[Nichols's Leicestershire, ii. 228, 268, Append. 325; Nichols's Illustrations of Literature, vi. 880-7; Addit. MS. 5864 f. 36, 19166 f. 216; Stukeley's Carausius, 116; Cantabrigienses Graduati (1787), 66.]
BURTON, HENRY (1578–1648), puritan divine, was born at Birdsall, a small parish in the East Riding of Yorkshire, 'which never had a preaching minister time out of mind.' In his own 'Narration' of his life, sixty-four is stated as his age in the latter part of 1642; in his 'Conformities Deformity,' 1646, it is stated as sixty-seven; the inference is that he was born in the latter part of 1578. The record of his baptism is not recoverable, but his father, William Burton, was married to Maryanne Homle [Humble] on 24 June 1577. His mother, he tells us, carefully kept a New Testament which had been his grandmother's in Queen Mary's time. He was educated at St. John's College, Cambridge, where he graduated M.A. in 1602. His favourite preachers were Laurence Chaderton and William Perkins. On leaving the university he became tutor to two sons of 'a noble knight,' Sir Robert Carey, afterwards (1626-1639) earl of Monmouth. He relates that one Mrs. Bowes, of Aske, predicted 'this young man will one day be the overthrow of the bishops.' Through the Carey interest, Burton obtained the post of clerk of the closet to Prince Henry; while acting in this capacity he composed a treatise on Antichrist, the manuscript of which was placed by the prince in his library at St. James's. He complains that the bishop (Richard Neile of Durham), who was clerk of the closet to King James, 'depressed him;' however, on Prince Henry's death (6 Nov. 1612) Burton was appointed clerk of the closet to Prince Charles. On 14 July 1612 he had been incorporated M.A. at Oxford, and was again incorporated on 15 July 1617. He tells us that at the age of thirty (i.e. in 1618) he resolved to enter the ministry. Fuller says that he was to have attended Prince Charles to Spain (17 Feb. 1623), and that for some unknown reason the appointment was countermanded, after some of his goods had been shipped. Burton does not mention this, but says (which perhaps explains it) that he could not get a license for a book which he wrote in 1623 against the 'Converted Jew,' by Fisher (i.e. Piercy) the Jesuit, to refute Arminianism and prove the pope to be Antichrist. He had, in fact, thrust himself into a discussion then going on between Fisher and George Walker, puritan minister of St. John's, Watling Street. On the accession of Charles, Burton took it as a matter of course that he would become clerk of the royal closet, but Neile was continued in that office. Burton lost the appointment through a characteristic indiscretion. On 23 April 1625, before James had been dead a month, Burton presented a letter to Charles, inveighing against the popish tendencies of Neile and Laud (who in Neile's illness was acting as clerk of the closet). Charles read the letter partly through, and told Burton 'not to attend more in his office till he should send for him.' He was not sent for, and did not reappear at court. Clarendon says that Burton complained of being 'despoiled of his right.' He deplored the death of James, but not through any love for that sovereign; indeed he speaks of the influence of James in retarding the high-church movement as the only thing which 'made his life desirable.' He was almost immediately presented to the rectory of St. Matthew's, Friday Street, and used his city pulpit as a vantage from which to conduct an aggressive warfare against episcopal practices. He began to 'fall off from the ceremonies,' and was cited before the high commission as early as 1626, but the proceedings were stopped. Bishop after bishop became the subject of his attack. For a publication with the cheerful title 'The Baiting of the Popes Bvll,' &c., 1627, 4to, which bore a frontispiece representing Charles in the act of assailing the pope's triple crown, he was summoned, in 1627, before the privy council, but again got off, in spite of Laud. His 'Babel no Bethel,' 1629, in reply to the 'Maschil' of Robert Butterfield [q. v], procured him a temporary suspension from his benefice, and a sojourn in the Fleet. More serious troubles were to come. On 5 Nov. 1636 he preached two sermons in his own church from Prov. xxiv. 21, 22, in which he charged the bishops with innovations amounting to a popish plot. His pulpit style was perhaps effective, but certainly not refined; he calls the bishops caterpillars instead of pillars, and 'antichristian mushrumps.' Next month he was summoned before Dr. Duck, a commissioner for causes ecclesiastical, to answer on oath to articles charging him with sedition. He refused the oath, and appealed to the king. Fifteen days afterwards he was cited before a special high commission at Doctors' Commons, did not appear, and was in his absence suspended ab officio et beneficio, and ordered to be apprehended. He shut himself up in his house, and published his sermons, with the title, 'For God and the King,' &c., 1636, 4to, whereupon (on 1 Feb. 1636-7) his doors were forced, his study ransacked, and himself taken into custody and sent next day to the Fleet (the warrants will be found reprinted in Brook).