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on 4 June 2000
Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy was the pinnacle of the trend for treatises in the 17th century. This wide-ranging tome speculates on the causes and effects of melancholy, and in so doing broaches many social and historical questions in an idiosyncratic and anecdotal style.
From time to time, Burton was afflicted by melancholy and he confesses in his introduction (Democritus to the Reader) that he wrote the Anatomy to relieve his own melancholy. It seems that the treatment was successful, because his contemporaries regarded him as a 'good-humoured pessimist'.
The Anatomy is the offspring of a bookish mind: Hallam states that it is "a sweeping of the miscellaneous literature from the Bodleian Library". Indeed, Burton devoured the Bodleian and the end result does have an air of jumble and deliberate confusion about it, but this is one of its greatest charms. However, it runs to half a million words, and is therefore, no haphazardly slapped together pamphlet.
The chapter titles of the book are intriguing enough in their own right: 'Self-Love, Pride, Vainglory'; 'Stories of Possession' and the reassuringly named 'Miseries of Scholars'! The latter chapter makes interesting reading for me - a poor, beleaguered 'scholar'. One quotation speaks particularly strongly "Hoc est cur palles? Cur quis non prandeat hoc est?", which Burton kindly translates as "Is it for this that we have pale faces and do without our breakfasts?" and perhaps more closer to the bone..."Quid tantum insanis juvant impallescere chartis?", which translates as "Why lose the colour of our youthful age by constant bending o'er the stupid page?". Yes. My thoughts exactly.
The work is divided into three main portions: the first defines and describes various kinds of melancholy; the second puts forward various cures; and the third analyses love melancholy and religious melancholy. Each has a distinct air about it; the first is quite straightforward and discursive in tone, beginning at the beginning with 'Man's Fall'. The second portion draws on many of the scientific hypotheses of the time, and old and new philosophies; and the last of the three is the most contemplative in mood, drawing more from conventionally literary sources. The end result is a lucky-bag, as Holbrook Jackson rightly states: "whether you are a plagiarist, legitimately predatory, or an adventurous reader, like Dr. Johnson, whom it 'took out of bed two hours sooner than he wanted to rise.'".
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on 17 September 2011
This book is a classic of its sort and I was keen to have a new copy. This is a very poorly produced version which appears as though it has simply taken the content from the internet and reprinted it without any editing so it includes the computer coding which appears as jumbled meaningless punctuation too. Spend the extra and get a real copy.
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on 2 April 2010
This is a well-made paperback. The body text reproduces - photographically but clearly, and in quite dense black - Holbrook Jackson's edition of 1932. The introductions are newly set. One is Holbrook Jackson's own; the other is a new introduction by William H. Gass.

The book contains all three of Burton's "Partitions". Burton's marginal notes are retained (although not on the page, but as end-notes after each Partition.) The whole book is a little over 1400 pages. The ?1932 index is 1.9%, but well done within its limits: thus, three-quarters of a page in the index is given over to LOVE and LOVE-MELANCHOLY, and the index then proceeds by way of LOVERS, LOW Countries and LUNGS to LUST, LUTHERANS and LYCANTHROPIA; and so on. There is a 14-page modern glossary.

This book is outstandingly good value.
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on 23 July 2011
This version of the book is made unreadable by the very poor production standards. There are typing errors on every page, with random symbols being inserted at some points and new paragraphs being created in the middle of sentences.

These errors mean that as much effort is expended in trying to understand the punctuation and spelling than the meaning of the author.
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on 15 August 2012
This is not what it says: it is merely a few pages of introductory matter to the book. It is a snare and a delusion: do not buy it, even at this price.
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on 8 February 2012
I really enjoyed this book. I took it on a holiday and ploughed my way relentlessly through it and by the time it came to an end I was strangely wanting to keep going or even start again. Read it through, it grows on you and the delightful language and choice of words takes over. Looking at the other reviews, I think there are obviously old spellings rather than typological errors _ although I would not exclude these. Nevertheless its too good a book to dismiss and where will anyone find a cheaper copy? The book is not going to ever be a best seller again as it was in the 17th century, but hey ho, its a specialist taste and if you can enjoy it you are in good company.
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on 18 June 2001
A source for Keats. Coleridge and the other romantics, the first confessional book in English, a crash-course in Classical quotation, the only book to get Samuel Johnson up before midday, a treatise on a disease which is also its cure...Robert Burton might have benefited if Prozac had been available, but English Literature would have been badly harmed.
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on 1 February 2013
This book is a 'tour-de-force'. The Anatomy of Melancholy was written by Robert Burton (b1577-d1640/1650)as a contemporaneous account of Tudor and Stewart understandings of the human psyche. Part myth, part science, part poetry, part pure disquisition, Burton delves into the human condition like no previous writer since the Ancient Greeks. In another review here (by 'Mark') attention is drawn to the quirkiness of the spellings. But these are not errors, rather the editor (William H. Gass) has remained faithful to the extant manuscript and has reproduced the original typography. Writing in the Guardian newspaper, Nicholas Lezard argues this book to be 'the best ever written'. For Anthony Burgess it is 'one of the great comic works of the world'. For me the work offers a conspectus of Tudor thought from the pen of a magnificent ego. Simply dip into the manuscript at random and you will seldom emerge unrewarded!
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on 27 June 2015
wow... not a book... rather an expedition ... a crazy one... an exhausting one... it s a window to the very fear of melancholy... a great fear for the rational mind and its escape through the stoic or divine way out... the style is barroc... and hilarious !!!
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on 25 October 2012
None may doubt that Burton had begun the depression analysis which Adler and others three centuries later completed with such great benefits to society. It definitely deserves five starsfor its isogenius and daring.
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