THE ANATOMY OF MELANCHOLY
BY DEMOCRITUS JUNIOR
MEMB. III. Immediate cause of these precedent Symptoms.
To give some satisfaction to melancholy men that are troubled with these symptoms, a better means in my judgment cannot be taken, than to show them the causes whence they proceed; not from devils as they suppose, or that they are
bewitched or forsaken of God, hear or see, &c., as many of them think, but from natural and inward causes, that so knowing them, they may better avoid the effects, or at least endure them with more patience. The most grievous and common symptoms are fear and sorrow, and that without a cause to the wisest and discreetest men, in this malady not to be avoided. The reason why they are so Ætius discusseth at large, Tetrabib. 2.2. in his first problem out of Galen, lib. 2 de causis sympt. 1. For Galen imputeth all to the cold that is black, and thinks that the spirits being darkened, and the substance of the brain cloudy and dark, all the objects thereof appear terrible, and the mind itself; by those dark, obscure, gross fumes, ascending from black humours, is in continual darkness, fear, and sorrow; divers terrible monstrous fictions in a thousand shapes and apparitions occur, with violent passions, by which the brain and phantasy are troubled and eclipsed. Frascastorius, lib. 2 de intellect. "will have cold to be the cause of fear and sorrow; for such as are cold are ill-disposed to mirth, dull, and heavy, by nature solitary, silent; and not for any inward darkness (as physicians think) for many melancholy men dare boldly be, continue, and walk in the dark, and delight in it:" solum frigidi timidi: if they be hot, they are merry; and the more hot, the more furious, and void of fear, as we see in madmen; but this reason holds not, for then no melancholy, proceeding from choler adust, should fear. Averroes scoffs at Galen for his reasons, and brings five arguments to repel them: so doth Herc. de Saxonia, Tract. de Melanch. cap. 3. assigning other causes, which are copiously censured and confuted by Ælianus Montaltus, cap. 5 and 6, Lod. Mercatus de Inter. morb. cur. lib. 1. cap. 17, Altomarus, cap. 7. de mel., Guianerius, tract. 15. cap. 1, Bright, cap. 37, Laurentius, cap. 5, Valesius, med. cont. lib. 5, con. 1. "Distemperature," they conclude, "makes black juice, blackness obscures the spirits, the spirits obscured, cause fear and sorrow." Laurentius, cap. 13. supposeth these black fumes offend specially the diaphragma or midriff; and so per consequens the mind, which is obscured as a the sun by a cloud. To this opinion of Galen, almost all the Greeks and Arabians subscribe, the Latins new and old, internæ tenebræ obfuscant animum, ut
externæ nocent pueris, as children are affrighted in the dark, so are melancholy men at all times, as having the inward cause with them, and still carrying it about. Which black vapours, whether they proceed from the black blood about the heart, as T. W. Jes. thinks in his Treatise of the passions of the mind, or stomach, spleen, midriff; or all the misaffected parts together, it boots not, they keep the mind in a perpetual dungeon, and oppress it with continual fears, anxieties, sorrows, &c. It is an ordinary thing for such as are sound to laugh at this dejected pusillanimity, and those other symptoms of melancholy, to make themselves merry with them, and to wonder at such, as toys and trifles, which may be resisted and withstood, if they will themselves:
- 344 -
but let him that so wonders, consider with himself; that if a man should tell him on a sudden, some of his especial friends were dead, could he choose but grieve? Or set him upon a steep rock, where he should be in danger to be precipitated, could he be secure? His heart would tremble for fear, and his head be giddy. P. Byarus, Tract. depest. gives instance (as I have said) "and put case (saith he) in one that walks upon a plank, if it lie on the ground, he can safely do it: but if the same plank be laid over some deep water, instead of a bridge, he is vehemently moved, and 'tis nothing but his imagination, forma cadendi impressa, to which his other members and faculties obey." Yea, but you infer, that such men have a just cause to fear, a true object of fear; so have melancholy men an inward cause, a perpetual fume and darkness, causing fear, grief; suspicion, which they carry with them, an object which cannot be removed; but sticks as close, and is as inseparable as a shadow to a body, and who can expel or overrun his shadow? Remove heat of the liver, a cold stomach, weak spleen: remove those adust humours and vapours arising from them, black blood from the heart, all outward perturbations, take away the cause, and then bid them not grieve nor fear, or be heavy, dull, lumpish, otherwise counsel can do little good; you may as well bid him that is sick of an ague not to be a-dry; or him that is wounded not to feel pain.
