A question of syphilis
I enjoyed Jeffrey Tate’s excellent review of Paul Kildea’s biography of Benjamin Britten (June 2013). It is always interesting when doctors disagree with a diagnosis – especially with the benefits of hindsight.
I agree that syphilis seldom gets to the tertiary stage without being picked up earlier (and Britten’s own cardiologist has disputed the claim that Britten contracted it). Presumably, Peter Pears would have had symptoms as well – assuming that there was no treatment with penicillin, which was available from the early 1940s. If the surgeon was correct (and, like Jeffrey Tate, I would want to see more concrete evidence), then the other possibility is that Britten may have had some fleeting liaisons of his own!
Dr Alastair Jackson, Melbourne, Vic.