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Paganini’s syphilis

It has been more than one hundred and seventy years since the death of Nicolo Paganini (1782-1840), the master violinist whose skill is still unmatched. Countless papers and books have been written about him, but the exact disease he died of is still debated from time to time. Several biographies of him say he died of tuberculosis. This tall, thin Italian with sunken eyes and long black hair like the devil Mephistopheles is indeed a typical tuberculosis patient, and he is indeed suffering from tuberculosis. But there are many other researchers who pay attention to the corrosion of syphilis to his life, and believe that his prostitute way of life has indeed caused him to contract syphilis from prostitutes. It is hard to find material evidence that can lead to a decisive conclusion. The most reference materials are only his medical records and the recollections of doctors. Anyway, these two diseases were common and fatal in his era. In recent years, a view that has attracted widespread attention is that Paganini’s long-term treatment of syphilis caused by the after-effects of mercury poisoning caused serious damage to his body. This sequelae told people that if Paganini did not treat his syphilis, he would undoubtedly be despised by others; but after the treatment, the sequelae caused him to suffer so much that life would be worse than death.

Paganini was born on October 27, 1872 in Genoa, northern Italy. He gave his first recital at the age of nine, and from 1810 onwards continued to travel all over Italy and across Europe giving popular recitals. Paganini’s extraordinary violin skills have led to speculation that he has a special secret, and many people have long believed that he signed a contract with the devil, who gave him such a skill that mortals could not have. In fact, according to research, a big reason is that he suffers from the so-called “Marfan syndrome”, which is a disorder of connective tissue: he is tall and thin, with slender limbs, fingers like spider feet, and the formation of double joints, making him As his doctor Francisco Benatti said: “His hand . The first knuckle flexes wonderfully, naturally to the side, with ease, precision, and agility . . . ”

But frequent adultery, so that Paganini contracted syphilis. This disease, according to the general understanding of doctors at the time, was generally treated with mercury, which is mercury. In addition to smearing on the body surface, mercury therapy also includes fumigation: the first step requires the patient to reconcile the “body fluid” by alternately taking dry and liquid drinks, and then let the patient lie naked in a tent under the shade of an airy tree. He put his feet on a charcoal stove to smoke, and from time to time, mercuric sulfide was poured into the stove, and he was smoked for a long time; then he left the tent, lay down on a warm bed, covered with a blanket, and sweated for an hour. After five or six courses of treatment, there will be a lot of mercury in the saliva of the patient, which is considered to be expected to achieve good results. Mercury may also be excreted in the stool. Mercury therapy does have some effect on eliminating syphilis, but the disease still recurs. And in the process of applying mercury, the dose must be gradually increased, otherwise there will be no effect, and the patient is stuffed in an overheated steam room for 20 to 30 days, the vapor of mercury will be absorbed through the respiratory tract, causing mercury poisoning.

After several years of mercury therapy, initially in 1820, Paganini continued with a chronic cough and weight loss. When he was staying at a hotel in Naples in the fall, the owner of the hotel heard him coughing badly, deduced that he was suffering from tuberculosis, which would infect others, and had kicked him out of the hotel. Paganini found a doctor in Palermo. Doctors put him on a “laxative” made from plant sap to detoxify. But after taking it, the cough still persists. At the turn of the winter and spring of 1821 and 1822, Paganini went to Milan. A friend recommended Sheila Borda, a professor of medicine at the University of Pavia. Borda found that he had a “frequent cough” and a hoarse voice, which he believed to be related to his long-term casual sex life, and diagnosed him with “a long-standing latent syphilis.” He also prescribed Paganini with mercury, applied a mercury-laced ointment to the syphilis, and put him on opium as a cough suppressant. But after using Paganini, stomatitis, stomach upset and tooth loss occurred.

Between 1823 and 1828, Paganini’s condition improved and relapsed intermittently. After 1828, his eyesight began to decline and his writing began to fail. Paganini found several other doctors, and their diagnosis was even more horrific. They told the violinist that he was suffering from tuberculosis and would not live more than a year. Paganini was naturally very scared. He continued to apply mercury.

On a tour of Australia in 1828, Paganini consulted the French physician Francisco Benatti, who accurately diagnosed his cause, among other problems, mainly mercury poisoning. Bennetti’s “Physiological and Case Notes Concerning Paganini” was later summarized in the Paris Review in 1831. It reads: “This drug (for syphilis) has had terrible consequences for his health. It has damaged his stomach and his gums. His teeth have decayed and fallen out, so bad that he cannot even fit in. Drug treatment…”

The most obvious manifestation of Paganini’s chronic mercury poisoning is the damage to the mouth and gums, not only the gums have abscesses, the teeth in the lower jaw are loose, and a few have fallen off, which is extremely painful. Paganini specifically sought out Italian dentist De Wegni. An examination by Dr. de Wegney found that none of the teeth in his lower jaw could be repaired. The only thing he could do was cut open the acute abscess and pull out the troublesome molar. Unexpectedly, the infection spread to the jaw like osteomyelitis. Dr. de Wegney and three other doctors came. Paganini’s letter to his lawyer, Luigi Jamie, wrote: “Four well-known professors came to see me, and they agreed. I sat in a chair, dumbfounded like a statue, and they used large needles. , knife and scissors to help me operate.” All the teeth in his lower jaw were pulled out.

Another after-effect of Paganini’s high-dose mercury treatment for syphilis in the past five years is increased saliva and drooling, and even vision has begun to decline. He found that blue glasses protected his eyes and helped his vision.

