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The Anatomy of Melancholy

4.20  ·  Rating Details  ·  925 Ratings  ·  100 Reviews
Burton's learned and satirical The Anatomy of Melancholy (first published in 1621) is one of the last great works of English prose to have remained unedited. This volume inaugurates an authoritative edition of the work, which is being prepared by a team of scholars from both sides of the Atlantic. It will be followed by two further volumes of text with textual apparatus, a ...more
Hardcover, 675 pages
Published December 7th 1989 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published 1621)
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Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
Nov 12, 2012 Nathan "N.R." Gaddis rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Melancholics (You)
Recommended to Nathan "N.R." by: Alexander Theroux

The Anatomy of Melancholy, What It Is,
With All The Kinds, Causes, Symptoms, Prognostics, And Several Cures Of It.
In Three Partitions.
With Their Several Sections, Members, and Subsections,
Philosophically, Medically, Historically Opened And Cut Up.
By Democritus Junior.
With a Satirical Preface, Conducing To The Following Discourse.
A New Edition, Corrected, And Enriched By Translations Of The Numerous Classical Extracts.
By Democritus Minor. To Which Is Prefixed An Account Of The Author.

MJ Nicholls
Nov 18, 2012 MJ Nicholls marked it as getting-even  ·  review of another edition
While Nathan “N.R.” is in Bermuda sluicing sand out of his thong (remember, he’s over twenty-five stone and has seven buttocks), let’s talk sensibly about this book, but mostly, about English pre-1800s. Reading any English novel of the 1700s or earlier is extremely unpleasurable. The language is sufficiently, infuriatingly different to our present-day English, or even 19thC English, forcing the reader to re-learn an old style used by our forefathers. Verily, words order are, often truly commingl ...more
Sep 08, 2015 Gregsamsa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Back before the practitioners of the "Scientific Method" spread all their lies, human medicine was based on more sound and simple principles. In the olden days, when they weren't being obscured by deceitful conspirators, the Four Humours were known to be the vital fluids sustaining our life functions. All human maladies could be traced to an imbalance in these internal liquids, except for obvious stuff like a broken leg or getting hit by lightning, which anyon
May 17, 2013 Geoff marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: infinite-books
As Nathan "Nautical Rigging"* Gaddis would say, "the check is in the mail."

*Variations I considered:

-Nauseating Rigormortis
-Necromaniacal Reprobate
-Nifty Ratcatcher
-Nearly Rabelais
-Nice Rebound!
-Nasty Ricecake
-Normal, Reasonable
-Natal Reading
-NAFTA Reformer
-Nested Russian-doll
-Naissant Rabbi
-Narcoleptic Raccoon
-Nectariferous Riodinidae
-Nemoral Rabbit
-Nephroidal Ragamuffin
-Nominative Rhotic
-Noumenal Reality
-Nuciform Rostrum
-Nubiform Retina
-Neuropathic Recluse
-Nude Rugbier
-Necrotic Rosicrucian
Scribble Orca
Feb 13, 2013 Scribble Orca marked it as to-be-consideread  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Scribble by: Nathan "N.R." Gaddis

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 t
Dec 31, 2013 Jonfaith rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: samizdat
Reality should be snared, at least where it is convenient. Burton demanded browsers and I obliged. I did not read this book sequentially. Nor was any effort made to complete this book cover-to-cover. It was read in a flourish of skips and delights: anti-oedpian piercing and parsing. Gazes, gouges and gatherings, baby. I will return to this for the rest of my life.
The days are long. I live in the tropics, in a city with a reputation for unparallelled liveliness. Bangkok does marathon clubbing nights, casual sex, performance art, political rallies, and obsessive Instagramming, not 1500-page tomes on melancholy.

I sit on the terrace with my coffee and my Robert Burton and I feel less alone, I feel less alone with my introversion, knowing that there's someone else with a gargoyle perched on their shoulder who thought he could write his way out of it.

