Anatomy of Melancholy, 210-211 – Pt. I, Sec. 2, Mem. I, Subs. 5: Old Age a Cause

Burton does not have a lot of good things to say about old people: Full of ache, sorrow and grief, children again, dizzards, they carl many times as they sit, and talk to themselves, they are angry, waspish, displeased with every thing, suspicious of all, wayward, covetous, hard (saith Tully,) self-willed, superstitious, self-conceited, braggers and admirers of themselves, as […]

The Anatomy of Melancholy, 184: Pt. I, Sec. II, Subsect. II. – A Digression of the Nature of Spirits, Bad Angels, or Devils, and how they cause Melancholy

So… I was going to wait a bit to get back into this whole drawing, Anatomy of Melancholy, thinking, writing thing – wait until life settled down – but I dunno, I missed it. So here is today’s quote: [Facius Cardan] asked them many questions, and they made ready answer, that they were aerial devils, that […]

Anatomy of Melancholy, 167-169: Subsect. XI – Of the will

Those natural and vegetal powers are not commanded by will at all; for “who can add one cubit to his stature?” These other may, but are not: and thence come all those headstrong passions, violent perturbations of the mind; and many times vicious habits, customs, feral diseases; because we give so much way to our […]

Anatomy of Melancholy, 165-166: Subsect. X – Of the Understanding

In this subsection I learned that there are fourteen “species” of understanding, so I drew fourteen things: Now these notions are twofold, actions or habits: actions, by which we take notions of, and perceive things; habits, which are durable lights and notions, which we may use when we will. Some reckon up eight kinds of […]

Anatomy of Melancholy, 159-160: Subsect. VII – Of the Inward Senses

  In this section Burton discourses on common sense, phantasy (or imagination), and memory. On imagination he writes: In melancholy men this faculty is most powerful and strong, and often hurts, producing many monstrous and prodigious things, especially if it be stirred up by some terrible object, presented to it from common sense or memory. In […]

Anatomy of Melancholy, 157-159: Subsect. VII – Of the Sensible Soul

Hey look, I’m back! Welcome back, me. In this section, Burton describes the body’s five senses: vision, hearing, smell, taste, and touch. It really is not very interesting. Burton mentions “Scaliger’s sixth sense of titillation,” which would be interesting, but unfortunately he seems icked out by it and doesn’t have any fun quotes for us. […]

The Anatomy of Melancholy, 148: The four humours, melancholy

Melancholy, cold and dry, thick, black, sour, begotten of the more feculent part of nourishment, and purged from the spleen, is a bridle to the other two hot humours, blood and choler, preserving them in the blood, and nourishing the bones. These four humours have some analogy with the four elements, and to the four ages of man.

A of M, 143-146: Melancholy in Disposition, improperly so called. Equivocations

This little section is about sinking into a transient melancholy due to, say, a fleabite versus the “continuate disease” of melancholy. Burton does not have much patience for “errant,” or transient, melancholy, and he would prefer people stop calling “oops I stubbed my toe and it sucks” melancholy at all: Melancholy in this sense is the character […]

A of M, 139-143: Dotage, Madness, Frenzy, Hydrophobia, Lycanthropia, Chorus Sancti Viti, Ecstasis

Lycanthropia, which Avicenna calls cucubuth, others lupinam insaniam, or wolf-madness, when men run howling about graves and fields in the night, and will not be persuaded but that they are wolves, or some such beasts. Aetius and Paulus call it a kind of melancholy; but I should rather refer it to madness, as most do. […]

A of M, 137-138: Subsect. II – The Definition, Number, Division of Disease

What a disease is, almost every physician defines. Fernelius calleth it an “affection of the body contrary to nature.” Fuschius and Crato, “an hindrance, hurt, or alteration of any action of the body, or part of it.” Tholosanus, “a dissolution of that league which is between body and soul, and a perturbation of it; as […]

A of M, 116-118: Mushroom men and Monsieur Nobody

So 118 pages into this diatribe against humanity, Burton unsurprisingly sums up his argument as follows: “They are all mad.” If you are “reading” along but have fallen 116-118 pages behind, all you really missed is: “They are all mad.” Or more specifically, somewhat, they are all “E fungis nati homines,” which roughly translated means men […]

A of M, 102-104: The more things change, the more they stay the same

“For I see no reason” (as [Aristotle] said) “why an epicure or idle drone, a rich glutton, a usurer, should live at ease, and do nothing, live in honour, in all manner of pleasures, and oppress others, when as in the meantime a poor labourer, a smith, a carpenter, an husbandman that hath spent his time […]

A of M, 95-98: You know what liberty poets ever had

Let them be rude, stupid, ignorant, incult, lapis super lapidem sedeat, and as the apologist will, resp. tussi, et graveolentia laboret, mundus vitio, let them be barbarous as they are, let them tyrannise, epicurise, oppress, luxuriate, consume themselves with factions, superstitions, lawsuits, wars and contentions, live in riot, poverty, want, misery; rebel, wallow as so […]

Read with me!

When a giant angry turnip was elected president of the United States in the apocalyptic year that was 2016, I started to feel a little down. Naturally my response was to buy an unabridged copy of Robert Burton’s The Anatomy of Melancholy. My get-out-of-bed-without-crying-plan is to read a little piece of this gargantuan lump of knowledge daily, and I will illustrate it as I go.