Over the weekend I heard from a few people who are still endeavoring to get their hands on a copy of the COMPLETE AND UNABRIDGED Anatomy of Melancholy, so I held off on reading for a few days. But I positively cannot wait to get moving, so here I go with a slow start, beginning with The Very First Page of non-poem text in The First Partition. It is page 15 in my edition and god knows what in yours, but it is more or less the first paragraph of the section titled “Democritus Junior to the Reader.”
So what happened on this first page? Not much, but I already know that I like this Robert Burton guy an awful lot. In case you missed it, Burton initially published The Anatomy under a pseudonym, Democritus Junior. However after the success of the first edition, he dropped the act. Here Burton seems to be saying, basically, that you should not care who the author of your book is. Moreover, the author of your book might as well be the Man in the Moon for all he cares. So take that, Roland Barthes! Burton got there first, 346 years before you. (For the record, I actually love Roland Barthes to death.)
There were five Latin notes for this page. I copied them into Google translate and near nonsense came out the other end, an example being: “Now, the use of these things to you are there and what the author of his existence.” That does not mean anything. I looked around the Internet for an English translation of Burton’s notes, and I could not find one. If anyone else does, please let me know. In my search I discovered that a surprising number of “unabridged” editions of The Anatomy leave out the notes entirely. That strikes me as very wrong – despite the fact that I cannot and will not ever read them. I really hate to miss anything, even if it is in Latin and I can’t read it. Still, I suppose leaving them out reduces the book’s cumbersomeness slightly.
Here is my favorite quote from today’s reading:
“Seek not after what is hid. If the contents please thee, ‘and be for thy use, suppose the Man in the Moon, or whom thou wilt, to be the author.'”
I like the think about the Man in the Moon and abstract issues of authorship. It takes my mind off the fact that our president is a paranoid narcissist who thinks Obama listens to his phone calls. This line was followed by the nonsensically translated note that I gave above and the name Wecker. So it seems that Burton is attributing this idea to Johannes Jacob Wecker, who did not word it nearly so colorfully. So I guess Wecker got there first? Not that it matters. Everyone’s a winner here.
I will read very, very slowly this week. If during this time I convince you that this tremendously long, slow read-along might be a fun and not at all crazy thing to do, it will be easy for you to get a copy and catch up next week when I will be up to lightening speed: a dazzling three to four pages per day!
Pages 16-17 for Wednesday 🙂