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Title: My Life — Volume 1
Author: Wagner, Richard, 1813-1883
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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My Life, Volume 1

By Richard Wagner



TABLE OF CONTENTS


    PREFACE
    CONTENTS
    MY LIFE

        PART I. 1813-1842
        PART II. 1842-1850 (Dresden)



PREFACE



The contents of these volumes have been written down directly from my
dictation, over a period of several years, by my friend and wife, who
wished me to tell her the story of my life. It was the desire of both
of us that these details of my life should be accessible to our family
and to our sincere and trusted friends; and we decided therefore, in
order to provide against a possible destruction of the one manuscript,
to have a small number of copies printed at our own expense. As the
value of this autobiography consists in its unadorned veracity, which,
under the circumstances, is its only justification, therefore my
statements had to be accompanied by precise names and dates; hence
there could be no question of their publication until some time after
my death, should interest in them still survive in our descendants, and
on that point I intend leaving directions in my will.

If, on the other hand, we do not refuse certain intimate friends a
sight of these papers now, it is that, relying on their genuine
interest in the contents, we are confident that they will not pass on
their knowledge to any who do not share their feelings in the matter.

Richard Wagner



CONTENTS



    Part I. 1813-1842

       Childhood and Schooldays
       Musical Studies
       Travels in Germany (First Marriage)
       Paris: 1839-42

    Part II. 1842-1850 (Dresden)

       'Rienzi'
       'The Flying Dutchman'
       Liszt, Spontini, Marschner, etc.
       'Tannhauser'
       Franck, Schumann, Semper, Gutzkow, Auerbach
       'Lohengrin' (Libretto)
       Ninth Symphony
       Spohr, Gluck, Hiller, Devrient
       Official Position.
       Studies in Historical Literature
       'Rienzi' at Berlin
       Relations with the Management, Mother's Death, etc.
       Growing Sympathy with Political Events, Bakunin
       The May Insurrection
       Flight: Weimar, Zurich, Paris, Bordeaux, Geneva, Zurich

ILLUSTRATIONS [not shown in e-text]

    FRONTISPIECE FOR VOLUME I

       Richard Wagner in 1842, from the Portrait by E. Kietz.

FRONTISPIECE FOR VOLUME II

       Richard Wagner about 1872 by Lenbach.

Original in the possession of Frau Cosima Wagner These frontispieces
are used by the courtesy of Mr. F. Bruckmann.



MY LIFE



PART I

1813-1842



I was born at Leipzig on the 22nd of May 1813, in a room on the second
floor of the 'Red and White Lion,' and two days later was baptized at
St. Thomas's Church, and christened Wilhelm Richard.

My father, Friedrich Wagner, was at the time of my birth a clerk in the
police service at Leipzig, and hoped to get the post of Chief Constable
in that town, but he died in the October of that same year. His death
was partly due to the great exertions imposed upon him by the stress of
police work during the war troubles and the battle of Leipzig, and
partly to the fact that he fell a victim to the nervous fever which was
raging at that time. As regards his father's position in life, I learnt
later that he had held a small civil appointment as toll collector at
the Ranstadt Gate, but had distinguished himself from those in the same
station by giving his two sons a superior education, my father,
Friedrich, studying law, and the younger son, Adolph, theology.

My uncle subsequently exercised no small influence on my development;
we shall meet him again at a critical turning-point in the story of my
youth.

My father, whom I had lost so early, was, as I discovered afterwards, a
great lover of poetry and literature in general, and possessed in
particular an almost passionate affection for the drama, which was at
that time much in vogue among the educated classes. My mother told me,
among other things, that he took her to Lauchstadt for the first
performance of the Braut von Messina, and that on the promenade he
pointed out Schiller and Goethe to her, and reproved her warmly for
never having heard of these great men. He is said to have been not
altogether free from a gallant interest in actresses. My mother used to
complain jokingly that she often had to keep lunch waiting for him
while he was paying court to a certain famous actress of the day
[FOOTNOTE: Madame Hartwig]. When she scolded him, he vowed that he had
been delayed by papers that had to be attended to, and as a proof of
his assertion pointed to his fingers, which were supposed to be stained
with ink, but on closer inspection were found to be quite clean. His
great fondness for the theatre was further shown by his choice of the
actor, Ludwig Geyer, as one of his intimate friends. Although his
choice of this friend was no doubt mainly due to his love for the
theatre, he at the same time introduced into his family the noblest of
benefactors; for this modest artist, prompted by a warm interest in the
lot of his friend's large family, so unexpectedly left destitute,
devoted the remainder of his life to making strenuous efforts to
maintain and educate the orphans. Even when the police official was
spending his evenings at the theatre, the worthy actor generally filled
his place in the family circle, and it seems had frequently to appease
my mother, who, rightly or wrongly, complained of the frivolity of her
husband.

How deeply the homeless artist, hard pressed by life and tossed to and
fro, longed to feel himself at home in a sympathetic family circle, was
proved by the fact that a year after his friend's death he married his
widow, and from that time forward became a most loving father to the
seven children that had been left behind.

In this onerous undertaking he was favoured by an unexpected
improvement in his position, for he obtained a remunerative,
respectable, and permanent engagement, as a character actor, at the
newly established Court Theatre in Dresden. His talent for painting,
which had already helped him to earn a livelihood when forced by
extreme poverty to break off his university studies, again stood him in
good stead in his position at Dresden. True, he complained even more
than his critics that he had been kept from a regular and systematic
study of this art, yet his extraordinary aptitude, for portrait
painting in particular, secured him such important commissions that he
unfortunately exhausted his strength prematurely by his twofold
exertions as painter and actor. Once, when he was invited to Munich to
fulfil a temporary engagement at the Court Theatre, he received,
through the distinguished recommendation of the Saxon Court, such
pressing commissions from the Bavarian Court for portraits of the royal
family that he thought it wise to cancel his contract altogether. He
also had a turn for poetry. Besides fragments--often in very dainty
verse--he wrote several comedies, one of which, Der Bethlehemitische
Kindermord, in rhymed Alexandrines, was often performed; it was
published and received the warmest praise from Goethe.

This excellent man, under whose care our family moved to Dresden when I
was two years old, and by whom my mother had another daughter, Cecilia,
now also took my education in hand with the greatest care and
affection. He wished to adopt me altogether, and accordingly, when I
was sent to my first school, he gave me his own name, so that till the
age of fourteen I was known to my Dresden schoolfellows as Richard
Geyer; and it was not until some years after my stepfather's death, and
on my family's return to Leipzig, the home of my own kith and kin, that
I resumed the name of Wagner.

The earliest recollections of my childhood are associated with my
stepfather, and passed from him to the theatre. I well remember that he
would have liked to see me develop a talent for painting; and his
studio, with the easel and the pictures upon it, did not fail to
impress me. I remember in particular that I tried, with a childish love
of imitation, to copy a portrait of King Frederick Augustus of Saxony;
but when this simple daubing had to give place to a serious study of
drawing, I could not stand it, possibly because I was discouraged by
the pedantic technique of my teacher, a cousin of mine, who was rather
a bore. At one time during my early boyhood I became so weak after some
childish ailment that my mother told me later she used almost to wish
me dead, for it seemed as though I should never get well. However, my
subsequent good health apparently astonished my parents. I afterwards
learnt the noble part played by my excellent stepfather on this
occasion also; he never gave way to despair, in spite of the cares and
troubles of so large a family, but remained patient throughout, and
never lost the hope of pulling me through safely.

My imagination at this time was deeply impressed by my acquaintance
with the theatre, with which I was brought into contact, not only as a
childish spectator from the mysterious stagebox, with its access to the
stage, and by visits to the wardrobe with its fantastic costumes, wigs
and other disguises, but also by taking a part in the performances
myself. After I had been filled with fear by seeing my father play the
villain's part in such tragedies as Die Waise und der Morder, Die
beiden Galeerensklaven, I occasionally took part in comedy. I remember
that I appeared in Der Weinberg an der Elbe, a piece specially written
to welcome the King of Saxony on his return from captivity, with music
by the conductor, C. M. von Weber. In this I figured in a tableau
vivant as an angel, sewn up in tights with wings on my back, in a
graceful pose which I had laboriously practised. I also remember on
this occasion being given a big iced cake, which I was assured the King
had intended for me personally. Lastly, I can recall taking a child's
part in which I had a few words to speak in Kotzebue's Menschenhass und
Reue [Footnote: 'Misanthropy and Remorse.'], which furnished me with an
excuse at school for not having learnt my lessons. I said I had too
much to do, as I had to learn by heart an important part in Den
Menschen ausser der Reihe. [Footnote: 'The Man out of the Rank or Row.'
In the German this is a simple phonetic corruption of Kotzebue's title,
which might easily occur to a child who had only heard, and not read,
that title.--EDITOR.]

On the other hand, to show how seriously my father regarded my
education, when I was six years old he took me to a clergyman in the
country at Possendorf, near Dresden, where I was to be given a sound
and healthy training with other boys of my own class. In the evening,
the vicar, whose name was Wetzel, used to tell us the story of Robinson
Crusoe, and discuss it with us in a highly instructive manner. I was,
moreover, much impressed by a biography of Mozart which was read aloud;
and the newspaper accounts and monthly reports of the events of the
Greek War of Independence stirred my imagination deeply. My love for
Greece, which afterwards made me turn with enthusiasm to the mythology
and history of ancient Hellas, was thus the natural outcome of the
intense and painful interest I took in the events of this period. In
after years the story of the struggle of the Greeks against the
Persians always revived my impressions of this modern revolt of Greece
against the Turks.

One day, when I had been in this country home scarcely a year, a
messenger came from town to ask the vicar to take me to my parents'
house in Dresden, as my father was dying.

We did the three hours' journey on foot; and as I was very exhausted
when I arrived, I scarcely understood why my mother was crying. The
next day I was taken to my father's bedside; the extreme weakness with
which he spoke to me, combined with all the precautions taken in the
last desperate treatment of his complaint--acute hydrothorax--made the
whole scene appear like a dream to me, and I think I was too frightened
and surprised to cry.

In the next room my mother asked me to show her what I could play on
the piano, wisely hoping to divert my father's thoughts by the sound. I
played Ueb' immer Treu und Redlichkeit, and my father said to her, 'Is
it possible he has musical talent?'

In the early hours of the next morning my mother came into the great
night nursery, and, standing by the bedside of each of us in turn, told
us, with sobs, that our father was dead, and gave us each a message
with his blessing. To me she said, 'He hoped to make something of you.'

In the afternoon my schoolmaster, Wetzel, came to take me back to the
country. We walked the whole way to Possendorf, arriving at nightfall.
On the way I asked him many questions about the stars, of which he gave
me my first intelligent idea.

A week later my stepfather's brother arrived from Eisleben for the
funeral. He promised, as far as he was able, to support the family,
which was now once more destitute, and undertook to provide for my
future education.

I took leave of my companions and of the kind-hearted clergyman, and it
was for his funeral that I paid my next visit to Possendorf a few years
later. I did not go to the place again till long afterwards, when I
visited it on an excursion such as I often made, far into the country,
at the time when I was conducting the orchestra in Dresden. I was much
grieved not to find the old parsonage still there, but in its place a
more pretentious modern structure, which so turned me against the
locality, that thenceforward my excursions were always made in another
direction.

This time my uncle brought me back to Dresden in the carriage. I found
my mother and sister in the deepest mourning, and remember being
received for the first time with a tenderness not usual in our family;
and I noticed that the same tenderness marked our leave-taking, when, a
few days later, my uncle took me with him to Eisleben.

This uncle, who was a younger brother of my stepfather, had settled
there as a goldsmith, and Julius, one of my elder brothers, had already
been apprenticed to him. Our old grandmother also lived with this
bachelor son, and as it was evident that she could not live long, she
was not informed of the death of her eldest son, which I, too, was
bidden to keep to myself. The servant carefully removed the crape from
my coat, telling me she would keep it until my grandmother died, which
was likely to be soon.

I was now often called upon to tell her about my father, and it was no
great difficulty for me to keep the secret of his death, as I had
scarcely realised it myself. She lived in a dark back room looking out
upon a narrow courtyard, and took a great delight in watching the
robins that fluttered freely about her, and for which she always kept
fresh green boughs by the stove. When some of these robins were killed
by the cat, I managed to catch others for her in the neighbourhood,
which pleased her very much, and, in return, she kept me tidy and
clean. Her death, as had been expected, took place before long, and the
crape that had been put away was now openly worn in Eisleben.

The back room, with its robins and green branches, now knew me no more,
but I soon made myself at home with a soap-boiler's family, to whom the
house belonged, and became popular with them on account of the stories
I told them.

I was sent to a private school kept by a man called Weiss, who left an
impression of gravity and dignity upon my mind.

Towards the end of the fifties I was greatly moved at reading in a
musical paper the account of a concert at Eisleben, consisting of parts
of Tannhauser, at which my former master, who had not forgotten his
young pupil, had been present.

The little old town with Luther's house, and the numberless memorials
it contained of his stay there, has often, in later days, come back to
me in dreams. I have always wished to revisit it and verify the
clearness of my recollections, but, strange to say, it has never been
my fate to do so. We lived in the market-place, where I was often
entertained by strange sights, such, for instance, as performances by a
troupe of acrobats, in which a man walked a rope stretched from tower
to tower across the square, an achievement which long inspired me with
a passion for such feats of daring. Indeed, I got so far as to walk a
rope fairly easily myself with the help of a balancing-pole. I had made
the rope out of cords twisted together and stretched across the
courtyard, and even now I still feel a desire to gratify my acrobatic
instincts. The thing that attracted me most, however, was the brass
band of a Hussar regiment quartered at Eisleben. It often played a
certain piece which had just come out, and which was making a great
sensation, I mean the 'Huntsmen's Chorus' out of the Freischutz, that
had been recently performed at the Opera in Berlin. My uncle and
brother asked me eagerly about its composer, Weber, whom I must have
seen at my parents' house in Dresden, when he was conductor of the
orchestra there.

About the same time the Jungfernkranz was zealously played and sung by
some friends who lived near us. These two pieces cured me of my
weakness for the 'Ypsilanti' Waltz, which till that time I had regarded
as the most wonderful of compositions.

I have recollections of frequent tussles with the town boys, who were
constantly mocking at me for my 'square' cap; and I remember, too, that
I was very fond of rambles of adventure among the rocky banks of the
Unstrut.

My uncle's marriage late in life, and the starting of his new home,
brought about a marked alteration in his relations to my family.

After a lapse of a year I was taken by him to Leipzig, and handed over
for some days to the Wagners, my own father's relatives, consisting of
my uncle Adolph and his sister Friederike Wagner. This extraordinarily
interesting man, whose influence afterwards became ever more
stimulating to me, now for the first time brought himself and his
singular environment into my life.

He and my aunt were very close friends of Jeannette Thome, a queer old
maid who shared with them a large house in the market-place, in which,
if I am not mistaken, the Electoral family of Saxony had, ever since
the days of Augustus the Strong, hired and furnished the two principal
storeys for their own use whenever they were in Leipzig.

So far as I know, Jeannette Thome really owned the second storey, of
which she inhabited only a modest apartment looking out on the
courtyard. As, however, the King merely occupied the hired rooms for a
few days in the year, Jeannette and her circle generally made use of
his splendid apartments, and one of these staterooms was made into a
bedroom for me.

The decorations and fittings of these rooms also dated from the days of
Augustus the Strong. They were luxurious with heavy silk and rich
rococo furniture, all of which were much soiled with age. As a matter
of fact, I was delighted by these large strange rooms, looking out upon
the bustling Leipzig market-place, where I loved above all to watch the
students in the crowd making their way along in their old-fashioned
'Club' attire, and filling up the whole width of the street.

There was only one portion of the decorations of the rooms that I
thoroughly disliked, and this consisted of the various portraits, but
particularly those of high-born dames in hooped petticoats, with
youthful faces and powdered hair. These appeared to me exactly like
ghosts, who, when I was alone in the room, seemed to come back to life,
and filled me with the most abject fear. To sleep alone in this distant
chamber, in that old-fashioned bed of state, beneath those unearthly
pictures, was a constant terror to me. It is true I tried to hide my
fear from my aunt when she lighted me to bed in the evening with her
candle, but never a night passed in which I was not a prey to the most
horrible ghostly visions, my dread of which would leave me in a bath of
perspiration.

The personality of the three chief occupants of this storey was
admirably adapted to materialise the ghostly impressions of the house
into a reality that resembled some strange fairy-tale.

Jeannette Thome was very small and stout; she wore a fair Titus wig,
and seemed to hug to herself the consciousness of vanished beauty. My
aunt, her faithful friend and guardian, who was also an old maid, was
remarkable for the height and extreme leanness of her person. The
oddity of her otherwise very pleasant face was increased by an
exceedingly pointed chin.

My uncle Adolph had chosen as his permanent study a dark room in the
courtyard. There it was that I saw him for the first time, surrounded
by a great wilderness of books, and attired in an unpretentious indoor
costume, the most striking feature of which was a tall, pointed felt
cap, such as I had seen worn by the clown who belonged to the troupe of
rope-dancers at Eisleben. A great love of independence had driven him
to this strange retreat. He had been originally destined for the
Church, but he soon gave that up, in order to devote himself entirely
to philological studies. But as he had the greatest dislike of acting
as a professor and teacher in a regular post, he soon tried to make a
meagre livelihood by literary work. He had certain social gifts, and
especially a fine tenor voice, and appears in his youth to have been
welcome as a man of letters among a fairly wide circle of friends at
Leipzig.

On a trip to Jena, during which he and a companion seem to have found
their way into various musical and oratorical associations, he paid a
visit to Schiller. With this object in view, he had come armed with a
request from the management of the Leipzig Theatre, who wanted to
secure the rights of Wallenstein, which was just finished. He told me
later of the magic impression made upon him by Schiller, with his tall
slight figure and irresistibly attractive blue eyes. His only complaint
was that, owing to a well-meant trick played on him by his friend, he
had been placed in a most trying position; for the latter had managed
to send Schiller a small volume of Adolph Wagner's poems in advance.

The young poet was much embarrassed to hear Schiller address him in
flattering terms on the subject of his poetry, but was convinced that
the great man was merely encouraging him out of kindness. Afterwards he
devoted himself entirely to philological studios--one of his best-known
publications in that department being his Parnasso Italiano, which he
dedicated to Goethe in an Italian poem. True, I have heard experts say
that the latter was written in unusually pompous Italian; but Goethe
sent him a letter full of praise, as well as a silver cup from his own
household plate. The impression that I, as a boy of eight, conceived of
Adolph Wagner, amid the surroundings of his own home, was that he was a
peculiarly puzzling character.

I soon had to leave the influence of this environment and was brought
back to my people at Dresden. Meanwhile my family, under the guidance
of my bereaved mother, had been obliged to settle down as well as they
could under the circumstances. My eldest brother Albert, who originally
intended to study medicine, had, upon the advice of Weber, who had much
admired his beautiful tenor voice, started his theatrical career in
Breslau. My second sister Louisa soon followed his example, and became
an actress. My eldest sister Rosalie had obtained an excellent
engagement at the Dresden Court Theatre, and the younger members of the
family all looked up to her; for she was now the main support of our
poor sorrowing mother. My family still occupied the same comfortable
home which my father had made for them. Some of the spare rooms were
occasionally let to strangers, and Spohr was among those who at one
time lodged with us. Thanks to her great energy, and to help received
from various sources (among which the continued generosity of the
Court, out of respect to the memory of my late stepfather, must not be
forgotten), my mother managed so well in making both ends meet, that
even my education did not suffer.

After it had been decided that my sister Clara, owing to her
exceedingly beautiful voice, should also go on the stage, my mother
took the greatest care to prevent me from developing any taste whatever
for the theatre. She never ceased to reproach herself for having
consented to the theatrical career of my eldest brother, and as my
second brother showed no greater talents than those which were useful
to him as a goldsmith, it was now her chief desire to see some progress
made towards the fulfilment of the hopes and wishes of my step-father,
'who hoped to make something of me.' On the completion of my eighth
year I was sent to the Kreuz Grammar School in Dresden, where it was
hoped I would study! There I was placed at the bottom of the lowest
class, and started my education under the most unassuming auspices.

My mother noted with much interest the slightest signs I might show of
a growing love and ability for my work. She herself, though not highly
educated, always created a lasting impression on all who really learnt
to know her, and displayed a peculiar combination of practical domestic
efficiency and keen intellectual animation. She never gave one of her
children any definite information concerning her antecedents. She came
from Weissenfels, and admitted that her parents had been bakers
[FOOTNOTE: According to more recent information--mill owners] there.
Even in regard to her maiden name she always spoke with some
embarrassment, and intimated that it was 'Perthes,' though, as we
afterwards ascertained, it was in reality 'Bertz.' Strange to say, she
had been placed in a high-class boarding-school in Leipzig, where she
had enjoyed the advantage of the care and interest of one of 'her
father's influential friends,' to whom she afterwards referred as being
a Weimar prince who had been very kind to her family in Weissenfels.
Her education in that establishment seems to have been interrupted on
account of the sudden death of this 'friend.' She became acquainted
with my father at a very early age, and married him in the first bloom
of her youth, he also being very young, though he already held an
appointment. Her chief characteristics seem to have been a keen sense
of humour and an amiable temper, so we need not suppose that it was
merely a sense of duty towards the family of a departed comrade that
afterwards induced the admirable Ludwig Geyer to enter into matrimony
with her when she was no longer youthful, but rather that he was
impelled to that step by a sincere and warm regard for the widow of his
friend. A portrait of her, painted by Geyer during the lifetime of my
father, gives one a very favourable impression of what she must have
been. Even from the time when my recollection of her is quite distinct,
she always had to wear a cap owing to some slight affection of the
head, so that I have no recollection of her as a young and pretty
mother. Her trying position at the head of a numerous family (of which
I was the seventh surviving member), the difficulty of obtaining the
wherewithal to rear them, and of keeping up appearances on very limited
resources, did not conduce to evolve that tender sweetness and
solicitude which are usually associated with motherhood. I hardly ever
recollect her having fondled me. Indeed, demonstrations of affection
were not common in our family, although a certain impetuous, almost
passionate and boisterous manner always characterised our dealings.
This being so, it naturally seemed to me quite a great event when one
night I, fretful with sleepiness, looked up at her with tearful eyes as
she was taking me to bed, and saw her gaze back at me proudly and
fondly, and speak of me to a visitor then present with a certain amount
of tenderness.

What struck me more particularly about her was the strange enthusiasm
and almost pathetic manner with which she spoke of the great and of the
beautiful in Art. Under this heading, however, she would never have let
me suppose that she included dramatic art, but only Poetry, Music, and
Painting. Consequently, she often even threatened me with her curse
should I ever express a desire to go on the stage. Moreover, she was
very religiously inclined. With intense fervour she would often give us
long sermons about God and the divine quality in man, during which, now
and again, suddenly lowering her voice in a rather funny way, she would
interrupt herself in order to rebuke one of us. After the death of our
stepfather she used to assemble us all round her bed every morning,
when one of us would read out a hymn or a part of the Church service
from the prayer-book before she took her coffee. Sometimes the choice
of the part to be read was hardly appropriate, as, for instance, when
my sister Clara on one occasion thoughtlessly read the 'Prayer to be
said in time of War,' and delivered it with so much expression that my
mother interrupted her, saying: 'Oh, stop! Good gracious me! Things are
not quite so bad as that. There's no war on at present!'

In spite of our limited means we had lively and--as they appeared to my
boyish imagination--even brilliant evening parties sometimes. After the
death of my stepfather, who, thanks to his success as a portrait
painter, in the later years of his life had raised his income to what
for those days was a really decent total, many agreeable acquaintances
of very good social position whom he had made during this flourishing
period still remained on friendly terms with us, and would occasionally
join us at our evening gatherings. Amongst those who came were the
members of the Court Theatre, who at that time gave very charming and
highly entertaining parties of their own, which, on my return to
Dresden later on, I found had been altogether given up.

Very delightful, too, were the picnics arranged between us and our
friends at some of the beautiful spots around Dresden, for these
excursions were always brightened by a certain artistic spirit and
general good cheer. I remember one such outing we arranged to
Loschwitz, where we made a kind of gypsy camp, in which Carl Maria von
Weber played his part in the character of cook. At home we also had
some music. My sister Rosalie played the piano, and Clara was beginning
to sing. Of the various theatrical performances we organised in those
early days, often after elaborate preparation, with the view of amusing
ourselves on the birthdays of our elders, I can hardly remember one,
save a parody on the romantic play of Sappho, by Grillparzer, in which
I took part as one of the singers in the crowd that preceded Phaon's
triumphal car. I endeavoured to revive these memories by means of a
fine puppet show, which I found among the effects of my late
stepfather, and for which he himself had painted some beautiful
scenery. It was my intention to surprise my people by means of a
brilliant performance on this little stage. After I had very clumsily
made several puppets, and had provided them with a scanty wardrobe made
from cuttings of material purloined from my sisters, I started to
compose a chivalric drama, in which I proposed to rehearse my puppets.
When I had drafted the first scene, my sisters happened to discover the
MS. and literally laughed it to scorn, and, to my great annoyance, for
a long time afterwards they chaffed me by repeating one particular
sentence which I had put into the mouth of the heroine, and which
was--Ich hore schon den Ritter trapsen ('I hear his knightly footsteps
falling'). I now returned with renewed ardour to the theatre, with
which, even at this time, my family was in close touch. Den Freischutz
in particular appealed very strongly to my imagination, mainly on
account of its ghostly theme. The emotions of terror and the dread of
ghosts formed quite an important factor in the development of my mind.
From my earliest childhood certain mysterious and uncanny things
exercised an enormous influence over me. If I were left alone in a room
for long, I remember that, when gazing at lifeless objects such as
pieces of furniture, and concentrating my attention upon them, I would
suddenly shriek out with fright, because they seemed to me alive. Even
during the latest years of my boyhood, not a night passed without my
waking out of some ghostly dream and uttering the most frightful
shrieks, which subsided only at the sound of some human voice. The most
severe rebuke or even chastisement seemed to me at those times no more
than a blessed release. None of my brothers or sisters would sleep
anywhere near me. They put me to sleep as far as possible away from the
others, without thinking that my cries for help would only be louder
and longer; but in the end they got used even to this nightly
disturbance.

In connection with this childish terror, what attracted me so strongly
to the theatre--by which I mean also the stage, the rooms behind the
scenes, and the dressing-rooms--was not so much the desire for
entertainment and amusement such as that which impels the present-day
theatre-goers, but the fascinating pleasure of finding myself in an
entirely different atmosphere, in a world that was purely fantastic and
often gruesomely attractive. Thus to me a scene, even a wing,
representing a bush, or some costume or characteristic part of it,
seemed to come from another world, to be in some way as attractive as
an apparition, and I felt that contact with it might serve as a lever
to lift me from the dull reality of daily routine to that delightful
region of spirits. Everything connected with a theatrical performance
had for me the charm of mystery, it both bewitched and fascinated me,
and while I was trying, with the help of a few playmates, to imitate
the performance of Der Freischutz, and to devote myself energetically
to reproducing the needful costumes and masks in my grotesque style of
painting, the more elegant contents of my sisters' wardrobes, in the
beautifying of which I had often seen the family occupied, exercised a
subtle charm over my imagination; nay, my heart would beat madly at the
very touch of one of their dresses.

In spite of the fact that, as I already mentioned, our family was not
given to outward manifestations of affection, yet the fact that I was
brought up entirely among feminine surroundings must necessarily have
influenced the development of the sensitive side of my nature. Perhaps
it was precisely because my immediate circle was generally rough and
impetuous, that the opposite characteristics of womanhood, especially
such as were connected with the imaginary world of the theatre, created
a feeling of such tender longing in me.

Luckily these fantastic humours, merging from the gruesome into the
mawkish, were counteracted and balanced by more serious influences
undergone at school at the hands of my teachers and schoolfellows. Even
there, it was chiefly the weird that aroused my keenest interest. I can
hardly judge whether I had what would be called a good head for study.
I think that, in general, what I really liked I was soon able to grasp
without much effort, whereas I hardly exerted myself at all in the
study of subjects that were uncongenial. This characteristic was most
marked in regard to arithmetic and, later on, mathematics. In neither
of these subjects did I ever succeed in bringing my mind seriously to
bear upon the tasks that were set me. In the matter of the Classics,
too, I paid only just as much attention as was absolutely necessary to
enable me to get a grasp of them; for I was stimulated by the desire to
reproduce them to myself dramatically. In this way Greek particularly
attracted me, because the stories from Greek mythology so seized upon
my fancy that I tried to imagine their heroes as speaking to me in
their native tongue, so as to satisfy my longing for complete
familiarity with them. In these circumstances it will be readily
understood that the grammar of the language seemed to me merely a
tiresome obstacle, and by no means in itself an interesting branch of
knowledge.

The fact that my study of languages was never very thorough, perhaps
best explains the fact that I was afterwards so ready to cease
troubling about them altogether. Not until much later did this study
really begin to interest me again, and that was only when I learnt to
understand its physiological and philosophical side, as it was revealed
to our modern Germanists by the pioneer work of Jakob Grimm. Then, when
it was too late to apply myself thoroughly to a study which at last I
had learned to appreciate, I regretted that this newer conception of
the study of languages had not yet found acceptance in our colleges
when I was younger.

Nevertheless, by my successes in philological work I managed to attract
the attention of a young teacher at the Kreuz Grammar School, a Master
of Arts named Sillig, who proved very helpful to me. He often permitted
me to visit him and show him my work, consisting of metric translations
and a few original poems, and he always seemed very pleased with my
efforts in recitation. What he thought of me may best be judged perhaps
from the fact that he made me, as a boy of about twelve, recite not
only 'Hector's Farewell' from the Iliad, but even Hamlet's celebrated
monologue. On one occasion, when I was in the fourth form of the
school, one of my schoolfellows, a boy named Starke, suddenly fell
dead, and the tragic event aroused so much sympathy, that not only did
the whole school attend the funeral, but the headmaster also ordered
that a poem should be written in commemoration of the ceremony, and
that this poem should be published. Of the various poems submitted,
among which there was one by myself, prepared very hurriedly, none
seemed to the master worthy of the honour which he had promised, and he
therefore announced his intention of substituting one of his own
speeches in the place of our rejected attempts. Much distressed by this
decision, I quickly sought out Professor Sillig, with the view of
urging him to intervene on behalf of my poem. We thereupon went through
it together. Its well-constructed and well-rhymed verses, written in
stanzas of eight lines, determined him to revise the whole of it
carefully. Much of its imagery was bombastic, and far beyond the
conception of a boy of my age. I recollect that in one part I had drawn
extensively from the monologue in Addison's Cato, spoken by Cato just
before his suicide. I had met with this passage in an English grammar,
and it had made a deep impression upon me. The words: 'The stars shall
fade away, the sun himself grow dim with age, and nature sink in
years,' which, at all events, were a direct plagiarism, made Sillig
laugh--a thing at which I was a little offended. However, I felt very
grateful to him, for, thanks to the care and rapidity with which he
cleared my poem of these extravagances, it was eventually accepted by
the headmaster, printed, and widely circulated.

The effect of this success was extraordinary, both on my schoolfellows
and on my own family. My mother devoutly folded her hands in
thankfulness, and in my own mind my vocation seemed quite a settled
thing. It was clear, beyond the possibility of a doubt, that I was
destined to be a poet. Professor Sillig wished me to compose a grand
epic, and suggested as a subject 'The Battle of Parnassus,' as
described by Pausanias. His reasons for this choice were based upon the
legend related by Pausanias, viz., that in the second century B.C. the
Muses from Parnassus aided the combined Greek armies against the
destructive invasion of the Gauls by provoking a panic among the
latter. I actually began my heroic poem in hexameter verse, but could
not get through the first canto.

Not being far enough advanced in the language to understand the Greek
tragedies thoroughly in the original, my own attempts to construct a
tragedy in the Greek form were greatly influenced by the fact that
quite by accident I came across August Apel's clever imitation of this
style in his striking poems 'Polyidos' and 'Aitolier.' For my theme I
selected the death of Ulysses, from a fable of Hyginus, according to
which the aged hero is killed by his son, the offspring of his union
with Calypso. But I did not get very far with this work either, before
I gave it up.

My mind became so bent upon this sort of thing, that duller studies
naturally ceased to interest me. The mythology, legends, and, at last,
the history of Greece alone attracted me.

I was fond of life, merry with my companions, and always ready for a
joke or an adventure. Moreover, I was constantly forming friendships,
almost passionate in their ardour, with one or the other of my
comrades, and in choosing my associates I was mainly influenced by the
extent to which my new acquaintance appealed to my eccentric
imagination. At one time it would be poetising and versifying that
decided my choice of a friend; at another, theatrical enterprises,
while now and then it would be a longing for rambling and mischief.

Furthermore, when I reached my thirteenth year, a great change came
over our family affairs. My sister Rosalie, who had become the chief
support of our household, obtained an advantageous engagement at the
theatre in Prague, whither mother and children removed in 1820, thus
giving up the Dresden home altogether. I was left behind in Dresden, so
that I might continue to attend the Kreuz Grammar School until I was
ready to go up to the university. I was therefore sent to board and
lodge with a family named Bohme, whose sons I had known at school, and
in whose house I already felt quite at home. With my residence in this
somewhat rough, poor, and not particularly well-conducted family, my
years of dissipation began. I no longer enjoyed the quiet retirement
necessary for work, nor the gentle, spiritual influence of my sisters'
companionship. On the contrary, I was plunged into a busy, restless
life, full of rough horseplay and of quarrels. Nevertheless, it was
there that I began to experience the influence of the gentler sex in a
manner hitherto unknown to me, as the grown-up daughters of the family
and their friends often filled the scanty and narrow rooms of the
house. Indeed, my first recollections of boyish love date from this
period. I remember a very beautiful young girl, whose name, if I am not
mistaken, was Amalie Hoffmann, coming to call at the house one Sunday.
She was charmingly dressed, and her appearance as she came into the
room literally struck me dumb with amazement. On other occasions I
recollect pretending to be too helplessly sleepy to move, so that I
might be carried up to bed by the girls, that being, as they thought,
the only remedy for my condition. And I repeated this, because I found,
to my surprise, that their attention under these circumstances brought
me into closer and more gratifying proximity with them.

The most important event during this year of separation from my family
was, however, a short visit I paid to them in Prague. In the middle of
the winter my mother came to Dresden, and took me hack with her to
Prague for a week. Her way of travelling was quite unique. To the end
of her days she preferred the more dangerous mode of travelling in a
hackney carriage to the quicker journey by mail-coach, so that we spent
three whole days in the bitter cold on the road from Dresden to Prague.
The journey over the Bohemian mountains often seemed to be beset with
the greatest dangers, but happily we survived our thrilling adventures
and at last arrived in Prague, where I was suddenly plunged into
entirely new surroundings.

For a long time the thought of leaving Saxony on another visit to
Bohemia, and especially Prague, had had quite a romantic attraction for
me. The foreign nationality, the broken German of the people, the
peculiar headgear of the women, the native wines, the harp-girls and
musicians, and finally, the ever present signs of Catholicism, its
numerous chapels and shrines, all produced on me a strangely
exhilarating impression. This was probably due to my craze for
everything theatrical and spectacular, as distinguished from simple
bourgeois customs. Above all, the antique splendour and beauty of the
incomparable city of Prague became indelibly stamped on my fancy. Even
in my own family surroundings I found attractions to which I had
hitherto been a stranger. For instance, my sister Ottilie, only two
years older than myself, had won the devoted friendship of a noble
family, that of Count Pachta, two of whose daughters, Jenny and
Auguste, who had long been famed as the leading beauties of Prague, had
become fondly attached to her. To me, such people and such a connection
were something quite novel and enchanting. Besides these, certain beaux
esprits of Prague, among them W. Marsano, a strikingly handsome and
charming man, were frequent visitors at our house. They often earnestly
discussed the tales of Hoffmann, which at that date were comparatively
new, and had created some sensation. It was now that I made my first
though rather superficial acquaintance with this romantic visionary,
and so received a stimulus which influenced me for many years even to
the point of infatuation, and gave me very peculiar ideas of the world.

In the following spring, 1827, I repeated this journey from Dresden to
Prague, but this time on foot, and accompanied by my friend Rudolf
Bohme. Our tour was full of adventure. We got to within an hour of
Teplitz the first night, and next day we had to get a lift in a wagon,
as we had walked our feet sore; yet this only took us as far as
Lowositz, as our funds had quite run out. Under a scorching sun, hungry
and half-fainting, we wandered along bypaths through absolutely unknown
country, until at sundown we happened to reach the main road just as an
elegant travelling coach came in sight. I humbled my pride so far as to
pretend I was a travelling journeyman, and begged the distinguished
travellers for alms, while my friend timidly hid himself in the ditch
by the roadside. Luckily we decided to seek shelter for the night in an
inn, where we took counsel whether we should spend the alms just
received on a supper or a bed. We decided for the supper, proposing to
spend the night under the open sky. While we were refreshing ourselves,
a strange-looking wayfarer entered. He wore a black velvet skull-cap,
to which a metal lyre was attached like a cockade, and on his back he
bore a harp. Very cheerfully he set down his instrument, made himself
comfortable, and called for a good meal. He intended to stay the night,
and to continue his way next day to Prague, where he lived, and whither
he was returning from Hanover.

My good spirits and courage were stimulated by the jovial manners of
this merry fellow, who constantly repeated his favourite motto, 'non
plus ultra.' We soon struck up an acquaintance, and in return for my
confidence, the strolling player's attitude to me was one of almost
touching sympathy. It was agreed that we should continue our journey
together next day on foot. He lent me two twenty-kreutzer pieces (about
ninepence), and allowed me to write my Prague address in his
pocket-book. I was highly delighted at this personal success. My
harpist grew extravagantly merry; a good deal of Czernosek wine was
drunk; he sang and played on his harp like a madman, continually
reiterating his 'non plus ultra' till at last, overcome with wine, he
fell down on the straw, which had been spread out on the floor for our
common bed. When the sun once more peeped in, we could not rouse him,
and we had to make up our minds to set off in the freshness of the
early morning without him, feeling convinced that the sturdy fellow
would overtake us during the day. But it was in vain that we looked out
for him on the road and during our subsequent stay in Prague. Indeed,
it was not until several weeks later that the extraordinary fellow
turned up at my mother's, not so much to collect payment of his loan,
as to inquire about the welfare of the young friend to whom that loan
had been made.

The remainder of our journey was very fatiguing, and the joy I felt
when I at last beheld Prague from the summit of a hill, at about an
hour's distance, simply beggars description. Approaching the suburbs,
we were for the second time met by a splendid carriage, from which my
sister Ottilie's two lovely friends called out to me in astonishment.
They had recognised me immediately, in spite of my terribly sunburnt
face, blue linen blouse, and bright red cotton cap. Overwhelmed with
shame, and with my heart beating like mad, I could hardly utter a word,
and hurried away to my mother's to attend at once to the restoration of
my sunburnt complexion. To this task I devoted two whole days, during
which I swathed my face in parsley poultices; and not till then did I
seek the pleasures of society. When, on the return journey, I looked
back once more on Prague from the same hilltop, I burst into tears,
flung myself on the earth, and for a long time could not be induced by
my astonished companion to pursue the journey. I was downcast for the
rest of the way, and we arrived home in Dresden without any further
adventures.

During the same year I again gratified my fancy for long excursions on
foot by joining a numerous company of grammar school boys, consisting
of pupils of several classes and of various ages, who had decided to
spend their summer holidays in a tour to Leipzig. This journey also
stands out among the memories of my youth, by reason of the strong
impressions it left behind. The characteristic feature of our party was
that we all aped the student, by behaving and dressing extravagantly in
the most approved student fashion. After going as far as Meissen on the
market-boat, our path lay off the main road, through villages with
which I was as yet unfamiliar. We spent the night in the vast barn of a
village inn, and our adventures were of the wildest description. There
we saw a large marionette show, with almost life-sized figures. Our
entire party settled themselves in the auditorium, where their presence
was a source of some anxiety to the managers, who had only reckoned on
an audience of peasants. Genovefa was the play given. The ceaseless
silly jests, and constant interpolations and jeering interruptions, in
which our corps of embryo-students indulged, finally aroused the anger
even of the peasants, who had come prepared to weep. I believe I was
the only one of our party who was pained by these impertinences, and in
spite of involuntary laughter at some of my comrades' jokes, I not only
defended the play itself, but also its original, simple-minded
audience. A popular catch-phrase which occurred in the piece has ever
since remained stamped on my memory. 'Golo' instructs the inevitable
Kaspar that, when the Count Palatine returns home, he must 'tickle him
behind, so that he should feel it in front' (hinten zu kitzeln, dass er
es vorne fuhle). Kaspar conveys Golo's order verbatim to the Count, and
the latter reproaches the unmasked rogue in the following terms,
uttered with the greatest pathos: 'O Golo, Golo! thou hast told Kaspar
to tickle me behind, so that I shall feel it in front!'

From Grimma our party rode into Leipzig in open carriages, but not
until we had first carefully removed all the outward emblems of the
undergraduate, lest the local students we were likely to meet might
make us rue our presumption.

Since my first visit, when I was eight years old, I had only once
returned to Leipzig, and then for a very brief stay, and under
circumstances very similar to those of the earlier visit. I now renewed
my fantastic impressions of the Thome house, but this time, owing to my
more advanced education, I looked forward to more intelligent
intercourse with my uncle Adolph. An opening for this was soon provided
by my joyous astonishment on learning that a bookcase in the large
anteroom, containing a goodly collection of books, was my property,
having been left me by my father. I went through the books with my
uncle, selected at once a number of Latin authors in the handsome
Zweibruck edition, along with sundry attractive looking works of poetry
and belles-lettres, and arranged for them to be sent to Dresden. During
this visit I was very much interested in the life of the students. In
addition to my impressions of the theatre and of Prague, now came those
of the so-called swaggering undergraduate. A great change had taken
place in this class. When, as a lad of eight, I had my first glimpse of
students, their long hair, their old German costume with the black
velvet skull-cap and the shirt collar turned back from the bare neck,
had quite taken my fancy. But since that time the old student
'associations' which affected this fashion had disappeared in the face
of police prosecutions. On the other hand, the national student clubs,
no less peculiar to Germans, had become conspicuous. These clubs
adopted, more or less, the fashion of the day, but with some little
exaggeration. Albeit, their dress was clearly distinguishable from that
of other classes, owing to its picturesqueness, and especially its
display of the various club-colours. The 'Comment,' that compendium of
pedantic rules of conduct for the preservation of a defiant and
exclusive esprit de corps, as opposed to the bourgeois classes, had its
fantastic side, just as the most philistine peculiarities of the
Germans have, if you probe them deeply enough. To me it represented the
idea of emancipation from the yoke of school and family. The longing to
become a student coincided unfortunately with my growing dislike for
drier studies and with my ever-increasing fondness for cultivating
romantic poetry. The results of this soon showed themselves in my
resolute attempts to make a change.

At the time of my confirmation, at Easter, 1827, I had considerable
doubt about this ceremony, and I already felt a serious falling off of
my reverence for religious observances. The boy who, not many years
before, had gazed with agonised sympathy on the altarpiece in the Kreuz
Kirche (Church of the Holy Cross), and had yearned with ecstatic
fervour to hang upon the Cross in place of the Saviour, had now so far
lost his veneration for the clergyman, whose preparatory confirmation
classes he attended, as to be quite ready to make fun of him, and even
to join with his comrades in withholding part of his class fees, and
spending the money in sweets. How matters stood with me spiritually was
revealed to me, almost to my horror, at the Communion service, when I
walked in procession with my fellow-communicants to the altar to the
sound of organ and choir. The shudder with which I received the Bread
and Wine was so ineffaceably stamped on my memory, that I never again
partook of the Communion, lest I should do so with levity. To avoid
this was all the easier for me, seeing that among Protestants such
participation is not compulsory.

I soon, however, seized, or rather created, an opportunity of forcing a
breach with the Kreuz Grammar School, and thus compelled my family to
let me go to Leipzig. In self-defence against what I considered an
unjust punishment with which I was threatened by the assistant
headmaster, Baumgarten-Crusius, for whom I otherwise had great respect,
I asked to be discharged immediately from the school on the ground of
sudden summons to join my family in Leipzig. I had already left the
Bohme household three months before, and now lived alone in a small
garret, where I was waited on by the widow of a court plate-washer, who
at every meal served up the familiar thin Saxon coffee as almost my
sole nourishment. In this attic I did little else but write verses.
Here, too, I formed the first outlines of that stupendous tragedy which
afterwards filled my family with such consternation. The irregular
habits I acquired through this premature domestic independence induced
my anxious mother to consent very readily to my removal to Leipzig, the
more so as a part of our scattered family had already migrated there.

My longing for Leipzig, originally aroused by the fantastic impressions
I had gained there, and later by my enthusiasm for a student's life,
had recently been still further stimulated. I had seen scarcely
anything of my sister Louisa, at that time a girl of about twenty-two,
as she had gone to the theatre of Breslau shortly after our
stepfather's death. Quite recently she had been in Dresden for a few
days on her way to Leipzig, having accepted an engagement at the
theatre there. This meeting with my almost unknown sister, her hearty
manifestations of joy at seeing me again, as well as her sprightly,
merry disposition, quite won my heart. To live with her seemed an
alluring prospect, especially as my mother and Ottilie had joined her
for a while. For the first time a sister had treated me with some
tenderness. When at last I reached Leipzig at Christmas in the same
year (1827), and there found my mother with Ottilie and Cecilia (my
half-sister), I fancied myself in heaven. Great changes, however, had
already taken place. Louisa was betrothed to a respected and well-to-do
bookseller, Friedrich Brockhaus. This gathering together of the
relatives of the penniless bride-elect did not seem to trouble her
remarkably kind-hearted fiance. But my sister may have become uneasy on
the subject, for she soon gave me to understand that she was not taking
it quite in good part. Her desire to secure an entree into the higher
social circles of bourgeois life naturally produced a marked change in
her manner, at one time so full of fun, and of this I gradually became
so keenly sensible that finally we were estranged for a time. Moreover,
I unfortunately gave her good cause to reprove my conduct. After I got
to Leipzig I quite gave up my studies and all regular school work,
probably owing to the arbitrary and pedantic system in vogue at the
school there.

In Leipzig there were two higher-class schools, one called St. Thomas's
School, and the other, and the more modern, St. Nicholas's School. The
latter at that time enjoyed a better reputation than the former; so
there I had to go. But the council of teachers before whom I appeared
for my entrance examination at the New Year (1828) thought fit to
maintain the dignity of their school by placing me for a time in the
upper third form, whereas at the Kreuz Grammar School in Dresden I had
been in the second form. My disgust at having to lay aside my
Homer--from which I had already made written translations of twelve
songs--and take up the lighter Greek prose writers was indescribable.
It hurt my feelings so deeply, and so influenced my behaviour, that I
never made a friend of any teacher in the school. The unsympathetic
treatment I met with made me all the more obstinate, and various other
circumstances in my position only added to this feeling. While student
life, as I saw it day by day, inspired me ever more and more with its
rebellious spirit, I unexpectedly met with another cause for despising
the dry monotony of school regime. I refer to the influence of my
uncle, Adolph Wagner, which, though he was long unconscious of it, went
a long way towards moulding the growing stripling that I then was.

The fact that my romantic tastes were not based solely on a tendency to
superficial amusement was shown by my ardent attachment to this learned
relative. In his manner and conversation he was certainly very
attractive; the many-sidedness of his knowledge, which embraced not
only philology but also philosophy and general poetic literature,
rendered intercourse with him a most entertaining pastime, as all those
who knew him used to admit. On the other hand, the fact that he was
denied the gift of writing with equal charm, or clearness, was a
singular defect which seriously lessened his influence upon the
literary world, and, in fact, often made him appear ridiculous, as in a
written argument he would perpetrate the most pompous and involved
sentences. This weakness could not have alarmed me, because in the hazy
period of my youth the more incomprehensible any literary extravagance
was, the more I admired it; besides which, I had more experience of his
conversation than of his writings. He also seemed to find pleasure in
associating with the lad who could listen with so much heart and soul.
Yet unfortunately, possibly in the fervour of his discourses, of which
he was not a little proud, he forgot that their substance, as well as
their form, was far above my youthful powers of comprehension. I called
daily to accompany him on his constitutional walk beyond the city
gates, and I shrewdly suspect that we often provoked the smiles of
those passers-by who overheard the profound and often earnest
discussions between us. The subjects generally ranged over everything
serious or sublime throughout the whole realm of knowledge. I took the
most enthusiastic interest in his copious library, and tasted eagerly
of almost all branches of literature, without really grounding myself
in any one of them.

My uncle was delighted to find in me a very willing listener to his
recital of classic tragedies. He had made a translation of Oedipus,
and, according to his intimate friend Tieck, justly flattered himself
on being an excellent reader.

I remember once, when he was sitting at his desk reading out a Greek
tragedy to me, it did not annoy him when I fell fast asleep, and he
afterwards pretended he had not noticed it. I was also induced to spend
my evenings with him, owing to the friendly and genial hospitality his
wife showed me. A very great change had come over my uncle's life since
my first acquaintance with him at Jeannette Thome's. The home which he,
together with his sister Friederike, had found in his friend's house
seemed, as time went on, to have brought in its train duties that were
irksome. As his literary work assured him a modest income, he
eventually deemed it more in accordance with his dignity to make a home
of his own. A friend of his, of the same age as himself, the sister of
the aesthete Wendt of Leipzig, who afterwards became famous, was chosen
by him to keep house for him. Without saying a word to Jeannette,
instead of going for his usual afternoon walk he went to the church
with his chosen bride, and got through the marriage ceremonies as
quickly as possible; and it was only on his return that he informed us
he was leaving, and would have his things removed that very day. He
managed to meet the consternation, perhaps also the reproaches, of his
elderly friend with quiet composure; and to the end of his life he
continued his regular daily visits to 'Mam'selle Thome,' who at times
would coyly pretend to sulk. It was only poor Friederike who seemed
obliged at times to atone for her brother's sudden unfaithfulness.

What attracted me in my uncle most strongly was his blunt contempt of
the modern pedantry in State, Church, and School, to which he gave vent
with some humour. Despite the great moderation of his usual views on
life, he yet produced on me the effect of a thorough free-thinker. I
was highly delighted by his contempt for the pedantry of the schools.
Once, when I had come into serious conflict with all the teachers of
the Nicolai School, and the rector of the school had approached my
uncle, as the only male representative of my family, with a serious
complaint about my behaviour, my uncle asked me during a stroll round
the town, with a calm smile as though he were speaking to one of his
own age, what I had been up to with the people at school. I explained
the whole affair to him, and described the punishment to which I had
been subjected, and which seemed to me unjust. He pacified me, and
exhorted me to be patient, telling me to comfort myself with the
Spanish proverb, un rey no puede morir, which he explained as meaning
that the ruler of a school must of necessity always be in the right.

He could not, of course, help noticing, to his alarm, the effect upon
me of this kind of conversation, which I was far too young to
appreciate. Although it annoyed me one day, when I wanted to begin
reading Goethe's Faust, to hear him say quietly that I was too young to
understand it, yet, according to my thinking, his other conversations
about our own great poets, and even about Shakespeare and Dante, had
made me so familiar with these sublime figures that I had now for some
time been secretly busy working out the great tragedy I had already
conceived in Dresden. Since my trouble at school I had devoted all my
energies, which ought by rights to have been exclusively directed to my
school duties, to the accomplishment of this task. In this secret work
I had only one confidante, my sister Ottilie, who now lived with me at
my mother's. I can remember the misgivings and alarm which the first
confidential communication of my great poetic enterprise aroused in my
good sister; yet she affectionately suffered the tortures I sometimes
inflicted on her by reciting to her in secret, but not without emotion,
portions of my work as it progressed. Once, when I was reciting to her
one of the most gruesome scenes, a heavy thunderstorm came on. When the
lightning flashed quite close to us, and the thunder rolled, my sister
felt bound to implore me to stop; but she soon found it was hopeless,
and continued to endure it with touching devotion.

But a more significant storm was brewing on the horizon of my life. My
neglect of school reached such a point that it could not but lead to a
rupture. Whilst my dear mother had no presentiment of this, I awaited
the catastrophe with longing rather than with fear.

In order to meet this crisis with dignity I at length decided to
surprise my family by disclosing to them the secret of my tragedy,
which was now completed. They were to be informed of this great event
by my uncle. I thought I could rely upon his hearty recognition of my
vocation as a great poet on account of the deep harmony between us on
all other questions of life, science, and art. I therefore sent him my
voluminous manuscript, with a long letter which I thought would please
him immensely. In this I communicated to him first my ideas with regard
to the St. Nicholas's School, and then my firm determination from that
time forward not to allow any mere school pedantry to check my free
development. But the event turned out very different from what I had
expected. It was a great shock to them. My uncle, quite conscious that
he had been indiscreet, paid a visit to my mother and brother-in-law,
in order to report the misfortune that had befallen the family,
reproaching himself for the fact that his influence over me had not
always, perhaps, been for my good. To me he wrote a serious letter of
discouragement; and to this day I cannot understand why he showed so
small a sense of humour in understanding my bad behaviour. To my
surprise he merely said that he reproached himself for having corrupted
me by conversations unsuited to my years, but he made no attempt to
explain to me good-naturedly the error of my ways.

The crime this boy of fifteen had committed was, as I said before, to
have written a great tragedy, entitled Leubald und Adelaide.

The manuscript of this drama has unfortunately been lost, but I can
still see it clearly in my mind's eye. The handwriting was most
affected, and the backward-sloping tall letters with which I had aimed
at giving it an air of distinction had already been compared by one of
my teachers to Persian hieroglyphics. In this composition I had
constructed a drama in which I had drawn largely upon Shakespeare's
Hamlet, King Lear, and Macbeth, and Goethe's Gotz van Berlichingen. The
plot was really based on a modification of Hamlet, the difference
consisting in the fact that my hero is so completely carried away by
the appearance of the ghost of his father, who has been murdered under
similar circumstances, and demands vengeance, that he is driven to
fearful deeds of violence; and, with a series of murders on his
conscience, he eventually goes mad. Leubald, whose character is a
mixture of Hamlet and Harry Hotspur, had promised his father's ghost to
wipe from the face of the earth the whole race of Roderick, as the
ruthless murderer of the best of fathers was named. After having slain
Roderick himself in mortal combat, and subsequently all his sons and
other relations who supported him, there was only one obstacle that
prevented Leubald from fulfilling the dearest wish of his heart, which
was to be united in death with the shade of his father: a child of
Roderick's was still alive. During the storming of his castle the
murderer's daughter had been carried away into safety by a faithful
suitor, whom she, however, detested. I had an irresistible impulse to
call this maiden 'Adelaide.' As even at that early age I was a great
enthusiast for everything really German, I can only account for the
obviously un-German name of my heroine by my infatuation for
Beethoven's Adelaide, whose tender refrain seemed to me the symbol of
all loving appeals. The course of my drama was now characterised by the
strange delays which took place in the accomplishment of this last
murder of vengeance, the chief obstacle to which lay in the sudden
passionate love which arose between Leubald and Adelaide. I succeeded
in representing the birth and avowal of this love by means of
extraordinary adventures. Adelaide was once more stolen away by a
robber-knight from the lover who had been sheltering her. After Leubald
had thereupon sacrificed the lover and all his relations, he hastened
to the robber's castle, driven thither less by a thirst for blood than
by a longing for death. For this reason he regrets his inability to
storm the robber's castle forthwith, because it is well defended, and,
moreover, night is fast falling; he is therefore obliged to pitch his
tent. After raving for a while he sinks down for the first time
exhausted, but being urged, like his prototype Hamlet, by the spirit of
his father to complete his vow of vengeance, he himself suddenly falls
into the power of the enemy during a night assault. In the subterranean
dungeons of the castle he meets Roderick's daughter for the first time.
She is a prisoner like himself, and is craftily devising flight. Under
circumstances in which she produces on him the impression of a heavenly
vision, she makes her appearance before him. They fall in love, and fly
together into the wilderness, where they realise that they are deadly
enemies. The incipient insanity which was already noticeable in Leubald
breaks out more violently after this discovery, and everything that can
be done to intensify it is contributed by the ghost of his father,
which continually comes between the advances of the lovers. But this
ghost is not the only disturber of the conciliating love of Leubald and
Adelaide. The ghost of Roderick also appears, and according to the
method followed by Shakespeare in Richard III., he is joined by the
ghosts of all the other members of Adelaide's family whom Leubald has
slain. From the incessant importunities of these ghosts Leubald seeks
to free himself by means of sorcery, and calls to his aid a rascal
named Flamming. One of Macbeth's witches is summoned to lay the ghosts;
as she is unable to do this efficiently, the furious Leubald sends her
also to the devil; but with her dying breath she despatches the whole
crowd of spirits who serve her to join the ghosts of those already
pursuing him. Leubald, tormented beyond endurance, and now at last
raving mad, turns against his beloved, who is the apparent cause of all
his misery. He stabs her in his fury; then finding himself suddenly at
peace, he sinks his head into her lap, and accepts her last caresses as
her life-blood streams over his own dying body.

I had not omitted the smallest detail that could give this plot its
proper colouring, and had drawn on all my knowledge of the tales of the
old knights, and my acquaintance with Lear and Macbeth, to furnish my
drama with the most vivid situations. But one of the chief
characteristics of its poetical form I took from the pathetic,
humorous, and powerful language of Shakespeare. The boldness of my
grandiloquent and bombastic expressions roused my uncle Adolph's alarm
and astonishment. He was unable to understand how I could have selected
and used with inconceivable exaggeration precisely the most extravagant
forms of speech to be found in Lear and Gotz von Berlichingen.
Nevertheless, even after everybody had deafened me with their laments
over my lost time and perverted talents, I was still conscious of a
wonderful secret solace in the face of the calamity that had befallen
me. I knew, a fact that no one else could know, namely, that my work
could only be rightly judged when set to the music which I had resolved
to write for it, and which I intended to start composing immediately.

