Anatomy of Melancholy

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By Robert Burton (1621; enlarged 1621–51). In appearance the Anatomy is a medical work, in effect an affectionate satire on the inefficacy of human learning and endeavour. Burton finds melancholy to be universally present in mankind, ‘an inbred malady in every one of us’. The book is made up of a lengthy introduction and three ‘partitions’. Burton quotes and paraphrases an extraordinary range of authors, making his book a storehouse of anecdote and maxim. Its tone suits Burton's choice of pseudonym, ‘Democritus Junior’: Democritus was ‘the laughing philosopher’. The Anatomy gave Keats the story for ‘Lamia’.

Subjects: Literature.

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Robert Burton (1577—1640) writer