Before Depression
1660 - 1800

ELAINE HOBBY (University of Loughborough),
'"As melancholy as a sick Parrot": Depressed(?) Women at the Beginning of the Long Eighteenth Century'

Placing the accounts of deep misery and suicidal impulses found in the works of writers such as An Collins, Anne Venn, Hannah Allen and Anne Wentworth into the medical framework presented in Jane Sharp's The Midwives Book, this talk will draw on a range of writing by and about women to explore how female melancholy was expressed and understood at the beginning of the long eighteenth century. To what extent it will also explain how a melancholic woman might be compared appropriately to a 'sick Parrot', as Aphra Behn's rebellious maidservant Jacinta sought to do, remains to be seen.

Download as mp3

Madeleine Descargues-Grant, Université de Valenciennes (UVHC)
'Burton & Sons: The Masks of Melancholy'

Melancholy does not show the world an unmasked face, and Burton's preamble is therefore variously relevant to his rhapsodical enterprise: while linking the classical picture of the world as stage to the Renaissance theme of mutability, the mask of Democritus junior plays many parts, for Burton himself and for his acknowledged or natural heirs in the eighteenth century. This paper will follow up twelve strands in pursuit of the functions and the definitions of melancholy: one, how melancholy disguises itself from its sufferers (and its students); two, how the mask of Democritus may be turned and twisted, by Swift, into different forms of political, ideological expression; three, how it stages the complex and mutually constructive relationship between reflection and action; four, how medical metaphors explore contrasting understandings of melancholy; five, how melancholy can be used to expose religious excess; six, how Johnson defends himself against melancholy by creating hyperactive antibodies; seven, how Burton's spatial network of digression may be contrasted with the temporal plane in Sterne; eight, how Sterne diverts and reorients Burton, in the recycling of his text; nine, how melancholy is externalized and thinned out by Burton in the enumeration of symptoms, in contrast with Montaigne's representation of intimate human consciousness; ten, how Defoe pursues melancholy in time and redeems it through a reprocessing of past experience; eleven, how the surfacing of guilt complicates this redemption; and twelve, how the authorial endorsement of the redemption by time, in Sterne, delivers the reintegrated self into the evolving world of fictional narrative.

Download as mp3

PETER SABOR (McGill University)
Frances Burney and Alexander d'Arblay: Creative and Uncreative Gloom

The son of a famous author, Frances Burney, Alexander d'Arblay was a would-be author himself: somewhat akin, without knowing it, to the poet Dabler in her first comedy, The Witlings. Unlike Dabler, however, d'Arblay suffered from what I have called, with a nod to Allan Ingram's book on Boswell, uncreative gloom. Every biographer of Burney has attempted to diagnose the sources of his malaise, and various divergent theories have been advanced. Drawing on some previously unknown sources, this paper attempts to throw new light on d'Arblay. That he suffered from what we now term depression is hardly in doubt. My aim is to explore the nature of his condition, how it was perceived by himself and others, and how it finally came to exert a crippling effect on his life.

Download as mp3

This site is updated regularly: 12/09/11
Web-control: G.Ingram