfo's Yarmouth Collection one not only acquires a new awareness of the sights and attractions of Great Yarmouth but also a deepened appreciation of the technical brilliance, wide stylistic diversity and protean imagination which the artist now commands, Rodulfo himself stating -‘Looking is like a language. The best art doesn't need a dictionary, but for general usage a context is needed’.

The attractions and architectural treasures of Great Yarmouth are the context of the Yarmouth Collection - its Marketplace, Regent Road, King Street, the Star hotel, St. George's Park, the Hippodrome Circus, Atlantis Tower, Nelson's Monument, Britannia and Wellington Piers all feature in the Yarmouth Collection.

The chequered fortunes of what geographically speaking was once little more than a narrow peninsula of shingle sandwiched between the North Sea and the River Yare, is clearly visible in Great Yarmouth’s  varied architecture. On  South Quay there's a 13th c.Tollhouse and  a 17th-century Merchant's House, as well as Tudor, Georgian and Victorian buildings. Behind South Quay there’s a maze of alleys and lanes known as "The Rows" while Yarmouth’s medieval wall is the second most complete Medieval town wall in the country. With eleven of  its eighteen original turrets still standing, its more extant than nearby Norwich's surviving medieval city walls.  

Rodulfo shares with fellow leading member of North Sea Magical Realism, Mark Burrell (b. 1957) an interest in the interaction between architecture and social activities; the townscape of Burrell’s hometown of Lowestoft  is often the setting of his luminescent paintings. As with Burrell however, its the overall ambience and mood of a location rather than meticulously reproducing architectural detail which interests Rodulfo. 

An ambiguous, even unsettling atmosphere is evoked in Approach to the Pleasure-Beach (below).  In equal measure of light and dark, cheer and gloom, an overcrowded boat is seen ferrying people to a Pleasure-Beach, some of which resembles the Bolton bros. fun-fair. With its sombre sky and churning water along with overcrowded boat, the viewer is left to wonder about the lengths people will go to in their pursuit of pleasure. The painting's background includes Yarmouth's 'Golden Mile' complete with the Atlantis Tower, Waterways boating-lake, windmill and approaching train.


Portraiture of Yarmouth’s leading cultural figures also occurs in the Yarmouth Collection. The proprietor of the Hippodrome Circus, Peter Jay, along with his bearded and bespectacled son Jack Jay, the current Ringmaster, can be seen mingling among the performing clowns and trapeze artists of The Day the Clowns Left (77 x 61 cm ) (below) as well as a pair of giraffes who rubberneck into the frame.

Great Yarmouth Hippodrome was built in 1903 by the legendary Circus showman George Gilbert. Its Britain's only surviving total circus building, one of only three in the world. The painting's title alludes to the fact that clowns are to be dropped from the performing artists of the Hippodrome Circus, because they are now considered to be too scary for a family audience.


Another leading figure in Yarmouth's cultural life, the artist John Kiki, a founding member of the 'Yarmouth six’ art-group is portrayed in On the Corner (below) with its grinning coffee-cup faces, vertical word COLUMBIA and surly-looking seagull peering from behind it.  John Kiki can be seen standing beside a yellow van in the lower right corner of the canvas, while in the lower left  corner stands a hill-top Greek village, a visual reference to Yarmouth’s long-established Cypriot-Greek community.















Rodulfo’s Quayside view of Yarmouth (below) far from either a pastiche or homage to Jan Vermeer’s famous View of Delft (1661) simply highlights an intuitive artistic perception - that Vermeer’s Delft and Yarmouth town share distinctive qualities of light, as well as cloud formations; both towns being situated on low land encompassed by water with a  full hemisphere of sky above (major contributing factors for Norfolk’s famed sunsets).

The skilful reproduction of cloud and sky reflected in the river Yare in Quayside view of Yarmouth is of particular note. The artist  himself stating of this  quayside view -

'I just thought the view is beautiful, but most people would walk by without a glance, as I am sure Vermeer’s contemporaries did, when walking past his view of Delft'.


Great Yarmouth itself is no back-water in British art history. Almost every major artist of the Norwich School of Painters which flourished exactly two centuries ago has an association with Yarmouth. Many Norwich School artists visited Yarmouth in order to paint beach and marine subjects; others, such as J.S.Cotman, resided in the Town attempting to make a precarious living, other Norwich School artists such as Joseph Stannard embarked from Yarmouth in order to view major art-collections such as the ‘Golden Age’ Dutch masters on display in Amsterdam; later in his short life the tubercular Stannard was sent to Yarmouth by family and friends in hope that the salubrious sea-air would restore his health. For many years John Crome visited Yarmouth weekly as an art- teacher, he also sailed from the sea-port in order to view the art-treasures newly on display in Paris which had been plundered by Napoleon in his military victories.


Another allusion to European art-styles occurs in a painting which features two of Yarmouth's tallest landmarks, the Britannia Monument (44 metres in height) and the Atlantis Tower (56 metres in height). A naval Admiral's hat, a crane stacking container cargo, seagull and traffic cone can also be seen in this relatively small painting sized 36 x  49 cm. (Top of this post). 

The Britannia Monument is a tribute to Lord Nelson (1758-1805) which was completed in 1819, some 24 years before the completion of Nelson's Column in London. The Monument shows Britannia standing atop a globe, holding an olive branch in her right hand and a trident in her left. Originally planned to mark Nelson's victory at the Battle of the Nile, its installation was delayed due to insufficient fundraising which resulted in it not being completed until after the Naval hero's death. Now surrounded by an industrial estate, Rodulfo links the monument's current environ to the settings of the paintings of Giorgio De Chirico (1888 -1978) who greatly influenced the Surrealists and whose paintings often included arcades and towers, stating- 'When thinking of monumental surrealism of course De Chirico springs to mind’. This being the primary reason why the painting references the  distinctive style of the Italian metaphysical artist.

In Yarmouth Market Place (148 x 117 cm)(below) the vibrancy of one of England's oldest and largest marketplaces is represented through swirling activity and a cheerful and pleasing tonal palette. Market produce of fruit and vegetables, flowers and clothes, along with  gangways and shoppers, are all depicted in what may be termed Rodulfo's multi-layered perspective. Gate-crashing into the picture are two seagulls, near ubiquitous to Yarmouth town, one humorous, the other slightly threatening. They also contribute to the general hustle and bustle of Yarmouth Market Place, and can be seen in various other paintings of Peter Rodulfo's wholly original Yarmouth Collection.

















