Navigation Link

1215 South Walnut Ave.
Demopolis, AL 36732 map map 

Access to Care: 1-800-239-2901

1215 South Walnut Ave.
Demopolis, AL 36732
334.289.2416 (fax)

powered by centersite dot net
Depression: Depression & Related Conditions
Basic Information
Introduction and Types of Depressive DisordersRelated Disorders / ConditionsHistorical and Current UnderstandingsBiology, Psychology and SociologyTreatment - Medication and PsychotherapyAlternative Medicine and Self-Help ResourcesSpecial IssuesReferences
More InformationTestsLatest NewsQuestions and AnswersVideosLinksBook Reviews
A Heart of StoneA Mood ApartA Philosophical DiseaseActive Treatment of DepressionAdolescent DepressionAgainst DepressionAmerican MelancholyAn Unquiet MindBeating the BluesBefore ProzacBeyond BlueBlaming the BrainCalm EnergyConquering Postpartum DepressionConquering the Beast WithinCry Depression, Celebrate RecoveryDamageDepressionDepressionDepression 101Depression Doesn't Always Have to Be DepressingDepression FalloutDepression in ContextDepression Is a ChoiceDepression, the Mood DiseaseDepression-Free for LifeDoctors of DeceptionDown Came the RainDysthymia and the Spectrum of Chronic DepressionsEmotional ClaustrophobiaEssential Psychopharmacology of Depression and Bipolar DisorderEverything Is FineExperiences of DepressionHandbook of DepressionHandbook of DepressionHistory of SuicideHow I Stayed Alive When My Brain Was Trying to Kill MeIn Pursuit of HappinessJourneys with the Black DogKilling the Black DogLifeForce Yoga to Beat the Blues--Level 1LifeForce Yoga to Beat the Blues: Level 2Lifting DepressionLincoln's MelancholyLucy Sullivan Is Getting MarriedMalignant SadnessManufacturing DepressionMindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for DepressionMood GenesMy DepressionNatural Healing for DepressionNew Hope for People with DepressionOn DepressionOn the Edge of DarknessOrdinarily WellOut of the BlueOutsmarting DepressionOvercoming DepressionPotatoes Not ProzacProzac and the New AntidepressantsProzac BacklashProzac DiaryProzac NationPuppy Chow Is Better Than ProzacQuiet Your Mind & Get to SleepRaising a Moody ChildReasons to Stay AliveSelf-CoachingSongs from the Black ChairSpeaking of SadnessSpontaneous HappinessStudent DepressionSubordination and DefeatSunbathing in the RainSwing LowTalking Back to ProzacThe American Psychiatric Publishing Textbook of Mood DisordersThe Anatomy of MelancholyThe Anti-Depressant Fact BookThe Antidepressant EraThe BeastThe Bell JarThe Breakthrough Depression SolutionThe CorrectionsThe Cruelty of DepressionThe Depressed ChildThe Depression CureThe Devil WithinThe Emotional RevolutionThe Family SilverThe Feeling Good HandbookThe Mood CureThe Nature of MelancholyThe Noonday DemonThe Postpartum EffectThe Secret Strength of DepressionThe Van Gogh BluesThe Van Gogh BluesThis Close to HappyUndercurrentsUnderstanding DepressionUndoing DepressionUnholy GhostUnstuckViniyoga Therapy for DepressionWhat the Birds SeeWhen a Parent is DepressedWhen Nothing Matters AnymoreWhen Words Are Not EnoughWhy Are You So Sad?Writing Through the Darkness
Related Topics

Anxiety Disorders
Bipolar Disorder
Addictions: Alcohol and Substance Abuse
Pain Management

by Robert Burton
New York Review of Books, 2001
Review by Jennifer Radden, D. Phil. on Jan 18th 2002

The Anatomy of Melancholy

     It is a fitting tribute to the perennial popularity of Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy that the last decade should have seen not one but two new editions of that work – one (published in six volumes by the Clarendon Press) large, extensively footnoted in the most thoroughgoing scholarly fashion, and offered at a cost likely to deter all but the most devoted bibliophiles - and the other a compact chunk of a book small enough to read on the train, or in bed, and costing little more than a sandwich and a mug of beer. Given the heft of the Oxford edition, it is gratifying and delightful that Burton’s glorious Anatomy should have been part of the New York Review of Books list of quirky and interesting Classics titles alongside such long out of print or neglected treasures as J.L.Carr’s A Month in the Country, the stories of Richard Hughes, and Memoirs of My Nervous Illness by Daniel Paul Schreber.

