The British Medical Journal (not online) contains an obituary by its former editor, Stephen Lock, of the Aldeburgh physician, poet and painter, Ian Tait, who died last month, aged 86.
Dr Tait was a pioneering family doctor who introduced many healthcare innovations in his practice, founded the Aldeburgh poetry festival, campaigned as a devout Quaker against war in all its forms and was both physician and close personal friend to Benjamin Britten. The pair often dined at each other’s houses and strolled the seafront together.
In his last weeks, Dr Tait was, writes Lock, ‘upset’ by the story in Paul Kildea’s recent biography that Britten’s final illness was accelerated by syphilis, discovered during heart surgery. Dr Tait, who had been involved at every stage of the composer’s care said that this was nonsense and urged others to refute the story, which was based on a single, secondhand source.
That refutation has been substantially accomplished by diligent media investigation. Kildea did not apparently consult Dr Tait in his researches, as previous biographers had done. The biographer, we hear, has defended his story in various print protestations. If he does not withdraw it in the next edition, the entire biography becomes suspect.