Talk:Benjamin Britten

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Copied from my user talk page because I think the points raised are well worth setting out here:

Did [Britten] really long for England or did he just long for his native land (Britain)? Is it not more likely that he said "England" when he really meant "Britain" (as English people tend to do? Deb (talk) 18:09, 13 June 2014 (UTC)
Thank you for looking in at the Britten article, but to explain: if, for example, the text was about a Scottish composer would you be insisting that he wanted to get home to Britain rather than Scotland? Unlike, e.g., Bax among his contemporaries, Britten never exhibited the slightest interest in or affection for the Celtic Fringe. There's a rather good explanation of the relevant distinction in the lead of the Celtic nations article. If you read the Britten article carefully you will see that it was England that called BB. The lure of the Passport Office is not, you may on reflection agree, all that seductive. Tim riley talk 08:10, 14 June 2014 (UTC)
I'm not arguing that he didn't return to England, or that he didn't particularly want to return to England, and I take your point about my use of the word "nation". However, what I'm saying is that it would be valid to use "Return to England" as a heading if he was returning from another part of the UK rather than from overseas, but that he didn't specifically return to England. I daresay if his ship had landed in Fishguard, he wouldn't have refused to get off. If there is evidence that he felt the specific pull of England rather than of Britain, I don't see it in the article. In fact, the article is peppered with the use of the word "England" where the UK or Britain is clearly meant, and alternates with the use of the word "Britain" as if they were one and the same. I realise that this is commonplace (normally due to ignorance) and that it works both ways, but it is still worth thinking about. Deb (talk) 09:39, 14 June 2014 (UTC)
You may have perhaps missed the mention of Crabbe. In a way even "England", let alone "Britain" or "Europe", is arguably too unspecific: it was Suffolk, as in Crabbe, that really drew him back. I don't think we say "England" anywhere in the article where Scotland, Northern Ireland or Wales are involved. I mean, Lowestoft is on the British coast, of course, but "English" coast is surely preferable? I recently ran across a reference in The Times from the 19th century to "the whole of England, from Land's End to John o'Groats", which really is an abuse of the term. I was genuinely shocked. Tim riley talk 10:45, 14 June 2014 (UTC)

Britten's cause of death[edit]

The following exchange is copied from User talk:Tim riley, as I think it may be helpful to future editors to have it available here. Tim riley talk 18:25, 26 June 2014 (UTC)

This is an interesting read. -- Jack of Oz [pleasantries] 10:55, 26 June 2014 (UTC)

Thank you very much for that, Jack. That article is weighty enough, and its author evidently authoritative enough, to make me think that in the interests of balance I should add a sentence on this to the section. What think you? Tim riley talk 16:19, 26 June 2014 (UTC)
(talk page stalker) Blimey. DBaK (talk) 17:26, 26 June 2014 (UTC)
Hi there. Tim's invited me to weigh in with my thoughts here. I can't claim medical expertise, though I do rather think it's curious that Peter Pears - whom Kildea suggests infected Britten in the first place (assuming that Britten *was* infected with syphilis) - never showed any symptoms of the disease. Maybe that proves nothing. But I can't help noticing that the New Statesman article is written by Hywel Davies, the source of Kildea's story that Britten had syphilis: against Hywel Davies's second-hand account we have the testimony of Michael Petch, the cardiologist who took care of Britten both during and after the operation, and furthermore re-examined the medical notes before making his statement; plus there's the testimony of Beng Goh, who - to quote this article from The Guardian - is "a consultant physician and expert in syphilis, [who] has examined the medical records and has separately concluded that Britten was 'unlikely' to have been suffering from cardiovascular syphilis." Here's more from Goh in the article:
According to Goh, the tissue samples taken from the composer's aortic valve, and written up in the medical notes, crucially revealed no evidence of syphilis. "To diagnose syphilitic aortic valvular disease, there should be evidence of vasculitis – inflammation of blood vessels," said Goh. No such inflammation was reported.
In addition, said Goh, the notes reveal "there no other clinical features ... that would suggest syphilis as a possibility". For example, said Goh, in such a case one would expect to see calcium deposits on the aorta – "but this was not present in the chest x-ray".
Goh also cast doubt on the notion aired in the biography that in 1940 a bout of streptococcal tonsilitis that left him sweating and hallucinating was "his body in fact reacting to syphilis, now in its secondary stage". According to Goh: "Sweating and hallucination are most unlikely to be symptoms of secondary syphilis."
It's quite clear, even from this, that Kildea has made quite a deal out of Britten's supposed infection in his biography. I would be very wary indeed of taking Kildea as in any way authoritative on this matter, and the fact the only medical opinion weighing in his favour is the (as I said, second-hand) source of his story does nothing to make me feel more confident in it. Alfietucker (talk) 17:53, 26 June 2014 (UTC)

Thank you to Jack and Alfie for this. All things considered I am now minded to leave the section as it is, unless anyone has views to the contrary. Tim riley talk 18:31, 26 June 2014 (UTC)

To his credit, Kildea does acknowledge "Petch was never told of the syphilis and today is sceptical of the diagnosis, believing that the tests for endocarditis Britten underwent in 1968 should have revealed any infection" (p. 537). -- Jack of Oz [pleasantries] 21:57, 27 June 2014 (UTC)

Britten's presumed 'attraction to boys'[edit]

This subject has been discussed before. The discussion has now been archived. Yet I feel that the discussion did not lead up to a proper conclusion, and that so far, proper conclusions have not been applied to the lemma.

