Martin Gayford examines the extraordinary lives — and deaths — of great artists and suggests that there is a link between manic depression and creativityIn the summer of 1667 the architect Francesco Borromini — one of the most brilliant figures of the Italian baroque — fell into what was later described as a ‘hypochondria’, complicated by fever. ‘He twisted his mouth in a thousand horrid ways, rolled his eyes from time to time in a fearful manner, and sometimes would roar and tremble like an irate lion.
The sun set on the 20th century more than four years ago but you can still see a blood-red glow on the horizon. The century that saw unprecedented technological progress also saw unprecedented slaughter. Previously, religion had served mankind’s deep needs for explanation, order, spiritual comfort and transcendental meaning. Now a new and hideous thing was summoned up to serve the same needs. The thing was ideology, and in a few decades it caused more bloodshed than millennia of religion.
What with Jamie Oliver dictating government policy last month, and Lady Isabella Hervey flaunting her tanned bod for the lads on Celebrity Love Island, you could be forgiven for thinking that social mobility in Britain, both upwards and downwards, has attained what scientists might call inertia-free perfection.
Daily observation suggests that the game of snakes and ladders between the classes has never been so vigorously played, and that the rules have been entirely rewritten.