A of M, 16-17: Suburbs and ranging spaniels


In these two pages, Robert Burton fills us in on the mostly unknown details of the life of Democritus (Senior). Apparently he retired to the suburbs.

Burton then describes the character of “Democritus Junior” aka Robert Burton. It sounds like Burton is a melancholic type, surprise surprise, who likes to be alone with his books, living a “silent, sedentary, solitary, private life.” He goes on to describe his “roving humor”- meaning that he knows a great deal about many things but is an expert in none. As he puts it, “aliquis in omnibus, nullus in singulis,” which Google translates as “a man is in all things, none of the individual.”

I totally get you, Robert Burton. Likewise, I do not seem to be very good at being very good at things. The only field of study that I have managed to stick with for more than a few months, or hours, was literature. Why? Because essentially literature is the only thing that is about all the other things. Getting a PhD in literature is kind of like getting a PhD in life, art, and anything else you might be interested in.

These days I have some highly successful friends who mostly don’t hang out with me anymore. They chose their thing and stayed with it. I did not, and “like a ranging spaniel, that barks at every bird he sees, leaving his game, I have followed all, saving that which I should.” It looks like The Anatomy of Melancholy is not going to help me with my ranging spaniel problem, but I can tell I am going to like it. And hey, without us the world would just be a pile of insufferable Casaubons, which is a Middlemarch reference that I am not going to explain right now because I am tired. Anyhow if you are even contemplating reading The Anatomy of Melancholy, you have probably already at least tried to read Middlemarch. If you have not, I highly recommend you pick up a copy and start reading it right now.

Bookish spaniels unite!

18-19 for Friday, and then FASTER.

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