Robert Burton: The Anatomy of Melancholy

(2490 words)
  • Mary Ann Lund (The University of Leicester)

The title page of Robert Burton’s The Anatomy of Melancholy (1621) gives us an ideal first taste of its scope and variety. Firstly, it tells us about the book’s content and complex structure: The Anatomy of Melancholy: What it is. With all the Kindes, Causes, Symptomes, Prognostickes, and Severall Cures of it. In three maine Partitions with their Severall Sections, Members, and Subsections. Melancholy was both a physical substance – black bile, one of the Galenic four humours found in the human body – and an affliction, caused principally by an excess of that humour. As an illness, melancholy was seen as affecting both body and mind: in an era before psychiatry, beliefs about the interrelation between the …

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Lund, Mary Ann. "The Anatomy of Melancholy". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 12 October 2011
[, accessed 26 September 2016.]