Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Wednesday Search Challenge (4/11/12):What's the connection?

This is one of those questions where you have to discover the connection between two (apparently) unrelated ideas.  This might involve a bit of lateral thinking, but give it a go, and see if you can discover the connection I found between the phrase.... 

     “The Myrtle of Venus with Bacchus's Vine” 
      defense by reason of insanity

I know, I know--this sounds crazy.  

But there's a good story that connected these two very different concepts.  I happened to run across this unexpected connection while reading up about the central idea that links these two.  

Can you figure out what I was reading about?

That should be all the clues you should need to figure this out.  

As usual, when you find the connection, be sure to let us know:
   1. How long it took you to find the answer. 
   2. What your search strategy was to get from the clues to the answer. 

And, of course, what you found that links "the Myrtle of Venus with Bacchus's Vine" and the legal concept of "defense by reason of insanity."  (Hint: No, it's not that drinking too much will cause you to plead "reason of insanity...")  

Search on! 


  1. Daniel Sickles was the first person to use temporary insanity as a legal defense in U.S. history. He used this defense after he had killed Philip Barton Key II, son of Francis Scott Key.
    Francis Scott Key wrote the lyrics to The Star-Spangled Banner. The Star-Spangled Banner was written to the tune of The Anacreontic Song, from which the quote "The Myrtle of Venus with Bacchus's Vine" is coming from.

    Time to research this: about 20minutes.
    Strategy: "The Myrtle of Venus with Bacchus's Vine" quickly led to "The Star-Spangled Banner" and its author.
    A search for "Francis Scott Key insanity defense" then had "Daniel Sickles" as first result.

    Not easy, but fun :)

  2. Very tough one. Took me 11 minutes -- assuming I've got it.

    The phrase is from the Anacreonic Song, which uses the same tune as the Star Spangled Banner, and FScottKey's son's killer was acquitted in the first use of the temporary insanity defense. So my guess is that you're reading about that song, or about the Anacreonic Society. Is that it? If it's not, it's quite a coincidence.

    Anyhoo, the lyric is more distinctive, from a finding things perspective, so I got from there to the Song, to the Society, which was actually a mistake -- my first thought was that drunkenness, which the Society was a fan of, was somehow related to the insanity defense.

    This took me to a couple of recent cases of shootings by American military members, in which the insanity defense is being invoked but there are also claims of intoxication as a mitigating factor. Dead end, I think.

    Then back to the song, to FScottKey, and then 'F Scott Key insanity defense' got me where I needed to be.

    Again, i think -- the more I read my response, the more it feels like a stretch.

  3. Time: 5 minutes

    Searched for [“The Myrtle of Venus with Bacchus's Vine”] to find -

    it was a line in a “To Anacreon in Heaven”, a drinking song, that had the original tune for the -

    Star Spangled Banner written by Francis Scott Key

    Then searched for [defense by reason of insanity star spangled banner] to find

    Command – F on that page for [banner] to find article #9 about Dan Sickles who used the insanity defense when he shot Philip Barton Key, the son of Francis Scott Key.

    Totally guessing on the book after searching for [Philip Barton Key] in Google Books is American Scoundrel by Thomas Keneally

  4. Trickier than last week but I believe the connection is Francis Scott Key. The first phrase is a lyric from the The Anacreontic Song which is the tune Key used for The Star Spangled Banner. Key's son, Philip Barton Key II, was murdered by Daniel Sickles, the first man to be acquitted with the temporary insanity defense.

    I started my search with the first phrase since I wasn't familiar with it. I quickly found the Anacreontic Society and their song. I poked around in in their history and found nothing. Having learned the society contained barristers I tried "Anacreontic Society insanity defense" which turned up Francis Scott Key on the first page of results and from there it was just running down the details of how the two were connected.

    All told it took about 10 minutes.

  5. The central idea that links the two is "The Star Spangled Banner". The tune for the national anthem is Anacreontic Song, which includes the line about Venus and Bacchus. The lyrics for the national anthem were written by Francis Scott Key, whose son (Philip Barton Key) was shot dead by the husband of a woman he was having an affair with. The husband, Congressman Dan Sickles, was the first person in the US to plead temporary insanity as the reason for the murder, and he was acquitted.

