11. 14 November 1970 [ES]
I was very interested in your Schumann piece, which I take to be the first time that any musician has even declared in favour of syphilis (in the case of Schumann, that is). I didn't dare do that myself, mainly because the Eliot Slater article is almost as riddled with mistakes of fact as Schumann finally was with whatever he had; and though that doesn't of course invalidate his medical judgment it entitles one to view it with a certain reserve. Further, the actual question at issue seems one for a physiologist rather than a psychiatrist i.e. Meyer rather than Slater.
One thing rather puzzles me in what you say. If the element of irrationality is removed from the picture, and then the element of brain syphilis is substituted, how does that help the 'falling-off': Doesn't it on the contrary make the falling-off theory better supported then ever before? At least it may well seem to the layman that if the treponema pallidum was attacking the actual organ that invented and organised Schumann's music, namely his brain then it surely couldn't have done the music very much good, to put it mildly; and the onset of that condition, according to Slater, can be dated to 1845.
Certainly the songs would fit in to that clinical picture. I'm getting on with that work, but I'm afraid it's subject to constant interruption from people who write letters, either to me or the MT, which have to be answered; after which it takes me some time to adjust again to the main task in hand. But constant progress continues, albeit slowly.
I wonder finally whether you or your wife could give me any help with a personal problem? Our younger son Jeremy, 14 early next year, seems rather bright (e.g. does Ximenes and Listener crosswords with fair ease) and this extends to music (e.g. plays piano and violin with equal fluency). His present violin teacher (at Whitgift) is quite ineffectual and Jeremy had to steer himself through his last exam at Easter this year, (Grade VII) getting a merit (126) in the process without overmuch exertion. We're not specially trying to bring him on; I'm not sure that I'd want him to be a professional musician; but it seems a pity that what seems a potentially considerable talent should go to waste for want of the stimulating and challenging tuition. which is clearly what he needs at this stage. So I wondered whether you might know or know of a recommendable violinist in Croydon or within hailing distance thereof who might consider taking him on?