'Rainy Bank Holiday' (with Atlantis Tower)


Friday, March 02, 2018

Shostakovich's String Quartets






The intimacy and privacy of the String quartet became a favoured medium for the Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-75). His cycle of fifteen String Quartets  may be considered equal in profundity, wit and technical brilliance to Beethoven's String Quartets.

Although sometimes evoking a Kafkaesque atmosphere of anxiety, dread and fear induced by life in the Totalitarian era of Stalin, (Shostakovich on a number of occasions was under extreme pressure to conform to Communist Party aesthetics), nevertheless the composer managed to preserve the highest degree of artistic integrity in his String Quartets in which the 'Other Shostakovich', someone quite separate from the 'Official' State War hero and composer of the patriotic  Leningrad' Symphony, are  featured.

As Alex Ross notes-

'The 'other Shostakovich' was a gnomic, cryptic, secretly impassioned figure who spoke through chamber music (twelve string quartets from 1948 on) .... The string quartet became his favourite medium: it gave him the freedom to write labyrinthine narratives full of blankly winding fugues, near-motionless funeral marches, wry displays of foolish jollity, off-kilter genre exercise, and stretches of deliberate blandness. One of the composer's favourite modes might be called "dance on the gallows" - a galumphing, almost polka-like number that suggests a solitary figure facing death with inexplicable glee'.[1]

'Like the Second and Third Quartets, the Fifth begins with a sonata form movement with exposition repeat. In its virile Beethovian energy, this magnificent movement resembles the first movement of the Second Quartet, with a sense of militant resistance, which had not appeared in Shostakovich's music since that work eight years earlier, though the second subject is a graceful waltz. Segueing to its central slow movement, the quartet retreats into an icy muted B minor. ....this threnody for crushed aspirations and deformed lives also recalls the 'ghost music' of the Third Quartet'.




In contrast to Beethoven's expanding the canvas for a String Quartet, Shostakovich in his 7th String quartet (1960) telescopes the format, returning to the length of an early Haydn String Quartet.  Lasting little more than 12 minutes, the length of many single movements of a Beethoven Late quartet. It includes acerbic wit and fiercely contrasting dynamics, along with an enigmatic opening phrase.




Known in the USSR as the 'Dresden' quartet, the Eighth Quartet was composed in three days during the composer's visit to the ruined city of Dresden in July 1960...Shostakovich had supposedly been so shocked by the devastation he saw that poured out his feelings in music, inscribing the work 'In memory of the victims of fascism and war'. .....the composer told friends that, far from concerning the dead of Dresden - victims not of fascism but of Western democracy working to Soviet military request - the quartet was actually a musical autobiography. 'Everything in the quartet ais as clear as a primer. I quote Lady Macbeth the First and Fifth Symphonies. What does fascism have to do with these ? The Eight is an autobiographical  quartet, it quotes a song known to all Russians: "Exhausted by the hardships of prison".

Alex Ross notes -  'The personal motto D S C H, which sounded so pseudo-triumphantly in the finale of the Tenth Symphony, is woven into almost every page of the Eight Quartet. It appears alongside quotations, from previous Shostakovich works, including the Tenth Symphony, Lady Macbeth, and the First Symphony, not to mention Tchaikovsky's Pathetique, Siegfried's Funeral Music from Gotterdammerung, and the revolutionary song "Tormented by Grievous Bondage". .....The final pages of the score trail resemble in a curious way, the mad scene in Peter Grimes , in which the fisherman is reduced to singing his own name : "Grimes! Grimes ! Grimes!". It is the ultimate moment of self-alienation' [3]




Shostakovich and Britten

During the 1960's Shostakovich became a friend of  the composer Benjamin Britten (b. Lowestoft 1913-76). Both composers shared a liking for the music of Gustav Mahler,  both worked within the framework of Western tonality and respected each other's work sufficiently to quote each other in their respective compositions. The theme of the Outsider in society is prominent in both men's music, not least in Shostakovich's later string quartets. Both composers also died tragically prematurely. 

In his highly recommended book on 20th century music and its relationship to politics, 'The Rest is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century', the musicologist Alex Ross provides the historical details on the two composers friendship thus-

'In September 1960, when Dmitri Shostakovich came to London to hear his Cello Concerto played by Mstislav Rostropovich, he was introduced to Benjamin Britten. In the following years Britten and Pears made several visits to Russia and the friendship between the two composers blossomed when Britten and Pears traveled to A Soviet composer's colony in Armenia, where Rostropovich and Shostakovich were staying.

Ross notes -'Despite obvious differences in temperament- Britten was warm and affectionate with those whom he trusted, Shostakovich nervous to the end - the two quickly found sympathy with each other, and their connection may have gone as deep as any relationship in either man.

Britten had long admired Shostakovich's music, as the Lady Macbeth-like Passacaglia in Peter Grimes shows. Shostakovich, for his part, knew little of Britten's music before the summer of 1963, when he was sent the recording and score of the War Requiem. He promptly announced that he had encountered one of the "great works of the human spirit". In person he once said to Britten, "You great composer; I little composer". Britten's psychological landscape, with its undulating contours of fear and guilt, its fault lines and crevasses, its wan redeeming light, made Shostakovich feel at home.

Both men seem almost to have been born with a feeling of being cornered. Even in works of their teenage years, they appear to be experiencing spasms of existential dread. They were grown men with the souls of gifted, frightened children. They were like the soldiers in Wilfred Owens poem, meeting at the end of a profound, dull tunnel.

In 1969 Shostakovich capped the friendship by placing Britten's name on the title page of his Fourteenth Symphony.

Dmitri Shostakovich with Benjamin Britten

Alex Ross summarises Shostakovich's String quartets thus -

'The creations of Shostakovich's sixties, a time of increasingly deteriorating health, form a group of their own,....Here, turning away from confrontation with the State and dogged by the possibility of sudden death following his first heart attack in 1966, he focused with growing austerity on eternal and universal subjects: time, love, betrayal, truth, morality and mortality. Withdrawn and cryptic, these compositions are often compared with Beethoven's own late period. ......It  is as if  the composer has seen too much evil, suffered too much duplicity. His withdrawal from the world in his late works seems at least partly to have been founded on a growing mistrust of humanity per se. From those who knew him it seems that Shostakovich's philosophy, at its simplest, was to value the individual and fear the crowd, the heartless collective. Like Britten, he ponders in old age a kind of Noh theatre of moral parable, chiseling away the superfluous to expose the essential human beneath, bereft of its camouflage of vanity and pretence.....The desolate psychological terrain of Shostakovich's late-period music overlaps everywhere with that of Britten's. [5]

Another reviewer of Shostakovich's String Quartets states- 'The quartets are neither minor in their scope or ambition. They all have something to say about the nature of human existence and folly, collectively or as individuals. There are brief moments, more perhaps towards the later quartets, where bitterness and dark intimations of mortality give way to a peaceful acceptance.  There are no happy endings, only surrender to the inevitable, alone in the knowledge of the truth of what we are and what we have been'. [6]

 It's been suggested  that Shostakovich, faced with close scrutiny from Officials, adopted the role of the yurodivy or holy fool in his relations with the government; this persona features in his String Quartets. Austere, increasingly terse and morose, they also bear witness to the intense emotional strain the composer endured throughout his life in compliance with the Soviet authorities. Far from being exclusively expressions of the Russian Soul, they're recognisable as giving voice to the loss of Faith, alienation and existential angst suffered by many in the West in the twentieth century.

