Reference > Fiction > Nonfiction > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
Selected Letters
By Ludwig van Beethoven (1770–1827)
From Letter to Dr. Wegeler, Vienna

IN what an odious light have you exhibited me to myself! Oh! I acknowledge it, I do not deserve your friendship. It was no intentional or deliberate malice that induced me to act towards you as I did—but inexcusable thoughtlessness alone.
  I say no more. I am coming to throw myself into your arms, and to entreat you to restore me my lost friend; and you will give him back to me, to your penitent, loving, and ever grateful
To the Same
VIENNA, June 29th, 1800.    
My dear and valued Wegeler:
HOW much I thank you for your remembrance of me, little as I deserve it or have sought to deserve it; and yet you are so kind that you allow nothing, not even my unpardonable neglect, to discourage you, always remaining the same true, good, and faithful friend. That I can ever forget you or yours, once so dear and precious to me, do not for a moment believe. There are times when I find myself longing to see you again, and wishing that I could go to stay with you. My fatherland, that lovely region where I first saw the light, is still as distinct and beauteous in my eyes as when I quitted you; in short, I shall esteem the time when I once more see you, and again greet Father Rhine, as one of the happiest periods of my life. When this may be I cannot yet tell, but at all events I may say that you shall not see me again till I have become not only eminent as an artist, but better and more perfect as a man; and if the condition of our fatherland be then more prosperous, my art shall be entirely devoted to the benefit of the poor. Oh, blissful moment!—how happy do I esteem myself that I can expedite it and bring it to pass!
  You desire to know something of my position: well! it is by no means bad. However incredible it may appear, I must tell you that Lichnowsky has been, and still is, my warmest friend (slight dissensions occurred occasionally between us, and yet they only served to strengthen our friendship). He settled on me last year the sum of six hundred florins, for which I am to draw on him till I can procure some suitable situation. My compositions are very profitable, and I may really say that I have almost more commissions than it is possible for me to execute. I can have six or seven publishers or more for every piece if I choose: they no longer bargain with me—I demand, and they pay—so you see this is a very good thing. For instance, I have a friend in distress, and my purse does not admit of my assisting him at once, but I have only to sit down and write, and in a short time he is relieved. I am also become more economical than formerly….  4
  To give you some idea of my extraordinary deafness, I must tell you that in the theatre I am obliged to lean close up against the orchestra in order to understand the actors, and when a little way off I hear none of the high notes of instruments or singers. It is most astonishing that in conversation some people never seem to observe this; as I am subject to fits of absence, they attribute it to that cause. Often I can scarcely hear a person if he speaks low; I can distinguish the tones but not the words, and yet I feel it intolerable if any one shouts to me. Heaven alone knows how it is to end! Vering declares that I shall certainly improve, even if I be not entirely restored. How often have I cursed my existence! Plutarch led me to resignation. I shall strive if possible to set Fate at defiance, although there must be moments in my life when I cannot fail to be the most unhappy of God’s creatures. I entreat you to say nothing of my affliction to any one, not even to Lorchen. I confide the secret to you alone, and entreat you some day to correspond with Vering on the subject. If I continue in the same state, I shall come to you in the ensuing spring, when you must engage a house for me somewhere in the country, amid beautiful scenery, and I shall then become a rustic for a year, which may perhaps effect a change. Resignation!—what a miserable refuge! and yet it is my sole remaining one. You will forgive my thus appealing to your kindly sympathies at a time when your own position is sad enough.  5
  Farewell, my kind, faithful Wegeler! Rest assured of the love and friendship of your
From the Letters to Bettina Brentano

