Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 08.djvu/18

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Burton
Burton
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influence. Charles Lamb was an enthusiastic admirer of the 'fantastic old great man,' and to some extent modelled his style on the 'Anatomy.' In 'Curious Fragments extracted from the Commonplace Book of Robert Burton' (appended to the tragedy of 'Woodvil,' 1802) Lamb imitated with marvellous fidelity Burton's charming mannerisms. Milton, as Warton was the first to point out, gathered hints for 'L'Allegro' and 'Il Penseroso' from the verses ('The Author's Abstract of Melancholy') prefixed to the 'Anatomy.' There is no keener delight to an appreciative student than to shut himself in his study and be immersed 'from morn to noon, from noon to dewy eve,' in Burton's far-off world of forgotten lore. Commonplace writers have described the 'Anatomy' as a mere collection of quotations, a piece of patchwork. The description is utterly untrue. On every page is the impress of a singularly deep and original genius. As a humorist Burton bears some resemblance to Sir Thomas Browne; this vein of semi-serious humour is, to his admirers, one of the chief attractions of his style. When he chooses to write smoothly his language is strangely musical.

Little is recorded of Burton's life. Bishop Kennet (in his Register and Chrionicle, p. 320) says that after writing the 'Anatomy' to suppress his own melancholy, he did but improve it. 'In an interval of vapours' he I would be extremely cheerful, and then he would fall into such a state of despondency that he could only get relief by going to the bridge-foot at Oxford and hearing the barge-men swear at one another, 'at which he would set his hands to his sides and laugh most profusely.' Kennet's story recalls a passage about Democritus in Burton's preface: 'He lived at last in a garden in the suburbs, wholly betaking himself to his studies and a private life, saving that sometimes he would walk down to the haven and laugh heartily at such variety of ridiculous objects which there he saw.' It would appear that when he adopted the title of Democritus Junior, Burton seriously set himself to imitate the eccentricities recorded of the old philosopher. Anecdotes about Burton are very scarce. It is related in 'Reliquiæ Hearnianæ' that one day when Burton was in a book-shop the Earl of Southampton entered and inquired for a copy of the 'Anatomy of Melancholy;' whereupon 'says the bookseller "My lord, if you please I can show you the author.'" He did so. "Mr. Burton," says the earl, "your servant." "Mr. Southampton," says Mr. Burton, "your servant," and away he went.' Wood gives the following character of Burton: 'He was an exact mathematician, a curious calculator of nativities, a general read scholar, a thorough-paced 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 Christ Church often say that his company was very merry, facete and juvenile, and no man of his time did surpass him for his ready and dexterous interlarding his common discourses among them with verses from the poets or sentences from classical authors,' Burton died at Christ Church on 25 Jan. 1639-40, at or very near the time that he had foretold some years before by the calculation of his nativity. Wood says there was a report among the students that he had 'sent up his soul to heaven thro' a noose about his neck' in order that his calculation might be verified. He was buried in the north aisle of Christ Church Cathedral, and over his grave was erected, at the expense of his brother William Burton, a comely monument, on the upper pillar of the aisle, with his bust in colour; on the right hand above the bust is the calculation of his nativity, and beneath the bust is the epitaph which he composed for himself—'Paucis notus, paucioribus ignotus, hic hacet Democritus Junior, cui vitam dedit et mortem Melancholia.' His portrait hangs in the hall of Brasenose College. He left behind him a choice library of books, many of which he bequeathed to the Bodleian. The collection included a number of rare Elizabethan tracts. There is an elegy on Burton in Martin Llewellyn's poems, 1646.

[Wood's Athenæ, ed. Bliss, ii. 652-3; Nichols's Leicestershire, vol. iii. pt i. 415-19; Preface to the Anatomy of Melancholy, ed. 6; Philosophaster, Comœdia, ed. Rev. W.E. Buckley, 1862; Kennet's Register and Chronicle, 1728. p. 320; Ferriar's Illustrations of Sterne, 1799; Hearne's Reliquiæ, ed. Bliss, i. 288; Blackwood's Magazine, September 1861; Lamb's Detached Thoughts on Books and Reading; Stephen Jones's Memoir prefixed to the Anatomy, ed. 1800.]

A. H. B.

BURTON, ROBERT or RICHARD (1632?–1725?), miscellaneous author, whose real name was Nathaniel Crouch, was the author of many books, attributed on the title-page to R. B., to Richard Burton, and (after his death) to Robert Burton. He was born about 1632, and was the son of a tailor at Lewes. Nathaniel was apprenticed on 5 May 1656 for seven years to Livewell Chapman, and at the close of his apprenticeship became a freeman of the Stationers' Company. He was a publisher, and