Sunday, December 09, 2007

A Visiting Professor of Melancholy Studies, 1640?

“Heartbeating, swelling of the face, want of appetite, greife, sighing, causeles teares, insatiable hunger, extreame thirst, sownings, oppressions, suffocations, continuall watchings, Headach, Melancholy, Epilepsy, Ragings, Furor uterinus, Satyriasis; and diverse other desperate Symptomes, which for the most part admit neither cure, nor mitigation…”

~ some of the dire symptoms of love melancholy, as described in Dr Jacques Ferrand’s

Erotomania or A treatise discoursing of the essence, causes, symptomes, prognosticks, and cure of love, or erotique melancholy (1640).

A worse symptom still (I suppose) is spontaneous gender-reassignment, references to which Ferrand dutifully notes, but ‘dare not believe’. If it happens, it affects women love-melancholics:

Hippocrates seemes to attribute to passionate love the power of transforming women into men; where he sayes, that in the citty Abdera, Phaethusa, being stricken with the love of Pytheus, and not being able to enjoy him for a long time; by reason of his absence; she became a Man, and grew hairy all over her body, had a mans voyce, and a long beard on her chin. The same he affirms in the Aphorisme following to have befallen to Namysia, wife to one Gorgippus: and addes withall, that it was impossible for her to have recovered to her former womanhood againe.”

Ferrand discusses the anatomical probabilities of this, and finds that, if it does occur, Aristotle’s account of the difference of the two genders perhaps allows a mechanism:

“It may very easily then be, according to this doctrine of Aristotle, and of Galen that a woman, being enflamed with the violence of love, may put forth those her genitall parts, which are no other, then those of a man reversed, or turned inward as the same Doctour affirmes: whom not withstanding all our Modern Anatomists doe unanimously contradict: as you may see at large in the Anatomicall Quaestions of Andreas Laurentius.

These things are amusing enough, but there’s a real mystery about this book (I use this cliché in the sense of ‘I haven’t the time or inclination to research this properly’). Whoever James or Jacques Ferrand was, his connections are all with Christ Church, Oxford. The book has the usual parade of commendatory verses, all by students of that college.

Now 1640 was the year of the death of the Christ Church author who ought to be cited throughout this work, but isn’t, Robert Burton, whose Anatomy of Melancholy treats largely of love melancholy. Maybe I will post a large section of this latter text, and a similar extract from Burton’s work up to ‘Turnitin’, and see if I can make pioneering use of that resource to detect a 17th century plagiarist.

Ferrand’s first name appears as James or Jacques, and he refers to his own medical practice (and successes in diagnosing love melancholy) abroad. Unless someone did a translation for him, he writes a normal 17th century learned English, with the usual polyglot smattering of Greek and Latin phrases.

I think he was ‘Visiting Professor of Melancholy Studies’ at Christchurch, drawn there by Burton’s reputation. Burton’s will survives – I must check if he left any legacy to promote continued study of his big subject.

But, to round this off, some of the many ways listed to prevent, diagnose and cure love melancholy:


1. “The most powerfull and effectual cause of all, and therefore the most dangerous, is, the use of hot, provocative, Flatulent and Melancholy Meats”

2. “But they must be sure to take heed of all manner of Aromaticall things, and all fried or salt meats: because that Salt, by reason of its Heat and Acrimony, provokes to lust those that use to eate it in any great quantity … And this is the reason that Fishes are more fruitfull, and multiply faster, then any other living creatures whatsoever. And we see that vessells of salt commonly produce great store of Mice: the Female conceaving without a Male, meerely by licking of the salt: if we may believe Aristotle.

  1. “It is also very good to bath the privy members in Vineger.”


1. Valescus de Tarenta, the most famous Physitian of his Age, observes the chapping of the Lips in Women to be a signe of their Inclination to this Malady: for that it denotes the Intemperate Heat of the Matrix … Aristotle in his Lib. 2. de Gener. Animal. cap. 7. will have the Eyes also to bee very considerable in these Predictions … because, saith he, the Eye is the most Spermaticall part about the Head.”


Ferrand offers (in what is possibly the only sensible piece of advice in the whole book), the amenable Ovid:

1. “Let each man have two Mistresses in store:

And 'twere much better, if he could have more.

Thus, whilst the mind 'twixt two it selfe doth share,

One Love will still each others force impaire.”

2. “But the most famous, and certaine Remedy of all, was the Leucadian Rocke, from the top whereof distracted Lovers would throw themselves downe headlong into the sea.”

(Ferrand does concede “the harshnesse and unpleasantnesse of this Remedy.”)

There’s a Shakespeare allusion in one of the commendatory verses, that by Richard Goodridge of Christ Church:

“Were thy story of as much direfull woe,
As that, of Iuliet and Hieronymo:
Here's that would cure you…”

He imitates the closing couplet of Romeo and Juliet, and gives us a nice pairing of Elizabethan woe-tragedies.

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