A of M, 143-146: Melancholy in Disposition, improperly so called. Equivocations

AofM 143-146

This little section is about sinking into a transient melancholy due to, say, a fleabite versus the “continuate disease” of melancholy. Burton does not have much patience for “errant,” or transient, melancholy, and he would prefer people stop calling “oops I stubbed my toe and it sucks” melancholy at all:

Melancholy in this sense is the character of mortality… For a pint of honey thou shalt here find a gallon of gall, for a dram of pleasure, a pound of pain, for an inch of mirth an ell of moan… We are not here as those angels, celestial powers and bodies, sun and moon, to finish our course without all offence, with such constancy, to continue for so many ages: but subject to infirmities, miseries, interrupt, tossed and tumbled up and down, carried about with every small blast, often molested and disquieted upon each slender occasion, uncertain, brittle, and so is all that we trust onto… Exi e mundo, get thee gone hence if thou canst not brook it; there is no way to avoid it, but to arm thyself with patience, with magnamity… For that which is but a flea-biting to one, causeth insufferable torment to another; and which one by his singular moderation and well-composed carriage can happily overcome, a second is no whit able to sustain. 

I wish someone had told me that when I was fifteen, but I probably would not have listened because I was too annoyed by my most recent fleabite. Oh wait, yes, my grandfather definitely did tell me almost exactly this when I was fifteen, and I did not listen. However I did store it away for later reference, and a few years later it proved very, very useful. Thanks, Grandpa! When my kids turn fifteen I am getting them copies of The Anatomy of Melancholy. They will love that. I am an awesome parent.

I think it is safe to say that Burton is now done with fleabite melancholy and the remaining 1200 pages will be about the other kind.

Oh, and froward is a fun word I learned from this section. It looks like a typo but does in fact mean something: contrary, difficult – said of a person, or cat. I may have added that last bit.


This post is part of a long, tedious, and very illustrated read-along of Robert Burton’s The Anatomy of Melancholy – more info here and follow along on Facebook here. Illustrations posted via master.of.literature on Instagram.

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