Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Burton, John (1697-1771)

BURTON, JOHN, M.D. (1697–1771), antiquary and physician, was born at Ripon in 1697, and is said to have received part of his education at Christ Church, Oxford, but he himself speaks only of the time which he spent in study at Leyden and Cambridge. He graduated M.B. at the latter university in 1733, and before 1738, when he published a 'Treatise of the Non-naturals,' he had taken the degree of M.D. at Rheims. He was a good Greek and Latin scholar, and attained no little eminence in his profession both in the city and county of York. It is said that in 1745 he had some intention of joining the Pretender, but by his own account (British Liberty Endangered, 1749) he was taken prisoner by the rebels and detained unwillingly for three months. It seems, however, that he incurred much censure from those in power, and that his political opinions rendered him obnoxious to Sterne, who satirised him in 'Tristram Shandy' under the name of 'Dr. Slop.' The satire betrayed either great ignorance or gross unfairness, for Dr. Burton's reputation as an accoucheur was deservedly high, and his 'Essay on Midwifery' has been styled 'a most learned and masterly work' (Atkinson, Med. Bibliography, 1834). In later years he became widely known as an antiquarian, and in 1758 published the first volume of the 'Monasticon Eboracense, and Ecclesiastical History of Yorkshire,' a most important contribution to the archaeology of his native county. Ample materials for a second volume were got together by him, but these and his other antiquarian collections have never been printed. In 1769 he was in correspondence with Dr. Ducarel and others about their sale to the British Museum, but shortly before his death, which occurred 21 Feb. 1771, he disposed of them to Mr. William Constable, of Constable Burton. His printed works are:

  1. 'Essay on Midwifery,' 1761 and 1763.
  2. 'Monasticon Eboracense,' vol. i. 1768 (the copy in the King's Library, British Museum, has the first eight pages of the intended second volume, entitled 'The Appendix, containing Charters, Grants, and other Original Writings referred to in the preceding volume, never published before,' York, N. Nickson, 1769).
  3. Two Tracts on Yorkshire Antiquities in the Archæologia,' 1768-1771.

[Nichols's Illust. of Literature, iii. 876-99; Gough's Brit. Top. ii. 407-416; Notes and Queries, 3rd series, v. 414.]

C. J. R.