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The Anatomy of Melancholy (Folio Society…

The Anatomy of Melancholy (Folio Society Edition 2005) (original 1621; edition 2005)

by Robert Burton

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Title:The Anatomy of Melancholy (Folio Society Edition 2005)
Authors:Robert Burton
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The Anatomy of Melancholy by Robert Burton (1621)


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Showing 1-5 of 18 (next | show all)
#70 [The Anatomy of Melencholy] Robert Burton. This has been on my 'to read' list for a long time. It is a convoluted monster of a book with endless citations of authorities that no one but a scholar of Renaissance literature will have heard of. Burton has a great tendency to argue himself in circles, carefully presenting all sides of every discussion without really coming down firmly. It is interesting to see how much of what we think we know about how people thought in the seventeenth century is not accurate--for instance I did not know that the idea of the stars as suns in themselves was already prevalent. Not for everyone.
  ritaer | Jun 12, 2015 |
This book sat behind my chair after I had it bound, for forty years, and I read from it every few days. A great book, but a dipper: too dense to plow through, Latin quotations and all, but rewarding in pieces, like the Bible and, say, Gilbert White (Natural History of Selbourne). Originally one of he four "humors" like "Blood/ Sanguinary" that determine personality--"sanguine" being out-going, optimisic-- "Melancholy" or black bile broadens here to include what we call "psychology" or psychotropic disease, for instance, "love melancholy," which Freud placed squarely as the foundation stone of psychiatry--and now, arguably, results in crossing and transgressing gender.
But Burton also reflects on the scholar's work, more poorly paid than "one who curls hair."
Grand discussions, say, of whether fatty meat is unhealthy, or how to avoid heart problems. Constipation has a long chapter in Pt II, but Pt one has, halfway through, a long discussion of specific foods and their effects--sort of Master Chef meats Dr. Oz. "Generally, all such meats as are hard of digestion breed melancholy. Artaeus lib7 cap5 reckons up heads and feet, bowels, brains, marrow, fat, skins...They are rejected by Isaac, lib2.part.3...Milk, and all that comes of milk, as butter and cheese, curds, etc. increase melancholy (whey only excepted, which is most wholesome); some except asses' milk" (Vintage '77. p219).
Burton begins with general observations: "The Turkes deride us, we them; Italians Frenchmen, accounting them light-headed fellows." He seems to relate the mind or soul to melancholy's effects here.
The two other Galenic humors not so far mentioned are choleric and phlegmatic. Many law-enforement programs now focus on the choleric, and half of all TV-advertised medicines treat the phlegmatic.
A general observation for our time: "Nimirum insanus paucis videatur:Maxima pars hominum morbo iactatur eodem." When all are crazy, who can distinguish the mad? ( )
  AlanWPowers | May 7, 2015 |

The long and winding road or there and back again or Ode to Melancholy or:

Slips soft and curling....
notes of music wind
like silk caresses through my mind
and eyes see far-flung places
melted and meshed with faraway faces
again with inspiration born
of the breathless sigh that escapes my lips:
I have come to know so well your enslaving bliss
how you enchant my senses so that I exist
only in the moment when
vivid dreams spun in timid hope
evaporate as mist-like motes
above the drowning waters
of too intense desire:
and my soul for one brief instant breathes
the fire of annihilating ecstasy.


I write this melancholic whirl
of thoughts and feelings tangled as the curls
of hair upon my head
and fragile as the spider's web
are my tears which slip,
pearls of shining wistfulness,
in silent trails along my cheek
which longs to press against your coarse
unshaven face, so tired and yet
as enigmatic as if we had met
just yesterday.
  Scribble.Orca | Mar 31, 2013 |
Burton attempts to describe the causes and cures of melancholia, which today we label as depression. In the 17th century, human emotions were associated with various fluids in the body--a sanguine temperament with blood, a choleric temperament with an excess of bile. Melancholia was thought to arise from an excess of something called 'black' bile. As a physician, he describes a number of ways to overcome melancholy including the use of certain drugs. A monument to the author's erudition, the Anatomy contains a vast cabinet of recipes, stories, anecdotes, biographies and curiosa--enough to while away many an evening in front of the fire sipping a glass of old Port (a sure cure for melancholia!).
  TrysB | May 27, 2012 |
A perfect system of classification:except that it is wrong, completely wrong.
2 vote mdstarr | Sep 11, 2011 |
Showing 1-5 of 18 (next | show all)
Robert Burton's The anatomy of melancholy, first completed in 1621, appears to be a medical work, but is described in the Tudor edition of 1927 by Floyd Dell and Paul Jordan-Smith (Tudor Publishing Company, New York) as 'a sort of literary cosmos, an omnium gatherum, a compendium of everything that caught the fancy of the scholar.. . abounding in quaint conceits, excerpts and quotations'. The 52-page index to the 984-page text reflects this anecdotal profusion.
added by KayCliff | editThe Indexer, Hazel K. Bell (Aug 6, 1995)

» Add other authors (82 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Burton, Robertprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Dell, FloydEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gass, William H.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jackson, HolbrookEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jackson, HolbrookIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jordan-Smith, PaulEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Gentle Reader, I presume thou wilt be very inquisitive to know what antic or personate actor this is, that so insolently intrudes upon this common theatre of the world's view, arrogating another man's name; whence he is, why he doth it, and what he hath to say.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0940322668, Paperback)

One of the major documents of modern European civilization, Robert Burton's astounding compendium, a survey of melancholy in all its myriad forms, has invited nothing but superlatives since its publication in the seventeenth century. Lewellyn Powys called it "the greatest work of prose of the greatest period of English prose-writing," while the celebrated surgeon William Osler declared it the greatest of medical treatises. And Dr. Johnson, Boswell reports, said it was the only book that he rose early in the morning to read with pleasure. In this surprisingly compact and elegant new edition, Burton's spectacular verbal labyrinth is sure to delight, instruct, and divert today's readers as much as it has those of the past four centuries.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:01 -0400)

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