I must now explain my position with respect to music hitherto. For this
purpose I must go back to my earliest attempts in the art. In my family
two of my sisters were musical; the elder one, Rosalie, played the
piano, without, however, displaying any marked talent. Clara was more
gifted; in addition to a great deal of musical feeling, and a fine rich
touch on the piano, she possessed a particularly sympathetic voice, the
development of which was so premature and remarkable that, under the
tuition of Mieksch, her singing master, who was famous at that time,
she was apparently ready for the role of a prima donna as early as her
sixteenth year, and made her debut at Dresden in Italian opera as
'Cenerentola' in Rossini's opera of that name. Incidentally I may
remark that this premature development proved injurious to Clara's
voice, and was detrimental to her whole career. As I have said, music
was represented in our family by these two sisters. It was chiefly
owing to Clara's career that the musical conductor C. M. von Weber
often came to our house. His visits were varied by those of the great
male-soprano Sassaroli; and in addition to these two representatives of
German and Italian music, we also had the company of Mieksch, her
singing master. It was on these occasions that I as a child first heard
German and Italian music discussed, and learnt that any one who wished
to ingratiate himself with the Court must show a preference for Italian
music, a fact which led to very practical results in our family
council. Clara's talent, while her voice was still sound, was the
object of competition between the representatives of Italian and German
opera. I can remember quite distinctly that from the very beginning I
declared myself in favour of German opera; my choice was determined by
the tremendous impression made on me by the two figures of Sassaroli
and Weber. The Italian male-soprano, a huge pot-bellied giant,
horrified me with his high effeminate voice, his astonishing
volubility, and his incessant screeching laughter. In spite of his
boundless good-nature and amiability, particularly to my family, I took
an uncanny dislike to him. On account of this dreadful person, the
sound of Italian, either spoken or sung, seemed to my ears almost
diabolical; and when, in consequence of my poor sister's misfortune, I
heard them often talking about Italian intrigues and cabals, I
conceived so strong a dislike for everything connected with this nation
that even in much later years I used to feel myself carried away by an
impulse of utter detestation and abhorrence.

The less frequent visits of Weber, on the other hand, seemed to have
produced upon me those first sympathetic impressions which I have never
since lost. In contrast to Sassaroli's repulsive figure, Weber's really
refined, delicate, and intellectual appearance excited my ecstatic
admiration. His narrow face and finely-cut features, his vivacious
though often half-closed eyes, captivated and thrilled me; whilst even
the bad limp with which he walked, and which I often noticed from our
windows when the master was making his way home past our house from the
fatiguing rehearsals, stamped the great musician in my imagination as
an exceptional and almost superhuman being. When, as a boy of nine, my
mother introduced me to him, and he asked me what I was going to be,
whether I wanted perhaps to be a musician, my mother told him that,
though I was indeed quite mad on Freischutz, yet she had as yet seen
nothing in me which indicated any musical talent.

This showed correct observation on my mother's part; nothing had made
so great an impression on me as the music of Freischutz, and I tried in
every possible way to procure a repetition of the impressions I had
received from it, but, strange to say, least of all by the study of
music itself. Instead of this, I contented myself with hearing bits
from Freischutz played by my sisters. Yet my passion for it gradually
grew so strong that I can remember taking a particular fancy for a
young man called Spiess, chiefly because he could play the overture to
Freischutz, which I used to ask him to do whenever I met him. It was
chiefly the introduction to this overture which at last led me to
attempt, without ever having received any instruction on the piano, to
play this piece in my own peculiar way, for, oddly enough, I was the
only child in our family who had not been given music lessons. This was
probably due to my mother's anxiety to keep me away from any artistic
interests of this kind in case they might arouse in me a longing for
the theatre.

When I was about twelve years old, however, my mother engaged a tutor
for me named Humann, from whom I received regular music lessons, though
only of a very mediocre description. As soon as I had acquired a very
imperfect knowledge of fingering I begged to be allowed to play
overtures in the form of duets, always keeping Weber as the goal of my
ambition. When at length I had got so far as to be able to play the
overture to Freischutz myself, though in a very faulty manner, I felt
the object of my study had been attained, and I had no inclination to
devote any further attention to perfecting my technique.

Yet I had attained this much: I was no longer dependent for music on
the playing of others; from this time forth I used to try and play,
albeit very imperfectly, everything I wanted to know. I also tried
Mozart's Don Juan, but was unable to get any pleasure out of it, mainly
because the Italian text in the arrangement for the piano placed the
music in a frivolous light in my eyes, and much in it seemed to me
trivial and unmanly. (I can remember that when my sister used to sing
Zerlinen's ariette, Batti, batti, ben Masetto, the music repelled me,
as it seemed so mawkish and effeminate.)

On the other hand, my bent for music grew stronger and stronger, and I
now tried to possess myself of my favourite pieces by making my own
copies. I can remember the hesitation with which my mother for the
first time gave me the money to buy the scored paper on which I copied
out Weber's Lutzow's Jagd, which was the first piece of music I
transcribed.

Music was still a secondary occupation with me when the news of Weber's
death and the longing to learn his music to Oberon fanned my enthusiasm
into flame again. This received fresh impetus from the afternoon
concerts in the Grosser Garten at Dresden, where I often heard my
favourite music played by Zillmann's Town Band, as I thought,
exceedingly well. The mysterious joy I felt in hearing an orchestra
play quite close to me still remains one of my most pleasant memories.
The mere tuning up of the instruments put me in a state of mystic
excitement; even the striking of fifths on the violin seemed to me like
a greeting from the spirit world--which, I may mention incidentally,
had a very real meaning for me. When I was still almost a baby, the
sound of these fifths, which has always excited me, was closely
associated in my mind with ghosts and spirits. I remember that even
much later in life I could never pass the small palace of Prince
Anthony, at the end of the Ostra Allee in Dresden, without a shudder;
for it was there I had first heard the sound of a violin, a very common
experience to me afterwards. It was close by me, and seemed to my ears
to come from the stone figures with which this palace is adorned, some
of which are provided with musical instruments. When I took up my post
as musical conductor at Dresden, and had to pay my official visit to
Morgenroth, the President of the Concert Committee, an elderly
gentleman who lived for many years opposite that princely palace, it
seemed odd to find that the player of fifths who had so strongly
impressed my musical fancy as a boy was anything but a supernatural
spectre. And when I saw the well-known picture in which a skeleton
plays on his violin to an old man on his deathbed, the ghostly
character of those very notes impressed itself with particular force
upon my childish imagination. When at last, as a young man, I used to
listen to the Zillmann Orchestra in the Grosser Garten almost every
afternoon, one may imagine the rapturous thrill with which I drew in
all the chaotic variety of sound that I heard as the orchestra tuned
up: the long drawn A of the oboe, which seemed like a call from the
dead to rouse the other instruments, never failed to raise all my
nerves to a feverish pitch of tension, and when the swelling C in the
overture to Freischutz told me that I had stepped, as it were with both
feet, right into the magic realm of awe. Any one who had been watching
me at that moment could hardly have failed to see the state I was in,
and this in spite of the fact that I was such a bad performer on the
piano.

Another work also exercised a great fascination over me, namely, the
overture to Fidelio in E major, the introduction to which affected me
deeply. I asked my sisters about Beethoven, and learned that the news
of his death had just arrived. Obsessed as I still was by the terrible
grief caused by Weber's death, this fresh loss, due to the decease of
this great master of melody, who had only just entered my life, filled
me with strange anguish, a feeling nearly akin to my childish dread of
the ghostly fifths on the violin. It was now Beethoven's music that I
longed to know more thoroughly; I came to Leipzig, and found his music
to Egmont on the piano at my sister Louisa's. After that I tried to get
hold of his sonatas. At last, at a concert at the Gewandthaus, I heard
one of the master's symphonies for the first time; it was the Symphony
in A major. The effect on me was indescribable. To this must be added
the impression produced on me by Beethoven's features, which I saw in
the lithographs that were circulated everywhere at that time, and by
the fact that he was deaf, and lived a quiet secluded life. I soon
conceived an image of him in my mind as a sublime and unique
supernatural being, with whom none could compare. This image was
associated in my brain with that of Shakespeare; in ecstatic dreams I
met both of them, saw and spoke to them, and on awakening found myself
bathed in tears.

It was at this time that I came across Mozart's Requiem, which formed
the starting-point of my enthusiastic absorption in the works of that
master. His second finale to Don Juan inspired me to include him in my
spirit world.

I was now filled with a desire to compose, as I had before been to
write verse. I had, however, in this case to master the technique of an
entirely separate and complicated subject. This presented greater
difficulties than I had met with in writing verse, which came to me
fairly easily. It was these difficulties that drove me to adopt a
career which bore some resemblance to that of a professional musician,
whose future distinction would be to win the titles of Conductor and
Writer of Opera.

I now wanted to set Leubald und Adelaide to music, similar to that
which Beethoven wrote to Goethe's Egmont; the various ghosts from the
spirit world, who were each to display different characteristics, were
to borrow their own distinctive colouring from appropriate musical
accompaniment. In order to acquire the necessary technique of
composition quickly I studied Logier's Methode des Generalbasses, a
work which was specially recommended to me at a musical lending library
as a suitable text-book from which this art might be easily mastered. I
have distinct recollections that the financial difficulties with which
I was continually harassed throughout my life began at this time. I
borrowed Logier's book on the weekly payment system, in the fond hope
of having to pay for it only during a few weeks out of the savings of
my weekly pocket-money. But the weeks ran on into months, and I was
still unable to compose as well as I wished. Mr. Frederick Wieck, whose
daughter afterwards married Robert Schumann, was at that time the
proprietor of that lending library. He kept sending me troublesome
reminders of the debt I owed him; and when my bill had almost reached
the price of Logier's book I had to make a clean breast of the matter
to my family, who thus not only learnt of my financial difficulties in
general, but also of my latest transgression into the domain of music,
from which, of course, at the very most, they expected nothing better
than a repetition of Leubald und Adelaide.

There was great consternation at home; my mother, sister, and
brother-in-law, with anxious faces, discussed how my studies should be
superintended in future, to prevent my having any further opportunity
for transgressing in this way. No one, however, yet knew the real state
of affairs at school, and they hoped I would soon see the error of my
ways in this case as I had in my former craze for poetry.

But other domestic changes were taking place which necessitated my
being for some little time alone in our house at Leipzig during the
summer of 1829, when I was left entirely to my own devices. It was
during this period that my passion for music rose to an extraordinary
degree. I had secretly been taking lessons in harmony from G. Muller,
afterwards organist at Altenburg, an excellent musician belonging to
the Leipzig orchestra. Although the payment of these lessons was also
destined to get me into hot water at home later on, I could not even
make up to my teacher for the delay in the payment of his fees by
giving him the pleasure of watching me improve in my studies. His
teaching and exercises soon filled me with the greatest disgust, as to
my mind it all seemed so dry. For me music was a spirit, a noble and
mystic monster, and any attempt to regulate it seemed to lower it in my
eyes. I gathered much more congenial instruction about it from
Hoffmann's Phantasiestucken than from my Leipzig orchestra player; and
now came the time when I really lived and breathed in Hoffmann's
artistic atmosphere of ghosts and spirits. With my head quite full of
Kreissler, Krespel, and other musical spectres from my favourite
author, I imagined that I had at last found in real life a creature who
resembled them: this ideal musician in whom for a time I fancied I had
discovered a second Kreissler was a man called Flachs. He was a tall,
exceedingly thin man, with a very narrow head and an extraordinary way
of walking, moving, and speaking, whom I had seen at all those open-air
concerts which formed my principal source of musical education. He was
always with the members of the orchestra, speaking exceedingly quickly,
first to one and then the other; for they all knew him, and seemed to
like him. The fact that they were making fun of him I only learned, to
my great confusion, much later. I remember having noticed this strange
figure from my earliest days in Dresden, and I gathered from the
conversations which I overheard that he was indeed well known to all
Dresden musicians. This circumstance alone was sufficient to make me
take a great interest in him; but the point about him which attracted
me more than anything was the manner in which he listened to the
various items in the programme: he used to give peculiar, convulsive
nods of his head, and blow out his cheeks as though with sighs. All
this I regarded as a sign of spiritual ecstasy. I noticed, moreover,
that he was quite alone, that he belonged to no party, and paid no
attention to anything in the garden save the music; whereupon my
identification of this curious being with the conductor Kreissler
seemed quite natural. I was determined to make his acquaintance, and I
succeeded in doing so. Who shall describe my delight when, on going to
call on him at his rooms for the first time, I found innumerable
bundles of scores! I had as yet never seen a score. It is true I
discovered, to my regret, that he possessed nothing either by
Beethoven, Mozart, or Weber; in fact, nothing but immense quantities of
works, masses, and cantatas by composers such as Staerkel, Stamitz,
Steibelt, etc., all of whom were entirely unknown to me. Yet Flachs was
able to tell me so much that was good about them that the respect which
I felt for scores in general helped me to overcome my regret at not
finding anything by my beloved masters. It is true I learnt later that
poor Flachs had only come into the possession of these particular
scores through unscrupulous dealers, who had traded on his weakness of
intellect and palmed off this worthless music on him for large sums of
money. At all events, they were scores, and that was quite enough for
me. Flachs and I became most intimate; we were always seen going about
together--I, a lanky boy of sixteen, and this weird, shaky flaxpole.
The doors of my deserted home were often opened for this strange guest,
who made me play my compositions to him while he ate bread and cheese.
In return, he once arranged one of my airs for wind instruments, and,
to my astonishment, it was actually accepted and played by the band in
Kintschy's Swiss Chalet. That this man had not the smallest capacity to
teach me anything never once occurred to me; I was so firmly convinced
of his originality that there was no need for him to prove it further
than by listening patiently to my enthusiastic outpourings. But as, in
course of time, several of his own friends joined us, I could not help
noticing that the worthy Flachs was regarded by them all as a
half-witted fool. At first this merely pained me, but a strange
incident unexpectedly occurred which converted me to the general
opinion about him. Flachs was a man of some means, and had fallen into
the toils of a young lady of dubious character who he believed was
deeply in love with him. One day, without warning, I found his house
closed to me, and discovered, to my astonishment, that jealousy was the
cause. The unexpected discovery of this liaison, which was my first
experience of such a case, filled me with a strange horror. My friend
suddenly appeared to me even more mad than he really was. I felt so
ashamed of my persistent blindness that for some time to come I never
went to any of the garden concerts for fear I should meet my sham
Kreissler.

By this time I had composed my first Sonata in D minor. I had also
begun a pastoral play, and had worked it out in what I felt sure must
be an entirely unprecedented way.

I chose Goethe's Laune der Verliebten as a model for the form and plot
of my work. I scarcely even drafted out the libretto, however, but
worked it out at the same time as the music and orchestration, so that,
while I was writing out one page of the score, I had not even thought
out the words for the next page. I remember distinctly that following
this extraordinary method, although I had not acquired the slightest
knowledge about writing for instruments, I actually worked out a fairly
long passage which finally resolved itself into a scene for three
female voices followed by the air for the tenor. My bent for writing
for the orchestra was so strong that I procured a score of Don Juan,
and set to work on what I then considered a very careful orchestration
of a fairly long air for soprano. I also wrote a quartette in D major
after I had myself sufficiently mastered the alto for the viola, my
ignorance of which had caused me great difficulty only a short time
before, when I was studying a quartette by Haydn.

Armed with these works, I set out in the summer on my first journey as
a musician. My sister Clara, who was married to the singer Wolfram, had
an engagement at the theatre at Magdeburg, whither, in characteristic
fashion, I set forth upon my adventure on foot.

My short stay with my relations provided me with many experiences of
musical life. It was there that I met a new freak, whose influence upon
me I have never been able to forget. He was a musical conductor of the
name of Kuhnlein, a most extraordinary person. Already advanced in
years, delicate and, unfortunately, given to drink, this man
nevertheless impressed one by something striking and vigorous in his
expression. His chief characteristics were an enthusiastic worship of
Mozart and a passionate depreciation of Weber. He had read only one
book--Goethe's Faust--and in this work there was not a page in which he
had not underlined some passage, and made some remark in praise of
Mozart or in disparagement of Weber. It was to this man that my
brother-in-law confided the compositions which I had brought with me in
order to learn his opinion of my abilities. One evening, as we were
sitting comfortably in an inn, old Kuhnlein came in, and approached us
with a friendly, though serious manner.

I thought I read good news in his features, but when my brother-in-law
asked him what he thought of my work, he answered quietly and calmly,
'There is not a single good note in it!' My brother-in-law, who was
accustomed to Kuhnlein's eccentricity, gave a loud laugh which
reassured me somewhat. It was impossible to get any advice or coherent
reasons for his opinion out of Kuhnlein; he merely renewed his abuse of
Weber and made some references to Mozart which, nevertheless, made a
deep impression upon me, as Kuhnlein's language was always very heated
and emphatic.

On the other hand, this visit brought me a great treasure, which was
responsible for leading me in a very different direction from that
advised by Kuhnlein. This was the score of Beethoven's great Quartette
in E flat major, which had only been fairly recently published, and of
which my brother-in-law had a copy made for me. Richer in experience,
and in the possession of this treasure, I returned to Leipzig to the
nursery of my queer musical studies. But my family had now returned
with my sister Rosalie, and I could no longer keep secret from them the
fact that my connection with the school had been entirely suspended,
for a notice was found saying that I had not attended the school for
the last six months. As a complaint addressed by the rector to my uncle
about me had not received adequate attention, the school authorities
had apparently made no further attempts to exercise any supervision
over me, which I had indeed rendered quite impossible by absenting
myself altogether.

A fresh council of war was held in the family to discuss what was to be
done with me. As I laid particular stress on my bent for music, my
relations thought that I ought, at any rate, to learn one instrument
thoroughly. My brother-in-law, Brockhaus, proposed to send me to
Hummel, at Weimar, to be trained as a pianist, but as I loudly
protested that by 'music' I meant 'composing,' and not 'playing an
instrument,' they gave way, and decided to let me have regular lessons
in harmony from Muller, the very musician from whom I had had
instruction on the sly some little while before, and who had not yet
been paid. In return for this I promised faithfully to go back to work
conscientiously at St. Nicholas's School. I soon grew tired of both. I
could brook no control, and this unfortunately applied to my musical
instruction as well. The dry study of harmony disgusted me more and
more, though I continued to conceive fantasias, sonatas, and overtures,
and work them out by myself. On the other hand, I was spurred on by
ambition to show what I could do at school if I liked. When the Upper
School boys were set the task of writing a poem, I composed a chorus in
Greek, on the recent War of Liberation. I can well imagine that this
Greek poem had about as much resemblance to a real Greek oration and
poetry, as the sonatas and overtures I used to compose at that time had
to thoroughly professional music. My attempt was scornfully rejected as
a piece of impudence. After that I have no further recollections of my
school. My continued attendance was a pure sacrifice on my side, made
out of consideration for my family: I did not pay the slightest
attention to what was taught in the lessons, but secretly occupied
myself all the while with reading any book that happened to attract me.

As my musical instruction also did me no good, I continued in my wilful
process of self-education by copying out the scores of my beloved
masters, and in so doing acquired a neat handwriting, which in later
years has often been admired. I believe my copies of the C minor
Symphony and the Ninth Symphony by Beethoven are still preserved as
souvenirs.

Beethoven's Ninth Symphony became the mystical goal of all my strange
thoughts and desires about music. I was first attracted to it by the
opinion prevalent among musicians, not only in Leipzig but elsewhere,
that this work had been written by Beethoven when he was already half
mad. It was considered the 'non plus ultra' of all that was fantastic
and incomprehensible, and this was quite enough to rouse in me a
passionate desire to study this mysterious work. At the very first
glance at the score, of which I obtained possession with such
difficulty, I felt irresistibly attracted by the long-sustained pure
fifths with which the first phrase opens: these chords, which, as I
related above, had played such a supernatural part in my childish
impressions of music, seemed in this case to form the spiritual keynote
of my own life. This, I thought, must surely contain the secret of all
secrets, and accordingly the first thing to be done was to make the
score my own by a process of laborious copying. I well remember that on
one occasion the sudden appearance of the dawn made such an uncanny
impression on my excited nerves that I jumped into bed with a scream as
though I had seen a ghost. The symphony at that time had not yet been
arranged for the piano; it had found so little favour that the
publisher did not feel inclined to run the risk of producing it. I set
to work at it, and actually composed a complete piano solo, which I
tried to play to myself. I sent my work to Schott, the publisher of the
score, at Mainz. I received in reply a letter saying 'that the
publishers had not yet decided to issue the Ninth Symphony for the
piano, but that they would gladly keep my laborious work,' and offered
me remuneration in the shape of the score of the great Missa Solemnis
in D, which I accepted with great pleasure.

In addition to this work I practised the violin for some time, as my
harmony master very rightly considered that some knowledge of the
practical working of this instrument was indispensable for any one who
had the intention of composing for the orchestra. My mother, indeed,
paid the violinist Sipp (who was still playing in the Leipzig orchestra
in 1865) eight thalers for a violin (I do not know what became of it),
with which for quite three months I must have inflicted unutterable
torture upon my mother and sister by practising in my tiny little room.
I got so far as to play certain Variations in F sharp by Mayseder, but
only reached the second or third. After that I have no further
recollections of this practising, in which my family fortunately had
very good reasons of their own for not encouraging me.

But the time now arrived when my interest in the theatre again took a
passionate hold upon me. A new company had been formed in my birthplace
under very good auspices. The Board of Management of the Court Theatre
at Dresden had taken over the management of the Leipzig theatre for
three years. My sister Rosalie was a member of the company, and through
her I could always gain admittance to the performances; and that which
in my childhood had been merely the interest aroused by a strange
spirit of curiosity now became a more deep-seated and conscious passion.

Julius Caesar, Macbeth, Hamlet, the plays of Schiller, and to crown
all, Goethe's Faust, excited and stirred me deeply. The Opera was
giving the first performances of Marschner's Vampir and Templer und
Judin. The Italian company arrived from Dresden, and fascinated the
Leipzig audience by their consummate mastery of their art. Even I was
almost carried away by the enthusiasm with which the town was
over-whelmed, into forgetting the boyish impressions which Signor
Sassaroli had stamped upon my mind, when another miracle--which also
came to us from Dresden--suddenly gave a new direction to my artistic
feelings and exercised a decisive influence over my whole life. This
consisted of a special performance given by Wilhelmine
Schroder-Devrient, who at that time was at the zenith of her artistic
career, young, beautiful, and ardent, and whose like I have never again
seen on the stage. She made her appearance in Fidelio.

If I look back on my life as a whole, I can find no event that produced
so profound an impression upon me. Any one who can remember that
wonderful woman at this period of her life must to some extent have
experienced the almost Satanic ardour which the intensely human art of
this incomparable actress poured into his veins. After the performance
I rushed to a friend's house and wrote a short note to the singer, in
which I briefly told her that from that moment my life had acquired its
true significance, and that if in days to come she should ever hear my
name praised in the world of Art, she must remember that she had that
evening made me what I then swore it was my destiny to become. This
note I left at her hotel, and ran out into the night as if I were mad.
In the year 1842, when I went to Dresden to make my debut with Rienzi,
I paid several visits to the kind-hearted singer, who startled me on
one occasion by repeating this letter word for word. It seemed to have
made an impression on her too, as she had actually kept it.

At this point I feel myself obliged to acknowledge that the great
confusion which now began to prevail in my life, and particularly in my
studies, was due to the inordinate effect this artistic interpretation
had upon me. I did not know where to turn, or how to set about
producing something myself which might place me in direct contact with
the impression I had received, while everything that could not be
brought into touch with it seemed to me so shallow and meaningless that
I could not possibly trouble myself with it. I should have liked to
compose a work worthy of a Schroder-Devrient; but as this was quite
beyond my power, in my head-long despair I let all artistic endeavour
slide, and as my work was also utterly insufficient to absorb me, I
flung myself recklessly into the life of the moment in the company of
strangely chosen associates, and indulged in all kinds of youthful
excesses.

I now entered into all the dissipations of raw manhood, the outward
ugliness and inward emptiness of which make me marvel to this day. My
intercourse with those of my own age had always been the result of pure
chance. I cannot remember that any special inclination or attraction
determined me in the choice of my young friends. While I can honestly
say that I was never in a position to stand aloof out of envy from any
one who was specially gifted, I can only explain my indifference in the
choice of my associates by the fact that through inexperience regarding
the sort of companionship that would be of advantage to me, I cared
only to have some one who would accompany me in my excursions, and to
whom I could pour out my feelings to my heart's content without caring
what effect it might have upon him. The result of this was that after a
stream of confidences to which my own excitement was the only response,
I at length reached the point when I turned and looked at my friend; to
my astonishment I generally found that there was no question of
response at all, and as soon as I set my heart on drawing something
from him in return, and urged him to confide in me, when he really had
nothing to tell, the connection usually came to an end and left no
trace on my life. In a certain sense my strange relationship with
Flachs was typical of the great majority of my ties in after-life.
Consequently, as no lasting personal bond of friendship ever found its
way into my life, it is easy to understand how delight in the
dissipations of student life could become a passion of some duration,
because in it individual intercourse is entirely replaced by a common
circle of acquaintances. In the midst of rowdyism and ragging of the
most foolish description, I remained quite alone, and it is quite
possible that these frivolities formed a protecting hedge round my
inmost soul, which needed time to grow to its natural strength and not
be weakened by reaching maturity too soon.

My life seemed to break up in all directions; I had to leave St.
Nicholas's School at Easter 1830, as I was too deeply in disgrace with
the staff of masters ever to hope for any promotion in the University
from that quarter. It was now determined that I should study privately
for six months and then go to St. Thomas's School, where I should be in
fresh surroundings and be able to work up and qualify in a short time
for the University. My uncle Adolph, with whom I was constantly
renewing my friendship, and who also encouraged me about my music and
exercised a good influence over me in that respect, in spite of the
utter degradation of my life at that time, kept arousing in me an ever
fresh desire for scientific studies. I took private lessons in Greek
from a scholar, and read Sophocles with him. For a time I hoped this
noble poet would again inspire me to get a real hold on the language,
but the hope was vain. I had not chosen the right teacher, and,
moreover, his sitting-room in which we pursued our studies looked out
on a tanyard, the repulsive odour of which affected my nerves so
strongly that I became thoroughly disgusted both with Sophocles and
Greek. My brother-in-law, Brockhaus, who wanted to put me in the way of
earning some pocket-money, gave me the correcting of the proof-sheets
of a new edition he was bringing out of Becker's Universal History,
revised by Lobell. This gave me a reason for improving by private study
the superficial general instruction on every subject which is given at
school, and I thus acquired the valuable knowledge which I was destined
to have in later life of most of the branches of learning so
uninterestingly taught in class. I must not forget to mention that, to
a certain extent, the attraction exercised over me by this first closer
study of history was due to the fact that it brought me in eightpence a
sheet, and I thus found myself in one of the rarest positions in my
life, actually earning money; yet I should be doing myself an injustice
if I did not bear in mind the vivid impressions I now for the first
time received upon turning my serious attention to those periods of
history with which I had hitherto had a very superficial acquaintance.
All I recollect about my school days in this connection is that I was
attracted by the classical period of Greek history; Marathon, Salamis,
and Thermopylae composed the canon of all that interested me in the
subject. Now for the first time I made an intimate acquaintance with
the Middle Ages and the French Revolution, as my work in correcting
dealt precisely with the two volumes which contained these two periods.
I remember in particular that the description of the Revolution filled
me with sincere hatred for its heroes; unfamiliar as I was with the
previous history of France, my human sympathy was horrified by the
cruelty of the men of that day, and this purely human impulse remained
so strong in me that I remember how even quite recently it cost me a
real struggle to give any weight to the true political significance of
those acts of violence.

How great, then, was my astonishment when one day the current political
events of the time enabled me, as it were, to gain a personal
experience of the sort of national upheavals with which I had come into
distant contact in the course of my proof-correcting. The special
editions of the Leipzig Gazette brought us the news of the July
Revolution in Paris. The King of France had been driven from his
throne; Lafayette, who a moment before had seemed a myth to me, was
again riding through a cheering crowd in the streets of Paris; the
Swiss Guards had once more been butchered in the Tuileries, and a new
King knew no better way of commending himself to the populace than by
declaring himself the embodiment of the Republic. Suddenly to become
conscious of living at a time in which such things took place could not
fail to have a startling effect on a boy of seventeen. The world as a
historic phenomenon began from that day in my eyes, and naturally my
sympathies were wholly on the side of the Revolution, which I regarded
in the light of a heroic popular struggle crowned with victory, and
free from the blemish of the terrible excesses that stained the first
French Revolution. As the whole of Europe, including some of the German
states, was soon plunged more or less violently into rebellion, I
remained for some time in a feverish state of suspense, and now first
turned my attention to the causes of these upheavals, which I regarded
as struggles of the young and hopeful against the old and effete
portion of mankind. Saxony also did not remain unscathed; in Dresden it
came to actual fighting in the streets, which immediately produced a
political change in the shape of the proclamation of the regency of the
future King Frederick, and the granting of a constitution. This event
filled me with such enthusiasm that I composed a political overture,
the prelude of which depicted dark oppression in the midst of which a
strain was at last heard under which, to make my meaning clearer, I
wrote the words Friedrich und Freiheil; this strain was intended to
develop gradually and majestically into the fullest triumph, which I
hoped shortly to see successfully performed at one of the Leipzig
Garden Concerts.

However, before I was able to develop my politico-musical conceptions
further, disorders broke out in Leipzig itself which summoned me from
the precincts of Art to take a direct share in national life. National
life in Leipzig at this time meant nothing more than antagonism between
the students and the police, the latter being the arch-enemy upon whom
the youthful love of liberty vented itself. Some students had been
arrested in a street broil who were now to be rescued. The
under-graduates, who had been restless for some days, assembled one
evening in the Market Place and the Clubs, mustered together, and made
a ring round their leaders. The whole proceeding was marked by a
certain measured solemnity, which impressed me deeply. They sang
Gaudeamus igitur, formed up into column, and picking up from the crowd
any young men who sympathised with them, marched gravely and resolutely
from the Market Place to the University buildings, to open the cells
and set free the students who had been arrested. My heart beat fast as
I marched with them to this 'Taking of the Bastille,' but things did
not turn out as we expected, for in the courtyard of the Paulinum the
solemn procession was stopped by Rector Krug, who had come down to meet
it with his grey head bared; his assurance that the captives had
already been released at his request was greeted with a thundering
cheer, and the matter seemed at an end.

But the tense expectation of a revolution had grown too great not to
demand some sacrifice. A summons was suddenly spread calling us to a
notorious alley in order to exercise popular justice upon a hated
magistrate who, it was rumoured, had unlawfully taken under his
protection a certain house of ill-fame in that quarter. When I reached
the spot with the tail-end of the crowd, I found the house had been
broken into and all sorts of violence had been committed. I recall with
horror the intoxicating effect this unreasoning fury had upon me, and
cannot deny that without the slightest personal provocation I shared,
like one possessed, in the frantic onslaught of the undergraduates, who
madly shattered furniture and crockery to bits. I do not believe that
the ostensible motive for this outrage, which, it is true, was to be
found in a fact that was a grave menace to public morality, had any
weight with me whatever; on the contrary, it was the purely devilish
fury of these popular outbursts that drew me, too, like a madman into
their vortex.

The fact that such fits of fury are not quick to abate, but, in
accordance with certain natural laws, reach their proper conclusion
only after they have degenerated into frenzy, I was to learn in my own
person. Scarcely did the summons ring out for us to march to another
resort of the same kind than I too found myself in the tide which set
towards the opposite end of the town. There the same exploits were
repeated, and the most ludicrous outrages perpetrated. I cannot
remember that the enjoyment of alcoholic drinks contributed to the
intoxication of myself and my immediate fellows. I only know that I
finally got into the state that usually succeeds a debauch, and upon
waking next morning, as if from a hideous nightmare, had to convince
myself that I had really taken part in the events of the previous night
by a trophy I possessed in the shape of a tattered red curtain, which I
had brought home as a token of my prowess. The thought that people
generally, and my own family in particular, were wont to put a lenient
construction upon youthful escapades was a great comfort to me;
outbursts of this kind on the part of the young were regarded as
righteous indignation against really serious scandals, and there was no
need for me to be afraid of owning up to having taken part in such
excesses.

The dangerous example, however, which had been set by the
undergraduates incited the lower classes and the mob to similar
excesses on the following nights, against employers and any who were
obnoxious to them. The matter at once assumed a more serious
complexion; property was threatened, and a conflict between rich and
poor stood grinning at our doors. As there were no soldiers in the
town, and the police were thoroughly disorganised, the students were
called in as a protection against the lower orders. An undergraduate's
hour of glory now began, such as I could only have thirsted for in my
schoolboy dreams. The student became the tutelar deity of Leipzig,
called on by the authorities to arm and band together in defence of
property, and the same young men who two days before had yielded to a
rage for destruction, now mustered in the University courtyard. The
proscribed names of the students' clubs and unions were shouted by the
mouths of town councillors and chief constables in order to summon
curiously equipped undergraduates, who thereupon, in simple mediaeval
array of war, scattered throughout the town, occupied the guard-rooms
at the gates, provided sentinels for the grounds of various wealthy
merchants, and, as occasion demanded, took places which seemed
threatened, more especially inns, under their permanent protection.

Though, unluckily, I was not yet a member of their body, I anticipated
the delights of academic citizenship by half-impudent, half-obsequious
solicitation of the leaders of the students whom I honoured most. I had
the good fortune to recommend myself particularly to these 'cocks of
the walk,' as they were styled, on account of my relationship to
Brockhaus, in whose grounds the main body of these champions were
encamped for some time. My brother-in-law was among those who had been
seriously threatened, and it was only owing to really great presence of
mind and assurance that he succeeded in saving his printing works, and
especially his steam presses, which were the chief object of attack,
from destruction. To protect his property against further assault,
detachments of students were told off to his grounds as well; the
excellent entertainment which the generous master of the house offered
his jovial guardians in his pleasant summer-house enticed the pick of
the students to him. My brother-in-law was for several weeks guarded
day and night against possible attacks by the populace, and on this
occasion, as the mediator of a flowing hospitality, I celebrated among
the most famous 'bloods' of the University the true saturnalia of my
scholarly ambition.

For a still longer period the guarding of the gates was entrusted to
the students; the unheard-of splendour which accordingly became
associated with this post drew fresh aspirants to the spot from far and
near. Every day huge chartered vehicles discharged at the Halle Gate
whole bands of the boldest sons of learning from Halle, Jena,
Gottingen, and the remotest regions. They got down close to the guards
at the gate, and for several weeks never set foot in an inn or any
other dwelling; they lived at the expense of the Council, drew vouchers
on the police for food and drink, and knew but one care, that the
possibility of a general quieting of men's minds would make their
opportune guardianship superfluous. I never missed a day on guard or a
night either, alas! trying to impress on my family the urgent need for
my personal endurance. Of course, the quieter and really studious
spirits among us soon resigned these duties, and only the flower of the
flock of undergraduates remained so staunch that it became difficult
for the authorities to relieve them of their task. I held out to the
very last, and succeeded in making most astonishing friends for my age.
Many of the most audacious remained in Leipzig even when there was no
guard duty to fulfil, and peopled the place for some time with
champions of an extraordinarily desperate and dissipated type, who had
been repeatedly sent down from various universities for rowdyism or
debt, and who now, thanks to the exceptional circumstances of the day,
found a refuge in Leipzig, where at first they had been received with
open arms by the general enthusiasm of their comrades.

In the presence of all these phenomena I felt as if I were surrounded
by the results of an earthquake which had upset the usual order of
things. My brother-in-law, Friedrich Brockhaus, who could justly taunt
the former authorities of the place with their inability to maintain
peace and order, was carried away by the current of a formidable
movement of opposition. He made a daring speech at the Guildhall before
their worships the Town Council, which brought him popularity, and he
was appointed second-in-command of the newly constituted Leipzig
Municipal Guard. This body at length ousted my adored students from the
guard-rooms of the town gates, and we no longer had the right of
stopping travellers and inspecting their passes. On the other hand, I
flattered myself that I might regard my new position as a boy citizen
as equivalent to that of the French National Guard, and my
brother-in-law, Brockhaus, as a Saxon Lafayette, which, at all events,
succeeded in furnishing my soaring excitement with a healthy stimulant.
I now began to read the papers and cultivate politics enthusiastically;
however, the social intercourse of the civic world did not attract me
sufficiently to make me false to my beloved academic associates. I
followed them faithfully from the guard-rooms to the ordinary bars,
where their splendour as men of the literary world now sought
retirement.

My chief ambition was to become one of them as soon as possible. This,
however, could only be accomplished by being again entered at a grammar
school. St. Thomas's, whose headmaster was a feeble old man, was the
place where my wishes could be most speedily attained.

I joined the school in the autumn of 1830 simply with the intention of
qualifying myself for the Leaving Examination by merely nominal
attendance there. The chief thing in connection with it was that I and
friends of the same bent succeeded in establishing a sham students'
association called the Freshman's Club. It was formed with all possible
pedantry, the institution of the 'Comment' was introduced,
fencing-practice and sword-bouts were held, and an inaugural meeting to
which several prominent students were invited, and at which I presided
as 'Vice' in white buckskin trousers and great jack-boots, gave me a
foretaste of the delights awaiting me as a full-blown son of the Muses.

The masters of St. Thomas's, however, were not quite so ready to fall
in with my aspirations to studentship; at the end of the half-year they
were of the opinion that I had not given a thought to their
institution, and nothing could persuade them that I had earned a title
to academic citizenship by any acquisition of knowledge. Some sort of
decision was necessary, so I accordingly informed my family that I had
made up my mind not to study for a profession at the University, but to
become a musician. There was nothing to prevent me matriculating as
'Studiosus Musicae,' and, without therefore troubling myself about the
pedantries of the authorities at St. Thomas's, I defiantly quitted that
seat of learning from which I had derived small profit, and presented
myself forthwith to the rector of the University, whose acquaintance I
had made on the evening of the riot, to be enrolled as a student of
music. This was accordingly done without further ado, on the payment of
the usual fees.

I was in a great hurry about it, for in a week the Easter vacation
would begin, and the 'men' would go down from Leipzig, when it would be
impossible to be elected member of a club until the vacation was over,
and to stay all those weeks at home in Leipzig without having the right
to wear the coveted colours seemed to me unendurable torture. Straight
from the rector's presence I ran like a wounded animal to the fencing
school, to present myself for admission to the Saxon Club, showing my
card of matriculation. I attained my object, I could wear the colours
of the Saxonia, which was in the fashion at that time, and in great
request because it numbered so many delightful members in its ranks.

The strangest fate was to befall me in this Easter vacation, during
which I was really the only remaining representative of the Saxon Club
in Leipzig. In the beginning this club consisted chiefly of men of good
family as well as the better class elements of the student world; all
of them were members of highly placed and well-to-do families in Saxony
in general, and in particular from the capital, Dresden, and spent
their vacation at their respective homes. There remained in Leipzig
during the vacations only those wandering students who had no homes,
and for whom in reality it was always or never holiday time. Among
those a separate club had arisen of daring and desperate young
reprobates who had found a last refuge, as I said, at Leipzig in the
glorious period I have recorded. I had already made the personal
acquaintance of these swashbucklers, who pleased my fancy greatly, when
they were guarding the Brockhaus grounds. Although the regular duration
of a university course did not exceed three years, most of these men
had never left their universities for six or seven years.

I was particularly fascinated by a man called Gebhardt, who was endowed
with extraordinary physical beauty and strength, and whose slim heroic
figure towered head and shoulders above all his companions. When he
walked down the street arm-in-arm with two of the strongest of his
comrades, he used suddenly to take it into his head, by an easy
movement of his arm, to lift his friends high in the air and flutter
along in this way as though he had a pair of human wings. When a cab
was going along the streets at a sharp trot, he would seize a spoke of
the wheel with one hand and force it to pull up. Nobody ever told him
that he was stupid because they were afraid of his strength, hence his
limitations were scarcely noticed. His redoubtable strength, combined
with a temperate disposition, lent him a majestic dignity which placed
him above the level of an ordinary mortal. He had come to Leipzig from
Mecklenburg in the company of a certain Degelow, who was as powerful
and adroit, though by no means of such gigantic proportions, as his
friend, and whose chief attraction lay in his great vivacity and
animated features, he had led a wild and dissipated life in which play,
drink, passionate love affairs, and constant and prompt duelling had
rung the changes. Ceremonious politeness, an ironic and pedantic
coldness, which testified to bold self-confidence, combined with a very
hot temper, formed the chief characteristics of this personage and
natures akin to his. Degelow's wildness and passion were lent a curious
diabolical charm by the possession of a malicious humour which he often
turned against himself, whereas towards others he exercised a certain
chivalrous tenderness.

These two extraordinary men were joined by others who possessed all the
qualities essential to a reckless life, together with real and
headstrong valour. One of them, named Stelzer, a regular Berserker out
of the Nibelungenlied, who was nick-named Lope, was in his twentieth
term. While these men openly and consciously belonged to a world doomed
to destruction, and all their actions and escapades could only be
explained by the hypothesis that they all believed that inevitable ruin
was imminent, I made in their company the acquaintance of a certain
Schroter, who particularly attracted me by his cordial disposition,
pleasant Hanoverian accent, and refined wit. He was not one of the
regular young dare-devils, towards whom he adopted a calm observant
attitude, while they were all fond of him and glad to see him. I made a
real friend of this Schroter, although he was much older than I was.
Through him I became acquainted with the works and poems of H. Heine,
and from him I acquired a certain neat and saucy wit, and I was quite
ready to surrender myself to his agreeable influence in the hope of
improving my outward bearing. It was his company in particular that I
sought every day; in the afternoon I generally met him in the Rosenthal
or Kintschy's Chalet, though always in the presence of those wonderful
Goths who excited at once my alarm and admiration.

They all belonged to university clubs which were on hostile terms with
the one of which I was a member. What this hostility between the
various clubs meant only those can judge who are familiar with the tone
prevalent among them in those days. The mere sight of hostile colours
sufficed to infuriate these men, who otherwise were kind and gentle,
provided they had taken the slightest drop too much. At all events, as
long as the old stagers were sober they would look with good-natured
complacency at a slight young fellow like me in the hostile colours
moving among them so amicably. Those colours I wore in my own peculiar
fashion. I had made use of the brief week during which my club was
still in Leipzig to become the possessor of a splendid 'Saxon' cap,
richly embroidered with silver, and worn by a man called Muller, who
was afterwards a prominent constable at Dresden. I had been seized with
such a violent craving for this cap that I managed to buy it from him,
as he wanted money to go home. In spite of this remarkable cap I was,
as I have said, welcome in the den of this band of rowdies: my friend
Schroter saw to that. It was only when the grog, which was the
principal beverage of these wild spirits, began to work that I used to
notice curious glances and overhear doubtful speeches, the significance
of which was for some time hidden from me by the dizziness in which my
own senses were plunged by this baneful drink.

As I was inevitably bound on this account to be mixed up in quarrels
for some time to come, it afforded me a great satisfaction that my
first fight, as a matter of fact, arose from an incident more
creditable to me than those provocations which I had left half
unnoticed. One day Degelow came up to Schroter and me in a wine-bar
that we often frequented, and in quite a friendly manner confessed to
us confidentially his liking for a young and very pretty actress whose
talent Schroter disputed. Degelow rejoined that this was as it might
be, but that, for his part, he regarded the young lady as the most
respectable woman in the theatre. I at once asked him if he considered
my sister's reputation was not as good. According to students' notions
it was impossible for Degelow, who doubtless had not the remotest
intention of being insulting, to give me any assurance further than to
say that he certainly did not think my sister had an inferior
reputation, but that, nevertheless, he meant to abide by his assertion
concerning the young lady he had mentioned. Hereupon followed without
delay the usual challenge, opening with the words, 'You're an ass,'
which sounded almost ridiculous to my own ears when I said them to this
seasoned swashbuckler.

I remember that Degelow too gasped with astonishment, and lightning
seemed to flash from his eyes; but he controlled himself in the
presence of my friend, and proceeded to observe the usual formalities
of a challenge, and chose broadswords (krumme Sabel) as the weapons for
the fight. The event made a great stir among our companions, but I saw
less reason than before to abstain from my usual intercourse with them.
Only I became more strict about the behaviour of the swashbucklers, and
for several days no evening passed without producing a challenge
between me and some formidable bully, until at last Count Solms, the
only member of my club who had returned to Leipzig as yet, visited me
as though he were an intimate friend and inquired into what had
occurred. He applauded my conduct, but advised me not to wear my
colours until the return of our comrades from the vacation, and to keep
away from the bad company into which I had ventured. Fortunately I had
not long to wait; university life soon began again, and the fencing
ground was filled. The unenviable position, in which, in student
phrase, I was suspended with a half-dozen of the most terrible
swordsmen, earned me a glorious reputation among the 'freshmen' and
'juniors,' and even among the older 'champions' of the Saxonia.

My seconds were duly arranged, the dates for the various duels on hand
settled, and by the care of my seniors the needful time was secured for
me to acquire some sort of skill in fencing. The light heart with which
I awaited the fate which threatened me in at least one of the impending
encounters I myself could not understand at the time; on the other
hand, the way in which that fate preserved me from the consequences of
my rashness seems truly miraculous in my eyes to this day, and, worthy
of further description.

The preparations for a duel included obtaining some experience of these
encounters by being present at several of them. We freshmen attained
this object by what is called 'carrying duty,' that is to say, we were
entrusted with the rapiers of the corps (precious weapons of honour
belonging to the association), and had to take them first to the
grinder and thence to the scene of encounter, a proceeding which was
attended with some danger, as it had to be done surreptitiously, since
duelling was forbidden by law; in return we acquired the right of
assisting as spectators at the impending engagements.

When I had earned this honour, the meeting-place chosen for the duel I
was to watch was the billiard-room of an inn in the Burgstrasse; the
table had been moved to one side, and on it the authorised spectators
took their places. Among them I stood up with a beating heart to watch
the dangerous encounters between those doughty champions. I was told on
this occasion of the story of one of my friends (a Jew named Levy, but
known as Lippert), who on this very floor had given so much ground
before his antagonist that the door had to be opened for him, and he
fell back through it down the steps into the street, still believing he
was engaged in the duel. When several bouts had been finished, two men
came on to the 'pitch,' Tempel, the president of the Markomanen, and a
certain Wohlfart, an old stager, already in his fourteenth half-year of
study, with whom I also was booked for an encounter later on. When this
was the case, a man was not allowed to watch, in order that the weak
points of the duellist might not be betrayed to his future opponent.
Wohlfart was accordingly asked by my chiefs whether he wanted me
removed; whereupon he replied with calm contempt, 'Let them leave the
little freshman there, in God's name!' Thus I became an eye-witness of
the disablement of a swordsman who nevertheless showed himself so
experienced and skilful on the occasion that I might well have become
alarmed for the issue of my future encounter with him. His gigantic
opponent cut the artery of his right arm, which at once ended the
fight; the surgeon declared that Wohlfart would not be able to hold a
sword again for years, under which circumstances my proposed meeting
with him was at once cancelled. I do not deny that this incident
cheered my soul.

Shortly afterwards the first general reunion of our club was held at
the Green Tap. These gatherings are regular hot-beds for the production
of duels. Here I brought upon myself a new encounter with one Tischer,
but learned at the same time that I had been relieved of two of my most
formidable previous engagements of the kind by the disappearance of my
opponents, both of whom had escaped on account of debt and left no
trace behind them. The only one of whom I could hear anything was the
terrible Stelzer, surnamed Lope. This fellow had taken advantage of the
passing of Polish refugees, who had at that time already been driven
over the frontier and were making their way through Germany to France,
to disguise himself as an ill-starred champion of freedom, and he
subsequently found his way to the Foreign Legion in Algeria. On the way
home from the gathering, Degelow, whom I was to meet in a few weeks,
proposed a 'truce.' This was a device which, if it was accepted, as it
was in this case, enabled the future combatants to entertain and talk
to one another, which was otherwise most strictly forbidden. We
wandered back to the town arm-in-arm; with chivalrous tenderness my
interesting and formidable opponent declared that he was delighted at
the prospect of crossing swords with me in a few weeks' time; that he
regarded it as an honour and a pleasure, as he was fond of me and
respected me for my valorous conduct. Seldom has any personal success
flattered me more. We embraced, and amid protestations which, owing to
a certain dignity about them, acquired a significance I can never
forget, we parted. He informed me that he must first pay a visit to
Jena, where he had an appointment to fight a duel. A week later the
news of his death reached Leipzig; he had been mortally wounded in the
duel at Jena.

I felt as if I were living in a dream, out of which I was aroused by
the announcement of my encounter with Tischer. Though he was a
first-rate and vigorous fighter, he had been chosen by our chiefs for
my first passage of arms because he was fairly short. In spite of being
unable to feel any great confidence in my hastily acquired and little
practised skill in fencing, I looked forward to this my first duel with
a light heart. Although it was against the rules, I never dreamed of
telling the authorities that I was suffering from a slight rash which I
had caught at that time, and which I was informed made wounds so
dangerous that if it were reported it would postpone the meeting, in
spite of the fact that I was modest enough to be prepared for wounds. I
was sent for at ten in the morning, and left home smiling to think what
my mother and sisters would say if in a few hours I were brought back
in the alarming state I anticipated. My chief, Herr v. Schonfeld, was a
pleasant, quiet sort of man, who lived on the marsh. When I reached his
house, he leant out of the window with his pipe in his mouth, and
greeted me with the words: 'You can go home, my lad, it is all off;
Tischer is in hospital.' When I got upstairs I found several 'leading
men' assembled, from whom I learned that Tischer had got very drunk the
night before, and had in consequence laid himself open to the most
outrageous treatment by the inhabitants of a house of ill-fame. He was
terribly hurt, and had been taken by the police in the first instance
to the hospital. This inevitably meant rustication, and, above all,
expulsion from the academic association to which he belonged.

I cannot clearly recall the incidents that removed from Leipzig the few
remaining fire-eaters to whom I had pledged myself since that fatal
vacation-time; I only know that this aide of my fame as a student
yielded to another. We celebrated the 'freshmen's gathering,' to which
all those who could manage it drove a four-in-hand in a long procession
through the town. After the president of the club had profoundly moved
me with his sudden and yet prolonged solemnity, I conceived the desire
to be among the very last to return home from the outing. Accordingly I
stayed away three days and three nights, and spent the time chiefly in
gambling, a pastime which from the first night of our festivity cast
its devilish snares around me. Some half-dozen of the smartest club
members chanced to be together at early dawn in the Jolly Peasant, and
forthwith formed the nucleus of a gambling club, which was reinforced
during the day by recruits coming back from the town. Members came to
see whether we were still at it, members also went away, but I with the
original six held out for days and nights without faltering.

The desire that first prompted me to take part in the play was the wish
to win enough for my score (two thalers): this I succeeded in doing,
and thereupon I was inspired with the hope of being able to settle all
the debts I had made at that time by my winnings at play. Just as I had
hoped to learn composition most quickly by Logier's method, but had
found myself hampered in my object for a long period by unexpected
difficulties, so my plan for speedily improving my financial position
was likewise doomed to disappointment. To win was not such an easy
matter, and for some three months I was such a victim to the rage for
gambling that no other passion was able to exercise the slightest
influence over my mind.

Neither the Fechtboden (where the students' fights were practised), nor
the beer-house, nor the actual scene of the fights, ever saw my face
again. In my lamentable position I racked my brains all day to devise
ways and means of getting the money wherewith to gamble at night. In
vain did my poor mother try everything in her power to induce me not to
come home so late at night, although she had no idea of the real nature
of my debauches: after I had left the house in the afternoon I never
returned till dawn the next day, and I reached my room (which was at
some distance from the others) by climbing over the gate, for my mother
had refused to give me a latch-key.

In despair over my ill-luck, my passion for gambling grew into a
veritable mania, and I no longer felt any inclination for those things
which at one time had lured me to student life. I became absolutely
indifferent to the opinion of my former companions and avoided them
entirely; I now lost myself in the smaller gambling dens of Leipzig,
where only the very scum of the students congregated. Insensible to any
feeling of self-respect, I bore even the contempt of my sister Rosalie;
both she and my mother hardly ever deigning to cast a glance at the
young libertine whom they only saw at rare intervals, looking deadly
pale and worn out: my ever-growing despair made me at last resort to
foolhardiness as the only means of forcing hostile fate to my side. It
suddenly struck me that only by dint of big stakes could I make big
profits. To this end I decided to make use of my mother's pension, of
which I was trustee of a fairly large sum. That night I lost everything
I had with me except one thaler: the excitement with which I staked
that last coin on a card was an experience hitherto quite strange to my
young life. As I had had nothing to eat, I was obliged repeatedly to
leave the gambling table owing to sickness. With this last thaler I
staked my life, for my return to my home was, of course, out of the
question. Already I saw myself in the grey dawn, a prodigal son,
fleeing from all I held dear, through forest and field towards the
unknown. My mood of despair had gained so strong a hold upon me that,
when my card won, I immediately placed all the money on a fresh stake,
and repeated this experiment until I had won quite a considerable
amount. From that moment my luck grew continuously. I gained such
confidence that I risked the most hazardous stakes: for suddenly it
dawned upon me that this was destined to be my last day with the cards.
My good fortune now became so obvious that the bank thought it wise to
close. Not only had I won back all the money I had lost, but I had won
enough to pay off all my debts as well. My sensations during the whole
of this process were of the most sacred nature: I felt as if God and
His angels were standing by my side and were whispering words of
warning and of consolation into my ears.

Once more I climbed over the gate of my home in the early hours of the
morning, this time to sleep peacefully and soundly and to awake very
late, strengthened and as though born again.

No sense of shame deterred me from telling my mother, to whom I
presented her money, the whole truth about this decisive night. I
voluntarily confessed my sin in having utilised her pension, sparing no
detail. She folded her hands and thanked God for His mercy, and
forthwith regarded me as saved, believing it impossible for me ever to
commit such a crime again.

And, truth to tell, gambling had lost all fascination for me from that
moment. The world, in which I had moved like one demented, suddenly
seemed stripped of all interest or attraction. My rage for gambling had
already made me quite indifferent to the usual student's vanities, and
when I was freed from this passion also, I suddenly found myself face
to face with an entirely new world.

To this world I belonged henceforth: it was the world of real and
serious musical study, to which I now devoted myself heart and soul.

Even during this wild period of my life, my musical development had not
been entirely at a standstill; on the contrary, it daily became plainer
that music was the only direction towards which my mental tendencies
had a marked bent. Only I had got quite out of the habit of musical
study. Even now it seems incredible that I managed to find time in
those days to finish quite a substantial amount of composition. I have
but the faintest recollection of an Overture in C major (6/8 time), and
of a Sonata in B flat major arranged as a duet; the latter pleased my
sister Ottilie, who played it with me, so much that I arranged it for
orchestra. But another work of this period, an Overture in B flat
major, left an indelible impression on my mind on account of an
incident connected with it. This composition, in fact, was the outcome
of my study of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony in about the same degree as
Leubald und Adelaide was the result of my study of Shakespeare. I had
made a special point of bringing out the mystic meaning in the
orchestra, which I divided into three distinctly different and opposite
elements. I wanted to make the characteristic nature of these elements
clear to the score reader the moment he looked at it by a striking
display of colour, and only the fact that I could not get any green ink
made this picturesque idea impossible. I employed black ink for the
brass instruments alone, the strings were to have red and the wind
green ink. This extraordinary score I gave for perusal to Heinrich
Dorn, who was at that time musical director of the Leipzig theatre. He
was very young, and impressed me as being a very clever musician and a
witty man of the world, whom the Leipzig public made much of.

Nevertheless, I have never been able to understand how he could have
granted my request to produce this overture.

Some time afterwards I was rather inclined to believe with others, who
knew how much he enjoyed a good joke, that he intended to treat himself
to a little fun. At the time, however, he vowed that he thought the
work interesting, and maintained that if it were only brought out as a
hitherto unknown work by Beethoven, the public would receive it with
respect, though without understanding.

It was the Christmas of the fateful year 1830; as usual, there would be
no performance at the theatre on Christmas Eve, but instead a concert
for the poor had been organised, which received but scant support. The
first item on the programme was called by the exciting title 'New
Overture'--nothing more! I had surreptitiously listened to the
rehearsal with some misgiving. I was very much impressed by the
coolness with which Dorn fenced with the apparent confusion which the
members of the orchestra showed with regard to this mysterious
composition. The principal theme of the Allegro was contained in four
bars; after every fourth bar, however, a fifth bar had been inserted,
which had nothing to do with the melody, and which was announced by a
loud bang on the kettle-drum on the second beat. As this drum-beat
stood out alone, the drummer, who continually thought he was making a
mistake, got confused, and did not give the right sharpness to the
accent as prescribed by the score. Listening from my hidden corner, and
frightened at my original intention, this accidentally different
rendering did not displease me. To my genuine annoyance, however, Dorn
called the drummer to the front and insisted on his playing the accents
with the prescribed sharpness. When, after the rehearsal, I told the
musical director of my misgivings about this important fact, I could
not get him to promise a milder interpretation of the fatal drum-beat;
he stuck to it that the thing would sound very well as it was. In spite
of this assurance my restlessness grew, and I had not the courage to
introduce myself to my friends in advance as the author of the 'New
Overture.'

