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The Anatomy Of Melancholy: Episode 35

August 4th, 2020


This version is captioned, a non-captioned version can be seen here.

The material for this conclusion to our series is taken from the end of Robert Burton’s introduction where be both justifies and apologises for his work.

In one of my favourite moments there is a suggestion that he find it a bit embarrassing and vulgar not to have done the whole thing in Latin. His publishers wouldn’t permit that approach and theirs was a wise choice. Elsewhere Burton has explained how he has kept the work practical by avoiding ‘fustian phrases’ and ‘hyperbolical exornations’. This book wasn’t an affectation to grace rich libraries, it was a book written to be read and to be useful. Although its dimensions meant it was expensive The Anatomy Of Melancholy sold well and was reprinted in a series of expanding editions through Burton’s life and remains in print today.

The book’s humour, generosity, peculiarity and practicality must all have contributed to its enduring appeal, as must the continuing prevalence of its subject matter. Through the series we have learnt many practical approaches to avoiding melancholy, which seem as sensible now as they did four hundred years ago and when forcing himself to boil his 1500 page effort to a single maxim our guide leaves us with a simple twined imperative, “be not solitary, be not idle”.

At the time of making this series many millions of people around the world were forced to separate themselves from others and cease their regular activities. It has been a time of melancholy, but just as in the Episode 1 Robert Burton told us he wrote this book about melancholy in order to avoid being melancholy, so making this series has kept its makers from the same ‘feral plague’.

We hope that you have found some consolation in these 35 extracts and direct you to their source, but if you choose to read either our stage adaptation or the primary text we urge you to do so only in moderation, a little each day, in a well lit room with good air.

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