     Favorite reading of Dr Johnson and of Keats, the Anatomy is still resonant enough to lend its title and its glamour to contemporary authors who find the dull and clinical connotations of ‘depression’ insufficient to encompass their varied and profound states of suffering. While for most of its long history the Anatomy has been in print and read as appreciatively as it is today, it was neglected, and even disparaged, during the first half of the eighteenth century.  By the next century it was restored to popularity again, however: as Holbrook Jackson tells us in the introduction to the 1932 Everyman’s Library edition (of which he was editor) reproduced in this 2001 edition by The New York Review of Books, Byron applauded it, Charles Lamb gave a copy to Keats, who based “Lamia” upon it, and forty more editions appeared before the 1932 “all English” Everyman edition reproduced here. (The “all English” text, quite unnecessary in Burton’s time, and essential in ours, provides translations of all Latin, Greek and other non-English passages in a parenthesis within the text, making for easeful and comprehending reading.)

     Jackson’s brief introduction not only tells us something of the Anatomy’s history but captures its singular virtues. Few books, as he says, are more definitely or more curiously imbued with their authorship: “To read it is to read him: to read him is to talk with him, to know him as we know the great persons of fiction, or those few writers who have so projected themselves into their works as to have achieved for their own personalities what the great novelists and dramatists have achieved for the characters of their stories or plays.”

 Those unfamiliar with Burton’s text will find it an absorbing and dense 1200+ pages worth (the notes, glossary and index take up another hundred odd pages), organized into parts, sub-sub and sub-parts, in which every imaginable kind, cause, occasion of and remedy for melancholy is introduced with copious quotations and illustrations in a text so amusing and vital in style, combining remarks at once learned, true, wordy and breathtakingly irrelevant, that it resists all summary.

     William Gass also offers an introduction to this 2001 edition, a lively and masterful discussion worthy of the Anatomy, in which he plays on Burton’s notion that his work on melancholy would dispel his own gloom. By reading Burton, Gass assures us, so might we also chase away melancholy, and Burton’s “unashamed display of his lust for the word - his desire to name each thing, and find a song in which each thing can be sung - is a passion that we might emulate to our assuredly better health.”

     We should read Burton for our health, certainly, but why else should we read him? For hundreds of years melancholy was a fundamental category in Western culture, used to explain, order, illustrate and comprehend human experience and all manner of human suffering. (In a small way, it is still.) Reinvigorated, embroidered and glamorized through the Renaissance, the humoral ideas of the Greek philosophers and physicians served as the basis for an elaborate, multi-stranded explanatory system and a way of seeing and experiencing the world. That glittering amalgam of Greek and Renaissance ideas reaches its zenith, but also its final expression, with Burton. The enchantments of the Anatomy are soon succeeded by the sourer and more rationalistic tones of the eighteenth century.

     One of the ironies of this great ‘age of melancholy’ (Schiesari) which stretched from classical times through the beginning of the eighteenth century, was that while the subject of melancholy was a man, its symbol - “Dame Melancholy” as Burton calls her -- was a woman (whereas in today’s dulled and depleted descendant category of depression, the subject and symbol both are female). Along with the ‘gendering’ in Burton’s text we also encounter his persistent misogyny: women were the cause and source of melancholy, but their experience of it was a lesser one, and one which marriage and domesticity would be quite sufficient to dispel. To today’s reader, Burton’s misogyny, while no more than a reflection of his time, is one irksome note in an otherwise irresistible book.


© 2002 Jennifer Radden


Jennifer Radden, D. Phil., is a member of the Department of Philosophy, University of Massachusetts, Boston, and President of the Assocation for the Advancement of Philosophy and Psychiatry.  She author of Divided Minds and Successive Selves and she is editor of The Nature of Melancholy : From Aristotle to Kristeva.