The Anatomy Of Melancholy: Episode 3

Non-captioned version here.

The Anatomy Of Melancholy is an enormous collage of quotations and references from ancient through to contemporary sources. In this episode we get a sense of this construction and learn that the scholars Capivaccius and Mercurialis see ‘the inner brain’ as the principal site of melancholy from where, we are told, it disrupts the whole body.

Whereas the previous episode concentrated on the outmoded theory of the humours, here we have an idea that sits comfortably in our own age, that mental and physical health are interrelated. We will find this idea, along with notions of balance, harmony and moderation, reoccuring throughout the book.

The ideas in this book are fascinating but what for many readers makes it truely compelling is the character of Robert Burton, the author who is compiling, connecting and commenting upon all is many quotes. Despite claiming merely to speak through other people’s writing we get a clear sense of a man who surely would have been wonderfully engaging company. Sometime I think this just in turn of phrase such as here, after a long list of everyone who is susceptible to melancholy Burton finally adds just two exceptions ‘fools and stoics’. This makes me smile, I suspect it’s not true, but it makes we want to share a ‘nutmeg and ale’ with the man, or to converse with him whilst admiring ‘the verdure of the meadows’. He would cheer me up.

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