John Maynard Keynes: Bisexuality, ballerinas and brilliance at economics too

Ten things you didn't know about John Maynard Keynes

THRILLING as it is for old lefties to find their hero, the economist John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946), making headlines again as Alistair Darling vows to spend his way out of the recession – a key Keynes interventionist approach – many of us are scrabbling to sound knowledgeable about the moustachioed old fox. He's right back in fashion now, so here's our ten-point bluffer's guide to the great economist

1 HE WAS BISEXUAL

Yes, yes, he was one of the fathers of modern theoretical macroeconomics, but it cannot be overlooked that Keynes's sex life was pretty wild. His early romantic relationships were almost all with men – his diary lists 50 gay affairs between the ages of 18 and 33, ranging from Bloomsbury Set painter Duncan Grant and writer Lytton Strachey to a boy who operated the lift in a London Tube station. But then he amazed all his friends by falling in love with a 38-year-old Russian ballerina, Lydia Lopokova, right, and marrying her in 1925. It was, it seems, a genuine love match. Robert Skidelsky, Keynes's biographer, says: "Sexual relations certainly developed, and by 1924 Lydia was appreciative of Maynard's 'subtle' sexual technique."

2 HIS APPEAL EXTENDS TO POP MUSIC

In 1987 he was immortalised in the Deacon Blue song, Dignity, whose lyric includes the lines: "I'm telling this story/in a faraway scene/sipping down raki/and reading Maynard Keynes."

3 KEYNES IS PRONOUNCED "CAINS"

It's one of those tongue-twisters that can easily catch out the unwary prole, but you need to get the pronunciation right unless you want to make yourself sound like a duffer.

4 HE HAD TERRIBLE TABLE MANNERS

But then, the early-20th century Bloomsbury Set, in which Keynes was a key figure, alongside Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell, thought the uninhibited Lydia ("his canary-brained ballerina") was a particularly slovenly housekeeper. They never quite recovered from seeing her throw a sanitary towel on the fire grate.

5 DH LAWRENCE WAS SPOOKED BY HIM

After seeing Keynes in his pyjamas at Cambridge one morning in 1915, D H Lawrence had dreamed of black beetles and thought he might go mad. "I am sick with the knowledge of the prevalence of evil, as if it were some hideous disease,'' he warned the Bloomsbury hostess and patron Ottoline Morrell. "I will not have people like this ... Sometimes I think I can't stand England any more.''

6 HE WAS AN ART LOVER

After the Second World War, Maynard Keynes was instrumental in establishing the Arts Council and also financed the creation of the Arts Theatre in Cambridge. Thanks to a private fortune he had built up as an investor, he owned one of the largest collections of 20th-century international art, including works by artists of such magnitude as Czanne, Degas, Picasso, Seurat and Modigliani. He was almost wiped out financially, following the devastating stock-market crash of 1929, but soon managed to recoup his fortune.

7 HE ALWAYS WON AN ARGUMENT

The philosopher and historian Bertrand Russell – a pretty clever chap himself – called Keynes one of the most intelligent people he had ever known. "Every time I argued with Keynes, I felt that I took my life in my hands and I seldom emerged without feeling something of a fool," he once said.

8 THE RIGHT LOVED HIM

The politician and founder of the British Union of Fascists, Sir Oswald Mosley, left, was an early Keynesian, as was his friend Adolf Hitler. Keynes himself was passionate about eugenics (a philosophy based on maximising human health and intelligence through selective breeding, but which was used by some to rationalise certain aspects of the Holocaust).

9 HE HAD UNUSUAL EROTIC TASTES

His wife Lydia used to cross-dress in order to try to turn him on. The Bloomsbury Set thought her habit of dancing naked in the dawn fields was beyond the pale.

10 HE WAS A WORKAHOLIC

As an economist, journalist, collector, philosopher and statesman, he died aged 62 of a heart attack, outlived by his 93-year-old father and mother.