    Strategy: Took the line from the song and popped it into google with the quotes, which game me the Anacreontic song. I took that (along with the name of the author of those lyrics...just in case), put them in quotes, stuck a big OR in between them and put them in parentheses with "AND insanity" following. Within the first few posts were a couple of items talking about "things you didn't know about familiar melodies", and I opened a Mental Floss "Quick 10", which didn't actually have the information, but a commenter had mentioned the connection between the anthem and "temporary insanity". I went back to google to double-check using Dan Sickles AND "temporary insanity", and got lots of results affirming this connection (including Wikipedia, pbs,, and Arlington Cemetery).

    Total time - about 3 minutes.

  6. Daniel Sickles murdered his friend Philip Key in 1859 and was the first American defendant to use the temporary insanity defense in his trial. Philip Key was the father of Francis Scott Key, who wrote the "Star Spangled Banner", which was based on the English Drinking song ""To Anacreon in Heaven" - which contains the lyric "The myrtle of Venus and Bacchus's vine".

    I searched google for "the myrtle of Venus and Bacchus's vine and insanity" - found a reference on about the song. On that same search, a DailyKos article about Daniel Sickles popped up with a reference to that lyric. I read the article and it referenced Philip Key. Knowing Francis Scott Key authored the "Star Spangled Banner", I then googled "Philip Key and Francis Scott" and got the Francis Scott Key family history wiki, where it said that the murdered Philip Key was the father of Francis Scott.

    15 minutes - fun one!!

  7. Philip Barton Key II was shot by Daniel Sickles who first used defense by reason of (temporary) insanity. This Philip Barton Key II was the son of Francis Scott Key who wrote the lyrics to the United States' national anthem 'The stars spangled banner". The tune of this anthem was taken from "To Anacreon in Heaven", an English drinking song in which each couplet ended with "And besides I'll instruct you like me, to intwine,
    The Myrtle of Venus with Bacchus's Vine."

    I guess you were reading about the origins of the US national anthem.

    The second link when searching for "The Myrtle of Venus with Bacchus's" Vine" leads to where is given an answer about the origins of the Anthem and the name of the the man who wrote the lyrics : Francis Scott Key.

    Searching for "defense by reason of insanity" brings an article in wikipedia where is cited Philip Barton Key. I noticed the similarity in the first name and the followed the thread.

  8. kind of a long shot, but plea of temporary insanity was first used by Daniel Sickles, who killed son of Francis Scott Key, who wrote The Star Spangled Banner, which is based on a tune of "To Anacreon in Heaven", which includes the words "The Myrtle of Venus with Bacchus's Vine".
    Took me about 10-15 min to find that connection. To find that I first searched for word s"The Myrtle of Venus with Bacchus's Vine", found out it's from a song called "To Anacreon in Heaven", googled song's name + insanity. Main reference was that one.

  9. It took about 10 minutes

    I started by searching on “The Myrtle of Venus with Bacchus's Vine”, as I decied that was far less generic than the "defense" phrase.

    The first hit was an entry that listed the words of a song that included that phrase. The tune was appropriated for "Star Spangled Banner". I thought that was a path worth following, so I searched for "defense by reason of insanity star spangled banner". That turned up this result

    : Daniel Sickles (acquitted, 1859)

    In 1859, U.S. Congressman Daniel Sickles was charged with murder after he shot and killed U.S. District Attorney Phillip Barton Key in broad daylight, within full view of the White House. Key -- who was the son of Francis Scott Key, author of The Star Spangled Banner -- had been having a notorious and conspicuous affair with Sickle's wife. At his sensational and highly publicized trial, Sickle's lawyer argued that he committed the murder in a state of temporary insanity, brought on by the enraging knowledge that Key was sleeping with his wife. The all-male jury accepted this argument, and Sickles was acquitted. He later served as a major-general in the Civil War, and received a Congressional Medal of Honor for his service after he lost his leg at Gettysburg.

