Four hundred years ago, Robert Burton wrote an epic attempt to understand melancholy. What can it teach us today?
In 1621 the English scholar, Robert Burton, published The Anatomy of Melancholy. It was the first attempt in the modern western world to understand and categorise causes, symptoms and treatments of that universal human experience: melancholy.
Writing from Oxford where he was a life-long scholar, librarian of Christ Church and a vicar, Burton drew on the writing of others and also his own experiences.
In this omnibus, writer Amy Liptrot looks at some of the cures of melancholy identified by Robert Burton.
Are there any links with Burton’s enthusiasm for herbs as a remedy for melancholy and gardening or connecting with nature today? Amy meets writer Emma Mitchell and gardener and broadcaster Monty Don.
What about friendship, mirth and merry company as Burton put it? Broadcaster Gemma Cairney shares her reflections on the importance of friends and joy.
And Burton is torn between ‘a love of learning’ and ‘overmuch study’. How can today’s students find the right balance?
As a new parent, Amy is curious to know how problems with sleep can affect our mood and also how music can help soothe frazzled nerves and lift our spirits. She talks to sleep expert Professor Colin Espie. We hear singing from the wards of Sheffield Children’s Hospital.
Finally, who really was Robert Burton, why was he moved to write this epic book that has so much relevance for us today?
Across the centuries, he passes the baton over to us.
Simon Russell Beale brings the voice of Robert Burton to life with extracts from The Anatomy of Melancholy.
Presenter: Amy Liptrot
Reader: Simon Russell Beale
Sound design: Alice K. Winz
Producer: Ruth Abrahams
Series consultant: John Geddes
A Whistledown production for BBC Radio 4
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- Fri 22 May 2020 21:00