Proverb Lore in The Anatomy Of Melancholy


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The problem of this thesis has been to study Robert Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy for the purpose of finding as many as possible of the proverbs he uses in that famous work. Before entering upon the task proper, Apperson's English Proverbs and Proverbial Phrases, and Smith's Oxford Dictionary of English Proverbs were checked to discover how many of Burton's proverbs had already been located by these two recognized authorities. It was found that Apperson lists 17, and Smith 83, which are given in appendices A and B respectively in this thesis. These dictionaries overlap in five instances, making a total of 95 proverbs already credited to Burton. In addition to these, this thesis authenticates 173 more. In order to establish statements from the Anatomy as proverbial, I have made use of Apperson and Smith chiefly, and Benham, Tilley, Christy, Bohn, and Heywood in a supplementary way. All of the established proverbs have been listed alphabetically according to the key words in each. These have been strengthened in most cases by two parallels selected from contemporary literature as far as possible. A furtherlist of aphoristic statements which I have spotted, but which I have been unable to authenticate as genuine proverbs is given in appendix C. These have also been arranged alphabetically according to key words. A finding index of the established proverbs has been appended to facilitate practical use of the thesis. I am deeply indebted to Dr. Charles G. Smith, who suggested this subject and spent a considerable amount of time, care, and patience in directing my research. To him I fear I should say, inverting the words with which Florio addressed his public, that this has been a "a paine to thee though a gaine to mee." I should also like to acknowledge the additional aid which he lent me through his assistant, Miss Tama dell Porter.



Robert Burton, Proverbs, Anatomy of Melancholy