  10. "Myrtle of Venus..." are lyrics from "To Anacreon in Heaven." The tune of "Anacreon" was used by Francis Scott Key for his lyrics to "The Star Spangled Banner." According to Wikipedia, "Key's son, Philip Barton Key II, was shot and killed by then-congressman and future Civil War general Daniel Sickles in 1859 after Sickles discovered that his wife was having an affair with Philip Barton Key. Sickles was acquitted in the first use of the temporary insanity defense."
    I Googled the lyric, then followed the trail through Wikipedia, making some educated guesses and assumptions. About five minutes.

  11. Less than 5 minutes.

    Francis Scott Key wrote The Star Spangled Banner and used the tune for "To Anacreon in Heaven" which has the line about Venus's Myrtle. Francis Scott Key also prosecuted Richard Lawrence for his failed assassination of President Andrew Jackson. "After only five minutes of deliberation, the jury found Lawrence not guilty by reason of insanity." []

    Search method:
    Googled the Myrtle of Venus line.
    Saw the connection to Star-Spangled Banner on the search page.

    Went to Wikipedia article, guessed that connection might be through Francis Scott Key, went to his Wikipedia page. Saw that he was a lawyer and had a famous prosecution. Went to the Wikipedia page on Richard Lawrence and saw the insanity defense.

    It took longer to write this up than to do the search.

    1. very clever... went back and re-read the question and it doesn't say anything about "temporary"
      so maybe Sickles is a red herring. None the less, a sizable coincidence of brushes with legal insanity for
      Francis Scott Key!
      Given your lead, I'm going to guess Dan was reading American Lion by Jon Meacham...


    These are the two main links I used to solve the problem. I did a search of "The Mrytle of Venus with Bacchus's Vine" and "insanity" together. Then I found the first link and read quickly about Daniel Sickles. Next, I typed "Daniel Sickles" "The Mrytle of Venus with Bacchus's Vine" "Insanity".

    I did a lot of CTRL-F to find the connection between the song, the man, and the legal concept of defense by reason of insanity. The search took 1 minutes, but gleaning through the text took another 5 minutes.

    Here's what I found:

    So in summary,

    1. There is a dude named Daniel Sickles. He met another guy named Phillip Key. Phillip Key is Frances Scott Key's father.

    2. Apparently Daniel and Phillip drank a lot. Even drunk, Daniel could translate the national anthem from translating “And swear by old Styx, that we long shall entwine, the myrtle of Venus and Bacchus’ vine” into “Oh, say, does that star spangled banner yet wave, Ore the land of the free and the home of the brave.”

    3. Daniel also had a temper. He killed his wife's lover, but got away with it because he was first to use the legal defense of insanity.

    Is this what you are referring to as the connection?

  13. 1) ~8 mins.
    2) Two part search -
    - Find out what "Myrtle of Venus..." phrase is connected to/relevant for;
    - Find out how this indirect connection is linked to the insanity defense.

    Searching on the phrase, "The Myrtle of Venus with Bacchus's Vine" leads you to a few sites that connect this with the melody for the Star-Spangled Banner.

    Connecting the two phrases "The Myrtle.." and "insanity defense" leads you to a couple forums about the Star-Spangled Banner and its author and his family (you can do an in-page search for to find the "insanity defense" phrase. Example:
    Checking FS Key's wikipedia page, you can see about Sickles and his jealous rage (insanity) about FS Key's son, Philip, and his affair with Sickle's wife:

    Sickles used the insanity defense during the trial (first use of it); he killed Key's son; Key used the "To Anacreon in Heaven" melody for his Star-Spangled Banner.

  14. Also - the initial search (paired phrases) took only 3-5 minutes, but I thought I should have multiple sites that corroborated the answer before I could confirm that the weird connection was "true."

  15. My guess is that you were reading about Francis Scott Key and/or The Star-Spangled Banner.

    As for the link between the two phrases, "The Myrtle of Venus with Bacchus's Vine" is part of the chorus to "The Anacreontic Song," which was the basis for "The Star-Spangled Banner," written by Francis Scott Key. It turns out that Francis Scott Key's son, Philip Barton Key II, was most famous for having been shot and killed for having an affair with another man's wife. The shooter, Daniel Sickles, was acquitted on the basis of temporary insanity in what was the first time the insanity defense had been used in the United States.