My sister Ottilie, who had already been forced to survive the secret
readings of Leubald und Adelaide, was the only person willing to come
with me to hear my work. It was Christmas Eve, and there was to be the
usual Christmas tree, presents, etc., at my brother-in-law's, Friedrich
Brockhaus, and both of us naturally wanted to be there. My sister, in
particular, who lived there, had a good deal to do with the
arrangements, and could only get away for a short while, and that with
great difficulty; our amiable relation accordingly had the carriage
ready for her so that she might get back more quickly. I made use of
this opportunity to inaugurate, as it were, my entree into the musical
world in a festive manner. The carriage drew up in front of the
theatre. Ottilie went into my brother-in-law's box, which forced me to
try and find a seat in the pit. I had forgotten to buy a ticket, and
was refused admission by the man at the door. Suddenly the tuning up of
the orchestra grew louder and louder, and I thought I should have to
miss the beginning of my work. In my anxiety I revealed myself to the
man at the door as the composer of the 'New Overture,' and in this way
succeeded in passing without a ticket. I pushed my way through to one
of the first rows of the pit, and sat down in terrible anxiety.

The Overture began: after the theme of the 'black' brass instruments
had made itself heard with great emphasis, the 'red' Allegro theme
started, in which, as I have already mentioned, every fifth bar was
interrupted by the drum-beat from the 'black' world. What kind of
effect the 'green' theme of the wind instruments, which joined in
afterwards, produced upon the listeners, and what they must have
thought when 'black,' 'red,' and 'green' themes became intermingled,
has always remained a mystery to me, for the fatal drum-beat, brutally
hammered out, entirely deprived me of my senses, especially as this
prolonged and continually recurring effect now began to rouse, not only
the attention, but the merriment of the audience. I heard my neighbours
calculating the return of this effect; knowing the absolute correctness
of their calculation, I suffered ten thousand torments, and became
almost unconscious. At last I awoke from my nightmare when the
Overture, to which I had disdained to give what I considered a trite
ending, came to a standstill most unexpectedly.

No phantoms like those in Hoffmann's Tales could have succeeded in
producing the extraordinary state in which I came to my senses on
noticing the astonishment of the audience at the end of the
performance. I heard no exclamations of disapproval, no hissing, no
remarks, not even laughter; all I saw was intense astonishment at such
a strange occurrence, which impressed them, as it did me, like a
horrible nightmare. The worst moment, however, came when I had to leave
the pit and take my sister home. To get up and pass through the people
in the pit was horrible indeed. Nothing, however, equalled the pain of
coming face to face with the man at the door; the strange look he gave
me haunted me ever afterwards, and for a considerable time I avoided
the pit of the Leipzig theatre.

My next step was to find my sister, who had gone through the whole sad
experience with infinite pity; in silence we drove home to be present
at a brilliant family festivity, which contrasted with grim irony with
the gloom of my bewilderment.

In spite of it all I tried to believe in myself, and thought I could
find comfort in my overture to the Braut von Messina, which I believed
to be a better work than the fatal one I had just heard. A
reinstatement, however, was out of the question, for the directors of
the Leipzig theatre regarded me for a long time as a very doubtful
person, in spite of Dorn's friendship. It is true that I still tried my
hand at sketching out compositions to Goethe's Faust, some of which
have been preserved to this day: but soon my wild student's life
resumed its sway and drowned the last remnant of serious musical study
in me.

I now began to imagine that because I had become a student I ought to
attend the University lectures. From Traugott Krug, who was well known
to me on account of his having suppressed the student's revolt, I tried
to learn the first principles of philosophy; a single lesson sufficed
to make me give this up. Two or three times, however, I attended the
lectures on aesthetics given by one of the younger professors, a man
called Weiss. This perseverance was due to the interest which Weiss
immediately aroused in me. When I made his acquaintance at my uncle
Adolph's house, Weiss had just translated the metaphysics of Aristotle,
and, if I am not mistaken, dedicated them in a controversial spirit to
Hegel.

On this occasion I had listened to the conversation of these two men on
philosophy and philosophers, which made a tremendous impression on me.
I remember that Weiss was an absent-minded man, with a hasty and abrupt
manner of speaking; he had an interesting and pensive expression which
impressed me immensely. I recollect how, on being accused of a want of
clearness in his writing and style, he justified himself by saying that
the deep problems of the human mind could not in any case be solved by
the mob. This maxim, which struck me as being very plausible, I at once
accepted as the principle for all my future writing. I remember that my
eldest brother Albert, to whom I once had to write for my mother, grew
so disgusted with my letter and style that he said he thought I must be
going mad.

In spite of my hopes that Weiss's lectures would do me much good, I was
not capable of continuing to attend them, as my desires in those days
drove me to anything but the study of aesthetics. Nevertheless, my
mother's anxiety at this time on my behalf made me try to take up music
again. As Muller, the teacher under whom I had studied till that time,
had not been able to inspire me with a permanent love of study, it was
necessary to discover whether another teacher might not be better able
to induce me to do serious work.

Theodor Weinlich, who was choirmaster and musical director at St.
Thomas's Church, held at that time this important and ancient post
which was afterwards occupied by Schicht, and before him by no less a
person than Sebastian Bach. By education he belonged to the old Italian
school of music, and had studied in Bologna under Pater Martini. He had
made a name for himself in this art by his vocal compositions, in which
his fine manner of treating the parts was much praised. He himself told
me one day that a Leipzig publisher had offered him a very substantial
fee if he would write for his firm another book of vocal exercises
similar to the one which had proved so profitable to his first
publisher. Weinlich told him that he had not got any exercises of the
kind ready at the moment, but offered him instead a new Mass, which the
publisher refused with the words: 'Let him who got the meat gnaw the
bones.' The modesty with which Weinlich told me this little story
showed how excellent a man he was. As he was in a very bad and weak
state of health when my mother introduced me to him, he at first
refused to take me as a pupil. But, after having resisted all
persuasions, he at last took pity on my musical education, which, as he
soon discovered from a fugue which I had brought with me, was
exceedingly faulty. He accordingly promised to teach me, on condition
that I should give up all attempts at composing for six months, and
follow his instructions implicitly. To the first part of my promise I
remained faithful, thanks to the vast vortex of dissipation into which
my life as a student had drawn me.

When, however, I had to occupy myself for any length of time with
nothing but four-part harmony exercises in strictly rigorous style, it
was not only the student in me, but also the composer of so many
overtures and sonatas, that was thoroughly disgusted. Weinlich, too,
had his grievances against me, and decided to give me up.

During this period I came to the crisis of my life, which led to the
catastrophe of that terrible evening at the gambling den. But an even
greater blow than this fearful experience awaited me when Weinlich
decided not to have anything more to do with me. Deeply humiliated and
miserable, I besought the gentle old man, whom I loved dearly, to
forgive me, and I promised him from that moment to work with unflagging
energy. One morning at seven o'clock Weinlich sent for me to begin the
rough sketch for a fugue; he devoted the whole morning to me, following
my work bar by bar with the greatest attention, and giving me his
valuable advice. At twelve o'clock he dismissed me with the instruction
to perfect and finish the sketch by filling in the remaining parts at
home.

When I brought him the fugue finished, he handed me his own treatment
of the same theme for comparison. This common task of fugue writing
established between me and my good-natured teacher the tenderest of
ties, for, from that moment, we both enjoyed the lessons. I was
astonished how quickly the time flew. In eight weeks I had not only
gone through a number of the most intricate fugues, but had also waded
through all kinds of difficult evolutions in counterpoint, when one
day, on bringing him an extremely elaborate double fugue, he took my
breath away by telling me that after this there was nothing left for
him to teach me.

As I was not aware of any great effort on my part, I often wondered
whether I had really become a well-equipped musician. Weinlich himself
did not seem to attach much importance to what he had taught me: he
said, 'Probably you will never write fugues or canons; but what you
have mastered is Independence: you can now stand alone and rely upon
having a fine technique at your fingers' ends if you should want it.'

The principal result of his influence over me was certainly the growing
love of clearness and fluency to which he had trained me. I had already
had to write the above-mentioned fugue for ordinary voices; my feeling
for the melodious and vocal had in this way been awakened. In order to
keep me strictly under his calming and friendly influence, he had at
the same time given me a sonata to write which, as a proof of my
friendship for him, I had to build up on strictly harmonic and thematic
lines, for which he recommended me a very early and childlike sonata by
Pleyel as a model.

Those who had only recently heard my Overture must, indeed, have
wondered how I ever wrote this sonata, which has been published through
the indiscretion of Messrs. Breitkopf and Hartel (to reward me for my
abstemiousness, Weinlich induced them to publish this poor
composition). From that moment he gave me a free hand. To begin with I
was allowed to compose a Fantasia for the pianoforte (in F sharp minor)
which I wrote in a quite informal style by treating the melody in
recitative form; this gave me intense satisfaction because it won me
praise from Weinlich.

Soon afterwards I wrote three overtures which all met with his entire
approval. In the following winter (1831-1832) I succeeded in getting
the first of them, in D minor, performed at one of the Gewandhaus
concerts.

At that time a very simple and homely tone reigned supreme in this
institution. The instrumental works were not conducted by what we call
'a conductor of the orchestra,' but were simply played to the audience
by the leader of the orchestra. As soon as the singing began, Pohlenz
took his place at the conductor's desk; he belonged to the type of fat
and pleasant musical directors, and was a great favourite with the
Leipzig public. He used to come on the platform with a very
important-looking blue baton in his hand.

One of the strangest events which occurred at that time was the yearly
production of the Ninth Symphony of Beethoven; after the first three
movements had been played straight through like a Haydn symphony, as
well as the orchestra could manage it, Pohlenz, instead of having to
conduct a vocal quartette, a cantata, or an Italian aria, took his
place at the desk to undertake this highly complicated instrumental
work, with its particularly enigmatical and incoherent opening, one of
the most difficult tasks that could possibly be found for a musical
conductor. I shall never forget the impression produced upon me at the
first rehearsal by the anxiously and carefully played 3/4 time, and the
way in which the wild shrieks of the trumpet (with which this movement
begins) resulted in the most extraordinary confusion of sound.

He had evidently chosen this tempo in order, in some way, to manage the
recitative of the double basses; but it was utterly hopeless. Pohlenz
was in a bath of perspiration, the recitative did not come off, and I
really began to think that Beethoven must have written nonsense; the
double bass player, Temmler, a faithful veteran of the orchestra,
prevailed upon Pohlenz at last, in rather coarse and energetic
language, to put down the baton, and in this way the recitative really
proceeded properly. All the same, I felt at this time that I had come
to the humble conclusion, in a way I can hardly explain, that this
extraordinary work was still beyond my comprehension. For a long time I
gave up brooding over this composition, and I turned my thoughts with
simple longing towards a clearer and calmer musical form.

My study of counterpoint had taught me to appreciate, above all,
Mozart's light and flowing treatment of the most difficult technical
problems, and the last movement of his great Symphony in C major in
particular served me as example for my own work. My D minor Overture,
which clearly showed the influence of Beethoven's Coriolanus Overture,
had been favourably received by the public; my mother began to have
faith in me again, and I started at once on a second overture (in C
major), which really ended with a 'Fugato' that did more credit to my
new model than I had ever hoped to accomplish.

This overture, also, was soon afterwards performed at a recital given
by the favourite singer, Mlle. Palazzesi (of the Dresden Italian
Opera). Before this I had already introduced it at a concert given by a
private musical society called 'Euterpe', when I had conducted it
myself.

I remember the strange impression I received from a remark that my
mother made on that occasion; as a matter of fact this work, which was
written in a counterpoint style, without any real passion or emotion,
had produced a strange effect upon her. She gave vent to her
astonishment by warmly praising the Egmont Overture, which was played
at the same concert, maintaining that 'this kind of music was after all
more fascinating than any stupid fugue.'

At this time I also wrote (as my third opus) an overture to Raupach's
drama, Konig Enzio, in which again Beethoven's influence made itself
even more strongly felt. My sister Rosalie succeeded in getting it
performed at the theatre before the play; for the sake of prudence they
did not announce it on the programme the first time. Dorn conducted it,
and as the performance went off all right, and the public showed no
dissatisfaction, my overture was played with my full name on the
programme several times during the run of the above-mentioned drama.

After this I tried my hand at a big Symphony (in C major); in this work
I showed what I had learnt by using the influence of my study of
Beethoven and Mozart towards the achievement of a really pleasant and
intelligible work, in which the fugue was again present at the end,
while the themes of the various movements were so constructed that they
could be played consecutively.

Nevertheless, the passionate and bold element of the Sinfonia Eroica
was distinctly discernible, especially in the first movement. The slow
movement, on the contrary, contained reminiscences of my former musical
mysticism. A kind of repeated interrogative exclamation of the minor
third merging into the fifth connected in my mind this work (which I
had finished with the utmost effort at clearness) with my very earliest
period of boyish sentimentality.

When, in the following year, I called on Friedrich Rochlitz, at that
time the 'Nestor' of the musical aesthetes in Leipzig, and president of
the Gewandhaus, I prevailed upon him to promise me a performance of my
work. As he had been given my score for perusal before seeing me, he
was quite astonished to find that I was a very young man, for the
character of my music had prepared him to see a much older and more
experienced musician. Before this performance took place many things
happened which I must first mention, as they were of great importance
to my life.

My short and stormy career as a student had drowned in me not only all
longing for further development, but also all interest in intellectual
and spiritual pursuits. Although, as I have pointed out, I had never
alienated myself entirely from music, my revived interest in politics
aroused my first real disgust for my senseless student's life, which
soon left no deeper traces on my mind than the remembrance of a
terrible nightmare.

The Polish War of Independence against Russian supremacy filled me with
growing enthusiasm. The victories which the Poles obtained for a short
period during May, 1831, aroused my enthusiastic admiration: it seemed
to me as though the world had, by some miracle, been created anew. As a
contrast to this, the news of the battle of Ostrolenka made it appear
as if the end of the world had come. To my astonishment, my boon
companions scoffed at me when I commented upon some of these events;
the terrible lack of all fellow-feeling and comradeship amongst the
students struck me very forcibly. Any kind of enthusiasm had to be
smothered or turned into pedantic bravado, which showed itself in the
form of affectation and indifference. To get drunk with deliberate
cold-bloodedness, without even a glimpse of humour, was reckoned almost
as brave a feat as duelling. Not until much later did I understand the
far nobler spirit which animated the lower classes in Germany in
comparison with the sadly degenerate state of the University students.
In those days I felt terribly indignant at the insulting remarks which
I brought upon myself when I deplored the battle of Ostrolenka.

To my honour be it said, that these and similar impressions helped to
make me give up my low associates. During my studies with Weinlich the
only little dissipation I allowed myself was my daily evening visit to
Kintschy, the confectioner in the Klostergasse, where I passionately
devoured the latest newspapers. Here I found many men who held the same
political views as myself, and I specially loved to listen to the eager
political discussions of some of the old men who frequented the place.
The literary journals, too, began to interest me; I read a great deal,
but was not very particular in my choice. Nevertheless, I now began to
appreciate intelligence and wit, whereas before only the grotesque and
the fantastic had had any attraction for me.

My interest in the issue of the Polish war, however, remained
paramount. I felt the siege and capture of Warsaw as a personal
calamity. My excitement when the remains of the Polish army began to
pass through Leipzig on their way to France was indescribable, and I
shall never forget the impression produced upon me by the first batch
of these unfortunate soldiers on the occasion of their being quartered
at the Green Shield, a public-house in the Meat Market. Much as this
depressed me, I was soon roused to a high pitch of enthusiasm, for in
the lounge of the Leipzig Gewandhaus, where that night Beethoven's C
minor Symphony was being played, a group of heroic figures, the
principal leaders of the Polish revolution, excited my admiration. I
felt more particularly attracted by Count Vincenz Tyszkiewitcz, a man
of exceptionally powerful physique and noble appearance, who impressed
me by his dignified and aristocratic manner and his quiet
self-reliance--qualities with which I had not met before. When I saw a
man of such kingly bearing in a tight-fitting coat and red velvet cap,
I at once realised my foolishness in ever having worshipped the
ludicrously dressed up little heroes of our students' world. I was
delighted to meet this gentleman again at the house of my
brother-in-law, Friedrich Brockhaus, where I saw him frequently.

My brother-in-law had the greatest pity and sympathy for the Polish
rebels, and was the president of a committee whose task it was to look
after their interests, and for a long time he made many personal
sacrifices for their cause.

The Brockhaus establishment now became tremendously attractive to me.
Around Count Vincenz Tyszkiewitcz, who remained the lodestar of this
small Polish world, gathered a great many other wealthy exiles, amongst
whom I chiefly remember a cavalry captain of the name of Bansemer, a
man of unlimited kindness, but of a rather frivolous nature; he
possessed a marvellous team of four horses which he drove at such
breakneck speed as to cause great annoyance to the people of Leipzig.
Another man of importance with whom I remember dining was General Bem,
whose artillery had made such a gallant stand at Ostrolenka.

Many other exiles passed through this hospitable house, some of whom
impressed us by their melancholy, warlike bearing, others by their
refined behaviour. Vincenz Tyszkiewitcz, however, remained my ideal of
a true man, and I loved him with a profound adoration. He, too, began
to be interested in me; I used to call upon him nearly every day, and
was sometimes present at a sort of martial feast, from which he often
withdrew in order to be able to open his heart to me about the
anxieties which oppressed him. He had, in fact, received absolutely no
news of the whereabouts of his wife and little son since they separated
at Volhynien. Besides this, he was under the shadow of a great sorrow
which drew all sympathetic natures to him. To my sister Louise he had
confided the terrible calamity that had once befallen him. He had been
married before, and while staying with his wife in one of his lonely
castles, in the dead of night he had seen a ghostly apparition at the
window of his bedroom. Hearing his name called several times, he had
taken up a revolver to protect himself from possible danger, and had
shot his own wife, who had had the eccentric idea of teasing him by
pretending to be a ghost. I had the pleasure of sharing his joy on
hearing that his family was safe. His wife joined him in Leipzig with
their beautiful boy, Janusz. I felt sorry not to be able to feel the
same sympathy for this lady as I did for her husband; perhaps one of
the reasons of my antipathy was the obvious and conspicuous way in
which she made herself up, by means of which the poor woman probably
tried to hide how much her beauty had suffered through the terrible
strain of the past events. She soon went back to Galicia to try and
save what she could of their property, and also to provide her husband
with a pass from the Austrian Government, by means of which he could
follow her.

Then came the third of May. Eighteen of the Poles who were still in
Leipzig met together at a festive dinner in a hotel outside the town;
on this day was to be celebrated the first anniversary of the third of
May, so dear to the memory of the Poles. Only the chiefs of the Leipzig
Polish Committee received invitations, and as a special favour I also
was asked. I shall never forget that occasion. The dinner became an
orgy; throughout the evening a brass band from the town played Polish
folksongs, and these were sung by the whole company, led by a
Lithuanian called Zan, in a manner now triumphant and now mournful. The
beautiful 'Third of May' song more particularly drew forth a positive
uproar of enthusiasm. Tears and shouts of joy grew into a terrible
tumult; the excited men grouped themselves on the grass swearing
eternal friendship in the most extravagant terms, for which the word
'Oiczisna' (Fatherland) provided the principal theme, until at last
night threw her veil over this wild debauch.

That evening afterwards served me as the theme for an orchestral
composition (in the form of an overture) named Polonia; I shall recount
the fate of this work later on. My friend Tyszkiewitcz's passport now
arrived, and he made up his mind to go back to Galicia via Brunn,
although his friends considered it was very rash of him to do so. I
very much wanted to see something of the world, and Tyszkiewitcz's
offer to take me with him, induced my mother to consent to my going to
Vienna, a place that I had long wished to visit. I took with me the
scores of my three overtures which had already been performed, and also
that of my great symphony as yet unproduced, and had a grand time with
my Polish patron, who took me in his luxurious travelling-coach as far
as the capital of Moravia. During a short stop at Dresden the exiles of
all classes gave our beloved Count a friendly farewell dinner in Pirna,
at which the champagne flowed freely, while the health was drunk of the
future 'Dictator of Poland.'

At last we separated at Brunn, from which place I continued my journey
to Vienna by coach. During the afternoon and night, which I was obliged
to spend in Brunn by myself, I went through terrible agonies from fear
of the cholera which, as I unexpectedly heard, had broken out in this
place. There I was all alone in a strange place, my faithful friend
just departed, and on hearing of the epidemic I felt as if a malicious
demon had caught me in his snare in order to annihilate me. I did not
betray my terror to the people in the hotel, but when I was shown into
a very lonely wing of the house and left by myself in this wilderness,
I hid myself in bed with my clothes on, and lived once again through
all the horrors of ghost stories as I had done in my boyhood. The
cholera stood before me like a living thing; I could see and touch it;
it lay in my bed and embraced me. My limbs turned to ice, I felt frozen
to the very marrow. Whether I was awake or asleep I never knew; I only
remember how astonished I was when, on awakening, I felt thoroughly
well and healthy.

At last I arrived in Vienna, where I escaped the epidemic which had
penetrated as far as that town. It was midsummer of the year 1832.
Owing to the introductions I had with me, I found myself very much at
home in this lively city, in which I made a pleasant stay of six weeks.
As my sojourn, however, had no really practical purpose, my mother
looked upon the cost of this holiday, short as it seemed, as an
unnecessary extravagance on my part. I visited the theatres, heard
Strauss, made excursions, and altogether had a very good time. I am
afraid I contracted a few debts as well, which I paid off later on when
I was conductor of the Dresden orchestra. I had received very pleasant
impressions of musical and theatrical life, and for a long time Vienna
lived in my memory as the acme of that extraordinarily productive
spirit peculiar to its people. I enjoyed most of all the performances
at the Theater an der Wien, at which they were acting a grotesque fairy
play called Die Abenteuer Fortunat's zu Wasser und zu Land, in which a
cab was called on the shores of the Black Sea and which made a
tremendous impression on me. About the music I was more doubtful. A
young friend of mine took me with immense pride to a performance of
Gluck's Iphigenia in Tauris, which was made doubly attractive by a
first-rate cast including Wild, Staudigl and Binder: I must confess
that on the whole I was bored by this work, but I did not dare say so.
My ideas of Gluck had attained gigantic proportions from my reading of
Hoffmann's well-known Phantasies; my anticipation of this work
therefore, which I had not studied yet, had led me to expect a
treatment full of overpowering dramatic force. It is possible that
Schroder-Devrient's acting in Fidelio had taught me to judge everything
by her exalted standard.

With the greatest trouble I worked myself up to some kind of enthusiasm
for the great scene between Orestes and the Furies. I hoped against
hope that I should be able to admire the remainder of the opera. I
began to understand the Viennese taste, however, when I saw how great a
favourite the opera Zampa became with the public, both at the Karnthner
Thor and at the Josephstadt. Both theatres competed vigorously in the
production of this popular work, and although the public had seemed mad
about Iphigenia, nothing equalled their enthusiasm for Zampa. No sooner
had they left the Josephstadt Theatre in the greatest ecstasies about
Zampa than they proceeded to the public-house called the Strausslein.
Here they were immediately greeted by the strains of selections from
Zampa which drove the audience to feverish excitement. I shall never
forget the extraordinary playing of Johann Strauss, who put equal
enthusiasm into everything he played, and very often made the audience
almost frantic with delight.

At the beginning of a new waltz this demon of the Viennese musical
spirit shook like a Pythian priestess on the tripod, and veritable
groans of ecstasy (which, without doubt, were more due to his music
than to the drinks in which the audience had indulged) raised their
worship for the magic violinist to almost bewildering heights of frenzy.

The hot summer air of Vienna was absolutely impregnated with Zampa and
Strauss. A very poor students' rehearsal at the Conservatoire, at which
they performed a Mass by Cherubini, seemed to me like an alms paid
begrudgingly to the study of classical music. At the same rehearsal one
of the professors, to whom I was introduced, tried to make the students
play my Overture in D minor (the one already performed in Leipzig). I
do not know what his opinion was, nor that of the students, with regard
to this attempt; I only know they soon gave it up.

On the whole I had wandered into doubtful musical bypaths; and I now
withdrew from this first educational visit to a great European art
centre in order to start on a cheap, but long and monotonous return
journey to Bohemia, by stage-coach. My next move was a visit to the
house of Count Pachta, of whom I had pleasant recollections from my
boyhood days. His estate, Pravonin, was about eight miles from Prague.
Received in the kindest possible way by the old gentleman and his
beautiful daughters, I enjoyed his delightful hospitality until late
into the autumn. A youth of nineteen, as I then was, with a
fast-growing beard (for which my sisters had already prepared the young
ladies by letter), the continual and close intimacy with such kind and
pretty girls could hardly fail to make a strong impression on my
imagination. Jenny, the elder of the two, was slim, with black hair,
blue eyes, and wonderfully noble features; the younger one, Auguste,
was a little smaller, and stouter, with a magnificent complexion, fair
hair, and brown eyes. The natural and sisterly manner with which both
girls treated me and conversed with me did not blind me to the fact
that I was expected to fall in love with one or the other of them. It
amused them to see how embarrassed I got in my efforts to choose
between them, and consequently they teased me tremendously.

Unfortunately, I did not act judiciously with regard to the daughters
of my host: in spite of their homely education, they belonged to a very
aristocratic house, and consequently hesitated between the hope of
marrying men of eminent position in their own sphere, and the necessity
of choosing husbands amongst the higher middle classes, who could
afford to keep them in comfort. The shockingly poor, almost mediaeval,
education of the Austrian so-called cavalier, made me rather despise
the latter; the girls, too, had suffered from the same lack of proper
training. I soon noticed with disgust how little they knew about things
artistic, and how much value they attached to superficial things.
However much I might try to interest them in those higher pursuits
which had become necessary to me, they were incapable of appreciating
them. I advocated a complete change from the bad library novels, which
represented their only reading, from the Italian operatic arias, sung
by Auguste, and, last but not least, from the horsy, insipid cavaliers,
who paid their court to both Jenny and her sister in the most coarse
and offensive manner. My zeal in this latter respect soon gave rise to
great unpleasantness. I became hard and insulting, harangued them about
the French Revolution, and begged them with fatherly admonitions 'for
the love of heaven' to be content with well-educated middle-class men,
and give up those impertinent suitors who could only harm their
reputation. The indignation provoked by my friendly advice I often had
to ward off with the harshest retorts. I never apologised, but tried by
dint of real or feigned jealousy to get our friendship back on the old
footing. In this way, undecided, half in love and half angry, one cold
November day I said good-bye to these pretty children. I soon met the
whole family again at Prague, where I made a long sojourn, without,
however, staying at the Count's residence.

My stay at Prague was to be of great musical importance to me. I knew
the director of the Conservatoire, Dionys Weber, who promised to bring
my symphony before the public; I also spent much of my time with an
actor called Moritz, to whom, as an old friend of our family, I had
been recommended, and there I made the acquaintance of the young
musician Kittl.

Moritz, who noticed that not a day passed but what I went to the
much-feared chief of the Conservatoire upon some pressing musical
business, once despatched me with an improvised parody on Schiller's
Burgschaft:--

     Zu Dionys dem Direktor schlich
     Wagner, die Partitur im Gewande;
     Ihn schlugen die Schuler im Bande:
     'Was wolltest du mit den Noten sprich?'
     Entgegnet ihm finster der Wutherich:
     'Die Stadt vom schlechten Geschmacke befreien!
     Das sollst du in den Rezensionen bereuen.'

     [Footnote: To Dionys, the Director,
     crept Wagner, the score in his pocket;
     The students arrested him forthwith:
     'What do'st thou with that music, say?'
     Thus asked him the angry tyrant:
     'To free the town from taste too vile!
     For this the critics will make thee suffer.' ]

Truly I had to deal with a kind of 'Dionysius the Tyrant.' A man who
did not acknowledge Beethoven's genius beyond his Second Symphony, a
man who looked upon the Eroica as the acme of bad taste on the master's
part; who praised Mozart alone, and next to him tolerated only
Lindpaintner: such a man was not easy to approach, and I had to learn
the art of making use of tyrants for one's own purposes. I
dissimulated; I pretended to be struck by the novelty of his ideas,
never contradicted him, and, to point out the similarity of our
standpoints, I referred him to the end fugue in my Overture and in my
Symphony (both in C major), which I had only succeeded in making what
they were through having studied Mozart. My reward soon followed:
Dionys set to work to study my orchestral creations with almost
youthful energy.



The students of the Conservatoire were compelled to practise with the
greatest exactitude my new symphony under his dry and terribly noisy
baton. In the presence of several of my friends, amongst whom was also
the dear old Count Pachta in his capacity of President of the
Conservatoire Committee, we actually held a first performance of the
greatest work that I had written up to that date.

During these musical successes I went on with my love-making in the
attractive house of Count Pachta, under the most curious circumstances.
A confectioner of the name of Hascha was my rival. He was a tall, lanky
young man who, like most Bohemians, had taken up music as a hobby; he
played the accompaniments to Auguste's songs, and naturally fell in
love with her. Like myself, he hated the frequent visits of the
cavaliers, which seemed to be quite the custom in this city; but while
my displeasure expressed itself in humour, his showed itself in gloomy
melancholy. This mood made him behave boorishly in public: for
instance, one evening, when the chandelier was to be lighted for the
reception of one of these gentlemen, he ran his head purposely against
this ornament and broke it. The festive illumination was thus rendered
impossible; the Countess was furious, and Hascha had to leave the house
never to return.

I well remember that the first time I was conscious of any feelings of
love, these manifested themselves as pangs of jealousy, which had,
however, nothing to do with real love: this happened one evening when I
called at the house. The Countess kept me by her side in an ante-room,
while the girls, beautifully dressed and gay, flirted in the
reception-room with those hateful young noblemen. All I had ever read
in Hoffmann's Tales of certain demoniacal intrigues, which until that
moment had been obscure to me, now became really tangible facts, and I
left Prague with an obviously unjust and exaggerated opinion of those
things and those people, through whom I had suddenly been dragged into
an unknown world of elementary passions.

On the other hand I had gained by my stay at Pravonin: I had written
poetry as well as musical compositions. My musical work was a setting
of Glockentone, a poem by the friend of my youth, Theodor Apel. I had
already written an aria for soprano which had been performed the winter
before at one of the theatre concerts. But my new work was decidedly
the first vocal piece I had written with real inspiration; generally
speaking, I suppose it owed its' characteristics to the influence of
Beethoven's Liederkreis: all the same, the impression that it has left
on my mind is that it was absolutely part of myself, and pervaded by a
delicate sentimentality which was brought into relief by the dreaminess
of the accompaniment. My poetical efforts lay in the direction of a
sketch of a tragi-operatic subject, which I finished in its entirety in
Prague under the title of Die Hochzeit ('The Wedding'). I wrote it
without anybody's knowledge, and this was no easy matter, seeing that I
could not write in my chilly little hotel-room, and had therefore to go
to the house of Moritz, where I generally spent my mornings. I remember
how I used quickly to hide my manuscript behind the sofa as soon as I
heard my host's footsteps.

An extraordinary episode was connected with the plot of this work.

Already years ago I had come across a tragic story, whilst perusing
Busching's book on chivalry, the like of which I have never since read.
A lady of noble birth had been assaulted one night by a man who
secretly cherished a passionate love for her, and in the struggle to
defend her honour superhuman strength was given her to fling him into
the courtyard below. The mystery of his death remained unexplained
until the day of his solemn obsequies, when the lady herself, who
attended them and was kneeling in solemn prayer, suddenly fell forward
and expired. The mysterious strength of this profound and passionate
story made an indelible impression upon my mind. Fascinated, moreover,
by the peculiar treatment of similar phenomena in Hoffmann's Tales, I
sketched a novel in which musical mysticism, which I still loved so
deeply, played an important part. The action was supposed to take place
on the estate of a rich patron of the fine arts: a young couple was
going to be married, and had invited the friend of the bride-groom, an
interesting but melancholy and mysterious young man, to their wedding.
Intimately connected with the whole affair was a strange old organist.
The mystic relations which gradually developed between the old
musician, the melancholy young man and the bride, were to grow out of
the unravelment of certain intricate events, in a somewhat similar
manner to that of the mediaeval story above related. Here was the same
idea: the young man mysteriously killed, the equally strange sudden
death of his friend's bride, and the old organist found dead on his
bench after the playing of an impressive requiem, the last chord of
which was inordinately prolonged as if it never would end.

I never finished this novel: but as I wanted to write the libretto for
an opera, I took up the theme again in its original shape, and built on
this (as far as the principal features went) the following dramatic
plot:--

Two great houses had lived in enmity, and had at last decided to end
the family feud. The aged head of one of these houses invited the son
of his former enemy to the wedding of his daughter with one of his
faithful partisans. The wedding feast is thus used as an opportunity
for reconciling the two families. Whilst the guests are full of the
suspicion and fear of treachery, their young leader falls violently in
love with the bride of his newly found ally. His tragic glance deeply
affects her; the festive escort accompanies her to the bridal chamber,
where she is to await her beloved; leaning against her tower-window she
sees the same passionate eyes fixed on her, and realises that she is
face to face with a tragedy.

When he penetrates into her chamber, and embraces her with frantic
passion, she pushes him backwards towards the balcony, and throws him
over the parapet into the abyss, from whence his mutilated remains are
dragged by his companions. They at once arm themselves against the
presumed treachery, and call for vengeance; tumult and confusion fill
the courtyard: the interrupted wedding feast threatens to end in a
night of slaughter. The venerable head of the house at last succeeds in
averting the catastrophe. Messengers are sent to bear the tidings of
the mysterious calamity to the relatives of the victim: the corpse
itself shall be the medium of reconciliation, for, in the presence of
the different generations of the suspected family, Providence itself
shall decide which of its members has been guilty of treason. During
the preparations for the obsequies the bride shows signs of approaching
madness; she flies from her bridegroom, refuses to be united to him,
and locks herself up in her tower-chamber. Only when, at night, the
gloomy though gorgeous ceremony commences, does she appear at the head
of her women to be present at the burial service, the gruesome
solemnity of which is interrupted by the news of the approach of
hostile forces and then by the armed attack of the kinsmen of the
murdered man. When the avengers of the presumed treachery penetrate
into the chapel and call upon the murderer to declare himself, the
horrified lord of the manor points towards his daughter who, turning
away from her bridegroom, falls lifeless by the coffin of her victim.
This nocturnal drama, through which ran reminiscences of Leubald und
Adelaide (the work of my far-off boyhood), I wrote in the darkest vein,
but in a more polished and more noble style, disdaining all
light-effects, and especially all operatic embellishments. Tender
passages occurred here and there all the same, and Weinlich, to whom I
had already shown the beginning of my work on my return to Leipzig,
praised me for the clearness and good vocal quality of the introduction
I had composed to the first act; this was an Adagio for a vocal
septette, in which I had tried to express the reconciliation of the
hostile families, together with the emotions of the wedded couple and
the sinister passion of the secret lover. My principal object was, all
the same, to win my sister Rosalie's approval. My poem, however, did
not find favour in her eyes: she missed all that which I had purposely
avoided, insisted on the ornamentation and development of the simple
situation, and desired more brightness generally. I made up my mind in
an instant: I took the manuscript, and without a suggestion of
ill-temper, destroyed it there and then. This action had nothing
whatever to do with wounded vanity. It was prompted merely by my desire
honestly to prove to my sister how little I thought of my own work and
how much I cared for her opinion. She was held in great and loving
esteem by my mother and by the rest of our family, for she was their
principal breadwinner: the important salary she earned as an actress
constituted nearly the whole income out of which my mother had to
defray the household expenses. For the sake of her profession she
enjoyed many advantages at home. Her part of the house had been
specially arranged so that she should have all the necessary comfort
and peace for her studies; on marketing days, when the others had to
put up with the simplest fare, she had to have the same dainty food as
usual. But more than any of these things did her charming gravity and
her refined way of speaking place her above the younger children. She
was thoughtful and gentle and never joined us in our rather loud
conversation. Of course, I had been the one member of the family who
had caused the greatest anxieties both to my mother and to my motherly
sister, and during my life as a student the strained relations between
us had made a terrible impression on me. When therefore they tried to
believe in me again, and once more showed some interest in my work, I
was full of gratitude and happiness. The thought of getting this sister
to look kindly upon my aspirations, and even to expect great things of
me, had become a special stimulus to my ambition. Under these
circumstances a tender and almost sentimental relationship grew up
between Rosalie and myself, which in its purity and sincerity could vie
with the noblest form of friendship between man and woman. This was
principally due to her exceptional individuality. She had not any real
talent, at least not for acting, which had often been considered stagey
and unnatural. Nevertheless she was much appreciated owing to her
charming appearance as well as to her pure and dignified womanliness,
and I remember many tokens of esteem which she received in those days.
All the same, none of these advances ever seemed to lead to the
prospect of a marriage, and year by year went by without bringing her
hopes of a suitable match--a fact which to me appeared quite
unaccountable. From time to time I thought I noticed that Rosalie
suffered from this state of affairs. I remember one evening when,
believing herself to be alone, I heard her sobbing and moaning; I stole
away unnoticed, but her grief made such an impression upon me that from
that moment I vowed to bring some joy into her life, principally by
making a name for myself. Not without reason had our stepfather Geyer
given my gentle sister the nickname of 'Geistchen' (little spirit), for
if her talent as an actress was not great, her imagination and her love
of art and of all high and noble things were perhaps, on that account
alone, all the greater. From her lips I had first heard expressions of
admiration and delight concerning those subjects which became dear to
me later on, and she moved amongst a circle of serious and interesting
people who loved the higher things of life without this attitude ever
degenerating into affectation.

On my return from my long journey I was introduced to Heinrich Laube,
whom my sister had added to her list of intimate friends. It was at the
time when the after-effects of the July revolution were beginning to
make themselves felt amongst the younger men of intellect in Germany,
and of these Laube was one of the most conspicuous. As a young man he
came from Silesia to Leipzig, his principal object being to try and
form connections in this publishing centre which might be of use to him
in Paris, whither he was going, and from which place Borne also made a
sensation amongst us by his letters. On this occasion Laube was present
at a representation of a play by Ludwig Robert, Die Macht der
Verhallnisse ('The Power of Circumstances'). This induced him to write
a criticism for the Leipzig Tageblatt, which made such a sensation
through its terse and lively style that he was at once offered, in
addition to other literary work, the post of editor of Die elegante
Welt. In our house he was looked upon as a genius; his curt and often
biting manner of speaking, which seemed to exclude all attempt at
poetic expression, made him appear both original and daring: his sense
of justice, his sincerity and fearless bluntness made one respect his
character, hardened as it had been in youth by great adversity. On me
he had a very inspiring effect, and I was very much astonished to find
that he thought so much of me as to write a flattering notice about my
talent in his paper after hearing the first performance of my symphony.

This performance took place in the beginning of the year 1833 at the
Leipzig Schneider-Herberge. It was, by the bye, in this dignified old
hall that the society 'Euterpe' held its concerts! The place was dirty,
narrow, and poorly lighted, and it was here that my work was introduced
to the Leipzig public for the first time, and by means of an orchestra
that interpreted it simply disgracefully. I can only think of that
evening as a gruesome nightmare; and my astonishment was therefore all
the greater at seeing the important notice which Laube wrote about the
performance. Full of hope, I therefore looked forward to a performance
of the same work at the Gewandhaus concert, which followed soon after,
and which came off brilliantly in every way. It was well received and
well spoken of in all the papers; of real malice there was not a
trace--on the contrary, several notices wore encouraging, and Laube,
who had quickly become celebrated, confided to me that he was going to
offer me a libretto for an opera, which he had first written for
Meyerbeer. This staggered me somewhat, for I was not in the least
prepared to pose as a poet, and my only idea was to write a real plot
for an opera. As to the precise manner, however, in which such a book
had to be written, I already had a very definite and instinctive
notion, and I was strengthened in the certainty of my own feelings in
the matter when Laube now explained the nature of his plot to me. He
told me that he wanted to arrange nothing less than Kosziusko into a
libretto for grand opera! Once again I had qualms, for I felt at once
that Laube had a mistaken idea about the character of a dramatic
subject. When I inquired into the real action of the play, Laube was
astonished that I should expect more than the story of the Polish hero,
whose life was crowded with incident; in any case, he thought there was
quite sufficient action in it to describe the unhappy fate of a whole
nation. Of course the usual heroine was not missing; she was a Polish
girl who had a love affair with a Russian; and in this way some
sentimental situations were also to be found in the plot. Without a
moment's delay I assured my sister Rosalie that I would not set this
story to music: she agreed with me, and begged me only to postpone my
answer to Laube. My journey to Wurzburg was of great help to me in this
respect, for it was easier to write my decision to Laube than to
announce it to him personally. He accepted the slight rebuff with good
grace, but he never forgave me, either then or afterwards, for writing
my own words!

When he heard what subject I had preferred to his brilliant political
poem, he made no effort to conceal his contempt for my choice. I had
borrowed the plot from a dramatic fairy tale by Gozzi, La Donna
Serpente, and called it Die Feen ('The Fairies'). The names of my
heroes I chose from different Ossian and similar poems: my prince was
called Arindal; he was loved by a fairy called Ada, who held him under
her spell and kept him in fairyland, away from his realm, until his
faithful friends at last found him and induced him to return, for his
country was going to rack and ruin, and even its capital had fallen
into the enemy's hands. The loving fairy herself sends the prince back
to his country; for the oracle has decreed that she shall lay upon her
lover the severest of tasks. Only by performing this task triumphantly
can he make it possible for her to leave the immortal world of fairies
in order to share the fate of her earthly lover, as his wife. In a
moment of deepest despair about the state of his country, the fairy
queen appears to him and purposely destroys his faith in her by deeds
of the most cruel and inexplicable nature. Driven mad by a thousand
fears, Arindal begins to imagine that all the time he has been dealing
with a wicked sorceress, and tries to escape the fatal spell by
pronouncing a curse upon Ada. Wild with sorrow, the unhappy fairy sinks
down, and reveals their mutual fate to the lover, now lost to her for
ever, and tells him that, as a punishment for having disobeyed the
decree of Fate, she is doomed to be turned into stone (in Gozzi's
version she becomes a serpent). Immediately afterwards it appears that
all the catastrophes which the fairy had prophesied were but
deceptions: victory over the enemy as well as the growing prosperity
and welfare of the kingdom now follow in quick succession: Ada is taken
away by the Fates, and Arindal, a raving madman, remains behind alone.
The terrible sufferings of his madness do not, however, satisfy the
Fates: to bring about his utter ruin they appear before the repentant
man and invite him to follow them to the nether world, on the pretext
of enabling him to free Ada from the spell. Through the treacherous
promises of the wicked fairies Arindal's madness grows into sublime
exaltation; and one of his household magicians, a faithful friend,
having in the meantime equipped him with magic weapons and charms, he
now follows the traitresses. The latter cannot get over their
astonishment when they see how Arindal overcomes one after the other of
the monsters of the infernal regions: only when they arrive at the
vault in which they show him the stone in human shape do they recover
their hope of vanquishing the valiant prince, for, unless he can break
the charm which binds Ada, he must share her fate and be doomed to
remain a stone for ever. Arindal, who until then has been using the
dagger and the shield given him by the friendly magician, now makes use
of an instrument--a lyre--which he has brought with him, and the
meaning of which he had not yet understood. To the sounds of this
instrument he now expresses his plaintive moans, his remorse, and his
overpowering longing for his enchanted queen. The stone is moved by the
magic of his love: the beloved one is released. Fairyland with all its
marvels opens its portals, and the mortal learns that, owing to his
former inconstancy, Ada has lost the right to become his wife on earth,
but that her beloved, through his great and magic power, has earned the
right to live for ever by her side in fairyland.

Although I had written Die Hochzeit in the darkest vein, without
operatic embellishments, I painted this subject with the utmost colour
and variety. In contrast to the lovers out of fairyland I depicted a
more ordinary couple, and I even introduced a third pair that belonged
to the coarser and more comical servant world. I purposely went to no
pains in the matter of the poetic diction and the verse. My idea was
not to encourage my former hopes of making a name as a poet; I was now
really a 'musician' and a 'composer,' and wished to write a decent
opera libretto simply because I was sure that nobody else could write
one for me; the reason being that such a book is something quite unique
and cannot be written either by a poet or by a mere man of letters.
With the intention of setting this libretto to music, I left Leipzig in
January, 1833, to stay in Wurzburg with my eldest brother Albert, who
at the time held an appointment at the theatre. It now seemed necessary
for me to begin to apply my musical knowledge to a practical purpose,
and to this end my brother had promised to help me in getting some kind
of post at the small Wurzburg theatre. I travelled by post to Bamberg
via Hof, and in Bamberg I stayed a few days in the company of a young
man called Schunke, who from a player on the horn had become an actor.
With the greatest interest I learned the story of Caspar Hauser, who at
that time was very well known, and who (if I am not mistaken) was
pointed out to me. In addition to this, I admired the peculiar costumes
of the market-women, thought with much interest of Hoffmann's stay at
this place, and of how it had led to the writing of his Tales, and
resumed my journey (to Wurzburg) with a man called Hauderer, and
suffered miserably from the cold all the way.

My brother Albert, who was almost a new acquaintance to me, did his
best to make me feel at home in his not over luxurious establishment.
He was pleased to find me less mad than he had expected me to be from a
certain letter with which I had succeeded in frightening him some time
previously, and he really managed to procure me an exceptional
occupation as choir-master at the theatre, for which I received the
monthly fee of ten guilders. The remainder of the winter was devoted to
the serious study of the duties required of a musical director: in a
very short time I had to tackle two new grand operas, namely,
Marschner's Vampir and Meyerbeer's Robert der Teufel, in both of which
the chorus played a considerable part. At first I felt absolutely like
a beginner, and had to start on Camilla von Paer, the score of which
was utterly unknown to me. I still remember that I felt I was doing a
thing which I had no right to undertake: I felt quite an amateur at the
work. Soon, however, Marschner's score interested me sufficiently to
make the labour seem worth my while. The score of Robert was a great
disappointment to me: from the newspapers I had expected plenty of
originality and novelty; I could find no trace of either in this
transparent work, and an opera with a finale like that of the second
act could not be named in the same breath with any of my favourite
works. The only thing that impressed me was the unearthly keyed trumpet
which, in the last act, represented the voice of the mother's ghost.

It was remarkable to observe the aesthetic demoralisation into which I
now fell through having daily to deal with such a work. I gradually
lost my dislike for this shallow and exceedingly uninteresting
composition (a dislike I shared with many German musicians) in the
growing interest which I was compelled to take in its interpretation;
and thus it happened that the insipidness and affectation of the
commonplace melodies ceased to concern me save from the standpoint of
their capability of eliciting applause or the reverse. As, moreover, my
future career as musical conductor was at stake, my brother, who was
very anxious on my behalf, looked favourably on this lack of classical
obstinacy on my part, and thus the ground was gradually prepared for
that decline in my classical taste which was destined to last some
considerable time.

All the same, this did not occur before I had given some proof of my
great inexperience in the lighter style of writing. My brother wanted
to introduce a 'Cavatine' from the Piraten, by Bellini, into the same
composer's opera, Straniera; the score was not to be had, and he
entrusted me with the instrumentation of this work. From the piano
score alone I could not possibly detect the heavy and noisy
instrumentation of the ritornelles and intermezzi which, musically,
were so very thin; the composer of a great C major Symphony with an end
fugue could only help himself out of the difficulty by the use of a few
flutes and clarinets playing in thirds. At the rehearsal the 'Cavatine'
sounded so frightfully thin and shallow that my brother made me serious
reproaches about the waste of copying expenses. But I had my revenge:
to the tenor aria of 'Aubry' in Marschner's Vampir I added an Allegro,
for which I also wrote the words.

My work succeeded splendidly, and earned the praise of both the public
and my brother. In a similar German style I wrote the music to my Feen
in the course of the year 1833. My brother and his wife left Wurzburg
after Easter in order to avail themselves of several invitations at
friends' houses; I stayed behind with the children--three little girls
of tender years--which placed me in the extraordinary position of a
responsible guardian, a post for which I was not in the least suited at
that time of my life. My time was divided between my work and pleasure,
and in consequence I neglected my charges. Amongst the friends I made
there, Alexander Muller had much influence over me; he was a good
musician and pianist, and I used to listen for hours to his
improvisations on given themes--an accomplishment in which he so
greatly excelled, that I could not fail to be impressed. With him and
some other friends, amongst whom was also Valentin Hamm, I often made
excursions in the neighbourhood, on which occasions the Bavarian beer
and the Frankish wine were wont to fly. Valentin Hamm was a grotesque
individual, who entertained us often with his excellent violin playing;
he had an enormous stretch on the piano, for he could reach an interval
of a twelfth. Der Letzte Hieb, a public beer-garden situated on a
pleasant height, was a daily witness of my fits of wild and often
enthusiastic boisterousness; never once during those mild summer nights
did I return to my charges without having waxed enthusiastic over art
and the world in general. I also remember a wicked trick which has
always remained a blot in my memory. Amongst my friends was a fair and
very enthusiastic Swabian called Frohlich, with whom I had exchanged my
score of the C minor Symphony for his, which he had copied out with his
own hand. This very gentle, but rather irritable young man had taken
such a violent dislike to one Andre, whose malicious face I also
detested, that he declared that this person spoilt his evenings for
him, merely by being in the same room with him. The unfortunate object
of his hatred tried all the same to meet us whenever he could: friction
ensued, but Andre would insist upon aggravating us. One evening
Frohlich lost patience. After some insulting retort, he tried to chase
him from our table by striking him with a stick: the result was a fight
in which Frolich's friends felt they must take part, though they all
seemed to do so with some reluctance. A mad longing to join the fray
also took possession of me. With the others I helped in knocking our
poor victim about, and I even heard the sound of one terrible blow
which I struck Andre on the head, whilst he fixed his eyes on me in
bewilderment.

I relate this incident to atone for a sin which has weighed very
heavily on my conscience ever since. I can compare this sad experience
only with one out of my earliest boyhood days, namely the drowning of
some puppies in a shallow pool behind my uncle's house in Eisleben.
Even to this day I cannot think of the slow death of these poor little
creatures without horror. I have never quite forgotten some of my
thoughtless and reckless actions; for the sorrows of others, and in
particular those of animals, have always affected me deeply to the
extent of filling me with a disgust of life.

My first love affair stands out in strong contrast against these
recollections. It was only natural that one of the young chorus ladies
with whom I had to practise daily should know how to attract my
attentions. Therese Ringelmann, the daughter of a grave-digger, thanks
to her beautiful soprano voice, led me to believe that I could make a
great singer of her. After I told her of this ambitious scheme, she
paid much attention to her appearance, and dressed elegantly for the
rehearsals, and a row of white pearls which she wound through her hair
specially fascinated me. During the summer holidays I gave Therese
regular lessons in singing, according to a method which has always
remained a mystery to me ever since. I also called on her very often at
her house, where, fortunately, I never met her unpleasant father, but
always her mother and her sisters. We also met in the public gardens,
but false vanity always kept me from telling my friends of our
relations. I do not know whether the fault lay with her lowly birth,
her lack of education, or my own doubt about the sincerity of my
affections; but in any case when, in addition to the fact that I had my
reasons for being jealous, they also tried to urge me to a formal
engagement, this love affair came quietly to an end.

An infinitely more genuine affair was my love for Friederike Galvani,
the daughter of a mechanic, who was undoubtedly of Italian origin. She
was very musical, and had a lovely voice; my brother had patronised her
and helped her to a debut at his theatre, which test she stood
brilliantly. She was rather small, but had large dark eyes and a sweet
disposition. The first oboist of the orchestra, a good fellow as well
as a clever musician, was thoroughly devoted to her. He was looked upon
as her fiance, but, owing to some incident in his past, he was not
allowed to visit at her parents' house, and the marriage was not to
take place for a long time yet. When the autumn of my year in Wurzburg
drew near, I received an invitation from friends to be present at a
country wedding at a little distance from Wurzburg; the oboist and his
fiancee had also been invited. It was a jolly, though primitive affair;
we drank and danced, and I even tried my hand at violin playing, but I
must have forgotten it badly, for even with the second violin I could
not manage to satisfy the other musicians. But my success with
Friederike was all the greater; we danced like mad through the many
couples of peasants until at one moment we got so excited that, losing
all self-control, we embraced each other while her real lover was
playing the dance music. For the first time in my life I began to feel
a flattering sensation of self-respect when Friederike's fiance, on
seeing how we two flirted, accepted the situation with good grace, if
not without some sadness. I had never had the chance of thinking that I
could make a favourable impression on any young girl. I never imagined
myself good-looking, neither had I ever thought it possible that I
could attract the attention of pretty girls.

On the other hand, I had gradually acquired a certain self-reliance in
mixing with men of my own age. Owing to the exceptional vivacity and
innate susceptibility of my nature--qualities which were brought home
to me in my relations with members of my circle--I gradually became
conscious of a certain power of transporting or bewildering my more
indolent companions.

From my poor oboist's silent self-control on becoming aware of the
ardent advances of his betrothed towards me, I acquired, as I have
said, the first suggestion of the fact that I might count for
something, not only among men, but also among women. The Frankish wine
helped to bring about a state of ever greater confusion, and under the
cover of its influence I at length declared myself, quite openly, to be
Friederike's lover. Ever so far into the night, in fact, when day was
already breaking, we set off home together to Wurzburg in an open
wagon. This was the crowning triumph of my delightful adventure; for
while all the others, including, in the end, the jealous oboist, slept
off their debauch in the face of the dawning day, I, with my cheek
against Friederike's, and listening to the warbling of the larks,
watched the coming of the rising sun.

On the following day we had scarcely any idea of what had happened. A
certain sense of shame, which was not unbecoming, held us aloof from
one another: and yet I easily won access to Friederike's family, and
from that time forward was daily a welcome guest, when for some hours I
would linger in unconcealed intimate intercourse with the same domestic
circle from which the unhappy betrothed remained excluded. No word was
ever mentioned of this last connection; never once did it even dawn
upon Friederike to effect any change in the state of affairs, and it
seemed to strike no one that I ought, so to speak, to take the fiance's
place. The confiding manner in which I was received by all, and
especially by the girl herself, was exactly similar to one of Nature's
great processes, as, for instance, when spring steps in and winter
passes silently away. Not one of them ever considered the material
consequences of the change, and this is precisely the most charming and
flattering feature of this first youthful love affair, which was never
to degenerate into an attitude which might give rise to suspicion or
concern. These relations ended only with my departure from Wurzburg,
which was marked by the most touching and most tearful leavetaking.

For some time, although I kept up no correspondence, the memory of this
episode remained firmly imprinted on my mind. Two years later, while
making a rapid journey through the old district, I once more visited
Friederike: the poor child approached me utterly shamefaced. Her oboist
was still her lover, and though his position rendered marriage
impossible, the unfortunate young woman had become a mother. I have
heard nothing more of her since.

Amid all this traffic of love I worked hard at my opera, and, thanks to
the loving sympathy of my sister Rosalie, I was able to find the
necessary good spirits for the task. When at the commencement of the
summer my earnings as a conductor came to an end, this same sister
again made it her business loyally to provide me with ample
pocket-money, so that I might devote myself solely to the completion of
my work, without troubling about anything or being a burden to any one.
At a much later date I came across a letter of mine written to Rosalie
in those days, which were full of a tender, almost adoring love for
that noble creature.

When the winter was at hand my brother returned, and the theatre
reopened. Truth to tell, I did not again become connected with it, but
acquired a position, which was even more prominent, in the concerts of
the Musical Society in which I produced my great overture in C major,
my symphony, and eventually portions of my new opera as well. An
amateur with a splendid voice, Mademoiselle Friedel, sang the great
aria from Ada. In addition to this, a trio was given which, in one of
its passages, had such a moving effect upon my brother, who took part
in it, that, to his astonishment, as he himself admitted, he completely
lost his cue on account of it.

By Christmas my work had come to an end, my score was written out
complete with the most laudable neatness, and now I was to return to
Leipzig for the New Year, in order to get my opera accepted by the
theatre there. On the way home I visited Nuremberg, where I stayed a
week with my sister Clara and with her husband, who were engaged at the
theatre there. I well remember how happy and comfortable I felt during
this pleasant visit to the very same relatives who a few years
previously, when I had stayed with them at Magdeburg, had been upset by
my resolve to adopt music as a calling. Now I had become a real
musician, had written a grand opera, and had already brought out many
things without coming to grief. The sense of all this was a great joy
to me, while it was no less flattering to my relatives, who could not
fail to see that the supposed misfortune had in the end proved to my
advantage. I was in a jolly mood and quite unrestrained--a state of
mind which was very largely the result not only of my brother-in-law's
cheerful and sociable household, but also of the pleasant tavern life
of the place. In a much more confident and elated spirit I returned to
Leipzig, where I was able to lay the three huge volumes of my score
before my highly delighted mother and sister.

