Burton medical treatise and centon, 1621.
Fishburn and Hughes: "A treatise by Robert Burton published in 1621. Its three parts deal with the definition, causes, symptoms and properties of melancholy; its cure; and the melancholy of love and of religion. Burton argues that, though people can escape melancholy by being companionable and active, it is congenital in the human condition. In spite of its medical tone, the work addresses itself to wider issues, including contemporary politics. The overall message seems to be an ironic statement of the ineffectualness of man. The book abounds in quotations from the bible, the classics and Church literature; on this point Borges has remarked that those works which like The Anatomy of Melancholy are not entirely the writer's own creation, but a patchwork of references to other texts, are, paradoxically, perhaps the most personal, since 'we are the past' (Obras completas en colaboración 977).
CF 74: the quotation which serves as epigraph stems from the chapter 'Exercises Rectified of Body and Mind', describing the various physical and mental activities which help to overcome melancholy. Of these, study is considered the most effective. Particularly recommended are the memorising of texts, the demonstration of geometrical propositions, and algebra, 'an excellent and pleasant discipline' which allows us to envisage the whole from the part, ex ungue leonem. The quotation in full reads: 'By this art you may contemplate the variation of the twenty-three letters, which may be so infinitely varied, that the words complicated and deduced thence will not be contained within the compass of the firmament; ten words may be varied 40,320 several ways.' " (11)