Wednesday, November 19, 2008


Burton on Bashfulness

Robert Burton, Anatomy of Melancholy (Part. I, Sect. 3, Memb. I, Subs. 2):
Crato, Laurentius, & Fernelius, put bashfulness for an ordinary symptom; subrusticus pudor, or vitiosus pudor, [mauvaise honte], is a thing which much haunts & torments them. If they have been misused, derided, disgraced, chidden, &c. or by any perturbation of mind misaffected, it so far troubles them, that they become quite moped many times, and so disheartened, dejected, they dare not come abroad, into strange companies especially, or manage their ordinary affairs, so childish, timorous, and bashful, they can look no man in the face; some are more disquieted in this kind, some less, longer some, others shorter, by fits, &c. though some on the other side, (according to Fracastorius), be inverecundi & pertinaces, impudent and peevish. But most part they are very shamefac'd, and that makes them with Pet. Blesensis, Christopher Urswick, & many such, to refuse Honours, Offices, and Preferments, which sometimes fall into their mouths, they cannot speak, or put forth themselves, as others can, timor hos, pudor impedit illos, timorousness & bashfulness hinder their proceedings, they are contented with their present estate, unwilling to undertake any office, & therefore never likely to rise. For that cause they seldom visit their friends, except some familiars: pauciloqui, of few words, and oftentimes wholly silent. Frambesarius, a Frenchman, had two such patients, omnino taciturnos, their friends could not get them to speak: Rodericus à Fonseca, consult. Tom. 2. 85. consil. gives instance in a young man, of 27 years of age, that was frequently silent, bashful, moped, solitary, that would not eat his meat, or sleep, and yet again by fits apt to be angry, &c.

Most part they are, as Plater notes, desides, taciturni, [slothful, and taciturn;] aegrè impulsi, nec nisi coacti procedunt, &c. they will scarce be compelled to do that which concerns them, though it be for their good, so diffident, so dull, of small or no compliment, unsociable, hard to be acquainted with, especially of strangers; they had rather write their minds than speak, & above all things love solitariness. Ob voluptatem, an ob timorem soli sunt? Are they so solitary for pleasure (one asks) or pain? for both: yet I rather think for fear and sorrow, &c.

Hinc metuunt cupiuntque, dolent, fugiuntque, nec auras
Respiciunt, clausi tenebris, et carcere caeco.

Hence 'tis they grieve and fear, avoiding light,
And shut themselves in prison dark from sight.

As Bellerophon in Homer,

Qui miser in silvis moerens errabat opacis,
Ipse suum cor edens, hominum vestigia vitans;

That wandered in the woods sad all alone,
Forsaking men's society, making great moan;

they delight in floods & waters, desert places, to walk alone in orchards, gardens, private walks, back-lanes, averse from company, as Diogenes in his tub, or Timon Misanthropus, they abhor all companions at last, even their nearest acquaintance, & most familiar friends, for they have a conceit (I say) every man observes them, will deride, laugh to scorn, or misuse them; confining themselves therefore wholly to their private houses or chambers, fugiunt homines sine causa (saith Rhasis) et odio habent, cont. l.i.c.9, they will diet themselves, feed, and live alone. It was one of the chiefest reasons why the Citizens of Abdera suspected Democritus to be melancholy and mad, because that, as Hippocrates related in his Epistle to Philopoemen, he forsook the City, lived in groves & hollow trees, upon a green bank by a brook side, or confluence of waters, all day long, & all night. Quae quidem (saith he) plurimum atra bile vexatis & melancholicis eveniunt, deserta frequentant, hominumque congressum aversantur; which is an ordinary thing with melancholy men.

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