Those who could buy care also bought silence – the confidentiality of the modern doctor/patient relationship has it roots in the treatment of syphilis. Not that it always helped. The old adage "a night with Venus; a lifetime with Mercury" reveals all manner of horrors, from men suffocating in overheated steam baths to quacks who peddled chocolate drinks laced with mercury so that infected husbands could treat their wives and families without them knowing. Even court fashion is part of the story, with pancake makeup and beauty spots as much a response to recurrent attacks of syphilis as survivors of smallpox....This is just a tiny sliver of Sarah Dunant's truly fascinating and elucidating "Syphilis, Sex and Fear: How the French Disease Conquered the World" in The Guardian. I highly recommend you click here to read it in its entiretly.
Image: 'Syphilis', Richard Cooper, 1910; Wellcome Library/ Wellcome Images: L0021275 Credit: Wellcome Library, London; click on image to see larger version.