Anatomy of Melancholy, 216-219 – Pt. I, Sec. 2, Mem. II, Subs. 1 – Bad Diet a Cause. Substance. Quality of Meats

A of M 216-219

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 finish. I will be honest, this is one of the super boring and only mildly humorous sections of this elephantine book, and I bet a lot of readers drop like flies right about here.


But seriously, what am I learning here? I am learning a lot of antiquated words for meat. Also it sure sounds like most meat was rotten in early modern England, and everyone had very bad tummy aches, and honestly they maybe should not have been eating so much meat until they developed better storage technologies. Oh, and if you do possess a melancholic temperament, you should not eat meat, because it will make you feel more sad. OF COURSE IT WILL because it is rotten.

Moving on, the fun quotes were not as constant as in previous sections, but here are some that might make one corner of your mouth twitch a little bit, but not that much:

Aubanus and Sabellicus commend Portugal beef to be the most savoury, best and easiest of digestion; we commend ours: but all is rejected, and unfit for such as lead a resty life, any ways inclined to melancholy, or dry of complexion.

Haha, a resty life! That sounds nice.

They ate a lot of different birds back in the olden days:

 Amongst fowl, peacocks and pigeons, all fenny fowl are forbidden, as ducks, geese, swans, herons, cranes, coots, didappers, water-hens, with all those teals, curs, sheldrakes, and peckled fowls, that come hither in winter out of Scandia, Muscovy, Greenland, Friesland, which half the year are covered all over with snow, and frozen up. Though these be fair in feathers, pleasant in taste, and have a good outside, like hypocrites, white in plumes, and soft, their flesh is hard, black, unwholesome, dangerous, melancholy meat; Gravant et putrefaciant stomachum, saith Isaac, part. 5. de vol., their young ones are more tolerable, but young pigeons he quite disapproves.

Birds are hypocrites. I have always thought this, good to have confirmation. What’s a sheldrake? I’m not sure, but it might be a duck. Also if you must eat birds, eat baby ones, but not pigeons.

Well that’s over with. Oh wait no, the next section is on fish.


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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