Burnett, George (DNB00)

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BURNETT, GEORGE (1776?–1811), miscellaneous writer, was the son of a respectable farmer at Huntspill in Somersetshire, where he was born in or about 1776. He had more intellect than the rest of his family, and, after a suitable introduction to classical literature under the care of a clergyman in the neighbourhood, he was sent to Balliol College, Oxford, with a view to his taking orders in the established church. After two or three years' residence he became disgusted with a college life, and took part in the well-known scheme of ‘pantisocracy’ with Coleridge and Southey. After lingering about for a year or two, dependent upon the supplies which he drew from his father, Burnett obtained admission as a student into the dissenting college at Manchester. He was appointed pastor of a congregation at Yarmouth, but did not remain there long. He subsequently became, for a short time, a student of medicine in the university of Edinburgh. Through the influence of friends he was at one time appointed domestic tutor to two sons of Lord Stanhope, but he idled away a month or more in a needless excursion into the country, and had scarcely entered upon his charge when both his pupils—though not through any fault of his—left their father's house. Lord Stanhope paid 200l.—a year's salary—to Burnett, who afterwards became an assistant surgeon in a militia regiment. This situation he soon quitted, and went to Poland with the family of Count Zamoyska, as English tutor, but in less than a twelvemonth returned to England, without any employment. Shortly afterwards he contributed to the ‘Monthly Magazine’ a series of letters which were reprinted under the title of ‘View of the Present State of Poland,’ Lond. 1807, 12mo. He next published ‘Specimens of English Prose Writers, from the earliest times to the close of the seventeenth century; with sketches biographical and literary; including an account of books, as well as of their authors, with occasional criticisms,’ 3 vols. Lond. 1807, 8vo; a judicious compilation, forming a companion to George Ellis's ‘Specimens of the Early English Poets.’ He also wrote the introduction to the ‘Universal History,’ published under the name of Dr. Mavor. His last production, consisting of a selection from Milton's ‘Prose Works,’ with new translations and an introduction (2 vols. Lond. 1809, 12mo), was compiled at Huntspill in 1808–9, and dedicated to Lord Erskine. On its completion he left his native place, and his relatives never received any communication from him afterwards, so that it is not known how he subsisted from November 1809 till his death, which took place in the Marylebone infirmary in February 1811.

[Biog. Dict. of Living Authors (1816), 48; Lowndes's Bibl. Man. i. 325, iii. 1564; Monthly Mag. xlii. 311; Watt's Bibl. Brit. under ‘Burnet;’ Cottle's Recollections of Coleridge, i. 6, 246.]

T. C.