NEVER was there a lovelier spring than this year; I say so, and feel it too, because it was then I first knew you. You have yourself seen that in society I am like a fish on the sand, which writhes and writhes, but cannot get away till some benevolent Galatea casts it back into the mighty ocean. I was indeed fairly stranded, dearest friend, when surprised by you at a moment in which moroseness had entirely mastered me; but how quickly it vanished at your aspect! I was at once conscious that you came from another sphere than this absurd world, where, with the best inclinations, I cannot open my ears. I am a wretched creature, and yet I complain of others!! You will forgive this from the goodness of heart that beams in your eyes, and the good sense manifested by your ears; at least they understand how to flatter, by the mode in which they listen. My ears are, alas! a partition-wall, through which I can with difficulty hold any intercourse with my fellow-creatures. Otherwise perhaps I might have felt more assured with you; but I was only conscious of the full, intelligent glance from your eyes, which affected me so deeply that never can I forget it. My dear friend! dearest girl!—Art! who comprehends it? with whom can I discuss this mighty goddess? How precious to me were the few days when we talked together, or, I should rather say, corresponded! I have carefully preserved the little notes with your clever, charming, most charming answers; so I have to thank my defective hearing for the greater part of our fugitive intercourse being written down. Since you left this I have had some unhappy hours,—hours of the deepest gloom, when I could do nothing. I wandered for three hours in the Schönbrunn Allée after you left us, but no angel met me there to take possession of me as you did. Pray forgive, my dear friend, this deviation from the original key, but I must have such intervals as a relief to my heart. You have no doubt written to Goethe about me? I would gladly bury my head in a sack, so that I might neither see nor hear what goes on in the world, because I shall meet you there no more; but I shall get a letter from you? Hope sustains me, as it does half the world; through life she has been my close companion, or what would have become of me? I send you ‘Kennst Du das Land,’ written with my own hand, as a remembrance of the hour when I first knew you….
  If you mention me when you write to Goethe, strive to find words expressive of my deep reverence and admiration. I am about to write to him myself with regard to ‘Egmont,’ for which I have written some music solely from my love for his poetry, which always delights me. Who can be sufficiently grateful to a great poet,—the most precious jewel of a nation!  8
  KINGS and princes can indeed create professors and privy-councillors, and confer titles and decorations, but they cannot make great men,—spirits that soar above the base turmoil of this world. There their powers fail, and this it is that forces them to respect us. When two persons like Goethe and myself meet, these grandees cannot fail to perceive what such as we consider great. Yesterday on our way home we met the whole Imperial family; we saw them coming some way off, when Goethe withdrew his arm from mine, in order to stand aside; and say what I would, I could not prevail on him to make another step in advance. I pressed down my hat more firmly on my head, buttoned up my great-coat, and crossing my arms behind me, I made my way through the thickest portion of the crowd. Princes and courtiers formed a lane for me; Archduke Rudolph took off his hat, and the Empress bowed to me first. These great ones of the earth know me. To my infinite amusement, I saw the procession defile past Goethe, who stood aside with his hat off, bowing profoundly. I afterwards took him sharply to task for this; I gave him no quarter and upbraided him with all his sins.  9
To Countess Giulietta Guicciardi

MONDAY EVENING, July 6th.    
YOU grieve! dearest of all beings! I have just heard that the letters must be sent off very early. Mondays and Thursdays are the only days when the post goes to K—— from here. You grieve! Ah! where I am, there you are ever with me: how earnestly shall I strive to pass my life with you, and what a life will it be!!! Whereas now!! without you!! and persecuted by the kindness of others, which I neither deserve nor try to deserve! The servility of man towards his fellow-man pains me, and when I regard myself as a component part of the universe, what am I, what is he who is called the greatest?—and yet herein are displayed the godlike feelings of humanity!—I weep in thinking that you will receive no intelligence from me till probably Saturday. However dearly you may love me, I love you more fondly still. Never conceal your feelings from me. Good-night! As a patient at these baths, I must now go to rest. [A few words are here effaced by Beethoven himself.] Oh, heavens! so near, and yet so far! Is not our love a truly celestial mansion, but firm as the vault of heaven itself?
JULY 7th.    
Good morning!
  Even before I rise, my thoughts throng to you, my immortal beloved!—sometimes full of joy, and yet again sad, waiting to see whether Fate will hear us. I must live either wholly with you, or not at all. Indeed, I have resolved to wander far from you till the moment arrives when I can fly into your arms, and feel that they are my home, and send forth my soul in unison with yours into the realm of spirits. Alas! it must be so! You will take courage, for you know my fidelity. Never can another possess my heart—never, never! Oh, heavens! Why must I fly from her I so fondly love? and yet my existence in W—— was as miserable as here. Your love made me the most happy and yet the most unhappy of men. At my age, life requires a uniform equality; can this be found in our mutual relations? My angel! I have this moment heard that the post goes every day, so I must conclude that you may get this letter the sooner. Be calm! for we can only attain our object of living together by the calm contemplation of our existence. Continue to love me. Yesterday, to-day, what longings for you, what tears for you! for you! for you! my life! my all! Farewell! Oh, love me for ever, and never doubt the faithful heart of your lover,

  Ever thine.
  Ever mine.
  Ever each other’s.
To My Brothers Carl and Johann Beethoven

