Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
Robert Burton’s contribution to literature was The Anatomy of Melancholy, a pseudoscientific investigation into and philosophical discussion of the possibilities of human happiness. This book was the only published work of a lifetime spent in scholarly and literary pursuits. However, if one counts the revised editions (1624, 1628, 1632, 1638, and 1651) of the work in which Burton’s continuing labors showed themselves, and if one considers the extraordinary length and depth of this book, Burton may be credited with having written more than many writers who produced numerous titles.
Burton was born in Lindley, Leicestershire, on February 8, 1577, the son of Ralph and Dorothy Burton. His preparatory education was at Sutton Coldfield, Warwickshire, and Nuneaton grammar schools. He entered Brasenose College, Oxford, as a commoner in 1593. Six years later he entered Christ Church College of Oxford. He received his B.D. degree from Christ Church College in 1614. Although he subsequently held various assignments as a clergyman, he remained at the college until his death. In 1616 he was appointed vicar of St. Thomas in Oxford, and in 1630 he was made rector of Segrave, Leicestershire, by his patron, Lord George Berkeley.
The Anatomy of Melancholy is a satirical study which pretends to be a study of moods from a medical point of view. Burton used the medical treatise as a device for cramming literary, philosophical, and historical...
(The entire section is 364 words.)
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