When a giant angry turnip was elected president of the United States in the apocalyptic year that was 2016, I started to feel a little down. Naturally my response was to buy an unabridged copy of Robert Burton’s The Anatomy of Melancholy. My get-out-of-bed-without-crying-plan is to read a little piece of this gargantuan lump of knowledge daily, and I will illustrate it as I go.
Note to self: You skipped Subsection 3, a “Division of Perturbations” because it seemed to make more sense to draw individual perturbations before drawing the catalogue. I guess? Subsection 3 didn’t make much sense, really. Sometimes Burton says there are four perturbations but goes on to name three, and then sometimes there are seven […]
I almost missed a subsection! God forbid. It was short (relatively speaking) so I forgot it until today: Thus in brief, to our imagination cometh by the outward sense or memory, some object to be known (residing in the foremost part of the brain), which he misconceiving or amplifying presently communicates to the heart, the […]
Oops I just realized that I did two drawings for Part I, Section 2, Member III Subsection 2, but none for Part I, Section 2, Member III Subsection 1. I guess I should backtrack a bit. I just really wanted to draw a bugbear: “What will not a fearful man conceive in the dark? […]
Work in progress… Well no progress really. I started this one before Covid-19 hit the US, and for a month now I haven’t managed to force myself to return to it. I finally realized that the poor thing reminded me so viscerally of normalcy that I just couldn’t handle working on it for now. […]
Obligatory coronavirus art. My two small gremlins are home, probably for months, so I will not be able to work so much for quite some time. Well, maybe just as much but definitely not nearly as well.
You think that drawing is gross? It could have been so much worse. The Abject, Literary Studies: Well, this one is notoriously difficult to explain, because Kristeva is a notoriously challenging writer. I would argue that she’s a tremendously good one though. When I am beset by abjection, the twisted braid of affects and […]
Well, this section is brief and straightforward: “Nothing is better than moderate sleep, nothing worse than it if it be in extremes or unseasonably used.” Be particularly careful not to sleep “overmuch” because too much sleep will induce a “great store of excrements in the brain.” Also, do not sleep after “hard meats” […]
We have covered idleness, so now on to solitude. In brief, unless you are freaking Socrates – and let’s be honest about this, because it is important, we are none of us Socrates – excessive solitude is bad for you and bad for everyone around you. This section had me thinking about those pro-introvert comics […]
Just practicing my people. Or cyborgs. I dunno. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference.
I didn’t draw “immoderate exercise” because who is ever melancholy from exercising too much? I really can’t identify with that at all. All I got from that bit was a good quote to whip out the next time your marathon-addict friend is espousing the joys of running until you feel like you are going […]
The Scarcity Principle, Social Psychology: “Scarcity, in the area of social psychology, works much like scarcity in the area of economics. Simply put, humans place a higher value on an object that is scarce, and a lower value on those that are in abundance.” (Wikipedia) A special holiday theory, just in time for Christmas. For more on […]
Well, this section offers up just what I would expect from Burton at this point: Air should be neither too hot nor too cold, and melancholics should absolutely not sleep with their windows open because that nasty, dark night air will make their usual state of despondence… even more despondent: “The night and darkness […]
This section right here is the reason no one finishes this book. Retention and evacuation of what, you might ask? Body goo. This section is pretty much just about the kinds of goo and gross stuff that your body excretes. Poop takes the leading role, because everyone loves poop. There is a section on […]
The Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon, Psychology: “This phenomenon occurs when the thing you’ve just noticed, experienced or been told about suddenly crops up constantly. It gives you the feeling that out of nowhere, pretty much everyone and their cousin are talking about the subject — or that it is swiftly surrounding you. And you’re not crazy; […]
