Burman, Peter

, the eminent philologist, was brother to the preceding, and born at Utrecht, June 26, 1668. His father died when he was in his eleventh year, by wjiich event he was thrown entirely on the care of his mother, by whose diligence, piety, and prudence, his education was so regulated, that he had scarcely any reason, but filial tenderness, to regret the loss of his father. About | this time he was sent to the public school at Utrecht, to be instructed in the learned languages, and after passing through the classics with much reputation, was admitted into the university in his thirteenth year. Here he was committed to the care of the learned Grrcvius, whose regard for his father (of which we took some notice in his life) induced him to superintend his studies, with more than common attention, which was soon confirmed and increased by his discoveries of the genius of his pupil, and his observation of his diligence. He was soon enabled to determine that Burman was remarkably adapted to classical studies, and to predict the great advances that, he would make, by industriously pursuing the direction of his genius. Animated by the encouragement of a tutor so celebrated, he continued the vigour of his application, and for several years not only attended the lectures of Gnevius, but made use of every other opportunity of improvement with such diligence, as might justly be expected to produce an uncommon proficiency.

Having thus attained a sufficient degree of classical knowledge to qualify him for inquiries into other sciences, he applied himself to the study of the law, and published a dissertation, “De Vicesima Haereditatum,” which he publicly defended, under the professor Van Muyden, with such learning and eloquence, as procured him great applause. He then went to Leyclen, where he studied for a year, under M. de Voider, a man of great celebrity, and attended at the same time Ryckius’s explanations of Tacitus, and James Gronovius’s lectures on the Greek writers, and has often been heard to acknowledge, at an advanced age, the assistance which he received from them. After passing a year at Leyden, he returned to Utrecht, and once more applied himself to philological studies, by the assistance of Graevius; and here, in March 1688, he was advanced to the degree of doctor of laws, on which occasion he published a learned dissertation “De Transactionibus,” and defended it with his usual eloquence, learning, and success. He then travelled into Switzerland and Germany, where he gained an increase both of fame and learning.

On his return he engaged in the practice of the law, and was attaining high reputation in the courts of justice, when he was summoned in 1691, by the magistrates of Utrecht, to undertake the charge of collector of the tenths, | an office in that place of great honour, and which he accepted therefore as a proof of their confidence and esteem. While thus engaged, he married Eve Clotterboke, a young kdy of a good family, hy whom he had ten children, two of whom only survived him. But neither public business, nor domestic cares, detained Bui-man from the prosecution of his literary inquiries; by which he so much endeared himself to Graevius, that he was recommended by him to the regard of the university of Utrecht, and accordingly, in 1696, was chosen professor of eloquence and history, to which was added, after some time, the professorship of the Greek language, and afterwards that of politics; so various did they conceive his abilities, and so extensive his knowledge. Having now more frequent opportunities of displaying his learning, he rose, in a short time, to a high reputation, of which the great number of his auditors was a sufficient proof, and which the proficiency of his pupils shewed not to be accidental, or undeserved.

In 1714, during the university vacation of six weeks, he visited Paris, for the purposes of literary research. In this visit he contracted an acquaintance, among other learned men, with the celebrated Montfaucon; with whom he conversed, at his first interview, with no other character than that of a traveller; but their discourse turning upon ancient learning, the stranger soon gave such proofs of his attainments, that Montfaucon declared him a very uncommon traveller, and confessed his curiosity to know his name; which he no sooner heard than he rose from his seat, and, embracing him with the utmost arJour, expressed his satisfaction at having seen the man whose productions of various kinds he had so often praised; and as a real proof of his regard, offered not only to procure hiui an immediate admission to all the libraries of Paris, bu t <o those in remoter provinces, which are not generally open to strangers, and undertook to ease the expences of his journey, by procuring him entertainment in all the monasteries of his order. This favour, however, Burman was hindered from accepting, by the necessity of returning to his professorship at Utrecht.

He had already extended to distant parts his reputation for knowledge of ancient history, by a treatise “De Vectigalibus populi Romani,” on the revenues of the Romans; and for his skill in Greek learning, and in ancient coins, by a tract called “Jupiter Fulgurator,” and after his | return from Paris, he published “Phsedrus,” first with the notes of various commentators, and afterwards with his own. He printed also many poems, and made many orations upon different subjects, and procured an impression of the epistles of Gudius and Sanavius. While he was thus employed, the professorships of history, eloquence, and the Greek language, became vacant at Leyden, by the death of Perizonius, which Burman’s reputation incited the curators of the university to offer him upon very liberal terms, which, after some demur, he accepted, and on entering on his office, in 1715, pronounced an oration upon the duty and office of a professor of polite literature, “De publici humanioris discipline professoris proprio officio et munere.” He was twice rector of the university, and discharged that important office with ability. Indeed, by his conduct in every station he gained so much esteem, that when the professorship of history of the United Provinces became vacant, it was conferred on him, as an addition to his honours and revenues which he might justly claim; and afterwards, as a proof of the continuance of their regard, they made him chief librarian, an office which was the more acceptable to him, as it united his business with his pleasure, and gave him an opportunity at the same time of superintending the library, and carrying on his studies.

