Burton, William

, author of the “History of Leicestershire,” and eldest son of Ralph Burton, esq. of | Lindley in Leicestershire, was born August 24, 1575, educated at the school of Nuneaton in Warwickshire, and while there distinguished himself by no common taste and skill in Latin poetry. He was admitted of Brazen-nose college, Oxford, 1591, and of the Inner Temple May 20, 1593, B. A. June 22, 1594, and was afterwards a barrister and reporter in the court of common pleas. But “his natural genius,” says Wood, “leading him to the studies of heraldry, genealogies, and antiquities, he became excellent in those obscure and intricate matters; and, look upon him as a gentleman, was accounted by all that knew him to be the best of-his time for those studies, as may appear by his description of Leicestershire.” The author himself says, he began his History of Leicestershire in 1597, not many ): ears after his coming into the Inner Temple. In 1602 he corrected Saxton’s map of that county, with the addition of eighty towns. His weak constitution riot permitting him to follow his business, he retired into the country; and his great work, the “Description of Leicestershire,” was published in folio, 1622. He tells his patron, George Villiers, duke of Buckingham, that “he has undertaken to remove an eclipse from the sun without art or astronomical dimension, to give light to the county of Leicester, whose beauty has long been shadowed and obscured;” and in his preface declares himself one of those who hold that “gloria totius res est vanissima mundi;” and that he was unfit and unfurnished for so great a business: “unfit,” to use his own words, “for that myself was bound for another study, which is jealous, and will admit no partner; for that all time and parts of time, that could possibly be employed therein, were not sufficient to be dispensed thereon, by reason of the difficulty of getting, and multiplicity of kinds of learning therein. Yet if a partner might be assigned or admitted thereto, there is no study or learning so fit or necessary for a lawyer, as the study of antiquities.” He was assisted in this undertaking by his kinsmen John Beaumont of Gracedieu, esq. and Augustus Vincent, rougecroix; but the church notes were taken by himself. He drew up the corollary of Leland’s life, prefixed to the “Collectanea,” with his favourite device, the sun recovering from an eclipse, and motto “Rilucera,” dated Faledi 1612, from Falde, a pleasant village near Tutbury, Staffordshire, and a great patrimony belonging to his family, and then to him. The County History was dated from the | same village, Oct. 30, 1622. He also caused part of Leiand’s Itinerary to be transcribed 163), and gave both the transcript and the seven original volumes to the Bodleian library 1632; as also Talbot’s notes. To him his countryman Thomas Purefoy, esq. of Barwell, bequeathed Leland’s Collectanea after his death 1612. Wood charges him with putting many needless additions and illustrations into these Collectanea, from which charge Hearne defends him. Wood adds, he made a useful index to them; which, Hearne says, was only of some religious houses and some authors. In 1625 he resided at Lindley, where, among other works, he compiled a folio volume (which still remains in ms.) under the title of “Antiquitates de Dadling-­ton, manerio com. Leic, sive exemplificatio scriptorum, cartarum veterum, inquisitionum, rotulorum curiarum, recordorum, et evidentium probantium antiquitates dicti manerii de Dadlingtori, et hsereditatem de Burton in dicto manerio de Dadlington, quoe mine sunt penes me Will’mum Burton de Lindley com. Leic. modernum dominum dicti manerii de Dadlington. Lahore et studio mei Will 1 mi Burton de Lindley, apprenticii legum Angliae, et socii Interioris Templi Londini; nuper habitatitis apud Falde com. Staff, nunc apud Lindley, 25 Aug. 1625, set, 50.” He died at Falde, after suffering much in the civil wars April 6, 1645, and was buried in the parish church thereto belonging, called Hanbury. He left several notes, collections of arms and monuments, genealogies, and other matters of antiquity, which he had gathered from divers churches and gentlemen’s houses. Derby collections are mentioned in Gascoigne’s notes, p. 53, probably by himself. In Osborne’s Catalogue, 1757, was “Vincent on Brooke,” with ms notes by William Burton, probably not more than those on Cornwall, which Dr. Rawlinson had. He was one of sir Robert Cotton’s particular friends, and had the honour to instruct sir William Dugdale. He was acquainted with Somner; and Michael Drayton, esq. was his near countryman and acquaintance, being descended from the Draytons of Drayton, or Fenny Drayton, near Lindley. He married, 1607, Jane, daughter of Humphry Adderley, of Wedington, Warwickshire; by whom he had one son, Cassibelan, born 1609, heir of his virtues as well as his other fortunes, who, having a poetical turn, translated Martial into English, which was published 1658. He consumed the best part of his paternal estate, and died | Feb. 28, 1681, having some years before given most, if not all, his father’s collections to Mr. Walter Chetwynd, to be used by him in writing the antiquities of Staffordshire. Several printed copies of Burton’s Leicestershire, with ms notes by different persons, are existing in various collections *. “The reputation of Burton’s book,” as Mr. Gough justly observes, “arises from its being written early, and preceded only by Lambarde’s Kent 1576, Carew’s Cornwall 1602, and Norden’s Surveys; and it is in comparison only of these, and not of Dugdale’s more copious work, that we are to understand the praises so freely bestowed on it, and because nobody has treated the subject more remotely and accurately; for Dugdale, says Burton, as well as Lambarde and Carevv, performed briefly. The present volume, though a folio of above 300 pages, if the unnecessary digressions were struck out, and the pedigrees reduced into less compass, would shrink into a small work. The typographical errors, especially in the Latin, are so numerous, and the style, according to the manner of that time, so loose, that the meaning is often doubtful. The description is in alphabetical order, and consists chiefly of pedigrees and moot-cases.” The author, sensible of its defect, greatly enlarged and enriched it with the addition of Roman, Saxon, and other antiquities, as appears from his letter to sir Robert Cotton, dated Lindley, June 9, 1627, still extant among Cotton’s correspondences, in his library, Jul. C. iii. This book, thus augmented, was, with other Mss. by the same author, in the possession of Mr. Walter Chetwynd, of Ingestry, in Staffordshire, whom Camden in Staffordshire calls “venerandae antiquitatis cultor maximus;” and afterwards came to, or was borrowed by, Mr. Charles King, tutor to Mr. Chetwynd, in whose hands Brokesby mentions it, and says Mr. Chetwynd made considerable additions to it. He died in 1693. Lord Chetwynd lent it to sir Thomas Cave, in whose hands Mr. Ashby saw it in 1763 f. It is continued to 1642. It is not necessary to say more of a work now so totally eclipsed, and rendered useless, by the more elaborate, accurate, and satisfactory “History of Leicestershire” lately published by Mr. Nichols, to which we may refer for many curious particu­* These are particularized in the History of Hinckley, p. 131. A new edition of the Description of Leicestershire was absurdly printed in 1777, without the least improvement.

f This copy, now in the library of earl Talbot, was lent to Mr, Nichols whea cmpiling hi History of the county.

| lars of Burton’s life, and especially an account by himself in the form of a diary. 1

Nichols’s Leicestershire.—Ath. Ox. vol. II.—Biog. Brit.—Gent. Mag. LXI. and LXVIII.