    In total, this took about 20 minutes of looking and reading with many different searches involved. My strategy was to find a way to link topics related to The Anacreontic Song and insanity. Along the way, I spent quite a bit of time reading about one Dr. Samuel Smith Thomson (1778-1849) who was both involved in the (Belfast) Anacreontic Society *and* was a physician at the Belfast Lunatic Asylum. Alas, I could not make the link to the insanity defense. I also spent some time pursuing Daniel M'Naghten, after whom the insanity defense "M'Naghten Rules" are named. No dice there either.

    The breakthrough came when I searched [ francis scott key insanity ]. This led to multiple hits, including the Wikipedia page for Daniel Sickles.

    In the end, all the pertinent details were found on the following Wikipedia pages:

  16. Dan, given your recent travels, I'm going to guess you may have been reading about President's Park/ Lafayette Square and the demise of Philip Barton Key II (Francis Scott Key's son)? or were you at Ft. McHenry, reading about FSK & family & the history of the Star Spangled Banner?

    The links "the Myrtle of Venus with Bacchus's Vine" and the legal concept of "defense by reason of insanity." would be: Francis Scott Key wrote the song, consisting of Key's text "Defence of Fort McHenry" and Smith's tune The Anacreontic song, is today known as The Star-Spangled Banner, the national anthem of the United States of America.
    Key's son, Philip, was murdered by Congressman Daniel Edgar Sickles, who pled insanity—the first use of a temporary insanity defense in the United States. Sickles later went on to be a Union General in the Civil War and belatedly received the MoH for actions at Gettysburg...

    The path on this one was all courtesy of Wikipedia & Goo:
    Googled the Myrtle of ...> The Anacreontic Society>F.Scott Key (once I saw he was a lawyer & the insanity defense was in the mix, figured I was on the correct path - apologies to all the barrister searchers)>Philip Barton Key>Daniel Sickles... tawdry and fascinating - todays characters, lothario and rouges have nothing on these guys!

    Good challenge, lots of "meat" and further reading to do... thought it was interesting that Francis would name his son after his Uncle who had been a Tory Loyalist during the Revolutionary War. Thanks Dan!

    Around an hour reading and typing and jumping down assorted rabbit holes.
    Bacchus may not get you, but Teresa Bagioli will... doubt that she quite compared to Botticelli's Venus... but she was 15/16? when Sickles(33 at the time) married her.
    The Honorable(&insane)??"

  17. Francis Scott Key set his poem "The Star-Spangled Banner" to the tune of an English Drinking song, "To Anacreon in Heav'n", in which is mentioned "The Myrtle of Venus with Bacchus's Vine". Francis Scott Key also was the prosecuting attorney in the case against Richard Lawrence in the attempted assassination of President Andrew Jackson. Lawrence was found not guilty by reason of insanity. Additionally, Francis Scott Key's son, Philip Barton Key II, was killed by Daniel Sickles who was also acquitted by pleading temporary insanity - the first use of such a defense in U.S. history!
    Search time: 90 seconds
    Search terms: The Myrtle of Venus with Bacchus's Vine defense insanity
    first insanity defense in united states

  18. “The Myrtle of Venus with Bacchus's Vine” is part of the lyrics of the song "To Anacreon in Heaven". From Wikipedia: "Attributed to the composer John Stafford Smith, the tune was later used by several writers as a setting for their patriotic lyrics. These included two songs by Francis Scott Key, most famously his poem, "Defence of Fort McHenry". The latter combination became known as "The Star-Spangled Banner".

    The son of Francis Scott Key, Philip Barton Key "is most famous for having been shot and killed by the man whom he cuckolded, Daniel Sickles. Sickles defended himself by adopting a defense of temporary insanity, the first time the defense had been used in the United States" again, according to Wikipedia.

    I found the link in this page: This is the only result when you Google [“The Myrtle of Venus with Bacchus's Vine” "insanity defense"]. Took me about 15 mins because I kept getting distracted reading Wikipedia, you know how it is.

