This article, which deals with the 17th and 18th centuries, is concerned with the presence of death in the melancholiac's life as revealed in both the accounts written by sufferers themselves and medical works. It shows the exceptional place which melancholiacs consider themselves to occupy, compared to the rest of the living, as they inhabit the no-man's-land between life and death. The privileged status echoes the classical theme of the melancholic genius (Problem XXX). Although some, like George Cheyne or Samuel Johnson, denied the link, this cliché is nevertheless very present in the self-description of the melancholy. Suffering, which is always physical, is a sign of moral superiority.
|Published - 2006