ABSTRACT

This chapter suggests that Robert Burton's preface to the Digression hints at the purposiveness of its circumambulatory meditations and to a kind of logic in the mounting gyres of its speculative flight. The critical consensus that the Digression's wanderings amount to a random survey of cosmological opinions that Burton held no particular stake in has been challenged by Richard Barlow. Burton argues that the Digression follows the itinerary of a more or less Lucianic cosmic journey and that Burton ends up as a proponent of the theory of infinite worlds, even if earlier editions the Anatomy suggest that he initially believed otherwise. The chapter shows how the relation of these objects to one another constitutes a pneumatic and hydraulic theme that prepares the way for the Digression's profound Epicurean consolation. It examines this theme in the images of wind, spirit, and breath that Burton uses to represent the processes of earthly mutability and cataclysm that he suggestively characterizes as 'exonerations'.