The 'Boys' section of the 'Controversies' now starts with the blunt sentence 'Britten was attracted to young boys – what Auden called "thin-as-a-board juveniles – sexless and innocent", with a reference to Matthews, page 95. First off, this reference is dead wrong. On page 95 of Matthews, there is no such text. Second, even if we find that reference somewhere in Matthews, it does not warrant the first, factual statement that 'Britten was attracted to young boys'. Thirdly, we don't want the lemma to be vague on this subject, while 'being attracted to' is vague. As a secondary teacher, I am 'attracted to' working with pupils aged 12-18. Actually, I love it. But I am not in the least *sexually* attracted. I would sue anyone who insults me by publicly stating that I am 'attracted to young girls aged 12-18' because they would misappropriate the in itself vague meaning of 'to be attracted to' certain people. Vagueness and innuendo is not what we need in a dictionary.

Sure, I am open to any convincing proof that Britten actually was *sexually* attracted to young boys. It has been often suggested, or implied, or stated. Britten has been posthumously accused, or excused. But never have I found any proof of the presumed matter. Yes, we are quite sure that he was *socially* attracted to working with young people, including young boys, and often received praise for the way in which he worked with them. From his work, we can deduce that Britten was 'attracted to' the subject of youth, of innocence lost, of boys and their relationship to adults and adulthood. And yes, eroticism and its problems also somehow pervade part of Britten's output. But I see no factual ground to arrive at the factual conclusion that Britten himself was *sexually attracted to young boys'. Thus I would like the lemma to be changed so that this suggestion is removed.Mcouzijn (talk) 08:24, 29 August 2014 (UTC)

Mcouzijn: which edition of the Matthews book are you referring to? I don't have either, but I see in Google books the earlier 2003 edition has at least two appearances of the Auden quote. Alfietucker (talk) 18:17, 29 August 2014 (UTC)
I've had another look at Bridcut's Britten's Children, and have amplified/clarified this section accordingly. Hope it makes sense now. Alfietucker (talk) 16:41, 31 August 2014 (UTC)
Many thanks to Alfie for that. It doesn't disrupt the general thrust, is impeccably sourced, reads smoothly and seems to me utterly NPOV. A tightrope skilfully walked. Tim riley talk 16:58, 31 August 2014 (UTC)
Thank you - glad it worked. Alfietucker (talk) 18:03, 31 August 2014 (UTC)

I am concerned about this statement: "Some commentators have continued to question Britten's conduct, sometimes very sharply". While that assertion may be true (I have no idea), I don't think is supported by the referenced article, which is Martin Kettle's article "Why we must talk about Britten's boys" at . The Kettle article (despite its subhead) is about why the topic of pedophilia should not ever be swept under the rug, and also states that "The last thing [Britten's] music needs is to be subverted by a pointless denial of his complex sexuality."

But it does not sharply question Britten's conduct. It reports that some other people have done so, and that there is no evidence of any bad conduct: "no evidence has come to light that Britten assaulted any boys, [...] the ground has been very extensively gone over, [...] many of the boys to whom Britten was close – and some of the parents who knew something of the composer's ways – remained friendly and respectful to Britten. [However, t]hat is not a watertight defence." The writer concludes that "[S]exual attraction and guilt mattered [in his music and his life.] They were some of the most important aspects of this great composer's creative life. It's very uncomfortable stuff, even today. But it can't be denied or ignored." This seems far from "sharply questioning his conduct" -- it seems more like "accepting the complexity of his feelings". Can anybody rewrite the line, or (if others continue to sharply question his conduct) add other references at least?David Couch (talk) 05:36, 30 March 2015 (UTC)

I gave it a try myself. Added "citation needed" to statement that "Some commentators have continued to question Britten's conduct, sometimes very sharply". Also added a sentence summarizing the POV of the referenced article by Mr. Kettle's. BUT -- I am not sure his opinion is important enough to include in the article. Is he an important cultural commentator? I've never heard of the fellow before reading the referenced Wikipedia article (I do happen to think he makes some excellent points, but that's neither here nor there).David Couch (talk) 05:57, 30 March 2015 (UTC)
Dealt with. Tim riley talk 07:31, 30 March 2015 (UTC)

Britten 100[edit]

As the centenary twelvemonth approaches its end it seems to me that the Britten 100 section could now do with considerable pruning. I have in mind blitzing the section entirely and adding a single para to the Honours, awards and commemorations section, summarising the contents of the present Britten 100 section. I'd be grateful to know what other editors think, and am taking the liberty of pinging @Brianboulton:, @Alfietucker:, @Martinevans123:, @JackofOz: and @Sjones23: with that in mind. Comments from anyone else will of course be just as welcome. No rush: there's more than a month till the end of the official Britten 100 celebrations. Tim riley talk 16:55, 26 September 2014 (UTC)

I think this is an excellent idea, and you should do as you suggest, Tim. I'm happy to leave this chore to you, in your role as Ben's vicar on earth. Brianboulton (talk) 18:23, 26 September 2014 (UTC)
Done. Pruned from 430 to 230 words. Tweaking ad lib cordially invited. Tim riley talk 11:10, 30 November 2014 (UTC)