Saturday, 23 May 2020

Burton Lives – On Radio 4!

As a lifelong radio lover, one-time radio critic and intermittent fan of Radio 4, despite its present all-pervasive wokeness, I am always happy when there is occasion to praise that potentially great network. So I was delighted to find a series of quarter-hour programmes running through the last couple of weeks called The New Anatomy of Melancholy. Yes, this was a series inspired by Robert Burton's great Anatomy of Melancholy, a masterpiece which, despite its massive size and relentless display of formidable classical learning, is, rather wonderfully, still read for pleasure and profit today. The Radio 4 series focused almost entirely on just one aspect of the mighty Anatomy – the one likeliest to attract present-day readers – its utility as a therapeutic self-help manual. Most of those contributing to the programme were therapists, psychologists and writers who had found Burton helpful in their struggles with depression (not quite the same thing as melancholia, but congruent). Much of Burton's advice on averting or overcoming melancholy is indeed sound commonsense stuff, and some of it chimes remarkably well with present-day therapeutic practice. Certainly the series offered a narrow and particular view of Burton's sprawling, encyclopaedic work, but that Radio 4 considered such a relatively obscure and daunting work by a long-dead white male worthy of a series is a heartening sign. And, although each programme consisted mainly of present-day voices, it was a joy to hear passages from the Anatomy beautifully read by the great Simon Russell Beale.
This link should take you to the Omnibus edition...

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