Thomas Browne: Hydriotaphia, or Urne-Buriall

(1415 words)

“Who knows the fate of his bones, or how often he is to be buried? Who hath the oracle of his ashes, or whither they are to be scattered?” Thomas Browne's Urne-Buriall (1658), a brief essay on the subject of fragmentation, dissolution, loss, and the failure of record, approaches its themes from the point of view of the practising naturalist, antiquarian, and moralist. Its evidence is marshalled from such diverse fields as ancient history, folklore, anecdote, physic, and theology to produce a resonant and complex meditation on human vanity. For all its recondite and at times eccentric learning, it is one of the most extraordinary prose works in the English language, a work whose very sound still rings clearly and distinctly f…

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Preston, Claire. "Hydriotaphia, or Urne-Buriall". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 25 October 2002
[, accessed 30 September 2016.]