The Anatomy of Melancholy "All Our Geese Are Swans"

Robert Burton

"All Our Geese Are Swans"

Context: Having discussed the symptoms of Melancholy, with many sidelights gleaned from writers of the past, Burton proceeds in Member 3 to give reasons for the symptoms. Subsection 14 is subtitled "Philautia, or Self-Love, Vain-Glory, Praise, Honor, Immoderate Applause, etc., Causes." Charles Dickens, in The Cricket on the Hearth (1845), has "Chirp the Second," agree that "every man thinks his own geese swans." Only in fairy tales such as Anderson's "Ugly Duckling," does the transformation move in the opposite direction and what looks like a gosling becomes a swan. Says Burton:

. . . We brag and venditate our own works, and scorn all others in respect of us; our knowledge puffeth us (saith Paul), our wisdom, our learning; all our geese are swans; and we as basely esteem and villify other men's, as we over-highly praise and value our own. . . .