Just then my family was the richer for the return of my brother Julius
from his long wanderings. He had worked a good while in Paris as a
goldsmith, and had now set up for himself in that capacity in Leipzig.
He too, like the rest, was eager to hear something out of my opera,
which, to be sure, was not so easy, as I entirely lacked the gift of
playing anything of the sort in an easy and intelligible way. Only when
I was able to work myself into a state of absolute ecstasy was it
possible for me to render something with any effect. Rosalie knew that
I meant it to draw a sort of declaration of love from her; but I have
never felt certain whether the embrace and the sisterly kiss which were
awarded me after I had sung my great aria from Ada, were bestowed on me
from real emotion or rather out of affectionate regard. On the other
hand, the zeal with which she urged my opera on the director of the
theatre, Ringelhardt, the conductor and the manager was unmistakable,
and she did it so effectually that she obtained their consent for its
performance, and that very speedily. I was particularly interested to
learn that the management immediately showed themselves eager to try to
settle the matter of the costumes for my drama: but I was astonished to
hear that the choice was in favour of oriental attire, whereas I had
intended, by the names I had selected, to suggest a northern character
for the setting. But it was precisely these names which they found
unsuitable, as fairy personages are not seen in the North, but only in
the East; while apart from this, the original by Gozzi, which formed
the basis of the work, undoubtedly bore an oriental character. It was
with the utmost indignation that I opposed the insufferable turban and
caftan style of dress, and vehemently advocated the knightly garb worn
in the early years of the Middle Ages. I then had to come to a thorough
understanding with the conductor, Stegmayer, on the subject of my
score. He was a remarkable, short, fat man, with fair curly hair, and
an exceptionally jovial disposition; he was, however, very hard to
bring to a point. When over our wine we always arrived at an
understanding very quickly, but as soon as we sat at the piano, I had
to listen to the most extraordinary objections concerning the trend of
which I was for some time extremely puzzled. As the matter was much
delayed by this vacillation, I put myself into closer communication
with the stage manager of the opera, Hauser, who at that time was much
appreciated as a singer and patron of art by the people of Leipzig.

With this man, too, I had the strangest experiences: he who had
captivated the audiences of Leipzig, more especially with his
impersonation of the barber and the Englishman in Fra Diavolo, suddenly
revealed himself in his own house as the most fanatical adherent of the
most old-fashioned music. I listened with astonishment to the scarcely
veiled contempt with which he treated even Mozart, and the only thing
he seemed to regret was that we had no operas by Sebastian Bach. After
he had explained to me that dramatic music had not actually been
written yet, and that properly speaking Gluck alone had shown any
ability for it, he proceeded to what seemed an exhaustive examination
of my own opera, concerning which all I had wished to hear from him was
whether it was fit to be performed. Instead of this, however, his
object seemed to be to point out the failure of my purpose in every
number. I sweated blood under the unparalleled torture of going through
my work with this man; and I told my mother and sister of my grave
depression. All these delays had already succeeded in making it
impossible to perform my opera at the date originally fixed, and now it
was postponed until August of the current year (1834).

An incident which I shall never forget inspired me with fresh courage.
Old Bierey, an experienced and excellent musician, and in his day a
successful composer, who, thanks more particularly to his long practice
as a conductor at the Breslau theatre, had acquired a perfectly
practical knowledge of such things, was then living at Leipzig, and was
a good friend of my people. My mother and sister begged him to give his
opinion about the fitness of my opera for the stage, and I duly
submitted the score to him. I cannot say how deeply affected and
impressed I was to see this old gentleman appear one day among my
relatives, and to hear him declare with genuine enthusiasm that he
simply could not understand how so young a man could have composed such
a score. His remarks concerning the greatness which he had recognised
in my talent were really irresistible, and positively amazed me. When
asked whether he considered the work presentable and calculated to
produce an effect, he declared his only regret was that he was no
longer at the head of a theatre, because, had he been, he would have
thought himself extremely lucky to secure such a man as myself
permanently for his enterprise. At this announcement my family was
overcome with joy, and their feelings were all the more justified
seeing that, as they all knew, Bierey was by no means an amiable
romancer, but a practical musician well seasoned by a life full of
experience.

The delay was now borne with better spirits, and for a long time I was
able to wait hopefully for what the future might bring. Among other
things, I now began to enjoy the company of a new friend in the person
of Laube, who at that time, although I had not set his Kosziusko to
music, was at the zenith of his fame. The first portion of his novel,
Young Europe, the form of which was epistolary, had appeared, and had a
most stimulating effect on me, more particularly in conjunction with
all the youthful hopefulness which at that time pulsated in my veins.
Though his teaching was essentially only a repetition of that in
Heinse's Ardinghello, the forces that then surged in young breasts were
given full and eloquent expression. The guiding spirit of this tendency
was followed in literary criticism, which was aimed mainly at the
supposed or actual incapacity of the semi-classical occupants of our
various literary thrones. Without the slightest mercy the pedants,
[Footnote: Zopfe in the German text.--TRANSLATOR.] among whom Tieck for
one was numbered, were treated as sheer encumbrances and hindrances to
the rise of a new literature. That which led to a remarkable revulsion
of my feelings with regard to those German composers who hitherto had
been admired and respected, was partly the influence of these critical
skirmishes, and the luring sprightliness of their tone; but mainly the
impression made by a fresh visit of Schroder-Devrient to Leipzig, when
her rendering of Borneo in Bellini's Romeo and Juliet carried every one
by storm. The effect of it was not to be compared with anything that
had been witnessed theretofore. To see the daring, romantic figure of
the youthful lover against a background of such obviously shallow and
empty music prompted one, at all events, to meditate doubtfully upon
the cause of the great lack of effect in solid German music as it had
been applied hitherto to the drama. Without for the moment plunging too
deeply into this meditation, I allowed myself to be borne along with
the current of my youthful feelings, then roused to ardour, and turned
involuntarily to the task of working off all that brooding seriousness
which in my earlier years had driven me to such pathetic mysticism.

What Pohlenz had not done by his conducting of the Ninth Symphony, what
the Vienna Conservatoire, Dionys Weber, and many other clumsy
performances (which had led me to regard classical music as absolutely
colourless) had not fully accomplished, was achieved by the
inconceivable charm of the most unclassical Italian music, thanks to
the wonderful, thrilling, and entrancing impersonation of Romeo by
Schroder-Devrient. What effect such powerful, and as regards their
causes, incomprehensible, effects had upon my opinion was shown in the
frivolous way in which I was able to contrive a short criticism of
Weber's Euryanthe for the Elegante Zeitung. This opera had been
performed by the Leipzig company shortly before the appearance of
Schroder-Devrient: cold and colourless performers, among whom the
singer in the title-role, appearing in the wilderness with the full
sleeves which were then the pink of fashion, is still a disagreeable
memory. Very laboriously, and without verve, but simply with the object
of satisfying the demands of classical rules, this company did its
utmost to dispel even the enthusiastic impressions of Weber's music
which I had formed in my youth. I did not know what answer to make to a
brother critic of Laube's, when he pointed out to me the laboured
character of this operatic performance, as soon as he was able to
contrast it with the entrancing effect of that Romeo evening. Here I
found myself confronted with a problem, the solving of which I was just
at that time disposed to take as easily as possible, and displayed my
courage by discarding all prejudice, and that daringly, in the short
criticism just mentioned in which I simply scoffed at Euryanthe. Just
as I had had my season of wild oat sowing as a student, so now I boldly
rushed into the same courses in the development of my artistic taste.

It was May, and beautiful spring weather, and a pleasure trip that I
now undertook with a friend into the promised land of my youthful
romance, Bohemia, was destined to bring the unrestrained
'Young-European' mood in me to full maturity. This friend was Theodor
Apel. I had known him a long while, and had always felt particularly
flattered by the fact that I had won his hearty affection; for, as the
son of the gifted master of metre and imitator of Greek forms of
poetry, August Apel, I felt that admiring deference for him which I had
never yet been able to bestow upon the descendant of a famous man.
Being well-to-do and of a good family, his friendship gave me such
opportunities of coming into touch with the easy circumstances of the
upper classes as were not of frequent occurrence in my station of life.
While my mother, for instance, regarded my association with this highly
respectable family with great satisfaction, I for my part was extremely
gratified at the thought of the cordiality with which I was received in
such circles.

Apel's earnest wish was to become a poet, and I took it for granted
that he had all that was needed for such a calling; above all, what
seemed to me so important, the complete freedom that his considerable
fortune assured him by liberating him from all need of earning his
living or of adopting a profession for a livelihood. Strange to say,
his mother, who on the death of his distinguished father had married a
Leipzig lawyer, was very anxious about the vocation he should choose,
and wished her son to make a fine career in the law, as she was not at
all disposed to favour his poetical gifts. And it was to her attempts
to convert me to her view, in order that by my influence I might avert
the calamity of a second poet in the family, in the person of the son,
that I owed the specially friendly relations that obtained between
herself and me. All her suggestions succeeded in doing, however, was to
stimulate me, even more than my own favourable opinion of his talent
could, to confirm my friend in his desire to be a poet, and thus to
support him in his rebellious attitude towards his family.

He was not displeased at this. As he was also studying music and
composed quite nicely, I succeeded in being on terms of the greatest
intimacy with him. The fact that he had spent the very year in which I
had sunk into the lowest depths of undergraduate madness, studying at
Heidelberg and not at Leipzig, had kept him unsullied by any share in
my strange excesses, and when we now met again at Leipzig, in the
spring of 1834, the only thing that we still had in common was the
aesthetic aspiration of our lives, which we now strove by way of
experiment to divert into the direction of the enjoyment of life.
Gladly would we have flung ourselves into lively adventures if only the
conditions of our environment and of the whole middle-class world in
which we lived had in any way admitted of such things. Despite all the
promptings of our instincts, however, we got no further than planning
this excursion to Bohemia. At all events, it was something that we made
the journey not by the post, but in our own carriage, and our genuine
pleasure continued to lie in the fact that at Teplitz, for instance, we
daily took long drives in a fine carriage. When in the evening we had
supped off trout at the Wilhelmsburg, drunk good Czernosek wine with
Bilin water, and duly excited ourselves over Hoffmann, Beethoven,
Shakespeare, Heinse's Ardinghello, and other matters, and then, with
our limbs comfortably outstretched in our elegant carriage, drove back
in the summer twilight to the 'King of Prussia,' where we occupied the
large balcony-room on the first floor, we felt that we had spent the
day like young gods, and for sheer exuberance could think of nothing
better to do than to indulge in the most frightful quarrels which,
especially when the windows were open, would collect numbers of alarmed
listeners in the square before the inn.

One fine morning I stole away from my friend in order to take my
breakfast alone at the 'Schlackenburg,' and also to seize an
opportunity of jotting down the plan of a new operatic composition in
my note-book. With this end in view, I had mastered the subject of
Shakespeare's Measure for Measure, which, in accordance with my present
mood, I soon transformed pretty freely into a libretto entitled
Liebesverbot. Young Europe and Ardinghello, and the strange frame of
mind into which I had fallen with regard to classical operatic music,
furnished me with the keynote of my conception, which was directed more
particularly against puritanical hypocrisy, and which thus tended
boldly to exalt 'unrestrained sensuality.' I took care to understand
the grave Shakespearean theme only in this sense. I could see only the
gloomy strait-laced viceroy, his heart aflame with the most passionate
love for the beautiful novice, who, while she beseeches him to pardon
her brother condemned to death for illicit love, at the same time
kindles the most dangerous fire in the stubborn Puritan's breast by
infecting him with the lovely warmth of her human emotion.

The fact that these powerful features are so richly developed in
Shakespeare's creation only in order that, in the end, they may be
weighed all the more gravely in the scales of justice, was no concern
of mine: all I cared about was to expose the sinfulness of hypocrisy
and the unnaturalness of such cruel moral censure. Thus I completely
dropped Measure for Measure, and made the hypocrite be brought to
justice only by the avenging power of love. I transferred the theme
from the fabulous city of Vienna to the capital of sunny Sicily, in
which a German viceroy, indignant at the inconceivably loose morals of
the people, attempts to introduce a puritanical reform, and comes
miserably to grief over it. Die Stumme von Portici probably contributed
to some extent to this theme, as did also certain memories of Die
Sizilianische Vesper. When I remember that at last even the gentle
Sicilian Bellini constituted a factor in this composition, I cannot, to
be sure, help smiling at the strange medley in which the most
extraordinary misunderstandings here took shape.

This remained for the present a mere draft. Studies from life destined
for my work were first to be carried out on this delightful excursion
to Bohemia. I led my friend in triumph to Prague, in the hope of
securing the same impressions for him which had stirred me so
profoundly when I was there. We met my fair friends in the city itself;
for, owing to the death of old Count Pachta, material changes had taken
place in the family, and the surviving daughters no longer went to
Pravonin. My behaviour was full of arrogance, and by means of it I
doubtless wished to vent a certain capricious lust of revenge for the
feelings of bitterness with which I had taken leave of this circle some
years previously. My friend was well received. The changed family
circumstances forced the charming girls ever more and more imperatively
to come to some decision as to their future, and a wealthy bourgeois,
though not exactly in trade himself, but in possession of ample means,
seemed to the anxious mother, at all events, a good adviser. Without
either showing or feeling any malice in the matter, I expressed my
pleasure at the sight of the strange confusion caused by Theodor's
introduction into the family by the merriest and wildest jests: for my
only intercourse with the ladies consisted purely of jokes and friendly
chaff. They could not understand how it was that I had altered so
strangely. There was no longer any of that love of wrangling, that rage
for instructing, and that zeal in converting in me which formerly they
had found so irritating. But at the same time not a sensible word could
I be made to utter, and they who were now wanting to talk over many
things seriously could get nothing out of me save the wildest
tomfoolery. As on this occasion, in my character of an uncaged bird, I
boldly allowed myself many a liberty against which they felt themselves
powerless, my exuberant spirits were excited all the more when my
friend, who was led away by my example, tried to imitate me--a thing
they took in very bad part from him.

Only once was there any attempt at seriousness between us: I was
sitting at the piano, and was listening to my companion, who was
telling the ladies that in a conversation at the hotel I had found
occasion to express myself most warmly to some one who appeared to be
surprised on hearing of the domestic and industrious qualities of my
lady friends. I was deeply moved when, as the outcome of my companion's
remarks, I gathered what unpleasant experiences the poor things had
already been through: for what seemed to me a very natural action on my
part, appeared to fill them with unexpected pleasure. Jenny, for
instance, came up to me and hugged me with great warmth. By general
consent I was now granted the right of behaving with almost studied
rudeness, and I replied even to Jenny's warm outburst only with my
usual banter.

In our hotel, the 'Black Horse,' which was so famous in those days, I
found the playground in which I was able to carry the mischievous
spirit not exhausted at the Pachta's house to the point of
recklessness. Out of the most accidental material in table and
travelling guests we succeeded in gathering a company around us which
allowed us, until far into the night, to lead it into the most
inconceivable follies. To all this I was incited more particularly by
the personality of a very timid and undersized business man from
Frankfort on the Oder, who longed to seem of a daring disposition; and
his presence stimulated me, if only owing to the remarkable chance it
gave me of coming into contact with some one who was at home in
Frankfort 'on the Oder.' Any one who knows how things then stood in
Austria can form some idea of my recklessness when I say that I once
went so far as to cause our symposium in the public room to bellow the
Marseillaise out loud into the night. Therefore, when after this heroic
exploit was over, and while I was undressing, I clambered on the outer
ledges of the windows from one room to the other on the second floor, I
naturally horrified those who did not know of the love of acrobatic
feats which I had cultivated in my earliest boyhood.

Even if I had exposed myself without fear to such dangers, I was soon
sobered down next morning by a summons from the police. When, in
addition to this, I recalled the singing of the Marseillaise, I was
filled with the gravest fears. After having been detained at the
station a long time, owing to a strange misunderstanding, the upshot of
it was that the inspector who was told off to examine me found that
there was not sufficient time left for a serious hearing, and, to my
great relief, I was allowed to go after replying to a few harmless
questions concerning the intended length of my stay. Nevertheless, we
thought it advisable not to yield to the temptation of playing any more
pranks beneath the spread wings of the double eagle.

By means of a circuitous route into which we were led by our insatiable
longing for adventures--adventures which, as a matter of fact, occurred
only in our imagination, and which to all intents and purposes were but
modest diversions on the road--we at length got back to Leipzig. And
with this return home the really cheerful period of my life as a youth
definitely closed. If, up to that time, I had not been free from
serious errors and moments of passion, it was only now that care cast
its first shadow across my path.

My family had anxiously awaited my return in order to inform me that
the post of conductor had been offered to me by the Magdeburg Theatre
Company. This company during the current summer month was performing at
a watering place called Lauchstadt. The manager could not get on with
an incompetent conductor that had been sent to him, and in his
extremity had applied to Leipzig in the hope of getting a substitute
forthwith. Stegmayer, the conductor, who had no inclination to practise
my score Feen during the hot summer weather, as he had promised to do,
promptly recommended me for the post, and in that way really managed to
shake off a very troublesome tormentor. For although, on the one hand,
I really desired to be able to abandon myself freely and without
restraint to the torrent of adventures that constitute the artist's
life, yet a longing for independence, which could be won only by my
earning my own living, had been greatly strengthened in me by the state
of my affairs. Albeit, I had the feeling that a solid basis for the
gratification of this desire was not to be laid in Lauchstadt; nor did
I find it easy to assist the plot concocted against the production of
my Feen. I therefore determined to make a preliminary visit to the
place just to see how things stood.

This little watering-place had, in the days of Goethe and Schiller,
acquired a very wide reputation, its wooden theatre had been built
according to the design of the former, and the first performance of the
Braut von Messina had been given there. But although I repeated all
this to myself, the place made me feel rather doubtful. I asked for the
house of the director of the theatre. He proved to be out, but a small
dirty boy, his son, was told to take me to the theatre to find 'Papa.'
Papa, however, met us on the way. He was an elderly man; he wore a
dressing-gown, and on his head a cap. His delight at greeting me was
interrupted by complaints about a serious indisposition, for which his
son was to fetch him a cordial from a shop close by. Before despatching
the boy on this errand he pressed a real silver penny into his hand
with a certain ostentation which was obviously for my benefit. This
person was Heinrich Bethmann, surviving husband of the famous actress
of that name, who, having lived in the heyday of the German stage, had
won the favour of the King of Prussia; and won it so lastingly, that
long after her death it had continued to be extended to her spouse. He
always drew a nice pension from the Prussian court, and permanently
enjoyed its support without ever being able to forfeit its protection
by his irregular and dissipated ways.

At the time of which I am speaking he had sunk to his lowest, owing to
continued theatre management. His speech and manners revealed the
sugary refinement of a bygone day, while all that he did and everything
about him testified to the most shameful neglect. He took me back to
his house, where he presented me to his second wife, who, crippled in
one foot, lay on an extraordinary couch while an elderly bass,
concerning whose excessive devotion Bethmann had already complained to
me quite openly, smoked his pipe beside her. From there the director
took me to his stage manager, who lived in the same house.

With the latter, who was just engaged in a consultation about the
repertory with the theatre attendant, a toothless old skeleton, he left
me to settle the necessary arrangements. As soon as Bethmann had gone,
Schmale, the stage manager, shrugged his shoulders and smiled, assuring
me that that was just the way of the director, to put everything on his
back and trouble himself about nothing. There he had been sitting for
over an hour, discussing with Kroge what should be put on next Sunday:
it was all very well his starting Don Juan, but how could he get a
rehearsal carried out, when the Merseburg town bandsmen, who formed the
orchestra, would not come over on Saturday to rehearse?

All the time Schmale kept reaching out through the open window to a
cherry tree from which he picked and persistently ate the fruit,
ejecting the stones with a disagreeable noise. Now it was this last
circumstance in particular which decided me; for, strange to say, I
have an innate aversion from fruit. I informed the stage manager that
he need not trouble at all about Don Juan for Sunday, since for my
part, if they had reckoned on my making my first appearance at this
performance, I must anyhow disappoint the director, as I had no choice
but to return at once to Leipzig, where I had to put my affairs in
order. This polite manner of tendering my absolute refusal to accept
the appointment--a conclusion I had quickly arrived at in my own
mind--forced me to practise some dissimulation, and made it necessary
for me to appear as if I really had some other purpose in coming to
Lauchstadt. This pretence in itself was quite unnecessary, seeing that
I was quite determined never to return there again.

People offered to help me in finding a lodging, and a young actor whom
I had chanced to know at Wurzburg undertook to be my guide in the
matter. While he was taking me to the best lodging he knew, he told me
that presently he would do me the kindness of making me the housemate
of the prettiest and nicest girl to be found in the place at the time.
She was the junior lead of the company, Mademoiselle Minna Planer, of
whom doubtless I had already heard.

As luck would have it, the promised damsel met us at the door of the
house in question. Her appearance and bearing formed the most striking
contrast possible to all the unpleasant impressions of the theatre
which it had been my lot to receive on this fateful morning. Looking
very charming and fresh, the young actress's general manner and
movements were full of a certain majesty and grave assurance which lent
an agreeable and captivating air of dignity to her otherwise pleasant
expression. Her scrupulously clean and tidy dress completed the
startling effect of the unexpected encounter. After I had been
introduced to her in the hall as the new conductor, and after she had
done regarding with astonishment the stranger who seemed so young for
such a title, she recommended me kindly to the landlady of the house,
and begged that I might be well looked after; whereupon she walked
proudly and serenely across the street to her rehearsal.

I engaged a room on the spot, agreed to Don Juan for Sunday, regretted
greatly that I had not brought my luggage with me from Leipzig, and
hastened to return thither as quickly as possible in order to get back
to Lauchstadt all the sooner. The die was cast. The serious side of
life at once confronted me in the form of significant experiences. At
Leipzig I had to take a furtive leave of Laube. At the instance of
Prussia he had been warned off Saxon soil, and he half guessed at the
meaning which was to be attached to this move. The time of undisguised
reaction against the Liberal movement of the early 'thirties had set
in: the fact that Laube was concerned in no sort of political work, but
had devoted himself merely to literary activity, always aiming simply
at aesthetic objects, made the action of the police quite
incomprehensible to us for the time being. The disgusting ambiguity
with which the Leipzig authorities answered all his questions as to the
cause of his expulsion soon gave him the strongest suspicions as to
what their intentions towards him actually were.

Leipzig, as the scene of his literary labours, being inestimably
precious, it mattered greatly to him to keep within reach of it. My
friend Apel owned a fine estate on Prussian soil, within but a few
hours' distance of Leipzig, and we conceived the wish of seeing Laube
hospitably harboured there. My friend, who without infringing the legal
stipulations was in a position to give the persecuted man a place of
refuge, immediately assented, and with great readiness, to our desire,
but confessed to us next day, after having communicated with his
family, that he thought he might incur some unpleasantnesses if he
entertained Laube. At this the latter smiled, and in a manner I shall
never forget, though I have noticed in the course of my life that the
expression which I then saw in his face was one which has often flitted
over my own features. He took his leave, and in a short time we heard
that he had been arrested, owing to having undertaken fresh proceedings
against former members of the Burschenschaft (Students' League), and
had been lodged in the municipal prison at Berlin. I had thus had two
experiences which weighed me down like lead, so I packed my scanty
portmanteau, took leave of my mother and sister, and, with a stout
heart, started on my career as a conductor.

In order to be able to look upon the little room under Minna's lodging
as my new home, I was forced also to make the best of Bethmann's
theatrical enterprise. As a matter of fact, a performance of Don Juan
was given at once, for the director, who prided himself on being a
connoisseur of things artistic, suggested that opera to me as one with
which it would be wise for an aspiring young artist, of a good family,
to make his debut. Despite the fact that, apart from some of my own
instrumental compositions, I had never yet conducted, and least of all
in opera, the rehearsal and the performance went off fairly well. Only
once or twice did discrepancies appear in the recitative of Donna Anna;
yet this did not involve me in any kind of hostility, and when I took
my place unabashed and calm for the production of Lumpaci Vagabundus,
which I had practised very thoroughly, the people generally seemed to
have gained full confidence in the theatre's new acquisition.

The fact that I submitted without bitterness and even with some
cheerfulness to this unworthy use of my musical talent, was due less to
my taste being at this period, as I called it, in its salad days, than
to my intercourse with Minna Planer, who was employed in that magic
trifle as the Amorous Fairy. Indeed, in the midst of this dust-cloud of
frivolity and vulgarity, she always seemed very much like a fairy, the
reasons of whose descent into this giddy whirl, which of a truth seemed
neither to carry her away nor even to affect her, remained an absolute
mystery. For while I could discover nothing in the opera singers save
the familiar stage caricatures and grimaces, this fair actress differed
wholly from those about her in her unaffected soberness and dainty
modesty, as also in the absence of all theatrical pretence and
stiltedness. There was only one young man whom I could place beside
Minna on the ground of qualities like those I recognised in her. This
fellow was Friedrich Schmitt, who had only just adopted the stage as a
career in the hope of making a 'hit' in opera, to which, as the
possessor of an excellent tenor voice, he felt himself called. He too
differed from the rest of the company, especially in the earnestness
which he brought to bear upon his studies and his work in general: the
soulful manly pitch of his chest voice, his clear, noble enunciation
and intelligent rendering of his words, have always remained as
standards in my memory. Owing to the fact that he was wholly devoid of
theatrical talent, and acted clumsily and awkwardly, a check was soon
put to his progress, but he always remained dear to me as a clever and
original man of trustworthy and upright character--my only associate.

But my dealings with my kind housemate soon became a cherished habit,
while she returned the ingenuously impetuous advances of the conductor
of one-and-twenty with a certain tolerant astonishment which, remote as
it was from all coquetry and ulterior motives, soon made familiar and
friendly intercourse possible with her. When, one evening, I returned
late to my ground-floor room, by climbing through the window, for I had
no latch-key, the noise of my entry brought Minna to her window just
over mine. Standing on my window ledge I begged her to allow me to bid
her good-night once more. She had not the slightest objection to this,
but declared it must be done from the window, as she always had her
door locked by the people of the house, and nobody could get in that
way. She kindly facilitated the handshake by leaning far out of her
window, so that I could take her hand as I stood on my ledge. When
later on I had an attack of erysipelas, from which I often suffered,
and with my face all swollen and frightfully distorted concealed myself
from the world in my gloomy room, Minna visited me repeatedly, nursed
me, and assured me that my distorted features did not matter in the
least. On recovering, I paid her a visit and complained of a rash that
had remained round my mouth, and which seemed so unpleasant that I
apologised for showing it to her. This also she made light of. Then I
inferred she would not give me a kiss, whereupon she at once gave me
practical proof that she did not shrink from that either.

This was all done with a friendly serenity and composure that had
something almost motherly about it, and it was free from all suggestion
of frivolity or of heartlessness. In a few weeks the company had to
leave Lauchstadt to proceed to Rudolstadt and fulfil a special
engagement there. I was particularly anxious to make this journey,
which in those days was an arduous undertaking, in Minna's company, and
if only I had succeeded in getting my well-earned salary duly paid by
Bethmann, nothing would have hindered the fulfilment of my wish. But in
this matter I encountered exceptional difficulties, which in the course
of eventful years grew in chronic fashion into the strangest of
ailments. Even at Lauchstadt I had discovered that there was only one
man who drew his salary in full, namely the bass Kneisel, whom I had
seen smoking his pipe beside the couch of the director's lame wife. I
was assured that if I cared greatly about getting some of my wages from
time to time, I could obtain this favour only by paying court to Mme.
Bethmann. This time I preferred once more to appeal to my family for
help, and therefore travelled to Rudolstadt through Leipzig, where, to
the sad astonishment of my mother, I had to replenish my coffer with
the necessary supplies. On the way to Leipzig I had travelled with Apel
through his estate, he having fetched me from Lauchstadt for the
purpose. His arrival was fixed in my memory by a noisy banquet which my
wealthy friend gave at the hotel in my honour. It was on this occasion
that I and one of the other guests succeeded in completely destroying a
huge, massively built Dutch-tile stove, such as we had in our room at
the inn. Next morning none of us could understand how it had happened.

It was on this journey to Rudolstadt that I first passed through
Weimar, where on a rainy day I strolled with curiosity, but without
emotion, towards Goethe's house. I had pictured something rather
different, and thought I should experience livelier impressions from
the active theatre life of Rudolstadt, to which I felt strongly
attracted. In spite of the fact that I was not to be conductor myself,
this post having been entrusted to the leader of the royal orchestra,
who had been specially engaged for our performances, yet I was so fully
occupied with rehearsals for the many operas and musical comedies
required to regale the frivolous public of the principality that I
found no leisure for excursions into the charming regions of this
little land. In addition to these severe and ill-paid labours, two
passions held me chained during the six weeks of my stay in Rudolstadt.
These were, first, a longing to write the libretto of Liebesverbot; and
secondly, my growing attachment to Minna. It is true, I sketched out a
musical composition about this time, a symphony in E major, whose first
movement (3/4 time) I completed as a separate piece. As regards style
and design, this work was suggested by Beethoven's Seventh and Eighth
Symphonies, and, so far as I can remember, I should have had no need to
be ashamed of it, had I been able to complete it, or keep the part I
had actually finished. But I had already begun at this time to form the
opinion that, to produce anything fresh and truly noteworthy in the
realm of symphony, and according to Beethoven's methods, was an
impossibility. Whereas opera, to which I felt inwardly drawn, though I
had no real example I wished to copy, presented itself to my mind in
varied and alluring shapes as a most fascinating form of art. Thus,
amid manifold and passionate agitations, and in the few leisure hours
which were left to me, I completed the greater part of my operatic
poem, taking infinitely more pains, both as regards words and
versification, than with the text of my earlier Feen. Moreover, I found
myself possessed of incomparably greater assurance in the arrangement
and partial invention of situations than when writing that earlier work.

On the other hand, I now began for the first time to experience the
cares and worries of a lover's jealousy. A change, to me inexplicable,
manifested itself in Minna's hitherto unaffected and gentle manner
towards me. It appears that my artless solicitations for her favour, by
which at that time I meant nothing serious, and in which a man of the
world would merely have seen the exuberance of a youthful and easily
satisfied infatuation, had given rise to certain remarks and comments
upon the popular actress. I was astonished to learn, first from her
reserved manner, and later from her own lips, that she felt compelled
to inquire into the seriousness of my intentions, and to consider their
consequences. She was at that time, as I had already discovered, on
very intimate terms with a young nobleman, whose acquaintance I first
made in Lauchstadt, where he used to visit her. I had already realised
on that occasion that he was unfeignedly and cordially attached to her;
in fact, in the circle of her friends she was regarded as engaged to
Herr von O., although it was obvious that marriage was out of the
question, as the young lover was quite without means, and owing to the
high standing of his family it was essential that he should sacrifice
himself to a marriage of convenience, both on account of his social
position and of the career which he would have to adopt. During this
stay at Rudolstadt Minna appears to have gathered certain information
on this point which troubled and depressed her, thus rendering her more
inclined to treat my impetuous attempts at courtship with cool reserve.

After mature deliberation I recognised that, in any case, Young Europe,
Ardinghello, and Liebesverbot could not be produced at Rudolstadt; but
it was a very different matter for the Fee Amorosa, with its merry
theatrical mood, and an Ehrlicher Burger Kind to seek a decent
livelihood. Therefore, greatly discouraged, I proceeded to accentuate
the more extravagant situations of my Liebesverbot by rioting with a
few comrades in the sausage-scented atmosphere of the Rudolstadt
Vogelwiese. At this time my troubles again brought me more or less into
contact with the vice of gambling, although on this occasion it only
cast temporary fetters about me in the very harmless form of the dice
and roulette-tables out on the open market-place.

We were looking forward to the time when we should leave Rudolstadt for
the half-yearly winter season at the capital, Magdeburg, mainly because
I should there resume my place at the head of the orchestra, and might
in any case count on a better reward for my musical efforts. But before
returning to Magdeburg I had to endure a trying interval at Bernburg,
where Bethmann, the director, in addition to his other undertakings,
had also promised sundry theatrical performances. During our brief stay
in the town I had to arrange for the presentation, with a mere fraction
of the company, of several operas, which were again to be conducted by
the royal conductor of the place. But in addition to these professional
labours, I had to endure such a meagre, ill-provided and grievously
farcical existence as was enough to disgust me, if not for ever, at any
rate for the time being, with the wretched profession of a theatrical
conductor. Yet I survived even this, and Magdeburg was destined to lead
me eventually to the real glory of my adopted profession.

The sensation of sitting in command at the very conductor's desk from
which, not many years before, the great master Kuhnlein had so moved
the perplexed young enthusiast by the weighty wisdom of his musical
directorship, was not without its charm for me, and, indeed, I very
quickly succeeded in obtaining perfect confidence in conducting an
orchestra. I was soon a persona grata with the excellent musicians of
the orchestra. Their splendid combination in spirited overtures, which,
especially towards the finale, I generally took at an unheard-of speed,
often earned for us all the intoxicating applause of the public. The
achievements of my fiery and often exuberant zeal won me recognition
from the singers, and were greeted by the audience with rapturous
appreciation. As in Magdeburg, at least in those days, the art of
theatrical criticism was but slightly developed, this universal
satisfaction was a great encouragement, and at the end of the first
three months of my Magdeburg conductorship I felt sustained by the
flattering and comforting assurance that I was one of the bigwigs of
opera. Under these circumstances, Schmale, the stage manager, who has
been my good friend ever since, proposed a special gala performance for
New Year's Day, which he felt sure would be a triumph. I was to compose
the necessary music. This was very speedily done; a rousing overture,
several melodramas and choruses were all greeted with enthusiasm, and
brought us such ample applause that we repeated the performance with
great success, although such repetitions after the actual gala day were
quite contrary to usage.

With the new year (1835) there came a decisive turning-point in my
life. After the rupture between Minna and myself at Rudolstadt, we had
been to some extent lost to one another; but our friendship was resumed
on our meeting again in Magdeburg; this time, however, it remained cool
and purposely indifferent. When she first appeared in the town, a year
before, her beauty had attracted considerable notice, and I now learned
that she was the object of great attention from several young noblemen,
and had shown herself not unmoved by the compliment implied by their
visits. Although her reputation, thanks to her absolute discretion and
self-respect, remained beyond reproach, my objection to her receiving
such attentions grew very strong, owing possibly, in some degree, to
the memory of the sorrows I had endured in Pachta's house in Prague.
Although Minna assured me that the conduct of these gentlemen was much
more discreet and decent than that of theatre-goers of the bourgeois
class, and especially than that of certain young musical conductors,
she never succeeded in soothing the bitterness and insistence with
which I protested against her acceptance of such attentions. So we
spent three unhappy months in ever-increasing estrangement, and at the
same time, in half-frantic despair, I pretended to be fond of the most
undesirable associates, and acted in every way with such blatant levity
that Minna, as she told me afterwards, was filled with the deepest
anxiety and solicitude concerning me. Moreover, as the ladies of the
opera company were not slow to pay court to their youthful conductor,
and especially as one young woman, whose reputation was not spotless,
openly set her cap at me, this anxiety of Minna's seems at last to have
culminated in a definite decision. I hit upon the idea of treating the
elite of our opera company to oysters and punch in my own room on New
Year's Eve. The married couples were invited, and then came the
question whether Fraulein Planer would consent to take part in such a
festivity. She accepted quite ingenuously, and presented herself, as
neatly and becomingly dressed as ever, in my bachelor apartments, where
things soon grew pretty lively. I had already warned my landlord that
we were not likely to be very quiet, and reassured him as to any
possible damage to his furniture. What the champagne failed to
accomplish, the punch eventually succeeded in doing; all the restraints
of petty conventionality, which the company usually endeavoured to
observe, were cast aside, giving place to an unreserved demeanour all
round, to which no one objected. And then it was that Minna's queenly
dignity distinguished her from all her companions. She never lost her
self-respect; and whilst no one ventured to take the slightest liberty
with her, every one very clearly recognised the simple candour with
which she responded to my kindly and solicitous attentions. They could
not fail to see that the link existing between us was not to be
compared to any ordinary liaison, and we had the satisfaction of seeing
the flighty young lady who had so openly angled for me fall into a fit
over the discovery.

From that time onward I remained permanently on the best of terms with
Minna. I do not believe that she ever felt any sort of passion or
genuine love for me, or, indeed, that she was capable of such a thing,
and I can therefore only describe her feeling for me as one of
heartfelt goodwill, and the sincerest desire for my success and
prosperity, inspired as she was with the kindest sympathy, and genuine
delight at, and admiration for, my talents. All this at last became
part of her nature. She obviously had a very favourable opinion of my
abilities, though she was surprised at the rapidity of my success. My
eccentric nature, which she knew so well how to humour pleasantly by
her gentleness, stimulated her to the continual exercise of the power,
so flattering to her own vanity, and without ever betraying any desire
or ardour herself, she never met my impetuous advances with coldness.

At the Magdeburg theatre I had already made the acquaintance of a very
interesting woman called Mme. Haas. She was an actress, no longer in
her first youth, and played so-called 'chaperone's parts.' This lady
won my sympathy by telling me she had been friendly ever since her
youth with Laube, in whose destiny she continued to take a heartfelt
and cordial interest. She was clever, but far from happy, and an
unprepossessing exterior, which with the lapse of years grew more
uninviting, did not tend to make her any happier. She lived in meagre
circumstances, with one child, and appeared to remember her better days
with a bitter grief. My first visit to her was paid merely to inquire
after Laube's fate, but I soon became a frequent and familiar caller.
As she and Minna speedily became fast friends, we three often spent
pleasant evenings talking together. But when, later on, a certain
jealousy manifested itself on the part of the elder woman towards the
younger, our confidential relations were more or less disturbed, for it
particularly grieved me to hear Minna's talents and mental gifts
criticised by the other. One evening I had promised Minna to have tea
with her and Mme. Haas, but I had thoughtlessly promised to go to a
whist party first. This engagement I purposely prolonged, much as it
wearied me, in the deliberate hope that her companion--who had already
grown irksome to me--might have left before my arrival. The only way in
which I could do this was by drinking hard, so that I had the very
unusual experience of rising from a sober whist party in a completely
fuddled condition, into which I had imperceptibly fallen, and in which
I refused to believe. This incredulity deluded me into keeping my
engagement for tea, although it was so late. To my intense disgust the
elder woman was still there when I arrived, and her presence at once
had the effect of rousing my tipsiness to a violent outbreak; for she
seemed astonished at my rowdy and unseemly behaviour, and made several
remarks upon it intended for jokes, whereupon I scoffed at her in the
coarsest manner, so that she immediately left the house in high
dudgeon. I had still sense enough to be conscious of Minna's astonished
laughter at my outrageous conduct. As soon as she realised, however,
that my condition was such as to render my removal impossible without
great commotion, she rapidly formed a resolution which must indeed have
cost her an effort, though it was carried out with the utmost calmness
and good-humour. She did all she could for me, and procured me the
necessary relief, and when I sank into a heavy slumber, unhesitatingly
resigned her own bed to my use. There I slept until awakened by the
wonderful grey of dawn. On recognising where I was, I at once realised
and grew ever more convinced of the fact that this morning's sunrise
marked the starting-point of an infinitely momentous period of my life.
The demon of care had at last entered into my existence.

Without any light-hearted jests, without gaiety or joking of any
description, we breakfasted quietly and decorously together, and at an
hour when, in view of the compromising circumstances of the previous
evening, we could set out without attracting undue notice, I set off
with Minna for a long walk beyond the city gates. Then we parted, and
from that day forward freely and openly gratified our desires as an
acknowledged pair of lovers.

The peculiar direction which my musical activities had gradually taken
continued to receive ever fresh impetus, not only from the successes,
but also from the disasters which about this time befell my efforts. I
produced the overture to my Feen with very satisfactory results at a
concert given by the Logengesellschaft, and thereby earned considerable
applause. On the other hand, news came from Leipzig confirming the
shabby action of the directors of the theatre in that place with regard
to the promised presentation of this opera. But, happily for me, I had
begun the music for my Liebesverbot, an occupation which so absorbed my
thoughts that I lost all interest in the earlier work, and abstained
with proud indifference from all further effort to secure its
performance in Leipzig. The success of its overture alone amply repaid
me for the composition of my first opera.

Meanwhile, in spite of numerous other distractions, I found time,
during the brief six months of this theatrical season in Magdeburg, to
complete a large portion of my new opera, besides doing other work. I
ventured to introduce two duets from it at a concert given in the
theatre, and their reception encouraged me to proceed hopefully with
the rest of the opera.

During the second half of this season my friend Apel came to sun
himself enthusiastically in the splendour of my musical directorship.
He had written a drama, Columbus, which I recommended to our management
for production. This was a peculiarly easy favour to win, as Apel
volunteered to have a new scene, representing the Alhambra, painted at
his own expense. Besides this, he proposed to effect many welcome
improvements in the condition of the actors taking part in his play;
for, owing to the continued preference displayed by the directress for
Kneisel, the bass, they had all suffered very much from uncertainty
about their wages. The piece itself appeared to me to contain much that
was good. It described the difficulties and struggles of the great
navigator before he set sail on his first voyage of discovery. The
drama ended with the momentous departure of his ships from the harbour
of Palos, an episode whose results are known to all the world. At my
desire Apel submitted his play to my uncle Adolph, and even in his
critical opinion it was remarkable for its lively and characteristic
popular scenes. On the other hand, a love romance, which he had woven
into the plot, struck me as unnecessary and dull. In addition to a
brief chorus for some Moors who were expelled from Granada, to be sung
on their departure from the familiar home country, and a short
orchestral piece by way of conclusion, I also dashed off an overture
for my friend's play. I sketched out the complete draft of this one
evening at Minna's house, while Apel was left free to talk to her as
much and as loudly as he liked. The effect this composition was
calculated to produce rested on a fundamental idea which was quite
simple, yet startling in its development. Unfortunately I worked it out
rather hurriedly. In not very carefully chosen phrasing the orchestra
was to represent the ocean, and, as far as might be, the ship upon it.
A forcible, pathetically yearning and aspiring theme was the only
comprehensible idea amid the swirl of enveloping sound. When the whole
had been repeated, there was a sudden jump to a different theme in
extreme pianissimo, accompanied by the swelling vibrations of the first
violins, which was intended to represent a Fata Morgana. I had secured
three pairs of trumpets in different keys, in order to produce this
exquisite, gradually dawning and seductive theme with the utmost
niceties of shade and variety of modulation. This was intended to
represent the land of desire towards which the hero's eyes are turned,
and whose shores seem continually to rise before him only to sink
elusively beneath the waves, until at last they soar in very deed above
the western horizon, the crown of all his toil and search, and stand
clearly and unmistakably revealed to all the sailors, a vast continent
of the future. My six trumpets were now to combine in one key, in order
that the theme assigned to them might re-echo in glorious jubilation.
Familiar as I was with the excellence of the Prussian regimental
trumpeters, I could rely upon a startling effect, especially in this
concluding passage. My overture astonished every one, and was
tumultuously applauded. The play itself, however, was acted without
dignity. A conceited comedian, named Ludwig Meyer, completely ruined
the title part, for which he excused himself on the ground that, having
to act as stage manager also, he had been unable to commit his lines to
memory. Nevertheless, he managed to enrich his wardrobe with several
splendid costumes at Apel's expense, wearing them, as Columbus, one
after the other. At all events, Apel had lived to see a play of his own
actually performed, and although this was never repeated, yet it
afforded me an opportunity of increasing my personal popularity with
the people of Magdeburg, as the overture was several times repeated at
concerts by special request.

But the chief event of this theatrical season occurred towards its
close. I induced Mme. Schroder-Devrient, who was staying in Leipzig, to
come to us for a few special performances, when, on two occasions, I
had the great satisfaction and stimulating experience of myself
conducting the operas in which she sang, and thus entering into
immediate artistic collaboration with her. She appeared as Desdemona
and Romeo. In the latter role particularly she surpassed herself, and
kindled a fresh flame in my breast. This visit brought us also into
closer personal contact. So kindly disposed and sympathetic did she
show herself towards me, that she even volunteered to lend me her
services at a concert which I proposed to give for my own benefit,
although this would necessitate her returning after a brief absence.
Under circumstances so auspicious I could only expect the best possible
results from my concert, and in my situation at that time its proceeds
were a matter of vital importance to me. My scanty salary from the
Magdeburg opera company had become altogether illusory, being paid only
in small and irregular instalments, so that I could see but one way of
meeting my daily expenses. These included frequent entertainment of a
large circle of friends, consisting of singers and players, and the
situation had become unpleasantly accentuated by no small number of
debts. True, I did not know their exact amount; but reckoned that I
could at least form an advantageous, if indefinite, estimate of the sum
to be realized by my concert, whereby the two unknown quantities might
balance each other. I therefore consoled my creditors with the tale of
these fabulous receipts, which were to pay them all in full the day
after the concert. I even went so far as to invite them to come and be
paid at the hotel to which I had moved at the close of the season.

And, indeed, there was nothing unreasonable in my counting on the
highest imaginable receipts, when supported by so great and popular a
singer, who, moreover, was returning to Magdeburg on purpose for the
event. I consequently acted with reckless prodigality as regards cost,
launching out into all manner of musical extravagance, such as engaging
an excellent and much larger orchestra, and arranging many rehearsals.
Unfortunately for me, however, nobody would believe that such a famous
actress, whose time was so precious, would really return again to
please a little Magdeburg conductor. My pompous announcement of her
appearance was almost universally regarded as a deceitful manoeuvre,
and people took offence at the high prices charged for seats. The
result was that the hall was only very scantily filled, a fact which
particularly grieved me on account of my generous patroness. Her
promise I had never doubted. Punctually on the day appointed she
reappeared to support me, and now had the painful and unaccustomed
experience of performing before a small audience. Fortunately, she
treated the matter with great good-humour (which, I learned later, was
prompted by other motives, not personally concerning me). Among several
pieces she sang Beethoven's Adelaide most exquisitely, wherein, to my
own astonishment, I accompanied her on the piano. But, alas! another
and more unexpected mishap befell my concert, through our unfortunate
selection of pieces. Owing to the excessive reverberation of the saloon
in the Hotel 'The City of London,' the noise was unbearable. My
Columbus Overture, with its six trumpets, had early in the evening
filled the audience with terror; and now, at the end, came Beethoven's
Schlacht bei Vittoria, for which, in enthusiastic expectation of
limitless receipts, I had provided every imaginable orchestral luxury.
The firing of cannon and musketry was organised with the utmost
elaboration, on both the French and English sides, by means of
specially constructed and costly apparatus; while trumpets and bugles
had been doubled and trebled. Then began a battle, such as has seldom
been more cruelly fought in a concert-room. The orchestra flung itself,
so to speak, upon the scanty audience with such an overwhelming
superiority of numbers that the latter speedily gave up all thought of
resistance and literally took to flight. Mme. Schroder-Devrient had
kindly taken a front seat, that she might hear the concert to an end.
Much as she may have been inured to terrors of this kind, this was more
than she could stand, even out of friendship for me. When, therefore,
the English made a fresh desperate assault upon the French position,
she took to flight, almost wringing her hands. Her action became the
signal for a panic-stricken stampede. Every one rushed out; and
Wellington's victory was finally celebrated in a confidential outburst
between myself and the orchestra alone. Thus ended this wonderful
musical festival. Schroder-Devrient at once departed, deeply regretting
the ill-success of her well-meant effort, and kindly left me to my
fate. After seeking comfort in the arms of my sorrowing sweetheart, and
attempting to nerve myself for the morrow's battle, which did not seem
likely to end in a victorious symphony, I returned next morning to the
hotel. I found I could only reach my rooms by running the gauntlet
between long rows of men and women in double file, who had all been
specially invited thither for the settlement of their respective
affairs. Reserving the right to select individuals from among my
visitors for separate interview, I first of all led in the second
trumpeter of the orchestra, whose duty it had been to look after the
cash and the music. From his account I learned that, owing to the high
fees which, in my generous enthusiasm, I had promised to the orchestra,
a few more shillings and sixpences would still have to come out of my
own pocket to meet these charges alone. When this was settled, the
position of affairs was plain. The next person I invited to come in was
Mme. Gottschalk, a trustworthy Jewess, with whom I wanted to come to
some arrangement respecting the present crisis. She perceived at once
that more than ordinary help was required in this case, but did not
doubt that I should be able to obtain it from my opulent connections in
Leipzig. She undertook, therefore, to appease the other creditors with
tranquillising assurances, and railed, or pretended to rail, against
their indecent conduct with great vigour. Thus at last we succeeded,
though not without some difficulty, in making the corridor outside my
door once more passable.

The theatrical season was now over, our company on the point of
dissolution, and I myself free from my appointment. But meanwhile the
unhappy director of our theatre had passed from a state of chronic to
one of acute bankruptcy. He paid with paper money, that is to say, with
whole sheets of box-tickets for performances which he guaranteed should
take place. By dint of great craft Minna managed to extract some profit
even from these singular treasury-bonds. She was living at this time
most frugally and economically. Moreover, as the dramatic company still
continued its efforts on behalf of its members--only the opera troupe
having been dissolved--she remained at the theatre. Thus, when I
started out on my compulsory return to Leipzig, she saw me off with
hearty good-wishes for our speedy reunion, promising to spend the next
holidays in visiting her parents in Dresden, on which occasion she
hoped also to look me up in Leipzig.

Thus it came about that early in May I once more went home to my own
folk, in order that after this abortive first attempt at civic
independence, I might finally lift the load of debt with which my
efforts in Magdeburg had burdened me. An intelligent brown poodle
faithfully accompanied me, and was entrusted to my family for food and
entertainment as the only visible property I had acquired.
Nevertheless, my mother and Rosalie succeeded in founding good hopes
for my future career upon the bare fact of my being able to conduct an
orchestra. To me, on the other hand, the thought of returning once more
to my former life with my family was very discomfiting. My relation to
Minna in particular spurred me on to resume my interrupted career as
speedily as possible. The great change which had come over me in this
respect was more apparent than ever when Minna spent a few days with me
in Leipzig on her way home. Her familiar and genial presence proclaimed
that my days of parental dependence were past and gone. We discussed
the renewal of my Magdeburg engagement, and I promised her an early
visit in Dresden. I obtained permission from my mother and sister to
invite her one evening to tea, and in this way I introduced her to my
family. Rosalie saw at once how matters stood with me, but made no
further use of the discovery than to tease me about being in love. To
her the affair did not appear dangerous; but to me things wore a very
different aspect, for this love-lorn attachment was entirely in keeping
with my independent spirit, and my ambition to win myself a place in
the world of art.

My distaste for Leipzig itself was furthermore strengthened by a change
which occurred there at this time in the realm of music. At the very
time that I, in Magdeburg, was attempting to make my reputation as a
musical conductor by thoughtless submission to the frivolous taste of
the day, Mendelssohn-Bartholdy was conducting the Gewandhaus concerts,
and inaugurating a momentous epoch for himself and the musical taste of
Leipzig. His influence had put an end to the simple ingenuousness with
which the Leipzig public had hitherto judged the productions of its
sociable subscription concerts. Through the influence of my good old
friend Pohlenz, who was not yet altogether laid on the shelf, I managed
to produce my Columbus Overture at a benefit concert given by the
favourite young singer, Livia Gerhart. But, to my amazement, I found
that the taste of the musical public in Leipzig had been given a
different bent, which not even my rapturously applauded overture, with
its brilliant combination of six trumpets, could influence. This
experience deepened my dislike of everything approaching a classical
tone, in which sentiment I found myself in complete accord with honest
Pohlenz, who sighed good-naturedly over the downfall of the good old
times.

Arrangements for a musical festival at Dessau, under Friedrich
Schneider's conductorship, offered me a welcome chance of quitting
Leipzig. For this journey, which could be performed on foot in seven
hours, I had to procure a passport for eight days. This document was
destined to play an important part in my life for many years to come;
for on several occasions and in various European countries it was the
only paper I possessed to prove my identity. In fact, owing to my
evasion of military duty in Saxony, I never again succeeded in
obtaining a regular pass until I was appointed musical conductor in
Dresden. I derived very little artistic pleasure or benefit of any kind
from this occasion; on the contrary, it gave a fresh impetus to my
hatred of the classical. I heard Beethoven's Symphony in C minor
conducted by a man whose physiognomy, resembling that of a drunken
satyr, filled me with unconquerable disgust. In spite of an
interminable row of contrabassi, with which a conductor usually
coquettes at musical festivals, his performance was so expressionless
and inane that I turned away in disgust as from an alarming and
repulsive problem, and desisted from all attempts to explain the
impassable gulf which, as I again perceived, yawned between my own
vivid and imaginative conception of this work and the only living
presentations of it which I had ever heard. But for the present my
tormented spirits were cheered and calmed by hearing the classical
Schneider's oratorio Absalom rendered as an absolute burlesque.

It was in Dessau that Minna had made her first debut on the stage, and
while there I heard her spoken of by frivolous young men in the tone
usual in such circles when discussing young and beautiful actresses. My
eagerness in contradicting this chatter and confounding the
scandalmongers revealed to me more clearly than ever the strength of
the passion which drew me to her.

I therefore returned to Leipzig without calling on my relatives, and
there procured means for an immediate journey to Dresden. On the way
(the journey was still performed by express coach) I met Minna,
accompanied by one of her sisters, already on the way back to
Magdeburg. Promptly procuring a posting ticket for the return journey
to Leipzig, I actually set off thither with my dear girl; but by the
time we reached the next station I had succeeded in persuading her to
turn back with me to Dresden. By this time the mail-coach was far ahead
of us, and we had to travel by special post-chaise. This lively
bustling to and fro seemed to astonish the two girls, and put them into
high spirits. The extravagance of my conduct had evidently roused them
to the expectation of adventures, and it now behoved me to fulfil this
expectation. Procuring from a Dresden acquaintance the necessary cash,
I conducted my two lady friends through the Saxon Alps, where we spent
several right merry days of innocent and youthful gaiety. Only once was
this disturbed by a passing fit of jealousy on my part, for which,
indeed, there was no occasion, but which fed itself in my heart on a
nervous apprehension of the future, and upon the experience I had
already gained of womenkind. Yet, despite this blot, our excursion
still lingers in my memory as the sweetest and almost sole remembrance
of unalloyed happiness in the whole of my life as a young man. One
evening in particular stands out in bright relief, during which we sat
together almost all night at the watering-place of Schandau in glorious
summer weather. Indeed, my subsequent long and anxious connection with
Minna, interwoven as it was with the most painful and bitter
vicissitudes, has often appeared to me as a persistently prolonged
expiation of the brief and harmless enjoyment of those few days.

After accompanying Minna to Leipzig, whence she continued her journey
to Magdeburg, I presented myself to my family, but told them nothing of
my Dresden excursion. I now braced my energies, as though under the
stern compulsion of a strange and deep sense of duty, to the task of
making such arrangements as would speedily restore me to my dear one's
side. To this end a fresh engagement had to be negotiated with Director
Bethmann for the coming winter season. Unable to await the conclusion
of our contract in Leipzig, I availed myself of Laube's presence at the
baths in Kosen, near Naumburg, to pay him a visit. Laube had only
recently been discharged from the Berlin municipal gaol, after a
tormenting inquisition of nearly a year's duration. On giving his
parole not to leave the country until the verdict had been given, he
had been permitted to retire to Kosen, from which place he, one
evening, paid us a secret visit in Leipzig. I can still call his
woebegone appearance to mind. He seemed hopelessly resigned, though he
spoke cheerfully with regard to all his earlier dreams of better
things; and owing to my own worries at that time about the critical
state of my affairs, this impression still remains one of my saddest
and most painful recollections. While at Kosen I showed him a good many
of the verses for my Liebesverbot, and although he spoke coldly of my
presumption in wishing to write my own libretto, I was slightly
encouraged by his appreciation of my work.

Meanwhile I impatiently awaited letters from Magdeburg. Not that I had
any doubt as to the renewal of my engagement; on the contrary, I had
every reason to regard myself as a good acquisition for Bethmann; but I
felt as though nothing which tended to bring me nearer to Minna could
move fast enough. As soon as I received the necessary tidings, I
hurried away to make all needful arrangements on the spot for ensuring
a magnificent success in the coming Magdeburg operatic season.

Through the tireless munificence of the King of Prussia fresh and final
assistance had been granted to our perennially bankrupt theatrical
director. His Majesty had assigned a not inconsiderable sum to a
committee consisting of substantial Magdeburg citizens, as a subsidy to
be expended on the theatre under Bethmann's management. What this
meant, and the respect with which I thereupon regarded the artistic
conditions of Magdeburg, may be best imagined if one remembers the
neglected and forlorn surroundings amid which such provincial theatres
usually drag out their lives. I offered at once to undertake a long
journey in search of good operatic singers. I said I would find the
means for this at my own risk, and the only guarantee I demanded from
the management for eventual reimbursement was that they should assign
me the proceeds of a future benefit performance. This offer was gladly
accepted, and in pompous tones the director furnished me with the
necessary powers, and moreover gave me his parting blessing. During
this brief interval I lived once more in intimate communion with
Minna--who now had her mother with her--and then took fresh leave of
her for my venturesome enterprise.

But when I got to Leipzig I found it by no means easy to procure the
funds, so confidently counted on when in Magdeburg, for the expenses of
my projected journey. The glamour of the royal protection of Prussia
for our theatrical undertaking, which I portrayed in the liveliest
colours to my good brother-in-law Brockhaus, quite failed to dazzle
him, and it was at the cost of great pains and humiliation that I
finally got my ship of discovery under weigh.

I was naturally drawn first of all to my old wonderland of Bohemia.
There I merely touched at Prague and, without visiting my lovely lady
friends, I hurried forward so that I might first sample the opera
company then playing for the season at Karlsbad. Impatient to discover
as many talents as I could as soon as possible, so as not to exhaust my
funds to no purpose, I attended a performance of La Dame Blanche,
sincerely hoping to find the whole performance first class. But not
until much later did I fully realise how wretched was the quality of
all these singers. I selected one of them, a bass named Graf, who was
singing Gaveston. When in due course he made his debut at Magdeburg, he
provoked so much well-founded dissatisfaction, that I could not find a
word to say in reply to the mockery which this acquisition brought upon
me.

But the small success with which the real object of my tour was
attended was counterbalanced by the pleasantness of the journey itself.
The trip through Eger, over the Fichtel mountains, and the entry into
Bayreuth, gloriously illuminated by the setting sun, have remained
happy memories to this day.

