1640, the burial of a melancholy author
One of the most interesting books of the 17th century is The Anatomy of Melancholy, a massive treatise on mental illness, particularly depression. It is the work of the Oxford scholar Robert Burton (1577-1640). According to Dr Samuel Johnson, it was the only book that ever took him out of bed two hours sooner than he wished to rise.
Of his own mental condition Burton said: “a kind of imposthume in my head, which I was very desirous to be unladen of and could imagine no fitter evacuation than this … I write of melancholy, by being busy to avoid melancholy. There is no greater cause of melancholy than idleness, no better cure than business”. In his view, melancholy was “a disease so frequent … in our miserable times, as few there are that feele not the smart of it”, and he said he compiled his book “to prescribe means how to prevent and cure so universall a malady, an Epidemicall disease, that so often, so much crucifies the body and mind.”
Here are some of his observations:
“He that increaseth wisdom, increaseth sorrow.”
“What cannot be cured must be endured.”
“Wine is strong, the king is strong, women are strong, but truth overcometh all things.”