The mercury treatment also had some mental effects on Paganini, turning him from a somewhat flippant, aggressive, ambitious, and self-confident person to a loner and a reluctant to meet people. This is presumably due to allergies, the psychological changes produced by chronic syphilis. The violinist started to get a little nervous when he made public appearances, he became a little depressed and a little “shy”. Paganini also seems to have lost interest in the opposite sex. One particular change, Bennatti said, is that Paganini is easily startled by sudden noises, and if he only hears the voice and can’t see the person he’s talking to, he becomes neurotic, so talk to him. The person he speaks has to stand in front of him. Bennatti said that everyone who saw Paganini noticed the changes between 1823 and 1828, with a “dead paleness” and “grey countenance”; Paganini himself wrote , he has become “very ugly”.

Chronic mercury poisoning also caused Paganini’s hands to shudder from time to time, known as “crazy tremors.” This may appear later in the disease. Because of this relationship, from 1828 onwards, Paganini’s writing ability deteriorated rapidly. Although it could not be considered to be “shudder” at this time, people who saw him said that he “runs erratically” when writing. Handwriting “Funny”. This tremor can appear late in the disease or disappear after Paganini’s 1834. But reports said Paganini was in bed in the final stages, his “shaking hands no longer able to hold a pen”.

Before the invention of the special drug arsine (606) and penicillin, there were many kinds of medicines for syphilis, and there were many fake medicines. Paganini was obsessed with the “Holy Water of Leroy”. This is a laxative that combines the gastrointestinal effects of mercury and opium. In 1767, Leroy, the creator of the potion, wrote a famous paper “The Application and Curative Effect of Rhizoma Flaxseed”, advocating the efficacy of laxatives for many diseases. It can cure skin damage caused by syphilis, and it can also cure mercury poisoning, especially mucous membrane ulcers. But Paganini took five tablespoons of “Leroy Holy Water” twice a day, and still had to stop because of the toxicity. In addition, Paganini took a mixture of calomel tea, which had no effect on the sick body. Paganini continued to get sick and was still losing weight. On January 31, 1837, he wrote to Jamie: “Like you, my greatest anxiety is that I shall not be able to do what I originally wished to do, giving the concert I want to give in Turin on February 3. At the time he was suffering from neuritis, a bladder-threatening inflammation, and was being treated by the eminent Austrian physician Maximilian Spitzer. He told Jamie that Dr. Spitzer thought he should give up all medicines for a while, keep calm, and travel to Europe. Spitzer promised Paganini that he would be fully fit, but he would have to be patient. Paganini did as Dr. Spitzer said. But the situation is still very poor. Paganini wrote to Jamie from Nice on March 6:

“I left Marseille on Saturday and went all the way to Nice on Sunday with a terrible wind. I had to stay in bed after lunch because of arthritis. On Thursday, after sweating, I felt better. Thanks to the Almighty Lord for getting rid of this disease. But at the last stage of prayer, I was amazed to find that my left testicle was swollen the size of a pear or a small pumpkin. You can imagine anything else. This disease It’s called orchitis. It’s caused by using a catheter and bumping on the carriage. Now because of my diet, I feel powerless like never before. I don’t eat anything except soft food day and night. Trapped in bed, weak and weak Couldn’t get up after five or six days, then tied it with hernia belt. May God give me patience.”

Ten days later, in a letter dated March 16, he said:

“Since February 26, I have been imprisoned in bed, first with arthritis, then with orchitis, in addition to fever, internal bleeding, tenesmus, and finally influenza with cough. Today, I saw that both testicles are a little better, also It’s less frustrating. The swelling seems to have subsided a little bit, so tomorrow I can wear a hernia strap for a few hours and regain my strength.”

But not as he wished. Such patients kept Paganini from leaving the room for the last seven months because his feet were so swollen that he had to struggle to move a small step. The growing tuberculosis of the throat not only took away his voice, only his illegitimate son, Archie, understood his snoring sound, otherwise he had to write it on a small piece of paper to communicate with others, and at this time, he His hands were already very difficult to write; and even swallowing was so difficult that he would spend hours at each meal, interrupted from time to time by violent, bloody coughs.

By March 1840, all indications were that Paganini would soon be dead. In his letter dated April 4, 1840, he said: “My brain can no longer work. My legs are swollen to the knees, and I cannot move about the room. From the day I arrived, I have been in I was trapped in the room for five months.” In the letter dated April 18, he said that when he coughed, he would cough up snot and pus in the snot, saying that he had no appetite, especially “my legs are swollen to the point of being so swollen. My knees are on, making me walk like a snail, and if I bend over, I can’t straighten up again.”

Contemporaries often noted Paganini’s “shaking hands”. In his article devoted to Paganini syphilis, O’Shea, an Australian general practitioner, said: “It could actually be caused by chronic mercury poisoning as well. He also complained of severe headaches. Paganini said He has frequent hemoptysis in his respiratory organs. His hemoptysis is more frequent, making him unable to breathe at night. This may be due to a combination of coughing and severe swelling from mercury poisoning. Mercury poisoning causes renal syndrome and renal weakness and diseases of the upper respiratory organs.” This makes Paganini difficult to cure.

“I’m going to die.” These were Paganini’s last words. He himself knew very well that his disease was hopeless. On the evening of May 27, 1840, the death knell sounded in Venice, and everyone knew it was for the great violinist. A generation of masters was hurt by syphilis in this way.

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