I can’t articulate exactly why, but this is one of my favorite quotes so far: “Some cannot endure cheese, out of a secret antipathy.” (233) And then there is this: Milk, and all that comes of milk, as butter and cheese, curds, &c., increase melancholy (whey only excepted, which is most wholesome): some except asses’ […]
This section is mostly about how people eat different things. Some people think that the things that some other people like to eat are gross. Also foods (like frogs and snails) that make one person melacholic and filled with gall might not have that effect on someone else who is more accustomed to eating […]
This is a picture of Pseudolus, drunk and garlanded. I couldn’t resist an extra drawing for Partition I, Section 2, Member II, Subsection 2, in which there are a few paragraphs on drunkenness. “Quid ego video? Cum corona Pseudolum ebrium tuum. [What do I see? Your friend Pseudolus, drunk and garlanded.]” So now you know […]
Are we done with this interminable “meats” section yet? Oh no. No we are not. Now that Burton has cataloged the different kinds of foodstuffs, he is on to just how much of these foodstuffs one should consume: As a lamp is choked with a multitude of oil, or a little fire with overmuch wood […]
Today I read the drinkable liquids section. You know what else is bad for you? WATER. Especially if it is from a moat. Don’t drink the moat water. And then there’s this: All black wines, over-hot, compound, strong thick drinks, as Muscadine, Malmsey, Alicant, Rumney, Brownbastard, Metheglen, and the like, of which they have thirty […]
Hey look, I’m back at work on the read-along! I picked up where I left off: reading the parts of The Anatomy of Melancholy that have not been read in approximately four hundred years. It has been a rough reentry. Today, I read about fruits and vegetables, also known as vegetals. All classical, Medieval, and […]
My kids have been home sick almost constantly this spring. That might be a slight exaggeration, but it sure feels that way. I haven’t had time for The Anatomy of Melancholy or much drawing at all. But… I have been storing up a pretty incredible list of creepy-cute things that they say, the precious little […]
So Busby’s Chair, aka the Chair of Death: If you sit in Busby’s Chair, you die. Of course everyone dies eventually, so that’s a real fail-safe of a legend, isn’t it?
Much like meat, fish are generally bad news for the melancholic: Rhasis and Magninus discommend all fish, and say they breed viscosities, slimy nutriment, little and humorous nourishment. On the finer points, there is much disagreement over “fumadoes, red-herrings, sprats, stock-fish, haberdine, poor-john, all shellfish.” And what do you know, “Messarius commends salmon, which Bruerinus […]
Now I have begun Member II, which is all about food, some foods inducing more melancholy (and indigestion) than others. I think Member II is shaping up to be one of my least favorite members. Very few people even try to read the complete Anatomy of Melancholy, and of the few that do, most don’t […]
I drew another squid. “It is most true, stylus virum arguit,—our style bewrayes us.” — The Anatomy of Melancholy, Robert Burton
I tried to draw something romantic for Valentine’s Day, so this happened. In a promised lie you made us believe For many men there is so much grief And my mind is proud but it aches with rage And if I live too long I’m afraid I’ll die Strangers on this road we are on […]
I drew another containing/contained/spirit snail drawing, inspired by The Anatomy of Melancholy. But this one is also inspired by a lesser-known Patricia Highsmith short story called “The Quest for Blank Claveringi,” originally published in her 1970 short story collection, The Snail-Watcher and Other Stories. I couldn’t find it online anywhere, sadly, so I can’t link […]
In this section I learned that garlic will fuzzle your brain and give you peevish children who are likewise “fuzzled in the brain.” That’s a real quote, page 214. Also this: Such another I find in Martin Wenrichius, com. de ortu monstrorum, c. 17, I saw (saith he) at Wittenberg, in Germany, a citizen that […]
If you have small children, or if you remember being one, then you know that stacking things is a very big deal for a surprisingly significant portion of early childhood. As a kid, I was obsessed with Shel Silverstein’s drawing of pancakes from Where the Sidewalk Ends, and even as an adult I can’t stop […]
Burton does not have a lot of good things to say about old people: Full of ache, sorrow and grief, children again, dizzards, they carl many times as they sit, and talk to themselves, they are angry, waspish, displeased with every thing, suspicious of all, wayward, covetous, hard (saith Tully,) self-willed, superstitious, self-conceited, braggers and admirers of themselves, as […]