Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 08.djvu/17

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.
Burton
Burton
13

Nihil meum. At Oxford, Printed by Iohn Lichfield and Iames Short, for Henry Cripps, Anno Dom. 1621,' 4to. The first edition contains at the end an 'Apologetical Appendix' (not found in later editions), signed 'Robert Bvrton,' and dated 'From my Studie in Christ-Church, Oxon. December 5, 1620.' Later editions in folio appeared in 1624, 1628, 1632, 1632, 1651-2, 1660, 1676; an edition in 2 vols. 8vo was published in 1800, and again in 1806; and several abridgments of the great work have been published in the present century. In the third edition (1628) first appeared the famous frontispiece, engraved by C. Le Blond. The sides are illustrated with figures representing tbe effects of Melancholy from Love, Hypochondriasis, Superstition and Madness. At the top is Democritus, emblematically represented, and at the foot a portrait of the author. In the corners at the top are emblems of Jealousy and Solitude, and in the corners at the bottom are the herbs Borage and Hellebore. Burton was continually altering and adding to his treatise. In the preface to the third edition he announced that he intended to make no more changes: 'I am now resolved never to put this Treatise out again. Ne quid nimis. I will not hereafter add, alter, or retract; I have done.' But when the fourth edition appeared it was found that he had not been able to resist the temptation of making a further revision. The sixth edition was printed from an annotated copy which was handed to the publisher shortly before Burton's death. Wood states that the publisher, Henry Cripps, made a fortune by the sale of the 'Anatomy;' and Fuller in his 'Worthies' remarked that 'scarce any book of philology in our land hath in so short a time passed so many editions.' The treatise was dedicated to George, Lord Berkeley. In the long preface, 'Democritus to the Reader,' which is one of the most interesting parts of the book, the author gives us an account of his style of life at Oxford: 'I have lived a silent, sedentary, solitary, private life, mihi et muns, in the university, as long almost as Xenocrates in Athens, ad senectam fere, to learn wisdom as he did, penned up most part in my study. For I have been brought up a student in the most flourishing colledge of Europe [Christ Church in Oxford—marg. note], Augustisimo Collegio, and can brag with Iorus almost, in ea luce domicilii Vaticand, totius orbis celeberrimi, per 87 annos multa opportunaque didici: for thirty years I have continued (having the use of as good libraries as ever he had) a scholar, and would be, therefore, loth either by living as a drone to be an unprofitable or unworthy a member of so learned and noble a societie, or to write that which should be any way dishonourable to such a royal and ample foundation.' He then proceeds to speak of the desultory character of his studies: 'I have read many books but to little purpose, for want of good method; I have confusedly tumbled over divers authors in our libraries with small profit for want of art, order, memory, judgment.' For preferment he was not anxious: 'I am not poor, I am not rich; nihil est, nihil dsest. I have little, I want nothing; all my treasure is in Minerva's tower.' He anticipates the objections of hostile critics who may urge that his time would have been better spent in publishing books of divinity. He saw 'no such need' for that class of works, as there existed already more commentaries, treatises, pamphlets, expositions, and sermons than whole teams of oxen could draw. Why did he choose such a subject as melancholy ? 'I write of melancholy,' is the answer, 'by being busy to avoid melancholy.' He apologises for the rudeness of his style, on the ground that he could not afford to employ an Amanuensis or assistants. After relating the story of Pantrates (in Lucian), who by magic turned a door-bar into a serving-man, he proceeds in this strain: 'I have no such skill to make new men at my pleasure, or means to hire them, no whistle to call like the master of a ship, and bid them run, &c. I have no such authority; no such benefactors as that, noble Ambrosius was to Origen, allowing him six or seven Amanuenses to write out his Dictats. I must for that cause do my businesse my self, and was therefore enforced, as a Boar doth her whelps, to bring forth this confused lump.' To some slight extent Burton was indebted to 'A Treatise of Melancholy,' by T. Bright, 1586. The 'Anatomy' is divided into three partitions, which are subdivided into sections, members, and subsections. Prefixed to each partition is an elaborate synopsis as a sort of index, in humorous imitation of the practice so common in books of scholastic divinity. Part i. deals with the causes and symptoms of melancholy; part ii. with the cure of melancholy; and part iii. with love melancholy and religious melancholy. On every page quotations abound from authors of all ages and countries, classics, fathers of the church, medical writers, poets, historians, scholars, travellers, &c. There is a unique charm in Burton's 'Anatomy of Melancholy.' Dr. Johnson said that it was the only book that ever took him out of his bed two hours sooner than he intended to rise. Ferriar in his 'Illustrations of Sterne' showed how 'Tristram Shandy' was permeated with Burton's