    So technically I guess the link is Francis Scott Key but you might have been reading about any of the concepts mentioned above. As a final note, I think it would have made more sense if in your original question you had asked about defense by *temporary* insanity, not general insanity. It's more specific but it wouldn't have made the challenge any easier in my opinion.

  19. "Can you figure out what I was reading about?":

    how's this for "lateral thinking"? Maybe this is what you were reading about? if you are a baseball fan? Giants?

    temporary insanity

    Philip Barton Key (the Uncle of F.S.Key)+
    Cuba: During the War of Independence he served in the Maryland Loyalists Battalion as a captain.[1] He fought with the British Army from 1777 to 1781, until he was captured by the Spanish in Pensacola, Florida with the rest of his battalion. He was kept as prisoner for a month in Havana, Cuba, before being paroled and sent to New York City until the end of the war.


  20. The connection is Francis Scott Key

  21. How about that the contention is that Francis Scott Key based the tune of the Star Spangled Banner on "The Myrtle of Venus with Bacchus's Vine" and Daniel Sickles (the son of Francis Scott Key) was the first to use the insanity defense in the US?

    I did a search on the title "The Myrtle of Venus with Bacchus's Vine," read that it may have been the basis for The Star Spangled Banner, and then searched using key terms "Star Spangled Banner" insanity defense.

  22. The connection is Francis Scott Key

    In 1835 Richard Lawrence, attempted to assassinate Andrew Jackson, president of the United States in 1835. He was declared insane and therefore not guilty.

    His Lawyer was Francis Scot Key, who wrote "Defence of Fort McHenry". This poem along with the music of "The Anacreontic song" are combined in "The Star-Spangled Banner" the anthem of the United States.

    “The Myrtle of Venus with Bacchus's Vine” is part of the original lyrics of "The Anacreontic song".

    Googled “The Myrtle of Venus with Bacchus's Vine”. Searched "The Anacreontic song" in Wikipedia. Followed links.

    Time: 6 minutes.

  23. I believe the answer is the murder of US D.A. Phillip Barton Key by US Congressman Daniel Sickles in 1859. Key was the son of Francis Scott Key, the author of the national anthem whose lyrics include the phrase "The Myrtle of Venus with Bacchus's Vine".

    Sickles was found guilty by reason of temporary insanity after claiming he fell into a rage by the knowledge of Key having an affair with Sickles' wife.

    I used Google exclusively for this search and it took about 3 minutes to hone in on the answer.

    First, I googled the two phrases, each in quotes, in Google with no success. Then, I focused on the origin of the "Myrtle of Venus" phrase. Having determined quickly it came from the national anthem, I Googled +"Star spangled banner" +"reason of insanity". The first link was a site about a PBS.ORG show about the insanity defense, including a breakdown of the Daniel Sickles case.

  24. It took me about 4 minutes to find the connection and check. My search strategy was to google "The Myrtle of Venus with Bacchus's Vine". That led me to a Wikipedia article about "To Anacreon in Heaven" which was the tune that was the basis of The Star Spangled Banner written by Francis Scott Key (another Wikipedia article). Key's son, Phillip, was murdered by a man who was acquitted using the temporary insanity defense. This was the first use of this defense.

  25. I initially searched for '"defense by reason of insanity" +bacchus"

    That came back with nothing. So I opened up 4 browser windows on my two monitors and intertwined the two criteria in various ways. I sifted through the various duds, and the following came back with success!

    "the Myrtle of Venus insanity defense -lifehacker -searchsearch -blogspot"
    [I used the elimination to get rid of this challenge from the search results] and I came across:

    Which led me to connect the lyrics of the early versions of the Star Spangled Banner, its creator Francis Scott Key, and Francis' son, Phillip Key, who was murdered by Daniel Sickles who was the first person to successfully use the insanity defense.

  26. 15 minutes Key puzzle!

  27. I have something a little different to offer, though I was really trying to think outside the norm...

    I took about 30 min to read the wiki articles for both the song, and the origin of the insanity defense. I had a feeling that there was a provision for insanity pleas in regard to drunken behavior, and wanted to look for connections in that regard.