Suspicion follows fear and sorrow at heels, arising out of the same fountain, so thinks Frascatorius, "that fear is the cause of suspicion, and still they suspect some treachery, or some secret machination to be framed against them, still they distrust." Restlessness proceeds from the same spring, variety of fumes make them like and dislike. Solitariness, avoiding of light, that they are weary of their lives, hate the world, arise from the same causes, for their spirits and humours are opposite to light, fear makes them avoid company, and absent themselves, lest they should be misused,
hissed at, or overshoot themselves, which still they suspect. They are prone to venery by reason of wind. Angry, waspish, and fretting still, out of abundance of choler, which causeth fearful dreams and violent perturbations to them, both sleeping and waking: That they suppose they have no heads, fly, sink, they are pots, glasses, &c., is wind in their heads. Herc. de Saxonia doth ascribe this to the several motions in the animal spirits, "their dilation, contraction, confusion, alteration, tenebrosity, hot or cold distemperature," excluding all material humours. Fracastorius "accounts it a thing worthy of inquisition, why they should entertain such false conceits, as that they have horns, great noses, that they are birds, beasts," &., why they should think themselves kings, lords, cardinals. For the first, Fracastorius gives two reasons: "One is the disposition of the body; the other, the occasion of the phantasy," as if their eyes be purblind, their ears sing, by reason of some cold and rheum, &c. To the second, Laurentius answers, the imagination inwardly or outwardly moved, represents to the understanding, not enticements only, to favour the passion or dislike, but a very
intensive pleasure follows the passion or displeasure, and the will and reason are captivated by delighting in it.
Why students and lovers are so often melancholy and mad, the philosopher of Conimbra assigns this reason, "because by a vehement and continual meditation of that wherewith they are affected, they fetch up the spirits into the brain, and with the heat brought with them, they incend it beyond measure: and the cells of the inner senses dissolve their temperature, which being dissolved, they cannot perform their offices as they ought."
Why melancholy men are witty, which Aristotle hath long since maintained in his problems; and that all learned men, famous philosophers, and lawgivers, ad unum fere omnes melancholici, have still been melancholy, is a problem much controverted.
- 346 -
Bashfulness and blushing is a passion proper to men alone, and is not only caused for some shame and ignominy, or that they are guilty unto themselves of some foul fact committed, but as Fracastorius well determines, ob defectum proprium, et timorem, "from fear, and a conceit of our defects; the face labours and is troubled at his presence that sees our defects, and nature, willing to help, sends thither heat, heat draws the subtilest blood, and so we blush. They that are bold, arrogant, and careless, seldom or never blush, but such as are fearful." Anthonius Lodovicus, in his book de pudore, will have this subtile blood to arise in the face, not so much for the reverence of our betters in presence, "but for joy and pleasure, or if any thing at unawares shall pass from us, a sudden accident, occurse, or meeting;" (which Disarius in Macrobius confirms) any object heard or seen, for blind men never blush, as Dandinus observes, the night and darkness make men impudent. Or that we be staid before our betters, or in company we like not, or if any thing molest and offend us, erubescentia turns to rubor, blushing to a continuate redness. Sometimes the extremity of the ears tingle, and are red, sometimes the whole face, Etsi nihil vitiosum commiseris, as Lodovicus holds: though Aristotle is of opinion, omnis pudor ex vitio commisso, all shame for some offence. But we find otherwise, it may as well proceed from fear, from force and inexperience (so Dandinus holds), as vice; a hot liver, saith Duretus (notis in Hollerium:) "from a hot brain, from wind, the lungs heated, or after drinking of wine, strong drink, perturbations," &c.
"Laughter, what it is," saith Tully, "how caused, where, and so suddenly breaks out, that desirous to stay it, we cannot, how it comes to possess and stir our face, veins, eyes, countenance, mouth, sides, let Democritus determine." The cause that it often affects melancholy men so much, is given by Gomesius, lib. 3. de sale genial. cap. 18. abundance of pleasant vapours, which, in sanguine melancholy especially, break from the heart, "and tickle the midriff, because it is transverse and full of nerves: by which titillation, the sense being moved, and arteries distended or pulled, the spirits from thence move and possess the sides, veins, countenance, eyes."
See more in Jossius de risu et fletu, Vives 3 de Anima. Tears, as Scaliger defines, proceed from grief and pity, "or from the heating of a moist brain, for a dry cannot weep."
