Anatomy of Melancholy, 300-330 — Pt. I, Sec. 2, Mem. III, Subsect. 15 — Love of Learning, or overmuch Study. With a Digression of the Misery of Scholars, and why the Muses are Melancholy (Overmuch Study) (Again)

“Saturn and Mercury, the patrons of learning, are both dry planets… Poetry and beggary are gemilli, twin-born brats, inseperable companions.”

There might be an awful, awful lot of drawings for this subsection, partly because it is the longest so far (ten times as long as the others) but also mostly because I strongly identify with the “mere scholar, a mere ass” that Burton rails against for thirty bombastic pages herein. He too was more or less the seventeenth-century equivalent of a professional book nerd, so naturally he isn’t very kind to himself here either. We’re all “dizzards, neglecting all wordly affairs and their own health.” To be fair though, self-care didn’t really exist in Early Modern England unless you were the Duke of Buckingham or something equally highfalutin.

Higher education causes “gouts, catarrhs, rheums, cachexia, bradiopepsia, bad eyes, stone and colic, crudities, oppilations, vertigo, winds, consumptions, and all such diseases as come by overmuch sitting; they [students] are most part lean, dry, ill-coloured, spend their fortunes, lose their wits, and many times their lives, and all through immoderate pains, and extraordinary studies.” Having spent seven years in a highly regarded literature PhD program doing “extraordinary studies,” I’d say that’s accurate. Page 306 — where Burton describes a dire lack of jobs in academia and denounces “falconer’s pay” for scholars — reads like an article straight out of the Chronicle of Higher Ed. But I’ll get to that another day.

This is just a drawing of Mercury and Saturn — representing poverty and poetry — living their best #scholarlife and “meditating unto themselves.”

“Mercurialist” is my new favorite word. Can I put that on a CV?

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.

Leave a Reply