HEILIGENSTADT, Oct. 6th, 1802.    
OH! ye who think or declare me to be hostile, morose, and misanthropical, how unjust you are, and how little you know the secret cause of what appears thus to you! My heart and mind were ever from childhood prone to the most tender feelings of affection, and I was always disposed to accomplish something great. But you must remember that six years ago I was attacked by an incurable malady, aggravated by unskillful physicians, deluded from year to year, too, by the hope of relief, and at length forced to the conviction of a lasting affliction (the cure of which may go on for years, and perhaps after all prove impracticable).
  Born with a passionate and excitable temperament, keenly susceptible to the pleasures of society, I was yet obliged early in life to isolate myself, and to pass my existence in solitude. If I at any time resolved to surmount all this, oh! how cruelly was I again repelled by the experience, sadder than ever, of my defective hearing!—and yet I found it impossible to say to others: Speak louder, shout! for I am deaf! Alas! how could I proclaim the deficiency of a sense which ought to have been more perfect with me than with other men—a sense which I once possessed in the highest perfection, to an extent indeed that few of my profession ever enjoyed! Alas! I cannot do this! Forgive me therefore when you see me withdraw from you with whom I would so gladly mingle. My misfortune is doubly severe from causing me to be misunderstood. No longer can I enjoy recreation in social intercourse, refined conversation, or mutual outpourings of thought. Completely isolated, I only enter society when compelled to do so. I must live like an exile. In company I am assailed by the most painful apprehensions, from the dread of being exposed to the risk of my condition being observed. It was the same during the last six months I spent in the country. My intelligent physician recommended me to spare my hearing as much as possible, which was quite in accordance with my present disposition, though sometimes, tempted by my natural inclination for society, I allowed myself to be beguiled into it. But what humiliation when any one beside me heard a flute in the far distance, while I heard nothing, or when others heard a shepherd singing, and I still heard nothing! Such things brought me to the verge of desperation, and well-nigh caused me to put an end to my life. Art! art alone, deterred me. Ah! how could I possibly quit the world before bringing forth all that I felt it was my vocation to produce? And thus I spared this miserable life—so utterly miserable that any sudden change may reduce me at any moment from my best condition into the worst. It is decreed that I must now choose Patience for my guide! This I have done. I hope the resolve will not fail me, steadfastly to persevere till it may please the inexorable Fates to cut the thread of my life. Perhaps I may get better, perhaps not. I am prepared for either. Constrained to become a philosopher in my twenty-eighth year! This is no slight trial, and more severe on an artist than on any one else. God looks into my heart, he searches it, and knows that love for man and feelings of benevolence have their abode there! Oh! ye who may one day read this, think that you have done me injustice; and let any one similarly afflicted be consoled by finding one like himself, who, in defiance of all the obstacles of nature, has done all in his power to be included in the ranks of estimable artists and men. My brothers Carl and Johann, as soon as I am no more, if Professor Schmidt be still alive, beg him in my name to describe my malady, and to add these pages to the analysis of my disease, that at least, so far as possible, the world may be reconciled to me after my death. I also hereby declare you both heirs of my small fortune (if so it may be called). Share it fairly, agree together and assist each other. You know that anything you did to give me pain has been long forgiven. I thank you, my brother Carl in particular, for the attachment you have shown me of late. My wish is that you may enjoy a happier life, and one more free from care than mine has been. Recommend Virtue to your children; that alone, and not wealth, can insure happiness. I speak from experience. It was Virtue alone which sustained me in my misery; I have to thank her and Art for not having ended my life by suicide. Farewell! Love each other. I gratefully thank all my friends, especially Prince Lichnowsky and Professor Schmidt. I wish one of you to keep Prince L——’s instruments; but I trust this will give rise to no dissension between you. If you think it more beneficial, however, you have only to dispose of them. How much I shall rejoice if I can serve you even in the grave! So be it then! I joyfully hasten to meet Death. If he comes before I have had the opportunity of developing all my artistic powers, then, notwithstanding my cruel fate, he will come too early for me, and I should wish for him at a more distant period; but even then I shall be content, for his advent will release me from a state of endless suffering. Come when he may, I shall meet him with courage. Farewell! Do not quite forget me, even in death: I deserve this from you, because during my life I so often thought of you, and wished to make you happy. Amen!
[Written on the outside.]

