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Burton's Anatomy and the Intellectual Traditions of Melancholy

Angus Gowland
p. 221-257

Résumé

This article discusses the ways in which Robert Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy (1621) inherited and transformed the various European traditions of thinking about melancholy. It divides these traditions into four categories—medical, natural-philosophical, moral-philosophical, and theological—and surveys their conceptual contents from antiquity to the late Renaissance. Whilst the Anatomy summarises these traditions, it also modified them in notable ways, fusing medical and moral theory, but also extending the reach of medicine into the religious domain. Paradoxically, however, Burton’s medicalisation of the moral and theological traditions of melancholy gave them a conceptual coherence which they had previously lacked, and contributed to their persistence beyond the seventeenth century.

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  • 1 Stanley Fish, Self-Consuming Artifacts: The Experience of Seventeenth-Century Literature (Berkeley: (...)
  • 2 For more discussion of the relationship between literary and intellectual-historical interpretation (...)

1It is hardly an overstatement to say that everyone who has seriously studied the history of melancholy in early modern Europe has read and extracted material from Robert Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy, first published in 1621. It is now almost universally acknowledged that the Anatomy gives us an extraordinarily detailed, and generally accurate, summary of the dominant ideas and ways of thinking about melancholy in the late Renaissance, as well as a great deal of relevant material from the Latin and Arabic Middle Ages, and Greek and Roman antiquity. At the same time, however, the centrality of Burton’s book poses problems for anyone attempting to write the intellectual and cultural history of the idea of melancholy. In the first place, as is often acknowledged, the Anatomy is itself far from being a straightforward encyclopedia. It is a profoundly ‘literary’ work, and especially since the provocative reading of Stanley Fish in his Self-Consuming Artifacts of 19721, those studying Burton have become increasingly aware, and perhaps even paranoid, about a work that is sometimes not always what it seems on first reading, being shot through with an array of deviously ironic and openly satirical devices. In English literary studies at least, the question of exactly what Burton was up to when he wrote the book is still relatively open2.

2But there is also another problem posed by the Anatomy for the historian of melancholy that is not generally recognised. The accuracy of Burton’s summary of Renaissance thinking about melancholy has been more asserted than properly proved in modern scholarship, and often it is simply assumed. But whilst it may be a generally accurate summary, there are many reasons to wonder whether it is wise to treat the Anatomy as a more or less transparent window on to an intellectual world that was in reality extraordinarily complex and febrile. Burton’s standpoint was not neutral and was far from being objective: the Anatomy presented the view of Europe and European knowledge from an Oxford College in the early decades of the seventeenth century, and furthered a number of distinctive intellectual, religious and political agendas. Burton communicated but also applied, and thereby transformed, his materials. However, sustained discussion of that transformation has been lacking. We know a large amount about Burton’s particular sources, and also some things about his influence; but surprisingly little about the passage from one to the other. What would our understanding of early-modern melancholy look like if Burton had never written his book? What I want to do in this article is to work towards an answer to this question, by means of some general suggestions about the various ways of thinking about melancholy that existed before Burton, and about the ways in which Burton absorbed and altered them.

  • 3 I am using the term ‘tradition’ here without any strong epistemological connotation, simply to desi (...)

3In what follows, I shall divide the intellectual ‘traditions’3 of melancholy found in the European Renaissance into three strands— medical, philosophical (natural and moral), and theological—before addressing the relationship of the Anatomy to each of these strands. This is of course a conventional way of compartmentalising knowledge that broadly follows disciplinary divisions that were recognised and upheld, with some local variations, in medieval and Renaissance universities. There were important and interesting relationships and intersections between these disciplines and their subdivisions, and I shall try to remain sensitive to those, but at the same time there were tensions and perhaps also some fundamental incompatibilities. What I shall be suggesting is that in The Anatomy of Melancholy we can detect each of these traditions being absorbed and synthesised, but that this involved, on Burton’s part, some substantial modifications—even some acts of theoretical violence—of which he was almost certainly aware. These modifications, I suggest, helped to shape some of the ways of thinking about melancholy in the later seventeenth century and beyond.

The Medical Tradition

  • 4 See, for instance, Isidore of Seville, Etymologia IV.vii.9 (trans. and ed. S. A. Barney, W. J. Lewi (...)

4To start, then, with the medical tradition of melancholy. This is obviously not the place for an exhaustive analysis of an extremely large and complex territory. Instead, I shall offer a basic outline of what I take to be the principal features of the understanding of this condition, as it developed, in a largely cumulative fashion, from antiquity to the seventeenth century. First, however, it should be pointed out that medical—as opposed to natural-philosophical or theological—doctrines of melancholy were absolutely fundamental for Burton and his contemporaries. In fact, although other disciplines or ways of thinking and writing were undoubtedly significant across the centuries, melancholy had been ultimately a medical concept since Greek antiquity, and remained so at least until the middle of the seventeenth century. This was in part a matter of etymology. It was not just that the Greek term μελαγχολία referred to the black bile (μέλαινα χολή) that was traditionally deemed to be the material cause of the disease, but that for centuries physicians and philosophers had repeatedly referred to that etymology in their discussions of melancholy4. In practice, the Latin term melancholia and its vernacular equivalents almost always carried medical associations—a point that, as we shall see below, is important for understanding the relationship between medical and moral understandings of melancholy.

  • 5 On Rufus and his influence on subsequent theories of melancholy, see Rufus of Ephesus, On Melanchol (...)
  • 6 ‘Ἤν φόβος ἢ δυσθυμίη πολὺν χρόνον διατελῇ, μελαγχολικὸν τὸ τοιοῦτον.’ (Hippocrates, IV, trans. W. H (...)

5As is well known, the medical theory of melancholy has its roots in ancient Greek works, principally from the Hippocratic and Galenic corpus, and the writings of the late first-century physician Rufus of Ephesus5. In Greek medicine, melancholy was conventionally identified as a kind of madness, caused principally by the humour black bile, yielding a variety of chronic psychological and physical symptoms (such as fear, sadness, irritability, restlessness, delusions and hallucinations), and treated by a range of measures designed to counteract the effects of the melancholic humour. An important reference-point, which would be at the core of the medieval and Renaissance medical orthodoxy, was the Hippocratic Aphorisms: ‘Fear or despondency persevering for a long time means melancholy’ (VI.23)6. However, it was the more fully articulated theories of the disease presented by Rufus and then Galen which established the fundamental elements and structure of later accounts.

  • 7 See the outline in Pormann, ‘Introduction’, in Rufus, op. cit., pp. 5-6.
  • 8 See also Rufus, op. cit., F 33, pp. 46-7: ‘People of excellent nature are predisposed to melancholy (...)

6According to Rufus, whose theory survived only in fragments quoted in later sources, the disease of melancholy is above all a humoral disease, with black bile at its core. The qualities of black bile explain the symptoms, and the humour comes in two kinds: natural black bile, which is usually harmless but can be excessively cooled or heated, or stirred up; and the kind of black bile that is created when other humours, especially yellow bile, are burned and then cooled, which yields peculiarly aggressive symptoms (Rufus, On Melancholy, F 11, pp. 34-5). Rufus explains further that there are three types of melancholic disease, and subsequent commentators explain that these correspond to melancholy of the head, the hypochondrium, and the whole body7. Focusing on hypochondriacal melancholy, Rufus subdivides the condition into an acquired disease with dietary causes, and an innate one in which the causes are principally humoral. However, an important and influential element of this account of acquired hypochondriacal melancholy concerned its potentially psychological aetiology. As Rhazes reports, Rufus claims that ‘violent thoughts and worries may make one succumb to melancholy’ (On Melancholy, F 35, pp. 46-7), thereby establishing the principle that the condition could have mental as well as somatic causes, and developing the longstanding Aristotelian association (which I discuss below under the heading of natural philosophy) between melancholy and intellectual or creative excellence8. Symptoms of this condition include fear sadness, anxiety and other kinds of emotional disturbance; love of solitude; a predilection and propensity for predicting future events; lustfulness; and flatulence and a variety of digestive malfunctions (FF 7, 11-21, 35, pp. 30-1, 32-43, 46-7). Therapies—and this holds for all orthodox theories of melancholy from antiquity until the seventeenth century—are based upon the Hippocratic axiom that contraria contrariis curantur: the cure of melancholy involves counteracting its causes, specifically by applying regimental (especially humectant) remedies opposed to the coldness and dryness of black bile, or more drastically by a variety of directly evacuative or purgative measures (FF 37-65, pp. 48-63).

  • 9 In Opera omnia, ed. by C. G. Kühn, 20 vols in 22 (Leipzig: Cnobloch, 1821–33), vol. 7, pp. 200-4, v (...)

7For the learned physicians of the Middle Ages and Renaissance the most authoritative systematic account of melancholy, which had the Hippocratic Aphorisms VI.23 at its heart but also drew heavily upon the teachings of Rufus and the fourth-century physician Diocles of Carystus, was given by Galen in the third book of the De locis affectis. According to Galen, melancholy exists in three kinds, according to the bodily site of the accumulation of the cold, dry, dark and toxic melancholic humour: the head, the whole body, or the hypochondrium. In each kind, the part primarily affected is the brain, where the psychic pneuma (or ‘spirit’) performs the operations of the rational soul, such as thought, memory, knowledge, imagination, understanding, and sensation. The irrational fear and despondency of melancholics, in this account, are byproducts of the darkness of black bile and its vaporous emanations ascending through the body to the brain. Atrabilious vapours in the brain, Galen explains, are also responsible for the strange delusions and hallucinations that are identified in Rufus’s description of melancholic symptoms (Galen, De symptomatum causis, II.7.1-2 ; De locis affectis, III.9-10)9.

  • 10 See Klibansky, Panofsky and Saxl, op. cit., pp. 82-102; Manfred Ullmann, Islamic Medicine (Edinburg (...)
  • 11 On Constantine’s influence see Danielle Jacquart and Françoise Micheau, La médecine arabe et l’Occi (...)
  • 12 Nancy G. Siraisi, Avicenna in Renaissance Italy: The ‘Canon’ and Medical Teaching in Italian Univer (...)