The name
Nov 16, 2012 Szplug marked it as intermittently-reading  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the greatest things ever. Vincit omnia facetiarum. Or something like that. As another Goodreader pointed out, there likely exists nobody who has read every single page of this mammoth wonder—but damned if I'm not going to give it my very best effort to be able to say that I did! prior to making the transition to particulate dust.
This is a book that I view as a reference work in the sense that it can be read or reread a bit at a time and turned to as if to reference a topic. The table of contents is maddeningly unspecific in its title, for example there is an eighty page section titled simply "A Digression of Remedies Against Discontents". However, there is a sufficiently detailed index to allow the reader some hope of finding more specific comments about "goblins' or "grasshoppers" or "green-sickness." The last of these ...more
Jessica Gilliam
May 30, 2008 Jessica Gilliam rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The first partition, Democritus to the Reader, is a rare gem and serves as a map of the text as a whole. If you don't have much time, this section is sufficient in familiarizing yourself with Burton's work. If you have insomnia however, or nothing else to do, dig deeper. Burton's inspections of depression, anxiety, fundamentalism, obsession, the insatiable desire to know our origin, love, political corruption, hypocrisy, sex, and overindulgence are refreshing and just as pertinent today as they ...more
Patrick Oden
Jun 22, 2008 Patrick Oden marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
A brilliant, witty, insightful book on the nature and causes of depression, written in the early 17th century. Very thorough. Dr. Johnson used to read this regularly. It's great in small doses. Helpful if you know Latin. Burton peppers his considerations with a generous amount of classical quotes. This makes for a little disjointed reading if you, like me, don't know Latin.
It is fully--as its learned reviewers and commentators claim--one of the great documents of human civilization. I didn't expect it to be as wonderful a reading experience as it is--usually any book this dense turns out to be a slog. Like Montaigne or Browne. But I'm now convinced, this is one of the most awesome intellectual experiences you can enjoy via a book. Its a carnival ride. This is now one of my all-time favorite books; and certainly the best possible example of the 'what book is best f ...more
Bryn Hammond
Mar 17, 2016 Bryn Hammond rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
At one point (ahead of his section on symptoms) Burton cautions melancholics not to read his book, for fear of the contagion of ideas -- just such as he discusses for the melancholic imagination. I see this book called a perpetual delight for its charms of prose and its magpie learning, but it is about the ills of the human condition and, you know, quite sad. It may be a companion to melancholics; it may be close to the bone and hard to read. I have just perused his pages on suicide (within the ...more
Jun 09, 2016 Alan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 psychotrop ...more
Jan 05, 2012 D rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“This for the most part is the humour of us all, to be discontent, miserable, and most unhappy, as we think at least; and show me him that is not so, or that ever was otherwise.”

Quite, quite interesting. “The Anatomy of Melancholy” goes quite beyond the titled gloominess to spread melancholy onto a compendium of human conditions, complete with symptoms, prognostics and the various cures ever known in the western world. Witches, humours, charms, angels, purgatives (for both or either end), spells
Chuck LoPresti
Sep 30, 2013 Chuck LoPresti rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is possibly the greatest piece of scholarship I've ever read. As advertised, what you'll get is a very heavy book that exhaustively investigates melancholy with an extensive compendium of quotes. So if you share Walter Benjamin's opinion that: "Quotations in my work are like wayside robbers who leap out armed and relieve the stroller of his conviction." you might share my lack of...well....conviction. Perhaps I'm just a bit irritated by what was one of the longest books I've read. When Burt ...more
Abimelech Abimelech
Let us



en route

to city

whose dog


shop I

found you

long 'fore

I knew

this site

what else?

'If you don't like my book, go read another.'

- Burton
Robert Lebling
Feb 14, 2011 Robert Lebling rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a truly remarkable collection of facts, factoids, legends and theories assembled by an Oxford librarian in the 17th century. Its purpose is to explain and analyze the human emotion of melancholy -- as well as just about everything else in the known universe.

The book has three volumes, published in sequence between 1621 and 1640. New York Review Books has stitched the three into a single, fat paperback, which is just about perfect for most purposes.

