Burton, Robert

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Burton, Robert

Robert Burton, 1577–1640, English clergyman and scholar, b. Leicestershire, educated at Oxford. He served as librarian at Christ Church, Oxford, all his life; in addition he was vicar of St. Thomas, Oxford, and later was rector of Seagrave, Leicestershire. A bachelor, he led an uneventful, scholarly life. His famous work, The Anatomy of Melancholy, appeared in 1621 under the pen name Democritus Junior. Enlarged and revised several times before his death, this treatise originally set out to explore the causes and effects of melancholy, but it eventually covered many areas in the life of man, including science, history, and political and social reform. The work is divided into three main portions: The first defines and describes various kinds of melancholy; the second puts forward various cures; and the third analyzes love melancholy and religious melancholy. Burton's prose style is informal, anecdotal, and thoroughly idiosyncratic, and he includes quotations from a wide range of literature—the Bible, the classics, the Elizabethan authors.

See M. O'Connell, Robert Burton (1986).

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