Monday, October 15, 2007

"Amongst Parisian artists and writers, whose first sexual encounters were often with prostitutes and who disdained condoms, the level seems to have been much higher — the roll call of famous French syphilitics includes Gustave Flaubert, Charles Baudelaire, Guy de Maupassant, Eduoard Manet, Henri de Toulouse Lautrec, and Paul Gaugin. The art dealer Theo van Gogh was a long-term sufferer, and his brother Vincent may have been driven to his famous ear-lopping incident by syphilis. The disease was almost accepted as an inevitable part of life, and many bohemians even saw their first STD as a badge of honor. “I’ve got the pox!” crowed the novelist de Maupassant in his 20s. “At last! The real thing!” He did his part as a carrier by having sex with six prostitutes in quick succession while friends watched on. It was even associated with possible romantic genius, as syphilitics were sometimes granted flashes of brilliance. When the poet Baudelaire was hit by seizures in the streets of Paris in 1862, he wrote with a certain pride, “I felt pass over me the wind of the wings of madness.”"