8The principal means by which ancient medical theories of melancholy were transmitted to the Latin West was via the writings of medieval Arabic physicians and philosophers. In particular, Ishâq ibn Amrân (d. c. 903-9), Rhazes (865-925), Haly Abbas (982-994), and Avicenna (c. 980-1037) all drew upon the resources of Greek medicine and philosophy to offer theories of the disease that expanded the traditional accounts, sometimes within elaborately systematised physiological and psychological schemes10. One of the most influential of these figures was Ishâq, as large parts of his treatise on melancholy—which draws heavily upon the works of Rufus, Galen and Diocles—was rendered into Latin in the eleventh century by Constantine the African, a Tunisian professor of medicine at Salerno (and later monk of Monte Cassino) whose translations of Arabic medical works exerted considerable influence upon the development of European medical learning11. Equally, if not more significant, however, was Avicenna, whose encyclopedic work known in the Latin West as the Liber canonis was integral to European medical learning in the later Middle Ages and Renaissance12.

  • 13 Printed in Constantinus Africanus, Opera, 2 vols (Basel, 1536), vol. 1, pp. 280-98.
  • 14 ‘Sicut Galenus Platonem dixisse testatur: Quicquid, inquit, mente nostra recondimus, de autoritate (...)
  • 15 ‘Quod autem dicendum est de eis qui amata sua perdiderunt, sicut qui filios & charissimos amicos pe (...)
  • 16 Jackson, op. cit., pp. 249-54.
  • 17 This passage refers to the Hippocratic Epidemics VI.8.31.
  • 18 Avicenna, Liber canonis, medicinis cordialibus et cantica (Venice, 1555), III.1.4.19, fols 204v-205(...)
  • 19 For general surveys, see John Livingston Lowes, ‘The Loveres Maladye of Hereos’, Modern Philology, (...)
  • 20 Avicenna, op. cit., III.1.4.23-4, fol. 206v: ‘Haec aegritudo est solicitudo melancholica simlis mel (...)

9Two aspects of the Arabic theory of melancholy are notable here. The first, which is especially evident in the work of Ishâq, is a concern with the ways in which the body is affected by the movements of the soul. The disease of melancholy, according to Ishâq, can be caused by excessive thought, intellectual curiosity, and the variety of mental labours involved in philosophical studies (Constantinus Africanus, De melancholia, pp. 283-4)13. Referring to the Platonic theory of anamnesis (according to which all learning is remembrance, Phaedo 72E), he explains that the soul has innate knowledge, but that when it becomes aware of its own intellectual weakness in the course of recollection, sadness and melancholy ensues; or more simply, since according to the Hippocratic maxim (Epidemics VI.5) ‘thought is an exercise of the soul for man’, melancholy can be the product of psychic fatigue and overexertion (De melancholia, pp. 283-4)14. A second important theoretical development in Arabic accounts of melancholy is evident in Ishâq’s claim that the disease can be caused by the loss of a loved person or object (p. 284)15. Whilst Ishâq and other Arabic physicians still divided melancholy formally into three kinds, the condition would become more intimately related to other species of psychopathology and begin to expand as a nosological category. Since Greek antiquity melancholy had been closely associated with mania16, and Ishâq also discusses the Hippocratic doctrine that melancholy may also turn into epilepsy (pp. 289-90)17. Avicenna excludes the condition proceeding from the burning of humours (which is later known as ‘adust melancholy’) from the category of melancholic disease, but still places strong emphasis on the diversity of symptoms, which can derive from the mixing of black bile with the other three humours. Hence, when the melancholic humour combines with blood, it also yields symptoms of laughter and happiness18. But perhaps the most significant contribution of Arabic physicians was found in the increasingly strong connections made between melancholy and disorders involving the passion of love19. Fusing ancient descriptions of melancholic lustfulness with conceptuallisations of love as a kind of sickness, Rhazes, Haly Abbas and Avicenna all elaborate substantial theories of erotic melancholy, which is often referred to by medieval Latin commentators as amor hereos, and sometimes related to or identified with lycanthropy20. Ishâq also notes that

  • 21 ‘Videmus enim multos religiosos & in bona vita reverendos, hanc passionem incidentes, ex dei timore (...)

We find many ascetics [‘religiosos’ in the translation of Constantine] and pious men succumb to melancholic delusions, because they greatly fear God and are afraid of his retribution; or because they passionately desire Him… They succumb to worry and frantic desire similar to that of someone in love, so that the activities of the soul and the functions of the body are completely corrupted (Constantinus Africanus, De melancholia, p. 283).21

10Hence melancholic love and fear can assume a peculiarly ‘religious’ aspect, when the object of those passions is God.

  • 22 See, for instance, the noticeably brief treatment in Jackson, op. cit., pp. 63-4, summarising the c (...)
  • 23 On the influence of the Viaticum, see Mary Wack, Lovesickness in the Middle Ages: The Viaticum and (...)
  • 24 According to McVaugh, this work was in most respects ‘merely a résumé of current medical knowledge’ (...)

11When measured against the expansive corpus of scholarship on theories of melancholy in both ancient Greece and the Renaissance, only rather piecemeal attention has been given to the writings of medieval European physicians on this topic, and we must await further studies before we can give a truly adequate picture of this territory. Typically, we are told, the theory of melancholy in the medicine of the Latinate Middle Ages simply summarised the teachings of Rufus and Galen via Arabic intermediaries, and established them as orthodoxy22. More recently, however, critical discussions have illustrated the medieval reception and adaption of Arabic teachings about erotic melancholy in particular, especially those found in Avicenna’s Liber canonis and Constantine’s encyclopedic treatise known as the Viaticum23. This era saw a very substantial growth in writings about erotic melancholy (lovesickness, ‘heroical’ love), in the numerous philosophical commentaries and glosses on the Viaticum but also in strictly medical works, exemplified paradigmatically perhaps by the Tractatus de amore heroico by the renowned Catalan physician Arnau de Vilanova (c. 1235-1311)24.

  • 25 Arnau de Vilanova, Practica medicinae I.26, in Praxis medicinalis. Universorum morborum humani corp (...)
  • 26 Bernard, op. cit., II.19, pp. 208-11: ‘Causa igitur immediata est humor melancholicus corruptus … C (...)

12At the same time, theories of melancholy began to reflect the tendency within medieval learned medicine and natural philosophy towards increasing systematic rigour, detailed explanation, and methodological sophistication. For instance, the thirteenth-century writers Arnau, Bernard de Gordon, and Bartholomaeus Anglicus all include concepts of Aristotelian faculty psychology in their accounts of melancholic physiology, conducting discussions—which persist into the seventeenth century—of which of the brain’s main psychic powers (imagination, reason, memory) are damaged in melancholy and mania25. Bernard’s account is also notable for its carefully assembled account of the causes of the different types of melancholic symptoms, drawing heavily on Avicenna as well as Galen, including those signs yielded when the black bile has been corrupted and burned, and for its organisational method into causes, symptoms, prognostics and cures26.

13If we now turn to melancholy in the medical works of the Renaissance (which I am here taking to span the period broadly from the fifteenth to the mid-seventeenth centuries), there are undoubtedly very substantial areas of continuity with their medieval and ancient counterparts. The account of the disease continued to be essentially rooted in the doctrines of the Hippocratics, Rufus, and Galen, and typically included the theoretical elaborations and refinements of medieval physicians that we have noted above. What fundamentally distinguishes Renaissance medical theories of melancholy from their predecessors, however, is their expansion via the incorporation and discussion of a variety of occult and spiritual doctrines. Whilst some of these, such as those emanating from Paracelsian circles in the second half of the sixteenth century, were typically ignored or rejected by orthodox physicians writing about melancholy, others presented problematic choices about whether or how such teachings should be incorporated within their predominantly materialistic physiological schemes.

  • 27 See, for example, Bartholomaeus Anglicus, op. cit., VIII.23, where as a cold and dry planet, Saturn (...)
  • 28 The absence of Arabic astrology is particularly noticeable, for example, in the theories of melanch (...)
  • 29 Klibansky, Panofsky and Saxl, op. cit., pp. 127-33. For a case-study of learned medical astrology i (...)
  • 30 For instance, see Francesco Maria Guazzo, Compendium maleficarum, ed. Montague Summers (London: Joh (...)
  • 31 Avicenna, op. cit., III.1.4.18, fol. 204v: ‘Et quibusdam medicorum visum est quod melancholia conti (...)
  • 32 See, for instance, Johann Weyer, De Praestigiis Daemonum, et Incantationibus ac Venificiis Libri V (...)
  • 33 On the apparent prevalence of melancholy in this period, see Jean Delumeau, ‘L’âge d’or de la mélan (...)

14The most well-known of these doctrines, which I shall address in the next section, came from the Neoplatonist conception of genius. However, many of the stricter Galenists who rejected that theory were nevertheless significantly influenced by the growing status of the occult sciences of astrology and demonology. Where previously physicians—in contrast to some natural philosophers27—wrote in ignorance of, or passed over, ancient and medieval ideas about the stars and their effects on the human body28, as medical astrology developed from the fourteenth century onwards, it became common amongst learned physicians as well as popular medical practitioners to recognise astral causes of melancholy, particularly the cold and dry planet of Saturn29. Furthermore, it became routine in the sixteenth century to discuss the role of malign demons in causing the disease, sometimes on the grounds that the darkness and toxicity of black bile attracted diabolical forces into the body, where they then stirred up the melancholic humour and manipulated the imagination with visions and hallucinations30. This was not in itself a new topic—Avicenna notes, in a passage well known amongst Renaissance physicians, that if demons can cause the disease as some doctors allege, it is by inducing a melancholic complexion31—but it greatly increased in social and religious significance in an environment where doctors were routinely drawn into heated debates about demonic possession and witchcraft32. This increased significance is at least partially responsible for the very noticeable peak of interest in melancholy amongst learned physicians, who produced a large number of treatises devoted solely to the disease in the period from the last quarter of the sixteenth to the middle of the seventeenth centuries and beyond33.

Natural Philosophy

  • 34 Charles B. Schmitt, ‘Aristotle among the physicians’, in A. Wear, R. K. French, and I. M. Lonie (ed (...)
  • 35 Aristotle, Problems II: Books XII-XXXVIII, trans. W. S. Hett (London and Cambridge, Mass.: William (...)

15I turn now to the philosophical traditions of inquiry about melancholy. The first is located within the discipline of natural philosophy, which provided knowledge of the physiological principles that undergirded orthodox medical doctrine (hence Simone Simoni’s maxim: ubi desinit physicus, ibi incipit medicus)34, and which provided an increasingly voluminous number of treatises on human nature as the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries progressed. In Renaissance natural philosophy, as we shall see, the most significant ancient doctrine concerning melancholy was undoubtedly found in the pseudo-Aristotelian Problemata: ‘Why is it’, the author asked at the beginning of this discussion, ‘that all men who have become outstanding in philosophy, politics, poetry or the arts are melancholic, and some to such an extent that they are afflicted by the diseases arising from black bile?’ (XXX.1)35.