That they see and hear so many phantasms, chimeras, noises, visions, &c. as Fienus hath discoursed at large in his book of imagination, and Lavater de spectris, part. 1. cap. 2. 3. 4. their corrupt phantasy makes them see and hear that which indeed is neither heard nor seen, Qui multum jejunant, aut noctes ducunt insomnes, they that much fast, or want sleep, as melancholy or sick men commonly do, see visions, or such as are weak-sighted, very timorous by nature, mad, distracted, or earnestly seek. Sabini quod volunt somniant, as the saying is, they dream of that they desire. Like Sarmiento the Spaniard, who when he was sent to discover the straits of Magellan, and confine places, by the Prorex of Peru, standing on the top of a hill, Amoenissimam planitiem despicere sibi visus fuit, ædificia magnfica, quamplurimos Pagos, altas Turres, splendida Templa, and brave cities, built like ours in Europe, not, saith mine author, that there was any such thing, but that he was vanissimus et nimis credulus, and would fain have had it so. Or as Lod. Mercatus proves, by reason of inward vapours, and humours from blood, choler, &c., diversely mixed, they apprehend and see outwardly, as they suppose, divers images, which indeed are not. As they that drink wine think all runs round, when it is in their own brain; so is it with these men, the fault and cause is inward, as Galen affirms, mad men and such as are near death, quas extra se videre putant Imagines, intra oculos habent, 'tis in their brain, which
- 347 -
seems to be before them; the brain as a concave glass reflects solid bodies. Senes etiam decrepiti cerebrum habent concavum et aridum, ut imaginentur se videre (saith Boissardus) quæ non sunt, old men are too frequently mistaken and dote in like case: or as he that looketh through a piece of red glass, judgeth everything he sees to be red; corrupt vapours mounting from the body to the head, and distilling again from thence to the eyes, when they have mingled themselves with the watery crystal which receiveth the shadows of things to be seen, make all things appear of the same colour, which remains in the humour that overspreads our sight, as to melancholy men all is black, to phlegmatic all white, &c. Or else as before the organs, corrupt by a corrupt phantasy, as Lemnius, lib. 1. cap. 16. well quotes, "cause a great agitation of spirits, and humours, which wander to and fro in all the creeks of the brain, and cause such apparitions before their eyes." One thinks he reads something written in the moon, as Pythagoras is said to have done of old, another smells brimstone, hears Cerberus bark: Orestes now mad supposed he saw the furies tormenting him, and his mother still ready to run upon him --
"O mater obsecro noli me persequi
His furiis, aspectu anguineis, horribilibus,
Ecce ecce me invadunt, in me jam ruunt"
("O mother! I beseech you not to persecute me with those horrible-looking furies.
See! see! they attack, they assault me!")
but Electra told him thus raving in his mad fit, he saw no such sights at all, it was but his crazed imagination.
"Quiesce, quiesce miser in linteis tuis,
Non cernis etiam quæ videre te putas."
"Peace! peace! unhappy being, for you do not see what you think you see."
So Pentheus (in Bacchis Euripidis) saw two suns, two Thebes, his brain alone was troubled. Sickness is an ordinary cause of such sights. Cardan, subtil. 8. Mens ægra laboribus et jejunis fracta, facit eos videre, audire, &c. And. Osiander beheld strange visions, and Alexander ab Alexandro both, in their sickness, which he relates de rerum varietal. lib. 8. cap. 44. Albategnius that noble Arabian, on his death-bed, saw a ship ascending and descending, which Fracastorius records of his friend Baptista Tirrianus. Weak sight and a vain persuasion withal, may effect as much, and
second causes concurring, as an oar in water makes a refraction, and seems bigger, bended, double, &c. The thickness of the air may cause such effects, or any object not well discerned in the dark, fear and phantasy will suspect to be a ghost, a devil, &c. Quod nimis miseri timent,hoc facile credunt, we are apt to believe, and mistake in such cases. Marcellus Donatus, lib. 2. cap. 1. brings in a story out of Aristotle, of one Antepharon which likely saw, wheresoever he was, his own image in the air, as in a glass. Vitellio, lib. 10. perspect. hath such another instance of a familiar acquaintance of his, that after the want of three or four nights' sleep, as he was riding by a river side, saw another riding with him, and using all such gestures as he did, but when more light appeared, it vanished. Eremites and anchorites have frequently such absurd visions, revelations by reason of much fasting, and bad diet, many are deceived by legerdemain, as Scot hath well showed in his book of the discovery of witchcraft, and Cardan, subtil. 18. suffites, perfumes, suffumigations, mixed candles, perspective
- 348 -