My next goal was Nuremberg, where my sister Clara and her husband were
acting, and from whom I might reckon on sound information as to the
object of my search. It was particularly nice to be hospitably received
in my sister's house, where I hoped to revive my somewhat exhausted
means of travel. In this hope I reckoned chiefly upon the sale of a
snuff-box presented to me by a friend, which I had secret reasons to
suppose was made of platinum. To this I could add a gold signet-ring,
given me by my friend Apel for composing the overture to his Columbus.
The value of the snuff-box unfortunately proved to be entirely
imaginary; but by pawning these two jewels, the only ones I had left, I
hoped to provide myself with the bare necessaries for continuing my
journey to Frankfort. It was to this place and the Rhine district that
the information I had gathered led me to direct my steps. Before
leaving I persuaded my sister and brother-in-law to accept engagements
in Magdeburg; but I still lacked a first tenor and a soprano, whom
hitherto I had altogether failed to discover.

My stay in Nuremberg was most agreeably prolonged through a renewed
meeting with Schroder-Devrient, who just at that time was fulfilling a
short engagement in that town. Meeting her again was like seeing the
clouds disperse, which, since our last meeting, had darkened my
artistic horizon.

The Nuremberg operatic company had a very limited repertoire. Besides
Fidelio they could produce nothing save Die Schweizerfamilie, a fact
about which this great singer complained, as this was one of her first
parts sung in early youth, for which she was hardly any longer suited,
and which, in addition, she had played ad nauseam. I also looked
forward to the performance of Die Schweizerfamilie with misgivings, and
even with anxiety, for I feared lest this tame opera and the
old-fashioned sentimental part of Emmeline would weaken the great
impression the public, as well as myself, had formed up to that moment
of the work of this sublime artist. Imagine, therefore, how deeply
moved and astonished I was, on the evening of the performance, to find
that it was in this very part that I first realised the truly
transcendental genius of this extraordinary woman. That anything so
great as her interpretation of the character of the Swiss maiden could
not be handed down to posterity as a monument for all time can only be
looked upon as one of the most sublime sacrifices demanded by dramatic
art, and as one of its highest manifestations. When, therefore, such
phenomena appear, we cannot hold them in too great reverence, nor look
upon them as too sacred.

Apart from all these new experiences which were to become of so much
value to my whole life and to my artistic development, the impressions
I received at Nuremberg, though they were apparently trivial in their
origin, left such indelible traces on my mind, that they revived within
me later on, though in quite a different and novel form.

My brother-in-law, Wolfram, was a great favourite with the Nuremberg
theatrical world; he was witty and sociable, and as such made himself
much liked in theatrical circles. On this occasion I received
singularly delightful proofs of the spirit of extravagant gaiety
manifested on these evenings at the inn, in which I also took part. A
master carpenter, named Lauermann, a little thick-set man, no longer
young, of comical appearance and gifted only with the roughest dialect,
was pointed out to me in one of the inns visited by our friends as one
of those oddities who involuntarily contributed most to the amusement
of the local wags. Lauermann, it seems, imagined himself an excellent
singer, and as a result of this presumption, evinced interest only in
those in whom he thought he recognised a like talent. In spite of the
fact that, owing to this singular peculiarity, he became the butt of
constant jest and scornful mockery, he never failed to appear every
evening among his laughter-loving persecutors. So often had he been
laughed at and hurt by their scorn, that it became very difficult to
persuade him to give a display of his artistic skill, and this at last
could only be effected by artfully devised traps, so laid as to appeal
to his vanity. My arrival as an unknown stranger was utilised for a
manoeuvre of this kind. How poor was the opinion they held of the
unfortunate mastersinger's judgment was revealed when, to my great
amazement, my brother-in-law introduced me to him as the great Italian
singer, Lablache. To his credit I must confess that Lauermann surveyed
me for a long time with incredulous distrust, and commented with
cautious suspicion on my juvenile appearance, but especially on the
evidently tenor character of my voice. But the whole art of these
tavern associates and their principal enjoyment consisted in leading
this poor enthusiast to believe the incredible, a task on which they
spared neither time nor pains.

My brother-in-law succeeded in making the carpenter believe that I,
while receiving fabulous sums for my performances, wished by a singular
act of dissimulation, and by visiting public inns, to withdraw from the
general public; and that, moreover, when it came to a meeting between
'Lauermann' and 'Lablache,' the only real interest could be to hear
Lauermann and not Lablache, seeing that the former had nothing to learn
from the latter, but only Lablache from him. So singular was the
conflict between incredulity, on the one hand, and keenly excited
vanity on the other, that finally the poor carpenter became really
attractive to me. I began to play the role assigned me with all the
skill I could command, and after a couple of hours, which were relieved
by the strangest antics, we at last gained our end. The wondrous
mortal, whose flashing eyes had long been fixed on me in the greatest
excitement, worked his muscles in the peculiarly fantastic fashion
which we are accustomed to associate with a music-making automaton, the
mechanism of which has been duly wound up: his lips quivered, his teeth
gnashed, his eyes rolled convulsively, until finally there broke forth,
in a hoarse oily voice, an uncommonly trivial street-ballad. Its
delivery, accompanied by a regular movement of his outstretched thumbs
behind the ears, and during which his fat face glowed the brightest
red, was unhappily greeted with a wild burst of laughter from all
present, which excited the unlucky master to the most furious wrath.
With studied cruelty this wrath was greeted by those, who until then
had shamelessly flattered him, with the most extravagant mockery, until
the poor wretch at last absolutely foamed with rage.

As he was leaving the inn amid a hail of curses from his infamous
friends, an impulse of genuine pity prompted me to follow him, that I
might beg his forgiveness and seek in some way to pacify him, a task
all the more difficult since he was especially bitter against me as the
latest of his enemies, and the one who had so deeply deceived his eager
hope of hearing the genuine Lablache. Nevertheless, I succeeded in
stopping him on the threshold; and now the riotous company silently
entered into an extraordinary conspiracy to induce Lauermann to sing
again that very evening. How they managed this I can as little remember
as I can call to mind the effect of the spirituous liquors I imbibed.
In any case, I suspect that drink must eventually have been the means
of subduing Lauermann, just as it also rendered my own recollections of
the wonderful events of that prolonged evening at the inn extremely
vague. After Lauermann had for the second time suffered the same
mockery, the whole company felt itself bound to accompany the unhappy
man to his home. They carried him thither in a wheelbarrow, which they
found outside the house, and in this he arrived, in triumph, at his own
door, in one of those marvellous narrow alleys peculiar to the old
city. Frau Lauermann, who was aroused from slumber to receive her
husband, enabled us, by her torrent of curses, to form some idea of the
nature of their marital and domestic relations. Mockery of her
husband's vocal talents was with her also a familiar theme; but to this
she now added the most dreadful reproaches for the worthless scamps
who, by encouraging him in this delusion, kept him from profitably
following his trade, and even led him to such scenes as the present
one. Thereupon the pride of the suffering mastersinger reasserted
itself; for while his wife painfully assisted him to mount the stairs,
he harshly denied her right to sit in judgment upon his vocal gifts,
and sternly ordered her to be silent. But even now this wonderful
night-adventure was by no means over. The entire swarm moved once more
in the direction of the inn. Before the house, however, we found a
number of fellows congregated, among them several workmen, against
whom, owing to police regulations as to closing hours, the doors were
shut. But the regular guests of the house, who were of our party, and
who were on terms of old friendship with the host, thought that it was
nevertheless permissible and possible to demand entrance. The host was
troubled at having to bar his door against friends, whose voices he
recognised; yet it was necessary to prevent the new arrivals from
forcing a way in with them. Out of this situation a mighty confusion
arose, which, what with shouting and clamour and an inexplicable growth
in the number of the disputants, soon assumed a truly demoniacal
character. It seemed to me as though in a few moments the whole town
would break into a tumult, and I thought I should once more have to
witness a revolution, the real origin of which no man could comprehend.
Then suddenly I heard some one fall, and, as though by magic, the whole
mass scattered in every direction. One of the regular guests, who was
familiar with an ancient Nuremberg boxing trick, desiring to put an end
to the interminable riot and to cut his way home through the crowd,
gave one of the noisiest shouters a blow with his fist between the
eyes, laying him senseless on the ground, though without seriously
injuring him. And this it was that so speedily broke up the whole
throng. Within little more than a minute of the most violent uproar of
hundreds of human voices, my brother-in-law and I were able to stroll
arm-in-arm through the moonlit streets, quietly jesting and laughing,
on our way home; and then it was that, to my amazement and relief, he
informed me that he was accustomed to this sort of life every evening.

At last, however, it became necessary seriously to attend to the
purpose of my journey. Only in passing did I touch at Wurzburg for a
day. I remember nothing of the meeting with my relations and
acquaintance beyond the melancholy visit to Friederike Galvani already
mentioned. On reaching Frankfort I was obliged to seek at once the
shelter of a decent hotel, in order to await there the result of my
solicitations for subsidies from the directorate of the Magdeburg
theatre. My hopes of securing the real stars of our operatic
undertaking were formed with a view to a season at Wiesbaden, where, I
was told, a good operatic company was on the point of dissolution. I
found it extremely difficult to arrange the short journey thither; yet
I managed to be present at a rehearsal of Robert der Teufel, in which
the tenor Freimuller distinguished himself. I interviewed him at once,
and found him willing to entertain my proposals for Magdeburg. We
concluded the necessary agreement, and I then returned with all speed
to my headquarters, the Weidenbusch Hotel in Frankfort. There I had to
spend another anxious week, during which I waited in vain for the
necessary travelling expenses to arrive from Magdeburg. To kill time I
had recourse, among other things, to a large red pocket-book which I
carried about with me in my portmanteau, and in which I entered, with
exact details of dates, etc., notes for my future biography--the
selfsame book which now lies before me to freshen my memory, and which
I have ever since added to at various periods of my life, without
leaving any gaps. Through the neglect of the Magdeburg managers my
situation, which was already serious, became literally desperate, when
I made an acquisition in Frankfort which gave me almost more pleasure
than I was able to bear. I had been present at a production of the
Zauberflote under the direction of Guhr, then wonderfully renowned as
'a conductor of genius,' and was agreeably surprised at the truly
excellent quality of the company. It was, of course, useless to think
of luring one of the leading stars into my net; on the other hand, I
saw clearly enough that the youthful Fraulein Limbach, who sang the
'first boy's' part, possessed a desirable talent. She accepted my offer
of an engagement, and, indeed, seemed so anxious to be rid of her
Frankfort engagement that she resolved to escape from it
surreptitiously. She revealed her plans to me, and begged me to assist
her in carrying them out; for, inasmuch as the directors might get wind
of the affair, there was no time to lose. At all events, the young lady
assumed that I had abundant credit, supplied for my official business
journey by the Magdeburg theatre committee, whose praises I had so
diligently sung. But already I had been compelled to pledge my scanty
travelling gear in order to provide for my own departure. To this point
I had persuaded the host, but now found him by no means inclined to
advance me the additional funds needed for carrying off a young singer.
To cloak the bad behaviour of my directors I was compelled to invent
some tale of misfortune, and to leave the astonished and indignant
young lady behind. Heartily ashamed of this adventure, I travelled
through rain and storm via Leipzig, where I picked up my brown poodle,
and reaching Magdeburg, there resumed my work as musical director on
the 1st of September.

The result of my business labours gave me but little joy. The director,
it is true, proved triumphantly that he had sent five whole golden
louis to my address in Frankfort, and that my tenor and the youthful
lady-singer had also been provided with proper contracts, but not with
the fares and advances demanded. Neither of them came; only the basso
Graf arrived with pedantic punctuality from Karlsbad, and immediately
provoked the chaff of our theatrical wags. He sang at a rehearsal of
the Schweizerfamilie with such a schoolmasterly drone that I completely
lost my composure. The arrival of my excellent brother-in-law Wolfram
with my sister Clara was of more advantage for musical comedy than for
grand opera, and caused me considerable trouble into the bargain; for,
being honest folk and used to decent living, they speedily perceived
that, in spite of royal protection, the condition of the theatre was
but very insecure, as was natural under so unscrupulous a management as
that of Bethmann, and recognised with alarm that they had seriously
compromised their family position. My courage had already begun to sink
when a happy chance brought us a young woman, Mme. Pollert (nee
Zeibig), who was passing through Magdeburg with her husband, an actor,
in order to fulfil a special engagement in that town; she was gifted
with a beautiful voice, was a talented singer, and well suited for the
chief roles. Necessity had at last driven the directors to action, and
at the eleventh hour they sent for the tenor Freimuller. But I was
particularly gratified when the love which had arisen between him and
young Limbach in Frankfort enabled the enterprising tenor to carry away
this singer, to whom I had behaved so miserably. Both arrived radiant
with joy. Along with them we engaged Mme. Pollert, who, in spite of her
pretentiousness, met with favour from the public. A well-trained and
musically competent baritone, Herr Krug, afterwards the conductor of a
choir in Karlsruhe, had also been discovered, so that all at once I
stood at the head of a really good operatic company, among which the
basso Graf could be fitted in only with great difficulty, by being kept
as much as possible in the background. We succeeded quickly with a
series of operatic performances which were by no means ordinary, and
our repertory included everything of this nature that had ever been
written for the theatre. I was particularly pleased with the
presentation of Spohr's Jessonda, which was truly not without
sublimity, and raised us high in the esteem of all cultured lovers of
music. I was untiring in my endeavours to discover some means of
elevating our performances above the usual level of excellence
compatible with the meagre resources of provincial theatres. I
persistently fell foul of the director Bethmann by strengthening my
orchestra, which he had to pay; but, on the other hand, I won his
complete goodwill by strengthening the chorus and the theatre music,
which cost him nothing, and which lent such splendour to our
presentations that subscriptions and audiences increased enormously.
For instance, I secured the regimental band, and also the military
singers, who in the Prussian army are admirably organised, and who
assisted in our performances in return for free passes to the gallery
granted to their relatives. Thus I managed to furnish with the utmost
completeness the specially strong orchestral accompaniment demanded by
the score of Bellini's Norma, and was able to dispose of a body of male
voices for the impressive unison portion of the male chorus in the
introduction of that work such as even the greatest theatres could
rarely command. In later years I was able to assure Auber, whom I often
met over an ice in Tortoni's cafe in Paris, that in his Lestocq I had
been able to render the part of the mutinous soldiery, when seduced
into conspiracy, with an absolutely full number of voices, a fact for
which he thanked me with astonishment and delight.

Amid such circumstances of encouragement the composition of my
Liebesverbot made rapid strides towards completion. I intended the
presentation of this piece for the benefit performance which had been
promised me as a means of defraying my expenses, and I worked hard in
the hope of improving my reputation, and at the same time of
accomplishing something by no means less desirable, and that was the
betterment of my financial position. Even the few hours which I could
snatch from business to spend at Minna's side were devoted with
unexampled zeal to the completion of my score. My diligence moved even
Minna's mother, who looked with some uneasiness upon our love affair.
She had remained over the summer on a visit to her daughter, and
managed the house for her. Owing to her interference a new and urgent
anxiety had entered into our relations, which pressed for serious
settlement. It was natural that we should begin to think of what it was
all going to lead to. I must confess that the idea of marriage,
especially in view of my youth, filled me with dismay, and without
indeed reflecting on the matter, or seriously weighing its pros and
cons, a naive and instinctive feeling prevented me even from
considering the possibility of a step which would have such serious
consequences upon my whole life. Moreover, our modest circumstances
were in so alarming and uncertain a state that even Minna declared that
she was more anxious to see these improved than to get me to marry her.
But she was also driven to think of herself, and that promptly, for
trouble arose with regard to her own position in the Magdeburg theatre.
There she had met with a rival in her own speciality, and as this
woman's husband became chief stage manager, and consequently had
supreme power, she grew to be a source of great danger. Seeing,
therefore, that at this very moment Minna received advantageous offers
from the managers of the Konigstadt theatre in Berlin, then doing a
splendid business, she seized the opportunity to break off her
connection with the Magdeburg theatre, and thus plunged me, whom she
did not appear to consider in the matter, into the depths of despair. I
could not hinder Minna from going to Berlin to fulfil a special
engagement there, although this was not in accordance with her
agreement, and so she departed, leaving me behind, overcome with grief
and doubt as to the meaning of her conduct. At last, mad with passion,
I wrote to her urging her to return, and the better to move her and not
to separate her fate from my own, I proposed to her in a strictly
formal manner, and hinted at the hope of early marriage. About the same
time my brother-in-law, Wolfram, having quarrelled with the director
Bethmann and cancelled his contract with him, also went to the
Konigstadt theatre to fulfil a special engagement. My good sister
Clara, who had remained behind for a while amid the somewhat unpleasant
conditions of Magdeburg, soon perceived the anxious and troubled temper
in which her otherwise cheerful brother was rapidly consuming himself.
One day she thought it advisable to show me a letter from her husband,
with news from Berlin, and especially concerning Minna, in which he
earnestly deplored my passion for this girl, who was acting quite
unworthily of me. As she lodged at his hotel, he was able to observe
that not only the company she kept, but also her own conduct, were
perfectly scandalous. The extraordinary impression which this dreadful
communication made upon me decided me to abandon the reserve I had
hitherto shown towards my relatives with regard to my love affairs. I
wrote to my brother-in-law in Berlin, telling him how matters stood
with me, and that my plans greatly depended on Minna, and further, how
extremely important it was for me to learn from him the indubitable
truth concerning her of whom he had sent so evil an account. From my
brother-in-law, usually so dry and given to joking, I received a reply
which filled my heart to overflowing again. He confessed that he had
accused Minna too hastily, and regretted that he had allowed idle
chatter to influence him in founding a charge, which, on investigation,
had proved to be altogether groundless and unjust; he declared,
moreover, that on nearer acquaintance and conversation with her he had
been so fully convinced of the genuineness and uprightness of her
character, that he hoped with all his heart that I might see my way to
marry her. And now a storm raged in my heart. I implored Minna to
return at once, and was glad to learn that, for her part, she was not
inclined to renew her engagement at the Berlin theatre, as she had now
acquired a more intimate knowledge of the life there, and found it too
frivolous. All that remained, then, was for me to facilitate the
resumption of her Magdeburg engagement. To this end, therefore, at a
meeting of the theatre committee, I attacked the director and his
detested stage manager with such energy, and defended Minna against the
wrong done her by them both with such passion and fervour, that the
other members, astonished at the frank confession of my affection,
yielded to my wishes without any further ado. And now I set off by
extra post in the depth of night and in dreadful winter weather to meet
my returning sweetheart. I greeted her with tears of deepest joy, and
led her back in triumph to her cosy Magdeburg home, already become so
dear to me.

Meanwhile, as our two lives, thus severed for a while, were being drawn
more and more closely together, I finished the score of my Liebesverbot
about New Year 1836. For the development of my future plans I depended
not a little upon the success of this work; and Minna herself seemed
not disinclined to yield to my hopes in this respect. We had reason to
be concerned as to how matters would pan out for us at the beginning of
the spring, for this season is always a bad one in which to start such
precarious theatrical enterprises. In spite of royal support and the
participation of the theatre committee in the general management of the
theatre, our worthy director's state of perennial bankruptcy suffered
no alteration, and it seemed as if his theatrical undertaking could not
possibly last much longer in any form. Nevertheless, with the help of
the really first-rate company of singers at my disposal, the production
of my opera was to mark a complete change in my unsatisfactory
circumstances. With the view of recovering the travelling expenses I
had incurred during the previous summer, I was entitled to a benefit
performance. I naturally fixed this for the presentation of my own
work, and did my utmost so that this favour granted me by the directors
should prove as inexpensive to them as possible. As they would
nevertheless be compelled to incur some expense in the production of
the new opera, I agreed that the proceeds of the first presentation
should be left to them, while I should claim only those of the second.
I did not consider it altogether unsatisfactory that the time for the
rehearsals was postponed until the very end of the season, for it was
reasonable to suppose that our company, which was often greeted with
unusual applause, would receive special attention and favour from the
public during its concluding performances. Unfortunately, however,
contrary to our expectations, we never reached the proper close of this
season, which had been fixed for the end of April; for already in
March, owing to irregularity in the payment of salaries, the most
popular members of the company, having found better employment
elsewhere, tendered their resignations to the management, and the
director, who was unable to raise the necessary cash, was compelled to
bow to the inevitable. Now, indeed, my spirits sank, for it seemed more
than doubtful whether my Liebesverbot would ever be produced at all. I
owed it entirely to the warm affection felt for me personally by all
members of the opera company, that the singers consented not only to
remain until the end of March, but also to undertake the toil of
studying and rehearsing my opera, a task which, considering the very
limited time, promised to be extremely arduous. In the event of our
having to give two representations, the time at our disposal was so
very short that, for all the rehearsals, we had but ten days before us.
And since we were concerned not with a light comedy or farce, but with
a grand opera, and one which, in spite of the trifling character of its
music, contained numerous and powerful concerted passages, the
undertaking might have been regarded almost as foolhardy. Nevertheless,
I built my hopes upon the extraordinary exertions which the singers so
willingly made in order to please me; for they studied continuously,
morning, noon, and night. But seeing that, in spite of all this, it was
quite impossible to attain to perfection, especially in the matter of
words, in the case of every one of these harassed performers, I
reckoned further on my own acquired skill as conductor to achieve the
final miracle of success. The peculiar ability I possessed of helping
the singers and of making them, in spite of much uncertainty, seem to
flow smoothly onwards, was clearly demonstrated in our orchestral
rehearsals, in which, by dint of constant prompting, loud singing with
the performers and vigorous directions as to necessary action, I got
the whole thing to run so easily that it seemed quite possible that the
performance might be a reasonable success after all. Unfortunately, we
did not consider that in front of the public all these drastic methods
of moving the dramatic and musical machinery would be restricted to the
movements of my baton and to my facial expression. As a matter of fact
the singers, and especially the men, were so extraordinarily uncertain
that from beginning to end their embarrassment crippled the
effectiveness of every one of their parts. Freimuller, the tenor, whose
memory was most defective, sought to patch up the lively and emotional
character of his badly learned rule of the madcap Luzio by means of
routine work learned in Fra Diavolo and Zampa, and especially by the
aid of an enormously thick, brightly coloured and fluttering plume of
feathers. Consequently, as the directors failed to have the book of
words printed in time, it was impossible to blame the public for being
in doubt as to the main outlines of the story, seeing that they had
only the sung words to guide them. With the exception of a few portions
played by the lady singers, which were favourably received, the whole
performance, which I had made to depend largely upon bold, energetic
action and speech, remained but a musical shadow-play, to which the
orchestra contributed its own inexplicable effusions, sometimes with
exaggerated noise. As characteristic of the treatment of my
tone-colour, I may mention that the band-master of a Prussian military
band, who, by the bye, had been well pleased with the performance, felt
it incumbent upon him to give me some well-meant hints for my future
guidance, as to the manipulation of the Turkish drum. Before I relate
the further history of this wonderful work of my youth, I will pause a
moment briefly to describe its character, and especially its poetical
elements.

Shakespeare's play, which I kept throughout in mind as the foundation
of my story, was worked out in the following manner:--

An unnamed king of Sicily leaves his country, as I suggest, for a
journey to Naples, and hands over to the Regent appointed--whom I
simply call Friedrich, with the view of making him appear as German as
possible--full authority to exercise all the royal power in order to
effect a complete reform in the social habits of his capital, which had
provoked the indignation of the Council. At the opening of the play we
see the servants of the public authority busily employed either in
shutting up or in pulling down the houses of popular amusement in a
suburb of Palermo, and in carrying off the inmates, including hosts and
servants, as prisoners. The populace oppose this first step, and much
scuffling ensues. In the thickest of the throng the chief of the
sbirri, Brighella (basso-buffo), after a preliminary roll of drums for
silence, reads out the Regent's proclamation, according to which the
acts just performed are declared to be directed towards establishing a
higher moral tone in the manners and customs of the people. A general
outburst of scorn and a mocking chorus meets this announcement. Luzio,
a young nobleman and juvenile scape-grace (tenor), seems inclined to
thrust himself forward as leader of the mob, and at once finds an
occasion for playing a more active part in the cause of the oppressed
people on discovering his friend Claudio (also a tenor) being led away
to prison. From him he learns that, in pursuance of some musty old law
unearthed by Friedrich, he is to suffer the penalty of death for a
certain love escapade in which he is involved. His sweetheart, union
with whom had been prevented by the enmity of their parents, has borne
him a child. Friedrich's puritanical zeal joins cause with the parents'
hatred; he fears the worst, and sees no way of escape save through
mercy, provided his sister Isabella may be able, by her entreaties, to
melt the Regent's hard heart. Claudio implores his friend at once to
seek out Isabella in the convent of the Sisters of St. Elizabeth, which
she has recently entered as novice. There, between the quiet walls of
the convent, we first meet this sister, in confidential intercourse
with her friend Marianne, also a novice. Marianne reveals to her
friend, from whom she has long been parted, the unhappy fate which has
brought her to the place. Under vows of eternal fidelity she had been
persuaded to a secret liaison with a man of high rank. But finally,
when in extreme need she found herself not only forsaken, but
threatened by her betrayer, she discovered him to be the mightiest man
in the state, none other than the King's Regent himself. Isabella's
indignation finds vent in impassioned words, and is only pacified by
her determination to forsake a world in which so vile a crime can go
unpunished.--When now Luzio brings her tidings of her own brother's
fate, her disgust at her brother's misconduct is turned at once to
scorn for the villainy of the hypocritical Regent, who presumes so
cruelly to punish the comparatively venial offence of her brother,
which, at least, was not stained by treachery. Her violent outburst
imprudently reveals her to Luzio in a seductive aspect; smitten with
sudden love, he urges her to quit the convent for ever and to accept
his hand. She contrives to check his boldness, but resolves at once to
avail herself of his escort to the Regent's court of justice.--Here the
trial scene is prepared, and I introduce it by a burlesque hearing of
several persons charged by the sbirro captain with offences against
morality. The earnestness of the situation becomes more marked when the
gloomy form of Friedrich strides through the inrushing and unruly
crowd, commanding silence, and he himself undertakes the hearing of
Claudio's case in the sternest manner possible. The implacable judge is
already on the point of pronouncing sentence when Isabella enters, and
requests, before them all, a private interview with the Regent. In this
interview she behaves with noble moderation towards the dreaded, yet
despised man before her, and appeals at first only to his mildness and
mercy. His interruptions merely serve to stimulate her ardour: she
speaks of her brother's offence in melting accents, and implores
forgiveness for so human and by no means unpardonable a crime. Seeing
the effect of her moving appeal, she continues with increasing ardour
to plead with the judge's hard and unresponsive heart, which can
certainly not have remained untouched by sentiments such as those which
had actuated her brother, and she calls upon his memory of these to
support her desperate plea for pity. At last the ice of his heart is
broken. Friedrich, deeply stirred by Isabella's beauty, can no longer
contain himself, and promises to grant her petition at the price of her
own love. Scarcely has she become aware of the unexpected effect of her
words when, filled with indignation at such incredible villainy, she
cries to the people through doors and windows to come in, that she may
unmask the hypocrite before the world. The crowd is already rushing
tumultuously into the hall of judgment, when, by a few significant
hints, Friedrich, with frantic energy, succeeds in making Isabella
realise the impossibility of her plan. He would simply deny her charge,
boldly pretend that his offer was merely made to test her, and would
doubtless be readily believed so soon as it became only a question of
rebutting a charge of lightly making love to her. Isabella, ashamed and
confounded, recognises the madness of her first step, and gnashes her
teeth in silent despair. While then Friedrich once more announces his
stern resolve to the people, and pronounces sentence on the prisoner,
it suddenly occurs to Isabella, spurred by the painful recollection of
Marianne's fate, that what she has failed to procure by open means she
might possibly obtain by craft. This thought suffices to dispel her
sorrow, and to fill her with utmost gaiety. Turning to her sorrowing
brother, her agitated friends, and the perplexed crowd, she assures
them all that she is ready to provide them with the most amusing of
adventures. She declares that the carnival festivities, which the
Regent has just strictly forbidden, are to be celebrated this year with
unusual licence; for this dreaded ruler only pretends to be so cruel,
in order the more pleasantly to astonish them by himself taking a merry
part in all that he has just forbidden. They all believe that she has
gone mad, and Friedrich in particular reproves her incomprehensible
folly with passionate severity. But a few words on her part suffice to
transport the Regent himself with ecstasy; for in a whisper she
promises to grant his desire, and that on the following night she will
send him such a message as shall ensure his happiness.--And so ends the
first act in a whirl of excitement.

We learn the nature of the heroine's hastily formed plan at the
beginning of the second act, in which she visits her brother in his
cell, with the object of discovering whether he is worthy of rescue.
She reveals Friedrich's shameful proposal to him, and asks if he would
wish to save his life at the price of his sister's dishonour. Then
follow Claudio's fury and fervent declaration of his readiness to die;
whereupon, bidding farewell to his sister, at least for this life, he
makes her the bearer of the most tender messages to the dear girl whom
he leaves behind. After this, sinking into a softer mood, the unhappy
man declines from a state of melancholy to one of weakness. Isabella,
who had already determined to inform him of his rescue, hesitates in
dismay when she sees him fall in this way from the heights of noble
enthusiasm to a muttered confession of a love of life still as strong
as ever, and even to a stammering query as to whether the suggested
price of his salvation is altogether impossible. Disgusted, she springs
to her feet, thrusts the unworthy man from her, and declares that to
the shame of his death he has further added her most hearty contempt.
After having handed him over again to his gaoler, her mood once more
changes swiftly to one of wanton gaiety. True, she resolves to punish
the waverer by leaving him for a time in uncertainty as to his fate;
but stands firm by her resolve to rid the world of the abominable
seducer who dared to dictate laws to his fellow-men. She tells Marianne
that she must take her place at the nocturnal rendezvous, at which
Friedrich so treacherously expected to meet her (Isabella), and sends
Friedrich an invitation to this meeting. In order to entangle the
latter even more deeply in ruin, she stipulates that he must come
disguised and masked, and fixes the rendezvous in one of those pleasure
resorts which he has just suppressed. To the madcap Luzio, whom she
also desires to punish for his saucy suggestion to a novice, she
relates the story of Friedrich's proposal, and her pretended intention
of complying, from sheer necessity, with his desires. This she does in
a fashion so incomprehensively light-hearted that the otherwise
frivolous man, first dumb with amazement, ultimately yields to a fit of
desperate rage. He swears that, even if the noble maiden herself can
endure such shame, he will himself strive by every means in his power
to avert it, and would prefer to set all Palermo on fire and in tumult
rather than allow such a thing to happen. And, indeed, he arranges
things in such a manner that on the appointed evening all his friends
and acquaintances assemble at the end of the Corso, as though for the
opening of the prohibited carnival procession. At nightfall, as things
are beginning to grow wild and merry, Luzio appears, and sings an
extravagant carnival song, with the refrain:

    Who joins us not in frolic jest
    Shall have a dagger in his breast;

by which means he seeks to stir the crowd to bloody revolt. When a band
of sbirri approaches, under Brighella's leadership, to scatter the gay
throng, the mutinous project seems on the point of being accomplished.
But for the present Luzio prefers to yield, and to scatter about the
neighbourhood, as he must first of all win the real leader of their
enterprise: for here was the spot which Isabella had mischievously
revealed to him as the place of her pretended meeting with the Regent.
For the latter Luzio therefore lies in wait. Recognising him in an
elaborate disguise, he blocks his way, and as Friedrich violently
breaks loose, is on the point of following him with shouts and drawn
sword, when, on a sign from Isabella, who is hidden among some bushes,
he is himself stopped and led away. Isabella then advances, rejoicing
in the thought of having restored the betrayed Marianne to her
faithless spouse. Believing that she holds in her hand the promised
pardon for her brother, she is just on the point of abandoning all
thought of further vengeance when, breaking the seal, to her intense
horror she recognises by the light of a torch that the paper contains
but a still more severe order of execution, which, owing to her desire
not to disclose to her brother the fact of his pardon, a mere chance
had now delivered into her hand, through the agency of the bribed
gaoler. After a hard fight with the tempestuous passion of love, and
recognising his helplessness against this enemy of his peace, Friedrich
has in fact already resolved to face his ruin, even though as a
criminal, yet still as a man of honour. An hour on Isabella's breast,
and then--his own death by the same law whose implacable severity shall
also claim Claudio's life. Isabella, perceiving in this conduct only a
further proof of the hypocrite's villainy, breaks out once more into a
tempest of agonised despair. Upon her cry for immediate revolt against
the scoundrelly tyrant, the people collect together and form a motley
and passionate crowd. Luzio, who also returns, counsels the people with
stinging bitterness to pay no heed to the woman's fury; he points out
that she is only tricking them, as she has already tricked him--for he
still believes in her shameless infidelity. Fresh confusion; increased
despair of Isabella; suddenly from the background comes the burlesque
cry of Brighella for help, who, himself suffering from the pangs of
jealousy, has by mistake arrested the masked Regent, and thus led to
the latter's discovery. Friedrich is recognised, and Marianne,
trembling on his breast, is also unmasked. Amazement, indignation!
Cries of joy burst forth all round; the needful explanations are
quickly given, and Friedrich sullenly demands to be set before the
judgment-seat of the returning King. Claudio, released from prison by
the jubilant populace, informs him that the sentence of death for
crimes of love is not intended for all times; messengers arrive to
announce the unexpected arrival in harbour of the King; it is resolved
to march in full masked procession to meet the beloved Prince, and
joyously to pay him homage, all being convinced that he will heartily
rejoice to see how ill the gloomy puritanism of Germany is suited to
his hot-blooded Sicily. Of him it is said:

Your merry festals please him more Than gloomy laws or legal lore.

Friedrich, with his freshly affianced wife, Marianne, must lead the
procession, followed by Luzio and the novice, who is for ever lost to
the convent.

These spirited and, in many respects, boldly devised scenes I had
clothed in suitable language and carefully written verse, which had
already been noticed by Laube. The police at first took exception to
the title of the work, which, had I not changed it, would have led to
the complete failure of my plans for its presentation. It was the week
before Easter, and the theatre was consequently forbidden to produce
jolly, or at least frivolous, plays during this period. Luckily the
magistrate, with whom I had to treat concerning the matter, did not
show any inclination to examine the libretto himself; and when I
assured him that it was modelled upon a very serious play of
Shakespeare's, the authorities contented themselves merely with
changing the somewhat startling title. Die Novize van Palermo, which
was the new title, had nothing suspicious about it, and was therefore
approved as correct without further scruple. I fared quite otherwise in
Leipzig, where I attempted to introduce this work in the place of my
Feen, when the latter was withdrawn. The director, Ringelhardt, whom I
sought to win over to my cause by assigning the part of Marianne to his
daughter, then making her debut in opera, chose to reject my work on
the apparently very reasonable grounds that the tendency of the theme
displeased him. He assured me that, even if the Leipzig magistrates had
consented to its production--a fact concerning which his high esteem
for that body led him to have serious doubts--he himself, as a
conscientious father, could certainly not permit his daughter to take
part in it.

Strange to say, I suffered nothing from the suspicious nature of the
libretto of my opera on the occasion of its production in Magdeburg;
for, as I have said, thanks to the unintelligible manner in which it
was produced, the story remained a complete mystery to the public. This
circumstance, and the fact that no opposition had been raised on the
ground of its TENDENCY, made a second performance possible, and as
nobody seemed to care one way or the other, no objections were raised.
Feeling sure that my opera had made no impression, and had left the
public completely undecided about its merits, I reckoned that, in view
of this being the farewell performance of our opera company, we should
have good, not to say large, takings. Consequently I did not hesitate
to charge 'full' prices for admittance. I cannot rightly judge whether,
up to the commencement of the overture, any people had taken their
places in the auditorium; but about a quarter of an hour before the
time fixed for beginning, I saw only Mme. Gottschalk and her husband,
and, curiously enough, a Polish Jew in full dress, seated in the
stalls. Despite this, I was still hoping for an increase in the
audience, when suddenly the most incredible commotion occurred behind
the scenes. Herr Pollert, the husband of my prima donna (who was acting
Isabella), was assaulting Schreiber, the second tenor, a very young and
handsome man taking the part of Claudio, and against whom the injured
husband had for some time been nursing a secret rancour born of
jealousy. It appeared that the singer's husband, who had surveyed the
theatre from behind the drop-scene with me, had satisfied himself as to
the style of the audience, and decided that the longed-for hour was at
hand when, without injuring the operatic enterprise, he could wreak
vengeance on his wife's lover. Claudio was so severely used by him that
the unfortunate fellow had to seek refuge in the dressing-room, his
face covered with blood. Isabella was told of this, and rushed
despairingly to her raging spouse, only to be so soundly cuffed by him
that she went into convulsions. The confusion that ensued amongst the
company soon knew no bounds: they took sides in the quarrel, and little
was wanting for it to turn into a general fight, as everybody seemed to
regard this unhappy evening as particularly favourable for the paying
off of any old scores and supposed insults. This much was clear, that
the couple suffering from the effects of Herr Pollert's conjugal
resentment were unfit to appear that evening. The manager was sent
before the drop-scene to inform the small and strangely assorted
audience gathered in the theatre that, owing to unforeseen
circumstances, the representation would not take place.

This was the end of my career as director and composer in Magdeburg,
which in the beginning had seemed so full of promise and had been
started at the cost of considerable sacrifice. The serenity of art now
gave way completely before the stern realities of life. My position
gave food for meditation, and the outlook was not a cheerful one. All
the hopes that I and Minna had founded upon the success of my work had
been utterly destroyed. My creditors, who had been appeased by the
anticipation of the expected harvest, lost faith in my talents, and now
counted solely on obtaining bodily possession of me, which they
endeavoured to do by speedily instituting legal proceedings. Now that
every time I came home I found a summons nailed to my door, my little
dwelling in the Breiter Weg became unbearable; I avoided going there,
especially since my brown poodle, who had hitherto enlivened this
retreat, had vanished, leaving no trace. This I looked upon as a bad
sign, indicating my complete downfall.

At this time Minna, with her truly comforting assurance and firmness of
bearing, was a tower of strength to me and the one thing I had left to
fall back upon. Always full of resource, she had first of all provided
for her own future, and was on the point of signing a not unfavourable
contract with the directors of the theatre at Konigsberg in Prussia. It
was now a question of finding me an appointment in the same place as
musical conductor; this post was already filled. The Konigsberg
director, however, gathering from our correspondence that Minna's
acceptance of the engagement depended upon the possibility of my being
taken on at the same theatre, held out the prospect of an approaching
vacancy, and expressed his willingness to allow it to be filled by me.
On the strength of this assurance it was decided that Minna should go
on to Konigsberg and pave the way for my arrival there.

Ere these plans could be carried out, we had still to spend a time of
dreadful and acute anxiety, which I shall never forget, within the
walls of Magdeburg. It is true I made one more personal attempt in
Leipzig to improve my position, on which occasion I entered into the
transactions mentioned above with the director of the theatre regarding
my new opera. But I soon realised that it was out of the question for
me to remain in my native town, and in the disquieting proximity of my
family, from which I was restlessly anxious to get away. My
excitability and depression were noticed by my relations. My mother
entreated me, whatever else I might decide to do, on no account to be
drawn into marriage while still so young. To this I made no reply. When
I took my leave, Rosalie accompanied me to the head of the stairs. I
spoke of returning as soon as I had attended to certain important
business matters, and wanted to wish her a hurried good-bye: she
grasped my hand, and gazing into my face, exclaimed, "God alone knows
when I shall see you again!" This cut me to the heart, and I felt
conscience-stricken. The fact that she was expressing the presentiment
she felt of her early death I only realised when, barely two years
later, without having seen her again, I received the news that she had
died very suddenly.

I spent a few more weeks with Minna in the strictest retirement in
Magdeburg: she endeavoured to the best of her ability to relieve the
embarrassment of my position. In view of our approaching separation,
and the length of time we might be parted, I hardly left her side, our
only relaxation being the walks we took together round the outskirts of
the town. Anxious forebodings weighed upon us; the May sun which lit
the sad streets of Magdeburg, as if in mockery of our forlorn
condition, was one day more clouded over than I have ever seen it
since, and filled me with a positive dread. On our way home from one of
these walks, as we were approaching the bridge crossing the Elbe, we
caught sight of a man flinging himself from it into the water beneath.
We ran to the bank, called for help, and persuaded a miller, whose mill
was situated on the river, to hold out a rake to the drowning man, who
was being swept in his direction by the current. With indescribable
anxiety we waited for the decisive moment--saw the sinking man stretch
out his hands towards the rake, but he failed to grasp it, and at the
same moment disappeared under the mill, never to be seen again. On the
morning that I accompanied Minna to the stage-coach to bid her a most
sorrowful farewell, the whole population was pouring from one of the
gateways of the town towards a big field, to witness the execution of a
man condemned to be put to death on the wheel 'from below.'

[Footnote: Durch das Rod van unten. The punishment of the wheel was
usually inflicted upon murderers, incendiaries, highwaymen and church
robbers. There were two methods of inflicting this: (1) 'from above
downwards' (von oben nach unten), in which the condemned man was
despatched instantly owing to his neck getting broken from the start;
and (2) 'from below upwards' (von unten nach oben), which is the method
referred to above, and in which all the limbs of the victim were broken
previous to his body being actually twisted through the spokes of the
wheel.--Editor ]

The culprit was a soldier who had murdered his sweetheart in a fit of
jealousy. When, later in the day, I sat down to my last dinner at the
inn, I heard the dreadful details of the Prussian mode of execution
being discussed on all sides. A young magistrate, who was a great lover
of music, told us about a conversation he had had with the executioner,
who had been procured from Halle, and with whom he had discussed the
most humane method of hastening the death of the victim; in telling us
about him, he recalled the elegant dress and manners of this ill-omened
person with a shudder.

These were the last impressions I carried away from the scene of my
first artistic efforts and of my attempts at earning an independent
livelihood. Often since then on my departure from places where I had
expected to find prosperity, and to which I knew I should never return,
those impressions have recurred to my mind with singular persistence. I
have always had much the same feelings upon leaving any place where I
had stayed in the hope of improving my position.

Thus I arrived in Berlin for the first time on the 18th May, 1836, and
made acquaintance with the peculiar features of that pretentious royal
capital. While my position was an uncertain one, I sought a modest
shelter at the Crown Prince in the Konigstrasse, where Minna had stayed
a few months before. I found a friend on whom I could rely when I came
across Laube again, who, while awaiting his verdict, was busying
himself with private and literary work in Berlin. He was much
interested in the fate of my work Liebesverbot, and advised me to turn
my present situation to account for the purpose of obtaining the
production of this opera at the Konigstadt theatre. This theatre was
under the direction of one of the most curious creatures in Berlin: he
was called 'Cerf,' and the title of Commissionsrath had been conferred
upon him by the King of Prussia. To account for the favours bestowed
upon him by royalty, many reasons of a not very edifying nature were
circulated. Through this royal patronage he had succeeded in extending
considerably the privileges already enjoyed by the suburban theatre.
The decline of grand opera at the Theatre Royal had brought light
opera, which was performed with great success at the Konigstadt
theatre, into public favour. The director, puffed up by success, openly
laboured under the delusion that he was the right man in the right
place, and expressed his entire agreement with those who declared that
one could only expect a theatre to be successfully managed by common
and uneducated men, and continued to cling to his blissful and
boundless state of ignorance in the most amusing manner. Relying
absolutely upon his own insight, he had assumed an entirely dictatorial
attitude towards the officially appointed artists of his theatre, and
allowed himself to deal with them according to his likes and dislikes.
I seemed destined to be favoured by this mode of procedure: at my very
first visit Cerf expressed his satisfaction with me, but wished to make
use of me as a 'tenor.' He offered no objection whatever to my request
for the production of my opera, but, on the contrary, promised to have
it staged immediately. He seemed particularly anxious to appoint me
conductor of the orchestra. As he was on the point of changing his
operatic company, he foresaw that his present conductor, Glaser, the
composer of Adlershorst, would hinder his plans by taking the part of
the older singers: he was therefore anxious to have me associated with
his theatre, that he might have some one to support him who was
favourably disposed towards the new singers.

All this sounded so plausible, that I could scarcely be blamed for
believing that the wheel of fortune had taken a favourable
 turn for me, and for feeling a sense of lightheartedness at the
thought of such rosy prospects. I had scarcely allowed myself the few
modifications in my manner of living which these improved circumstances
seemed to justify, ere it was made clear to me that my hopes were built
upon sand. I was filled with positive dread when I soon fully realised
how nearly Cerf had come to defrauding me, merely it would seem for his
own amusement. After the manner of despots, he had given his favours
personally and autocratically; the withdrawal and annulment of his
promises, however, he made known to me through his servants and
secretaries, thus placing his strange conduct towards me in the light
of the inevitable result of his dependence upon officialdom.

As Cerf wished to rid himself of me without even offering me
compensation, I was obliged to try to come to some understanding
regarding all that had been definitely arranged between us, and this
with the very people against whom he had previously warned me and had
wanted me to side with him. The conductor, stage manager, secretary,
etc., had to make it clear to me that my wishes could not be satisfied,
and that the director owed me no compensation whatever for the time he
had made me waste while awaiting the fulfilment of his promises. This
unpleasant experience has been a source of pain to me ever since.

Owing to all this my position was very much worse than it had been
before. Minna wrote to me frequently from Konigsberg, but she had
nothing encouraging to tell me with regard to my hopes in that
direction. The director of the theatre there seemed unable to come to
any clear understanding with his conductor, a circumstance which I was
afterwards able to understand, but which at the time appeared to me
inexplicable, and made my chance of obtaining the coveted appointment
seem exceedingly remote. It seemed certain, however, that the post
would be vacant in the autumn, and as I was drifting about aimlessly in
Berlin and refused for a moment to entertain the thought of returning
to Leipzig, I snatched at this faint hope, and in imagination soared
above the Berlin quicksands to the safety of the harbour on the Baltic.

I only succeeded in doing so, however, after I had struggled
 through difficult and serious inward conflicts to which my
relations with Minna gave rise. An incomprehensible feature in the
character of this otherwise apparently simple-minded woman had thrown
my young heart into a turmoil. A good-natured, well-to-do tradesman of
Jewish extraction, named Schwabe, who till that time had been
established in Magdeburg, made friendly advances to me in Berlin, and I
soon discovered that his sympathy was chiefly due to the passionate
interest which he had conceived for Minna. It afterwards became clear
to me that an intimacy had existed between this man and Minna, which in
itself could hardly be considered as a breach of faith towards me,
since it had ended in a decided repulse of my rival's courtship in my
favour. But the fact of this episode having been kept so secret that I
had not had the faintest idea of it before, and also the suspicion I
could not avoid harbouring that Minna's comfortable circumstances were
in part due to this man's friendship, filled me with gloomy misgivings.
But as I have said, although I could find no real cause to complain of
infidelity, I was distracted and alarmed, and was at last driven to the
half-desperate resolve of regaining my balance in this respect by
obtaining complete possession of Minna. It seemed to me as though my
stability as a citizen as well as my professional success would be
assured by a recognised union with Minna. The two years spent in the
theatrical world had, in fact, kept me in a constant state of
distraction, of which in my heart of hearts I was most painfully
conscious. I realised vaguely that I was on the wrong path; I longed
for peace and quiet, and hoped to find these most effectually by
getting married, and so putting an end to the state of things that had
become the source of so much anxiety to me.

It was not surprising that Laube noticed by my untidy, passionate, and
wasted appearance that something unusual was amiss with me. It was only
in his company, which I always found comforting, that I gained the only
impressions of Berlin which compensated me in any way for my
misfortunes. The most important artistic experience I had, came to me
through the performance of Ferdinand Cortez, conducted by Spontini
himself, the spirit of which astonished me more than anything I had
ever heard before. Though the actual production, especially as regards
the chief characters, who as a whole could not be regarded as belonging
to the flower of Berlin opera, left me unmoved, and though the effect
never reached a point that could be even distantly compared to that
produced upon me by Schroder-Devrient, yet the exceptional precision,
fire, and richly organised rendering of the whole was new to me. I
gained a fresh insight into the peculiar dignity of big theatrical
representations, which in their several parts could, by
well-accentuated rhythm, be made to attain the highest pinnacle of art.
This extraordinarily distinct impression took a drastic hold of me, and
above all served to guide me in my conception of Rienzi, so that,
speaking from an artistic point of view, Berlin may be said to have
left its traces on my development.

For the present, however, my chief concern was to extricate myself from
my extremely helpless position. I was determined to turn my steps to
Konigsberg, and communicated my decision, and the hopes founded upon
it, to Laube. This excellent friend, without further inquiry, made a
point of exerting his energies to free me from my present state of
despair, and to help me to reach my next destination, an object which,
through the assistance of several of his friends, he succeeded in
accomplishing. When he said good-bye to me, Laube with sympathetic
foresight warned me, should I succeed in my desired career of musical
conductor, not to allow myself to be entangled in the shallowness of
stage life, and advised me, after fatiguing rehearsals, instead of
going to my sweetheart, to take a serious book in hand, in order that
my greater gifts might not go uncultivated. I did not tell him that by
taking an early and decisive step in this direction I intended to
protect myself effectually against the dangers of theatrical intrigues.
On the 7th of July, therefore, I started on what was at that time an
extremely troublesome and fatiguing journey to the distant town of
Konigsberg.

It seemed to me as though I were leaving the world, as I travelled on
day after day through the desert marches. Then followed a sad and
humiliating impression of Konigsberg, where, in one of the
poorest-looking suburbs, Tragheim, near the theatre, and in a lane such
as one would expect to find in a
 village, I found the ugly house in which Minna lodged. The
friendly and quiet kindness of manner, however, which was peculiar to
her, soon made me feel at home. She was popular at the theatre, and was
respected by the managers and actors, a fact which seemed to augur well
for her betrothed, the part I was now openly to assume.

Though as yet there seemed no distinct prospect of my getting the
appointment I had come for, yet we agreed that I could hold out a
little longer, and that the matter would certainly be arranged in the
end. This was also the opinion of the eccentric Abraham Moller, a
worthy citizen of Konigsberg, who was devoted to the theatre, and who
took a very friendly interest in Minna, and finally also in me. This
man, who was already well advanced in life, belonged to the type of
theatre lovers now probably completely extinct in Germany, but of whom
so much is recorded in the history of actors of earlier times. One
could not spend an hour in the company of this man, who at one time had
gone in for the most reckless speculations, without having to listen to
his account of the glory of the stage in former times, described in
most lively terms. As a man of means he had at one time made the
acquaintance of nearly all the great actors and actresses of his day,
and had even known how to win their friendship. Through too great a
liberality he unfortunately found himself in reduced circumstances, and
was now obliged to procure the means to satisfy his craving for the
theatre and his desire to protect those belonging to it by entering
into all kinds of strange business transactions, in which, without
running any real risk, he felt there was something to be gained. He was
accordingly only able to afford the theatre a very meagre support, but
one which was quite in keeping with its decrepit condition.

This strange man, of whom the theatre director, Anton Hubsch, stood to
a certain extent in awe, undertook to procure me my appointment. The
only circumstance against me was the fact that Louis Schubert, the
famous musician whom I had known from very early times as the first
violoncellist of the Magdeburg orchestra, had come to Konigsberg from
Riga, where the theatre had been closed for a time, and where he had
left his wife, in order to fill the post of musical conductor here
until the new theatre in Riga was opened, and he could return. The
reopening of the Riga theatre, which had already been fixed for the
Easter of this year, had been postponed, and he was now anxious not to
leave Konigsberg. Since Schubert was a thorough master in his art, and
since his choosing to remain or go depended entirely on circumstances
over which he had no control, the theatre director found himself in the
embarrassing position of having to secure some one who would be willing
to wait to enter upon his appointment till Schubert's business called
him away. Consequently a young musical conductor who was anxious to
remain in Konigsberg at any price could but be heartily welcomed as a
reserve and substitute in case of emergency. Indeed, the director
declared himself willing to give me a small retaining fee till the time
should arrive for my definite entrance upon my duties.

Schubert, on the contrary, was furious at my arrival; there was no
longer any necessity for his speedy return to Riga, since the reopening
of the theatre there had been postponed indefinitely. Moreover, he had
a special interest in remaining in Konigsberg, as he had conceived a
passion for the prima donna there, which considerably lessened his
desire to return to his wife. So at the last moment he clung to his
Konigsberg post with great eagerness, regarded me as his deadly enemy,
and, spurred on by his instinct of self-preservation, used every means
in his power to make my stay in Konigsberg, and the already painful
position I occupied while awaiting his departure, a veritable hell to
me.

While in Magdeburg I had been on the friendliest footing with both
musicians and singers, and had been shown the greatest consideration by
the public, I here found I had to defend myself on all sides against
the most mortifying ill-will. This hostility towards me, which soon
made itself apparent, contributed in no small degree to make me feel as
though in coming to Konigsberg I had gone into exile. In spite of my
eagerness, I realised that under the circumstances my marriage with
Minna would prove a hazardous undertaking. At the beginning of August
the company went to Memel for a time, to open the summer season there,
and I followed Minna a few days later. We went most of the way by sea,
and crossed the Kurische Haff in a sailing vessel in bad weather with
the wind against us--one of the most melancholy crossings I have ever
experienced. As we passed the thin strip of sand that divides this bay
from the Baltic Sea, the castle of Runsitten, where Hoffmann laid the
scene of one of his most gruesome tales (Das Majorat), was pointed out
to me. The fact that in this desolate neighbourhood, of all places in
the world, I should after so long a lapse of time be once more brought
in contact with the fantastic impressions of my youth, had a singular
and depressing effect on my mind. The unhappy sojourn in Memel, the
lamentable role I played there, everything in short, contributed to
make me find my only consolation in Minna, who, after all, was the
cause of my having placed myself in this unpleasant position. Our
friend Abraham followed us from Konigsberg and did all kinds of queer
things to promote my interests, and was obviously anxious to put the
director and conductor at variance with each other. One day Schubert,
in consequence of a dispute with Hubsch on the previous night, actually
declared himself too unwell to attend a rehearsal of Euryanthe, in
order to force the manager to summon me suddenly to take his place. In
doing this my rival maliciously hoped that as I was totally unprepared
to conduct this difficult opera, which was seldom played, I would
expose my incapacity in a manner most welcome to his hostile
intentions. Although I had never really had a score of Euryanthe before
me, his wish was so little gratified, that he elected to get well for
the representation in order to conduct it himself, which he would not
have done if it had been found necessary to cancel the performance on
account of my incompetence. In this wretched position, vexed in mind,
exposed to the severe climate, which even on summer evenings struck me
as horribly cold, and occupied merely in warding off the most painful
troubles of life, my time, as far as any professional advancement was
concerned, was completely lost. At last, on our return to Konigsberg,
and particularly under the guardianship of Moller, the question as to
what was to be done was more earnestly considered. Finally, Minna and I
were offered a fairly good engagement in Danzig, through the influence
of my brother-in-law Wolfram and his wife, who had gone there.

Moller seized this opportunity to induce the director Hubsch, who was
anxious not to lose Minna, to sign a contract including us both, and by
which it was understood that under any circumstances I should be
officially appointed as conductor at his theatre from the following
Easter. Moreover, for our wedding, a benefit performance was promised,
for which we chose Die Stumme von Portici, to be conducted by me in
person. For, as Moller remarked, it was absolutely necessary for us to
get married, and to have a due celebration of the event; there was no
getting out of it. Minna made no objection, and all my past endeavours
and resolutions seemed to prove that my one desire was to take anchor
in the haven of matrimony. In spite of this, however, a strange
conflict was going on within me at this time. I had become sufficiently
intimate with Minna's life and character to realise the wide difference
between our two natures as fully as the important step I was about to
take necessitated; but my powers of judgment were not yet sufficiently
matured.

My future wife was the child of poor parents, natives of Oederan in the
Erzgebirge in Saxony. Her father was no ordinary man; he possessed
enormous vitality, but in his old age showed traces of some feebleness
of mind. In his young days he had been a trumpeter in Saxony, and in
this capacity had taken part in a campaign against the French, and had
also been present at the battle of Wagram. He afterwards became a
mechanic, and took up the trade of manufacturing cards for carding
wool, and as he invented an improvement in the process of their
production, he is said to have made a very good business of it for some
time. A rich manufacturer of Chemnitz once gave him a large order to be
delivered at the end of the year: the children, whose pliable fingers
had already proved serviceable in this respect, had to work hard day
and night, and in return the father promised them an exceptionally
happy Christmas, as he expected to get a large sum of money. When the
longed-for time arrived, however, he received the announcement of his
client's bankruptcy. The goods that had already been delivered were
lost, and the material that remained on his hands there was no prospect
of selling. The family never succeeded in recovering from the state of
confusion into which this misfortune had thrown them; they went to
Dresden, where the father hoped to find remunerative employment as a
skilled mechanic, especially in the manufacture of pianos, of which he
supplied separate parts. He also brought away with him a large quantity
of the fine wire which had been destined for the manufacture of the
cards, and which he hoped to be able to sell at a profit. The
ten-year-old Minna was commissioned to sell separate lots of it to the
milliners for making flowers. She would set out with a heavy basketful
of wire, and had such a gift for persuading people to buy that she soon
disposed of the whole supply to the best advantage. From this time the
desire was awakened in her to be of active use to her impoverished
family, and to earn her own living as soon as possible, in order not to
be a burden on her parents. As she grew up and developed into a
strikingly beautiful woman, she attracted the attention of men at a
very early age. A certain Herr von Einsiedel fell passionately in love
with her, and took advantage of the inexperienced young girl when she
was off her guard. Her family was thrown into the utmost consternation,
and only her mother and elder sister could be told of the terrible
position in which Minna found herself. Her father, from whose anger the
worst consequences were to be feared, was never informed that his
barely seventeen-year-old daughter had become a mother, and under
conditions that had threatened her life, had given birth to a girl.
Minna, who could obtain no redress from her seducer, now felt doubly
called upon to earn her own livelihood and leave her father's house.
Through the influence of friends, she had been brought into contact
with an amateur theatrical society: while acting in a performance given
there, she attracted the notice of members of the Royal Court Theatre,
and in particular drew the attention of the director of the Dessau
Court Theatre, who was present, and who immediately offered her an
engagement. She gladly caught at this way of escape from her trying
position, as it opened up the possibility of a brilliant stage career,
and of some day being able to provide amply for her family. She had not
the slightest passion for the stage, and utterly devoid as she was of
any levity or coquetry, she merely saw in a theatrical career the means
of earning a quick, and possibly even a rich, livelihood. Without any
artistic training, the theatre merely meant for her the company of
actors and actresses. Whether she pleased or not seemed of importance
in her eyes only in so far as it affected her realisation of a
comfortable independence. To use all the means at her disposal to
assure this end seemed to her as necessary as it is for a tradesman to
expose his goods to the best advantage.