    I found an article defending Christina Aguilera's recent performance of the Star Spangled Banner at the Super Bowl. ( ) The article cited the origins of the song and the The Anacreontic Society as a drinking song, but also mentioned that the song is also a drunken sounding amble across multiple wordings that don't fit and octive jumps like crazy, so the performer's rendition wasn't far off of the original intent of the song.

    Just thought I would throw that out there!

  28. Four minutes: The first successful use of the insanity defense was by the man who killed the son of Francis Scott Key, who wrote the US National Anthem based on a song whose original lyrics included the phrase "The Myrtle of Venus with Bacchus's Vine."

    1st search was "The Myrtle of Venus with Bacchus's Vine" + defense by reason of insanity" which got me here: ( A search for "vine" on the page quickly showed me that Francis Scott key wrote the Star Spangled Banner "set to the tune of an English Drinking Song, "To Anacreon in Heaven." which includes the lyrics "The Myrtle of Venus with Bacchus's Vine".

    2nd search was "national anthem insanity defense" which brought me to ( page explains about Major General Daniel E. Sickles that "He was the first defendant to successfully use the temporary insanity defense in the United States. In 1859, Sickles was found not guilty of the murder of his wife's lover, Philip Barton Key, the son of the composer of the national anthem."

  29. Francis Scott Key who wrote the Star Spangled Banner words used the tune of an English drinking song which included the chorus: The Myrtle of Venus with Bacchus's Vine.

    Key's son (Philip Barton Key) was killed by Daniel Sickles who pleaded insanity for his defense - as Key was involved in cuckolding him, by sleeping with Sickles' wife. This was the first example of use of the temporary insanity defense plea in the United States (in 1859).

    The line "The Myrtle of Venus" became "“Ore the land of the free and the home of the brave.” This was particularly fitting for Sickles future history after his trial. He played an important but highly controversial role in the Civil War and was wounded, losing a leg, at the Battle of Gettysburg. Eventually he was awarded a Medal of Honour.

    So the connection is the "Star Spangled Banner" - as this links the Myrtle of Venus line with Francis Scott Key, his son Philip Barton Key, and Philip Barton Key's killer, Daniel Sickles who pleaded a defense of temporary insanity.

    It took around 5 minutes at the most - searching for "Myrtle of Venus" brought up that this was the precursor to the Star Spangled Banner. Searching for defense by insanity brought up sites on notorious uses of this, include mentions of Daniel Sickles and Key.

  30. Daniel, I just signed to follow your blog. Your challenge intrigued me, so I hope I can continue this journey. I'm a S/W engineer. Here is my findings:

    My approach was through two different Google search sessions:
    1) "The Myrtle of Venus with Bacchus's Vine"
    2) defense by reason of insanity

    No. 2 search was too general to give clues of the connection. I concentrated on No. 1 search. After reading several pages from different sites, I made the initial connection to "Anacreon in Heaven" lyrics and a British pub drinking song. The Star-Spangled Banner was noted as an interesting node for a possible connection. However, I went back to the first search session and I modified it to "AND" with drinking (I don't know why!) I ran into a "Top n" cases of temporary insanity. And, the first American case made a connection to Key and The Star-Spangled Banner. The rest was trivial!

    As far as how long it took me... I would say about 12-15 minutes! Hmmm... Not a very good "Search Engine"! :)

  31. Searched "The Myrtle of Venus with Bacchus's Vine" lead to "To Anacreon in Heaven"
    Searched "To Anacreon in Heaven" and "by reason of insanity"

    Came across posts about Francis Scott Key author of the Star Spangled Banner. Saw that he was the prosecuting attorney for Richard Lawrence who was judged gri.

    Time 4 minutes.

  32. 30 seconds. I searched for "The Myrtle of Venus with Bacchus's Vine" and saw the lyrics for To Anacreon in Heaven, then searched for [to anacreon in heaven insanity] and found the answer in result 4, the wikipedia page for Francis Scott Key. By the time I got there, of course, I'll bet result ranking had changed to make this a lot easier. On the second search, the top three results were your blog post and two replies.