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The Nature of MelancholyFrom Aristotle to Kristeva$
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Jennifer Radden

Print publication date: 2002

Print ISBN-13: 9780195151657

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195151657.001.0001

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The Melancholy Character

The Melancholy Character


(p.157) 11 The Melancholy Character
The Nature of Melancholy

Jennifer Radden

Oxford University Press

This chapter presents Samuel Butler's discussion of melancholy. The work Characters, from which the following sketch of the melancholy man is taken, was written between 1667 and 1669. Butler's volume of characters contains almost 200 different human types he observed in the society about him in Restoration England. As well as the melancholy man, he sketched the Bumpkin or Country Squire, the Hypocritical Man, the Huffing Courtier, the Catholic, the Curious Man, the Proud Man, and the Hypocritical Nonconformist. In this text, melancholy is portrayed both as a normal variation of human personality and as a pathological condition, and no tension seems to attach to this seeming contradiction. In keeping with the tradition of characters, Butler's melancholy man is at times no more than a dispositional type. On the other hand, the melancholy man is said to see visions and hear voices, and he seems incapable of distinguishing accurate from inaccurate perceptual experience.

Keywords:   Samuel Butler, melancholy, melancholia, Characters, Restoration England

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