Although the book is commonly referred to by its abbreviated title it actually has the far more wonderful name of ‘The Anatomy of Melancholy, What it is: With all the Kinds, Causes, Symptomes, Prognostickes, and Several Cures of it. In Three Maine Partitions with their several Sections, Members, and Subsections. Philosophically, Medicinally, Historically, Opened and Cut Up’.
In the book, Burton explores melancholy, depression and low spirits in all of its forms as well as curating views and opinions of the state from literature, history and medicine.
It is known as a huge labyrinth of a work that is as chaotic as it is beautiful. It has barely been out of print since it was first published in 1621.
In Our Time discusses the writing of the book, the somewhat mysterious life of its author and its historical significance.
I have to say, I’ve not read it all, as even the modern paperback clocks in at an impressive 1,382 pages.
However, one of my favourite parts is the description a description of the glass delusion – a false belief that one is made of glass and might shatter. Curiously, this was widely reported at the time of Burton’s book but has now almost entirely disappeared.
As, to be honest, I will probably never read the book in its entirety, I fully intend to use the latest edition of In Our Time to get a excellent grounding in Burton’s landmark tome to sound much cleverer than I really am.
As the discussion is so fascinating, you could probably do the same.