  • 36 See Peter Toohey, ‘Rufus of Ephesus and the Tradition of the Melancholy Thinker’, in Rufus, op. cit (...)
  • 37 Klibansky, Panofsky and Saxl, op. cit., pp. 254-399; Brann, op. cit., passim.
  • 38 In Antonio Guainerio, Practica (Venice, 1516), concluding that ‘[e]x illa sequitur quod sensibus li (...)

16As we have seen, physicians from Rufus onwards subsequently developed the association between melancholy and thinking36, but the medical works on melancholy of the Arabic and Latin Middle Ages did little more than repeat this association. However, with the dramatic and influential burgeoning of Neoplatonist philosophy in fifteenth-century Italy—as Klibansky, Panofsky and Saxl established definitively in their classic monograph of 1964—the Aristotelian connection between melancholy and intellectual or creative genius underwent truly substantial development, and inaugurated a period in which natural-philosophical speculation about the concept of genial melancholy regularly infiltrated learned medical works37. One of the earliest examples of this development can be found in the works of Antonio Guainerio (d. 1445), professor of medicine at Pavia. In his Tractatus de egritudinis capitis, Guainerio took his cue from Arabic discussions of the predictive capacities of melancholics, rejected the Aristotelian humoral explanation, and offered one based upon the Platonic psychology and the theory of anamnesis: since in melancholy the bodily senses are ‘bound’, they cannot impede the soul’s ecstatic search for its original, innate knowledge (Guainerio, Practia, XV.4, fols 23v-24r)38.

  • 39 Marsilio Ficino, Platonic Theology, trans. M. J. B. Allen and ed. James Hankins, 6 vols (Cambridge, (...)
  • 40 See Klibansky, Panofsky, and Saxl, op. cit., and the corrective analysis in Winfried Schleiner, Mel (...)

17However, it was the work of the Neoplatonist philosopher and astrological physician Marsilio Ficino that established the concept of inspired melancholic genius as a commonplace of Renaissance philosophy and art. According to Ficino in the Theologia Platonica (1482) and later in the De vita libri tres (1489), astral influences could combine with moderately heated black bile to induce a condition of ‘genial’ melancholy, involving solitary episodes of Platonic ‘divine frenzy’ in which the melancholic became alienated from himself as a human being, inspired by divine forces, and thereby capable (as the Problemata XXX.1 had claimed) of extraordinary accomplishments in philosophy, prophecy, poetry, and other areas of human endeavour39. Ficino’s theory of supernaturally inspired melancholy held particular appeal for artists; it was famously portrayed by Albrecht Dürer in the engraving Melencolia I (1514), and found its way into a host of Italian Renaissance paintings40.

  • 41 See, for example, Timothy Bright, A Treatise of Melancholie (London, 1586), XXII, pp. 126-7; Thomas (...)
  • 42 Charles B. Schmitt, Aristotle and the Renaissance (Cambridge, Mass. and London: Harvard University (...)
  • 43 See E. P. Mahoney, ‘Neoplatonism, the Greek Commentators and Renaissance Aristotelianism’, in Neopl (...)
  • 44 As in Aristotle, Parva quae vocant Naturalia, trans. and comment. Niccolò Leonico Tomeo (Paris, 153 (...)
  • 45 This is charted in detail in Brann, op. cit., pp. 153ff.
  • 46 Agostino Nifo, De artificiosa somniorum interpraetatione, quae divinatio dicitur artificiosa, XIII, (...)

18Although Ficino’s arcane astrological explanation for genial melancholy did not survive the sustained attacks suffered by his Neoplatonist cosmology throughout the course of the sixteenth century, the notion of melancholic inspiration retained strong appeal in European philosophical circles throughout the early modern era41. Whilst much of the natural philosophy practised in the universities remained fundamentally Aristotelian until well into the seventeenth century42, Neoplatonist elements persisted on account of their utility to the enterprise of harmonising Aristotelianism with Christian theology43, and it is easy to find discussions of the occult powers of melancholics within Aristotelian circles that draw upon Neoplatonic and demonological concepts44. The waning of Ficino’s influence in the later Renaissance, then, did not necessarily entail the discrediting of the doctrine of melancholic genius45, which was frequently given a modified explanation—as it was, for example, by Agostino Nifo, whose account remained within the broad church of orthodox Aristotelian natural philosophy46.

  • 47 Pietro Pomponazzi, Opera. De naturalium effectuum admirandorum causis, Seu de Incantationibus Liber (...)
  • 48 Reginald Scot, The Discoverie of Witchcraft (London, 1584).

19At the same time, however, the Aristotelian corpus could be used to provide a naturalistic critique of the notion of divine melancholic ‘fury’ or inspired ‘enthusiasm’. For the Pietro Pomponazzi, professor of natural philosophy at Padua, the true position of Aristotle was one of materialistic naturalism: the apparently supernatural aspects of melancholy were in fact caused by black bile and the natural influence of the stars: ‘once those who are claimed to have a demon are purged of their melancholy’, he wrote in the De incantationibus (1520), ‘they no longer accomplish such marvellous things’ (X, p. 141)47. Admittedly, Pomponazzi was hardly representative of the philosophical mainstream, espousing an idiosyncratic conception of nature in which astrology had a prominent role, arguing for an Averroist separation of philosophy from theology. But his critique of supernaturalism resonated throughout learned circles in the later sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, especially in witchcraft controversies, where they dovetailed with medical arguments that discredited religious conceptions of disease by showing their natural causes. In The Discovery of Witchcraft (1584), for instance, the English writer Reginald Scot applied the arguments of the De incantationibus to reject the idea of demonic agency, and argued that many supposed witches were in fact just melancholic old women (VII.10, p. 80; XIII.9, p. 171; XIII.19, p. 179 citing Pomponazzi, and III.9-11, pp. 29-32 on melancholy)48.

20Within natural philosophy, then, there were two opposed ways of thinking about the melancholic humour: either (in the Aristotelian-Neoplatonist model) as a mediator of supernatural forces, or (in the Aristotelian naturalist model) as a natural cause of ostensibly supernatural effects. The concept of melancholy could be used in support of an occult anthropology and cosmology, or to buttress a radical naturalistic critique.

Moral Philosophy

  • 49 Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, trans. H. Rackham (London: Heinemann, 1926), VII.vii.8, pp. 416-7, V (...)
  • 50 Cicero, Tusculan Disputations, trans. J. E. King (London: Heinemann, 1927), III.iv.11, pp. 236-9.
  • 51 As in Seneca, De tranquillitate animi, in Moral Essays, trans. J. W. Basore, 3 vols (London, 1928-3 (...)
  • 52 There are some exceptions, however: see Angus Gowland, ‘The Ethics of Renaissance Melancholy’, Inte (...)

21The second philosophical tradition concerned with melancholy addressed its moral aspects. Some discussions of the relationship between melancholy and virtue can be found in ancient moral philosophy, most notably in Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, where melancholics inhabit the category of the impulsively vicious, and are said to be unable to deliberate rationally because they are dominated by their imaginations49. However, the condition does not have a significant role in other ancient ethical traditions. In fact, it had been specifically excluded from the domain of moral reflection by Cicero, who had insisted that the Greek term the Greek μελαγχολíα was inferior to the Latin furor, because it suggested that the mind could only be affected by body rather than the passions of the soul50. Stoic writers from Seneca onwards almost always preferred to concentrate on the sickness of the soul51. In the Middle Ages, generalised schemes relating the humoral temperaments to moral and spiritual vices developed in which melancholy was sometimes associated with sinful tristitia and slothfulness, but in Renaissance moral philosophy explicit discussions of melancholy were relatively rare. Aristotelian commentators dutifully related the passages on melancholics in the Ethics to the melancholic temperament, but did not develop any sustained arguments on ths topic. Humanist moralists, many of whom took their cue from Roman Stoicism, typically addressed the condition of sorrow as a form of aegritudo animi, preferring to leave melancholia, as a disease with bodily origins, to the physicians52.

  • 53 Francis Bacon, The Works, eds. James Spedding, Robert Leslie Ellis, and Douglas Denon Heath, 15 vol (...)

22However, a longstanding conception of moral philosophy as a practical therapeutic enterprise did provide a framework in which melancholy could be treated as a moral condition in the later Renaissance. This was what Francis Bacon referred to in The Advancement of Learning (1605) as the philosophical cultura animi, the ‘husbandry’ of the soul. As Bacon observed, ‘the culture and cure of the mind of man’ depended upon sound knowledge of the ‘several characters and tempers of men’s natures and dispositions’, as in the ‘pretty and apt’ but unreliable divisions of men’s natures’ given by astrologers, the observations to be gleaned form ‘history, poesy, and daily experience’, and the ‘impressions of nature’ that come from external goods, but also those that are ‘inherent’, deriving from sex, age, climate, beauty and deformity, and health and sickness. Moral philosophy, Bacon argued, should follow the example of medicine and incorporate a knowledge that was parallel to ‘the knowledge of the diversity of complexions and constitutions’ of the physician. And ‘after knowledge of the divers characters of men’s natures’, a central component required by this ‘medicining of the mind’ would be inquiry into ‘the perturbations and distempers of the affections’, which are treatable by various practical therapeutic measures that ‘have force and operation upon the mind to affect the will and appetite and to alter manners’, namely ‘custom, exercise, habit, education, example, imitation, emulation, company, friends, praise, reproof, exhortation, fame, laws, books, studies’ (Bacon, Works, vol. 6, pp. 329-38)53.

  • 54 This work, which has survived only in three MS copies, has now been printed in Neven Jovanovic (ed. (...)
  • 55 ‘Illud enim animo nostro res tristes illatae faciunt, quod corpori exhibitum virus; ex quo liquet, (...)
  • 56 Stefano Guazzo, La civil conversatione, ed. Amadeo Quondam, 2 vols (Modena: Panini, 1993), vol. 1, (...)
  • 57 Michel de Montaigne, Les Essais, eds. Jean Balsamo, Michel Magnien, and Catherine Magnien-Simonin ( (...)
  • 58 ‘C’est une humeur melancolique, et une humeur par consequent tres ennemie de ma complexion naturell (...)

