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Journey through the subject of melancholia in an easily accessible volume touching on topics from love and sex to religion and geography
Burton's The Anatomy of Melancholy is one of the great but unclassifiable prose works in English literature: diverting, delightfully rambling, and filled with recondite learning and peculiar facts and speculations. Burton, frustrated at the stagnant, disorderly society in which he found himself, became convinced that the problems of England lay in its inclination to melancholy. This is the starting-point, or pretext, for a hugely wide-ranging survey of the causes, descriptions (and cures) of melancholy. Burton's unsystematic approach to his subject contributes greatly to its charm and interest, for much of it is composed of digressions that are, in effect, self-contained essays on all manner of subjects: cosmology, religious fanaticism, devils and spirits, food, love, and sex.
them. His whole life is sorrow, and every word he speaks a satire, nothing fats him but other men’s ruins. For, to speak in a word, envy is naught else but sorrow for other men’s good, be it present, past, or to come: and joy at their harms, opposite to mercy, which grieves at other men’s mischances, and mis-affects the body in another kind; so Damascen defines it and we find it true. ’Tis a common disease and almost natural to us, as Tacitus holds, to envy another man’s prosperity. And ’tis in
with it, that he killed all his equals; so did Nero. […] This hatred, malice, faction, and desire of revenge, invented first all those racks, and wheels, strappadoes, brazen bulls, feral engines, prisons, inquisitions, severe laws, to macerate and torment one another. How happy might we be, and end our time with blessed days and sweet content, if we could contain ourselves, and, as we ought to do, put up injuries, learn humility, meekness, patience, forget and forgive, as in God’s word we are
personable or personal. Burton’s prose is especially lively than when his subject leads him into some personal domain – the tyranny of a grammar school education, the miseries of scholars, the pains of disappointed preferment – or (and they sometimes overlap) when he has one of his pet hates in sight – the English gentry (stingy, philistine, lazy, superficial), the Catholic Church (bullying, grasping, dishonest), Islam (cruel, superstitious, ridiculous). In these passages, Burton often seems at
frequent the Gymnasium because of the beauty of the youngsters, feeding his hungry eyes on that spectacle, wherefore Philebus and Phaedo were corrivals, as Charmides and other Dialogues of Plato sufficiently show; and in truth it was this very Socrates who said of Alcibiades: gladly would I keep silent, and indeed I am averse, he offers too much incentive to wantonness. Theodoretus censures this. Plato himself delighted in Agathon, Xenophon in Clinias, Virgil in Alexis, Anacreaon in Bathyllus.
partile4 conjunction with mine Ascendant; both fortunate in their houses, etc.. I am not poor, I am not rich, nothing’s here, but nothing’s lacking, I have little, I want nothing; all my treasure is in Minerva’s tower. Greater preferment, as I could never get, so I am not in debt for it; I have a competency (praise God) from my noble and munificent Patrons, though Ilive still a Collegiate student, as Democritus in his garden, and lead a monastic life, a theatre to myself, sequestered from those