18. 27 November 1970 [AW]
About a year ago, when I was surrounded by dozens of library books and articles on Schumann, from which I took copious notes to serve as a basis for my essay, I came across a fleeting mention of mercury. I didn't document it at the time, bad luck, although I seem to recall it dates from that period when Schumann was taking electrical treatment for his finger from Dr. Otto. In the hands of a quack (Schumann consulted several about then), mercury could prove lethal. Certainly, I attached no importance to the possibility of mercury poisoning until the other week when it idly crossed my mind during a conversation with some American friends of ours who were describing the recent outbreak of mercury poisoning in the States. What interested me was that several of Schumann's symptoms – aural, visual (he writes somewhere of his passing fear of going blind), paralysis, etc. – are identical with mercury poisoning. Before I pursue the hypothesis any further, I shall have to find that reference.
Oddly, mercury was most widely prescribed in the nineteenth century for venereal disease – presumably on the homeopathic principle that the 'cure' produced in healthy persons symptoms which are identical with the disease. My money is still on Slater and Meyer – although I note what you say about their inconclusive evidence.
Maybe we can meet for lunch during the first half of December. I'll ring you in a week or so.
All good wishes,
Yours sincerely, Alan