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Joke Book?

A.D. Nuttall, 23 November 1989

The Anatomy of Melancholy: Vol. I 
by Robert Burton, edited by Thomas Faulkner, Nicholas Kiessling and Rhonda Blair.
Oxford, 675 pp., £70, October 1989, 0 19 812448 1
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... who eluded her too amorous suitor by hiding among pigs, stands the funerary monument of Robert Burton. Already, it will be noticed, I am giving more information than is strictly necessary. My excuse must be that it is a habit I have caught from Burton himself. A schoolboy, asked to produce a review, is said ...

Mecca Bound

Robert Irwin, 21 July 1994

The Hajj: Muslim Pilgrimage to Mecca and the Holy Places 
by F.E. Peters.
Princeton, 399 pp., £19.95, July 1994, 0 691 02120 1
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Pilgrims and Sultans: The Hajj under the Ottomans 
by Suraiya Faroqhi.
Tauris, 244 pp., £34.50, May 1994, 1 85043 606 1
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The Hadj: A Pilgrimage to Mecca 
by Michael Wolfe.
Secker, 331 pp., £19.99, January 1994, 0 436 58404 2
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... In the section of The Anatomy of Melancholy devoted to the perils of religious enthusiasm, Robert Burton pauses briefly to comment on the complex and meritorious rituals of the hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca: their fastings, their running till they sweat, their long prayers, Mahomets temple, tombe, and building of it, would aske a whole volume to dilate: and for their paines taken in this holy pilgrimage, all their sins are forgiven, and they are reputed so many saints ...

Full-Employment Utopias

Christopher Hill, 16 July 1981

Utopia and the Ideal Society: A Study of English Utopian Writing, 1516-1700 
by J.C. Davis.
Cambridge, 427 pp., £25, March 1981, 0 521 23396 8
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Science and Society in Restoration England 
by Michael Hunter.
Cambridge, 232 pp., £18.50, March 1981, 0 521 22866 2
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... Winstanley and Harrington, but I found his chapters on lesser writers even more instructive. Robert Burton and Samuel Gott are revealed as more significant ‘utopians’ than has been recognised. Dr Davis is also interesting on William Sprigge’s A Modest Plea for an Equal Commonwealth of 1659, the anonymous Chaos (1659) and The Free State of ...

What mattered to Erasmus

James McConica, 2 March 1989

Erasmus’s Annotations on the New Testament. The Gospels: Facsimile of the final Latin text with all earlier variants 
edited by Anne Reeve.
Duckworth, 284 pp., £35, March 1986, 9780715619902
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Erasmus’s Annotations on the New Testament: From Philologist to Theologian 
by Erika Rummel.
Toronto, 234 pp., £24.50, January 1987, 0 8020 5683 0
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A New Rabelais Bibliography: Editions of Rabelais before 1626 
by Stephen Rawles and M.A. Screech.
Droz, 691 pp.
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The Library of Robert Burton 
by Nicholas Kiessling.
Oxford Bibliographic Society, 433 pp., £25, May 1988, 0 901420 42 5
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... world of Erasmus, ushering in that of Bacon and Grotius. In the twilight of the age of Erasmus, Robert Burton, ‘that fantastic great old man’, came of age at Oxford, a representative figure of Erasmian Humanism at its apogee. Most of his library is still to be found there as he wished, divided between the Bodleian Library, and Christ Church, where ...

That Satirical Way of Nipping

Fara Dabhoiwala: Learning to Laugh, 16 December 2021

Uncivil Mirth: Ridicule in Enlightenment Britain 
by Ross Carroll.
Princeton, 255 pp., £28, April, 978 0 691 18255 1
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... and all such evil behaviour as we see to be in other[s].’ In The Anatomy of Melancholy (1621), Robert Burton made the same point from the victim’s perspective: ‘A bitter jest, a slander, a calumny, pierceth deeper than any loss, danger, bodily pain or injury whatsoever.’ In 17th-century England, people across society defended their honour ...

Viva la joia

Roy Porter, 22 December 1983

Montaigne: Essays in Reading 
edited by Gérard Defaux.
Yale, 308 pp., £8.95, April 1983, 0 300 02977 2
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Montaigne and Melancholy: The Wisdom of the ‘Essays’ 
by M.A. Screech.
Duckworth, 194 pp., £19.50, August 1983, 0 7156 1698 6
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... playing with bile, courting disaster. A generation later, that other constitutional melancholic, Robert Burton, shut himself up in Christ Church and composed for twenty years. The outcome, the Anatomy of Melancholy, won him glory. But it was the testament of an embittered splenetic, a libeller of humanity, whose half a million words kept melancholy on ...

No High Heels in Paradise

Keith Thomas: John Evelyn’s Elysium Britannicum, 19 July 2001

Elysium Britannicum, or the Royal Gardens 
by John Evelyn, edited by John Ingram.
Pennsylvania, 492 pp., £49, December 2000, 0 8122 3536 3
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... whose Flora (1665) Evelyn also pillaged, is not distinguished from John Ray, the great botanist. Robert Boyle appears as ‘Mr Royle’ and is solemnly indexed as such. The editor has no great pretensions to be either a classical scholar or an expert on English 17th-century history; and he deserves gratitude for his labours on a difficult text. It is a shame ...

