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Burton, Robert


Subject Literature » Renaissance Literature

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405194495.2012.x


Robert Burton (1577–1640) is the author of The anatomy of melancholy , one of the finest books ever written on the subject. Few sources tell us about Burton's life, and we have only an outline of his career. He was born in 1577 at Lindley, in Leicestershire, second son to Ralph Burton and Dorothy Faunt. Most of his life was spent at Christ Church, Oxford. Burton was appointed vicar of St Thomas, Oxford (1616), rector of Walesby (1624) and Seagrave, Leicestershire (?1633). Early publications include two university plays, the now lost Alba (1605) and Philosophaster (1606, revised 1615), in which Duke Desiderius (Erasmus?) establishes a university in the Andalusian town of Osuna. The university is quickly besieged by Jesuit pseudo-philosophers of all disciplines. After receiving numerous complaints from the local population, the duke threatens to shut down the university altogether; he relents following the intervention of two wandering scholars, Polumathes and Philobiblios (‘Much-Learned’ and ‘Lover of Books’). By the end of the play, the duke punishes the false professors, and takes several steps to restore the connections between political power and university learning. Burton is best known for the Anatomy , which he spent his life writing. It was first published in 1621, with subsequent editions appearing in 1624, 1628, 1632, and 1638. A sixth edition appeared posthumously ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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