Tag Archives: Melancholy

Dancing with spiders: tarantellas and tarantism

Howard Fischer Uppsala, Sweden   “There are always hysterical people undergoing extraordinary cures.” – Robertson Davies, The Cunning Man Etching of people dancing the tarantella and playing music as an antidote to a tarantula bite. Wellcome Collection. Public domain.   The industrial city of Taranto is in the “heel” of boot-shaped Italy. The Romans called […]

Samuel Johnson: “the great convulsionary”

JMS Pearce Hull, England, United Kingdom Samuel Johnson. Portrait by Joshua Reynolds, 1772. Via Wikimedia. Public domain.   This paper reproduces in an abridged form an earlier article by its author1 appraising the evidence that Samuel Johnson suffered from Tourette’s syndrome. Several authors have commented on the many eccentricities of Dr. Samuel Johnson (Fig 1).2 […]

Musical evenings on HMS Bounty

Stewart Justman Missoula, Montana, United States   The mutineers turning Bligh and his crew from the Bounty, 29th April 1789. Illustration by Robert Dodd. 1790. National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London. Dispatched to Tahiti in 1787 to gather breadfruit trees to be transplanted to the West Indies, HMS Bounty was a small ship with every possible […]

Richard Wagner, a man of many symptoms

Richard Wagner, Munich. 1871. by Franz Hanfstaengl. Via Wikimedia. Richard Wagner was an extraordinarily talented musical genius. Almost singlehandedly he revolutionized opera, completing its transformation from the traditional recitative–aria format to a continuous musical drama. He was born in 1813 in turbulent times in Leipzig. There four months after his birth the combined forces of […]

The derailment of Franklin Pierce

Jacob Appel  New York, New York, United States   Pres. Franklin Pierce. neg. from original ink by Brady. [between 1855 and 1865]. Part of Brady-Handy photograph collection. From the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Few subjects have attracted as much attention from medical historians, both well-founded and speculative, as the health of United States presidents. […]

Book review: John Keats’ Medical Notebook

Arpan K. Banerjee Solihull, United Kingdom   Cover of John Keats’ Medical Notebook by Hrileena Ghosh. February 23, 2021 marked the bicentenary of the death of the great Romantic poet John Keats. Born in 1795, Keats lived a tragically short life, dying at the age of only twenty-five. It is perhaps little known that he […]

Sergei Rachmaninoff: the dichotomy of life and music

Michael Yafi Chaden Yafi Houston, Texas, United States   Rachmaninoff. Photo by Bain News Service. between ca. 1915 and ca. 1920. Library of Congress Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943), a Russian composer, was known for having very large hands. With a span that covered twelve white keys on the keyboard (the interval of a thirteenth), he could […]

Scurvy before James Lind

JMS Pearce Hull, England, United Kingdom   Captain James Cook (1728-1779). Nathaniel Dance. BHC2628 Cures of disease are still relatively uncommon. Scurvy is an example of a disease well recognized but whose cause eluded doctors for centuries until an empirical curative remedy and later a specific cause were discovered. In more recent times Koch’s discovery […]

Emptiness Melancholia: depression sweet depression

Camila Machado Minas Gerais, Brazil   Ophelia, 1851 John Everett Millais. Oil on Canvas. Tate Britain, London, United Kingdom The opposite of depression is not happiness, but vitality.1 – Andrew Solomon   Vitality had seemed to seep away from me through the years, stopping me from feeling joy, sadness, affection, and love. I felt empty […]