The Anatomy of Melancholy
by Robert Burton, introduction by William H. Gass
One of the major documents of modern European civilization, Robert Burton’s astounding compendium, a survey of melancholy in all its myriad forms, has invited nothing but superlatives since its publication in the seventeenth century. Lewellyn Powys called it “the greatest work of prose of the greatest period of English prose-writing,” while the celebrated surgeon William Osler declared it the greatest of medical treatises. And Dr. Johnson, Boswell reports, said it was the only book that he rose early in the morning to read with pleasure. In this surprisingly compact and elegant new edition, Burton’s spectacular verbal labyrinth is sure to delight, instruct, and divert today’s readers as much as it has those of the past four centuries.
Paperback not so much of the week as of the year, of the decade—or, I am enclined to say, of all time. And why? Becuase it's the best book ever written, that's why.
— Nicholas Lezard, The Guardian
All I can say is that most modern books weary me, but Burton never does...His writing is like talk, learned but earthy, and once he starts, he is hard to stop...That he was a humorist in our sense of the word we need no biographical facts to attest: The Anatomy of Melancholy is, by a magnificent and somehow very English irony, one of the great comic works of the world.
— Anthony Burgess
No prose writer—ever—has been more of a universe than Robert Burton, self-curing author of The Anatomy of Melancholy (1621), an essay on the humors that went utterly out of control and became the craziest, best entertainment ever written in English—far more important than the King James Bible in terms of effect on alpha—class letters.
— William Monahan, Bookforum