Burton, Robert

(1577–1640) British scholar and writer.

He spent most of his life as a vicar at Oxford. His great Anatomy of Melancholy (1621) describes the kinds, causes, symptoms, and cures of melancholy in a lively, elegant, and sometimes humorous style; a mine of classical erudition and curious information, it is an index to the philosophical and psychological ideas of its time. His Latin comedy Philosophaster (1606) is a vivacious exposure of charlatanism.

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▪ English author, scholar, and clergyman
born Feb. 8, 1577, Lindley, Leicestershire, Eng.
died Jan. 25, 1640, Oxford

      English scholar, writer, and Anglican clergyman whose Anatomy of Melancholy is a masterpiece of style and a valuable index to the philosophical and psychological ideas of the time.

      Burton was educated at Oxford, elected a student (life fellow) of Christ Church (one of the colleges of the university) in 1599, and lived there the rest of his life, becoming a bachelor of divinity in 1614 and vicar of St. Thomas' Church, Oxford, in 1616. He also held livings in Lincolnshire (1624–31) and Leicestershire, the latter bestowed by his patron, Lord Berkeley. His “silent, sedentary, solitary” life, as he himself described it, lent his view of mankind an ironic detachment, but it certainly did not make it that of a scholar remote from reality: he is as informative on the pastimes of his day as on the ideas of the ancients, and as keen to recommend a rational diet as to relate human disorders to his own essentially Christian view of the universe.

      Burton's first work was the Latin comedy Philosophaster (1606; edited with an English translation by P. Jordan-Smith, 1931), a vivacious exposure of charlatanism that has affinities with Ben Jonson's The Alchemist. It was acted at Christ Church in 1618.

      The Anatomy of Melancholy, What it is; with all the Kindes, Causes, Symptomes, Prognostickes and Several Cures of it: In Three Maine Partitions With Their Several Sections, Members, and Subsections, Philosophically, Medicinally, Historically Opened and Cut up, by Democritus Junior appeared in 1621, and five subsequent editions (1624, 1628, 1632, 1638, and 1651) incorporated Burton's revisions and alterations. In the treatise, Burton sets himself in the first part to define melancholy, discuss its causes, and set down the symptoms. The second part is devoted to its cure. Love melancholy is the subject of the lively first three sections of the third part. A master of narrative, Burton includes as examples most of the world's great love stories, again showing a modern approach to psychological problems. The fourth section deals with religious melancholy, and on the cure of despair he rises to heights of wisdom and of meditation.

      Burton's colloquial style is as individual as his matter. It is imaginative and eloquent, full of classical allusions and Latin tags that testify to his love of curious and out-of-the-way information as well as to his erudition. He is a master of lists and catalogs, but their sonorous roll is often broken by his humorous asides.

      The Anatomy, widely read in the 17th century, lapsed for a time into obscurity, but in the 18th it was admired by Samuel Johnson, and Laurence Sterne's borrowings from it are notorious. In the 19th century the devotion of Charles Lamb helped to bring the Anatomy into favour with the Romantics. The standard modern edition is The Anatomy of Melancholy, 6 vol., edited by Thomas C. Faulkner, Nicolas K. Kiessling, and Rhonda L. Blair (1989–2000).

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Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Burton,Robert — Burton, Robert. 1577 1640. English cleric and writer known chiefly for his Anatomy of Melancholy (1621), a treatise on the causes, symptoms, and cure of melancholy that ranges far afield in its lively depiction of everyday life. * * * …   Universalium

  • Burton, Robert — (1577–1640). Académico y escritor británico. Durante la mayor parte de su vida fue vicario en Oxford. Su grandiosa obra La anatomía de la melancolía (1621), describe de un modo vivaz, elegante y en ocasiones jocoso los diferentes tipos de… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • BURTON, ROBERT —    an English clergyman, born in Leicestershire; Scholar of Christ Church, Oxford; lived chiefly in Oxford, spending his time in it for some 50 years in study; author of The Anatomy of Melancholy, which he wrote to alleviate his own depression of …   The Nuttall Encyclopaedia

  • Burton, Robert — (1577 1640)    Miscellaneous writer, b. at Lindley, Leicestershire, and ed. at Oxf., took orders, and became Vicar of St. Thomas, Oxf., 1616, and Rector of Segrave, Leicestershire, 1630. Subject to depression of spirits, he wrote as an antidote… …   Short biographical dictionary of English literature

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  • Robert Burton — may refer to:* Robert Burton, Sr. (21st century), printing industry executive * Robert Burton (athlete) (born 1885), British track and field athlete * Robert Burton (scholar) (1577 1640), English scholar and vicar * Robert Burton (statesman)… …   Wikipedia

  • Robert Burton (Schriftsteller) — Robert Burton (* 8. Februar 1577 in Lindley, Leicestershire; † 25. Januar 1640 in Oxford) war ein englischer Schriftsteller und anglikanischer Geistlicher und Gelehrter. Robert Burton Burton verbrachte fast sein ganzes Leben als Erwachsener als… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Robert Burton (Politiker) — Robert Burton Robert Burton (* 20. Oktober 1747 bei Chase City, Mecklenburg County, Virginia; † 31. Mai 1825 im Granville County, North Carolina) war ein US amerikanischer Politiker, der als D …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • BURTON (R.) — BURTON ROBERT (1577 1640) Né à Lindley, dans le comté de Leicester, le 8 février 1577, Burton fit ses études à Oxford où il obtint une licence de théologie en 1614. Il devint pasteur en 1616 et obtint des bénéfices ecclésiastiques dans le… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Robert Burton — [Robert Burton] (1577–1640) an English academic at ↑Oxford University who is best known for writing The Anatomy of Melancholy (1621), a study of ↑depression, its history and effects …   Useful english dictionary

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