Dark Places

John Sutherland, 18 November 1982

Wise Virgin 
by A.N. Wilson.
Secker, 186 pp., £7.50, October 1982, 0 436 57608 2
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The London Embassy 
by Paul Theroux.
Hamish Hamilton, 211 pp., £7.95, October 1982, 0 241 10872 1
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The frog who dared to croak 
by Richard Sennett.
Faber, 182 pp., £7.95, October 1982, 0 571 11989 1
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Vintage Stuff 
by Tom Sharpe.
Secker, 220 pp., £7.50, November 1982, 0 436 45810 1
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Rogue Justice 
by Geoffrey Household.
Joseph, 174 pp., £7.95, October 1982, 0 7181 2178 3
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... my period, but despite some convincing quotation and an authenticating footnote, this work by ‘Robert of St Victor’ appears to be invented. (Readers of Wilson’s earlier novels will expect highly specialised pockets of expertise on church and university matters.) The treatise celebrates the anchoretic life: or the wisdom of virginity as the path to true ...

Give Pot a Chance

Roy Porter, 8 June 1995

Marihuana: The Forbidden Medicine 
by Lester Grinspoon, edited by James Bakalar.
Yale, 184 pp., £7.95, April 1995, 0 300 05994 9
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... serving a six-month prison sentence, and virtually without medical support. Again, a Florida man, Robert Randall, who had contracted Aids following a blood transfusion, had, with great difficulty, obtained legal authorisation to use cannabis to reduce the nausea he suffered. He, too, was arrested at gunpoint, tried and convicted on a charge of growing ...

Quill, Wax, Knife

Adam Smyth: Collier’s Letter Racks, 18 July 2013

Mr Collier’s Letter Racks: A Tale of Art & Illusion at the Threshold of the Modern Information Age 
by Dror Wahrman.
Oxford, 275 pp., £22.95, November 2012, 978 0 19 973886 1
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... commentators felt there were simply too many books: ‘a vast Chaos and confusion’, according to Robert Burton. ‘The longest life of a man,’ John Cotgrave lamented, ‘is not sufficient to explore so much as the substance of them, which (in many) is but slender.’ Thus careful reading was figured as a kind of profitable destruction: an act of ...

Get it out of your system

Jenny Diski, 8 May 1997

The Anatomy of Disgust 
by William Ian Miller.
Harvard, 313 pp., £16.50, April 1997, 0 674 03154 7
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... troubled attitude to flesh and blood is only part of the story of disgust. The deliberate echo of Robert Burton in his title signals his wish to produce a meditation on the natural history of disgust and his belief that it is as much hard-wired as socially induced. His claim is that ‘for all its visceralness’ disgust ‘is one of our more aggressive ...

Not to Be Read without Shuddering

Adam Smyth: The Atheist’s Bible, 20 February 2014

The Atheist’s Bible: The Most Dangerous Book That Never Existed 
by Georges Minois, translated by Lys Ann Weiss.
Chicago, 249 pp., £21, October 2012, 978 0 226 53029 1
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... price of gold; and they did this while cursing the work.’ (In his Anatomy of Melancholy of 1621, Robert Burton condemned ‘that pestilent booke’, ‘not to be read without shuddering’.) Minois delights in strange, Eco-esque vignettes of doomed book-hunting obsessives, like Christina, the daughter of King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden, who ...

The Frisson

Will Self, 23 January 2014

The View from the Train: Cities and Other Landscapes 
by Patrick Keiller.
Verso, 218 pp., £14.99, November 2013, 978 1 78168 140 4
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... touch such weathered stones of deep cultural time as Democritus and Lucretius, Thomas Browne and Robert Burton, conduces me, at least, to conviction: I can think of only a handful of films that have had the profound impact on me that Keiller’s London did when I first saw it in the cinema. With its acute intercuts of London’s raddled face – which ...

Gutted

Steven Shapin, 30 June 2011

A Modern History of the Stomach: Gastric Illness, Medicine and British Society, 1800-1950 
by Ian Miller.
Pickering and Chatto, 195 pp., £60, May 2011, 978 1 84893 181 7
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... understand, are the pure products of disordered digestion’. In The Anatomy of Melancholy (1621), Robert Burton wrote that the stomach is the ‘king of the belly, because if he be distempered, all the rest suffer with him.’ Early 19th-century physicians agreed: ‘It is a great mistake to regard dyspepsia as peculiarly or especially a disease of the ...

Diary

Mark Ford: Love and Theft, 2 December 2004

... some time after Laurence Sterne’s death in 1768 that this passage was itself plagiarised from Robert Burton’s attack on literary imitators in his introduction to The Anatomy of Melancholy. ‘As apothecaries,’ Burton observed, ‘we make new mixtures every day, pour out of one vessel into another … Again, we ...

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