The friendship of the director, manager, and favourite members of the
theatre she regarded as indispensable, whilst those frequenters of the
theatre who, through their criticism or taste, influenced the public,
and thus also had weight with the management, she recognised as beings
upon whom the attainment of her most fervent desires depended. Never to
make enemies of them appeared so natural and so necessary that, in
order to maintain her popularity, she was prepared to sacrifice even
her self-respect. She had in this way created for herself a certain
peculiar code of behaviour, that on the one hand prompted her to avoid
scandals, but on the other hand found excuses even for making herself
conspicuous as long as she herself knew that she was doing nothing
wrong. Hence arose a mixture of inconsistencies, the questionable sense
of which she was incapable of grasping. It was clearly impossible for
her not to lose all real sense of delicacy; she showed, however, a
sense of the fitness of things, which made her have regard to what was
considered proper, though she could not understand that mere
appearances were a mockery when they only served to cloak the absence
of a real sense of delicacy. As she was without idealism, she had no
artistic feeling; neither did she possess any talent for acting, and
her power of pleasing was due entirely to her charming appearance.
Whether in time routine would have made her become a good actress it is
impossible for me to say. The strange power she exercised over me from
the very first was in no wise due to the fact that I regarded her in
any way as the embodiment of my ideal; on the contrary, she attracted
me by the soberness and seriousness of her character, which
supplemented what I felt to be wanting in my own, and afforded me the
support that in my wanderings after the ideal I knew to be necessary
for me.

I had soon accustomed myself never to betray my craving after the ideal
before Minna: unable to account for this even to myself, I always made
a point of avoiding the subject by passing it over with a laugh and a
joke; but, on this account, it was all the more natural for me to feel
qualms when fears arose in my mind as to her really possessing the
qualities to which I had attributed her superiority over me. Her
strange tolerance with regard to certain familiarities and even
importunities on the part of patrons of the theatre, directed even
against her person, hurt me considerably; and on my reproaching her for
this, I was driven to despair by her assuming an injured expression as
though I had insulted her. It was quite by chance that I came across
Schwabe's letters, and thus gained an astonishing insight into her
intimacy with that man, of which she had left me in ignorance, and
allowed me to gain my first knowledge during my stay in Berlin. All my
latent jealousy, all my inmost doubts concerning Minna's character,
found vent in my sudden determination to leave the girl at once. There
was a violent scene between us, which was typical of all our subsequent
altercations. I had obviously gone too far in treating a woman who was
not passionately in love with me, as if I had a real right over her;
for, after all, she had merely yielded to my importunity, and in no way
belonged to me. To add to my perplexity, Minna only needed to remind me
that from a worldly point of view she had refused very good offers in
order to give way to the impetuosity of a penniless young man, whose
talent had not yet been put to any real test, and to whom she had
nevertheless shown sympathy and kindness.

What she could least forgive in me was the raging vehemence with which
I spoke, and by which she felt so insulted, that upon realising to what
excesses I had gone, there was nothing I could do but try and pacify
her by owning myself in the wrong, and begging her forgiveness. Such
was the end of this and all subsequent scenes, outwardly; at least,
always to her advantage. But peace was undermined for ever, and by the
frequent recurrence of such quarrels, Minna's character underwent a
considerable change. Just as in later times she became perplexed by
what she considered my incomprehensible conception of art and its
proportions, which upset her ideas about everything connected with it,
so now she grew more and more confused by my greater delicacy in regard
to morality, which was very different from hers, especially as in many
other respects I displayed a freedom of opinion which the could neither
comprehend nor approve.

A feeling of passionate resentment was accordingly roused in her
otherwise tranquil disposition. It was not surprising that this
resentment increased as the years went on, and manifested itself in a
manner characteristic of a girl sprung from the lower middle class, in
whom mere superficial polish had taken the place of any true culture.
The real torment of our subsequent life together lay in the fact that,
owing to her violence, I had lost the last support I had hitherto found
in her exceptionally sweet disposition. At that time I was filled only
with a dim foreboding of the fateful step I was taking in marrying her.
Her agreeable and soothing qualities still had such a beneficial effect
upon me, that with the frivolity natural to me, as well as the
obstinacy with which I met all opposition, I silenced the inner voice
that darkly foreboded disaster.

Since my journey to Konigsberg I had broken off all communication with
my family, that is to say, with my mother and Rosalie, and I told no
one of the step I had decided to take. Under my old friend Moller's
audacious guidance I overcame all the legal difficulties that stood in
the way of our union. According to Prussian law, a man who has reached
his majority no longer requires his parents' consent to his marriage:
but since, according to this same provision, I was not yet of age, I
had recourse to the law of Saxony, to which country I belonged by
birth, and by whose regulations I had already attained my majority at
the age of twenty-one. Our banns had to be published at the place where
we had been living during the past year, and this formality was carried
out in Magdeburg without any further objections being raised. As
Minna's parents had given their consent, the only thing that still
remained to be done to make everything quite in order was for us to go
together to the clergyman of the parish of Tragheim. This proved a
strange enough visit. It took place the morning preceding the
performance to be given for our benefit, in which Minna had chosen, the
pantomimic role of Fenella; her costume was not ready yet, and there
was still a great deal to be done. The rainy cold November weather made
us feel out of humour, when, to add to our vexation, we were kept
standing in the hall of the vicarage for an unreasonable time. Then an
altercation arose between us which speedily led to such bitter
vituperation that we were just on the point of separating and going
each our own way, when the clergyman opened the door. Not a little
embarrassed at having surprised us in the act of quarrelling, he
invited us in. We were obliged to put a good face on the matter,
however; and the absurdity of the situation so tickled our sense of
humour that we laughed; the parson was appeased, and the wedding fixed
for eleven o'clock the next morning.

Another fruitful source of irritation, which often led to the outbreak
of violent quarrelling between us, was the arrangement of our future
home, in the interior comfort and beauty of which I hoped to find a
guarantee of happiness. The economical ideas of my bride filled me with
impatience. I was determined that the inauguration of a series of
prosperous years which I saw before me must be celebrated by a
correspondingly comfortable home. Furniture, household utensils, and
all necessaries were obtained on credit, to be paid for by instalment.
There was, of course, no question of a dowry, a wedding outfit, or any
of the things that are generally considered indispensable to a
well-founded establishment. Our witnesses and guests were drawn from
the company of actors accidentally brought together by their engagement
at the Konigsberg theatre. My friend Moller made us a present of a
silver sugar-basin, which was supplemented by a silver cake-basket from
another stage friend, a peculiar and, as far as I can remember, rather
interesting young man named Ernst Castell. The benefit performance of
the Die Stumme von Portici, which I conducted with great enthusiasm,
went off well, and brought us in as large a sum as we had counted upon.
After spending the rest of the day before our wedding very quietly, as
we were tired out after our return from the theatre, I took up my abode
for the first time in our new home. Not wishing to use the bridal bed,
decorated for the occasion, I lay down on a hard sofa, without even
sufficient covering on me, and froze valiantly while awaiting the
happiness of the following day. I was pleasantly excited the next
morning by the arrival of Minna's belongings, packed in boxes and
baskets. The weather, too, had quite cleared up, and the sun was
shining brightly; only our sitting-room refused to get properly warm,
which for some time drew down Minna's reproaches upon my head for my
supposed carelessness in not having seen to the heating arrangements.
At last I dressed myself in my new suit, a dark blue frock-coat with
gold buttons. The carriage drove up, and I set out to fetch my bride.
The bright sky had put us all in good spirits, and in the best of
humour I met Minna, who was dressed in a splendid gown chosen by me.
She greeted me with sincere cordiality and pleasure shining from her
eyes; and taking the fine weather as a good omen, we started off for
what now seemed to us a most cheerful wedding. We enjoyed the
satisfaction of seeing the church as over-crowded as if a brilliant
theatrical representation were being given; it was quite a difficult
matter to make our way to the altar, where a group no less worldly than
the rest, consisting of our witnesses, dressed in all their theatrical
finery, were assembled to receive us. There was not one real friend
amongst all those present, for even our strange old friend Moller was
absent, because no suitable partner had been found for him. I was not
for a single moment insensible to the chilling frivolity of the
congregation, who seemed to impart their tone to the whole ceremony. I
listened like one in a dream to the nuptial address of the parson, who,
I was afterwards told, had had a share in producing the spirit of
bigotry which at this time was so prevalent in Konigsberg, and which
exercised such a disquieting influence on its population.

A few days later I was told that a rumour had got about the town that I
had taken action against the parson for some gross insults contained in
his sermon; I did not quite see what was meant, but supposed that the
exaggerated report arose from a passage in his address which I in my
excitement had misunderstood. The preacher, in speaking of the dark
days, of which we were to expect our share, bade us look to an unknown
friend, and I glanced up inquiringly for further particulars of this
mysterious and influential patron who chose so strange a way of
announcing himself. Reproachfully, and with peculiar emphasis, the
pastor then pronounced the name of this unknown friend: Jesus. Now I
was not in any way insulted by this, as people imagined, but was simply
disappointed; at the same time, I thought that such exhortations were
probably usual in nuptial addresses.

But, on the whole, I was so absent-minded during this ceremony, which
was double Dutch to me, that when the parson held out the closed
prayer-book for us to place our wedding rings upon, Minna had to nudge
me forcibly to make me follow her example.

At that moment I saw, as clearly as in a vision, my whole being divided
into two cross-currents that dragged me in different directions; the
upper one faced the sun and carried me onward like a dreamer, whilst
the lower one held my nature captive, a prey to some inexplicable fear.
The extraordinary levity with which I chased away the conviction which
kept forcing itself upon me, that I was committing a twofold sin, was
amply accounted for by the really genuine affection with which I looked
upon the young girl whose truly exceptional character (so rare in the
environment in which she had been placed) led her thus to bind herself
to a young man without any means of support. It was eleven o'clock on
the morning of the 24th of November, 1836, and I was twenty-three and a
half.

On the way home from church, and afterwards, my good spirits rose
superior to all my doubts.

Minna at once took upon herself the duty of receiving and entertaining
her guests. The table was spread, and a rich feast, at which Abraham
Moller, the energetic promoter of our marriage, also took part,
although he had been rather put out by his exclusion from the church
ceremony, made up for the coldness of the room, which for a long time
refused to get warm, to the great distress of the young hostess.

Everything went off in the usual uneventful way. Nevertheless, I
retained my good spirits till the next morning, when I had to present
myself at the magistrate's court to meet the demands of my creditors,
which had been forwarded to me from Magdeburg to Konigsburg.

My friend Moller, whom I had retained for my defence, had foolishly
advised me to meet my creditors' demands by pleading infancy according
to the law of Prussia, at all events until actual assistance for the
settlement of the claims could be obtained.

The magistrate, to whom I stated this plea as I had been advised, was
astonished, being probably well aware of my marriage on the previous
day, which could only have taken place on the production of documentary
proof of my majority. I naturally only gained a brief respite by this
manoeuvre, and the troubles which beset me for a long time afterwards
had their origin on the first day of my marriage.

During the period when I held no appointment at the theatre I suffered
various humiliations. Nevertheless, I thought it wise to make the most
of my leisure in the interests of my art, and I finished a few pieces,
among which was a grand overture on Rule Britannia.

When I was still in Berlin I had written the overture entitled Polonia,
which has already been mentioned in connection with the Polish
festival. Rule Britannia was a further and deliberate step in the
direction of mass effects; at the close a strong military band was to
be added to the already over-full orchestra, and I intended to have the
whole thing performed at the Musical Festival in Konigsberg in the
summer.

To these two overtures I added a supplement--an overture entitled
Napoleon. The point to which I devoted my chief attention was the
selection of the means for producing certain effects, and I carefully
considered whether I should express the annihilating stroke of fate
that befell the French Emperor in Russia by a beat on the tom-tom or
not. I believe it was to a great extent my scruples about the
introduction of this beat that prevented me from carrying out my plan
just then.

On the other hand, the conclusions which I had reached regarding the
ill-success of Liebesverbot resulted in an operatic sketch in which the
demands made on the chorus and the staff of singers should be more in
proportion to the known capacity of the local company, as this small
theatre was the only one at my disposal.

A quaint tale from the Arabian Nights suggested the very subject for a
light work of this description, the title of which, if I remember
rightly, was Mannerlist grosser als Frauenlist ('Man outwits Woman').

I transplanted the story from Bagdad to a modern setting. A young
goldsmith offends the pride of a young woman by placing the above motto
on the sign over his shop; deeply veiled, she steps into his shop and
asks him, as he displays such excellent taste in his work, to express
his opinion on her own physical charms; he begins with her feet and her
hands, and finally, noticing his confusion, she removes the veil from
her face. The jeweller is carried away by her beauty, whereupon she
complains to him that her father, who has always kept her in the
strictest seclusion, describes her to all her suitors as an ugly
monster, his object being, she imagines, simply to keep her dowry. The
young man swears that he will not be frightened off by these foolish
objections, should the father raise them against his suit. No sooner
said than done. The daughter of this peculiar old gentleman is promised
to the unsuspecting jeweller, and is brought to her bridegroom as soon
as he has signed the contract. He then sees that the father has indeed
spoken the truth, the real daughter being a perfect scarecrow. The
beautiful lady returns to the bridegroom to gloat over his desperation,
and promises to release him from his terrible marriage if he will
remove the motto from his signboard. At this point I departed from the
original, and continued as follows: The enraged jeweller is on the
point of tearing down his unfortunate signboard when a curious
apparition leads him to pause in the act. He sees a bear-leader in the
street making his clumsy beast dance, in whom the luckless lover
recognises at a glance his own father, from whom he has been parted by
a hard fate.

He suppresses any sign of emotion, for in a flash a scheme occurs to
him by which he can utilise this discovery to free himself from the
hated marriage with the daughter of the proud old aristocrat.

He instructs the bear-leader to come that evening to the garden where
the solemn betrothal is to take place in the presence of the invited
guests.

He then explains to his young enemy that he wishes to leave the
signboard up for the time being, as he still hopes to prove the truth
of the motto.

After the marriage contract, in which the young man arrogates to
himself all kinds of fictitious titles of nobility, has been read to
the assembled company (composed, say, of the elite of the noble
immigrants at the time of the French Revolution), there is heard
suddenly the pipe of the bear-leader, who enters the garden with his
prancing beast. Angered by this trivial diversion, the astonished
company become indignant when the bridegroom, giving free vent to his
feelings, throws himself with tears of joy into the arms of the
bear-leader and loudly proclaims him as his long-lost father. The
consternation of the company becomes even greater, however, when the
bear itself embraces the man they supposed to be of noble birth, for
the beast is no less a person than his own brother in the flesh who, on
the death of the real bear, had donned its skin, thus enabling the
poverty-stricken pair to continue to earn their livelihood in the only
way left to them. This public disclosure of the bridegroom's lowly
origin at once dissolves the marriage, and the young woman, declaring
herself outwitted by man, offers her hand in compensation to the
released jeweller.

To this unassuming subject I gave the title of the Gluckliche
Barenfamilie, and provided it with a dialogue which afterwards met with
Holtei's highest approval.

I was about to begin the music for it in a new light French style, but
the seriousness of my position, which grew more and more acute,
prevented further progress in my work.

In this respect my strained relations with the conductor of the theatre
were still a constant source of trouble. With neither the opportunity
nor the means to defend myself, I had to submit to being maligned and
rendered an object of suspicion on all sides by my rival, who remained
master of the field. The object of this was to disgust me with the idea
of taking up my appointment as musical conductor, for which the
contract had been signed for Easter. Though I did not lose my
self-confidence, I suffered keenly from the indignity and the
depressing effect of this prolonged strain.

When at last, at the beginning of April, the moment arrived for the
musical conductor Schubert to resign, and for me to take over the whole
charge, he had the melancholy satisfaction of knowing that not only was
the standing of the opera seriously weakened by the departure of the
prima donna, but that there was good reason to doubt whether the
theatre could be carried on at all. This month of Lent, which was such
a bad time in Germany for all similar theatrical enterprises, decimated
the Konigsberg audience with the rest. The director took the greatest
trouble imaginable to fill up the gaps in the staff of the opera by
means of engaging strangers temporarily, and by new acquisitions, and
in this my personality and unflagging activity were of real service; I
devoted all my energy to buoying up by word and deed the tattered ship
of the theatre, in which I now had a hand for the first time.

For a long time I had to try and keep cool under the most violent
treatment by a clique of students, among whom my predecessor had raised
up enemies for me; and by the unerring certainty of my conducting I had
to overcome the initial opposition of the orchestra, which had been set
against me.

After laboriously laying the foundation of personal respect, I was now
forced to realise that the business methods of the director, Hubsch,
had already involved too great a sacrifice to permit the theatre to
make its way against the unfavourableness of the season, and in May he
admitted to me that he had come to the point of being obliged to close
the theatre.

By summoning up all my eloquence, and by making suggestions which
promised a happy issue, I was able to induce him to persevere;
nevertheless, this was only possible by making demands on the loyalty
of his company, who were asked to forego part of their salaries for a
time. This aroused general bitterness on the part of the uninitiated,
and I found myself in the curious position of being forced to place the
director in a favourable light to those who were hard hit by these
measures, while I myself and my position were affected in such a manner
that my situation became daily more unendurable under the accumulation
of intolerable difficulties taking their root in my past.

But though I did not even then lose courage, Minna, who as my wife was
robbed of all that she had a right to expect, found this turn of fate
quite unbearable. The hidden canker of our married life which, even
before our marriage, had caused me the most terrible anxiety and led to
violent scenes, reached its full growth under these sad conditions. The
less I was able to maintain the standard of comfort due to our position
by working and making the most of my talents, the more did Minna, to my
insufferable shame, consider it necessary to take this burden upon
herself by making the most of her personal popularity. The discovery of
similar condescensions--as I used to call them--on Minna's part, had
repeatedly led to revolting scenes, and only her peculiar conception of
her professional position and the needs it involved had made a
charitable interpretation possible.

I was absolutely unable to bring my young wife to see my point of view,
or to make her realise my own wounded feelings on these occasions,
while the unrestrained violence of my speech and behaviour made an
understanding once and for all impossible. These scenes frequently sent
my wife into convulsions of so alarming a nature that, as will easily
be realised, the satisfaction of reconciling her once more was all that
remained to me. Certain it was that our mutual attitude became more and
more incomprehensible and inexplicable to us both.

These quarrels, which now became more frequent and more distressing,
may have gone far to diminish the strength of any affection which Minna
was able to give me, but I had no idea that she was only waiting for a
favourable opportunity to come to a desperate decision.

To fill the place of tenor in our company, I had summoned Friedrich
Schmitt to Konigsberg, a friend of my first year in Magdeburg, to whom
allusion has already been made. He was sincerely devoted to me, and
helped me as much as possible in overcoming the dangers which
threatened the prosperity of the theatre as well as my own position.

The necessity of being on friendly terms with the public made me much
less reserved and cautious in making new acquaintances, especially when
in his company.

A rich merchant, of the name of Dietrich, had recently constituted
himself a patron of the theatre, and especially of
 the women. With due deference to the men with whom they were
connected, he used to invite the pick of these ladies to dinner at his
house, and affected, on these occasions, the well-to-do Englishman,
which was the beau-ideal for German merchants, especially in the
manufacturing towns of the north.

I had shown my annoyance at the acceptance of the invitation, sent to
us among the rest, at first simply because his looks were repugnant to
me. Minna considered this very unjust. Anyhow, I set my face decidedly
against continuing our acquaintance with this man, and although Minna
did not insist on receiving him, my conduct towards the intruder was
the cause of angry scenes between us.

One day Friedrich Schmitt considered it his duty to inform me that this
Herr Dietrich had spoken of me at a public dinner in such a manner as
to lead every one to suppose that he had a suspicious intimacy with my
wife. I felt obliged to suspect Minna of having, in some way unknown to
me, told the fellow about my conduct towards her, as well as about our
precarious position.

Accompanied by Schmitt, I called this dangerous person to account on
the subject in his own home. At first this only led to the usual
denials. Afterwards, however, he sent secret communications to Minna
concerning the interview, thus providing her with a supposed new
grievance against me in the form of my inconsiderate treatment of her.

Our relations now reached a critical stage, and on certain points we
preserved silence.

At the same time--it was towards the end of May, 1837--the business
affairs of the theatre had reached the crisis above mentioned, when the
management was obliged to fall back on the self-sacrificing
co-operation of the staff to assure the continuance of the undertaking.
As I have said before, my own position at the end of a year so
disastrous to my welfare was seriously affected by this; nevertheless,
there seemed to be no alternative for me but to face these difficulties
patiently, and relying on the faithful Friedrich Schmitt, but ignoring
Minna, I began to take the necessary steps for making my post at
Konigsberg secure. This, as well as the arduous part I took in the
business of the theatre, kept me so busy and so much away from home,
that I was not able to pay any particular attention to Minna's silence
and reserve.

On the morning of the 31st of May I took leave of Minna, expecting to
be detained till late in the afternoon by rehearsals and business
matters. With my entire approval she had for some time been accustomed
to have her daughter Nathalie, who was supposed by every one to be her
youngest sister, to stay with her.

As I was about to wish them my usual quiet good-bye, the two women
rushed after me to the door and embraced me passionately, Minna as well
as her daughter bursting into tears. I was alarmed, and asked the
meaning of this excitement, but could get no answer from them, and I
was obliged to leave them and ponder alone over their peculiar conduct,
of the reason for which I had not even the faintest idea.

I arrived home late in the afternoon, worn out by my exertions and
worries, dead-tired, pale and hungry, and was surprised to find the
table not laid and Minna not at home, the maid telling me that she had
not yet returned from her walk with Nathalie.

I waited patiently, sinking down exhausted at the work-table, which I
absent-mindedly opened. To my intense astonishment it was empty.
Horror-struck, I sprang up and went to the wardrobe, and realised at
once that Minna had left the house; her departure had been so cunningly
planned that even the maid was unaware of it.

With death in my soul I dashed out of the house to investigate the
cause of Minna's disappearance.

Old Moller, by his practical sagacity, very soon found out that
Dietrich, his personal enemy, had left Konigsberg in the direction of
Berlin by the special coach in the morning.

This horrible fact stood staring me in the face.

I had now to try and overtake the fugitives. With the lavish use of
money this might have been possible, but funds were lacking, and had,
in part, to be laboriously collected.

On Moller's advice I took the silver wedding presents with me in case
of emergency, and after the lapse of a few terrible hours went off,
also by special coach, with my distressed old friend. We hoped to
overtake the ordinary mail-coach, which had started a short time
before, as it was probable that Minna would also continue her journey
in this, at a safe distance from Konigsberg.

This proved impossible, and when next morning at break of day we
arrived in Elbing, we found our money exhausted by the lavish use of
the express coach, and were compelled to return; we discovered,
moreover, that even by using the ordinary coach we should be obliged to
pawn the sugar-basin and cake-dish.

This return journey to Konigsberg rightly remains one of the saddest
memories of my youth. Of course, I did not for a moment entertain the
idea of remaining in the place; my one thought was how I could best get
away. Hemmed in between the law-suits of my Magdeburg creditors and the
Konigsberg tradesmen, who had claims on me for the payment by
instalment of my domestic accounts, my departure could only be carried
out in secrecy. For this very reason, too, it was necessary for me to
raise money, particularly for the long journey from Konigsberg to
Dresden, whither I determined to go in quest of my wife, and these
matters detained me for two long and terrible days.

I received no news whatever from Minna; from Moller I ascertained that
she had gone to Dresden, and that Dietrich had only accompanied her for
a short distance on the excuse of helping her in a friendly way.

I succeeded in assuring myself that she really only wished to get away
from a position that filled her with desperation, and for this purpose
had accepted the assistance of a man who sympathised with her, and that
she was for the present seeking rest and shelter with her parents. My
first indignation at the event accordingly subsided to such an extent
that I gradually acquired more sympathy for her in her despair, and
began to reproach myself both for my conduct and for having brought
unhappiness on her.

I became so convinced of the correctness of this view during the
tedious journey to Dresden via Berlin, which I eventually undertook on
the 3rd of June, that when at last I found Minna at the humble abode of
her parents, I was really quite unable to express anything but
repentence and heartbroken sympathy.

It was quite true that Minna thought herself badly treated by me, and
declared that she had only been forced to take this desperate step by
brooding over our impossible position, to which she thought me both
blind and deaf. Her parents were not pleased to see me: the painfully
excited condition of their daughter seemed to afford sufficient
justification for her complaints against me. Whether my own sufferings,
my hasty pursuit, and the heartfelt expression of my grief made any
favourable impression on her, I can really hardly say, as her manner
towards me was very confused and, to a certain extent,
incomprehensible. Still she was impressed when I told her that there
was a good prospect of my obtaining the post of musical conductor at
Riga, where a new theatre was about to be opened under the most
favourable conditions. I felt that I must not press for new resolutions
concerning the regulation of our future relations just then, but must
strive the more earnestly to lay a better foundation for them.
Consequently, after spending a fearful week with my wife under the most
painful conditions, I went to Berlin, there to sign my agreement with
the new director of the Riga theatre. I obtained the appointment on
fairly favourable terms which, I saw, would enable me to keep house in
such a style that Minna could retire from the theatre altogether. By
this means she would be in a position to spare me all humiliation and
anxiety.

On returning to Dresden, I found that Minna was ready to lend a willing
ear to my proposed plans, and I succeeded in inducing her to leave her
parents' house, which was very cramped for us, and to establish herself
in the country at Blasewitz, near Dresden, to await our removal to
Riga. We found modest lodgings at an inn on the Elbe, in the farm-yard
of which I had often played as a child. Here Minna's frame of mind
really seemed to be improving. She had begged me not to press her too
hard, and I spared her as much as possible. After a few weeks I thought
I might consider the period of uneasiness past, but was surprised to
find the situation growing worse again without any apparent reason.
Minna then told me of some advantageous offers she had received from
different theatres, and astonished me one day by announcing her
intention of taking a short pleasure trip with a girl friend and her
family. As I felt obliged to avoid putting any restraint upon her, I
offered no objection to the execution of this project, which entailed a
week's separation, but accompanied her back to her parents myself,
promising to await her return quietly at Blasewitz. A few days later
her eldest sister called to ask me for the written permission required
to make out a passport for my wife. This alarmed me, and I went to
Dresden to ask her parents what their daughter was about. There, to my
surprise, I met with a very unpleasant reception; they reproached me
coarsely for my behaviour to Minna, whom they said I could not even
manage to support, and when I only replied by asking for information as
to the whereabouts of my wife, and about her plans for the future, I
was put off with improbable statements. Tormented by the sharpest
forebodings, and understanding nothing of what had occurred, I went
back to the village, where I found a letter from Konigsberg, from
Moller, which poured light on all my misery. Herr Dietrich had gone to
Dresden, and I was told the name of the hotel at which he was staying.
The terrible illumination thrown by this communication upon Minna's
conduct showed me in a flash what to do. I hurried into town to make
the necessary inquiries at the hotel mentioned, and found that the man
in question had been there, but had moved on again. He had vanished,
and Minna too! I now knew enough to demand of the Fates why, at such an
early age, they had sent me this terrible experience which, as it
seemed to me, had poisoned my whole existence.

I sought consolation for my boundless grief in the society of my sister
Ottilie and her husband, Hermann Brockhaus, an excellent fellow to whom
she had been married for some years. They were then living at their
pretty summer villa in the lovely Grosser Garten, near Dresden. I had
looked them up at once the first time I went to Dresden, but as I had
not at that time the slightest idea of how things were going to turn
out, I had told them nothing, and had seen but little of them. Now I
was moved to break my obstinate silence, and unfold to them the cause
of my misery, with but few reservations.

For the first time I was in a position gratefully to appreciate the
advantages of family intercourse, and of the direct and disinterested
intimacy between blood relations. Explanations were hardly necessary,
and as brother and sister we found ourselves as closely linked now as
we had been when we were children. We arrived at a complete
understanding without having to explain what we meant; I was unhappy,
she was happy; consolation and help followed as a matter of course.

This was the sister to whom I once had read Leubald und Adelaide in a
thunderstorm; the sister who had listened, filled with astonishment and
sympathy, to that eventful performance of my first overture on
Christmas Eve, and whom I now found married to one of the kindest of
men, Hermann Brockhaus, who soon earned a reputation for himself as an
expert in oriental languages. He was the youngest brother of my elder
brother-in-law, Friedrich Brockhaus. Their union was blessed by two
children; their comfortable means favoured a life free from care, and
when I made my daily pilgrimage from Blasewitz to the famous Grosser
Garten, it was like stepping from a desert into paradise to enter their
house (one of the popular villas), knowing that I would invariably find
a welcome in this happy family circle. Not only was my spirit soothed
and benefited by intercourse with my sister, but my creative instincts,
which had long lain dormant, were stimulated afresh by the society of
my brilliant and learned brother-in-law. It was brought home to me,
without in any way hurting my feelings, that my early marriage,
excusable as it may have been, was yet an error to be retrieved, and my
mind regained sufficient elasticity to compose some sketches, designed
this time not merely to meet the requirements of the theatre as I knew
it. During the last wretched days I had spent with Minna at Blasewitz,
I had read Bulwer Lytton's novel, Rienzi; during my convalescence in
the bosom of my sympathetic family, I now worked out the scheme for a
grand opera under the inspiration of this book. Though obliged for the
present to return to the limitations of a small theatre, I tried from
this time onwards to aim at enlarging my sphere of action. I sent my
overture, Rule Britannia, to the Philharmonic Society in London, and
tried to get into communication with Scribe in Paris about a setting
for H. Konig's novel, Die Hohe Braut, which I had sketched out.

Thus I spent the remainder of this summer of ever-happy memory. At the
end of August I had to leave for Riga to take up my new appointment.
Although I knew that my sister Rosalie had shortly before married the
man of her choice, Professor Oswald Marbach of Leipzig, I avoided that
city, probably with the foolish notion of sparing myself any
humiliation, and went straight to Berlin, where I had to receive
certain additional instructions from my future director, and also to
obtain my passport. There I met a younger sister of Minna's, Amalie
Planer, a singer with a pretty voice, who had joined our opera company
at Magdeburg for a short time. My report of Minna quite overwhelmed
this exceedingly kind-hearted girl. We went to a performance of Fidelia
together, during which she, like myself, burst into tears and sobs.
Refreshed by the sympathetic impression I had received, I went by way
of Schwerin, where I was disappointed in my hopes of finding traces of
Minna, to Lubeck, to wait for a merchant ship going to Riga. We had set
sail for Travemunde when an unfavourable wind set in, and held up our
departure for a week: I had to spend this disagreeable time in a
miserable ship's tavern. Thrown on my own resources I tried, amongst
other things, to read Till Eulenspiegel, and this popular book first
gave me the idea of a real German comic opera. Long afterwards, when I
was composing the words for my Junger Siegfried, I remember having many
vivid recollections of this melancholy sojourn in Travemunde and my
reading of Till Eulenspiegel. After a voyage of four days we at last
reached port at Bolderaa. I was conscious of a peculiar thrill on
coming into contact with Russian officials, whom I had instinctively
detested since the days of my sympathy with the Poles as a boy. It
seemed to me as if the harbour police must read enthusiasm for the
Poles in my face, and would send me to Siberia on the spot, and I was
the more agreeably surprised, on reaching Riga, to find myself
surrounded by the familiar German element which, above all, pervaded
everything connected with the theatre.

After my unfortunate experiences in connection with the conditions of
small German stages, the way in which this newly opened theatre was run
had at first a calming effect on my mind. A society had been formed by
a number of well-to-do theatre-goers and rich business men to raise, by
voluntary subscription, sufficient money to provide the sort of
management they regarded as ideal with a solid foundation. The director
they appointed was Karl von Holtei, a fairly popular dramatic writer,
who enjoyed a certain reputation in the theatrical world. This man's
ideas about the stage represented a special tendency, which was at that
time on the decline. He possessed, in addition to his remarkable social
gifts, an extraordinary acquaintance with all the principal people
connected with the theatre during the past twenty years, and belonged
to a society called Die Liebenswurdigen Libertins ('The Amiable
Libertines'). This was a set of young would-be wits, who looked upon
the stage as a playground licensed by the public for the display of
their mad pranks, from which the middle class held aloof, while people
of culture were steadily losing all interest in the theatre under these
hopeless conditions.

Holtei's wife had in former days been a popular actress at the
Konigstadt theatre in Berlin, and it was here, at the time when
Henriette Sontag raised it to the height of its fame, that Holtei's
style had been formed. The production there of his melodrama Leonore
(founded on Burger's ballad) had in particular earned him a wide
reputation as a writer for the stage, besides which he produced some
Liederspiele, and among them one, entitled Der Alte Feldherr, became
fairly popular. His invitation to Riga had been particularly welcome,
as it bid fair to gratify his craving to absorb himself completely in
the life of the stage; he hoped, in this out-of-the-way place, to
indulge his passion without restraint. His peculiar familiarity of
manner, his inexhaustible store of amusing small talk, and his airy way
of doing business, gave him a remarkable hold on the tradespeople of
Riga, who wished for nothing better than such entertainment as he was
able to give them. They provided him liberally with all the necessary
means and treated him in every respect with entire confidence. Under
his auspices my own engagement had been very easily secured. Surly old
pedants he would have none of, favouring young men on the score of
their youth alone. As far as I myself was concerned, it was enough for
him to know that I belonged to a family which he knew and liked, and
hearing, moreover, of my fervent devotion to modern Italian and French
music in particular, he decided that I was the very man for him. He had
the whole shoal of Bellini's, Donizetti's, Adam's, and Auber's operatic
scores copied out, and I was to give the good people of Riga the
benefit of them with all possible speed.

The first time I visited Holtei I met an old Leipzig acquaintance,
Heinrich Dorn, my former mentor, who now held the permanent municipal
appointment of choir-master at the church and music-teacher in the
schools. He was pleased to find his curious pupil transformed into a
practical opera conductor of independent position, and no less
surprised to see the eccentric worshipper of Beethoven changed into an
ardent champion of Bellini and Adam. He took me home to his summer
residence, which was built, according to Riga phraseology, 'in the
fields,' that is literally, on the sand. While I was giving him some
account of the experiences through which I had passed, I grew conscious
of the strangely deserted look of the place. Feeling frightened and
homeless, my initial uneasiness gradually developed into a passionate
longing to escape from all the whirl of theatrical life which had wooed
me to such inhospitable regions. This uneasy mood was fast dispelling
the flippancy which at Magdeburg had led to my being dragged down to
the level of the most worthless stage society, and had also conduced to
spoil my musical taste. It also contained the germs of a new tendency
which developed during the period of my activity at Riga, brought me
more and more out of touch with the theatre, thereby causing Director
Holtei all the annoyance which inevitably attends disappointment.

For some time, however, I found no difficulty in making the best of a
bad bargain. We were obliged to open the theatre before the company was
complete. To make this possible, we gave a performance of a short comic
opera by C. Blum, called Marie, Max und Michel. For this work I
composed an additional air for a song which Holtei had written for the
bass singer, Gunther; it consisted of a sentimental introduction and a
gay military rondo, and was very much appreciated. Later on, I
introduced another additional song into the Schweizerfamilie, to be
sung by another bass singer, Scheibler; it was of a devotional
character, and pleased not only the public, but myself, and showed
signs of the upheaval which was gradually taking place in my musical
development. I was entrusted with the composition of a tune for a
National Hymn written by Brakel in honour of the Tsar Nicholas's
birthday. I tried to give it as far as possible the right colouring for
a despotic patriarchal monarch, and once again I achieved some fame,
for it was sung for several successive years on that particular day.
Holtei tried to persuade me to write a bright, gay comic opera, or
rather a musical play, to be performed by our company just as it stood.
I looked up the libretto of my Glucktiche Barenfamilie, and found
Holtei very well disposed towards it (as I have stated elsewhere); but
when I unearthed the little music which I had already composed for it,
I was overcome with disgust at this way of writing; whereupon I made a
present of the book to my clumsy, good-natured friend, Lobmann, my
right-hand man in the orchestra, and never gave it another thought from
that day to this. I managed, however, to get to work on the libretto of
Rienzi, which I had sketched out at Blasewitz. I developed it from
every point of view, on so extravagant a scale, that with this work I
deliberately cut off all possibility of being tempted by circumstances
to produce it anywhere but on one of the largest stages in Europe.

But while this helped to strengthen my endeavour to escape from all the
petty degradations of stage life, new complications arose which
affected me more and more seriously, and offered further opposition to
my aims. The prima donna engaged by Holtei had failed us, and we were
therefore without a singer for grand opera. Under the circumstances,
Holtei joyfully agreed to my proposal to ask Amalie, Minna's sister
(who was glad to accept an engagement that brought her near me), to
come to Riga at once. In her answer to me from Dresden, where she was
then living, she informed me of Minna's return to her parents, and of
her present miserable condition owing to a severe illness. I naturally
took this piece of news very coolly, for what I had heard about Minna
since she left me for the last time had forced me to authorise my old
friend at Konigsberg to take steps to procure a divorce. It was certain
that Minna had stayed for some time at a hotel in Hamburg with that
ill-omened man, Herr Dietrich, and that she had spread abroad the story
of our separation so unreservedly that the theatrical world in
particular had discussed it in a manner that was positively insulting
to me. I simply informed Amalie of this, and requested her to spare me
any further news of her sister.

Hereupon Minna herself appealed to me, and wrote me a positively
heartrending letter, in which she openly confessed her infidelity. She
declared that she had been driven to it by despair, but that the great
trouble she had thus brought upon herself having taught her a lesson,
all she now wished was to return to the right path. Taking everything
into account, I concluded that she had been deceived in the character
of her seducer, and the knowledge of her terrible position had placed
her both morally and physically in a most lamentable condition, in
which, now ill and wretched, she turned to me again to acknowledge her
guilt, crave my forgiveness, and assure me, in spite of all, that she
had now become fully aware of her love for me. Never before had I heard
such sentiments from Minna, nor was I ever to hear the same from her
again, save on one touching occasion many years later, when similar
outpourings moved and affected me in the same way as this particular
letter had done. In reply I told her that there should never again be
any mention between us of what had occurred, for which I took upon
myself the chief blame; and I can pride myself on having carried out
this resolution to the letter.

When her sister's engagement was satisfactorily settled, I at once
invited Minna to come to Riga with her. Both gladly accepted my
invitation, and arrived from Dresden at my new home on 19th October,
wintry weather having already set in. With much regret I perceived that
Minna's health had really suffered, and therefore did all in my power
to provide her with all the domestic comforts and quiet she needed.
This presented difficulties, for my modest income as a conductor was
all I had at my disposal, and we were both firmly determined not to let
Minna go on the stage again. On the other hand, the carrying out of
this resolve, in view of the financial inconvenience it entailed,
produced strange complications, the nature of which was only revealed
to me later, when startling developments divulged the real moral
character of the manager Holtei. For the present I had to let people
think that I was jealous of my wife. I bore patiently with the general
belief that I had good reasons to be so, and rejoiced meanwhile at the
restoration of our peaceful married life, and especially at the sight
of our humble home, which we made as comfortable as our means would
allow, and in the keeping of which Minna's domestic talents came
strongly to the fore. As we were still childless, and were obliged as a
rule to enlist the help of a dog in order to give life to the domestic
hearth, we once lighted upon the eccentric idea of trying our luck with
a young wolf which was brought into the house as a tiny cub. When we
found, however, that this experiment did not increase the comfort of
our home life, we gave him up after he had been with us a few weeks. We
fared better with sister Amalie; for she, with her good-nature and
simple homely ways, did much to make up for the absence of children for
a time. The two sisters, neither of whom had had any real education,
often returned playfully to the ways of their childhood. When they sang
children's duets, Minna, though she had had no musical training, always
managed very cleverly to sing seconds, and afterwards, as we sat at our
evening meal, eating Russian salad, salt salmon from the Dwina, or
fresh Russian caviare, we were all three very cheerful and happy far
away in our northern home.

Amalie's beautiful voice and real vocal talent at first won for her a
very favourable reception with the public, a fact which did us all a
great deal of good. Being, however, very short, and having no very
great gift for acting, the scope of her powers was very limited, and as
she was soon surpassed by more successful competitors, it was a real
stroke of good luck for her that a young officer in the Russian army,
then Captain, now General, Carl von Meek, fell head over ears in love
with the simple girl, and married her a year later. The unfortunate
part of this engagement, however, was that it caused many difficulties,
and brought the first cloud over our menage a trois. For, after a
while, the two sisters quarrelled bitterly, and I had the very
unpleasant experience of living for a whole year in the same house with
two relatives who neither saw nor spoke to each other.

We spent the winter at the beginning of 1838 in a very small dingy
dwelling in the old town; it was not till the spring that we moved into
a pleasanter house in the more salubrious Petersburg suburb, where, in
spite of the sisterly breach before referred to, we led a fairly bright
and cheerful life, as we were often able to entertain many of our
friends and acquaintances in a simple though pleasant fashion. In
addition to members of the stage I knew a few people in the town, and
we received and visited the family of Dorn, the musical director, with
whom I became quite intimate. But it was the second musical director,
Franz Lobmann, a very worthy though not a very gifted man, who became
most faithfully attached to me. However, I did not cultivate many
acquaintances in wider circles, and they grew fewer as the ruling
passion of my life grew steadily stronger; so that when, later on, I
left Riga, after spending nearly two years there, I departed almost as
a stranger, and with as much indifference as I had left Magdeburg and
Konigsberg. What, however, specially embittered my departure was a
series of experiences of a particularly disagreeable nature, which
firmly determined me to cut myself off entirely from the necessity of
mixing with any people like those I had met with in my previous
attempts to create a position for myself at the theatre.

Yet it was only gradually that I became quite conscious of all this. At
first, under the safe guidance of my renewed wedded happiness, which
had for a time been so disturbed in its early days, I felt distinctly
better than I had before in all my professional work. The fact that the
material position of the theatrical undertaking was assured exercised a
healthy influence on the performances. The theatre itself was cooped up
in a very narrow space; there was as little room for scenic display on
its tiny stage as there was accommodation for rich musical effects in
the cramped orchestra. In both directions the strictest limits were
imposed, yet I contrived to introduce considerable reinforcements into
an orchestra which was really only calculated for a string quartette,
two first and two second violins, two violas, and one 'cello. These
successful exertions of mine were the first cause of the dislike Holtei
evinced towards me later on. After this we were able to get good
concerted music for the opera. I found the thorough study of Mehul's
opera, Joseph in Aegypten, very stimulating. Its noble and simple
style, added to the touching effect of the music, which quite carries
one away, did much towards effecting a favourable change in my taste,
till then warped by my connection with the theatre.

It was most gratifying to feel my former serious taste again aroused by
really good dramatic performances. I specially remember a production of
King Lear, which I followed with the greatest interest, not only at the
actual performances, but at all the rehearsals as well. Yet these
educative impressions tended to make me feel ever more and more
dissatisfied with my work at the theatre. On the one hand, the members
of the company became gradually more distasteful to me, and on the
other I was growing discontented with the management. With regard to
the staff of the theatre, I very soon found out the hollowness, vanity,
and the impudent selfishness of this uncultured and undisciplined class
of people, for I had now lost my former liking for the Bohemian life
that had such an attraction for me at Magdeburg. Before long there were
but a few members of our company with whom I had not quarrelled, thanks
to one or the other of these drawbacks. But my saddest experience was,
that in such disputes, into which in fact I was led simply by my zeal
for the artistic success of the performances as a whole, not only did I
receive no support from Holtei, the director, but I actually made him
my enemy. He even declared publicly that our theatre had become far too
respectable for his taste, and tried to convince me that good
theatrical performances could not be given by a strait-laced company.

In his opinion the idea of the dignity of theatrical art was pedantic
nonsense, and he thought light serio-comic vaudeville the only class of
performance worth considering. Serious opera, rich musical ensemble,
was his particular aversion, and my demands for this irritated him so
that he met them only with scorn and indignant refusals. Of the strange
connection between this artistic bias and his taste in the domain of
morality I was also to become aware, to my horror, in due course. For
the present I felt so repelled by the declaration of his artistic
antipathies, as to let my dislike for the theatre as a profession
steadily grow upon me. I still took pleasure in some good performances
which I was able to get up, under favourable circumstances, at the
larger theatre at Mitau, to where the company went for a time in the
early part of the summer. Yet it was while I was there, spending most
of my time reading Bulwer Lytton's novels, that I made a secret resolve
to try hard to free myself from all connection with the only branch of
theatrical art which had so far been open to me.

The composition of my Rienzi, the text of which I had finished in the
early days of my sojourn in Riga, was destined to bridge me over to the
glorious world for which I had longed so intensely. I had laid aside
the completion of my Gluckliche Barenfamilie, for the simple reason
that the lighter character of this piece would have thrown me more into
contact with the very theatrical people I most despised. My greatest
consolation now was to prepare Rienzi with such an utter disregard of
the means which were available there for its production, that my desire
to produce it would force me out of the narrow confines of this puny
theatrical circle to seek a fresh connection with one of the larger
theatres. It was after our return from Mitau, in the middle of the
summer of 1838, that I set to work on this composition, and by so doing
roused myself to a state of enthusiasm which, considering my position,
was nothing less than desperate dare-devilry. All to whom I confided my
plan perceived at once, on the mere mention of my subject, that I was
preparing to break away from my present position, in which there could
be no possibility of producing my work, and I was looked upon as
light-headed and fit only for an asylum.

To all my acquaintances my procedure seemed stupid and reckless. Even
the former patron of my peculiar Leipzig overture thought it
impracticable and eccentric, seeing that I had again turned my back on
light opera. He expressed this opinion very freely in the Neue
Zeitschrift fur Musik, in a report of a concert I had given towards the
end of the previous winter, and openly ridiculed the Magdeburg Columbus
Overture and the Rule Britannia Overture previously mentioned. I myself
had not taken any pleasure in the performance of either of these
overtures, as my predilection for cornets, strongly marked in both
these overtures, again played me a sorry trick, as I had evidently
expected too much of our Riga musicians, and had to endure all kinds of
disappointment on the occasion of the performance. As a complete
contrast to my extravagant setting of Rienzi, this same director, H.
Dorn, had set to work to write an opera in which he had most carefully
borne in mind the conditions obtaining at the Riga theatre. Der Schoffe
van Paris, an historical operetta of the period of the siege of Paris
by Joan of Arc, was practised and performed by us to the complete
satisfaction of the composer. However, the success of this work gave me
no reason for abandoning my project to complete my Rienzi, and I was
secretly pleased to find that I could regard this success without a
trace of envy. Though animated by no feeling of rivalry, I gradually
gave up associating with the Riga artists, confining myself chiefly to
the performance of the duties I had undertaken, and worked away at the
two first acts of my big opera without troubling myself at all whether
I should ever get so far as to see it produced.

The serious and bitter experiences I had had so early in life had done
much to guide me towards that intensely earnest side of my nature that
had manifested itself in my earliest youth. The effect of these bitter
experiences was now to be still further emphasised by other sad
impressions. Not long after Minna had rejoined me, I received from home
the news of the death of my sister Rosalie. It was the first time in my
life that I had experienced the passing away of one near and dear to
me. The death of this sister struck me as a most cruel and significant
blow of fate; it was out of love and respect for her that I had turned
away so resolutely from my youthful excesses, and it was to gain her
sympathy that I had devoted special thought and care to my first great
works. When the passions and cares of life had come upon me and driven
me away from my home, it was she who had read deep down into my sorely
stricken heart, and who had bidden me that anxious farewell on my
departure from Leipzig. At the time of my disappearance, when the news
of my wilful marriage and of my consequent unfortunate position reached
my family, it was she who, as my mother informed me later, never lost
her faith in me, but who always cherished the hope that I would one day
reach the full development of my capabilities and make a genuine
success of my life.

Now, at the news of her death, and illuminated by the recollection of
that one impressive farewell, as by a flash of lightning I saw the
immense value my relations with this sister had been to me, and I did
not fully realise the extent of her influence until later on, when,
after my first striking successes, my mother tearfully lamented that
Rosalie had not lived to witness them. It really did me good to be
again in communication with my family. My mother and sisters had had
news of my doings somehow or other, and I was deeply touched, in the
letters which I was now receiving from them, to hear no reproaches
anent my headstrong and apparently heartless behaviour, but only
sympathy and heartfelt solicitude. My family had also received
favourable reports about my wife's good qualities, a fact about which I
was particularly glad, as I was thus spared the difficulties of
defending her questionable behaviour to me, which I should have been at
pains to excuse. This produced a salutary calm in my soul, which had so
recently been a prey to the worst anxieties. All that had driven me
with such passionate haste to an improvident and premature marriage,
all that had consequently weighed on me so ruinously, now seemed set at
rest, leaving peace in its stead. And although the ordinary cares of
life still pressed on me for many years, often in a most vexatious and
troublesome form, yet the anxieties attendant on my ardent youthful
wishes were in a manner subdued and calm. From thence forward till the
attainment of my professional independence, all my life's struggles
could be directed entirely towards that more ideal aim which, from the
time of the conception of my Rienzi, was to be my only guide through
life.

It was only later that I first realised the real character of my life
in Riga, from the utterance of one of its inhabitants, who was
astonished to learn of the success of a man of whose importance, during
the whole of his two years' sojourn in the small capital of Livonia,
nothing had been known. Thrown entirely on my own resources, I was a
stranger to every one. As I mentioned before, I kept aloof from all the
theatre folk, in consequence of my increasing dislike of them, and
therefore, when at the end of March, 1839, at the close of my second
winter there, I was given my dismissal by the management, although this
occurrence surprised me for other reasons, yet I felt fully reconciled
to this compulsory change in my life. The reasons which led to this
dismissal were, however, of such a nature that I could only regard it
as one of the most disagreeable experiences of my life. Once, when I
was lying dangerously ill, I heard of Holtei's real feelings towards
me. I had caught a severe cold in the depth of winter at a theatrical
rehearsal, and it at once assumed a serious character, owing to the
fact that my nerves were in a state of constant irritation from the
continual annoyance and vexatious worry caused by the contemptible
character of the theatrical management. It was just at the time when a
special performance of the opera Norma was to be given by our company
in Mitau. Holtei insisted on my getting up from a sick-bed to make this
wintry journey, and thus to expose myself to the danger of seriously
increasing my cold in the icy theatre at Mitau. Typhoid fever was the
consequence, and this pulled me down to such an extent that Holtei, who
heard of my condition, is said to have remarked at the theatre that I
should probably never conduct again, and that, to all intents and
purposes, 'I was on my last legs.' It was to a splendid homoeopathic
physician, Dr. Prutzer, that I owed my recovery and my life. Not long
after that Holtei left our theatre and Riga for ever; his occupation
there, with 'the far too respectable conditions,' as he expressed it,
had become intolerable to him. In addition, however, circumstances had
arisen in his domestic life (which had been much affected by the death
of his wife) which seemed to make him consider a complete break with
Riga eminently desirable. But to my astonishment I now first became
aware that I too had unconsciously been a sufferer from the troubles he
had brought upon himself. When Holtei's successor in the
management--Joseph Hoffmann the singer--informed me that his
predecessor had made it a condition to his taking over the post that he
should enter into the same engagement that Holtei had made with the
conductor Dorn for the post which I had hitherto filled, and my
reappointment had therefore been made an impossibility, my wife met my
astonishment at this news by giving me the reason, of which for some
considerable time past she had been well aware, namely, Holtei's
special dislike of us both. When I was afterwards informed by Minna of
what had happened--she having purposely kept it from me all this time,
so as not to cause bad feeling between me and my director--a ghastly
light was thrown upon the whole affair. I did indeed remember perfectly
how, soon after Minna's arrival in Riga, I had been particularly
pressed by Holtei not to prevent my wife's engagement at the theatre. I
asked him to talk things quietly over with her, so that he might see
that Minna's unwillingness rested on a mutual understanding, and not on
any jealousy on my part. I had intentionally given him the time when I
was engaged at the theatre on rehearsals for the necessary discussions
with my wife. At the end of these meetings I had, on my return, often
found Minna in a very excited condition, and at length she declared
emphatically that under no circumstances would she accept the
engagement offered by Holtei. I had also noticed in Minna's demeanour
towards me a strange anxiety to know why I was not unwilling to allow
Holtei to try to persuade her. Now that the catastrophe had occurred, I
learned that Holtei had in fact used these interviews for making
improper advances to my wife, the nature of which I only realised with
difficulty on further acquaintance with this man's peculiarities, and
after having heard of other instances of a similar nature. I then
discovered that Holtei considered it an advantage to get himself talked
about in connection with pretty women, in order thus to divert the
attention of the public from other conduct even more disreputable.
After this Minna was exceedingly indignant at Holtei, who, finding his
own suit rejected, appeared as the medium for another suitor, on whose
behalf he urged that he would think none the worse of her for rejecting
him, a grey-haired and penniless man, but at the same time advocated
the suit of Brandenburg, a very wealthy and handsome young merchant.
His fierce indignation at this double repulse, his humiliation at
having revealed his real nature to no purpose, seems, to judge from
Minna's observations, to have been exceedingly great. I now understood
too well that his frequent and profoundly contemptuous sallies against
respectable actors and actresses had not been mere spirited
exaggerations, but that he had probably often had to complain of being
put thoroughly to shame on this account.

The fact that the playing of such criminal parts as the one he had had
in view with my wife was unable to divert the ever-increasing attention
of the outside world from his vicious and dissolute habits, does not
seem to have escaped him; for those behind the scenes told me candidly
that it was owing to the fear of very unpleasant revelations that he
had suddenly decided to give up his position at Riga altogether. Even
in much later years I heard about Holtei's bitter dislike of me, a
dislike which showed itself, among other things, in his denunciation of
The Music of the Future, [Footnote: Zukunftsmusik is a pamphlet
revealing some of Wagner's artistic aims and aspirations, written
1860-61.--EDITOR.] and of its tendency to jeopardise the simplicity of
pure sentiment. I have previously mentioned that he displayed so much
personal animosity against me during the latter part of the time we
were together in Riga that he vented his hostility upon me in every
possible way. Up to that time I had felt inclined to ascribe it to the
divergence of our respective views on artistic points.

To my dismay I now became aware that personal considerations alone were
at the bottom of all this, and I blushed to realise that by my former
unreserved confidence in a man whom I thought was absolutely honest, I
had based my knowledge of human nature on such very weak foundations.
But still greater was my disappointment when I discovered the real
character of my friend H. Dorn. During the whole time of our
intercourse at Riga, he, who formerly treated me more like a
good-natured elder brother, had become my most confidential friend. We
saw and visited each other almost daily, very frequently in our
respective homes. I kept not a single secret from him, and the
performance of his Schoffe van Paris under my direction was as
successful as if it had been under his own. Now, when I heard that my
post had been given to him, I felt obliged to ask him about it, in
order to learn whether there was any mistake on his part as to my
intention regarding the position I had hitherto held. But from his
letter in reply I could clearly see that Dorn had really made use of
Holtei's dislike for me to extract from him, before his departure, an
arrangement which was both binding on his successor and also in his
(Dorn's) own favour. As my friend he ought to have known that he could
benefit by this agreement only in the event of my resigning my
appointment in Riga, because in our confidential conversations, which
continued to the end, he always carefully refrained from touching on
the possibility of my going away or remaining. In fact, he declared
that Holtei had distinctly told him he would on no account re-engage
me, as I could not get on with the singers. He added that after this
one could not take it amiss if he, who had been inspired with fresh
enthusiasm for the theatre by the success of his Schoffe von Paris, had
seized and turned to his own advantage the chance offered to him.
Moreover, he had gathered from my confidential communications that I
was very awkwardly situated, and that, owing to my small salary having
been cut down by Holtei from the very beginning, I was in a very
precarious position on account of the demands of my creditors in
Konigsberg and Magdeburg. It appeared that these people had employed
against me a lawyer, who was a friend of Dorn's, and that,
consequently, he had come to the conclusion that I would not be able to
remain in Riga. Therefore, even as my friend, he had felt his
conscience quite clear in accepting Holtei's proposal.

In order not to leave him in the complacent enjoyment of this
self-deception, I put it clearly before him that he could not be
ignorant of the fact that a higher salary had been promised to me for
the third year of my contract; and that, by the establishment of
orchestral concerts, which had already made a favourable start, I now
saw my way to getting free from those long-standing debts, having
already overcome the difficulties of the removal and settling down. I
also asked him how he would act if I saw it was to my own interest to
retain my post, and to call on him to resign his agreement with Holtei,
who, as a matter of fact, after his departure from Riga, had withdrawn
his alleged reason for my dismissal. To this I received no answer, nor
have I had one up to the present day; but, on the other hand, in 1865,
I was astonished to see Dorn enter my house in Munich unannounced, and
when to his joy I recognised him, he stepped up to me with a gesture
which clearly showed his intention of embracing me. Although I managed
to evade this, yet I soon saw the difficulty of preventing him from
addressing me with the familiar form of 'thou,' as the attempt to do so
would have necessitated explanations that would have been a useless
addition to all my worries just then; for it was the time when my
Tristan was being produced.

