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Handel, an Unfortunate Gourmandiser

The amazing German composer George Frederick Handel was famous not only for his sublime and beautiful music, but also for his wild obsession for heavy food and wine. The cause of his death is considered to be simple gluttony.
His gargantuan appetite was the result of lead poisoning, according to Dr. Hunter, music librarian at the University of Texas and author of more than 60 articles on Handel.

Working on this issue, Dr. Hunter ran a story on the artist Joseph Goupy, whom Handel once invited to a dinner, warning him that the food would be pretty simple. After the dinner, the guest found the composer tucking into delicacies in the back parlour.Furious Goupy responded with the most infamous cartoon of Handel The Charming Brute. He pictured Handel as a man with a pig’s stout. That cartoon ended their friendship.

Having carefully examined the other documents, Dr. Hunter came to the conclusion that his notoriously heavy consumption of rich foods and alcohol was not a moral problem, even though it had been cast as such by commentators. The diseases that had developed over time in Handel - obesity, bouts of paralysis, gout, disorders of speech and thinking, blindness - could be symptoms of lead poisoning and Handel’s legendary temper could also be a sign of chronic poisoning. In the 18th century wine barrels often contained lead shot as a preservative to stop the wine turning to vinegar. Lead also contaminated beer, cider, gin, food, water and cosmetics, including the white powder used under wigs.

In 1737, searching a cure, he travelled to Aachen, where he was plunged up to his chin in hot spring water. “People said that he made a miraculous recovery and that was what got me thinking,” Dr Hunter said. “It’s exactly the way that they treated lead poisoning at the time.
Handel’s health problems had a profound affect on his art - he abandoned opera and his later works were also darker and more meditative, which Dr. Hunter imputes to his worsening health.
Handel died April 14, 1759 in London and was buried in Westminster Abbey.

Source: The Independent


After an evening walk with friends, Handel said:
- Good-bye, gentlemen! I am in a big hurry – going to have dinner.

-In a nice company, hopefully? - His friends asked.
- Oh yes! Me and turkey!
- Maestro, will you be able to handle the whole turkey alone?
- Why alone? With potatoes, vegetables and desserts, after all!

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