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Views & Reviews Medical classics

The Anatomy of Melancholy

BMJ 2007; 335 doi: (Published 16 August 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;335:351
  1. George Dunea, president and chief executive officer, Hektoen Institute of Medicine, Chicago, Illinois, USA
  1. gdu222{at}

    According to the “Advertisement” (or preface) of its 1893 reprinting, The Anatomy of Melancholy was at the time of its publication (1621) “of great celebrity,” going through at least eight editions “by which the bookseller got an estate.” It was highly recommended by Dr Samuel Johnson, who advised Boswell to divert distressing thoughts by having a “lamp constantly burning in his bed-chamber at night and if wakefully disturbed . . . compose himself to rest” by reading from this “valuable work.”

    Published under the pseudonym Democritus Junior by Robert Burton, an Oxford scholar and clergyman who wrote to assuage his own melancholy, it has an 165 page rambling introduction …

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