Such a man was Heinrich Dorn. Although, after the failure of three
operas, he had retired in disgust from the theatre to devote himself
exclusively to the commercial side of music, yet the success of his
opera, Der Schoffe von Paris, in Riga helped him back to a permanent
place among the dramatic musicians of Germany. But to this position he
was first dragged from obscurity, across the bridge of infidelity to
his friend, and by the aid of virtue in the person of Director Holtei,
thanks to a magnanimous oversight on the part of Franz Listz. The
preference of King Friedrich Wilhelm IV. for church scenes contributed
to secure him eventually his important position at the greatest lyric
theatre in Germany, the Royal Opera of Berlin. For he was prompted far
less by his devotion to the dramatic muse than by his desire to secure
a good position in some important German city, when, as already hinted,
through Liszt's recommendation he was appointed musical director of
Cologne Cathedral. During a fete connected with the building of the
cathedral he managed, as a musician, so to work upon the Prussian
monarch's religious feelings, that he was appointed to the dignified
post of musical conductor at the Royal Theatre, in which capacity he
long continued to do honour to German dramatic music in conjunction
with Wilhelm Taubert.

I must give J. Hoffmann, who from this time forward was the manager of
the Riga theatre, the credit of having felt the treachery practised
upon me very deeply indeed. He told me that his contract with Dorn
bound him only for one year, and that the moment the twelve months had
elapsed he wished to come to a fresh agreement with me. As soon as this
was known, my patrons in Riga came forward with offers of teaching
engagements and arrangements for sundry concerts, by way of
compensating me for the year's salary which I should lose by being away
from my work as a conductor. Though I was much gratified by these
offers, yet, as I have already pointed out, the longing to break loose
from the kind of theatrical life which I had experienced up to that
time so possessed me that I resolutely seized this chance of abandoning
my former vocation for an entirely new one. Not without some
shrewdness, I played upon my wife's indignation at the treachery I had
suffered, in order to make her fall in with my eccentric notion of
going to Paris. Already in my conception of Rienzi I had dreamed of the
most magnificent theatrical conditions, but now, without halting at any
intermediate stations, my one desire was to reach the very heart of all
European grand opera. While still in Magdeburg I had made H. Konig's
romance, Die Hohe Braut, the subject of a grand opera in five acts, and
in the most luxurious French style. After the scenic draft of this
opera, which had been translated into French, was completely worked
out, I sent it from Konigsberg to Scribe in Paris. With this manuscript
I sent a letter to the famous operatic poet, in which I suggested that
he might make use of my plot, on condition that he would secure me the
composition of the music for the Paris Opera House. To convince him of
my ability to compose Parisian operatic music, I also sent him the
score of my Liebesverbot. At the same time I wrote to Meyerbeer,
informing him of my plans, and begging him to support me. I was not at
all disheartened at receiving no reply, for I was content to know that
now at last 'I was in communication with Paris.' When, therefore, I
started out upon my daring journey from Riga, I seemed to have a
comparatively serious object in view, and my Paris projects no longer
struck me as being altogether in the air. In addition to this I now
heard that my youngest sister, Cecilia, had become betrothed to a
certain Eduard Avenarius, an employee of the Brockhaus book-selling
firm, and that he had undertaken the management of their Paris branch.
To him I applied for news of Scribe, and for an answer to the
application I had made to that gentleman some years previously.
Avenarius called on Scribe, and from him received an acknowledgment of
the receipt of my earlier communication. Scribe also showed that he had
some recollection of the subject itself; for he said that, so far as he
could remember, there was a joueuse de harpe in the piece, who was
ill-treated by her brother. The fact that this merely incidental item
had alone remained in his memory led me to conclude that he had not
extended his acquaintance with the piece beyond the first act, in which
the item in question occurs. When, moreover, I heard that he had
nothing to say in regard to my score, except that he had had portions
of it played over to him by a pupil of the Conservatoire, I really
could not flatter myself that he had entered into definite and
conscious relations with me. And yet I had palpable evidence in a
letter of his to Avenarius, which the latter forwarded to me, that
Scribe had actually occupied himself with my work, and that I was
indeed in communication with him, and this letter of Scribe's made such
an impression upon my wife, who was by no means inclined to be
sanguine, that she gradually overcame her apprehensions in regard to
the Paris adventure. At last it was fixed and settled that on the
expiry of my second year's contract in Riga (that is to say, in the
coming summer, 1839), we should journey direct from Riga to Paris, in
order that I might try my luck there as a composer of opera.

The production of my Rienzi now began to assume greater importance. The
composition of its second act was finished before we started, and into
this I wove a heroic ballet of extravagant dimensions. It was now
imperative that I should speedily acquire a knowledge of French, a
language which, during my classical studies at the Grammar School, I
had contemptuously laid aside. As there were only four weeks in which
to recover the time I had lost, I engaged an excellent French master.
But as I soon realised that I could achieve but little in so short a
time, I utilised the hours of the lessons in order to obtain from him,
under the pretence of receiving instruction, an idiomatic translation
of my Rienzi libretto. This I wrote with red ink on such parts of the
score as were finished, so that on reaching Paris I might immediately
submit my half-finished opera to French judges of art.

Everything now seemed to be carefully prepared for my departure, and
all that remained to be done was to raise the necessary funds for my
undertaking. But in this respect the outlook was bad. The sale of our
modest household furniture, the proceeds of a benefit concert, and my
meagre savings only sufficed to satisfy the importunate demands of my
creditors in Magdeburg and Konigsberg. I knew that if I were to devote
all my cash to this purpose, there would not be a farthing left. Some
way out of the fix must be found, and this our old Konigsberg friend,
Abraham Moller, suggested in his usual flippant and obscure manner.
Just at this critical moment he paid us a second visit to Riga. I
acquainted him with the difficulties of our position, and all the
obstacles which stood in the way of my resolve to go to Paris. In his
habitual laconical way he counselled me to reserve all my savings for
our journey, and to settle with my creditors when my Parisian successes
had provided the necessary means. To help us in carrying out this plan,
he offered to convey us in his carriage across the Russian frontier at
top speed to an East Prussian port. We should have to cross the Russian
frontier without passports, as these had been already impounded by our
foreign creditors. He assured us that we should find it quite simple to
carry out this very hazardous expedition, and declared that he had a
friend on a Prussian estate close to the frontier who would render us
very effective assistance. My eagerness to escape at any price from my
previous circumstances, and to enter with all possible speed upon the
wider field, in which I hoped very soon to realise my ambition, blinded
me to all the unpleasantnesses which the execution of his proposal must
entail. Director Hoffmann, who considered himself bound to serve me to
the utmost of his ability, facilitated my departure by allowing me to
leave some months before the expiration of my engagement. After
continuing to conduct the operatic portion of the Mitau theatrical
season through the month of June, we secretly started in a special
coach hired by Moller and under his protection. The goal of our journey
was Paris, but many unheard-of hardships were in store for us before we
were to reach that city.

The sense of contentment involuntarily aroused by our passage through
the fruitful Courland in the luxuriant month of July, and by the sweet
illusion that now at last I had cut myself loose from a hateful
existence, to enter upon a new and boundless path of fortune, was
disturbed from its very outset by the miserable inconveniences
occasioned by the presence of a huge Newfoundland dog called Robber.
This beautiful creature, originally the property of a Riga merchant,
had, contrary to the nature of his race, become devotedly attached to
me. After I had left Riga, and during my long stay in Mitau, Robber
incessantly besieged my empty house, and so touched the hearts of my
landlord and the neighbours by his fidelity, that they sent the dog
after me by the conductor of the coach to Mitau, where I greeted him
with genuine effusion, and swore that, in spite of all difficulties, I
would never part with him again. Whatever might happen, the dog must go
with us to Paris. And yet, even to get him into the carriage proved
almost impossible. All my endeavours to find him a place in or about
the vehicle were in vain, and, to my great grief, I had to watch the
huge northern beast, with his shaggy coat, gallop all day long in the
blazing sun beside the carriage. At last, moved to pity by his
exhaustion, and unable to bear the sight any longer, I hit upon a most
ingenious plan for bringing the great animal with us into the carriage,
where, in spite of its being full to overflowing, he was just able to
find room.

On the evening of the second day we reached the Russo-Prussian
frontier. Moller's evident anxiety as to whether we should be able to
cross it safely showed us plainly that the matter was one of some
danger. His good friend from the other side duly turned up with a small
carriage, as arranged, and in this conveyance drove Minna, myself, and
Robber through by paths to a certain point, whence he led us on foot to
a house of exceedingly suspicious exterior, where, after handing us
over to a guide, he left us. There we had to wait until sundown, and
had ample leisure in which to realise that we were in a smugglers'
drinking den, which gradually became filled to suffocation with Polish
Jews of most forbidding aspect.

At last we were summoned to follow our guide. A few hundred feet away,
on the slope of a hill, lay the ditch which runs the whole length of
the Russian frontier, watched continually and at very narrow intervals
by Cossacks. Our chance was to utilise the few moments after the relief
of the watch, during which the sentinels were elsewhere engaged. We
had, therefore, to run at full speed down the hill, scramble through
the ditch, and then hurry along until we were beyond the range of the
soldiers' guns; for the Cossacks were bound in case of discovery to
fire upon us even on the other side of the ditch. In spite of my almost
passionate anxiety for Minna, I had observed with singular pleasure the
intelligent behaviour of Robber, who, as though conscious of the
danger, silently kept close to our side, and entirely dispelled my fear
that he would give trouble during our dangerous passage. At last our
trusted helpmeet reappeared, and was so delighted that he hugged us all
in his arms. Then, placing us once more in his carriage, he drove us to
the inn of the Prussian frontier village, where my friend Moller,
positively sick with anxiety, leaped sobbing and rejoicing out of bed
to greet us.

It was only now that I began to realise the danger to which I had
exposed, not only myself, but also my poor Minna, and the folly of
which I had been guilty through my ignorance of the terrible
difficulties of secretly crossing the frontier--difficulties concerning
which Moller had foolishly allowed me to remain in ignorance.

I was simply at a loss to convey to my poor exhausted wife how
extremely I regretted the whole affair.

And yet the difficulties we had just overcome were but the prelude to
the calamities incidental to this adventurous journey which had such a
decisive influence on my life. The following day, when, with courage
renewed, we drove through the rich plain of Tilsit to Arnau, near
Konigsberg, we decided, as the next stage of our journey, to proceed
from the Prussian harbour of Pillau by sailing vessel to London. Our
principal reason for this was the consideration of the dog we had with
us. It was the easiest way to take him. To convey him by coach from
Konigsberg to Paris was out of the question, and railways were unknown.
But another consideration was our budget; the whole result of my
desperate efforts amounted to not quite one hundred ducats, which were
to cover not only the journey to Paris, but our expenses there until I
should have earned something. Therefore, after a few days' rest in the
inn at Arnau, we drove to the little seaport town of Pillau, again
accompanied by Moller, in one of the ordinary local conveyances, which
was not much better than a wagon. In order to avoid Konigsberg, we
passed through the smaller villages and over bad roads. Even this short
distance was not to be covered without accident. The clumsy conveyance
upset in a farmyard, and Minna was so severely indisposed by the
accident, owing to an internal shock, that I had to drag her--with the
greatest difficulty, as she was quite helpless--to a peasant's house.
The people were surly and dirty, and the night we spent there was a
painful one for the poor sufferer. A delay of several days occurred
before the departure of the Pillau vessel, but this was welcome as a
respite to allow of Minna's recovery. Finally, as the captain was to
take us without a passport, our going on board was accompanied by
exceptional difficulties. We had to contrive to slip past the harbour
watch to our vessel in a small boat before daybreak. Once on board, we
still had the troublesome task of hauling Robber up the steep side of
the vessel without attracting attention, and after that to conceal
ourselves at once below deck, in order to escape the notice of
officials visiting the ship before its departure. The anchor was
weighed, and at last, as the land faded gradually out of sight, we
thought we could breathe freely and feel at ease.

We were on board a merchant vessel of the smallest type. She was called
the Thetis; a bust of the nymph was erected in the bows, and she
carried a crew of seven men, including the captain. With good weather,
such as was to be expected in summer, the journey to London was
estimated to take eight days. However, before we had left the Baltic,
we were delayed by a prolonged calm. I made use of the time to improve
my knowledge of French by the study of a novel, La Derniere Aldini, by
George Sand. We also derived some entertainment from associating with
the crew. There was an elderly and peculiarly taciturn sailor named
Koske, whom we observed carefully because Robber, who was usually so
friendly, had taken an irreconcilable dislike to him. Oddly enough,
this fact was to add in some degree to our troubles in the hour of
danger. After seven days' sailing we were no further than Copenhagen,
where, without leaving the vessel, we seized an opportunity of making
our very spare diet on board more bearable by various purchases of food
and drink. In good spirits we sailed past the beautiful castle of
Elsinore, the sight of which brought me into immediate touch with my
youthful impressions of Hamlet. We were sailing all unsuspecting
through the Cattegat to the Skagerack, when the wind, which had at
first been merely unfavourable, and had forced us to a process of weary
tacking, changed on the second day to a violent storm. For twenty-four
hours we had to struggle against it under disadvantages which were
quite new to us. In the captain's painfully narrow cabin, in which one
of us was without a proper berth, we were a prey to sea-sickness and
endless alarms. Unfortunately, the brandy cask, at which the crew
fortified themselves during their strenuous work, was let into a hollow
under the seat on which I lay at full length. Now it happened to be
Koske who came most frequently in search of the refreshment which was
such a nuisance to me, and this in spite of the fact that on each
occasion he had to encounter Robber in mortal combat. The dog flew at
him with renewed rage each time he came climbing down the narrow steps.
I was thus compelled to make efforts which, in my state of complete
exhaustion from sea-sickness, rendered my condition every time more
critical. At last, on 27th July, the captain was compelled by the
violence of the west wind to seek a harbour on the Norwegian coast. And
how relieved I was to behold that far-reaching rocky coast, towards
which we were being driven at such speed! A Norwegian pilot came to
meet us in a small boat, and, with experienced hand, assumed control of
the Thetis, whereupon in a very short time I was to have one of the
most marvellous and most beautiful impressions of my life. What I had
taken to be a continuous line of cliffs turned out on our approach to
be a series of separate rocks projecting from the sea. Having sailed
past them, we perceived that we were surrounded, not only in front and
at the sides, but also at our back, by these reefs, which closed in
behind us so near together that they seemed to form a single chain of
rocks. At the same time the hurricane was so broken by the rocks in our
rear that the further we sailed through this ever-changing labyrinth of
projecting rocks, the calmer the sea became, until at last the vessel's
progress was perfectly smooth and quiet as we entered one of those long
sea-roads running through a giant ravine--for such the Norwegian fjords
appeared to me.

A feeling of indescribable content came over me when the enormous
granite walls echoed the hail of the crew as they cast anchor and
furled the sails. The sharp rhythm of this call clung to me like an
omen of good cheer, and shaped itself presently into the theme of the
seamen's song in my Fliegender Hollander. The idea of this opera was,
even at that time, ever present in my mind, and it now took on a
definite poetic and musical colour under the influence of my recent
impressions. Well, our next move was to go on shore. I learned that the
little fishing village at which we landed was called Sandwike, and was
situated a few miles away from the much larger town of Arendal. We were
allowed to put up at the hospitable house of a certain ship's captain,
who was then away at sea, and here we were able to take the rest we so
much needed, as the unabated violence of the wind in the open detained
us there two days. On 31st July the captain insisted on leaving,
despite the pilot's warning. We had been on board the Thetis a few
hours, and were in the act of eating a lobster for the first time in
our lives, when the captain and the sailors began to swear violently at
the pilot, whom I could see at the helm, rigid with fear, striving to
avoid a reef--barely visible above the water--towards which our ship
was being driven. Great was our terror at this violent tumult, for we
naturally thought ourselves in the most extreme danger. The vessel did
actually receive a severe shock, which, to my vivid imagination, seemed
like the splitting up of the whole ship. Fortunately, however, it
transpired that only the side of our vessel had fouled the reef, and
there was no immediate danger. Nevertheless, the captain deemed it
necessary to steer for a harbour to have the vessel examined, and we
returned to the coast and anchored at another point. The captain then
offered to take us in a small boat with two sailors to Tromsond, a town
of some importance situated at a few hours' distance, where he had to
invite the harbour officials to examine his ship. This again proved a
most attractive and impressive excursion. The view of one fjord in
particular, which extended far inland, worked on my imagination like
some unknown, awe-inspiring desert. This impression was intensified,
during a long walk from Tromsond up to the plateau, by the terribly
depressing effect of the dun moors, bare of tree or shrub, boasting
only a covering of scanty moss, which stretch away to the horizon, and
merge imperceptibly into the gloomy sky. It was long after dark when we
returned from this trip in our little boat, and my wife was very
anxious. The next morning (1st August), reassured as to the condition
of the vessel, and the wind favouring us, we were able to go to sea
without further hindrance.

After four days' calm sailing a strong north wind arose, which drove us
at uncommon speed in the right direction. We began to think ourselves
nearly at the end of our journey when, on 6th August, the wind changed,
and the storm began to rage with unheard-of violence. On the 7th, a
Wednesday, at half-past two in the afternoon, we thought ourselves in
imminent danger of death. It was not the terrible force with which the
vessel was hurled up and down, entirely at the mercy of this sea
monster, which appeared now as a fathomless abyss, now as a steep
mountain peak, that filled me with mortal dread; my premonition of some
terrible crisis was aroused by the despondency of the crew, whose
malignant glances seemed superstitiously to point to us as the cause of
the threatening disaster. Ignorant of the trifling occasion for the
secrecy of our journey, the thought may have occurred to them that our
need of escape had arisen from suspicious or even criminal
circumstances. The captain himself seemed, in his extreme distress, to
regret having taken us on board; for we had evidently brought him
ill-luck on this familiar passage--usually a rapid and uncomplicated
one, especially in summer. At this particular moment there raged,
beside the tempest on the water, a furious thunderstorm overhead, and
Minna expressed the fervent wish to be struck by lightning with me
rather than to sink, living, into the fearful flood. She even begged me
to bind her to me, so that we might not be parted as we sank. Yet
another night was spent amid these incessant terrors, which only our
extreme exhaustion helped to mitigate.

The following day the storm had subsided; the wind remained
unfavourable, but was mild. The captain now tried to find our bearings
by means of his astronomical instruments. He complained of the sky,
which had been overcast so many days, swore that he would give much for
a single glimpse of the sun or the stars, and did not conceal the
uneasiness he felt at not being able to indicate our whereabouts with
certainty. He consoled himself, however, by following a ship which was
sailing some knots ahead in the same direction, and whose movements he
observed closely through the telescope. Suddenly he sprang up in great
alarm, and gave a vehement order to change our course. He had seen the
ship in front go aground on a sand-bank, from which, he asserted, she
could not extricate herself; for he now realised that we were near the
most dangerous part of the belt of sand-banks bordering the Dutch coast
for a considerable distance. By dint of very skilful sailing, we were
enabled to keep the opposite course towards the English coast, which we
in fact sighted on the evening of 9th August, in the neighbourhood of
Southwold. I felt new life come into me when I saw in the far distance
the English pilots racing for our ship. As competition is free among
pilots on the English coast, they come out as far as possible to meet
incoming vessels, even when the risks are very great.

The winner in our case was a powerful grey-haired man, who, after much
vain battling with the seething waves, which tossed his light boat away
from our ship at each attempt, at last succeeded in boarding the
Thetis. (Our poor, hardly-used boat still bore the name, although the
wooden figure-head of our patron nymph had been hurled into the sea
during our first storm in the Cattegat--an ill-omened incident in the
eyes of the crew.) We were filled with pious gratitude when this quiet
English sailor, whose hands were torn and bleeding from his repeated
efforts to catch the rope thrown to him on his approach, took over the
rudder. His whole personality impressed us most agreeably, and he
seemed to us the absolute guarantee of a speedy deliverance from our
terrible afflictions. We rejoiced too soon, however, for we still had
before us the perilous passage through the sand-banks off the English
coast, where, as I was assured, nearly four hundred ships are wrecked
on an average every year. We were fully twenty-four hours (from the
evening of the 10th to the 11th of August) amid these sandbanks,
fighting a westerly gale, which hindered our progress so seriously that
we only reached the mouth of the Thames on the evening of the 12th of
August. My wife had, up to that point, been so nervously affected by
the innumerable danger signals, consisting chiefly of small guardships
painted bright red and provided with bells on account of the fog, that
she could not close her eyes, day or night, for the excitement of
watching for them and pointing them out to the sailors. I, on the
contrary, found these heralds of human proximity and deliverance so
consoling that, despite Minna's reproaches, I indulged in a long
refreshing sleep. Now that we were anchored in the mouth of the Thames,
waiting for daybreak, I found myself in the best of spirits; I dressed,
washed, and even shaved myself up on deck near the mast, while Minna
and the whole exhausted crew were wrapped in deep slumber. And with
deepening interest I watched the growing signs of life in this famous
estuary. Our desire for a complete release from our detested
confinement led us, after we had sailed a little way up, to hasten our
arrival in London by going on board a passing steamer at Gravesend. As
we neared the capital, our astonishment steadily increased at the
number of ships of all sorts that filled the river, the houses, the
streets, the famous docks, and other maritime constructions which lined
the banks. When at last we reached London Bridge, this incredibly
crowded centre of the greatest city in the world, and set foot on land
after our terrible three weeks' voyage, a pleasurable sensation of
giddiness overcame us as our legs carried us staggering through the
deafening uproar. Robber seemed to be similarly affected, for he
whisked round the corners like a mad thing, and threatened to get lost
every other minute. But we soon sought safety in a cab, which took us,
on our captain's recommendation, to the Horseshoe Tavern, near the
Tower, and here we had to make our plans for the conquest of this giant
metropolis.

The neighbourhood in which we found ourselves was such that we decided
to leave it with all possible haste. A very friendly little hunchbacked
Jew from Hamburg suggested better quarters in the West End, and I
remember vividly our drive there, in one of the tiny narrow cabs then
in use, the journey lasting fully an hour. They were built to carry two
people, who had to sit facing each other, and we therefore had to lay
our big dog crosswise from window to window. The sights we saw from our
whimsical nook surpassed anything we had imagined, and we arrived at
our boarding-house in Old Compton Street agreeably stimulated by the
life and the overwhelming size of the great city. Although at the age
of twelve I had made what I supposed to be a translation of a monologue
from Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, I found my knowledge of English
quite inadequate when it came to conversing with the landlady of the
King's Arms. But the good dame's social condition as a sea-captain's
widow led her to think she could talk French to me, and her attempts
made me wonder which of us knew least of that language. And then a most
disturbing incident occurred--we missed Robber, who must have run away
at the door instead of following us into the house. Our distress at
having lost our good dog after having brought him all the way there
with such difficulty occupied us exclusively during the first two hours
we spent in this new home on land. We kept constant watch at the window
until, of a sudden, we joyfully recognised Robber strolling
unconcernedly towards the house from a side street. Afterwards we
learned that our truant had wandered as far as Oxford Street in search
of adventures, and I have always considered his amazing return to a
house which he had not even entered as a strong proof of the absolute
certainty of the animal's instincts in the matter of memory.

We now had time to realise the tiresome after-effects of the voyage.
The continuous swaying of the floor and our clumsy efforts to keep from
falling we found fairly entertaining; but when we came to take our
well-earned rest in the huge English double bed, and found that that
too rocked up and down, it became quite unbearable. Every time we
closed our eyes we sank into frightful abysses, and, springing up
again, cried out for help. It seemed as if that terrible voyage would
go on to the end of our lives. Added to this we felt miserably sick;
for, after the atrocious food on board, we had been only too ready to
partake, with less discretion than relish, of tastier fare.

We were so exhausted by all these trials that we forgot to consider
what was, after all, the vital question--the probable result in hard
cash. Indeed, the marvels of the great city proved so fascinating, that
we started off in a cab, for all the world as if we were on a pleasure
trip, to follow up a plan I had sketched on my map of London. In our
wonder and delight at what we saw, we quite forgot all we had gone
through. Costly as it proved, I considered our week's stay justified in
view of Minna's need of rest in the first place, and secondly, the
excellent opportunity it afforded me of making acquaintances in the
musical world. During my last visit to Dresden I had sent Rule
Britannia, the overture composed at Konigsberg, to Sir John Smart,
president of the Philharmonic Society. It is true he had never
acknowledged it, but I felt it the more incumbent on me to bring him to
task about it. I therefore spent some days trying to find out where he
lived, wondering meanwhile in which language I should have to make
myself understood, but as the result of my inquiries I discovered that
Smart was not in London at all. I next persuaded myself that it would
be a good thing to look up Bulwer Lytton, and to come to an
understanding about the operatic performance of his novel, Rienzi,
which I had dramatised. Having been told, on the continent, that Bulwer
was a member of Parliament, I went to the House, after a few days, to
inquire on the spot. My total ignorance of the English language stood
me in good stead here, and I was treated with unexpected consideration;
for, as none of the lower officials in that vast building could make
out what I wanted, I was sent, step by step, to one high dignitary
after the other, until at last I was introduced to a
distinguished-looking man, who came out of a large hall as we passed,
as an entirely unintelligible individual. (Minna was with me all the
time; only Robber. had been left behind at the King's Arms.) He asked
me very civilly what I wanted, in French, and seemed favourably
impressed when I inquired for the celebrated author. He was obliged to
tell me, however, that he was not in London. I went on to ask whether I
could not be admitted to a debate, but was told that, in consequence of
the old Houses of Parliament having been burnt down, they were using
temporary premises where the space was so limited that only a few
favoured visitors could procure cards of admittance. But on my pressing
more urgently he relented, and shortly after opened a door leading
direct into the strangers' seats in the House of Lords. It seemed
reasonable to conclude from this that our friend was a lord in person.
I was immensely interested to see and hear the Premier, Lord Melbourne,
and Brougham (who seemed to me to take a very active part in the
proceedings, prompting Melbourne several times, as I thought), and the
Duke of Wellington, who looked so comfortable in his grey beaver hat,
with his hands diving deep into his trousers pockets, and who made his
speech in so conversational a tone that I lost my feeling of excessive
awe. He had a curious way, too, of accenting his points of special
emphasis by shaking his whole body, I was also much interested in Lord
Lyndhurst, Brougham's particular enemy, and was amazed to see Brougham
go across several times to sit down coolly beside him, apparently with
a view to prompting even his opponent. The matter in hand was, as I
learned afterwards from the papers, the discussion of measures to be
taken against the Portuguese Government to ensure the passing of the
Anti-Slavery Bill. The Bishop of London, who was one of the speakers on
this occasion, was the only one of these gentlemen whose voice and
manner seemed to me stiff or unnatural, but possibly I was prejudiced
by my dislike of parsons generally.

After this pleasing adventure I imagined I had exhausted the
attractions of London for the present, for although I could not gain
admittance to the Lower House, my untiring friend, whom I came across
again as I went out, showed me the room where the Commons sat,
explained as much as was necessary, and gave me a sight of the
Speaker's woolsack, and of his mace lying hidden under the table. He
also gave me such careful details of various things that I felt I knew
all there was to know about the capital of Great Britain. I had not the
smallest intention of going to the Italian opera, possibly because I
imagined the prices to be too ruinous. We thoroughly explored all the
principal streets, often tiring ourselves out; we shuddered through a
ghastly London Sunday, and wound up with a train trip (our very first)
to Gravesend Park, in the company of the captain of the Thetis. On the
20th of August we crossed over to France by steamer, arriving the same
evening at Boulogne-sur-mer, where we took leave of the sea with the
fervent desire never to go on it again.

We were both of us secretly convinced that we should meet with
disappointments in Paris, and it was partly on that account that we
decided to spend a few weeks at or near Boulogne. It was, in any case,
too early in the season to find the various important people whom I
proposed to see, in town; on the other hand, it seemed to me a most
fortunate circumstance that Meyerbeer should happen to be at Boulogne.
Also, I had the instrumentation of part of the second act of Rienzi to
finish, and was bent on having at least half of the work ready to show
on my arrival in the costly French capital. We therefore set out to
find less expensive accommodation in the country round Boulogne.
Beginning with the immediate neighbourhood, our search ended in our
taking two practically unfurnished rooms in the detached house of a
rural wine merchant's, situated on the main road to Paris at half an
hour's distance from Boulogne. We next provided scanty but adequate
furniture, and in bringing our wits to bear upon this matter Minna
particularly distinguished herself. Besides a bed and two chairs, we
dug up a table, which, after I had cleared away my Rienzi papers,
served for our meals, which we had to prepare at our own fireside.

While we were here I made my first call on Meyerbeer. I had often read
in the papers of his proverbial amiability, and bore him no ill-will
for not replying to my letter. My favourable opinion was soon to be
confirmed, however, by his kind reception of me. The impression he made
was good in every respect, particularly as regards his appearance. The
years had not yet given his features the flabby look which sooner or
later mars most Jewish faces, and the fine formation of his brow round
about the eyes gave him an expression of countenance that inspired
confidence. He did not seem in the least inclined to depreciate my
intention of trying my luck in Paris as a composer of opera; he allowed
me to read him my libretto for Rienzi, and really listened up to the
end of the third act. He kept the two acts that were complete, saying
that he wished to look them over, and assured me, when I again called
on him, of his whole-hearted interest in my work. Be this as it may, it
annoyed me somewhat that he should again and again fall back on
praising my minute handwriting, an accomplishment he considered
especially Saxonian. He promised to give me letters of recommendation
to Duponchel, the manager of the Opera House, and to Habeneck, the
conductor. I now felt that I had good cause to extol my good fortune
which, after many vicissitudes, had sent me precisely to this
particular spot in France. What better fortune could have befallen me
than to secure, in so short a time, the sympathetic interest of the
most famous composer of French opera! Meyerbeer took me to see
Moscheles, who was then in Boulogne, and also Fraulein Blahedka, a
celebrated virtuoso whose name I had known for many years. I spent a
few informal musical evenings at both houses, and thus came into close
touch with musical celebrities, an experience quite new to me.

I had written to my future brother-in-law, Avernarius, in Paris, to ask
him to find us suitable accommodations, and we started on our journey
thither on 16th September in the diligence, my efforts to hoist Robber
on to the top being attended by the usual difficulties.

My first impression of Paris proved disappointing in view of the great
expectations I had cherished of that city; after London it seemed to me
narrow and confined. I had imagined the famous boulevards to be much
vaster, for instance, and was really annoyed, when the huge coach put
us down in the Rue de la Juissienne, to think that I should first set
foot on Parisian soil in such a wretched little alley. Neither did the
Rue Richelieu, where my brother-in-law had his book-shop, seem imposing
after the streets in the west end of London. As for the chambre garnie,
which had been engaged for me in the Rue de la Tonnellerie, one of the
narrow side-streets which link the Rue St. Honore with the Marche des
Innocents, I felt positively degraded at having to take up my abode
there. I needed all the consolation that could be derived from an
inscription, placed under a bust of Moliere, which read: maison ou
naquit Moliere, to raise my courage after the mean impression the house
had first made upon me. The room, which had been prepared for us on the
fourth floor, was small but cheerful, decently furnished, and
inexpensive. From the windows we could see the frightful bustle in the
market below, which became more and more alarming as we watched it, and
I wondered what we were doing in such a quarter.

Shortly after this, Avenarius had to go to Leipzig to bring home his
bride, my youngest sister Cecilia, after the wedding in that city.
Before leaving, he gave me an introduction to his only musical
acquaintance, a German holding an appointment in the music department
of the Bibliotheque Royale, named E. G. Anders, who lost no time in
looking us up in Moliere's house. He was, as I soon discovered, a man
of very unusual character, and, little as he was able to help me, he
left an affecting and ineffaceable impression on my memory. He was a
bachelor in the fifties, whose reverses had driven him to the sad
necessity of earning a living in Paris entirely without assistance. He
had fallen back on the extraordinary bibliographical knowledge which,
especially in reference to music, it had been his hobby to acquire in
the days of his prosperity. His real name he never told me, wishing to
guard the secret of that, as of his misfortunes, until after his death.
For the time being he told me only that he was known as Anders, was of
noble descent, and had held property on the Rhine, but that he had lost
everything owing to the villainous betrayal of his gullibility and
good-nature. The only thing he had managed to save was his very
considerable library, the size of which I was able to estimate for
myself. It filled every wall of his small dwelling. Even here in Paris
he soon complained of bitter enemies; for, in spite of having come
furnished with an introduction to influential people, he still held the
inferior position of an employee in the library. In spite of his long
service there and his great learning, he had to see really ignorant men
promoted over his head. I discovered afterwards that the real reason
lay in his unbusinesslike methods, and the effeminacy consequent on the
delicate way in which he had been nurtured in early life, which made
him incapable of developing the energy necessary for his work. On a
miserable pittance of fifteen hundred francs a year, he led a weary
existence, full of anxiety. With nothing in view but a lonely old age,
and the probability of dying in a hospital, it seemed as if our society
put new life into him; for though we were poverty-stricken, we looked
forward boldly and hopefully to the future. My vivacity and invincible
energy filled him with hopes of my success, and from this time forward
he took a most tender and unselfish part in furthering my interests.
Although he was a contributor to the Gazette Musicale, edited by Moritz
Schlesinger, he had never succeeded in making his influence felt there
in the slightest degree. He had none of the versatility of a
journalist, and the editors entrusted him with little besides the
preparation of bibliographical notes. Oddly enough, it was with this
unworldly and least resourceful of men that I had to discuss my plan
for the conquest of Paris, that is, of musical Paris, which is made up
of all the most questionable characters imaginable. The result was
practically always the same; we merely encouraged each other in the
hope that some unforeseen stroke of luck would help my cause.

To assist us in these discussions Anders called in his friend and
housemate Lehrs, a philologist, my acquaintance with whom was soon to
develop into one of the most beautiful friendships of my life. Lehrs
was the younger brother of a famous scholar at Konigsberg. He had left
there to come to Paris some years before, with the object of gaining an
independent position by his philological work. This he preferred, in
spite of the attendant difficulties, to a post as teacher with a salary
which only in Germany could be considered sufficient for a scholar's
wants. He soon obtained work from Didot, the bookseller, as assistant
editor of a large edition of Greek classics, but the editor traded on
his poverty, and was much more concerned about the success of his
enterprise than about the condition of his poor collaborator. Lehrs had
therefore perpetually to struggle against poverty, but he preserved an
even temper, and showed himself in every way a model of
disinterestedness and self-sacrifice. At first he looked upon me only
as a man in need of advice, and incidentally a fellow-sufferer in
Paris; for he had no knowledge of music, and had no particular interest
in it. We soon became so intimate that I had him dropping in nearly
every evening with Anders, Lehrs being extremely useful to his friend,
whose unsteadiness in walking obliged him to use an umbrella and a
walking-stick as crutches. He was also nervous in crossing crowded
thorough-fares, and particularly so at night; while he always liked to
make Lehrs cross my threshold in front of him to distract the attention
of Robber, of whom he stood in obvious terror. Our usually good-natured
dog became positively suspicious of this visitor, and soon adopted
towards him the same aggressive attitude which he had shown to the
sailor Koske on board the Thetis. The two men lived at an hotel garni
in Rue de Seine. They complained greatly of their landlady, who
appropriated so much of their income that they were entirely in her
power. Anders had for years been trying to assert his independence by
leaving her, without being able to carry out his plan. We soon threw
off mutually every shred of disguise as to the present state of our
finances, so that, although the two house-holds were actually
separated, our common troubles gave us all the intimacy of one united
family.

The various ways by which I might obtain recognition in Paris formed
the chief topic of our discussions at that time. Our hopes were at
first centred on Meyerbeer's promised letters of introduction.
Duponchel, the director of the Opera, did actually see me at his
office, where, fixing a monocle in his right eye, he read through
Meyerbeer's letter without betraying the least emotion, having no doubt
opened similar communications from the composer many times before. I
went away, and never heard another word from him. The elderly
conductor, Habeneck, on the other hand, took an interest in my work
that was not merely polite, and acceded to my request to have something
of mine played at one of the orchestral practises at the Conservatoire
as soon as he should have leisure. I had, unfortunately, no short
instrumental piece that seemed suitable except my queer Columbus
Overture, which I considered the most effective of all that had
emanated from my pen. It had been received with great applause on the
occasion of its performance in the theatre at Magdeburg, with the
assistance of the valiant trumpeters from the Prussian garrison. I gave
Habeneck the score and parts, and was able to report to our committee
at home that I had now one enterprise on foot.

I gave up the attempt to try and see Scribe on the mere ground of our
having had some correspondence, for my friends had made it clear to me,
in the light of their own experience, that it was out of the question
to expect this exceptionally busy author to occupy himself seriously
with a young and unknown musician. Anders was able to introduce me to
another acquaintance, however, a certain M. Dumersan. This grey-haired
gentleman had written some hundred vaudeville pieces, and would have
been glad to see one of them performed as an opera on a larger scale
before his death. He had no idea of standing on his dignity as an
author, and was quite willing to undertake the translation of an
existing libretto into French verse. We therefore entrusted him with
the writing of my Liebesverbot, with a view to a performance at the
Theatre de la Renaissance, as it was then called. (It was the third
existing theatre for lyric drama, the performances being given in the
new Salle Ventadour, which had been rebuilt after its destruction by
fire.) On the understanding that it was to be a literal translation, he
at once turned the three numbers of my opera, for which I hoped to
secure a hearing, into neat French verse. Besides this, he asked me to
compose a chorus for a vaudeville entitled La Descente de la Courtille,
which was to be played at the Varietes during the carnival.

This was a second opening. My friends now strongly advised me to write
something small in the way of songs, which I could offer to popular
singers for concert purposes. Both Lehrs and Anders produced words for
these. Anders brought a very innocent Dors, mon enfant, written by a
young poet of his acquaintance; this was the first thing I composed to
a French text. It was so successful that, when I had tried it over
softly several times on the piano, my wife, who was in bed, called out
to me that it was heavenly for sending one to sleep. I also set
L'Attente from Hugo's Orientales, and Ronsard's song, Mignonne, to
music. I have no reason to be ashamed of these small pieces, which I
published subsequently as a musical supplement to Europa (Lewald's
publication) in 1841.

I next stumbled on the idea of writing a grand bass aria with a chorus,
for Lablache to introduce into his part of Orovist in Bellini's Norma.
Lehrs had to hunt up an Italian political refugee to get the text out
of him. This was done, and I produced an effective composition a la
Bellini (which still exists among my manuscripts), and went off at once
to offer it to Lablache.

The friendly Moor, who received me in the great singer's anteroom,
insisted upon admitting me straight into his master's presence without
announcing me. As I had anticipated some difficulty in getting near
such a celebrity, I had written my request, as I thought this would be
simpler than explaining verbally.

The black servant's pleasant manner made me feel very uncomfortable; I
entrusted my score and letter to him to give to Lablache, without
taking any notice of his kindly astonishment at my refusal of his
repeated invitation to go into his master's room and have an interview,
and I left the house hurriedly, intending to call for my answer in a
few days. When I came back Lablache received me most kindly, and
assured me that my aria was excellent, though it was impossible to
introduce it into Bellini's opera after the latter had already been
performed so very often. My relapse into the domain of Bellini's style,
of which I had been guilty through the writing of this aria, was
therefore useless to me, and I soon became convinced of the
fruitlessness of my efforts in that direction. I saw that I should need
personal introductions to various singers in order to ensure the
production of one of my other compositions.

When Meyerbeer at last arrived in Paris, therefore, I was delighted. He
was not in the least astonished at the lack of success of his letters
of introduction; on the contrary, he made use of this opportunity to
impress upon me how difficult it was to get on in Paris, and how
necessary it was for me to look out for less pretentious work. With
this object he introduced me to Maurice Schlesinger, and leaving me at
the mercy of that monstrous person, went back to Germany.

At first Schlesinger did not know what to do with me; the acquaintances
I made through him (of whom the chief was the violinist Panofka) led to
nothing, and I therefore returned to my advisory board at home, through
whose influence I had recently received an order to compose the music
to the Two Grenadiers, by Heine, translated by a Parisian professor. I
wrote this song for baritone, and was very pleased with the result; on
Ander's advice I now tried to find singers for my new compositions.
Mme. Pauline Viardot, on whom I first called, went through my songs
with me. She was very amiable, and praised them, but did not see why
SHE should sing them. I went through the same experience with a Mme.
Widmann, a grand contralto, who sang my Dors, mon enfant with great
feeling; all the same she had no further use for my composition. A
certain M. Dupont, third tenor at the grand opera, tried my setting of
the Ronsard poem, but declared that the language in which it was
written was no longer palatable to the Paris public. M. Geraldy, a
favourite concert singer and teacher, who allowed me to call and see
him frequently, told me that the Two Grenadiers was impossible, for the
simple reason that the accompaniment at the end of the song, which I
had modelled upon the Marseillaise, could only be sung in the streets
of Paris to the accompaniment of cannons and gunshots. Habeneck was the
only person who fulfilled his promise to conduct my Columbus Overture
at one of the rehearsals for the benefit of Anders and myself. As,
however, there was no question of producing this work even at one of
the celebrated Conservatoire concerts, I saw clearly that the old
gentleman was only moved by kindness and a desire to encourage me. It
could not lead to anything further, and I myself was convinced that
this extremely superficial work of my young days could only give the
orchestra a wrong impression of my talents. However, these rehearsals,
to my surprise, made such an unexpected impression on me in other ways
that they exercised a decisive influence in the crisis of my artistic
development. This was due to the fact that I listened repeatedly to
Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, which, by dint of untiring practice,
received such a marvellous interpretation at the hands of this
celebrated orchestra, that the picture I had had of it in my mind in
the enthusiastic days of my youth now stood before me almost tangibly
in brilliant colours, undimmed, as though it had never been effaced by
the Leipzig orchestra who had slaughtered it under Pohlenz's baton.
Where formerly I had only seen mystic constellations and weird shapes
without meaning, I now found, flowing from innumerable sources, a
stream of the most touching and heavenly melodies which delighted my
heart.

The whole of that period of the deterioration of my musical tastes
which dated, practically speaking, from those selfsame confusing ideas
about Beethoven, and which had grown so much worse through my
acquaintance with that dreadful theatre--all these wrong views now sank
down as if into an abyss of shame and remorse.

This inner change had been gradually prepared by many painful
experiences during the last few years. I owed the recovery of my old
vigour and spirits to the deep impression the rendering of the Ninth
Symphony had made on me when performed in a way I had never dreamed of.
This important event in my life can only be compared to the upheaval
caused within me when, as a youth of sixteen, I saw Schroder-Devrient
act in Fidelio.

The direct result of this was my intense longing to compose something
that would give me a similar feeling of satisfaction, and this desire
grew in proportion to my anxiety about my unfortunate position in
Paris, which made me almost despair of success.

In this mood I sketched an overture to Faust which, according to my
original scheme, was only to form the first part of a whole Faust
Symphony, as I had already got the 'Gretchen' idea in my head for the
second movement. This is the same composition that I rewrote in several
parts fifteen years later; I had forgotten all about it, and I owed its
reconstruction to the advice of Liszt, who gave me many valuable hints.
This composition has been performed many times under the title of eine
Faust-ouverture, and has met with great appreciation. At the time of
which I am speaking, I hoped that the Conservatoire orchestra would
have been willing to give the work a hearing, but I was told they
thought they had done enough for me, and hoped to be rid of me for some
time.

Having failed everywhere, I now turned to Meyerbeer for more
introductions, especially to singers. I was very much surprised when,
in consequence of my request, Meyerbeer introduced me to a certain M.
Gouin, a post-office official, and Meyerbeer's sole agent in Paris,
whom he instructed to do his utmost for me. Meyerbeer specially wished
me to know M. Antenor Joly, director of the Theatre de la Renaissance,
the musical theatre already mentioned. M. Gouin, with almost suspicious
levity, promised me to produce my opera Liebesverbot, which now only
required translation. There was a question of having a few numbers of
my opera sung to the committee of the theatre at a special audience.
When I suggested that some of the singers of this very theatre should
undertake to sing three of the numbers which had been already
translated by Dumersan, I was refused on the plea that all these
artists were far too busy. But Gouin saw a way out of the difficulty;
on the authority of Maitre Meyerbeer, he won over to our cause several
singers who were under an obligation to Meyerbeer: Mme. Dorus-Gras, a
real primadonna of the Grand Opera, Mme. Widmann and M. Dupont (the two
last-named had previously refused to help me) now promised to sing for
me at this audience.

This much, then, did I achieve in six months. It was now nearly Easter
of the year 1840. Encouraged by Gouin's negotiations, which seemed to
spell hope, I made up my mind to move from the obscure Quartier des
Innocents to a part of Paris nearer to the musical centre; and in this
I was encouraged by Lehrs' foolhardy advice.

What this change meant to me, my readers will learn when they hear
under what circumstances we had dragged on our existence during our
stay in Paris.

Although we were living in the cheapest possible way, dining at a very
small restaurant for a franc a head, it was impossible to prevent the
rest of our money from melting away. Our friend Moller had given us to
understand that we could ask him if we were in need, as he would put
aside for us the first money that came in from any successful business
transaction. There was no alternative but to apply to him for money; in
the meantime we pawned all the trinkets we possessed that were of any
value. As I was too shy to make inquiries about a pawnshop, I looked up
the French equivalent in the dictionary in order to be able to
recognise such a place when I saw it. In my little pocket dictionary I
could not find any other word than 'Lombard.' On looking at a map of
Paris I found, situated in the middle of an inextricable maze of
streets, a very small lane called Rue des Lombards. Thither I wended my
way, but my expedition was fruitless. Often, on reading by the light of
the transparent lanterns the inscription 'Mont de Piete,' I became very
curious to know its meaning, and on consulting my advisory board at
home about this 'Mount of Piety,' [Footnote: This is the correct
translation of the words Berg der Frommigkeit used in the
original.--Editor.] I was told, to my great delight, that it was
precisely there that I should find salvation. To this 'Mont de Piete'
we now carried all we possessed in the way of silver, namely, our
wedding presents. After that followed my wife's trinkets and the rest
of her former theatrical wardrobe, amongst which was a beautiful
silver-embroidered blue dress with a court train, once the property of
the Duchess of Dessau. Still we heard nothing from our friend Moller,
and we were obliged to wait on from day to day for the sorely needed
help from Konigsberg, and at last, one dark day, we pledged our wedding
rings. When all hope of assistance seemed vain, I heard that the
pawn-tickets themselves were of some value, as they could be sold to
buyers, who thereby acquired the right to redeem the pawned articles. I
had to resort even to this, and thus the blue court-dress, for
instance, was lost for ever. Moller never wrote again. When later on he
called on me at the time of my conductorship in Dresden, he admitted
that he had been embittered against me owing to humiliating and
derogatory remarks we were said to have made about him after we parted,
and had resolved not to have anything further to do with us. We were
certain of our innocence in the matter, and very grieved at having,
through pure slander, lost the chance of such assistance in our great
need.

At the beginning of our pecuniary difficulties we sustained a loss
which we looked upon as providential, in spite of the grief it caused
us. This was our beautiful dog, which we had managed to bring across to
Paris with endless difficulty. As he was a very valuable animal, and
attracted much attention, he had probably been stolen. In spite of the
terrible state of the traffic in Paris, he had always found his way
home in the same clever manner in which he had mastered the
difficulties of the London streets. Quite at the beginning of our stay
in Paris he had often gone off by himself to the gardens of the Palais
Royal, where he used to meet many of his friends, and had returned safe
and sound after a brilliant exhibition of swimming and retrieving
before an audience of gutter children. At the Quai du Pont-neuf he
generally begged us to let him bathe; there he used to draw a large
crowd of spectators round him, who were so loud in their enthusiasm
about the way in which he dived for and brought to land various objects
of clothing, tools, etc., that the police begged us to put an end to
the obstruction. One morning I let him out for a little run as usual;
he never returned, and in spite of our most strenuous efforts to
recover him, no trace of him was to be found. This loss seemed to many
of our friends a piece of luck, for they could not understand how it
was possible for us to feed such a huge animal when we ourselves had
not enough to eat. About this time, the second month of our stay in
Paris, my sister Louisa came over from Leipzig to join her husband,
Friedrich Brockhaus, in Paris, where he had been waiting for her for
some time. They intended to go to Italy together, and Louisa made use
of this opportunity to buy all kinds of expensive things in Paris. I
did not expect them to feel any pity for us on account of our foolish
removal to Paris, and its attendant miseries, or that they should
consider themselves bound to help us in any way; but although we did
not try to conceal our position, we derived no benefit from the visit
of our rich relations. Minna was even kind enough to help my sister
with her luxurious shopping, and we were very anxious not to make them
think we wanted to rouse their pity. In return my sister introduced me
to an extraordinary friend of hers, who was destined to take a great
interest in me. This was the young painter, Ernst Kietz, from Dresden;
he was an exceptionally kind-hearted and unaffected young man, whose
talent for portrait painting (in a sort of coloured pastel style) had
made him such a favourite in his own town, that he had been induced by
his financial successes to come to Paris for a time to finish his art
studies. He had now been working in Delaroche's studio for about a
year. He had a curious and almost childlike disposition, and his lack
of all serious education, combined with a certain weakness of
character, had made him choose a career in which he was destined, in
spite of all his talent, to fail hopelessly. I had every opportunity of
recognising this, as I saw a great deal of him. At the time, however,
the simple-hearted devotion and kindness of this young man were very
welcome both to myself and my wife, who often felt lonely, and his
friendship was a real source of help in our darkest hours of adversity.
He became almost a member of the family, and joined our home circle
every night, providing a strange contrast to nervous old Anders and the
grave-faced Lehrs. His good-nature and his quaint remarks soon made him
indispensable to us; he amused us tremendously with his French, into
which he would launch with the greatest confidence, although he could
not put together two consecutive sentences properly, in spite of having
lived in Paris for twenty years. With Delaroche he studied
oil-painting, and had obviously considerable talent in this direction,
although it was the very rock on which he stranded. The mixing of the
colours on his palette, and especially the cleaning of his brushes,
took up so much of his time that he rarely came to the actual painting.
As the days were very short in midwinter, he never had time to do any
work after he had finished washing his palette and brushes, and, as far
as I can remember, he never completed a single portrait. Strangers to
whom he had been introduced, and who had given him orders to paint
their portraits, were obliged to leave Paris without seeing them even
half done, and at last he even complained because some of his sitters
died before their portraits were completed. His landlord, to whom he
was always in debt for rent, was the only creature who succeeded in
getting a portrait of his ugly person from the painter, and, as far as
I know, this is the only finished portrait in existence by Kietz. On
the other hand, he was very clever at making little sketches of any
subject suggested by our conversation during the evening, and in these
he displayed both originality and delicacy of execution. During the
winter of that year he completed a good pencil portrait of me, which he
touched up two years afterwards when he knew me more intimately,
finishing it off as it now stands. It pleased him to sketch me in the
attitude I often assumed during our evening chats when I was in a
cheerful mood. No evening ever passed during which I did not succeed in
shaking off the depression caused by my vain endeavours, and by the
many worries I had gone through during the day, and in regaining my
natural cheerfulness, and Kietz was anxious to represent me to the
world as a man who, in spite of the hard times he had to face, had
confidence in his success, and rose smiling above the troubles of life.
Before the end of the year 1839, my youngest sister Cecilia also
arrived in Paris with her husband, Edward Avenarius. It was only
natural that she should feel embarrassed at the idea of meeting us in
Paris in our extremely straitened circumstances, especially as her
husband was not very well off. Consequently, instead of calling on them
frequently, we preferred waiting until they came to see us, which, by
the way, took them a long time. On the other hand, the renewal of our
acquaintance with Heinrich Laube, who came over to Paris at the
beginning of 1840 with his young wife, Iduna (nee Budaus), was very
cheering. She was the widow of a wealthy Leipzig doctor, and Laube had
married her under very extraordinary circumstances, since we last saw
him in Berlin; they intended to enjoy themselves for a few months in
Paris. During the long period of his detention, while awaiting his
trial, this young lady had been so touched by his misfortunes that
without knowing much of him, she had shown great sympathy and interest
in his case. Laube's sentence was pronounced soon after I left Berlin;
it was unexpectedly light, consisting of only one year's imprisonment
in the town gaol. He was allowed to undergo this term in the prison at
Muskau in Silesia, where he had the advantage of being near his friend,
Prince Puckler, who in his official capacity, and on account of his
influence with the governor of the prison, was permitted to afford the
prisoner even the consolation of personal intercourse.

The young widow resolved to marry him at the beginning of his term of
imprisonment, so that she might be near him at Muskau with her loving
assistance. To see my old friend under such favourable conditions was
in itself a pleasure to me; I also experienced the liveliest
satisfaction at finding there was no change in his former sympathetic
attitude. We met frequently; our wives also became friends, and Laube
was the first to approve in his kindly humorous way of our folly in
moving to Paris.

In his house I made the acquaintance of Heinrich Heine, and both of
them joked good-humouredly over my extraordinary position, making even
me laugh. Laube felt himself compelled to talk seriously to me about my
expectations of succeeding in Paris, as he saw that I treated my
situation, based on such trivial hopes, with a humour that charmed him
even against his better judgment. He tried to think how he could help
me without prejudicing my future. With this object he wanted me to make
a more or less plausible sketch of my future plans, so that on his
approaching visit to our native land he might procure some help for me.
I happened just at that time to have come to an exceedingly promising
understanding with the management of the Theatre de la Renaissance. I
thus seemed to have obtained a footing, and I thought it safe to
assert, that if I were guaranteed the means of livelihood for six
months, I could not fail within that period to accomplish something.
Laube promised to make this provision, and kept his word. He induced
one of his wealthy friends in Leipzig, and, following this example, my
well-to-do relations, to provide me for six months with the necessary
resources, to be paid in monthly instalments through Avenarius.

We therefore decided, as I have said, to leave our furnished apartments
and take a flat for ourselves in the Rue du Helder. My prudent, careful
wife had suffered greatly on account of the careless and uncertain
manner in which I had hitherto controlled our meagre resources, and in
now undertaking the responsibility, she explained that she understood
how to keep house more cheaply than we could do by living in furnished
rooms and restaurants. Success justified the step; the serious part of
the question lay in the fact that we had to start housekeeping without
any furniture of our own, and everything necessary for domestic
purposes had to be procured, though we had not the wherewithal to get
it. In this matter Lehrs, who was well versed in the peculiarities of
Parisian life, was able to advise us. In his opinion the only
compensation for the experiences we had undergone hitherto would be a
success equivalent to my daring. As I did not possess the resources to
allow of long years of patient waiting for success in Paris, I must
either count on extraordinary luck or renounce all my hopes forthwith.
The longed-for success must come within a year, or I should be ruined.
Therefore I must dare all, as befitted my name, for in my case he was
not inclined to derive 'Wagner' [Footnote: 'Wagner' in German means one
who dares, also a Wagoner; and 'Fuhrwerk' means a carriage.--Editor.]
from Fuhrwerk. I was to pay my rent, twelve hundred francs, in
quarterly instalments; for the furniture and fittings, he recommended
me, through his landlady, to a carpenter who provided everything that
was necessary for what seemed to be a reasonable sum, also to be paid
by instalments, all of which appeared very simple. Lehrs maintained
that I should do no good in Paris unless I showed the world that I had
confidence in myself. My trial audience was impending; I felt sure of
the Theatre de la Renaissance, and Dumersan was keenly anxious to make
a complete translation of my Liebesverbot into French. So we decided to
run the risk. On 15th April, to the astonishment of the concierge of
the house in the Rue du Helder, we moved with an exceedingly small
amount of luggage into our comfortable new apartments.

The very first visit I received in the rooms I had taken with such high
hopes was from Anders, who came with the tidings that the Theatre de la
Renaissance had just gone bankrupt, and was closed. This news, which
came on me like a thunder-clap, seemed to portend more than an ordinary
stroke of bad luck; it revealed to me like a flash of lightning the
absolute emptiness of my prospects. My friends openly expressed the
opinion that Meyerbeer, in sending me from the Grand Opera to this
theatre, probably knew the whole of the circumstances. I did not pursue
the line of thought to which this supposition might lead, as I felt
cause enough for bitterness when I wondered what I should do with the
rooms in which I was so nicely installed.

As my singers had now practised the portions of Liebesverbot intended
for the trial audience, I was anxious at least to have them performed
before some persons of influence. M. Edouard Monnaie, who had been
appointed temporary director of the Grand Opera after Duponchel's
retirement, was the less disposed to refuse as the singers who were to
take part belonged to the institution over which he presided; moreover,
there was no obligation attached to his presence at the audience. I
also took the trouble to call on Scribe to invite him to attend, and he
accepted with the kindest alacrity. At last my three pieces were
performed before these two gentlemen in the green room of the Grand
Opera, and I played the piano accompaniment. They pronounced the music
charming, and Scribe expressed his willingness to arrange the libretto
for me as soon as the managers of the opera had decided on accepting
the piece; all that M. Monnaie had to reply to this offer was that it
was impossible for them to do so at present. I did not fail to realise
that these were only polite expressions; but at all events I thought it
very nice of them, and particularly condescending of Scribe to have got
so far as to think me deserving of a little politeness.

But in my heart of hearts I felt really ashamed of having gone back
again seriously to that superficial early work from which I had taken
these three pieces. Of course I had only done this because I thought I
should win success more rapidly in Paris by adapting myself to its
frivolous taste. My aversion from this kind of taste, which had been
long growing, coincided with my abandonment of all hopes of success in
Paris. I was placed in an exceedingly melancholy situation by the fact
that my circumstances had so shaped themselves that I dared not express
this important change in my feelings to any one, especially to my poor
wife. But if I continued to make the best of a bad bargain, I had no
longer any illusions as to the possibility of success in Paris. Face to
face with unheard-of misery, I shuddered at the smiling aspect which
Paris presented in the bright sunshine of May. It was the beginning of
the slack season for any sort of artistic enterprise in Paris, and from
every door at which I knocked with feigned hope I was turned away with
the wretchedly monotonous phrase, Monsieur est a la campagne.

