Anatomy of Melancholy, 211-216 – Pt. I, Sec. 2, Mem. I, Subs. 6: Parents a Cause by Propagation



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 looked like a carcass; I asked him the cause, he replied, His mother, when she bore him in her womb, saw a carcass by chance, and was so sore affrighted with it, that ex eo foetus ei assimilatus, from a ghastly impression the child was like it.

Perhaps seventeenth-century mothers-to-be were as worried as we twenty-firsters about the hazards of two sips of wine, eating sushi, and seeing corpses while pregnant. Wait no, they definitely were not. Also I like how the seventeenth-century equivalent of worrying about mercury exposure is seeing a carcass.

After the carcasses there’s some pretty dicey stuff about eugenics and burying people, but as usual, Burton ends the section with some really spot-on wisdom about life:

It comes to pass that our generation is corrupt, we have many weak persons, both in body and mind, many feral diseases raging amongst us, crazed families, parentes, peremptores; our fathers bad, and we are like to be worse.

He thought his generation was corrupt, HA. If Burton only knew about Snapchat and Scott Disick. Thank goodness he never will.


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 devon_isadevon on Instagram.

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