The Anatomy Of Melancholy: Episode 7

Non-captioned version available here.

Scholars of episode 6 will have spotted that many foods are thought to bring on melancholy and that a prime consideration in this matter seems to be their ease in digestion. This makes sense. As scholars of episode 2 will recall, the spleen draws melancholy from the ‘feculent part of nourishment’, the more ‘feculent’ the food the more melancholy it would make one.

Does food that is difficult to digest make us melancholy? Let’s consider it from our contemporary perspective, having a dodgy stomach or suffering from food intolerances are certainly miserable afflictions. Things must have been worse in Burton’s time with its lack of refrigeration and basic germ theory. It is easy to imagine wanting some good guidance as to what food is safest to eat.

In this episode we follow our difficult to digest food on its journey and learn how constipation can send you mad. We also learn how the lack of other expulsions can have ‘like effect’ and – this being The Anatomy Of Melancholy – why the opposite is also true, how too many other expulsions can drive you mad.

Listen out for the final cautionary tale which illustrates this last point, it contains one my favourite euphemisms of all time.

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