Robert Burton (February 08, 1577 - January 25, 1640)
Born: 8th February, 1577
Died: 25th January, 1640
Nationality: English
Profession/Occupation: Writer
Region: England, Oxford
Notable works: "The Anatomy of Melancholy", "Philosophaster"

Robert Burton Facts

Biography

Robert Burton, (born February 8, 1577, Lindley, Leicestershire, England--died January 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's 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).

Top 18 Robert Burton quotes

A dwarf standing on the shoulders of a giant may see farther than a giant himself.
Dwarf
Farther
Giant
Himself
May
See
Shoulders
Standing
Than
Like dogs in a wheel, birds in a cage, or squirrels in a chain, ambitious men still climb and climb, with great labor, and incessant anxiety, but never reach the top.
Ambitious
Anxiety
Birds
Cage
Chain
Climb
Dogs
Great
Incessant
Labor
Like
Men
Never
Reach
Worldly wealth is the Devil's bait; and those whose minds feed upon riches recede, in general, from real happiness, in proportion as their stores increase, as the moon, when she is fullest, is farthest from the sun.
Bait
Devil
Farthest
Feed
Fullest
General
Happiness
Increase
Minds
Moon
Proportion
Real
Real happiness
Riches
The men who succeed are the efficient few. They are the few who have the ambition and will power to develop themselves.
Ambition
Develop
Efficient
Few
Men
Power
Succeed
Themselves
Who
Will
Great feelings will often take the aspect of error, and great faith the aspect of illusion.
Aspect
Error
Faith
Feelings
Great
Great faith
Illusion
Often
Take
Will
One was never married, and that's his hell; another is, and that's his plague.
Another
Hell
His
Married
Never
Plague
A blow with a word strikes deeper than a blow with a sword.
Blow
Deeper
Strikes
Sword
Than
Word
No cord or cable can draw so forcibly, or bind so fast, as love can do with a single thread.
Bind
Cable
Cord
Draw
Fast
Love
Single
Thread
To enlarge or illustrate this power and effect of love is to set a candle in the sun.
Candle
Effect
Illustrate
Love
Love is
Power
Set
Sun
A quiet mind cureth all.
Mind
Quiet
A good conscience is a continual feast.
Conscience
Feast
Good
No rule is so general, which admits not some exception.
Admit
Exception
General
Rule
Some
Which
We can make mayors and officers every year, but not scholars.
Every
Make
Mayors
Officers
Scholars
Year
What is life, when wanting love? Night without a morning; love's the cloudless summer sun, nature gay adorning.
Gay
Life
Love
Morning
Nature
Night
Summer
Sun
Wanting
Without
Old friends become bitter enemies on a sudden for toys and small offenses.
Become
Bitter
Enemies
Friends
Old
Old friends
Small
Sudden
Toys
Idleness is an appendix to nobility.
Idleness
Nobility
Every man hath a good and a bad angel attending on him in particular all his life long.
Angel
Attending
Bad
Every
Every man
Good
Hath
Him
His
Life
Long
Man
Particular
Almost in every kingdom the most ancient families have been at first princes' bastards.
Almost
Ancient
Bastards
Been
Every
Families
First
Kingdom
Most
Princes

Robert Burton essays

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