23It is within this traditional conception of moral philosophy as cultura animi that we can find some humanistic discussions of the ethical aspects and treatments for melancholy. One example is the De consolatione liber composed in 1465-6 by the Dalmatian bishop Nicolaus of Modruš54, which discusses the effects of the melancholic humour in certain cases of aegritudo, when the passion of sorrow affects the health of the body by stimulating the production of black bile, and so is able to prescribe a series of moral-consolatory therapies (De consolatione, I.2.8-12)55. Another is Stefano Guazzo’s influential La civile conversatione (1574), where ‘malinconia’ is identified as principally a disease of the mind rather than the body, being rooted in a false conception of the benefits of solitude, and treatable by a corrective belief in the moral and physical benefits of sociability56. We can also position Montaigne within this tradition: a writer who differentiated the ethically appropriate social roles of individuals on the basis of their physiological temperaments and described himself as a sanguine melancholic57, and who suffered the effects of black bile following his retreat into solitude, and whose strategy was not to seek conventional moral consolation (or indeed medical assistance), but to indulge in an idiosyncratic literary-philosophical self-consolation through writing (Essais, II.8, p. 404)58.

The Theological Tradition

  • 59 For the spiritual aspects of melancholy in early modern England see Jeremy Schmidt, Melancholy and (...)
  • 60 In the Vulgate Latin: ‘quae enim secundum Deum tristitia est paenitentiam in salutem stabilem opera (...)
  • 61 See Siegfried Wenzel, The Sin of Sloth: Acedia in Medieval Thought and Literature (Chapel Hill: Uni (...)
  • 62 See, for example, Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae I-II, qu. 23, art. 2, 4, opposing gaudium to tri (...)

24Finally, then, we come to the theological and spiritual ways of thinking about melancholy59. The Greek medical-physiological concept of melancholia is itself not found in scripture, though of course the Bible contains a large body of matieral concerned with sorrow in its different forms. Most important for later discussions of melancholy were the Pauline concepts of tristitia saeculi and tristitia secundum Deum, worldly sorrow leading to death, and godly penitential sorrow leading to salvation (2 Cor. 7:10)60. This bifurcated concept of sorrow was incorporated within patristic writings, and subsequently also in medieval scholastic typologies of vices and passions, where it was frequently associated with the condition of acedia, or the deadly sin of sloth61, and where tristitia saeculi would come to resemble the condition of ‘despair’ in the English vernacular62.

  • 63 ‘Habuisti per sanguinem dulcedinem charitatis. Habes nunc per choleram nigram, seu melancholia, tri (...)
  • 64 Caution against identifying acedia with melancholy is sounded in Noel Brann, ‘Is Acedia Melancholy? (...)

25As in moral philosophy, however, tristitia was only rather rarely associated by medieval theologians and spiritual writers with the disease of melancholy, and it was related to the humour black bile only in tentative or perfunctory fashion. As with all diseases and physical imperfections, melancholy was typically traced to the corruption of human nature after the Fall, and the melancholic complexion was sometimes given a moral-theological interpretation in medieval characterology—it was said to be a cause of ‘grief for sin’ (tristitia pro peccatis) by Hugues de Fouilloi [1096-1172] in his twelfth-century work De medicina animae (VI)63. But generally speaking, the relationship between the medical physiology of the melancholy and the spirituality of despair remained inchoate. Medieval and Renaissance theologians were aware of the influence of the body upon the workings of the soul, and would sometimes ruminate about the spiritual aspects of the humoral complexions, but unsurprisingly they continued to regard the soul rather than the body as their main province, and were usually content to leave the treatment of the disease of melancholy to the physicians64.

  • 65 As Bacon wrote, ‘if it be said that the cure of men’s minds belongeth to sacred Divinity, it is mos (...)
  • 66 See John T. McNeill, A History of the Cure of Souls (New York: Harper and Row, 1951). On German ‘sp (...)
  • 67 See H. C. Erik Midelfort, ‘Religious Melancholy and Suicide: On the Reformation Origins of a Sociol (...)
  • 68 The Diary of Ralph Thoresby, F.R.S, ed. Joseph Hunter, 2 vols (London, 1830), 9 Jan. 1681, vol. 1, (...)
  • 69 See also the discussion of the simultaneous occurrence of melancholy and affliction of conscience i (...)
  • 70 For this reason Bright went on to offer a separate ‘consolation unto the afflicted conscience’, a l (...)
  • 71 Robert Bolton, Instructions for a right comforting afflicted consciences with speciall antidotes ag (...)
  • 72 Richard Baxter, The right method for a settled peace of conscience, and spiritual comfort in 32 dir (...)

26There had, nevertheless, long been significant interactions between moral and theological discussions of the passions65. The early Christian tradition of cura animi was in large part a continuation and adaptation of the classical philosophical cultura animi, and the image of Christ as a spiritual physician was ubiquitous in early modern religious and moral writings66. But once again, the relationship between spiritual and medical discourse was not straightforward, and especially after the Reformation the spiritual status of melancholy became an increasingly fraught issue in Protestant religious politics. In Germany, Lutherans accused Calvinists of inculcating a pathological, despairing spirituality fixated upon predestination67, a charge that would be supported by a long-lasting polemical association of religious despair induced by puritanical preachers with melancholy: ‘spiritus Calvinisticus est spiritus melancholicus’, as one English observer put it in the later seventeenth century68. In England, Calvinist spiritual writers offering comfort to those in despair were generally careful to encroaching upon the territory of the physician, and many made it clear that their concerns were fundamentally spiritual rather than somatic. In his Treatise of Melancholie (1586), the divine and physician Timothie Bright explained that ‘the affliction of soule through conscience of sinne is quite another thing th[a]n melancholy’. The symptoms of the former, according to Bright, were fear and sadness with ‘no ground of true and iust object’, originating in a bodily ‘disorder of humour’ that affects the ‘fancy’ in the soul. The latter, however, was ‘sorrow and feare upon cause purely rooted in the ‘mindes [true] apprehension’ of sin and divine wrath, and occurring in people whose bodily and psychic health was intact (Bright, A Treatise of Melanchoolie, XXXXIII, pp. 187-93)69. Melancholics could be susceptible to spiritual affliction because of their anxious and contemplative psychological tendencies (XXXV, pp. 198-207), but the key in such cases was that whereas melancholy was a natural condition treatable by medicine, the affliction of conscience was to be addressed with spiritual discourse (‘the comfort is not procured by any corporal instruments’ [XXXIV, p. 197]) and ultimately alleviated only by divine grace (XXXIII, pp. 189-90, 197)70. Other English Calvinists agreed that despite appearances the afflicted conscience was not to be confused with melancholy, from William Perkins in his Whole Treatise of the Cases of Conscience (1606) and Robert Bolton in his Instructions for a right comforting afflicted consciences (1631)71, to Richard Baxter in The right method for a settled peace of conscience, and spiritual comfort in 32 directions (1653)72. For these spiritual physicians, melancholy remained primarily in the domain of medicine.

Burton and the Medicalisation of Traditions

27Where, then, does The Anatomy of Melancholy stand in relation to the intellectual traditions of melancholy outlined here?

  • 73 There is, however, an important historical dimension to Burton’s conception of the evolution of med (...)
  • 74 For the various occult aspects of melancholy see Burton, op. cit., 1.2.1.2, vol. 1, pp. 174-95; 1.2 (...)

28With regards to medicine, the first and most obvious answer to give is that the Anatomy contains a summary of the medical doctrines about melancholy as they had accumulated from time of the Hippocratic corpus through to the early seventeenth century—though of course for the most part it is not presented as a historical survey of knowledge, but rather a theoretical treatise with immediate practical application73. The Anatomy is also as exhaustive as could reasonably be expected. There is, as I suggested at the beginning of this essay, almost nothing substantial in modern histories of the idea of melancholy up to the seventeenth century that cannot be found in Burton’s book; and conversely, there is much in that book that is omitted from the modern histories. His account of the disease not only summarises the Galenic orthodoxy, dividing melancholy into three principal kinds according to the location of black bile, and giving a full version of erotic melancholy (to which he innovatively adds the subcategory of jealousy, and, as will be noted shortly, the subspecies of religious melancholy). Burton also gives consistently detailed coverage of the various disputes over the finer points of melancholic kinds, causes, symptoms and cures occurring not only amongst doctors, but also between doctors, philosophers, theologians, and others who have waded into this territory. Furthermore, its engagement with contemporary disputes over the various occult causes of and therapies for melancholy, underlines its status as—amongst other things—a fairly reliable representative of the Renaissance medical theory74.

  • 75 See, for instance, R. Grant Williams, ‘Disfiguring the Body of Knowledge: Anatomical Discourse and (...)
  • 76 For my own interpretation of Burton’s scepticism see Gowland, Worlds of Renaissance Melancholy, cit (...)

29Pace the few dissenters from this view75, I think it is clear that the Anatomy adheres to the fundamental elements of the learned Galenic medical theory of melancholy in a manner that is generally accurate and straightforward. It is true that Burton, like many of his learned medical sources, occasionally refers to popular medical folklore and refers to works by physicians who were outside the domain of Galenism—most notably Paracelsus and those influenced by him, such as Daniel Sennert—but these are either incorporated within or tacked on to the orthodox theory without seriously undermining it. It is also true that Burton frequently expresses scepticism about the ability of medical theory adequately to grasp the various complexities posed by the ways in which melancholy affects the body and the soul, and regularly points out the frailty and limits of human understanding76. At no point, however, does this scepticism undermine the fundamental Galenic nosology on display.

  • 77 See, for example, Brian Nance, ‘Wondrous Experience as Text: Valleriola and the Observationes medic (...)
  • 78 This impression has typically been expressed in readings that see Burton’s satirical introduction, (...)

30If we look at the individual medical doctrines presented and discussed in the Anatomy, then, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that Burton did not transform the medical tradition of melancholy, and that he added nothing new of substance. He was not a professional physician, and his general stance was that of a commentator, not an innovator. However, there are two aspects of the Anatomy that in my view constitute its relationship with the medical tradition in terms that go beyond simple repetition and transmission, and show it to be more than just a useful summary of existing medical knowledge. In the first place, although Burton was committed to the Galenic theory of melancholy, the emphasis placed upon the extreme diversity and particularity of the condition, in all its forms, stretched the orthodox concept of melancholy as far it could go. This was in part because he made very extensive use of case-histories, which in the form of observationes had become a flourishing genre of medical literature in the late sixteenth century77. But is also a natural consequence of Burton’s encyclopedic scholarly instincts, which discover a disease that varies wildly as it afflicts different people with different bodies and minds, and in different conditions: for every general rule there was an exception, ‘’Tis super particular’, he says (Burton, Anatomy of Melancholy, 1.3.1.4, vol. 1, p. 404). Many readers have observed, with some justification, that after reading the Anatomy, it seems that almost any form of emotion or behaviour could be described as melancholic78. That is something we do not generally find in the medical works he has used, since although it was common to acknowledge the diversity of melancholic symptoms, individual physicians—whose methods were based in logic—were generally much stricter with the boundaries between different diseases, so their accounts of melancholy were typically narrower and theoretically more streamlined. In the Anatomy the simple act of compilation, however, the grouping together of a large quantity of medical discussions and case-histories which were inevitably bound to vary at least in particular points of detail, itself expanded the concept of melancholy—not beyond the limits that were set by the discursive universe of learned medicine, but as close to those limits, without crossing them, as was practically possible in 1621. My suggestion, then, will be that Burton’s stretching of the orthodox medical theory, whilst not transforming the internal conceptual content of that theory, nevertheless formed the basis for its transformative expansion into areas where it had only been sporadically and sometimes tentatively applied.

