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By Lewis Wolpert

Numerous years in the past, Lewis Wolpert had a serious depressive episode. regardless of a contented marriage and profitable medical profession, he may perhaps imagine merely of suicide. while finally he did get well, he turned conscious of the stigma hooked up to melancholy - and simply how tricky it was once to get trustworthy info. With attribute candour and backbone he set approximately scripting this ebook, an acclaimed research into the motives and coverings of this devastating affliction, which shaped the root for a BBC television sequence. This paperback variation incorporates a new advent, during which Lewis Wolpert discusses the response to his e-book and tv sequence, and recounts his personal ordinary fight with melancholy.

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Here! creep, Wretch, under a comfort serves in a whirlwind: all Life death does end and each day dies with sleep. The French poet Gérard Nerval used the metaphor of the black sun to sum up the blinding force of depression in his poem ‘The Disinherited’, which starts with the lines: I am saturnine, bereft, disconsolate, My Prince of Aquitaine whose tower has crumbled; My lone star is dead and my bespangled lute Bears the black sun of melancholia. The mood of misery and suffering that usually accompanies depression was expressed by Edgar Allan Poe in a letter written when he was in his mid-twenties: My feelings at this moment are pitiable indeed.

Burton also cared about the style of his writing and would have been gratified had he known that Samuel Johnson, himself a depressive, turned to the Anatomy for consolation – it was the only book that ever took him out of bed two hours sooner than he wished to rise. The number of papers published about depression is currently more than 3,000 every year, so I have had to be less ambitious than Burton. The amount of information is enormous, but I try to summarise in an accessible form what is currently known about depression.

For some months the cloud seemed to grow thicker and thicker. The lines in Coleridge’s ‘Dejection’ – I was not then acquainted with them – exactly describe my case: A grief without a pang, void, dark and drear, A drowsy, stifled, unimpassioned grief, Which, finds no natural outlet or relief In word, or sigh, or tear. In vain I sought relief from my favourite books; those memorials of past nobleness and greatness, from which I had always hitherto drawn strength and animation. Considering how widespread depression is, there are few descriptions in the English novel.

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