Post by Catsmate on Oct 17, 2019 10:50:39 GMT
But why fly in the face of facts? Few people love the writings of Sir Thomas Browne, but those who do are of the salt of the Earth. Virginia Woolf
Browne is described by wiki as "an English polymath and author of varied works which reveal his wide learning in diverse fields including science and medicine, religion and the esoteric" and that his works "display a deep curiosity towards the natural world, influenced by the scientific revolution of Baconian enquiry".
That's a pretty mild description of the man; an inveterate enquirer into things, wordsmith (he probably added more than 750 to the English language and authored many books), collector of oddities, sometime physician, driver of the Celestial Omnibus and more.
I first encountered Browne contemplating an urn during a period in Norwich a few years ago, was reminded of him when re-reading Greenwood's Urn Burial when travelling recently and then was sent this tweet from Rebecca Baumann (@arkhamlibrarian self-described "Rare Book Librarian, Book Junkie, Devotee of the Weird, Friend to all Monsters"). Discovering that Browne's birth and death days are on Saturday poked me into digging out my notes.
His life. (from wiki)
Browne was born on 19 October 1605, the son of a wealthy silk merchant from Upton in Cheshire (described as "a Gentleman of a very good Family in Cheshire") and Anne Browne from Sussex. His father died while Browne was a child and his mother married Sir Thomas Dutton. Browne inherited about six thousand pounds, a considerable fortune in the seventeenth century, from his wealthy father and as his step-father was busy with various official duties, holding seve4ral government posts around the British Isles.
His mother left him in the care of guardians while she and her husband were away, and the young Browne was educated at Wykeham's School and later at the University of Oxford, Pembroke College, which he entered when he was seventeen.
He took a Master of Arts and later studied medicine at Oxford (and later at Padua, Montpellier and Leiden). He became a Doctor of Medicine at Leiden in 1633 and Oxford in 1637 (studying under Thomas Lushington). In this period he travelled extensively, including an extended stay in Ireland with his step-father inspecting fortifications and castles.
In 1637 he settled in Norwich, becoming a well regarded physician and member of local society. He become involved in various scientific endeavors ("natural philosophy") and local groups. He married Dorothy Mileham, from a notable Norfolk family, in 1641 and the couple had ten children, four of whom survived their parents.
Around this time (~1642) his literary career took off with a number of well received works (see wiki, the Sir Thomas Browne society or the University of Chicago site for more details). One of the more interesting of these is Browne's 'encyclopaedia', Pseudodoxia Epidemica published in 1646 and subtitled "Enquiries into Very many Received Tenets, and commonly Presumed Truths". This was a skeptical work, discussing and debunking many commonly held false beliefs and legends. In the book Browne displays a methodical, scientific manner and a dry wit. It's rather comparable to modern skeptical scientific journalism, in the style of people like Ben Goldacre.
Browne was knighted in 1671 during a visit by King Charles II to Norwich when several member of the royal court (including his correspondent, the diarist John Evelyn) visited Browne.
Evelyn describes Browne's house as "a paradise and Cabinet of rarities and that of the best collection, amongst Medails, books, Plants, natural things".
He died in 1682.
So how could this polymath appear in an AITAS game? Several ways.
Firstly he demonstrates the connectedness of the relatively small intellectual and scientific community of the time; Browne links to Evelyn (and hence to Pepys, Christopher Wren et cetera) who links to Athanasius Kircher (and hence most of the natural philosophers in Europe) and Marin Mersenne (who links to anyone else). Something weird encountered by any of them could make it's way to Browne; his might be the strange actions of an oddly dressed party with a blue box or any type of odd event that the PCs should know about. A perfect source for clues, when needed.
Secondly if the party turns up in Norfolk in the mid-to-late sixteen the century and find something strange Browne could turn up; he's well regarded, a physician and man of the new learning, a skeptic about many supernatural matters and hence the perfect man for the local authorities to tap to investigate (for example) some strange statues in a churchyard and people disappearing.
He could also appear if they PCs become embroiled in a plot in or around the English Civil War, such as:
1. The assault on the home of Lady Peinforte and the launching of the Nemesis statue into space. OK this took place in Windsor in 1638 but Browne might have witnessed (or heard about) the incident.
2. The disappearance of the Marchwood children from Little Hodcombe and the presence of the alchemist Erasmus Darkening
3. The "Witch of the Well" which haunts Caliburn House.
Thirdly, Browne was a collector of more than just books; what odd artefacts and diaries might have ended up in his cabinets? Some notes from the home of Lady Peinforte? Oddities brought back by returned Civil War soldiers kidnapped by the War Lords? An account of the escape from the Tower of London by a strange man using a balloon? Or of the strange battle in the village of Little Hodcombe? Or things found in a manor house, not far from London, found mysteriously abandoned around the time of the Great Fire? Certainly he's said to have possessed a unicorn horn; perhaps he did. Or did the "speaking head" claimed to be in the possession of Kircher (that he called his Oraculum Delphinium) come from Browne; where might he have acquired such an artefact?
- Kircher is said to have possessed a "closet of rarities" with other strange objects but that's a seed from another day.
Finally there is his intriguing contributions to English; words like ambidextrous, antediluvian, analogous, approximate, anomalous, coma, computer, cryptography, cylindrical, electricity, generator and of course polarity. I wonder where he picked them up?
Comments? Ideas? Suggestions?
 In the E. M. Forster is short story "The Celestial Omnibus".
 A mystery novel, the title and internal quotes are from Browne's "Hydriotaphia, Urn Burial, or a Brief Discourse of the Sepulchral Urns lately found in Norfolk" published in 1658.
 Mersenne was known as "the post-box of Europe" for his status as a letter writer and connection between intellectuals.
 Fun if they haven't been there yet.