Anatomy of Melancholy, 233 – 237 – Pt. I, Sec. 2, Mem. II, Subs. 4 – Retention and Evacuation a Cause, and how


AofM 233-237

This section right here is the reason no one finishes this book.

Retention and evacuation of what, you might ask? Body goo. This section is pretty much just about the kinds of goo and gross stuff that your body excretes. Poop takes the leading role, because everyone loves poop. There is a section on sex goop too, and also a sentence or two on menstruation.


A pile of slugs was the least gross, most excrementitious thing I could think of to draw. Some artists can draw pretty great, hilarious sex drawings, but I am not that artist. So I drew slugs. Some of them might be pooping or doing it or doing both at once. I don’t know.

What did I learn here? Well not surprisingly, this section is yet another lesson in moderation. Don’t poop/do it/menstruate or generally bleed too much or too little lest you dry out or become overly moist… I guess? I dunno. Honestly I didn’t dwell on this section too much because I think I already knew all of this, and Burton was surprisingly unfunny here considering that he was writing mostly about poop, or “excrements” as he calls it. Sex is referred to as “venery” or “to have to do with, ” which are possibly the most awkward euphemisms ever.

Also our brilliant author seems to be under the impression that menstruation is something one can hold in or let out, ha! Yeah just try that, Burton.

Quotes? Does anyone really want quotes from the excrement section? Of course you do!
“Of retention and evacuation there be divers kinds, which are either concomitant, assisting, or sole causes many times of melancholy.” (233)
See? Not funny.
“Intemperate Venus is all out as bad in the other extreme… ‘it infrigidates and dries up the body, consumes the spirits’ ; and would therefore have all such as are cold and dry to take heed of and to avoid it as a mortal enemy.” (235)
Still not all that funny. How is the section on poop and sex the least funny in the entire book? I suspect Robert Burton himself might have been very cold and very dry.

And I have now officially spent too much time writing about Early Modern pooping and “having to do with.”


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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