Such was his course of life, till, in his old age, leaving off his practice of taking exercise, he began to be afflicted with the scurvy, which tormenting disease he bore, though not without some degree of impatience, yet without despondency, and applied himself in the intermission of his v pains, to seek for comfort in the duties of religion. While he lay in this state of misery, he received an account of the promotion of two of his grandsons, and a catalogue of the king of France’s library, presented to him by the command of the king himself, and expressed some satisfaction on all these occasions; but soon 'diverted his thoughts to the more important consideration of his eternal state, into which he passed March 31, 1741, in the seventy-third year of his age.

He was a man of moderate stature, of great strength and activity, which he preserved by temperate diet, without medical exactness, and by allotting proportions of his time to relaxation and amusement, not suffering his studies to exhaust his strength, but relieving them by frequent | intermissions. In his hours of relaxation he was gay, and sometimes gave way so far to his temper, naturally satirical, that he drew upon himself the ill-will of those who had been unfortunately the subjects of his mirth; but enemies so provoked he thought it beneath him to regard or to pacify; for he was fiery, but not malignant, disdained dissimulation, and in his gay or serious hours, preserved a settled detestation of falsehood. So that he was an open and undisguised friend or enemy, entirely unacquainted with the artifices of flatterers, but so judicious in the choice of friends, and so constant in his affection to them, that those with whom he had contracted familiarity in his youth, had, for the greatest part, his confidence in his old age.

His abilities, which would probably have enabled him to have excelled in any kind of learning, were chiefly employed, as his station required, on polite literature, in which he arrived at very uncommon knowledge, but his superiority, however, appears rather from judicious compilations than original productions. His style is lively and masculine, but not without harshness and constraint, nor, perhaps, always polished to that purity which some writers have attained. He was at least instrumental to the instruction of mankind, by the publication of many valuable performances, which lay neglected by the greater part of the learned world; and, if reputation be estimated by usefulness, he may claim a higher degree in the ranks of learning than some others of happier elocution, or more vigorous imagination. The malice or suspicion of those who either did not know, or did not love him, had given rise to some doubts about his religion, which he took an opportunity of removing on his death-bed, by a voluntary declaration of his faith, his hope of everlasting salvation from the revealed promises of God, and his confidence in the merits of our Redeemer, of the sincerity of which declaration his whole behaviour in his long illness was an incontestable proof; and he concluded his life, which had been illustrious for many virtues, by exhibiting an example of true piety. His literary contests are now forgotten, and although we may agree with Le Clerc, that Barman might have been better employed than in illustrating such authors as Petronius Arbiter, yet we are at a loss to find an apology for Le Clerc’s personal abuse and affected contempt for Burman. Burman has^ by the gerteral voice of modem critics, been | allowed the merit of giving to the public some of the best editions of the Latin classics, among which we may enumerate his 1. “Phsedrus,Leyden, 1727, 4to. 2. “Quintilian,” ibid* 1720, 2 vols. 4to. 3. “Valerius Flaccus,” Traj, ad Rhenum “(Utrecht), 1702, 12mo. 4.Ovid,“Amst. 1727, 4 vols. 4to. To this admirable edition, according to the Bipont editors, he had composed a long and learned preface, which did not appear until fifteen years after his death, when it was published under the titleP. Burmanni Praefatio ad Ovidii editionem majorem excusam Amst. 1727,“175G, 4t6. 5.” Poetoe Latini Minores,“1731, 2 vols. 4to. 6.” Velleius Paterculus,“Leyden, 1719, and 1744, 2 vols. 8vo. 7.Virgil,“Amst. 1746, 4 vols. 4to. 8.” Suetonius,“ibid. 1736, 2 vols. 4to. 9.” Lucau,“Leyden, 1740, 4to. 10.” Buchanani Opera,“Leyden, 1725, 2 vols. 4to. To these may be added:” Sylioges Epistolarum a viris illustribus scriptarum,“Leyden, 1727, 5 vols. 4to, a work of great curiosity and utility in literary history; and his” Orationes, antea sparsim editae, et ineditis auctae. Accedit carminum Appendix," Hague, 1759, 4to. To these orations the editor annexed his funeral oration, pronounced by the learned Mr. Oesterdyke, professor of medicine in Leyden, which contains those particulars of his life, which are given above, and were first translated by Dr. Johnson, and published in the Gentleman’s Magazine for 1742. 1


Gent. Mag. ubi supra, and Johnson’s Works.—Moreri.—Dibdin’s Classics. —Saxii Onomast.—But we may here remark that there is some differences in the relationship of the following Burmans in our authorities, which, we fear, we have not been able to reconcile.