Notes

[1] The Rest is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century  Alex Ross 2007 Farrar Straus and Giroux
[2]The New Shostakovich Ian MacDonald Pimlico 2006
[3] The Rest is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century  Alex Ross 2007 Farrar Straus and Giroux
[4] Ibid
[5] Ibid
[6] Anonymous Amazon reviewer.

The most detailed and scholarly online writings, far surpassing my effort, on each and every one of Shostakovich's Fifteen String Quartets can be found here. 





Monday, February 26, 2018

Beethoven's String Quartets



The String Quartets of Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) are ranked amongst the greatest of the genre. Frequently technically innovative in structure, experimental in harmony with poignant  melodies and sharp wit, Beethoven's late quartets in particular express not only world-weariness and resignation but also serenity and transcendence. As such they are considered to be amongst the most enigmatic and mysterious of all music within the Western classical tradition.

Its worthwhile reminding ourselves of basics. A string quartet is a musical ensemble  consisting of four string players – two violin players, a viola player and a cellist. A prominent combination in chamber ensembles in classical music, most major composers from the mid 18th century onwards, wrote string quartets. The String Quartet was developed into its current form by the Austrian composer Joseph Haydn (1737-1809) whose quartets in the 1750s established the genre.

Ever since Haydn's day the string quartet has been considered a prestigious form which challenges the composer's art. With four parts to play with, a composer has enough lines to fashion a full argument, but none to spare for padding. The closely related characters of the four instruments combined cover a wide compass of pitch. The writer of string quartets must concentrate on the bare bones of musical logic. Thus, in many ways the string quartet is pre-eminently the dialectical form of instrumental music, and the one best suited to the activity of logical disputation and philosophical enquiry. [1]

The literary figure, polymath and contemporary of Beethoven, Wolfgang von  Goethe (1749-1832) explains the appeal of the string quartet thus-

"If I were in Berlin, I should rarely miss the Moser Quartet performances. Of all types of instrumental music, I have always been able to follow these best. You listen to four sensible persons conversing, you profit from their discourse, and you get to know the individual character of the instruments" [2]

Beethoven's early string quartets were composed between the summer or autumn of 1798 and the summer of 1800. They are clearly born of the tradition of his great predecessors, yet they already strain towards new directions. Succinct themes capable of extensive development; endlessly imaginative melodic manipulation; startling dynamic contrasts; complete, sometimes radical, formal mastery are all evident in Beethoven's first set of six quartets, Op. 18. [3]

The opening movement of the C minor quartet no. 4 of the set of  opus 18  displays much of the tension and angst of a minor key Mozart quartet, along with an indebtedness to Haydn's development of the quartet, as well as some distinctly Beethovian dramatic moments.





Of Beethoven's Middle quartets, the most important are the three so-called Razumovsky Quartets opus 59. (7, 8 and 9) named after the Russian prince who commissioned them. Dating from 1806 a contemporary music journal described the Razumovsky quartets as-

" long and difficult...profound and excellently wrought but not easily intelligible - except perhaps for the third, whose originality, melody and harmonic power will surely win over every educated music lover" [4]

In the Razumovsky quartets, along with his 3rd symphony, the Eroica Symphony in E flat major ,opus 55 (first performed April 1805) Beethoven breaks free from Classical form and convention towards Romanticism with the accent on feeling, self-expression and extended form. Its of these three quartets that Beethoven allegedly replied to an uncomprehending violinist, "Not for you, but for a later age".

The second movement of the E major String Quartet (no. 3 of opus 59) is often likened to music of hymnic transcendence. Beethoven's pupil, Carl Czerny relates it was conceived whilst the composer gazed at the night sky in contemplation of  'the music of the spheres'.




The New Grove Beethoven informs us that-

After completing the Ninth Symphony in early 1824 Beethoven spent the two and a half years that remained to him writing with increasing ease and exclusively in the medium of the string quartet. The five late string quartets contain Beethoven's greatest music, or so at least many listeners in the 20th century have come to feel. The first of the five, op. 127 in E flat of 1823-24, shows all the important characteristics of this unique body of music. It opens with another lyrical sonata form containing themes in two different tempos; the Maestoso theme melts into a faster one, wonderfully tender and intimate. [5]

The composition of  the A minor quartet op. 132 was interrupted by a serious illness in April 1825. An extraordinary 'Hymn of thanksgiving in the Lydian mode' forms its central movement in which the composer gives Thanks for the restoration of his health.



In the Quartet in B flat op. 130, the confrontation of themes in different tempos gives the opening movement an elusive, even whimsical feeling. A deliberate dissociation is intensified by the succession of five more movements, often in remote keys, with something of the effect of 'character pieces' in a Baroque suite. The feverish little Presto is followed by movements labelled by Beethoven Poco scherzando, Alla danza tedesca and Cavatina......[6]

The movement entitled Cavatina sees Beethoven at his most expressive with a heartfelt Welt abschied (Farewell to the World).




No discussion of Beethoven's Late String quartets can be complete without acknowledgement of the observations of Theodor W. Adorno (1903-69). Although the eminent philosopher and musicologist  himself found it impossible to complete a book upon Beethoven's String Quartets, nevertheless  he perceptively articulates defining qualities of Beethoven's late string quartets in the scattered fragments of his writings,thus -

There is in them something like a paring away of the sensuous, a spiritualization, as if the whole world of sensuous appearance were reduced in advance to the appearance of something spiritual.... It can be said that in the latest Beethoven the fabric, the interweaving of voices to form something harmonically rounded, is deliberately cut back. In Beethoven's late style there is altogether something like a tendency towards dissociation, decay, dissolution, but not in the sense of a process of composition which no longer holds things together: the disassociation and disintegration themselves become artist means, and works which have brought to a rounded conclusion take on through these means, despite their roundness, something spiritually fragmentary.  Thus, in the works which are typical of the true late style of Beethoven, the closed acoustic surface which is otherwise so characteristic of the sound of the string quartet with its perfect balance, disintegrates. [7]

Beethoven's String Quartet cycle may be considered unparalleled in scope, inventiveness and emotional depth until the String Quartets of Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-75). The Soviet-era composer's String Quartets match Beethoven's in technical brilliance and profundity  in many ways and therefore invite comparison; however, Beethoven's String Quartets stand independently in their own right, as monuments to the revolutionary genius of the Romantic composer.

