1690 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Robert Burton

Anthony Wood, Athenae Oxonienses (1690-91; 1721) 1:626-28.



ROBERT BURTON, known otherwise to Scholars by the name of Democritus Junior, younger Brother to Will. Burton, whom I shall mention under the year 1645, was born of an ancient and genteel Family at Lindley in Leicestershire, 8 Feb. 1576, and therefore in the titles of several of his choice Books which he gave to the public Library, he added to his Sir-name Lindliacus Leycestrensis. He was educated in Grammar learning in the Free-School of Sutton-Colfield in Warwickshire, whence he was sent to Brasen-nose Coll. in the long vacation, an. 1593, where he made a considerable progress in Logic and Philosophy in the condition of a Commoner. In 1599, he was elected Student of Ch. Ch. and for form sake, tho' he wanted not a Tutor, he was put under the tuition of Dr. John Bancroft, afterwards Bishop of Oxon. In 1614, he was admitted to the reading of the Sentences, and on the 29 Nov. 1616, he had the Vicarage of St. Thomas's Parish in the West Suburb of Oxon conferr'd on him by the Dean and Canons of Ch. Church, (to the Parishioners where of, he always gave the Sacrament in Wafers) which, with the Rectory of Segrave in Leicestershire, given to him some years after by George Lord Berkeley, he kept with much ado to his dying day. He was an exact Mathematician, a curious Calculator of Nativities, a general read Scholar, a thro'-pac'd Philologist, and one that understood the surveying of Lands well. As he was by many accounted a severe student, a devourer of Authors, a melancholy and humorous Person; so by others, who knew him well, a Person of great honesty, plain dealing and Charity. I have heard some of the Antients of Ch. Ch. often say that his Company was very merry, facete and juvenile, and no Man in his time did surpass him for his ready and dextrous interlarding his common discourses among them with Verses from the Poets or Sentences from classical Authors. Which being then all the fashion in the University, made his Company more acceptable. He hath written,

The Anatomy of Melancholy. — First printed in qu. and afterwards several times in fol. an. 1624, 1632, 38, and 1652, &c. to the great profit of the Bookseller, who got an estate by it. 'Tis a Book so full of variety of reading, that Gentlemen who have lost their time and are put to a push for invention, may furnish themselves with matter for common or scholastical discourse and writing. Several Authors have unmercifully stolen matter from the said Book without any acknowledgement, particularly one Will. Greenwood, in his Book entit. A description of the passion of Love, &c. Lond. 1657. oct. Who, as others of the like humour do, sometimes takes his quotations without the least mention of Democritus Junior. He the said R. Burton paid his last debt to nature, in his Chamber in Ch. Ch. at, or very near that time, which he had some years before foretold from the Calculation of his own nativity. Which being exact, several of the Students did not forbear to whisper among themselves, that rather than there should be a mistake in the Calculation, he sent up his Soul to Heaven thro' a slip about his Neck. His Body was afterwards with due solemnity buried near that of Dr. Rob. Weston, in the North Isle, which joynes next to the Choir of the Cath. of Ch. Church, on the 27 of January in sixteen hundred thirty and nine. Over his Grave was soon after erected a comely Monument on the upper Pillar of the said Isle, with his Bust painted to the life: On the right hand of which, is the inscription made by himself; all put up by the care of William Burton his Brother. Paucis notus, paucioribus ignotus, hic jacet Democritus junior, cui vitam dedit, & mortem Melancholia. Obiit viii. Id. Jan. A. C. M.DCXXXIX. He left behind him a very choice library of Books, many of which he bequeathed to that of Bodley, and a hundred Pounds to buy five Pounds yearly for the supplying of Ch. Ch. Library with Books.