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The Anatomy Of Melancholy: Episode 16

July 16th, 2020


A non-captioned version can be seen here.

As acknowledged earlier, we are now open to ideas that the health of our bodies may effect the health of our minds, but we are perhaps less comfortable with the idea that poor mental health may be linked more specifically to our stomach, our spleen or the temperature of our liver – be that too hot or cold. I urge you to put that scepticism to one side for now, the glory of this episode lies in the imagery of its language, the ‘purly hunter’, the ’cask’ and its ‘tincture’ and the stunning conclusion, a sobering warning for those who think melancholy is something that only happens to other people.

The Anatomy Of Melancholy: Episode 15

July 15th, 2020


A non-captioned version can be seen here

As we approach the end of Robert Burton’s great survey of melancholy’s causes, which together form Section 2 of the the first Partition of his Anatomy, we find the material for today’s episode.

After six sub-sections describing in detail examples of accidental causes – things that happen to us – he has a host of circumstances still to be addressed and so forms them into a concluding list. The list is touching because it is all so familiar to us, close to home and timeless. If we have not experienced a misery arising from an item on this list then we each surely know a family member, friend or acquaintance who has. The exception appears to be ‘Bad Servants’ but translate this to our times as ‘Employees’ and define these as ‘people you pay to do jobs for you’ then who hasn’t felt this gloom?

Hearing this list performed summons in me a pleasurable melancholy that Burton acknowledges, and is tolerant of, but urges us not to indulge in ‘overmuch’. So, if like me you find yourself seduced by the sad beauty of this episode, please don’t re-watch it too many times.

Film On The Radio: Back To The Future

July 14th, 2020

Last night’s broadcast of Film On The Radio: Back To The Future, from The Commentators, is available now to here on the company’s Mixlr showreel.

The Anatomy Of Melancholy: Episode 14

July 14th, 2020


A non-captioned version can be seen here.

There’s no putting a gloss on today’s episode, it’s pretty bleak. Our author describes to us the anxiety and misery that arise from being poor. He outlines a systemic problem in which those with wealth exploit the labour of those without and in so doing make social mobility impossible. He writes with an aching sense of compassion for those struggling in this situation. I find this episode as compelling in its argument for equality as any political speech.

The Anatomy Of Melancholy: Episode 13

July 13th, 2020


A non-captioned version can be seen here.

As eager twenty somethings this episode would not have resonated with us as it does now. Now the team are living the anxious role of concerned parents, asking ourselves “how much should we encourage, support, cajole, rebuke, insist or decry?” We want to give our children the best start in life, but what is for the best and how much influence do we really have? To help us in today’s episode we have two very special guest stars.

The Anatomy Of Melancholy: Episode 12

July 12th, 2020


A non-captioned version can be seen here.

This episode amuses me unduly. In out interpretation these are four scholars complaining about how much they suffer for their vocation. Theirs is solitary, sedentary, work undertaken in gloomy conditions passing under appreciated by the wider public, no wonder they suffer from melancholy. Perhaps we empathise because we have ‘fellow feeling’, we think the thing we do is difficult, worthy and under valued while over there we see others who, in our estimation, are getting far greater praise and reward for doing some thing very simple, like riding ‘an horse’.

The Anatomy Of Melancholy: Episode 11

July 12th, 2020

A non-captioned version is available here.

The twenty first century may have invented ‘selfies’ and ‘likes’ and the assiduous construction of self, through social media; and this century may have refined an economic culture of aspirational emulation, around ‘influencers’ and ‘followers’; but narcissism was named by Ovid, so we didn’t invent that. Burton knows that the madness or melancholy lies in this direction and he puts it all in perspective with a concluding ‘zoom out’ to rival anything in cinematic history.

This is a short episode but strong, like a stiff drink, with a kick.

The Anatomy Of Melancholy: Episode 10

July 10th, 2020


A non-captioned version can be seen here

Robert Burton would have been a terrible careers’ advisor. In this episode, in an uncharacteristically concise manner, he manages to make fourteen different professions sound highly undesirable. He characterises his own calling as a vicar to be ‘contemptible in the worlds esteem’, which seems harsh. It’s easy to imagine taking up a career as an ‘alchymist’ would eventually turn you into ‘a beggar’ but if the role of ‘physician’ is ‘loathed’ then it is probably a good thing that he doesn’t get onto estate agents and politicians. It would be great to get his take on YouTubers, currency traders, bookmakers, advertising executives, cosmetic surgeons, insurance loss adjusters or cold callers.

After that knock about exchange things go down hill a bit, Craig hits us with depressing list of fears and complaints before Rochi knocks us out it a beautiful conclusion including a very famous quotation.

I really like this episode.

The Anatomy Of Melancholy: Episode 9

July 9th, 2020


A non-captioned version can be seen here.

We’re deep into the book now. Seven subsections are compressed into this episode setting out the various passions which, if aroused, can lead to melancholy.

Here hints of our theatrical adaptation linger. Expanding on the effects of shame and disgrace Craig acts out a curious anecdote of a priest having a poo in a ditch. Graeme, making the same point, has a dig about how poor Craig’s enactment is and Rochi, has a pop at Graeme ascribing his response to envy and malice. As often happens Gerard steps in to put everything that has come before into perspective: “Our whole life is an Irish Sea where in naught to be expected but tempestuous storms and troublesome wave” what a great sentence!

The Anatomy Of Melancholy: Episode 8

July 8th, 2020


A non-captioned version can be seen here.

Today’s episode takes on two significant causes of melancholy. The first is ‘bad air’.

A generation ago our weather forecasts spoke just of the sun and the rain, the wind and the snow. Now the cheery meteorological pundits have extended their remit and may occasionally expound on humidity, the pollen count and air quality.

Robert Burton lists places renowned for ‘bad air’. Pomptinae Paludes has probably fallen down this league table and Beijing leapt towards the top. Low emission zones are being put in place to ‘rectify the air’ in our big cities, protecting them from diesel cars and such like. That should cheer us up, but Burton was writing before the industrial revolution when melancholy could be considered as a vapour in the air, waiting to be breathed in by the unsuspecting passer by.

The British know about miserable weather and how Seasonal Affective Disorder makes us sad. Like so many of our latitude we are especially appreciative of the joys of spring. There is much to recognise in this talk of the air.

Maybe you will recognise the episode’s second half too. Maybe you too succumb occasionally to too much solitariness; the tendency to find your own company easier than that of other people. At times it is easy to wallow in just a little pleasant melancholia but Burton suggests the seduction of this solitariness is insidious, it becomes a habit. Writing in June 2020 when millions upon millions of people have been forced to subsist on their own company it maybe we are facing a subtle ‘feral plague’ brought on by not voluntary but enforced solitariness. We should no be alone.


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