Anatomy of Melancholy, by Robert Burton

Memb. viii.

Against Melancholy itself.

“Every man,” saith 4070Seneca, “thinks his own burthen the heaviest,” and a melancholy man above all others complains most; weariness of life, abhorring all company and light, fear, sorrow, suspicion, anguish of mind, bashfulness, and those other dread symptoms of body and mind, must needs aggravate this misery; yet compared to other maladies, they are not so heinous as they be taken. For first this disease is either in habit or disposition, curable or incurable. If new and in disposition, 'tis commonly pleasant, and it may be helped. If inveterate, or a habit, yet they have lucida intervalla, sometimes well, and sometimes ill; or if more continuate, as the 4071Vejentes were to the Romans, 'tis hostis magis assiduus quam gravis, a more durable enemy than dangerous: and amongst many inconveniences, some comforts are annexed to it. First it is not catching, and as Erasmus comforted himself, when he was grievously sick of the stone, though it was most troublesome, and an intolerable pain to him, yet it was no whit offensive to others, not loathsome to the spectators, ghastly, fulsome, terrible, as plagues, apoplexies, leprosies, wounds, sores, tetters, pox, pestilent agues are, which either admit of no company, terrify or offend those that are present. In this malady, that which is, is wholly to themselves: and those symptoms not so dreadful, if they be compared to the opposite extremes. They are most part bashful, suspicious, solitary, &c., therefore no such ambitious, impudent intruders as some are, no sharkers, no cony-catchers, no prowlers, no smell-feasts, praters, panders, parasites, bawds, drunkards, whoremasters; necessity and defect compel them to be honest; as Mitio told Demea in the 4072comedy,

Haec si neque ego neque tu fecimus,

Non sinit egestas facere nos.

“If we be honest 'twas poverty made us so:” if we melancholy men be not as bad as he that is worst, 'tis our dame melancholy kept us so: Non deerat voluntas sed facultas. 4073

Besides they are freed in this from many other infirmities, solitariness makes them more apt to contemplate, suspicion wary, which is a necessary humour in these times, 4074Nam pol que maxime cavet, is saepe cautor captus est, “he that takes most heed, is often circumvented, and overtaken.” Fear and sorrow keep them temperate and sober, and free them from any dissolute acts, which jollity and boldness thrust men upon: they are therefore no sicarii, roaring boys, thieves or assassins. As they are soon dejected, so they are as soon, by soft words and good persuasions, reared. Wearisomeness of life makes them they are not so besotted on the transitory vain pleasures of the world. If they dote in one thing, they are wise and well understanding in most other. If it be inveterate, they are insensati, most part doting, or quite mad, insensible of any wrongs, ridiculous to others, but most happy and secure to themselves. Dotage is a state which many much magnify and commend: so is simplicity, and folly, as he said, 4075sic hic furor o superi, sit mihi perpetuus. Some think fools and dizzards live the merriest lives, as Ajax in Sophocles, Nihil scire vita jucundissima, “'tis the pleasantest life to know nothing;” iners malorum remedium ignorantia, “ignorance is a downright remedy of evils.” These curious arts and laborious sciences, Galen's, Tully's, Aristotle's, Justinian's, do but trouble the world some think; we might live better with that illiterate Virginian simplicity, and gross ignorance; entire idiots do best, they are not macerated with cares, tormented with fears, and anxiety, as other wise men are: for as 4076he said, if folly were a pain, you should hear them howl, roar, and cry out in every house, as you go by in the street, but they are most free, jocund, and merry, and in some 4077countries, as amongst the Turks, honoured for saints, and abundantly maintained out of the common stock. 4078They are no dissemblers, liars, hypocrites, for fools and madmen tell commonly truth. In a word, as they are distressed, so are they pitied, which some hold better than to be envied, better to be sad than merry, better to be foolish and quiet, quam sapere et ringi, to be wise and still vexed; better to be miserable than happy: of two extremes it is the best.

4070. Unicuique suum onus intolerabile videtur.

4071. Livius.

4072. Ter. scen. 2. Adelphus.

4073. “'Twas not the will but the way that was wanting.”

4074. Plautus.

4075. Petronius Catul.

4076. Parmeno Caelestinae, Act. 8. Si stultita dolor esset, in nulla non domo ejulatus audires.

4077. Busbequius. Sands. lib. 1. fol. 89.

4078. Quis hodie beatior, quam cui licet stultum esse, et eorundam immunitatibus frui. Sat. Menip.

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