Notes

[1] Wikipedia
[2] Goethe 1829 Correspondence
[3] Beethoven String Quartets  Vol.1  Basil Lam BBC Music Guides 1975
[4] Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung 
[5] The New Grove Beethoven  ed. Joseph Kerman and Alan Tyson pub. W W Norton & Co 1983
[6] Beethoven String Quartets Vol. 2. Basil Lam BBC Music Guides 1975
[7] Theodor W. Adorno Philosophy of Music: Fragments and Texts pub. Polity Press. 1998 New Ed 2002




Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Kazuo lshiguro


A Happy Birthday to Kazuo Ishiguro (b. Nov. 8th 1954, Nagasaki) recent winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature.

I'm not particularly well-qualified to share any observations upon Ishiguro’s novels, having only read his An Artist of the floating world (1986) some thirty years ago, and once again recently, his Never Let me Go a couple of years ago and The Remains of the day more recently.

Ishiguro completed his MA in Creative writing at the University of East Anglia in 1980, my Alma Mater, and I remember meeting the co-founders of UEA's prestigious creative writing course, the novelists Angus Wilson (1913-1991) and Malcolm Bradbury ( 1932 - 2000) way back in the 1970's. 

The jacket-notes for what is Ishiguro's only Japan-centred novel An artist of the floating world  describes the novel thus-

1948: Japan is rebuilding her cities after the calamity of World War II, her people putting defeat behind them and looking to the future. The celebrated painter Masuji Ono fills his days attending to his garden, his two grown daughters and his grandson, and his evenings drinking with old associates in quiet lantern-lit bars. His should be a tranquil retirement. But as his memories return to the past - to a life and a career deeply touched by the rise of Japanese militarism - a dark shadow begins to grow over his serenity. 

But of greater interest to myself is the postscript dated January 2016  to mark the occasion of his novel's 30th anniversary, in which Ishiguro states-

‘An Artist’ was written between 1981 and 1985, years of crucial, often fractious and bitter transition in Britain. The governments of Margaret Thatcher had brought an end to the post-war political consensus about the welfare state and the desirability of a ‘mixed’ economy (in which key assets and industries are owned publically as well as privately). there was an overt and strident programme to transform the country from one based on manufacturing and heavy industries, with large organised workforces, into a predominantly service-based economy with a fragmented, flexible, non-unionised labour pool. It was the era of the miners’ strike, the Wapping dispute, CND marches, the Falklands War, IRA terrorism, an economic theory - ‘monetarism’ - that characterised deep cuts to public services as the necessary medicine to heal a sick economy. .... This novel.....was shaped by the Britain in which I was then living: the pressures on people in every walk of life to take political sides; the rigid certainties, shading into self-righteousness and sinister aggression, of ardent, often youthful factions; the agonising about the ‘role of the artist’ in a time of political change. And for me personally: the nagging sense of how difficult it is to see clearly above the dogmatic fervours of one’s day; and the fear that time and history would show that for all one’s good intentions, one had backed a wrong, shameful, even evil cause, and wasted one’s best years and talents to it.  - London, January 2016

And in fact its often been commented upon that Britain and Japan share a number of cultural and socio-economic characteristics; both are heavily industrialised island nations which once pursued Imperial ambitions, both once possessed a formidable and large naval force, both are also nations which to the present-day have rigidly defined social hierarchies.

In his dystopian science-fiction novel Never Let Me Go (2005) the English county of Norfolk, where Ishiguro 'discovered' his vocation as a novelist, is described as a place where everything which is lost ends up -

“You see, because [Norfolk is] stuck out here on the east, on this hump jutting into the sea, it's not on the way to anywhere. People going north and south, they bypass it altogether. For that reason, it's a peaceful corner of England, rather nice. But it's also something of a lost corner.'

"Someone claimed after the lesson that Miss Emily had said Norfolk was England's 'lost corner' because that was where all the lost property found in the country ended up".

"Ruth said one evening, looking out at the sunset, that, 'when we lost something precious, and we'd looked and looked and still couldn't find it, then we didn't have to be completely heartbroken. We still had that last bit of comfort, thinking one day, when we were grown up, and we were free to travel the country, we could always go and find it again in Norfolk." - Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go

In what is perhaps Ishiguro's most well-known novel, The Remains of the Day (1989)  which has been described as P.G.Wodehouse meets Kafka, Ishiguro explores psychological characteristics often associated with the English nation, the famous 'stiff upper lip' of emotional repression and inarticulateness; of individuals who are unable to express themselves adequately, a particularly English tragedy, often enhanced and facilitated through an inflexible and detrimental to equality, hierarchical class-system which refuses to die an honorable death. 

Written in a  fluid, intimate and masterful prose style, distinctive characteristics of Ishiguro's prose, The Remains of the Day depicts England in the 1930's in which the class system dominates people's lives. It also describes how through political naivete the British upper-class were blind to the dangers of fascism spreading throughout mainland Europe, a political awareness which remains unlearnt in sectors of British society to the present-day, as Ishiguro himself states in an article on the result of the ill-conceived British referendum on membership to the European Union [1] as well as in interview on BBC television.





In the excellent Merchant-Ivory film adaption of Ishiguro's The Remains of the Day (1993) the magical chemistry between the actors Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson makes no small contribution in  portraying the fatal psychological inadequacy of the English, an inability of emotional expressiveness, aided and abetted by their obsession with status and social class. These factors blight what ought to have been a healthy love affair between the two central characters of Ishiguro's brilliant novel.  





