Wonderful Indeed Are The Preserves of Time

That mummy is medicinal, the Arabian Doctor Haly delivereth and divers confirm; but of the particular uses thereof, there is much discrepancy of opinion. While Hofmannus prescribes the same to epileptics, Johan de Muralto commends the use thereof to gouty persons; Bacon likewise extols it as a stiptic: and Junkenius considers it of efficacy to resolve coagulated blood. Meanwhile, we hardly applaud Francis the First, of France, who always carried Mummia with him as a panacea against all disorders; and were the efficacy thereof more clearly made out, scarce conceive the use thereof allowable in physic, exceeding the barbarities of Cambyses, and turning old heroes unto unworthy potions. Shall Egypt lend out her ancients unto chirurgeons and apothecaries, and Cheops and Psammiticus be weighed unto us for drugs? Shall we eat of Chamnes and Amosis in electuaries and pills, and be cured by cannibal mixtures? Surely such diet is dismal vampirism; and exceeds in horror the black banquet of Domitian, not to be paralleled except in those Arabian feasts, wherein Ghoules feed horribly.
But the common opinion of the virtues of mummy bred great consumption thereof, and princes and great men contended for this strange panacea, wherein Jews dealt largely, manufacturing mummies from dead carcasses, and giving them the names of kings, while specifics were compounded from crosses and gibbet leavings. There wanted not a set of Artificers who counterfeited mummies so accurately, that it needed great skill to distinguish the false from the true. Queasy stomachs would hardly fancy the doubtful position, wherein one might so easily swallow a cloud for his Juno, and defraud fowls of the air while in conceit enjoying the conserves of Canopus.

Radzivil hath a strange story of some mummies which he had stowed in seven chests, and was carrying on ship board from Egypt, when a priest on the mission, while at his prayers, was tormented by two ethnic spectres or devils, a man and a woman, both black and horrible; and at the same time a great Storm arose at Sea, which threatened shipwreck, till at last they were enforced to pacify the enraged sea, and put those demons to flight by throwing their mummy freight overboard, and so with difficulty escaped. What credit the relation of the worthy person deserves, we leave unto others. Surely if true, these demons were Satan's emissaries, appearing in forms answerable unto Horus and Mompta, the old deities of Egypt, to delude unhappy men. For those dark caves and mummy repositories are Satan's abodes, wherein he speculates and rejoices on human vain-glory, and keeps those kings and conquerors, whom alive he bewitched, whole for that great day, when he will claim his own, and marshall the kings of Nilus and Thebes in sad procession unto the pit.
Death, that fatal necessity which so many would overlook, or blinkingly survey, the old Egyptians held continually before their eyes. Their embalmed ancestors they carried about at their banquets, holding them still a part of their families, and not thrusting them from their places at feasts. They wanted not likewise a sad preacher at their tables to admonish them daily of death, surely an unnecessary discourse while they banqueted in sepulchres. Whether this were not making too much of death, as tending to assuefaction, some reason there were to doubt, but certain it is that such practices would hardly be embraced by our modern gourmands who like not to look on faces of morta, or be elbowed by mummies.
 - from "Fragment on Mummies", a forgery of Sir Thomas Browne written by James Crossley.

Comments

  1. What exactly are you hoping to achieve by duplication of this fragment? Debate upon its authenticity? The Uni. of Chicago Browne site has another pastiche, see the hilarious 'On Welsh Rarebit'. Are you even aware that this fragment may in fact only be a pastiche? The only extant mss. is from a 19th c. handwritten copy by James Crossland. There is therefore some considerable doubt that this is by Browne. He was however a keen Egyptologist.

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  2. Here is a piece of genuine Browne for you! If only you could make an intelligent statement as to WHY you selected this piece, and of what interest it is to you! Otherwise why not just post a link to the site you copied and pasted it from!

    'Men are still content to feather themselves with another's plume!'-Sir T.B.

    Anyway i am slowly becoming acclimatised through posts like this to seeing my literary cultural heritage being daily trivialized on-line!

    All the best,thanks for your interest and looking forward to an intelligent reasoned statement as to WHY you selected this passage

    Here's another piece of Browne for you, which maybe the world's first ever dental joke-

    'The Egyptian Mummies that I have seen, have had their Mouths open, and somewhat gaping, which affordeth a good opportunity to view and observe their Teeth, wherein 'tis not easy to find any wanting or decayed: and therefore in Egypt, where one Man practiced but one Operation, or the Diseases but of single Parts, it must needs be a barren Profession to confine unto that of drawing of Teeth, and little better than to have been Tooth-Drawer unto King Pyrrhus, who had but two in his Head'.

    -extract from 'A Letter to a Friend'.

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  3. I posted it because diet and health care are "hot topics" at the moment.

    Thanks for pointing out the fragment is widely considered a literary hoax, perpetrated by James Crossley. Crossley was a fascinating figure. His name rang a bell, but I couldn’t place it. Then I remembered that prior to his disappearance, the great writier Chester Northmour had told everyone he was working on a novel about Crossley.

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  4. Well that's pretty darn sharp of you, thanks a lot for identifying this guy from my mistake of Crossland for Crossley. He did it perhaps to wind up Browne's editor Simon Wilkins where it is not included in first edition of works.

    Posted for the current interest in diet, hmmm well eating pieces of mummified corpses should definitely carry a health warning. Thanks also for adding the caveat a forgery, though it is a good one.

    If you're interested in diet, Browne and forgery take a look at the hilarious 'On Welsh Rarebit' at the Uni. Cjicago site .

    Thanks again, now to check out more about this guy Crossley, who I know nothing whatsoever about!

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  5. Crossley aside, you could argue that the work of Sir Thomas Browne was expressly written to be quoted at random on the internet. After all, surely this is what hyperlinks are for?

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  6. Indeed, you could argue that, Mr. Hypothalamopolis. Zardoz hath a strange story of the time I attended a summer feast. I inadvertantly mixed some powdered Psammiticus with my rolling tobacco. Under the Mummia's medicinal influence, I became convinced the other guests were Satan's emissaries, appearing in forms answerable unto Horus and Mompta. I threw a few into the pool, and with difficulty escaped.

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