glasses, and such natural causes, make men look as if they were dead, or with horseheads, bulls'-horns, and such like brutish shapes, the room full of snakes, adders, dark, light, green, red, of all colours, as you may perceive in Baptista Porta, Alexis, Albertus, and others, glow-worms, fire-drakes, meteors, Ignis fatuus, which Plinius, lib. 2. cap. 3. calls Castor and Pollux, with many such that appear in moorish grounds, about churchyards, moist valleys, or where battles have been fought, the causes of which read in Goclenius, Velourius, Finkius, &c., such fears are often done, to frighten children with squibs, rotten wood, &c., to make folks look as if they were dead, solito majores, bigger, lesser, fairer, fouler, ut astantes sine capitibus videantur; aut toti igniti, aut forma dæmonum, accipe pilos canis nigri, &c., saith Albertus; and so 'tis ordinary to see strange uncouth sights by catoptrics; who knows not that if in a dark room, the light be admitted at one only little hole, and a paper or glass put upon it, the sun shining, will represent on the opposite wall all such objects as are illuminated by his rays? with concave and cylinder glasses, we may reflect any shape of men, devils, antics (as magicians most part do, to gull a silly spectator in a dark room), we will ourselves, and that hanging in the air, when 'tis nothing but such an horrible image as Agrippa demonstrates, placed in another room. Roger Bacon of old is said to have represented his own image walking in the air by this art, though no such thing appear in his perspectives. But most part it is in the brain that deceives them, although I may not deny, but that oftentimes the devil deludes them, takes his opportunity to suggest, and represent vain objects to melancholy men, and such as are ill-affected. To these you may add the knavish impostures of jugglers, exorcists, masspriests, and mountebanks, of whom Roger Bacon speaks, &c., de miraculis naturæ et artis, cap. 1. they can counterfeit the voices of all birds and brute beasts almost, all tones and tunes of men, and speak within their throats, as if they spoke afar off that they make their auditors believe they hear spirits, and are thence much astonished and affrighted with it. Besides, those artificial devices to over-hear their confessions, like that whispering place of Gloucester with us, or like the duke's place at Mantua in Italy, where the sound is reverberated by a concave wall; a reason of which Blancanus in his Echometria gives, and mathematically demonstrates.
So that the hearing is as frequently deluded as the sight, from the same causes almost, as he that hears bells, will make them sound what he list. "As the fool thinketh, so the bell clinketh." Theophilus in Galen thought he heard music from
vapours, which made his ears sound, &c. Some are deceived by echoes, some by roaring of waters, or concaves and reverberation of air in the ground, hollow places and walls. At Cadurcum, in Aquitaine, words and sentences are repeated by a strange echo to the full, or whatsoever you shall play upon a musical instrument, more distinctly and louder, than they are spoken at first. Some echoes repeat a thing spoken seven times, as at Olympus, in Macedonia, as Pliny relates, lib. 36, cap. 15. Some twelve times, as at Charenton, a village near Paris, in France. At Delphos, in Greece, heretofore was a miraculous echo, and so in many other places. Cardan, subtil. l. 18, hath wonderful stories of such as have been deluded by these echoes. Blancanus the Jesuit, in his Echometria, hath variety of examples, and gives his reader full satisfaction of all such sounds by way of demonstration. At Barrey, an isle in the Severn mouth, they seem to hear a smith's forge: so at Lipari, and those sulphureous isles, and many such like which Olaus speaks of in the continent of Scandia, and those northern countries. Cardan, de rerum var. l. 15, c. 84, mentioneth a woman, that still supposed she heard the devil call her, and speaking to her, she was a painter's wife in Milan: and many such illusions and voices, which proceed most part from a corrupt imagination.
- 349 -
Whence it comes to pass, that they prophesy, speak several languages, talk of astronomy, and other unknown sciences to them (of which they have been ever ignorant): I have in brief touched, only this I will here add, that Arculanus, Bodin. lib. 3. cap. 6, dæmon. and some others, hold as a manifest token that such persons are possessed with the devil; so doth Hercules de Saxonia, and Apponensis, and fit only to be cured by a priest. But Guianerius, Montaltus, Pomponatius of Padua, and Lemnius, lib. 2, cap. 2, refer it wholly to the ill-disposition of the humour, and that out of the authority of Aristotle, prob. 30. 1, because such symptoms are cured by purging; and as by the striking of a flint fire is enforced, so by the vehement motion of spirits, they do elicere voces inauditas, compel strange speeches to be spoken: another
argument he hath from Plato's reminiscentia, which all out as likely as that which Marsilius Ficinus speaks of his friend Pierleonus; by a divine kind of infusion he understood the secrets of nature, and tenets of Grecian and barbarian philosophers, before ever he heard of, saw, or read their works: but in this I should rather hold with Avicenna and his associates, that such symptoms proceed from evil spirits, which take all opportunities of humours decayed, or otherwise to pervert the soul of man: and besides, the humour itself is Balneum Diaboli, the devil's bath; and as Agrippa proves,
doth entice him to seize upon them.
- 350 -