Thursday, October 19, 2017

Stargazing with Dr. Browne



The physician-philosopher Sir Thomas Browne (1605-82) occupies a unique place in Western intellectual history. The age in which his life spanned, the seventeenth century, has been described as a century of transition and fundamental change. Predominantly religious in outlook at its opening, it was strongly scientific in perspective by its close. Sir Thomas Browne's response to this seismic shift in Western consciousness is one of balanced equilibrium; neither advocating the advancement of the new science without reservation, nor  renouncing his life-long interest in esoteric, Hermetic ways of thinking. As one critic noted - 

'to the student of the history of ideas in its modern sense of the inter-relation of philosophy, science, religion and art, Browne is of great importance'. [1] 

Browne himself seems to have been aware of his Janus-like place in intellectual history when confessing in Religio Medici (1643) - 

'In Philosophy where truth seems double-faced there is no man more paradoxical than myself’.[2] 

Browne’s ‘paradoxical philosophy’ is exemplified in his appreciation of the new science of astronomy alongside a more than casual interest in the esoteric art of astrology ; subjects which for centuries co-existed but which began to go their quite separate ways in his life-time. Remarks and observations upon astronomy as well as astrology can be found in each and every book by the Norwich physician-philosopher.

Browne proclaims his knowledge of astronomy in his Religio Medici, revealing himself as someone who doesn’t always suffer fools gladly, declaring-

'I know the names, and somewhat more, of all the constellations in my Horizon, yet I have seen a prating Mariner that could only name the Pointers and the North Star, out-talk me, and conceit himself a whole Sphere above me'. [3]

The newly-qualified physician also informs his reader in Religio Medici that -

'I was born in the planetary hour of Saturn, and I think I have a piece of that Leaden Planet in me'. [4] 

and - ‘If there be any truth in Astrology, I may outlive a Jubilee, as yet I have not seen one revolution of Saturn, nor hath my pulse beat thirty years’. [5]

In these characteristic fusions of medical and scientific imagery, Browne seems concerned with a highly-significant approaching astrological event in his life, the so-called 'Saturn Return' of astrology, a strong, though little commented upon incentive for his putting pen to paper in order to write his spiritual testament and psychological self-portrait. 

In  astrology Saturn is a malefic planet of restriction, contraction, limitation and melancholy. The astrological term of the Saturn return occurs when the planet Saturn returns to the same place it occupied at a person's birth  The influence of the Saturn return is considered to start in the person's late twenties, notably from the age of 27 until around 30. Astrologers believe that when Saturn "returns" to the same degree in its orbit it occupied at the time of birth, a person crosses over a major threshold and enters the next stage of life. Psychologically, the first Saturn return is seen as the time of reaching full adulthood, and being faced with adult challenges and responsibilities. With the second Saturn return, full maturity occurs. And with the third and usually final return, a person enters wise old age. These periods are estimated to occur at the ages of 27-31, 56-60 and 84-90. 

Browne’s subsequent publication, the encyclopaedic endeavour Pseudodoxia Epidemica (1646-72) was a vanguard work of scientific journalism which went through 6 editions in his life-time.  Translated into several languages it earned its author European fame. The bulk of Browne’s science can be found in its pages, including experiments with magnetism and static electricity as well as numerous examples of ‘occular observation’ along with introducing hypothesis and deductive reasoning to the general reading public. Browne's major contribution to the English Scientific Revolution has often been under-estimated. Pseudodoxia Epidemica was respected and inspirational to a whole generation of younger English scientists who increasingly did not work empirically 'in the field’ as much as engage in abstract reasoning, as Newton’s discoveries demonstrated. 

A somewhat simplistic analogy of Browne’s place in the English Scientific Revolution can be made in the form of a circuit of a  relay race. Browne receives and firmly  grasps the baton from the early English scientist Francis Bacon (1561-1626) heeding Bacon’s exhortation of 'occular observation’ along with rational deduction, as illustrated throughout the pages of his Pseudodoxia Epidemica. Indeed, the opening lines of its address ‘To the Reader’ echoes the very same words as those found in an essay by Bacon.[6] 

Browne is fast off the blocks while all around him are engaged in the horrors of the English Civil war (1642-49) and is responsible in passing on the baton of scientific enquiry from Bacon to a number of  men of science and learning who engaged in correspondence with him, these include Robert Boyle, Christopher Merret, Henry Power, Henry Oldenburg, John Evelyn, Walter Charleton and William Dugdale amongst many others. Several of these correspondents became participating members of the Royal Society. The Royal Society’s endorsement of scientific enquiry and  public debate passes the baton on for one final leg to its most illustrious member, Isaac Newton, who mathematically deduced the laws of gravity. In Newton’s discoveries the team-work of several generations of English scientists collectively achieve the victory of first past the post in the seventeenth century scientific revolution relay race. 

In essence however, Browne, like his mentor Francis Bacon, held fast to a double theory that, while sense and experience are the sources of our knowledge of the natural world, faith and inspiration are the sources of our knowledge of the supernatural, of God, and of the rational soul. 

A fruitful comparison can also be made between Browne and the astronomer Johannes Kepler (1571-1630). Kepler’s life, like Browne’s, spanned a watershed in scientific thought. The German astronomer not only advocated rational inductive science and the astronomical discoveries of Galileo, but also augmented his scientific enquiries with Neoplatonic and Pythagorean ideas. Kepler’s astronomical discoveries were as much structured upon precise mathematical calculation as deeply held theological beliefs and God-given revelation; his scientific perspective, not unlike Browne’s, were a complex fusion of Christian awe of the Creation, along with precise analysis as well as concepts originating from the ancient Greek philosophers Plato and Pythagoras. Whilst Kepler extolled the virtues of the number six in his study of snowflakes, the number five is celebrated in Browne’s discourse The Garden of Cyrus

Like his near exact contemporary Francis Bacon (1561-1626) Kepler believed in two, quite contrasting sources of knowledge, only one of which is credited nowadays. In addition to natural forms of knowledge obtained through reason, hypothesis, deduction and experiment, he also believed in supernatural sources of knowledge such as astrology. Even the scientist Isaac Newton (1642-1726) it is now known, believed in these two kinds of knowledge, namely natural and supernatural. 

