Handel 'was binge eater and problem drinker'

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George Frideric Handel was a binge eater and problem drinker whose gargantuan appetites resulted in lead poisoning that eventually killed him, according to a study.

By the time of his death 250 years ago this month, aged 74, the composer of Messiah had for 20 years been fighting severe health problems, including blindness, gout, bouts of paralysis and confused speech.

According to David Hunter, music librarian at the University of Texas and author of more than 60 articles on Handel, these ailments were all linked to lead poisoning brought on by his notoriously heavy consumption of rich foods and alcohol.

Surprisingly little is known about Handel’s private life but evidence from portraits and contemporary descriptions supports the theory that he began to suffer from lead poisoning in 1737, when he temporarily lost the use of his right hand, an incident previously attributed to a stroke...

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