  • 79 Alexander of Tralles, Oeuvres médicales, 4 vols, ed. F. Brunet (Paris: Librairie Orientaliste Paul (...)
  • 80 See, for instance, Thomas Browne, Religio Medici (London, 1642), p. 1.

31The second point we can make about Burton’s use of the medical tradition is related to this. In the Galenic texts at the centre of the orthodox tradition, melancholy was a species of delirium (madness) in which a number of strange and disturbing symptoms—extreme passions, hallucinations, raving, prophecy—were typically attributed to the effects of black bile on the powers of the soul. Whilst Rufus had noted that some melancholics could accurately predict the future (Rufus, On melancholy, F 35, pp. 46-7), other Greek physicians, such as Alexander of Tralles (c. 525-6-5) and Paul of Aegina (c. 625-690) strongly implied that this was a pathological delusion79. This aspect of medical theories of melancholy buttressed a longstanding tendency amongst physicians to discredit the supernatural or religious significance of disease. This is traceable back to the Hippocratic De sacro morbo, and in conjunction with the Galenic inclination to offer physical explanations for the operations of the soul, was largely responsible for the longstanding association of medicine and atheism: ubi tres medici, duo athei, as the medieval saying went80. As we shall see shortly, this aspect of the Anatomy assumes its full significance in the account of religious melancholy.

  • 81 See Burton, op. cit., 1.1.1.1, vol. 1, pp. 121-28; 1.1.2.5-11, vol. 1, pp. 147-61. On Melanchthon’s (...)
  • 82 See especially the ‘Digression of the Nature of Spirits, bad Angels or Divels, and how they cause M (...)
  • 83 See the similarly materialistic account in Walkington, The Optick Glasse of Humors, pp. 131-2. Ther (...)

32If Burton’s employment of medical learning was for the most part synthetic, the same holds generally for his use of natural philosophy. The conceptions of nature and soul found in the Anatomy are formulated broadly along Aristotelian lines, although within a theological framework borrowed largely from Philipp Melanchthon, whose Commentarius de anima (1540) had offered an anthropologia grounded in Protestant theology and tailored towards fallen human nature81. But how naturalistic was Burton’s position? His treatment of demonology shows him performing a delicate balancing act, between sceptical medical and philosophical tendencies to reduce apparently occult or supernatural phenomena to natural or material causes, and the need to remain within the domains of religious orthodoxy by admitting the reality of demonic agency in the melancholic disease82. Similarly, he tries to strike a moderate position in contemporary astrological debates, admitting the influence of planetary movements upon the body, but denying their deterministic power or predictive value (Anatomy of Melancholy, 1.2.1.4, vol. 1, pp. 199-202). It seems to me, however, that he is generally being pulled away from supernatural to natural causes by his sources. This is most evident by the account of the theory of genial melancholy in the Anatomy, which is strikingly brief and stripped of its Neoplatonist cosmology. Burton refers to Dürer’s engraving Melencolia I to explain their ‘profound judgement in some things’, but he presents the controversies over melancholic genius as a debate about the Aristotelian Problemata, and restricts his coverage to the question of the material influence of the humours on the mind (1.3.1.2, vol. 1, p. 391; 1.3.3.1, vol. 1, pp. 421-2)83.

  • 84 For more discussion of this aspect of the Anatomy, see Angus Gowland, ‘Consolations for Melancholy (...)

33It is when we look at Burton’s use of the moral and theological traditions of melancholy, however, that we can see his most substantial and influential innovations. The moral concerns of the Anatomy have long been recognised, though their originality has not, I think, been properly appreciated. As I have suggested, before Burton there had not been any fully consolidated or detailed discussion of the moral dimension of melancholy, largely due to the large extent to which the disciplinary division of labour between physicians and moral philosophers was upheld. Burton not only gives a moral account of the status of melancholic passions as vices, but also a moral therapy for them in the ‘Consolatory Digression’84. And if we ask how he could do this when his predecessors apparently could or would not, then the answer has to be that Burton wilfully transgressed the tacitly accepted boundary between medicine and ethics. He moralised the medical concept of melancholy by employing the classical argument that passions are irrational diseases of the soul, and as such they were both causes and symptoms of melancholic madness. What this meant, as he said in ‘Democritus Junior to the Reader’, was that ‘Folly, Melancholy, Madnesse, are but one disease’ (vol. 1, p. 25). As a form of passionate madness, melancholy was therefore appropriately discussed in moral terms, but this meant dissolving the boundary between moral ‘madness’ (that is to say, vice or foolishness) and medical-physiological melancholia that had been generally upheld by contemporary physicians and moralists. Perhaps unintentionally, Burton simultaneously presented a medicalised version of the moral tradition of the passions, since he raised the possibility that melancholic vice could be traced to the influence of black bile and treated by a physical remedy. As Bacon had noted, ‘the physician prescribeth cures of the mind in phrensies and melancholy passions’: such were the effects of ‘the conceits and passions of the mind upon the body’ that ‘all wise physicians in the prescriptions of their regiments to their patients do ever consider accidentia animi, as of great force to further or hinder remedies or recoveries.’ The melancholic soul could be treated through the body (Bacon, The Advancement of Learning, II, in Works, vol. VI, p. 240).

  • 85 Nearly all of this Subsection appeared for the first time in the second edition of 1624.
  • 86 Burton notes that some of his predecessors had discussed the spiritual symptoms of melancholy, but (...)
  • 87 See Gowland, Worlds of Renaissance Melancholy, cit., pp. 139-204.

34The Anatomy intervened in the theological tradition of melancholy in a similar way. Burton not only incorporated the spiritual concept of acedia and presented melancholy as a consequence of the Fall, but dissolved the boundary between medicine and theology—or more specifically, practical divinity—that his contemporaries had explicitly been observing. In one sense, this was uncontroversial. His remedies for the ‘Cure of Despair’ in the final Subsection contributed to the Christian ‘cure of souls’ tradition, and in many ways were typical of the Jacobean literature of spiritual comfort (Burton, Anatomy of Melancholy, 3.4.2.6, vol. 3, pp. 425-46)85. However, whereas his immediate predecessors had been careful not to confuse the medical disease of melancholy and the spiritual conditions of despair and the affliction of conscience, this is precisely what Burton did in the last Section of his book. Although there had been some discussions of the religious aspects of melancholy before Burton, no physician had formally identified ‘religious melancholy’ as a subspecies of the disease and offered a systematic account of its kinds, causes, symptoms and cures86. Once again, the reasons for his contemporaries’ reluctance to fuse theology and medicine are clear: physicians already had the reputation for atheistic materialism, and were rarely willing to argue openly that the movements of the soul could be explained or influenced by physical qualities. This was precisely what was threatened by the concept of ‘religious melancholy’. With contemporary papists and above all English puritans in his polemical sights, Burton had no such qualms, and made explicit claims about the humoral basis of spiritual errors. He conflated melancholy and the affliction of consience, denounced Catholic superstition as born of religious-melancholic despair, and ridiculed ecstatic rapture and puritan spirituality as religious-melancholic enthusiasm87. Although the causes and cures for such conditions, in many cases, were purely spiritual, because they were species of melancholia they were also always at least potentially treatable by medicine: ‘There bee those that prescribe physicke’ in cases of despair, ‘’tis Gods instrument, and not unfit’ (3.4.2.6, vol. 3, p. 443). We should seek the advice, Burton says on the last page of the book, of ‘good Physitians’ as well as ‘Divines’ (3.4.2.6, vol. 3, p. 445).

  • 88 For example, in Burton, op. cit., ‘Democritus Junior to the Reader’, vol. 1, p. 6, where Burton mis (...)
  • 89 Michael Heyd, ‘Be Sober and Reasonable’: The Critique of Enthusiasm in the Seventeenth and Early Ei (...)

35Here, in brief, is the core of Burton’s legacy. What the Anatomy accomplished, in simple terms, was not just the summary of the learned traditions of melancholy, but more specifically the medicalisation of the moral and theological traditions of melancholy. It is fairly clear that Burton was aware that he was manipulating his sources, often deliberately mistranslating or paraphrasing texts that were originally concerned with moral madness or spiritual despair, but in his rendition came to be about melancholy88. This does not mean that the medicalisation of these concepts was always deliberate. Burton was not a radical materialist philosopher or physician, and was certainly not an atheist; he was a Christian humanist and a divine. But by presenting melancholy as a moral and spiritual disease that could still be treated by medicine, he arguably introduced, or strongly accentuated, a materialistic tendency within seventeenth-century discussions of melancholy that had a corrosive effect. It was perhaps by accident, then—and one that Burton would not have been happy about—that the concept of melancholic superstition and enthusiasm came to be a significant component of Enlightenment critiques of religion89.

  • 90 See the works, which are generally light on medical-physiological detail, discussed in Schmidt, op. (...)

36There is a final twist, however. When Burton medicalised the morality and spirituality of melancholy, he also created a framework within which that morality and spirituality could discussed plausibly and in substantial detail. After Burton in the seventeenth century, religious writers and moralists wrote extensively about melancholy, often with very little reference, or no reference at all, to medical doctrine90. So although the medicalisation in the Anatomy was thoroughly Galenic, as the Galenic tradition gradually withered away in the course of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, there remained a moral and spiritual discourse on melancholy that was no longer dependent upon medical authority for its legitimacy. That was not entirely Burton’s doing, but it was an important part of his legacy.