Kepler’s three laws of planetary motion were fundamental contributions to Newton's development of a theory of gravity, whilst his strong astrological inclinations were responsible for introducing the aspect of the Quincunx to denote planets 150 degrees apart. Unsurprisingly, Kepler’s books are well-represented in Browne’s library. [7]

As with Kepler, the seventeenth century Norwich physician-philosopher just won’t fit neatly into tight, restrictive 21st definitions, no matter how much certain science journalists attempt to do so. [8]

Browne's beliefs, paradoxical to modern sensibilities are evident in the fact that in Pseudodoxia Epidemica he not only demonstrates an understanding of astronomy, but also entertains ideas of astrological correspondences. Thus its possible for him to make the astronomical observation-

'For if we consult the Doctrine of the sphere, and observe the ascension of the Pleiades, which maketh the beginning of Summer, we shall discover that in the latitude of 40, these stars arise in the 16 degree of Taurus; but in the latitude of 50, they ascend in the eleventh degree of the same sign, that is, 5 days sooner'. [9] 

as well as the astrological speculation -  

'since the natures of the fixed Stars, are astrologically differenced by the Planets, and are esteemed Martial or Jovial, according to the colours whereby they answer these Planets; why although the red Comets do carry the portensions of Mars, the brightly-white should not be of the Influence of Jupiter or Venus, answerably unto Cor Scorpii and Arcturus; is not absurd to doubt'. [10]

Its also in Pseudodoxia Epidemica that the first recorded usage of the word ‘Selenography’ occurs, amongst numerous words introduced by Browne into the English language. Although  its not listed in the 1711 Sales Auction Catalogue of Sir Thomas Browne and his son Edward’s libraries, Browne must surely have perused a copy of the Polish astronomer Hevelius’ Atlas of the moon, Selenographia (1647) in order for him to state-  

'And therefore the learned Hevelius in his accurate Selenography, or description of the Moon, hath well translated the known appellations of Regions, Seas and Mountains, unto the parts of that Luminary: and rather then use invented names or humane denominations, with witty congruity hath placed Mount Sinai, Taurus, Mæotis Palus, the Mediterranean Sea, Mauritania, Sicily, and Asia Minor in the Moon'. [11]


The Copernican heliocentric universe seems to be somewhat reluctantly accepted by Browne in Religio Medici when stating - 'I conclude therefore and say, there is no happiness under (or as Copernicus will have it, above) the Sun'. [11b]

Galileo's great work of astronomy Dialogo sopra i due massimi sistemi del mondo (1635) advocating the Copernican heliocentric universe, along with its English translation known as The Two World Systems (1661) is in Browne's library, but the Polish astronomer's great work is not to be found listed as once upon his library-shelves.  However, an edition of the Dutch astronomer Christiaan van Huygens (1629-95) study of the planet Saturn, the first to accurately detect and describe the planet's ring-system, Systema Saturniun (pub.1659) is listed as once upon his library shelves, suggesting that the Norwich doctor kept up to date with astronomical discoveries. 

Urn-Burial

Nowhere in his collected writings is there greater evidence of Browne's subscribing to the tenets of Hermetic philosophy than in his diptych discourses Urn-Burial and The Garden of Cyrus (1658). Never intended by their author to be separated, a common modern-day publishing error, together they are structured upon a fundamental tenet of Hermeticism, namely the myriad of correspondences between Microcosm and Macrocosm. The subject of Urn-Burial being the small, little world of mortal man, the Microcosm, whilst The Garden of Cyrus concerns itself with the universal and eternal, the Macrocosm. 

A number of polarities involving truth, imagery and symbolism can be detected in Browne's diptych discourses, among them (and this list is far from exhaustive) - unknowingness and revelation, Darkness and Light, along with symbolism of the tomb/womb, and the Grave and Garden. Their plexiformed relationship  often works through unconscious association upon the reader. Together their respectives themes of Time and Space form a mandala-like unity. Even stylistically they are antithetical to each other. The baroque flourishes and slow, stately prose of  Urn-Burial is stylistically far removed from the breathless and experimental, Mannerist in concept, numerological preoccupations of The Garden of Cyrus.

Several of Browne's amateur hobbies are featured in the Discourses, notably antiquarianism and archaeology in Urn-Burial, whilst optics and botany are prominent in The Garden of  Cyrus. Each  discourse also includes remarks and observations upon astronomy and astrology. (Incidentally, the word ‘polarity’ is yet another word introduced into the English language by Browne).

The theme of the unknowingness of the human condition is amplified in Urn-Burial in a passage on the astronomical phenomena of newly discovered stars and sunspots, detected by ‘Perspectives’, as telescopes were once known as. The new discoveries of astronomy revealed to those living in the seventeenth century that the Universe may be neither as fixed nor as stable as once believed by the ancient world of Ptolemaic astronomy. 

'whereof beside Comets and new Stars, perspectives begin to tell tales. And the spots that wander about the Sun, with Phaetons favour, would make clear conviction'.

Browne’s knowledge of astronomy was sufficiently advanced to know that one face of the moon,  the so-called  dark side of the moon, is permanently invisible to human eyes -

.’.....while according to better discovery the poor Inhabitants of the Moon have but a polary life, and must pass half their days in the shadow of that Luminary'.

The apotheosis of Urn-Burial includes an example of Browne's unique astral symbolism,  the learned Norwich physician-philosopher declaiming -

'Life is a pure flame and we live by an invisible sun within us'.

Besides being a fine example of Browne’s frequent usage of the literary device of parallelism, that is, stating the same thing twice contrastingly, this superb fusion of Browne’s scientific, spiritual and psychological learning deserves elaboration. The idea of an ‘invisible sun’ can be found in the writings of the Belgian physician Gerard Dorn (1530-84) the foremost promoter of the ideas of the alchemist Paracelsus and whose principal works can be found in the vast compendium Theatrum Chemicum  [12] The notion of an 'invisible sun’ can be traced even further back in time to the source of much Christian mysticism, that of Pseudo-Dionysus the Areopagite, a Christian theologian and philosopher of the late 5th to early 6th century CE. 

Perhaps one of the most accessible books in recent years on the beginnings of Western science is Philip Ball’s, ‘Curiosity: How Science Became Interested in Everything’ (2013). Those wishing to understand the beginnings of modern-day Scientific enquiry and the vital influence which Hermeticism wielded in its development are recommended to consult its pages. For example, Philip Ball notes of the Elizabethan mathematician and magus John Dee (1527-1608) whose eldest son Arthur Dee (b. Manchester 1572 d. Norwich 1651) was a close friend of Browne’s -

 ‘Like Kepler, Galileo and later Newton, Dee held that the secrets of the world were at root mathematical and geometrical’ and crucially, ‘we have been encouraged to divorce mathematical and geometrical reasoning from its strong Renaissance associations with magic’. [13] Philip Ball’s remarks on Dee are equally applicable to Browne’s own scientific perspective, not least in the transcendent geometry and ‘mystical mathematics’ in the discourse The Garden of Cyrus.   