  Thus, then, I take leave of you, and with sadness too. The fond hope I brought with me here, of being to a certain degree cured, now utterly forsakes me. As autumn leaves fall and wither, so are my hopes blighted. Almost as I came, I depart. Even the lofty courage that so often animated me in the lovely days of summer is gone forever. O Providence! vouchsafe me one day of pure felicity! How long have I been estranged from the glad echo of true joy! When! O my God! when shall I again feel it in the temple of nature and of man?—never? Ah! that would be too hard!
  To be read and fulfilled after my death by my brothers Carl and Johann.  16
To the Royal and Imperial High Court of Appeal
JANUARY 7th, 1820.    
THE WELFARE of my nephew is dearer to my heart than it can be to any one else. I am myself childless, and have no relations except this boy, who is full of talent, and I have good grounds to hope the best for him, if properly trained.
*        *        *        *        *
  My efforts and wishes have no other aim than to give the boy the best possible education—his abilities justifying the brightest hopes—and to fulfill the trust placed in my brotherly love by his father. The shoot is still flexible; but if longer neglected it will become crooked and outgrow the gardener’s training hand, and upright bearing, intellect, and character be destroyed for ever….  18
  I know no duty more sacred than the education and training of a child. The chief duties of a guardian consist in knowing how to appreciate what is good, and in adopting a right course; then alone has proper attention been devoted to the welfare of his ward, whereas in opposing what is good he neglects his duty.  19
  Indeed, keeping in view what is most for the benefit of the boy, I do not object to the mother in so far sharing in the duties of a guardian, that she may visit her son, and see him, and be apprised of all the measures adopted for his education; but to intrust her with his sole guardianship without a strict guardian by her side would cause the irretrievable ruin of her son.  20
  On these cogent grounds I reiterate my well-founded solicitation, and feel the more confident of a favorable answer, as the welfare of my nephew alone guides my steps in this affair.  21
To Baroness von Drossdick

I LIVE in entire quiet and solitude; and even though occasional flashes of light arouse me, still since you all left, I feel a hopeless void which even my art, usually so faithful to me, has not yet triumphed over. Your pianoforte is ordered, and you shall soon have it. What a difference you must have discovered between the treatment of the Theme I extemporized on the other evening, and the mode in which I have recently written it out for you! You must explain this yourself, only do not find the solution in the punch! How happy you are to get away so soon to the country! I cannot enjoy this luxury till the 8th. I look forward to it with the delight of a child. What happiness I shall feel in wandering among groves and woods, and among trees and plants and rocks! No man on earth can love the country as I do! Thickets, trees, and rocks supply the echo man longs for!
To Zmeskall
MOST high-born of men!
  We beg you to confer some goose-quills on us; we will in return send you a whole bunch of the same sort, that you may not be obliged to pluck out your own. It is just possible that you may yet receive the Grand Cross of the Order of the Violoncello. We remain your gracious and most friendly of all friends,
To Zmeskall
FEBRUARY 2d, 1812.    
MOST wonderful of men!
  We beg that your servant will engage a person to fit up my apartment; as he is acquainted with the lodgings, he can fix the proper price at once. Do this soon, you Carnival scamp!!!!!!!  26
  The inclosed note is at least a week old.  27
To His Brother Johann
BADEN, May 6th, 1825.    
THE BELL and bell-pulls, etc., etc., are on no account whatever to be left in my former lodging. No proposal was ever made to these people to take any of my things. Indisposition prevented my sending for it, and the locksmith had not come during my stay to take down the bell; otherwise it might have been at once removed and sent to me in town, as they have no right whatever to retain it. Be this as it may, I am quite determined not to leave the bell there, for I require one here, and therefore intend to use the one in question for my purpose, as a similar one would cost me twice as much as in Vienna, bell-pulls being the most expensive things locksmiths have. If necessary, apply at once to the police. The window in my room is precisely in the same state as when I took possession, but I am willing to pay for it, and also for the one in the kitchen, 2 florins 12 kreuzers, for the two. The key I will not pay for, as I found none; on the contrary, the door was fastened or nailed up when I came, and remained in the same condition till I left; there never was a key, so of course neither I myself, nor those who preceded me, could make use of one. Perhaps it is intended to make a collection, in which case I am willing to put my hand in my pocket.
To Stephan V. Breuning

My dear and much loved Stephan:
MAY our temporary estrangement be for ever effaced by the portrait I now send. I know that I have rent your heart. The emotion which you cannot fail now to see in mine has sufficiently punished me for it. There was no malice towards you in my heart, for then I should be no longer worthy of your friendship. It was passion both on your part and on mine; but mistrust was rife within me, for people had come between us, unworthy both of you and of me.
  My portrait was long ago intended for you; you knew that it was destined for some one—and to whom could I give it with such warmth of heart, as to you, my faithful, good, and noble Stephan?  30
  Forgive me for having grieved you, but I did not myself suffer less when I no longer saw you near me. I then first keenly felt how dear you were, and ever will be to my heart. Surely you will once more fly to my arms as you formerly did.  31

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