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Jacquart, Danielle and Thomasset, Claude. ‘L’amour “héroique” à travers le traité d’Arnaud de Villeneuve’, in Jean Céard (ed.), La folie et le corps (Paris: Presses de L’Ecole Normale Supérieure, 1985)

Kessler, Eckhard. ‘The Transformation of Aristotelianism during the Renaissance’, in New Perspectives on Renaissance Thought: Essays in the History of Science, Education and Philosophy in Memory of Charles B. Schmitt, ed. John Henry and Sarah Hutton (London: Duckworth, 1990)

Klibansky, Raymond. Erwin Panofsky, and Fritz Saxl, Saturn and Melancholy: Studies in the History of Natural Philosophy, Religion and Art (London: Nelson, 1964)

Kristeller, Paul Oskar. ‘The School of Salerno: Its Development and its Contribution to the History of Learning’, Studies in Renaissance Thought and Letters, 2nd edn (Rome, 1969)

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Lowes, John Livingston. ‘The Loveres Maladye of Hereos’, Modern Philology, vol. 11, no. 4 (1914), pp. 491-546

MacDonald, Michael. Mystical Bedlam: Madness, Anxiety and healing in Seventeenth-Century England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981)

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Midelfort, H. C. Erik. ‘Religious Melancholy and Suicide: On the Reformation Origins of a Sociological Stereotype’, in Graven Images 3 (1996), pp. 41-56

Midelfort, H. C. Erik. ‘Melancholische Eiszeit?’, in Wolfgang Behringer, Hartmut Lehmann, and Christian Pfister (eds.), Kulturelle Konsequenzen der ‘Kleinen Eiszeit’ (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2005), pp. 239-254

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Notes

1 Stanley Fish, Self-Consuming Artifacts: The Experience of Seventeenth-Century Literature (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1972), pp. 303-52.

2 For more discussion of the relationship between literary and intellectual-historical interpretations of the Anatomy, see Angus Gowland, ‘Robert Burton and The Anatomy of Melancholy’, in Andrew Hadfield (ed.), The Oxford Handbook to Early Modern English Prose (Oxford: Oxford University Press, forthcoming).

3 I am using the term ‘tradition’ here without any strong epistemological connotation, simply to designate groups of works that fall into the same (or very similar) disciplinary categories over time.

4 See, for instance, Isidore of Seville, Etymologia IV.vii.9 (trans. and ed. S. A. Barney, W. J. Lewis, J. A. Beach and O. Berghof (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), p. 111; Bartholomaeus Anglicus, De proprietatibus rerum (Nuremberg, 1492), IV.11, sigs C4[iv]; Robert Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy, eds. R. Blair, T. Faulkner, and N. Kiessling, 6 vols (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989-2000), 1.1.3.1, vol. 1, p. 162.

5 On Rufus and his influence on subsequent theories of melancholy, see Rufus of Ephesus, On Melancholy, ed. and trans. Peter E. Pormann (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2008). On the ancient medical theory of melancholy and its subsequent influence, see Jean Starobinski, Histoire du traitement de la mélancolie, des origines à 1900 (Basle: Geigy, 1960); Raymond Klibansky, Erwin Panofsky, and Fritz Saxl, Saturn and Melancholy: Studies in the History of Natural Philosophy, Religion and Art (London: Nelson, 1964); Hellmut Flashar, Melancholie und Melancholiker in den medizinischen Theorien der Antike (Berlin: de Gruyter, 1966); Stanley Jackson, Melancholia and Depression from Hippocratic Times to Modern Times (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1986); Jackie Pigeaud, Melancholia: Le malaise de l’individu (Paris: Payot & Rivages, 2008).

6 ‘Ἤν φόβος ἢ δυσθυμίη πολὺν χρόνον διατελῇ, μελαγχολικὸν τὸ τοιοῦτον.’ (Hippocrates, IV, trans. W. H. S. Jones (London: Heinemann, 1931), pp. 184–5; translation modified). The Greek term δυσθυμία, literally ‘distempered spirit’, was sometimes rendered in the Middle Ages and Renaissance as pusillanimitas, i.e. ‘timidity’, or literally again, ‘smallness of spirit’—for example, in Bernard de Gordon, Opus, lilium medicinae inscriptum, de morborum prope omnium curatione… (Lyon, 1574), II.19, p. 211: ‘hoc est quod dicebat Hippocr. timor & pusillanimitas, si multum tempus habuerint, melancholicum faciunt.’

7 See the outline in Pormann, ‘Introduction’, in Rufus, op. cit., pp. 5-6.

8 See also Rufus, op. cit., F 33, pp. 46-7: ‘People of excellent nature are predisposed to melancholy, since excellent natures move quickly and think a lot’ (trans. Pormann).

9 In Opera omnia, ed. by C. G. Kühn, 20 vols in 22 (Leipzig: Cnobloch, 1821–33), vol. 7, pp. 200-4, vol. 8, pp. 173-93. Cf. Rufus, op. cit., FF 11-12, pp. 32-7.

10 See Klibansky, Panofsky and Saxl, op. cit., pp. 82-102; Manfred Ullmann, Islamic Medicine (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1978), pp. 72-9; Jackson, op. cit., pp. 56-64.

11 On Constantine’s influence see Danielle Jacquart and Françoise Micheau, La médecine arabe et l’Occident médiéval (Paris: Maisonneuve et Larose, 1990), pp. 96-129. On the influence of Salerno, see Paul Oskar Kristeller, ‘The School of Salerno: Its Development and its Contribution to the History of Learning’, Studies in Renaissance Thought and Letters, 2nd edn (Rome, 1969), pp. 494-551.

12 Nancy G. Siraisi, Avicenna in Renaissance Italy: The ‘Canon’ and Medical Teaching in Italian Universities after 1500 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1987).

13 Printed in Constantinus Africanus, Opera, 2 vols (Basel, 1536), vol. 1, pp. 280-98.

14 ‘Sicut Galenus Platonem dixisse testatur: Quicquid, inquit, mente nostra recondimus, de autoritate est sapientiae, cuius anima recordatur. Intentio Platonis fuit, ut anima alligata corpori, autentice recordetur, quicquid scierit antequam innecteretur corpori. Huiusmodi melancholiae sunt vicini, propter investigationem scientiae, & fatigationem suae memoriae, & tristitiam de animae suae defectione, & propter intentionis suae complementum ac firmamentum. Omnia haec memoriam eorum deficere faciunt & rationem, ac intellectum. Sicut dixit Hippocratis in epidemiarum libris sexta particula: Animae, inquit, labor est cogitatio. Sicut est corporis labor ambulare, quare pessimos generat morbos, utpote corporis labor. Ita & labor animae in melancholiam facit cadere.’

15 ‘Quod autem dicendum est de eis qui amata sua perdiderunt, sicut qui filios & charissimos amicos perdiderunt, vel rem preciosam quam restaurare non possunt. Sicut sapientes libros suos subito amittentes. Vel si cupidi & avari perdiderunt rem, quam se non recuperare sperent. Haec omnia his gemitum, & tristitiam, & angustiam faciunt. Quem & mentes percutiunt, & ad melancholiam paratas reddunt.’

16 Jackson, op. cit., pp. 249-54.

17 This passage refers to the Hippocratic Epidemics VI.8.31.

18 Avicenna, Liber canonis, medicinis cordialibus et cantica (Venice, 1555), III.1.4.19, fols 204v-205r: ‘Et species [signorum melancholiae] quidem sunt indefinitae… Amplius quidam eorum subt, qui rident: & proprie quorum melancholia est sanguinea, quoniam imaginantur quod placet, & delectat eos.’

19 For general surveys, see John Livingston Lowes, ‘The Loveres Maladye of Hereos’, Modern Philology, vol. 11, no. 4 (1914), pp. 491-546; Donald A. Beecher and Massimo Ciavolella, ‘Introduction’, in Jacques Ferrand, A Treatise of Lovesickness, ed. and trans. D. A. Beecher and M. Ciavolella (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1990), pp. 39-70. For a late-antique Arabic discussion of lovesickness, see H. H. Biesterfeldt and D. Gutas, ‘The Malady of Love’, Journal of the American Oriential Society vol. 104, no. 1 (1984), pp. 21-55.

20 Avicenna, op. cit., III.1.4.23-4, fol. 206v: ‘Haec aegritudo est solicitudo melancholica simlis melancholiae, in qua homo sibi iam induxit incitationem seu applicationem cogitationis suae continuam super pulchritudine ipsius quarundam formarum, & gestuum, seu morum, quae insunt ei.’ For the identification or connection with lycanthropy, see Rhazes, Continens Rasisquia omnem fere medicinalem artem contineret (Venice, 1529), I.9, fols 18v-19r, 20v: ‘Et hoc accidit ex melancholia & ambulant de nocte tanquam lupi & desiccantur eorum lingue: et hec species est de vsues idest birsem melancholica’; Haly Abbas, Liber medicinae dictus regius [Pantegni] (Venice, 1492), IX.7, fols 60v-61r,‘De malincolia et canina et amore causisque eorum et signis’; Avicenna, Liber canonis, III.1.4.21, fols 206r-v: ‘Species est melancholiae plurimum eveniens in februario, quae facit homo diligat fugere ab hominibus vivis…’, etc.

21 ‘Videmus enim multos religiosos & in bona vita reverendos, hanc passionem incidentes, ex dei timore, & futuri iudicij suspitione, & summi boni videndi cupiditate. Quia omnia superant eorum animas. Unde nec cogitant, nec investigant, nisi ut solum deum ament, & timeant, & in hanc passionem incurrunt, & sicut ebriosi fiunt, de nimia sua solicitudine, & sua quasi vanitate. Corrumpuntur igitur actiones animae, & corporis in huiusmodi.’ Translation by Peter Pormann, in Rufus, op. cit., p. 291.

22 See, for instance, the noticeably brief treatment in Jackson, op. cit., pp. 63-4, summarising the contributions of medieval Latin physicians in a single paragraph.

23 On the influence of the Viaticum, see Mary Wack, Lovesickness in the Middle Ages: The Viaticum and its Commentaries (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1990); Michael R. McVaugh, ‘Introduction’, in Arnau of Vilanova, Opera medica omnia, eds. Luis García Ballester, Juan A. Paniagua, and Michael R. McVaugh (Barcelona: Publicacions i Edicions de la Universitat de Barcelona, 1985), vol. 3, pp. 11-39, at pp. 14-16, 21-2; Beecher and Ciavolella, op. cit., pp. 70-82.

24 According to McVaugh, this work was in most respects ‘merely a résumé of current medical knowledge’, although it analysed amor hereos as a condition that was distinct from melancholia (McVaugh op. cit., p. 29). On Arnau, see further Danielle Jacquart and Claude Thomasset, ‘L’amour “héroique” à travers le traité d’Arnaud de Villeneuve’, in Jean Céard (ed.), La folie et le corps (Paris: Presses de L’Ecole Normale Supérieure, 1985), pp. 143-58, and Ian Maclean, Learning and the Marketplace: Essays in the History of the Early Modern Book (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 2009), pp. 87-106. See also the discussion ‘De amore qui hereos dicitur’ in Bernard de Gordon, Opus, lilium medicinae inscriptum, II.20, pp. 216-19.