The Garden of Cyrus

No literary work of Browne’s demonstrates his esoteric approach to science better than The Garden of Cyrus (1658). Its primary objective is advocation, via the Quincunx pattern, of God as a skillful geometrician and the intelligent Designer of the universe. Browne’s quinary quest cites examples of the Quincunx, amongst other inter-related symbols including the lattice pattern, the figure of decussation X and the number five, in subjects as diverse as - Biblical scholarship, Egyptology, comparative religion, especially the Bembine Tablet of Isis, mythology, ancient world plantations and gardening, geometry, including the Archimedean solids, sculpture, numismatics, architecture, paving-stones, battle-formations, optics, including the camera obscura, zoology, ornithology, the kabbalah, astrology, astronomy and not least numerous botanical  observations which anticipate modern-day studies in genetics, germination, generation and heredity.

The Discourse opens dramatically with a dazzling fusion of comparative religion, optical imagery and cosmology  -

'That Vulcan gave arrows unto Apollo and Diana the fourth day after their Nativities, according to Gentile Theology, may pass for no blind apprehension of the Creation of the Sun and Moon, in the work of the fourth day When the diffused light and shooting rays of those Luminaries contracted into orbs’.

There's a generous amount of highly original astral symbolism sprinkled throughout the pages of The Garden of Cyrus, while mention of astronomical constellations, in conjunction with Browne’s subtle humour can be found in the opening of the Discourse’s central, third chapter-

'Could we satisfy ourselves in the position of the lights above, or discover the wisdom of that order so invariably maintained in the fixed Stars of heaven; Could we have any light, why the stellar part of the first mass, separated into this order, that the Girdle of Orion should ever maintain its line, and the two Stars in Charles's Wain never leave pointing at the Pole-Star, we might abate the Pythagorical Music of the Spheres, the sevenfold Pipe of Pan; and the strange Cryptography of Gaffarel in his Starry Book of Heaven....'

But not to look so high as Heaven or the single Quincunx of the Hyades upon the head of Taurus....


In a literary work jam-packed with esoteric references, Browne's numerological quest can be seen to endorse the teachings of the seminal scholar Pico della Mirandola (1463-94) who was responsible for re-introducing Pythagorean 'mystical mathematics' to Renaissance Europe, advocating-  

'By number, a way is had, to the searching out and understanding of everything able to be known'. 

In many ways The Garden of Cyrus is a highly-condensed compendium of esoteric topics which fascinated Browne. It includes the astrological speculation-  

'Under what abstruse foundation Astrologers do Figure the good or bad Fate from our Children, in a good Fortune, or the fifth house of their Celestial Schemes. Whether the Egyptians described a Star by a Figure of five points, with reference unto the five Capital aspects, whereby they transmit their Influences, or abstruser Considerations ?'

Nor can one omit mention of the  couplet found in his Commonplace notebooks-

'Who will not commend the wit of astrology ?
Venus born out the sea. hath her exaltation in Pisces.'

The same curious mixture of critical astrology and awareness of the discoveries of astronomy occurs in Browne's posthumous collection of short essays unimaginatively entitled by  its literary executor as Christian Morals (1716). 

In Christian Morals (circa 1670 pub. post. 1716) Browne introduces into English language the astronomical description of stars as seen in the Milky Way as 'nebulous’ and 'lacteous’, declaring -

'numerous numbers must be content to stand like lacteous or nebulous stars, little taken notice of, or dim in their generations'. [14]  


Browne's cosmological speculations led him to the profound observation that - 'The created world is but a small parenthesis in eternity'. [15]

Its also in Christian Morals that Browne’s ambiguous relationship to astrology can be detected. He’s highly critical of natal astrology when declaiming -

'Burden not the back of Aries, Leo, or Taurus, with thy faults, nor make Saturn, Mars, or Venus, guilty of thy Follies'.  [16]

And effectively demolishes the claims of the astrological birth-chart in his sharp observation - ‘for some are Astrologically well-disposed who are morally highly viscous’. [17]

However, far from entirely dismissing the esoteric art, Browne also speculates -

'If we rightly understood the Names whereby God calleth the Stars, if we knew his Name for the Dog-Star, or by what appellation Jupiter, Mars, and Saturn obey his Will, it might be a welcome accession unto Astrology, which speaks of great things, and is fain to use  Greek and Barbaric systems'.[18]

Browne kept abreast and well-informed of the latest scientific discoveries throughout his life. Astronomy seems to have been of great interest to him in his later years. Writing to his eldest son Edward Browne (1644-1708) resident in Rome on his travels, he confirms of their joint eye-witnessing -



'I see the little comet or blazing star every clear evening, the last time I observed it about 42 degrees of height, about 7 o’ clock, in the constellation of Cetus, or the whale, in the head thereof; it moveth west and northly, so that it moveth towards Pisces or Linum Septentrionale pisces. Ten degrees is the utmost extent of the tail...That which I saw in 1618 began in Libra, and moved northward, ending about the tail of Ursa Major; it was far brighter than this, and the tail extended 40 degrees, lasted little above a month. This now seen hath lasted above a month already, so that I believe from the motion that it began in Eridanus or Fluvius'.  [19]

He even considers acquiring astronomical instruments, writing to Edward Browne-

'..some that have had them tell me there is account made of some kind of spectacles without glasses, and made by a little trunk or case to admit the species with advantage. ....I hear such instruments are made and sold in London; and some tell me they have had them here. Enquire after them, and where they are made, and send a pair, as I remember there is no great art in the making thereof'.  [20]

However, although his eye-sight seems as sharp as ever, his advanced years are now of little help for stargazing, writing to Edward -

'The stream or tail of the comet was very long, when I saw it, in a clear  night, and I believe it was the same night when you saw it,  at St. Albans ; but the weather was so piercing cold, that I  could not endure to stand in it, otherwise I might have taken the altitude of the star or head of the comet, and then  reckoned the length of the tail to our vertical point, and then, allowing for the altitude, I might have seen how much  of ninety degrees the tail took up ; as, if the altitude were 30 degrees, the tail, coming to the vertex, must be sixty degrees extended'. [21]

Comets remain  of interest to Browne, when writing to Edward Browne, less than two years before his death -

'The news letters mentioned it, but to little or no purpose, or any information. We have had somewhat cloudy or foggy evenings, so that we hear no more of it, and this day was clear and frosty, and the sun set very bright and red, but we could not see a star, it was so misty this night, while I am writing, which is between seven and eight o'clock. I never saw a large and very long tail of a comet, since 1618, when I was at school. I believe it will be much observed and discoursed, and accounts given of it by the R. S. (i.e. Royal Society) and observers beyond sea'. [22] 

Browne also demonstrates his understanding of parallaxis, explaining the astronomical term to his eldest son thus -

'By this parallaxis astronomers find out the comet's distance from the earth ; and, in that of 1618, they found it to be as far above the moon as  the moon is above the earth, and so find out its place, or sphere it is in, which I believe will be performed, or is already, by some astronomers'. [23]

He advises his son - 'You might do well to have a figure of parallaxis, and to understand it, for it may be very useful, and is in many books. Now, if this comet be very high, and at a great distance above the moon, or in the sphere of Mercury or Venus, it will have but little parallaxis, and so we may conclude that it is above the moon'. [24] 

Perhaps Browne's late interest in astronomy was the result of his having a mystical apprehension of stars as the source of all life on Earth. Our own star, the sun supports and sustains all life on earth, including humanity.

