San Francisco Public Library

A user's guide to melancholy, Mary Ann Lund

A user's guide to melancholy, Mary Ann Lund
Bibliography note
Includes bibliographical references and index
index present
Literary Form
non fiction
Main title
A user's guide to melancholy
Nature of contents
Oclc number
Responsibility statement
Mary Ann Lund
"The story Burton tells of the sixteenth-century Jewish Frenchman not only shows how strong the imagination can be, but also plays out an intriguing philosophical puzzle. A man puts his life at risk by crossing over a brook by night but, since he is unable to see, he cannot perceive the danger he is in. Instead, his perception comes after the event. The case is an unusual one - and so probably appealed to Burton - because normally fear is an emotion connected to something that is is yet to happen. Aristotle describes it as a 'sort of pain or agitation derived from the imagination of a future destructive or painful evil'. But in this case, the man's fear is connected to an event that has already occurred. Burton found the story in the writings of the Spanish humanist Juán Luís Vives (1492-1540) on the soul. Vives uses it to illustrate the notion that our imaginations function by making something present to us, whether that something is in the past, future, or is completely non-existent. Darkness robbed the Frenchman of the sensory information he needed to interpret the risk of walking along the plank, so his imagination supplied it instead (but only later, since he did not know what he was doing at the time). Burton removes one interesting detail in Vives' original account, that the man was returning home by night on his donkey and had drifted off to asleep. Whereas Vives' version has him unconscious, Burton makes him alert but unseeing. When he revisited the scene the next day, the man saw what he could not have done by night, and died of shock at what might have been. A fall from a height may have put his life at risk, but it was imagination that killed him"--, Provided by publisher
Table Of Contents
Part 1. Causes: Sorrow and fear ; Body and mind ; The supernatural -- Part 2. Symptoms: Delusions ; Love and sex ; Despair -- Part 3. Cures: The non-naturals ; Medicine and surgery ; Lifting the spirits
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