Absolutely the Best Book Ever Written. . . Bar None
First of all, one has a very difficult problem in defining exactly what this compendium is. Is it a book, a poem, a history, an epic? Well, it is all of those and many more. The Anatomy of Melancholy is, without a doubt, the best book ever written, bar none.
It was compliled from all the books of the 17th century and is not really about melancholy, per se. It is, rather, Robert Burtons view of mankind and mankinds condition. All mankind. And all conditions. It is about melancholia, sure, but it is about everything else as well. Melancholia was just Burtons excuse to write about everything under the sun in a strikingly original way and then have the nerve to remind us that there is nothing new under the sun. This is a book filled with both endless quotes and endless quotable material and, to the surprise of many, it is a comic masterpiece. Perhaps the comic masterpiece. Burton chose to publish this book as having been written by Democritus Junior, and if that doesnt give you a hint regarding the humor that follows, then not much will.
If you like good literature, youll love this book. If you like psychology, youll love this book. If you want to seem pretentious, you need this book. Mostly, however, this is a book for people who love words. Burton may have seemed like a raving madman to some, but he was a man obsessed with a love for the English language. . . and it shows.
The Anatomy of Melancholy wasnt meant to be read from the first page to the last; I have never met anyone who did that and one would have to be more than a little mad to even try. Just pick up the book. Open it to any page. You may find lists, digressions, bits of 17th century prose, quotes, much Latin. Whatever you find, it is sure to please if you only give it half a chance.
The Anatomy of Melancholy is definitely the desert island book. Dont go without. That would be a terrible mistake.