This is the kind of book you will want t
Douglas Robillard
Mar 10, 2008 Douglas Robillard rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Here's a moldy-oldie from 1621. This book is best read in small chunks. It's a compendium of all sorts of obscure learning with many classical references. It deals in the main with melancholy and its myriad of causes. Did you realize that consuming mandrakes can bring on depression? Or that night visitors like Incubi and Succubi are also implicated? Not to mention imbalances in the Four Humours. A trip through the index is a good way to start; then look up the topics that might interest you. Be ...more
Feb 21, 2009 Sara rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Not gonna lie, it took me three attempts and six months to finish this book. I blame the fact that about one third of its million pages are written in Latin (and due to my OCD, I was compelled to translate them all). It's great for those of us who appreciate divergent theories stemming from...divergent theories. Robert Burton was a crazy, egotistical genius, even if he didn't believe a word of this masterpiece.
Apr 03, 2010 Lynda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A wonderful book. I have about 60 markers of pages or sections that I want to go back and reread, but technically I have finished it.

I am going to spend the rest of the afternoon rereading.
Jul 22, 2011 Yann rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
C'est plus drôle que le titre ne le laisse supposer. L'auteur s'est amusé à truffer son ouvrage de références savantes.
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
Jul 21, 2012 Nathan "N.R." Gaddis marked it as i-want-money
Text with commentary in 6 volumes.
Jaleh Rose
Nov 11, 2011 Jaleh Rose rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book for a Survey of British Literature Class. We only read twenty pages of it because we could spend an entire semester on it and still not get through all 1300+ pages. This is a really interesting read. Obviously, most of the "scientific" things about the body Burton discusses are inaccurate, but he was very well read for his time, and the book shows this. He doesn't really offer many solutions to things, but his discussion of melancholy is a very interesting glimpse into the histo ...more
Cook Rundle
Mar 15, 2013 Cook Rundle rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A rotundity of rants, references and quotes, similes, metaphors and anecdotes, all composed in verse and prose deliciously verbose.

Writing under the pen name of Democritus Junior, Burton begins his introduction thus:

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, to the world's view, arrogating another man's name; whence he is, why he doth it, and what he hath to say; although, as he said
Robert Reinhard
Sep 15, 2008 Robert Reinhard rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Anyone who loves language and words and a mind that thinks about everything pertaining to human beings wil love this inexaustible book
Kevin Holden
Aug 22, 2007 Kevin Holden rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It is mad & beautiful. Like a fractal.
A. J. McMahon
Dec 28, 2015 A. J. McMahon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
No book has ever taken me so long to read as this one, including all the times I all but gave up on it. I have no choice but to give it five stars as it is a masterpiece; it is also, however, totally deranged and goes nowhere for well over a thousand pages. It is supposedly a study of melancholy, which includes a long survey of the medical knowledge of the day (the seventeenth century) in which it was written; it contains references to all of human history, is often written in Latin (with transl ...more
Mar 13, 2012 Howard rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I will talk about this at greater length when I have more time. The book is interesting but a slow read unless you are up on your Latin. It provides a snapshot of the state of medical science just when mediaevil regard for authority is being replaced by the newly invented concept of science. Melancholy is treated as an overall generic sort of illness, both physical and emotional. The third volume treats of the problems of excess, devoting much space to both love and religion. A great deal of com ...more
May 28, 2013 Jon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A medical book that doubles as an all-encompassing inventory of information from practically every era of human thought that preceded it, The Anatomy of Melancholy is Robert Burton's testament to a life lived in a library. I first discovered it when I learned two of my favorite writers, Samuel Beckett and Jorge Borges, had a habit of referencing the book. Its physical girth was a tad frightening at first, but the paralysis effectively began when I realized the breadth of knowledge he was out to ...more
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Robert Burton was an English scholar, born in 1577. Entered Brasenose College, Oxford, 1593. Student of Christ Church, 1599; B.D., 1614 and Vicar of St. Thomas's, Oxford, 1616, and rector of Seagrave from 1630 until his death in 1640. Best known for writing The Anatomy of Melancholy.
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“[T]hou canst not think worse of me than I do of myself.” 106 likes
“He that increaseth wisdom, increaseth sorrow.” 40 likes
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