25 Arnau de Vilanova, Practica medicinae I.26, in Praxis medicinalis. Universorum morborum humani corporis, tam internorum quam externorum, curandi viam ac methodum, summa cum doctrina & cerca experientia praescribens (Lyon, 1586), p. 33a; Bernard de Gordon, op. cit., II.19, p. 208. Cf. Isidore of Seville, Etymologia IV.vii.9, p. 111, where it is asserted that ‘epilepsy arises in the imagination, melancholy in the reason, and mania in the memory’.

26 Bernard, op. cit., II.19, pp. 208-11: ‘Causa igitur immediata est humor melancholicus corruptus … Causae autem antecedentes, sunt omnia illa quae multiplicant melancholiam, sive per se, siver per accidens, sive per viam adustionis, & corruptionis … Secunda causa potest esse … Tertia causa esse …’, etc.

27 See, for example, Bartholomaeus Anglicus, op. cit., VIII.23, where as a cold and dry planet, Saturn is associated with the melancholic complexion.

28 The absence of Arabic astrology is particularly noticeable, for example, in the theories of melancholy elaborated by Ishâq and Avicenna.

29 Klibansky, Panofsky and Saxl, op. cit., pp. 127-33. For a case-study of learned medical astrology in the Renaissance see Nancy G. Siraisi, The Clock and the Mirror: Girolamo Cardano and Renaissance Medicine (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1997); for its more popular incarnation, see Michael MacDonald, Mystical Bedlam: Madness, Anxiety and healing in Seventeenth-Century England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981).

30 For instance, see Francesco Maria Guazzo, Compendium maleficarum, ed. Montague Summers (London: John Rodker, 1929), II.8, pp. 105-6; cf. Juan Huarte, The Examination of Mens Wits, trans. Richard Carew (London, 1594), pp. 92-3.

31 Avicenna, op. cit., III.1.4.18, fol. 204v: ‘Et quibusdam medicorum visum est quod melancholia contingat a daemonio: sed nos non curamus cum physicam docemus, si illud contingat a daemonio aut non contingat, postquam dicimus, quod si contingat a daemonio tunc contingit ita ut convertat complexionem ad choleram nigram, & sit causa eius propinqua cholera nigra: deinde fit causa illius daemonium, aut non daemonium.’ For Renaissance discussions of this passage see Noel Brann, The Debate over the Origin of Genius during the Italian Renaissance: The Theories of Supernatural Frenzy and Natural Melancholy in Accord and in Conflict on the Threshold of the Scientific Revolution (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 2002), pp. 24, 211-12, 342-3.

32 See, for instance, Johann Weyer, De Praestigiis Daemonum, et Incantationibus ac Venificiis Libri V (1563), in Opera omnia (Amsterdam, 1660), III.7, pp. 179-83. On witchcraft, demonology and melancholy generally see Jean Céard, ‘Folie et demonologie au XVIe siècle’, and Sydney Anglo, ‘Melancholia and Witchcraft: The Debate between Wier, Bodin, and Scot’, both in Alois Gerlo (ed.), Folie et Déraison à la Renaissance (Brussels: Éditions de l’Université de Bruxelles, 1976), pp. 129-48, 209-22.

33 On the apparent prevalence of melancholy in this period, see Jean Delumeau, ‘L’âge d’or de la mélancolie’, L’histoire 42 (1982), pp. 28-37; Erik Midelfort, ‘Melancholische Eiszeit?’, in Wolfgang Behringer, Hartmut Lehmann, and Christian Pfister (eds.), Kulturelle Konsequenzen der ‘Kleinen Eiszeit’ (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2005), pp. 239-254; Angus Gowland, ‘The Problem of Early Modern Melancholy’, Past & Present no. 191 (2006), pp. 77-120.

34 Charles B. Schmitt, ‘Aristotle among the physicians’, in A. Wear, R. K. French, and I. M. Lonie (eds.), The Medical Renaissance of the Sixteenth Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), p.12.

35 Aristotle, Problems II: Books XII-XXXVIII, trans. W. S. Hett (London and Cambridge, Mass.: William Heinemann and Harvard University Press, 1937), pp. 154-5. On the later reception of this work see P. de Leemans and M. Goyens (eds.), Aristotle’s ‘Problemata’ in Different Times and Tongues (Leuven: Leuven University Press, 2006). Melancholy was also associated in the Parva naturalia with disturbing and apparently predictive dreams: Aristotle, De insomniis, III (461a23-5); De divinatione per somnum, II (463b17-22, 464a1-464b6), trans. W. S. Hett (London: Heinemann, 1936), pp. 362-3, 380-5.

36 See Peter Toohey, ‘Rufus of Ephesus and the Tradition of the Melancholy Thinker’, in Rufus, op. cit., pp. 221-43.

37 Klibansky, Panofsky and Saxl, op. cit., pp. 254-399; Brann, op. cit., passim.

38 In Antonio Guainerio, Practica (Venice, 1516), concluding that ‘[e]x illa sequitur quod sensibus ligatis ut in melancholias exeuntibus in extasi maxime contingit, quod anima talis omnia intelligit sine discursu.’

39 Marsilio Ficino, Platonic Theology, trans. M. J. B. Allen and ed. James Hankins, 6 vols (Cambridge, Mass. and London: Harvard University Press, 2001–6), XIII.ii.2–3, 24, 33, vol. 4, 121–5, 150–1, 162–5; id., De vita libri tres, esp. I. 4-5, III. 2, in Opera (Basel, 1576), pp. 497-8, 533.

40 See Klibansky, Panofsky, and Saxl, op. cit., and the corrective analysis in Winfried Schleiner, Melancholy, Genius and Utopia in the Renaissance (Wisebaden: Harrassowitz, 1991). The most useful comprehensive study is now Brann, op. cit. In Ficino’s influence upon Italian Renaissance art, see also Maria Ruvoldt, The Italian Renaissance Imagery of Inspiration: Metaphors of Sex, Sleep, and Dream (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004).

41 See, for example, Timothy Bright, A Treatise of Melancholie (London, 1586), XXII, pp. 126-7; Thomas Walkington, The Optick Glasse of Humors (London, 1607), pp. 131-2; Burton, op. cit, 1.3.1.2, vol. 1, p. 391, and 1.3.1.3, vol. 1, p. 400.

42 Charles B. Schmitt, Aristotle and the Renaissance (Cambridge, Mass. and London: Harvard University Press, 1983).

43 See E. P. Mahoney, ‘Neoplatonism, the Greek Commentators and Renaissance Aristotelianism’, in Neoplatonism and Christian Thought, ed. D. J. O’Meara (Albany, 1982), pp. 169-77, 264-83; Eckhard Kessler, ‘The Transformation of Aristotelianism during the Renaissance’, in New Perspectives on Renaissance Thought: Essays in the History of Science, Education and Philosophy in Memory of Charles B. Schmitt, ed. John Henry and Sarah Hutton (London: Duckworth, 1990), pp. 137-47, at pp. 142-4.

44 As in Aristotle, Parva quae vocant Naturalia, trans. and comment. Niccolò Leonico Tomeo (Paris, 1530), pp. 189-90. For further discussion, see Angus Gowland, ‘Melancholy, Imagination and Dreaming in Renaissance Learning’, in Yasmin Haskell (ed.), Diseases of the Imagination and Imaginary Disease in Early Modern Europe (Turnhout: Brepols, 2012), pp. 53-102.

45 This is charted in detail in Brann, op. cit., pp. 153ff.

46 Agostino Nifo, De artificiosa somniorum interpraetatione, quae divinatio dicitur artificiosa, XIII, in Aristotle, Parva naturalia, comm. Agostino Nifo, 2nd edn (Venice, 1551), fol. 111r; De demonibus libri tres (Venice, 1503), XII, fol. 74r.

47 Pietro Pomponazzi, Opera. De naturalium effectuum admirandorum causis, Seu de Incantationibus Liber. Item de Fato: Libero arbitrio: Praedestinatione: Providentia Dei, Libri V (Basel, 1567). See also his explanation for the predictive dreams of melancholics at p. 140.

48 Reginald Scot, The Discoverie of Witchcraft (London, 1584).

49 Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, trans. H. Rackham (London: Heinemann, 1926), VII.vii.8, pp. 416-7, VII.x.3-4, pp. 426-9, and VII.xiv.5-6, 444-7.

50 Cicero, Tusculan Disputations, trans. J. E. King (London: Heinemann, 1927), III.iv.11, pp. 236-9.

51 As in Seneca, De tranquillitate animi, in Moral Essays, trans. J. W. Basore, 3 vols (London, 1928-32), I.2, I.15, II.8, II.10, vol. 2, pp. 202-3, 210-11, 216-19.

52 There are some exceptions, however: see Angus Gowland, ‘The Ethics of Renaissance Melancholy’, Intellectual History Review 18:1 (2008), pp. 103-117, at 111-14.

53 Francis Bacon, The Works, eds. James Spedding, Robert Leslie Ellis, and Douglas Denon Heath, 15 vols (London : Longman and Co., 1857-74).

54 This work, which has survived only in three MS copies, has now been printed in Neven Jovanovic (ed.), ‘Nicolai Modrussiensis De Consolatione Liber’, Hrvatska Knjizevna Bastina 1 (2002), pp. 55-251; I am referring to this edition. For another discussion of melancholy in a consolatory discourse see Epistolario di Coluccio Salutati, ed. Francesco Novati, 4 vols in 5 (Roma, 1891-1911), IV.15, vol. 1, pp. 298-307.

55 ‘Illud enim animo nostro res tristes illatae faciunt, quod corpori exhibitum virus; ex quo liquet, cum nulla aliarum passionum ita infesta face animum impetat, nec ullam aliam esse quae cor hominis deterius exedat. Quippe quae appetitum impedit ne se extra diffundat, necesse est cor viribus destituatur nec ceteris membris debitum possit praestare officium. Itaque exsiccatur ac gelu constringitur humorque eius generis, quem Graeci melancholiam appellant, incrementum capit ac invalescit vehementius; et quoniam siccus quodammodo ac gelidus est, itinera spirituum vitalium occupat, nec foveri membra permittit, atque ita nutrimento subtracto virere vigereque desinunt et in dies extenuantur magis ac usque ad exinanitionem consumuntur.’