In essence, Browne's scientific outlook was forever inclined towards the tenets of Hermeticism with its correspondences, analogies and polarities, concepts not always conducive to modern quantitative science. Browne was also a believer in unquantifiable aesthetic principles such as symmetry, harmony, order and proportion, and for this reason he never fully embraced the discoveries of a science which challenged or refuted concepts such as his beloved 'music of the Spheres' or the eternal patterns and archetypes of an Intelligent or Grand Designer.

Its thus as a paradoxical figure in intellectual history, with one foot planted firmly in esoteric lore and the other, in modern scientific enquiry that Browne reveals himself to us today. His holistic approach to medicine and critical following of Paracelsus marks him as a progressive-thinking medical man in seventeenth century England. Indeed, it's in the fields of psychiatry and psychology, not astronomy that Browne's greatest achievements lay. Its not without significance that the double-faced figure of Janus, one of Browne's favourite symbols, which the Swiss psychologist C.G. Jung considered to be a 'perfect symbol of the Psyche',  or that one of the very earliest usages of the word  'Archetype'  occurs in Browne's literary works.

To summarize, Browne's place in intellectual history, as one of the very last Renaissance men who held an equal interest in both astrology and the newly developing science of astronomy is paradoxical to modern sensibilities, forever insistent upon Either/Or.

Yet its precisely because of Sir Thomas Browne's consultation of both natural and supernatural knowledge that he may be defined as much an early chemist as an alchemist, as much an Hermetic philosopher as advocate of rational, deductive science and as much an astrologer as vigorous promoter of the new science of astronomy. And this is precisely why Norwich's very own 'Starman' remains a controversial and little-understood, yet also highly significant figure in Western intellectual history. 
  


Science and Astronomy books in Browne’s library includes -

Robert Boyle - Usefulness of Experimental Philosophy, London 1671 
Galileo, Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, Trent 1635
Sidereus Nuncius, London 1653
Two World Systems Englished by T. Sainsbury, 1661
William Gilbert. De Magnete, Magneticisque Corporibus, et de Magno Magnete Tellure 1600
Robert Hooke - Lectures, London 1678
Christian Huygens - Systema Saturnium, The Hague 1659
Johannes Kepler -  Mysterium Cosmographicum, Tübingen 1596
Kepler - de Stella nova in pede Serpentis, Prague 1606

Highly Recommended

* Philip Ball - Curiosity: How Science Became Interested in Everything pub. Vintage 2013
* Wonders of the Solar System presented by Professor Brian Cox BBC DVD 2010

Also consulted


Star Names : Their Lore and Meaning Richard Hinckley 1899 Allen Dove pub. 1963

Ingenious Pursuits : Building the Scientific Revolution Lisa Jardine pub. Little, Brown and co. 1999

Notes

Images Top -Dying double helix Nebula in the constellation Aquarius
Next - Hevelius Selenographia
Next - Hyades star cluster in the constellation Taurus
Next - Galaxy in which our own solar system is located
Next - Comet ISON
Last -  A Page from a Star Atas dated 1674

Link to the latest astronomical discovery. Astronomers witness neutron stars colliding. This extraordinary event has been ‘seen’ for the first time, in both gravitational waves and light – ending decades-old debate about where gold comes from

[1] Leonard Nathanson -The Strategy for Truth pub. Chicago Uni. Press 1967
[2] Religio Medici Part 1: 6
[3] R.M. Part 2. 6
[4]  R.M Part 2:11
[5]  R.M Part 1: 41
[6] Bacon's Essay 'Of Vicissitude of Things' opens with the words - 'Salomon saith, There is no new thing upon the earth. So that as Plato had an imagination, that all knowledge was but remembrance; so Salomon giveth his sentence, that all novelty is but oblivion'. 

Browne's to the Reader opens with the words - 'Would Truth dispense, we could be content, with Plato, that knowledge were but remembrance; that intellectual acquisition were but reminiscential evocation, and new Impressions but the colouring of old stamps which stood pale in the soul before. For what is worse, knowledge is made by oblivion',

[7] Kepler's books in Browne's Library includes -Mysterium Cosmographicum (Prague 1596) 1711 Sales Catalogue Page 28 Quarto no. 2
De stella nova in pede Serpentarii (Prague 1606) Sales Catalogue  page 29 no. 18  and Ad Vitellionem Paraipolomena (Frankfurt 1606) S.C.  page 29 no.34
[8] Hugh Aldersey Williams 'The Adventures of Sir Thomas Browne in the 21st century' Granta 2015. There's a number of caveats to be sounded about this book. Whilst its to be applauded for generating interest in Browne, its also very much Aldersey-William's own Religio Medici Link to Review here. Hugh Aldersey-William's proposal that Browne was a closet atheist in particular is highly unlikely, but also a good example how Browne's strongly archetypical 'Old wise man' persona is a magnet for psychological projection, invariably of an unconscious nature.
[9] Pseudodoxia Epidemica bk 7 chapter 3
[10] P.E. bk 6 chapter 14
[11] Ibid.
[11b] R.M Part 2 : Section 15
[12] 1711 Sales Catalogue Page 25 no. 124
[13] Philip Ball - Curiosity: How Science Became Interested in Everything pub. Vintage 2013 
[14] Christian Morals Part 3 Section 24
[15] C.M. Part 3 Section 29
[16]  C.M. Part 3 section 7
[17]  Ibid.
[18] Ibid.
[19] Letter dated Nch. Jan 1st 1664-65 to Edward Browne
[20] Letter dated Nov 23rd 1677 to Edward Browne
[21] Letter dated 7th Jan 1681 to Edward Browne
[22] Letter dated 17th Dec 1680 to Edward Browne
[23] Letter dated 7th Jan 1681 to Edward Browne
[24] Letter dated 12 Jan 1681 to Edward Browne

This essay dedicated to Tchenka Sunderland - Astrologer, one-time mentor and decades long encourager of my Brunonian studies.