That Jealous Demon, My Wretched Health

That Jealous Demon, My Wretched Health

Disease, Death and Composers

Jonathan Noble

Hardback
$34.95
eBook
$35.00

Boydell Press

Overview

Overview

Despite much triumph in adversity, illness fuelling composition is a misconception.
The health - and especially deaths - of composers excite controversy. Was Mozart really poisoned? Did Tchaikovsky commit suicide? How did Beethoven lose his hearing? Much good previous scholarship has been sullied by unsubstantiated views, and many composers' reputations have been unfairly tarnished by scandalous commentary, often involving alcoholism or syphilis.
This book, by a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons, charts the disturbed physical and mental health of 70 great composers. It attempts to unpick the evidence forensically and to define the cause of death based on the legal paradigm of a balance of probabilities. The author reviews where the composer was when the final illness or death overtook him and considers how many of them would have fared with modern treatment. Chapters are organised thematically, by illness; and numerous misconceptions, such as madness fuelling creativity, are challenged. The book relates the nature of composition to composers' suffering, showcasing much triumph in adversity, and, importantly, rehabilitates reputations.

JONATHAN NOBLE is a retired surgeon, who has spent many years researching the illnesses and deaths of composers. He is a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons and was President of the British Association of Knee Surgeons as well as the British Orthopaedic Sports Trauma Association. He looked after Test cricketers, Manchester United, and dancers and musicians in the North of England.

For the full list of composers click here.

Details

26 black and white, 7 line illustrations
526 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
Hardback, 9781783272587, June 2018
eBook, 9781787442283, June 2018
Boydell Press
BIC AVGC, 1D, 2AB, 3J
BISAC MUS006000, MED039000
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Table of Contents

Introduction
The Frailty of Youth
A Triumphant Old Age
Iatrogenic Afflictions
Syphilis
Alcoholism
Troubled Minds: Mental Illness and Suicide
Nerves Beyond the Edge: Other Afflictions of the Nervous System
Broken Hearts
Breathless: Respiratory Diseases
Cancer
The Ultimate Blow: Deafness
Epilogue and Coda
Appendix: Accidental and/or Violent Deaths
Bibliography

Reviews

We have waited a long time for a book like this...The overwhelming impression is of the sheet torture that health issues gave some of the greatest composers in Western civilization and the determination with which theses challenges were met...this utterly scrupulous study [is] expected to become the standard work on the subject lasting for into the future. MUSICAL OPINION

Dismisses the myth that composers often die young just because Schubert and Mozart did. CLASSICAL MUSIC

Though the matter is serious, Jonathan Noble manages to bring to it lightness of touch and even humour. BBC MUSIC MAGAZINE

A timely antidote to all those lurid biographies (and not just of composers) that speculate on their subject's sex lives and addictions. Richard Morrison, THE TIMES

After studying post mortem reports and medical notes, [Jonathan Noble has] found that many did not suffer from the conditions attributed to them and that tales of alcoholism, venereal disease and sexual impropriety were simply gossip. THE TELEGRAPH

Jonathan Noble, a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons, has reviewed material - including letters and diaries where symptoms and ailments are detailed - relating to Tchaikovsky, Mozart, Beethoven and many others, and found that "an awful lot of them have been slighted by music critics and biographers". GUARDIAN