56 Stefano Guazzo, La civil conversatione, ed. Amadeo Quondam, 2 vols (Modena: Panini, 1993), vol. 1, p. 15-19, 26-9.

57 Michel de Montaigne, Les Essais, eds. Jean Balsamo, Michel Magnien, and Catherine Magnien-Simonin (Paris: Éditions Gallimard, 2007), I. 38, pp. 241- 246-7, and II.17, p. 679. See M. A. Screech, Montaigne and Melancholy: The Wisdom of the ‘Essais’ (London: Duckworth, 1983).

58 ‘C’est une humeur melancolique, et une humeur par consequent tres ennemie de ma complexion naturelle, produite par le chagrin de la solitude en laquelle il y a quelques années que je m'estoy jetté, qui m’a mis premierement en teste cette resverie de me mesler d’escrire.’ I am referring to Montaigne, Les Essais, eds. Jean Balsamo, Michel Magnien, and Catherine Magnien-Simonin (Paris: Gallimard, 2007). For Montaigne’s complex attitude towards philosophical consolation see I.24, p. 143; II.12, p. 512; III.4, pp. 871-5, III.12, p. 1098.

59 For the spiritual aspects of melancholy in early modern England see Jeremy Schmidt, Melancholy and the Care of the Soul: Religion, Moral Philosophy, and Madness in Early Modern England (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2007), pp. 47-82. See also Gowland, ‘The Problem of Early Modern Melancholy’, pp. 101-8, and id., The Worlds of Renaissance Melancholy: Robert Burton in Context (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), pp. 50-6. pp. 16-18, 69-70, 139-204.

60 In the Vulgate Latin: ‘quae enim secundum Deum tristitia est paenitentiam in salutem stabilem operatur saeculi autem tristitia mortem operatur’; in the English of the King James Version: ‘For the sorrow that is according to God worketh penance, steadfast unto salvation: but the sorrow of the world worketh death’.

61 See Siegfried Wenzel, The Sin of Sloth: Acedia in Medieval Thought and Literature (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1967); Susan Snyder, ‘The Left Hand of God: Despair in Medieval and Renaissance Tradition’, Studies in the Renaissance 12 (1965), pp. 18-59.

62 See, for example, Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae I-II, qu. 23, art. 2, 4, opposing gaudium to tristitia.

63 ‘Habuisti per sanguinem dulcedinem charitatis. Habes nunc per choleram nigram, seu melancholia, tristitiam pro peccatis’, in P. L. Migne (ed.), Patrologia Latina, vol. 176, col. 1191; discussed in Klibansky, Panofsky and Saxl, op. cit., pp. 107-9.

64 Caution against identifying acedia with melancholy is sounded in Noel Brann, ‘Is Acedia Melancholy? A Re-Examination of This Question in the Light of Fra Battista da Crema’s Della cognitione et vittoria di se stesso (1531)’, Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences 34 (1979), pp. 180-99.

65 As Bacon wrote, ‘if it be said that the cure of men’s minds belongeth to sacred Divinity, it is most true: but yet Moral Philosophy may be preferred unto her as a wise servant and humble handmaid’, to whose discretion ‘many things are left’ to provide ‘(within due limits) many sound and profitable directions.’ Bacon, op. cit., II, in Works, vol. VI, p. 330.

66 See John T. McNeill, A History of the Cure of Souls (New York: Harper and Row, 1951). On German ‘spiritual physic’ in this era see David Lederer, Madness, Religion and the State in Early Modern Europe: A Bavarian Beacon (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006).

67 See H. C. Erik Midelfort, ‘Religious Melancholy and Suicide: On the Reformation Origins of a Sociological Stereotype’, in Graven Images 3 (1996), pp. 41-56.

68 The Diary of Ralph Thoresby, F.R.S, ed. Joseph Hunter, 2 vols (London, 1830), 9 Jan. 1681, vol. 1, p. 76.

69 See also the discussion of the simultaneous occurrence of melancholy and affliction of conscience in the same person at XXXIV, pp. 193-8.

70 For this reason Bright went on to offer a separate ‘consolation unto the afflicted conscience’, a lengthy and thoroughly spiritual address for his melancholic friend ‘M.’, which continued the ‘heavenly meditations and spirituall conferences’ they had conducted ‘in times past’ (XXXV, pp. 206-7, and XXXVI, pp. 207-84).

71 Robert Bolton, Instructions for a right comforting afflicted consciences with speciall antidotes against some grievous temptations (London, 1631), pp. 207-9.

72 Richard Baxter, The right method for a settled peace of conscience, and spiritual comfort in 32 directions. Written for the use of a troubled friend (London, 1653), p. 9.

73 There is, however, an important historical dimension to Burton’s conception of the evolution of medical knowledge: see, for example, the discussion of changing therapeutic methods over time in Burton, op. cit., 2.4.1.5, vol. 2, p. 225, and 2.4.2.2, vol. 2, pp. 232-3; see also 2.4.1.1, vol. 2, pp. 209-10.

74 For the various occult aspects of melancholy see Burton, op. cit., 1.2.1.2, vol. 1, pp. 174-95; 1.2.1.3, vol. 1, p. 199; 1.2.1.4, vol. 1, pp. 199-201; 1.2.3.2, vol. 1, pp. 253-4; 1.2.3.5, vol. 1, p. 260; 1.3.3.1, vol. 1, pp. 418, 426-8; 2.4.1.4, pp. 219-22; 2.4.1.5, vol. 2, pp. 224, 251-5; 2.5.1.5, vol. 2, p. 255; 3.1.1.4, vol. 3, pp. 135-7; 3.2.2.1, vol. 3, p. 49; 3.2.2.2, vol. 3, pp. 88-90; 3.2.2.5, vol. 3, p. 138; 3.2.5.2, vol. 3, p. 240; 3.3.4.2, vol. 3, p. 318.

75 See, for instance, R. Grant Williams, ‘Disfiguring the Body of Knowledge: Anatomical Discourse and Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy’, English Literary History vol. 68, no. 3 (2001), pp. 593-613, where (at p. 594) the book is described as an ‘epistemological aberration’.

76 For my own interpretation of Burton’s scepticism see Gowland, Worlds of Renaissance Melancholy, cit., pp. 98-138.

77 See, for example, Brian Nance, ‘Wondrous Experience as Text: Valleriola and the Observationes medicinales’, in Elizabeth Furdell (ed.), Textual Healing: Essays on Medieval and Early Modern Medicine (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 2005), pp. 101-117.

78 This impression has typically been expressed in readings that see Burton’s satirical introduction, ‘Democritus Junior to the Reader’, as the interpretative key to the book: see, for example, Fish, op. cit., 303-52; Ruth A. Fox, The Tangled Chain: The Structure of Disorder in ‘The Anatomy of Melancholy’ (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976).

79 Alexander of Tralles, Oeuvres médicales, 4 vols, ed. F. Brunet (Paris: Librairie Orientaliste Paul Geuthner, 1933-6), vol. 2, p. 223; Paul of Aegina, The Seven Books of Paul of Aegineta, 3 vols, trans. and comment. Francis Adams (London: The Sydenham Society), vol. 1, p. 383.

80 See, for instance, Thomas Browne, Religio Medici (London, 1642), p. 1.

81 See Burton, op. cit., 1.1.1.1, vol. 1, pp. 121-28; 1.1.2.5-11, vol. 1, pp. 147-61. On Melanchthon’s De anima see Sachiko Kusukawa, The Transformation of Natural Philosophy: The Case of Philipp Melanchthon (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), pp. 85-123.

82 See especially the ‘Digression of the Nature of Spirits, bad Angels or Divels, and how they cause Melancholy’, in Burton, op. cit., 1.2.1.2, vol. 1, pp. 174-95.

83 See the similarly materialistic account in Walkington, The Optick Glasse of Humors, pp. 131-2. There is a more positive use of Ficino’s account of erotic fascination in Anatomy, 3.2.2.2, vol. 3, pp. 88-90, though the precise nature of Burton’s commitment to this is unclear.

84 For more discussion of this aspect of the Anatomy, see Angus Gowland, ‘Consolations for Melancholy in Renaissance Humanism’, Society and Politics, vol. 6, no. 1 (2012), pp. 10-38.

85 Nearly all of this Subsection appeared for the first time in the second edition of 1624.

86 Burton notes that some of his predecessors had discussed the spiritual symptoms of melancholy, but also claims (in my view accurately) that his analysis, which treats it as a discrete subspecies, is innovative: Anatomy, 3.4.1.1, vol. 3, pp. 330-1.

87 See Gowland, Worlds of Renaissance Melancholy, cit., pp. 139-204.

88 For example, in Burton, op. cit., ‘Democritus Junior to the Reader’, vol. 1, p. 6, where Burton misquotes the phrase ‘de furore, & insania, maniave’ (Hippocrates, Opera, trans. M. Fabio Calvo (Rome, 1525), p. 714) as ‘Melancholy and madnesse’; and ‘fellis, bilisve’, as ‘atra bilis or melancholy’. See also the inclusion of spiritual despair within the category of ‘defective’ religious melancholy in Burton, op. cit., 3.4.2.2-6, vol. 3, pp. 408-45.

89 Michael Heyd, ‘Be Sober and Reasonable’: The Critique of Enthusiasm in the Seventeenth and Early Eighteenth Centuries (Leiden: Brill, 1995); Claire Crignon-De Oliveira, De la mélancolie à l’enthousiasme: Robert Burton (1577–1640) et Anthony Ashley Cooper, comte de Shaftesbury (1671–1713) (Paris: Honoré Champion, 2006).

90 See the works, which are generally light on medical-physiological detail, discussed in Schmidt, op. cit., pp. 47-128.

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Angus Gowland, « Burton's Anatomy and the Intellectual Traditions of Melancholy », Babel, 25 | 2012, 221-257.

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Angus Gowland, « Burton's Anatomy and the Intellectual Traditions of Melancholy », Babel [En ligne], 25 | 2012, mis en ligne le 01 décembre 2012, consulté le 27 juillet 2017. URL : http://babel.revues.org/2078 ; DOI : 10.4000/babel.2078

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Angus Gowland

University College London – Department of History

Angus Gowland enseigne l’histoire intellectuelle à University College London. Il est l’auteur de The Worlds of Renaissance Melancholy : Robert Burton in context (Cambridge University Press, 2006), et de plusieurs articles sur la théorie de la mélancolie au début de l’Europe moderne. Il est en train de préparer une nouvelle édition de The Anatomy of Melancholy pour Penguin Classics et d’écrire une monographie sur les théories du rêve à la Renaissance.

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Babel. Littératures plurielles est mis à disposition selon les termes de la licence Creative Commons Attribution - Pas d'Utilisation Commerciale - Pas de Modification 4.0 International.

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