« PreviousContinue »
and then, saluting the sun, went his ways. In what humour constant Socrates did thus I know not, or how he might be affected; but this would be pernicious to another man; what intricate business might so really possess him, I cannot easily guess; but this is otiosum otium ; it is fær otherwise with these men, according to Seneca: omnia nobis mala solitudo persuadet ; this solitude undoeth us; pug. nat cum vità sociali ; 'tis a destructive solitariness. These men are devils, alone, as the saying is, homo solus aut deus, aut dæmon ; à man alone, is either ą, saint or a devil; meus ejus aut languescit, aut tumescit ; and væ soli ! in this sense, woe be to him that is so alone! These wretches do frequently degenerate from men, and, of sociable creatures, become beasts, monsters, inhumane, ugly to behold, misanthropi ; they do even loathe themselves, and hate the com, pany of men, as so many Timons, Nebuchadnezzars, by too much indulging to these pleasing humours, and through their own default. So that which Mercurialis (consil. 11.) sometimes expostulated with his melancholy patient, may be justly applied to every solitary and idle person in particular :"Natura de te videtur conqueri posse," fc. Nature may justly complain of thee, that, whereas she gave thee a good wholesome temperature, & sound body, and God hath given thee so divine and excellent a soul, so many good parts and profitable gifts ; tbou hast not only contemned and
rejected, but hast corrupted them, polluted them, overthrown their temperature, and perverted those gifts with riot, idleness, solitariness, and many other ways; thou art a traitor to God and nature, an enemy to thyself and to the world. Perditiæ tua ex te; thou hast lost thyself wilfully, cast away thyself; thou thyself art the efficient cause of thine own misery, by not resisting such vain cogitations, but giving way unto them.
“ The Anatomy of Melancholy," was first printed in quarto, 1621, and afterwards in folio. It passed through so many editions that the bookseller, as we are informed by Wood, got an estate by it.
The character of Burton, as drawn by Wood, is, “ that he was an exact mathematician, a curious calculator of nativities, a general read scholar, a thorough-paced philologist, and one that understood the surveying of lands well. As he was by many accounted a severe student, a devourer of authors, a melancholy and humorous person; so by others, who knew him well, a person of great honesty, plain dealing, and charity. I have heard some of the ancients of Christ Church often say, that his company was very merry, facete, and juvenile ; and no man of his time did surpass him for his ready and dexterous interlarding his common discourses among them with verses from the poets, or sentences from classic authors; which being then all the fashion in the university, made his company the more acceptable.
“ The Anatomy of Melancholy,” was composed, (says Granger) with a view of relieving his own melancholy ; but increased it to such a degree, that nothing could make him laugh, but going to the bridge-foot, and hearing the ribaldry of the bargemen, which rarely failed to throw him into a violent fit of laughter. Before he was overcome with this horrid disorder, he in the intervals of his vapours was esteemed one of the most facetious companions in the university.
Dr. Johnson says of this work, that" it was the only book that ever took him out of bed two hours sooner than he wished to rise.” And again, “it is, perhaps, overloaded with quotations; but there is great spirit and great power in what Burton says, when he writes from his own mind.”
Wharton says of it, that “ the writer's van riety of learning, his quotations from scarce and curious books, his pedantry, sparkling with rude wit and shapeless elegance, miscellaneous matter, intermixture of agreeable tales and illustrations, and perhaps above all, the singularities of his feelings, clothed in an uncommon quaintness of style, have contributed to render it, even to modern readers, a valuable repository of amusement and information.
“ The Anatomy of Melancholy,” has been the source of infinite plagiarisms, The wits of queen Anne's reign, and the beginning of that of George the First, were much indebted to it; and more recently, the numerous plagiarisms of Sterne from this author have been successa fully pointed out by Dr. Ferriar,
John Selden, the famed antiquarian, was born in 1584, at a small village called Salvintor, near Tering, a sea-port in Sussex. He received his early education at the free-school of Chichester, and in 1599, was admitted of Hart Hall, Oxford. In 1602, he entered at Clifford's Inn as student of the law; and two years after was admitted socius of the Inner Temple. Convinced, however, that his talents were not of that description which would enable him to shine at the bar, he directed his attention chiefly to the investigation of the origin of law.
He was chosen in 1623, member of parļiament for Lancaster; and on the accession of Charles I. the following year, was returned a burgess for Great-Bedwin in Wiltshire. In