The Anatomy Of Melancholy: Episode 4

Non-captioned version here.

This is not a glamorous episode but it is important and gives us insight into the book’s structure.

By distinguishing between primary and secondary causes of melancholy the author explains links between melancholy and old age, plus why we should marry people who don’t resemble us. In doing so he also explains how he is distinguishing between different categories of circumstance that cause melancholy. Robert Burton is big on structure.

Where most books have a contents page setting out chapter headings, The Anatomy Of Melancholy has a branching map, resembling a fecund family tree. There are no chapters, instead this map describes how the book is split into three partitions, which in turn are divided into multiple parts, each part has many members and most members have numerous sub-sections. You will note we cite in each title card where that episode’s material is culled from.

The culling process has been brutal. Burton added material to the book for each of the five editions published in his lifetime and the modern paperback edition is 1,500 pages long. The introduction, which runs to about 150 pages we dealt with in the four minutes of episode 1. What you have here is all from the book but far from all the book.

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