Robert Burton on the Society of Jesus and Coimbra


  • Cláudio Alexandre S. Carvalho University of Porto



Melancholy, Robert Burton, Conimbricensis, Therapy, Organization


This article explores the ambiguous attitude of Robert Burton towards the Jesuits, focusing on his peculiar reading of the Commentarii Collegii Conimbricensis Societatis Iesu. After a contextualization of the detraction of the Company of Jesus in Burton’s play, I will pass in review the Scholar’s references to the articulation of melancholy in the Coimbra textbooks throughout the Anatomy of Melancholy. In order to recognize and understand the specificities of his reading, marked by selective adaptations and imprecisions, I will essay a presentation of the Conimbricenses’ doctrine on the temperaments. I argue that, despite its richness, whose echoes in Burton’s famous work are a fainted testemony, De Góis approach remained an obliterated episode in the medical and intelectual history of melancholy. This path will enable an understanding of therapeutic and organizational framework that underlies (and supplements) the Coimbran teaching. As it will become clear, this valences and aplications of the Commentarii were largely ignored by Burton. Ironically, a significant part of his knowledge of distant lands, his travelling by “map and card” and his socioeconomic views on China, essential for the transition from an observation of melancholy into a melancholic observation, as reflected on the resort to satire and utopia as therapeutic, are highly dependent on the articulation between the formative capacities and the organization of overseas missions of the Jesuits.


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