On our long walks, when we felt ourselves absolute strangers in the
midst of the gay throng, I used to romance to my wife about the South
American Free States, far away from all this sinister life, where opera
and music were unknown, and the foundations of a sensible livelihood
could easily be secured by industry. I told Minna, who was quite in the
dark as to my meaning, of a book I had just read, Zschokke's Die
Grundung von Maryland, in which I found a very seductive account of the
sensation of relief experienced by the European settlers after their
former sufferings and persecutions. She, being of a more practical turn
of mind, used to point out to me the necessity of procuring means for
our continued existence in Paris, for which she had thought out all
sorts of economies.

I, for my part, was sketching out the plan of the poem of my Fliegender
Hollander, which I kept steadily before me as a possible means of
making a debut in Paris. I put together the material for a single act,
influenced by the consideration that I could in this way confine it to
the simple dramatic developments between the principal characters,
without troubling about the tiresome operatic accessories. From a
practical point of view, I thought I could rely on a better prospect
for the acceptance of my proposed work if it were cast in the form of a
one-act opera, such as was frequently given as a curtain raiser before
a ballet at the Grand Opera. I wrote about it to Meyerbeer in Berlin,
asking for his help. I also resumed the composition of Rienzi, to the
completion of which I was now giving my constant attention.

In the meantime our position became more and more gloomy; I was soon
compelled to draw in advance on the subsidies obtained by Laube, but in
so doing I gradually alienated the sympathy of my brother-in-law
Avenarius, to whom our stay in Paris was incomprehensible.

One morning, when we had been anxiously consulting as to the
possibility of raising our first quarter's rent, a carrier appeared
with a parcel addressed to me from London; I thought it was an
intervention of Providence, and broke open the seal. At the same moment
a receipt-book was thrust into my face for signature, in which I at
once saw that I had to pay seven francs for carriage. I recognised,
moreover, that the parcel contained my overture Rule Britannia,
returned to me from the London Philharmonic Society. In my fury I told
the bearer that I would not take in the parcel, whereupon he
remonstrated in the liveliest fashion, as I had already opened it. It
was no use; I did not possess seven francs, and I told him he should
have presented the bill for the carriage before I had opened the
parcel. So I made him return the only copy of my overture to Messrs.
Laffitte and Gaillard's firm, to do what they liked with it, and I
never cared to inquire what became of that manuscript.

Suddenly Kietz devised a way out of these troubles. He had been
commissioned by an old lady of Leipzig, called Fraulein Leplay, a rich
and very miserly old maid, to find a cheap lodging in Paris for her and
for his stepmother, with whom she intended to travel. As our apartment,
though not spacious, was larger than we actually needed, and had very
quickly become a troublesome burden to us, we did not hesitate for a
moment to let the larger portion of it to her for the time of her stay
in Paris, which was to last about two months. In addition, my wife
provided the guests with breakfast, as though they were in furnished
apartments, and took a great pride in looking at the few pence she
earned in this way. Although we found this amazing example of
old-maidishness trying enough, the arrangement we had made helped us in
some degree to tide over the anxious time, and I was able, in spite of
this disorganisation of our household arrangements, to continue working
in comparative peace at my Rienzi.

This became more difficult after Fraulein Leplay's departure, when we
let one of our rooms to a German commercial traveller, who in his
leisure hours zealously played the flute. His name was Brix; he was a
modest, decent fellow, and had been recommended to us by Pecht the
painter, whose acquaintance we had recently made. He had been
introduced to us by Kietz, who studied with him in Delaroche's studio.
He was the very antithesis of Kietz in every way, and obviously endowed
with less talent, yet he grappled with the task of acquiring the art of
oil-painting in the shortest possible time under difficult
circumstances with an industry and earnestness quite out of the common.
He was, moreover, well educated, and eagerly assimilated information,
and was very straightforward, earnest, and trustworthy. Without
attaining to the same degree of intimacy with us as our three older
friends, he was, nevertheless, one of the few who continued to stand by
us in our troubles, and habitually spent nearly every evening in our
company.

One day I received a fresh surprising proof of Laube's continued
solicitude on our behalf. The secretary of a certain Count Kuscelew
called on us, and after some inquiry into our affairs, the state of
which he had heard from Laube at Karlsbad, informed us in a brief and
friendly way that his patron wished to be of use to us, and with that
object in view desired to make my acquaintance. In fact, he proposed to
engage a small light opera company in Paris, which was to follow him to
his Russian estates. He was therefore looking for a musical director of
sufficient experience to assist in recruiting the members in Paris. I
gladly went to the hotel where the count was staying, and there found
an elderly gentleman of frank and agreeable bearing, who willingly
listened to my little French compositions. Being a shrewd reader of
human nature, he saw at a glance that I was not the man for him, and
though he showed me the most polite attention, he went no further into
the opera scheme. But that very day he sent me, accompanied by a
friendly note, ten golden napoleons, in payment for my services. What
these services were I did not know. I thereupon wrote to him, and asked
for more precise details of his wishes, and begged him to commission a
composition, the fee for which I presumed he had sent in advance. As I
received no reply, I made more than one effort to approach him again,
but in vain. From other sources I afterwards learned that the only kind
of opera Count Kuscelew recognised was Adam's. As for the operatic
company to be engaged to suit his taste, what he really wanted was more
a small harem than a company of artists.

So far I had not been able to arrange anything with the music publisher
Schlesinger. It was impossible to persuade him to publish my little
French songs. In order to do something, however, towards making myself
known in this direction, I decided to have my Two Grenadiers engraved
by him at my own expense. Kietz was to lithograph a magnificent
title-page for it. Schlesinger ended by charging me fifty francs for
the cost of production. The story of this publication is curious from
beginning to end; the work bore Schlesinger's name, and as I had
defrayed all expenses, the proceeds were, of course, to be placed to my
account. I had afterwards to take the publisher's word for it that not
a single copy had been sold. Subsequently, when I had made a quick
reputation for myself in Dresden through my Rienzi, Schott the
publisher in Mainz, who dealt almost exclusively in works translated
from the French, thought it advisable to bring out a German edition of
the Two Grenadiers. Below the text of the French translation he had the
German original by Heine printed; but as the French poem was a very
free paraphrase, in quite a different metre to the original, Heine's
words fitted my composition so badly that I was furious at the insult
to my work, and thought it necessary to protest against Schott's
publication as an entirely unauthorised reprint. Schott then threatened
me with an action for libel, as he said that, according to his
agreement, his edition was not a reprint (Nachdruck), but a
reimpression (Abdruck). In order to be spared further annoyance, I was
induced to send him an apology in deference to the distinction he had
drawn, which I did not understand.

In 1848, when I made inquiries of Schlesinger's successor in Paris (M.
Brandus) as to the fate of my little work, I learned from him that a
new edition had been published, but he declined to entertain any
question of rights on my part. Since I did not care to buy a copy with
my own money, I have to this day had to do without my own property. To
what extent, in later years, others profited by similar transactions
relating to the publication of my works, will appear in due course.

For the moment the point was to compensate Schlesinger for the fifty
francs agreed upon, and he proposed that I should do this by writing
articles for his Gazette Musicale.

As I was not expert enough in the French language for literary
purposes, my article had to be translated and half the fee had to go to
the translator. However, I consoled myself by thinking I should still
receive sixty francs per sheet for the work. I was soon to learn, when
I presented myself to the angry publisher for payment, what was meant
by a sheet. It was measured by an abominable iron instrument, on which
the lines of the columns were marked off with figures; this was applied
to the article, and after careful subtraction of the spaces left for
the title and signature, the lines were added up. After this process
had been gone through, it appeared that what I had taken for a sheet
was only half a sheet.

So far so good. I began to write articles for Schlesinger's wonderful
paper. The first was a long essay, De la musique allemande, in which I
expressed with the enthusiastic exaggeration characteristic of me at
that time my appreciation of the sincerity and earnestness of German
music. This article led my friend Anders to remark that the state of
affairs in Germany must, indeed, be splendid if the conditions were
really as I described. I enjoyed what was to me the surprising
satisfaction of seeing this article subsequently reproduced in Italian,
in a Milan musical journal, where, to my amusement, I saw myself
described as Dottissimo Musico Tedesco, a mistake which nowadays would
be impossible. My essay attracted favourable comment, and Schlesinger
asked me to write an article in praise of the arrangement made by the
Russian General Lwoff of Pergolesi's Stabat Mater, which I did as
superficially as possible. On my own impulse I then wrote an essay in a
still more amiable vein called Du metier du virtuose et de
l'independance de la composition.

In the meantime I was surprised in the middle of the summer by the
arrival of Meyerbeer, who happened to come to Paris for a fortnight. He
was very sympathetic and obliging. When I told him my idea of writing a
one-act opera as a curtain raiser, and asked him to give me an
introduction to M. Leon Pillet, the recently appointed manager of the
Grand Opera, he at once took me to see him, and presented me to him.
But alas, I had the unpleasant surprise of learning from the serious
conversation which took place between those two gentlemen as to my
future, that Meyerbeer thought I had better decide to compose an act
for the ballet in collaboration with another musician. Of course I
could not entertain such an idea for a moment. I succeeded, however, in
handing over to M. Pillet my brief sketch of the subject of the Flying
Dutchman..

Things had reached this point when Meyerbeer again left Paris, this
time for a longer period of absence.

As I did not hear from M. Pillet for quite a long time, I now began to
work diligently at my composition of Rienzi, though, to my great
distress, I had often to interrupt this task in order to undertake
certain pot-boiling hack-work for Schlesinger.

As my contributions to the Gazette Musicale proved so unremunerative,
Schlesinger one day ordered me to work out a method for the Cornet a
pistons. When I told him about my embarrassment, in not knowing how to
deal with the subject, he replied by sending me five different
published 'Methods' for the Cornet a pistons, at that time the
favourite amateur instrument among the younger male population of
Paris. I had merely to devise a new sixth method out of these five, as
all Schlesinger wanted was to publish an edition of his own. I was
racking my brains how to start, when Schlesinger, who had just obtained
a new complete method, released me from the onerous task. I was,
however, told to write fourteen 'Suites' for the Cornet a pistons--that
is to say, airs out of operas arranged for this instrument. To furnish
me with material for this work, Schlesinger sent me no less than sixty
complete operas arranged for the piano. I looked them through for
suitable airs for my 'Suites,' marked the pages in the volumes with
paper strips, and arranged them into a curious-looking structure round
my work-table, so that I might have the greatest possible variety of
the melodious material within my reach. When I was in the midst of this
work, however, to my great relief and to my poor wife's consternation,
Schlesinger told me that M. Schlitz, the first cornet player in Paris,
who had looked my 'Etudes' through, preparatory to their being
engraved, had declared that I knew absolutely nothing about the
instrument, and had generally adopted keys that were too high, which
Parisians would never be able to use. The part of the work I had
already done was, however, accepted, Schlitz having agreed to correct
it, but on condition that I should share my fee with him. The remainder
of the work was then taken off my hands, and the sixty pianoforte
arrangements went back to the curious shop in the Rue Richelieu.

So my exchequer was again in a sorry plight. The distressing poverty of
my home grew more apparent every day, and yet I was now free to give a
last touch to Rienzi, and by the 19th of November I had completed this
most voluminous of all my operas. I had decided, some time previously,
to offer the first production of this work to the Court Theatre at
Dresden, so that, in the event of its being a success, I might thus
resume my connection with Germany. I had decided upon Dresden as I knew
that there I should have in Tichatschek the most suitable tenor for the
leading part. I also reckoned on my acquaintance with
Schroder-Devrient, who had always been nice to me and who, though her
efforts were ineffectual, had been at great pains, out of regard for my
family, to get my Feen introduced at the Court Theatre, Dresden. In the
secretary of the theatre, Hofrat Winkler (known as Theodor Hell), I
also had an old friend of my family, besides which I had been
introduced to the conductor, Reissiger, with whom I and my friend Apel
had spent a pleasant evening on the occasion of our excursion to
Bohemia in earlier days. To all these people I now addressed most
respectful and eloquent appeals, wrote out an official note to the
director, Herr von Luttichau, as well as a formal petition to the King
of Saxony, and had everything ready to send off.

Meantime, I had not omitted to indicate the exact tempi in my opera by
means of a metronome. As I did not possess such a thing, I had to
borrow one, and one morning I went out to restore the instrument to its
owner, carrying it under my thin overcoat. The day when this occurred
was one of the strangest in my life, as it showed in a really horrible
way the whole misery of my position at that time. In addition to the
fact that I did not know where to look for the few francs wherewith
Minna was to provide for our scanty household requirements, some of the
bills which, in accordance with the custom in Paris in those days, I
had signed for the purpose of fitting up our apartments, had fallen
due. Hoping to get help from one source or another, I first tried to
get those bills prolonged by the holders. As such documents pass
through many hands, I had to call on all the holders across the length
and breadth of the city. That day I was to propitiate a cheese-monger
who occupied a fifth-floor apartment in the Cite. I also intended to
ask for help from Heinrich, the brother of my brother-in-law,
Brockhaus, as he was then in Paris; and I was going to call at
Schlesinger's to raise the money to pay for the despatch of my score
that day by the usual mail service.

As I had also to deliver the metronome, I left Minna early in the
morning after a sad good-bye. She knew from experience that as I was on
a money-raising expedition, she would not see me back till late at
night. The streets were enveloped in a dense fog, and the first thing I
recognised on leaving the house was my dog Robber, who had been stolen
from us a year before. At first I thought it was a ghost, but I called
out to him sharply in a shrill voice. The animal seemed to recognise
me, and approached me cautiously, but my sudden movement towards him
with outstretched arms seemed only to revive memories of the few
chastisements I had foolishly inflicted on him during the latter part
of our association, and this memory prevailed over all others. He drew
timidly away from me and, as I followed him with some eagerness, he
ran, only to accelerate his speed when he found he was being pursued. I
became more and more convinced that he had recognised me, because he
always looked back anxiously when he reached a corner; but seeing that
I was hunting him like a maniac, he started off again each time with
renewed energy. Thus I followed him through a labyrinth of streets,
hardly distinguishable in the thick mist, until I eventually lost sight
of him altogether, never to see him again. It was near the church of
St. Roch, and I, wet with perspiration and quite breathless, was still
bearing the metronome. For a while I stood motionless, glaring into the
mist, and wondered what the ghostly reappearance of the companion of my
travelling adventures on this day might portend! The fact that he had
fled from his old master with the terror of a wild beast filled my
heart with a strange bitterness and seemed to me a horrible omen. Sadly
shaken, I set out again, with trembling limbs, upon my weary errand.

Heinrich Brockhaus told me he could not help me, and I left him. I was
sorely ashamed, but made a strong effort to conceal the painfulness of
my situation. My other undertakings turned out equally hopeless, and
after having been kept waiting for hours at Schlesinger's, listening to
my employer's very trivial conversations with his
callers--conversations which he seemed purposely to protract--I
reappeared under the windows of my home long after dark, utterly
unsuccessful. I saw Minna looking anxiously from one of the windows.
Half expecting my misfortune she had, in the meantime, succeeded in
borrowing a small sum of our lodger and boarder, Brix, the
flute-player, whom we tolerated patiently, though at some inconvenience
to ourselves, as he was a good-natured fellow. So she was able to offer
me at least a comfortable meal. Further help was to come to me
subsequently, though at the cost of great sacrifices on my part, owing
to the success of one of Donizetti's operas, La Favorita, a very poor
work of the Italian maestro's, but welcomed with great enthusiasm by
the Parisian public, already so much degenerated. This opera, the
success of which was due mainly to two lively little songs, had been
acquired by Schlesinger, who had lost heavily over Halevy's last operas.

Taking advantage of my helpless situation, of which he was well aware,
he rushed into our rooms one morning, beaming all over with amusing
good-humour, called for pen and ink, and began to work out a
calculation of the enormous fees which he had arranged for me! He put
down: 'La Favorita, complete arrangement for pianoforte, arrangement
without words, for solo; ditto, for duet; complete arrangement for
quartette; the same for two violins; ditto for a Cornet a piston. Total
fee, frcs. 1100. Immediate advance in cash, frcs. 500.' I could see at
a glance what an enormous amount of trouble this work would involve,
but I did not hesitate a moment to undertake it.

Curiously enough, when I brought home these five hundred francs in hard
shining five-franc pieces, and piled them up on the table for our
edification, my sister Cecilia Avenarius happened to drop in to see us.
The sight of this abundance of wealth seemed to produce a good effect
on her, as she had hitherto been rather chary of coming to see us; and
after that we used to see rather more of her, and were often invited to
dine with them on Sundays. But I no longer cared for any amusements. I
was so deeply impressed by my past experiences that I made up my mind
to work through this humiliating, albeit profitable task, with untiring
energy, as though it were a penance imposed on me for the expiation of
my bygone sins. To save fuel, we limited ourselves to the use of the
bedroom, making it serve as a drawing-room, dining-room, and study, as
well as dormitory. It was only a step from my bed to my work-table; to
be seated at the dining-table, all I had to do was to turn my chair
round, and I left my seat altogether only late at night when I wanted
to go to bed again. Every fourth day I allowed myself a short
constitutional. This penitential process lasted almost all through the
winter, and sowed the seeds of those gastric disorders which were to be
more or less of a trouble to me for the rest of my life.

In return for the minute and almost interminable work of correcting the
score of Donizetti's opera, I managed to get three hundred francs from
Schlesinger, as he could not get any one else to do it. Besides this, I
had to find the time to copy out the orchestra parts of my overture to
Faust, which I was still hoping to hear at the Conservatoire; and by
the way of counteracting the depression produced by this humiliating
occupation, I wrote a short story, Eine Pilgerfahrt zu Beethoven (A
Pilgrimage to Beethoven), which appeared in the Gazette Musicale, under
the title Une Visite a Beethoven. Schlesinger told me candidly that
this little work had created quite a sensation, and had been received
with very marked approval; and, indeed, it was actually reproduced,
either complete or in parts, in a good many fireside journals.

He persuaded me to write some more of the same kind; and in a sequel
entitled Das Ende eines Musikers in Paris (Un Musicien etranger a
Paris) I avenged myself for all the misfortunes I had had to endure.
Schlesinger was not quite so pleased with this as with my first effort,
but it received touching signs of approval from his poor assistant;
while Heinrich Heine praised it by saying that 'Hoffmann would have
been incapable of writing such a thing.' Even Berlioz was touched by
it, and spoke of the story very favourably in one of his articles in
the Journal des Debats. He also gave me signs of his sympathy, though
only during a conversation, after the appearance of another of my
musical articles entitled Ueber die Ouverture (Concerning Overtures),
mainly because I had illustrated my principle by pointing to Gluck's
overture to Iphigenia in Aulis as a model for compositions of this
class.

Encouraged by these signs of sympathy, I felt anxious to become more
intimately acquainted with Berlioz. I had been introduced to him some
time previously at Schlesinger's office, where we used to meet
occasionally. I had presented him with a copy of my Two Grenadiers, but
could, however, never learn any more from him concerning what he really
thought of it than the fact that as he could only strum a little on the
guitar, he was unable to play the music of my composition to himself on
the piano. During the previous winter I had often heard his grand
instrumental pieces played under his own direction, and had been most
favourably impressed by them. During that winter (1839-40) he conducted
three performances of his new symphony, Romeo and Juliet, at one of
which I was present.

All this, to be sure, was quite a new world to me, and I was desirous
of gaining some unprejudiced knowledge of it. At first the grandeur and
masterly execution of the orchestral part almost overwhelmed me. It was
beyond anything I could have conceived. The fantastic daring, the sharp
precision with which the boldest combinations--almost tangible in their
clearness--impressed me, drove back my own ideas of the poetry of music
with brutal violence into the very depths of my soul. I was simply all
ears for things of which till then I had never dreamt, and which I felt
I must try to realise. True, I found a great deal that was empty and
shallow in his Romeo and Juliet, a work that lost much by its length
and form of combination; and this was the more painful to me seeing
that, on the other hand, I felt overpowered by many really bewitching
passages which quite overcame any objections on my part.

During the same winter Berlioz produced his Sinfonie Fantastique and
his Harald ('Harold en Italie'). I was also much impressed by these
works; the musical genre-pictures woven into the first-named symphony
were particularly pleasing, while Harald delighted me in almost every
respect..

It was, however, the latest work of this wonderful master, his
Trauer-Symphonie fur die Opfer der Juli-Revolution (Grande Symphonie
Funebre et Triomphale), most skilfully composed for massed military
bands during the summer of 1840 for the anniversary of the obsequies of
the July heroes, and conducted by him under the column of the Place de
la Bastille, which had at last thoroughly convinced me of the greatness
and enterprise of this incomparable artist. But while admiring this
genius, absolutely unique in his methods, I could never quite shake off
a certain peculiar feeling of anxiety. His works left me with a
sensation as of something strange, something with which I felt I should
never be able to be familiar, and I was often puzzled at the strange
fact that, though ravished by his compositions, I was at the same time
repelled and even wearied by them. It was only much later that I
succeeded in clearly grasping and solving this problem, which for years
exercised such a painful spell over me.

It is a fact that at that time I felt almost like a little school-boy
by the side of Berlioz. Consequently I was really embarrassed when
Schlesinger, determined to make good use of the success of my short
story, told me he was anxious to produce some of my orchestral
compositions at a concert arranged by the editor of the Gazette
Musicale. I realised that none of my available works would in any way
be suitable for such an occasion. I was not quite confident as to my
Faust Overture because of its zephyr-like ending, which I presumed
could only be appreciated by an audience already familiar with my
methods. When, moreover, I learned that I should have only a
second-rate orchestra--the Valentino from the Casino, Rue St.
Honore--and, moreover, that there could be only one rehearsal, my only
alternative lay between declining altogether, or making another trial
with my Columbus Overture, the work composed in my early days at
Magdeburg. I adopted the latter course.

When I went to fetch the score of this composition from Ilabeneck, who
had it stored among the archives of the Conservatoire, he warned me
somewhat dryly, though not without kindness, of the danger of
presenting this work to the Parisian public, as, to use his own words,
it was too 'vague.' One great objection was the difficulty of finding
capable musicians for the six cornets required, as the music for this
instrument, so skilfully played in Germany, could hardly, if ever, be
satisfactorily executed in Paris. Herr Schlitz, the corrector of my
'Suites' for Cornet a piston, offered his assistance. I was compelled
to reduce my six cornets to four, and he told me that only two of these
could be relied on.

As a matter of fact, the attempts made at the rehearsal to produce
those very passages on which the effect of my work chiefly depended
were very discouraging. Not once were the soft high notes played but
they were flat or altogether wrong. In addition to this, as I was not
going to be allowed to conduct the work myself, I had to rely upon a
conductor who, as I was well aware, had fully convinced himself that my
composition was the most utter rubbish--an opinion that seemed to be
shared by the whole orchestra. Berlioz, who was present at the
rehearsal, remained silent throughout. He gave me no encouragement,
though he did not dissuade me. He merely said afterwards, with a weary
smile, 'that it was very difficult to get on in Paris.'

On the night of the performance (4th February 1841) the audience, which
was largely composed of subscribers to the Gazette Musicale, and to
whom, therefore, my literary successes were not unknown, seemed rather
favourably disposed towards me. I was told later on that my overture,
however wearisome it had been, would certainly have been applauded if
those unfortunate cornet players, by continually failing to produce the
effective passages, had not excited the public almost to the point of
hostility; for Parisians, for the most part, care only for the skilful
parts of performances, as, for instance, for the faultless production
of difficult tones. I was clearly conscious of my complete failure.
After this misfortune Paris no longer existed for me, and all I had to
do was to go back to my miserable bedroom and resume my work of
arranging Donizetti's operas.

So great was my renunciation of the world that, like a penitent, I no
longer shaved, and to my wife's annoyance, for the first and only time
in my life allowed my beard to grow quite long. I tried to bear
everything patiently, and the only thing that threatened really to
drive me to despair was a pianist in the room adjoining ours who during
the livelong day practised Liszt's fantasy on Lucia di Lammermoor. I
had to put a stop to this torture, so, to give him an idea of what he
made us endure, one day I moved our own piano, which was terribly out
of tune, close up to the party wall. Then Brix with his piccolo-flute
played the piano-and-violin (or flute) arrangement of the Favorita
Overture I had just completed, while I accompanied him on the piano.
The effect on our neighbour, a young piano-teacher, must have been
appalling. The concierge told me the next day that the poor fellow was
leaving, and, after all, I felt rather sorry.

The wife of our concierge had entered into a sort of arrangement with
us. At first we had occasionally availed ourselves of her services,
especially in the kitchen, also for brushing clothes, cleaning boots,
and so on; but even the slight outlay that this involved was eventually
too heavy for us, and after having dispensed with her services, Minna
had to suffer the humiliation of doing the whole work of the household,
even the most menial part of it, herself. As we did not like to mention
this to Brix, Minna was obliged, not only to do all the cooking and
washing up, but even to clean our lodger's boots as well. What we felt
most, however, was the thought of what the concierge and his wife would
think of us; but we were mistaken, for they only respected us the more,
though of course we could not avoid a little familiarity at times, Now
and then, therefore, the man would have a chat with me on politics.
When the Quadruple Alliance against France had been concluded, and the
situation under Thiers' ministry was regarded as very critical, my
concierge tried to reassure me one day by saying: 'Monsieur, il y a
quatre hommes en Europe qui s'appellent: le roi Louis Philippe,
l'empereur d'Autriche, l'empereur de Russie, le roi de Prusse; eh bien,
ces quatre sont des c...; et nous n'aurons pas la guerre.'

Of an evening I very seldom lacked entertainment; but the few faithful
friends who came to see me had to put up with my going on scribbling
music till late in the night. Once they prepared a touching surprise
for me in the form of a little party which they arranged for New Year's
Eve (1840). Lehrs arrived at dusk, rang the bell, and brought a leg of
veal; Kietz brought some rum, sugar, and a lemon; Pecht supplied a
goose; and Anders two bottles of the champagne with which he had been
presented by a musical instrument-maker in return for a flattering
article he had written about his pianos. Bottles from that stock were
produced only on very great occasions. I soon threw the confounded
Favorita aside, therefore, and entered enthusiastically into the fun.

We all had to assist in the preparations, to light the fire in the
salon, give a hand to my wife in the kitchen, and get what was wanted
from the grocer. The supper developed into a dithyrambic orgy. When the
champagne was drunk, and the punch began to produce its effects, I
delivered a fiery speech which so provoked the hilarity of the company
that it seemed as though it would never end. I became so excited that I
first mounted a chair, and then, by way of heightening the effect, at
last stood on the table, thence to preach the maddest gospel of the
contempt of life together with a eulogy on the South American Free
States. My charmed listeners eventually broke into such fits of sobs
and laughter, and were so overcome, that we had to give them all
shelter for the night--their condition making it impossible for them to
reach their own homes in safety. On New Year's Day (1841) I was again
busy with my Favorita.

I remember another similar though far less boisterous feast, on the
occasion of a visit paid us by the famous violinist Vieux-temps, an old
schoolfellow of Kietz's. We had the great pleasure of hearing the young
virtuoso, who was then greatly feted in Paris, play to us charmingly
for a whole evening--a performance which lent my little salon an
unusual touch of 'fashion.' Kietz rewarded him for his kindness by
carrying him on his shoulders to his hotel close by.

We were hard hit in the early part of this year by a mistake I made
owing to my ignorance of Paris customs. It seemed to us quite a matter
of course that we should wait until the proper quarter-day to give
notice to our landlady. So I called on the proprietress of the house, a
rich young widow living in one of her own houses in the Marias quarter.
She received me, but seemed much embarrassed, and said she would speak
to her agent about the matter, and eventually referred me to him. The
next day I was informed by letter that my notice would have been valid
had it been given two days earlier. By this omission I had rendered
myself liable, according to the agreement, for another year's rent.
Horrified by this news, I went to see the agent himself, and after
having been kept waiting for a long time--as a matter of fact they
would not let me in at all--I found an elderly gentleman, apparently
crippled by some very painful malady, lying motionless before me. I
frankly told him my position, and begged him most earnestly to release
me from my agreement, but I was merely told that the fault was mine,
and not his, that I had given notice a day too late, and consequently
that I must find the rent for the next year. My concierge, to whom,
with some emotion, I related the story of this occurrence, tried to
soothe me by saying: 'J'aurais pu vous dire cela, car voyez, monsieur,
cet homme ne vaut pas l'eau qu'il boit.'

This entirely unforeseen misfortune destroyed our last hopes of getting
out of our disastrous position. We consoled ourselves for awhile with
the hope of finding another lodger, but the fates were once more
against us. Easter came, the new term began, and our prospects were as
hopeless as ever. At last our concierge recommended us to a family who
were willing to take the whole of our apartment, furniture included,
off our hands for a few months. We gladly accepted this offer; for, at
any rate, it ensured the payment of the rent for the ensuing quarter.
We thought if only we could get away from this unfortunate place we
should find some way of getting rid of it altogether. We therefore
decided to find a cheap summer residence for ourselves in the outskirts
of Paris.

Meudon had been mentioned to us as an inexpensive summer resort, and we
selected an apartment in the avenue which joins Meudon to the
neighbouring village of Bellevue. We left full authority with our
concierge as to our rooms in Rue du Helder, and settled down in our new
temporary abode as well as we could. Old Brix, the good-natured
flutist, had to stay with us again, for, owing to the fact that his
usual receipts had been delayed, he would have been in great straits
had we refused to give him shelter. The removal of our scanty
possessions took place on the 29th of April, and was, after all, no
more than a flight from the impossible into the unknown, for how we
were going to live during the following summer we had not the faintest
idea. Schlesinger had no work for me, and no other sources were
available.

The only help we could hope for seemed to lie in journalistic work
which, though rather unremunerative, had indeed given me the
opportunity of making a little success. During the previous winter I
had written a long article on Weber's Freischutz for the Gazette
Musicale. This was intended to prepare the way for the forthcoming
first performance of this opera, after recitatives from the pen of
Berlioz had been added to it. The latter was apparently far from
pleased at my article. In the article I could not help referring to
Berlioz's absurd idea of polishing up this old-fashioned musical work
by adding ingredients that spoiled its original characteristics, merely
in order to give it an appearance suited to the luxurious repertoire of
Opera House. The fact that the result fully justified my forecasts did
not in the least tend to diminish the ill-feeling I had roused among
all those concerned in the production; but I had the satisfaction of
hearing that the famous George Sand had noticed my article. She
commenced the introduction to a legendary story of French provincial
life by repudiating certain doubts as to the ability of the French
people to understand the mystic, fabulous element which, as I had
shown, was displayed in such a masterly manner in Freischutz, and she
pointed to my article as clearly explaining the characteristics of that
opera.

Another journalistic opportunity arose out of my endeavours to secure
the acceptance of my Rienzi by the Court Theatre at Dresden. Herr
Winkler, the secretary of that theatre, whom I have already mentioned,
regularly reported progress; but as editor of the Abendzeitung, a paper
then rather on the wane, he seized the opportunity presented by our
negotiations in order to ask me to send him frequent and gratuitous
contributions. The consequence was, that whenever I wanted to know
anything concerning the fate of my opera, I had to oblige him by
enclosing an article for his paper. Now, as these negotiations with the
Court Theatre lasted a very long time, and involved a large number of
contributions from me, I often got into the most extraordinary fixes
simply owing to the fact that I was now once more a prisoner in my
room, and had been so for some time, and therefore knew nothing of what
was going on in Paris.

I had serious reasons for thus withdrawing from the artistic and social
life of Paris. My own painful experiences and my disgust at all the
mockery of that kind of life, once so attractive to me and yet so alien
to my education, had quickly driven me away from everything connected
with it. It is true that the production of the Huguenots, for instance,
which I then heard for the first time, dazzled me very much indeed. Its
beautiful orchestral execution, and the extremely careful and effective
mise en scene, gave me a grand idea of the great possibilities of such
perfect and definite artistic means. But, strange to say, I never felt
inclined to hear the same opera again. I soon became tired of the
extravagant execution of the vocalists, and I often amused my friends
exceedingly by imitating the latest Parisian methods and the vulgar
exaggerations with which the performances teemed. Those composers,
moreover, who aimed at achieving success by adopting the style which
was then in vogue, could not help, either, incurring my sarcastic
criticism. The last shred of esteem which I still tried to retain for
the 'first lyrical theatre in the world' was at last rudely destroyed
when I saw how such an empty, altogether un-French work as Donizetti's
Favorita could secure so long and important a run at this theatre.

During the whole time of my stay in Paris I do not think I went to the
opera more than four times. The cold productions at the Opera Comique,
and the degenerate quality of the music produced there, had repelled me
from the start; and the same lack of enthusiasm displayed by the
singers also drove me from Italian opera. The names, often very famous
ones, of these artists who sang the same four operas for years could
not compensate me for the complete absence of sentiment which
characterised their performance, so unlike that of Schroder-Devrient,
which I so thoroughly enjoyed. I clearly saw that everything was on the
down grade, and yet I cherished no hope or desire to see this state of
decline superseded by a period of newer and fresher life. I preferred
the small theatres, where French talent was shown in its true light;
and yet, as the result of my own longings, I was too intent upon
finding points of relationship in them which would excite my sympathy,
for it to be possible for me to realise those peculiar excellences in
them which did not happen to interest me at all. Besides, from the very
beginning my own troubles had proved so trying, and the consciousness
of the failure of my Paris schemes had become so cruelly apparent,
that, either out of indifference or annoyance, I declined all
invitations to the theatres. Again and again, much to Minna's regret, I
returned tickets for performances in which Rachel was to appear at the
Theatre Francais, and, in fact, saw that famous theatre only once,
when, some time later, I had to go there on business for my Dresden
patron, who wanted some more articles.

I adopted the most shameful means for filling the columns of the
Abendzeitung; I just strung together whatever I happened to hear in the
evening from Anders and Lehrs. But as they had no very exciting
adventures either, they simply told me all they had picked up from
papers and table-talk, and this I tried to render with as much piquancy
as possible in accordance with the journalistic style created by Heine,
which was all the rage at the time. My one fear was lest old Hofrath
Winkler should some day discover the secret of my wide knowledge of
Paris. Among other things which I sent to his declining paper was a
long account of the production of Freischutz, He was particularly
interested in it, as he was the guardian of Weber's children; and when
in one of his letters he assured me that he would not rest until he had
got the definite assurance that Rienzi had been accepted, I sent him,
with my most profuse thanks, the German manuscript of my 'Beethoven'
story for his paper. The 1841 edition of this gazette, then published
by Arnold, but now no longer in existence, contains the only print of
this manuscript.

My occasional journalistic work was increased by a request from Lewald,
the editor of Europa, a literary monthly, asking me to write something
for him. This man was the first who, from time to time, had mentioned
my name to the public. As he used to publish musical supplements to his
elegant and rather widely read magazine, I sent him two of my
compositions from Konigsberg for publication. One of these was the
music I had set to a melancholy poem by Scheuerlin, entitled Der Knabe
und der Tannenbaum (a work of which even to-day I am still proud), and
my beautiful Carnevals Lied out of Liebesverbot.

When I wanted to publish my little French compositions--Dors, mon
enfant, and the music to Hugo's Attente and Ronsard's Mignonne--Lewald
not only sent me a small fee--the first I had ever received for a
composition--but commissioned some long articles on my Paris
impressions, which he begged me to write as entertainingly as possible.
For his paper I wrote Pariser Amusements and Pariser Fatalitaten, in
which I gave vent in a humorous style, a la Heine, to all my
disappointing experiences in Paris, and to all my contempt for the life
led by its inhabitants. In the second I described the existence of a
certain Hermann Pfau, a strange good-for-nothing with whom, during my
early Leipzig days, I had become more intimately acquainted than was
desirable. This man had been wandering about Paris like a vagrant ever
since the beginning of the previous winter, and the meagre income I
derived from arrangements of La Favorita was often partly consumed in
helping this completely broken-down fellow. So it was only fair that I
should get back a few francs of the money spent on him in Paris by
turning his adventures to some account in Lewald's newspapers.

When I came into contact with Leon Pillet, the manager of the Opera, my
literary work took yet another direction. After numerous inquiries I
eventually discovered that he had taken a fancy to my draft of the
Fliegender Hollander. He informed me of this, and asked me to sell him
the plot, as he was under contract to supply various composers with
subjects for operettas. I tried to explain to Pillet, both verbally and
in writing, that he could hardly expect that the plot would be properly
treated except by myself, as this draft was in fact my own idea, and
that it had only come to his knowledge by my having submitted it to
him. But it was all to no purpose. He was obliged to admit quite
frankly that the expectations I had cherished as to the result of
Meyerbeer's recommendation to him would not come to anything. He said
there was no likelihood of my getting a commission for a composition,
even of a light opera, for the next seven years, as his already
existing contracts extended over that period. He asked me to be
sensible, and to sell him the draft for a small amount, so that he
might have the music written by an author to be selected by him; and he
added that if I still wished to try my luck at the Opera House, I had
better see the 'ballet-master,' as he might want some music for a
certain dance. Seeing that I contemptuously refused this proposal, he
left me to my own devices.

After endless and unsuccessful attempts at getting the matter settled,
I at last begged Edouard Monnaie, the Commissaire for the Royal
Theatres, who was not only a friend of mine, but also editor of the
Gazette Musicale, to act as mediator. He candidly confessed that he
could not understand Pillet's liking for my plot, which he also was
acquainted with; but as Pillet seemed to like it--though he would
probably lose it--he advised me to accept anything for it, as Monsieur
Paul Faucher, a brother-in-law of Victor Hugo's, had had an offer to
work out the scheme for a similar libretto. This gentleman had,
moreover, declared that there was nothing new in my plot, as the story
of the Vaisseau Fantome was well known in France. I now saw how I
stood, and, in a conversation with Pillet, at which M. Faucher was
present, I said I would come to an arrangement. My plot was generously
estimated by Pillet at five hundred francs, and I received that amount
from the cash office at the theatre, to be subsequently deducted from
the author's rights of the future poet.

Our summer residence in the Avenue de Meudon now assumed quite a
definite character. These five hundred francs had to help me to work
out the words and music of my Fliegender Hollander for Germany, while I
abandoned the French Vaisseau Fantome to its fate.

The state of my affairs, which was getting ever worse and worse, was
slightly improved by the settlement of this matter. May and June had
gone by, and during these months our troubles had grown steadily more
serious. The lovely season of the year, the stimulating country air,
and the sensation of freedom following upon my deliverance from the
wretchedly paid musical hack-work I had had to do all the winter,
wrought their beneficial effects on me, and I was inspired to write a
small story entitled Ein glucklicher Abend. This was translated and
published in French in the Gazette Musicale. Soon, however, our lack of
funds began to make itself felt with a severity that was very
discouraging. We felt this all the more keenly when my sister Cecilia
and her husband, following our example, moved to a place quite close to
us. Though not wealthy, they were fairly well-to-do. They came to see
us every day, but we never thought it desirable to let them know how
terribly hard-up we were. One day it came to a climax. Being absolutely
without money, I started out, early one morning, to walk to Paris--for
I had not even enough to pay the railway fare thither--and I resolved
to wander about the whole day, trudging from street to street, even
until late in the afternoon, in the hope of raising a five-franc piece;
but my errand proved absolutely vain, and I had to walk all the way
back to Meudon again, utterly penniless.

When I told Minna, who came to meet me, of my failure, she informed me
in despair that Hermann Pfau, whom I have mentioned before, had also
come to us in the most pitiful plight, and actually in want of food,
and that she had had to give him the last of the bread delivered by the
baker that morning. The only hope that now remained was that, at any
rate, my lodger Brix, who by a singular fate was now our companion in
misfortune, would return with some success from the expedition to Paris
which he also had made that morning. At last he, too, returned bathed
in perspiration and exhausted, driven home by the craving for a meal,
which he had been unable to procure in the town, as he could not find
any of the acquaintances he went to see. He begged most piteously for a
piece of bread. This climax to the situation at last inspired my wife
with heroic resolution; for she felt it her duty to exert herself to
appease at least the hunger of her menfolk. For the first time during
her stay on French soil, she persuaded the baker, the butcher, and
wine-merchant, by plausible arguments, to supply her with the
necessaries of life without immediate cash payment, and Minna's eyes
beamed when, an hour later, she was able to put before us an excellent
meal, during which, as it happened, we were surprised by the Avenarius
family, who were evidently relieved at finding us so well provided for.

This extreme distress was relieved for a time, at the beginning of
July, by the sale of my Vaisseau Fantome, which meant my final
renunciation of my success in Paris. As long as the five hundred francs
lasted, I had an interval of respite for carrying on my work. The first
object on which I spent my money was on the hire of a piano, a thing of
which I had been entirely deprived for months. My chief intention in so
doing was to revive my faith in myself as a musician, as, ever since
the autumn of the previous year, I had exercised my talents as a
journalist and adapter of operas only. The libretto of the Fliegender
Hollander, which I had hurriedly written during the recent period of
distress, aroused considerable interest in Lehrs; he actually declared
I would never write anything better, and that the Fliegender Hollander
would be my Don Juan; the only thing now was to find the music for it.
As towards the end of the previous winter I still entertained the hopes
of being permitted to treat this subject for the French Opera, I had
already finished some of the words and music of the lyric parts, and
had had the libretto translated by Emile Deschamps, intending it for a
trial performance, which, alas, never took place. These parts were the
ballad of Senta, the song of the Norwegian sailors, and the 'Spectre
Song' of the crew of the Fliegender Hollander. Since that time I had
been so violently torn away from the music that, when the piano arrived
at my rustic retreat, I did not dare to touch it for a whole day. I was
terribly afraid lest I should discover that my inspiration had left
me--when suddenly I was seized with the idea that I had forgotten to
write out the song of the helmsman in the first act, although, as a
matter of fact, I could not remember having composed it at all, as I
had in reality only just written the lyrics. I succeeded, and was
pleased with the result. The same thing occurred with the 'Spinner's
Song,' and when I had written out these two pieces, and, on further
reflection, could not help admitting that they had really only taken
shape in my mind at that moment, I was quite delirious with joy at the
discovery. In seven weeks the whole of the music of the Fliegender
Hollander, except the orchestration, was finished.

Thereupon followed a general revival in our circle; my exuberant good
spirits astonished every one, and my Avenarius relations in particular
thought I must really be prospering, as I was such good company. I
resumed my long walks in the woods of Meudon, frequently even
consenting to help Minna gather mushrooms, which, unfortunately, were
for her the chief charm of our woodland retreat, though it filled our
landlord with terror when he saw us returning with our spoils, as he
felt sure we should be poisoned if we ate them.

My destiny, which almost invariably led me into strange adventures,
here once more introduced me to the most eccentric character to be
found not only in the neighbourhood of Meudon, but even in Paris. This
was M. Jadin, who, though he was old enough to be able to say that he
remembered seeing Madame de Pompadour at Versailles, was still vigorous
beyond belief. It appeared to be his aim to keep the world in a
constant state of conjecture as to his real age; he made everything for
himself with his own hands, including even a quantity of wigs of every
shade, ranging in the most comic variety from youthful flaxen to the
most venerable white, with intermediate shades of grey; these he wore
alternately, as the fancy pleased him. He dabbled in everything, and I
was pleased to find he had a particular fancy for painting. The fact
that all the walls of his rooms were hung with the most childish
caricatures of animal life, and that he had even embellished the
outside of his blinds with the most ridiculous paintings, did not
disconcert me in the least; on the contrary, it confirmed my belief
that he did not dabble in music, until, to my horror, I discovered that
the strangely discordant sounds of a harp which kept reaching my ears
from some unknown region were actually proceeding from his basement,
where he had two harpsichords of his own invention. He informed me that
he had unfortunately neglected playing them for a long time, but that
he now meant to begin practising again assiduously in order to give me
pleasure. I succeeded in dissuading him from this, by assuring him that
the doctor had forbidden me to listen to the harp, as it was bad for my
nerves. His figure as I saw him for the last time remains impressed on
my memory, like an apparition from the world of Hoffmann's fairy-tales.
In the late autumn, when we were going back to Paris, he asked us to
take with us on our furniture van an enormous stove-pipe, of which he
promised to relieve us shortly. One very cold day Jadin actually
presented himself at our new abode in Paris, in a most preposterous
costume of his own manufacture, consisting of very thin light-yellow
trousers, a very short pale-green dress-coat with conspicuously long
tails, projecting lace shirt frills and cuffs, a very fair wig, and a
hat so small that it was constantly dropping off; he wore in addition a
quantity of imitation jewellery--and all this on the undisguised
assumption that he could not go about in fashionable Paris dressed as
simply as in the country. He had come for the stove-pipe; we asked him
where the men to carry it were; in reply he simply smiled, and
expressed his surprise at our helplessness; and thereupon took the
enormous stove-pipe under his arm and absolutely refused to accept our
help when we offered to assist him in carrying it down the stairs,
though this operation, notwithstanding his vaunted skill, occupied him
quite half an hour. Every one in the house assembled to witness this
removal, but he was by no means disconcerted, and managed to get the
pipe through the street door, and then tripped gracefully along the
pavement with it, and disappeared from our sight.

For this short though eventful period, during which I was quite free to
give full scope to my inmost thoughts, I indulged in the consolation of
purely artistic creations. I can only say that, when it came to an end,
I had made such progress that I could look forward with cheerful
composure to the much longer period of trouble and distress I felt was
in store for me. This, in fact, duly set in, for I had only just
completed the last scene when I found that my five hundred francs were
coming to an end, and what was left was not sufficient to secure me the
necessary peace and freedom from worry for composing the overture; I
had to postpone this until my luck should take another favourable turn,
and meanwhile I was forced to engage in the struggle for a bare
subsistence, making efforts of all kinds that left me neither leisure
nor peace of mind. The concierge from the Rue du Helder brought us the
news that the mysterious family to whom we had let our rooms had left,
and that we were now once more responsible for the rent. I had to tell
him that I would not under any circumstances trouble about the rooms
any more, and that the landlord might recoup himself by the sale of the
furniture we had left there. This was done at a very heavy loss, and
the furniture, the greater part of which was still unpaid for, was
sacrificed to pay the rent of a dwelling which we no longer occupied.

Under the stress of the most terrible privations I still endeavoured to
secure sufficient leisure for working out the orchestration of the
score of the Fliegender Hollander. The rough autumn weather set in at
an exceptionally early date; people were all leaving their country
houses for Paris, and, among them, the Avenarius family. We, however,
could not dream of doing so, for we could not even raise the funds for
the journey. When M. Jadin expressed his surprise at this, I pretended
to be so pressed with work that I could not interrupt it, although I
felt the cold that penetrated through the thin walls of the house very
severely.

So I waited for help from Ernst Castel, one of my old Konigsberg
friends, a well-to-do young merchant, who a short time before had
called on us in Meudon and treated us to a luxurious repast in Paris,
promising at the same time to relieve our necessities as soon as
possible by an advance, which we knew was an easy matter to him.

By way of cheering us up, Kietz came over to us one day, with a large
portfolio and a pillow under his arm; he intended to amuse us by
working at a large caricature representing myself and my unfortunate
adventures in Paris, and the pillow was to enable him, after his
labours, to get some rest on our hard couch, which he had noticed had
no pillows at the head. Knowing that we had a difficulty in procuring
fuel, he brought with him some bottles of rum, to 'warm' us with punch
during the cold evenings; under these circumstances I read Hoffmann's
Tales to him and my wife.

At last I had news from Konigsberg, but it only opened my eyes to the
fact that the gay young dog had not meant his promise seriously. We now
looked forward almost with despair to the chilly mists of approaching
winter, but Kietz, declaring that it was his place to find help, packed
up his portfolio, placed it under his arm with the pillow, and went off
to Paris. On the next day he returned with two hundred francs, that he
had managed to procure by means of generous self-sacrifice. We at once
set off for Paris, and took a small apartment near our friends, in the
back part of No. 14 Rue Jacob. I afterwards heard that shortly after we
left it was occupied by Proudhon.

We got back to town on 30th October. Our home was exceedingly small and
cold, and its chilliness in particular made it very bad for our health.
We furnished it scantily with the little we had saved from the wreck of
the Rue du Holder, and awaited the results of my efforts towards
getting my works accepted and produced in Germany. The first necessity
was at all costs to secure peace and quietness for myself for the short
time which I should have to devote to the overture of the Fliegender
Hollander; I told Kietz that he would have to procure the money
necessary for my household expenses until this work was finished and
the full score of the opera sent off. With the aid of a pedantic uncle,
who had lived in Paris a long time and who was also a painter, he
succeeded in providing me with the necessary assistance, in instalments
of five or ten francs at a time. During this period I often pointed
with cheerful pride to my boots, which became mere travesties of
footgear, as the soles eventually disappeared altogether.

As long as I was engaged on the Dutchman, and Kietz was looking after
me, this made no difference, for I never went out: but when I had
despatched my completed score to the management of the Berlin Court
Theatre at the beginning of December, the bitterness of the position
could no longer be disguised. It was necessary for me to buckle to and
look for help myself.

What this meant in Paris I learned just about this time from the
hapless fate of the worthy Lehrs. Driven by need such as I myself had
had to surmount a year before at about the same time, he had been
compelled on a broiling hot day in the previous summer to scour the
various quarters of the city breathlessly, to get grace for bills he
had accepted, and which had fallen due. He foolishly took an iced
drink, which he hoped would refresh him in his distressing condition,
but it immediately made him lose his voice, and from that day he was
the victim of a hoarseness which with terrific rapidity ripened the
seeds of consumption, doubtless latent in him, and developed that
incurable disease. For months he had been growing weaker and weaker,
filling us at last with the gloomiest anxiety: he alone believed the
supposed chill would be cured, if he could heat his room better for a
time. One day I sought him out in his lodging, where I found him in the
icy-cold room, huddled up at his writing-table, and complaining of the
difficulty of his work for Didot, which was all the more distressing as
his employer was pressing him for advances he had made.

He declared that if he had not had the consolation in those doleful
hours of knowing that I had, at any rate, got my Dutchman finished, and
that a prospect of success was thus opened to the little circle of
friends, his misery would have been hard indeed to bear. Despite my own
great trouble, I begged him to share our fire and work in my room. He
smiled at my courage in trying to help others, especially as my
quarters offered barely space enough for myself and my wife. However,
one evening he came to us and silently showed me a letter he had
received from Villemain, the Minister of Education at that time, in
which the latter expressed in the warmest terms his great regret at
having only just learned that so distinguished a scholar, whose able
and extensive collaboration in Didot's issue of the Greek classics had
made him participator in a work that was the glory of the nation,
should be in such bad health and straitened circumstances.
Unfortunately, the amount of public money which he had at his disposal
at that moment for subsidising literature only allowed of his offering
him the sum of five hundred francs, which he enclosed with apologies,
asking him to accept it as a recognition of his merits on the part of
the French Government, and adding that it was his intention to give
earnest consideration as to how he might materially improve his
position.

This filled us with the utmost thankfulness on poor Lehrs' account, and
we looked on the incident almost as a miracle. We could not help
assuming, however, that M. Villemain had been influenced by Didot, who
had been prompted by his own guilty conscience for his despicable
exploitation of Lehrs, and by the prospect of thus relieving himself of
the responsibility of helping him. At the same time, from similar cases
within our knowledge, which were fully confirmed by my own subsequent
experience, we were driven to the conclusion that such prompt and
considerate sympathy on the part of a minister would have been
impossible in Germany. Lehrs would now have a fire to work by, but
alas! our fears as to his declining health could not be allayed. When
we left Paris in the following spring, it was the certainty that we
should never see our dear friend again that made our parting so painful.

In my own great distress I was again exposed to the annoyance of having
to write numerous unpaid articles for the Abendzeitung, as my patron,
Hofrath Winkler, was still unable to give me any satisfactory account
of the fate of my Rienzi in Dresden. In these circumstances I was
obliged to consider it a good thing that Halevy's latest opera was at
last a success. Schlesinger came to us radiant with joy at the success
of La Reine de Chypre, and promised me eternal bliss for the piano
score and various other arrangements I had made of this newest rage in
the sphere of opera. So I was again forced to pay the penalty for
composing my own Fliegender Hollander by having to sit down and write
out arrangements of Halevy's opera. Yet this task no longer weighed on
me so heavily. Apart from the wellfounded hope of being at last
recalled from my exile in Paris, and thus being able, as I thought, to
regard this last struggle with poverty as the decisive one, the
arrangement of Halevy's score was far and away a more interesting piece
of hack-work than the shameful labour I had spent on Donizetti's
Favorita.

I paid another visit, the last for a long time to come, to the Grand
Opera to hear this Reine de Chypre. There was, indeed, much for me to
smile at. My eyes were no longer shut to the extreme weakness of this
class of work, and the caricature of it that was often produced by the
method of rendering it. I was sincerely rejoiced to see the better side
of Halevy again. I had taken a great fancy to him from the time of his
La Juive, and had a very high opinion of his masterly talent.

At the request of Schlesinger I also willingly consented to write for
his paper a long article on Halevy's latest work. In it I laid
particular stress on my hope that the French school might not again
allow the benefits obtained by studying the German style to be lost by
relapsing into the shallowest Italian methods. On that occasion I
ventured, by way of encouraging the French school, to point to the
peculiar significance of Auber, and particularly to his Stumme von
Portici, drawing attention, on the other hand, to the overloaded
melodies of Rossini, which often resembled sol-fa exercises. In reading
over the proof of my article I saw that this passage about Rossini had
been left out, and M. Edouard Monnaie admitted to me that, in his
capacity as editor of a musical paper, he had felt himself bound to
suppress it. He considered that if I had any adverse criticism to pass
on the composer, I could easily get it published in any other kind of
paper, but not in one devoted to the interests of music, simply because
such a passage could not be printed there without seeming absurd. It
also annoyed him that I had spoken in such high terms of Auber, but he
let it stand. I had to listen to much from that quarter which
enlightened me for ever with regard to the decay of operatic music in
particular, and artistic taste in general, among Frenchmen of the
present day.

I also wrote a longer article on the same opera for my precious friend
Winkler at Dresden, who was still hesitating about accepting my Rienzi.
In doing so I intentionally made merry over a mishap that had befallen
Lachner the conductor. Kustner, who was theatrical director at Munich
at the time, with a view to giving his friend another chance, ordered a
libretto to be written for him by St. Georges in Paris, so that,
through his paternal care, the highest bliss which a German composer
could dream of might be assured to his protege. Well, it turned out
that when Halevy's Reine de Chypre appeared, it treated the same
subject as Lachner's presumably original work, which had been composed
in the meantime. It mattered very little that the libretto was a really
good one, the value of the bargain lay in the fact that it was to be
glorified by Lachner's music. It appeared, however, that St. Georges
had, as a matter of fact, to some extent altered the book sent to
Munich, but only by the omission of several interesting features. The
fury of the Munich manager was great, whereupon St. Georges declared
his astonishment that the latter could have imagined he would supply a
libretto intended solely for the German stage at the paltry price
offered by his German customer. As I had formed my own private opinion
as to procuring French librettos for operas, and as nothing in the
world would have induced me to set to music even the most effective
piece of writing by Scribe or St. Georges, this occurrence delighted me
immensely, and in the best of spirits I let myself go on the point for
the benefit of the readers of the Abendzeitung, who, it is to be hoped,
did not include my future 'friend' Lachner.

In addition, my work on Halevy's opera (Reine de Chypre) brought me
into closer contact with that composer, and was the means of procuring
me many an enlivening talk with that peculiarly good-hearted and really
unassuming man, whose talent, alas, declined all too soon. Schlesinger,
in fact, was exasperated at his incorrigible laziness. Halevy, who had
looked through my piano score, contemplated several changes with a view
to making it easier, but he did not proceed with them: Schlesinger
could not get the proof-sheets back; the publication was consequently
delayed, and he feared that the popularity of the opera would be over
before the work was ready for the public. He urged me to get firm hold
of Halevy very early in the morning in his rooms, and compel him to set
to work at the alterations in my company.

The first time I reached his house at about ten in the morning, I found
him just out of bed, and he informed me that he really must have
breakfast first. I accepted his invitation, and sat down with him to a
somewhat luxurious meal; my conversation seemed to appeal to him, but
friends came in, and at last Schlesinger among the number, who burst
into a fury at not finding him at work on the proofs he regarded as so
important. Halevy, however, remained quite unmoved. In the best of good
tempers he merely complained of his latest success, because he had
never had more peace than of late, when his operas, almost without
exception, had been failures, and he had not had anything to do with
them after the first production. Moreover, he feigned not to understand
why this Reine de Chypre in particular should have been a success; he
declared that Schlesinger had engineered it on purpose to worry him.
When he spoke a few words to me in German, one of the visitors was
astonished, whereupon Schlesinger said that all Jews could speak
German. Thereupon Schlesinger was asked if he also was a Jew. He
answered that he had been, but had become a Christian for his wife's
sake. This freedom of speech was a pleasant surprise to me, because in
Germany in such cases we always studiously avoided the point, as
discourteous to the person referred to. But as we never got to the
proof correcting, Schlesinger made me promise to give Halevy no peace
until we had done them.

The secret of his indifference to success became clear to me in the
course of further conversation, as I learned that he was on the point
of making a wealthy marriage. At first I was inclined to think that
Halevy was simply a man whose youthful talent was only stimulated to
achieve one great success with the object of becoming rich; in his
case, however, this was not the only reason, as he was very modest in
regard to his own capacity, and had no great opinion of the works of
those more fortunate composers who were writing for the French stage at
that time. In him I thus, for the first time, met with the frankly
expressed admission of disbelief in the value of all our modern
creations in this dubious field of art. I have since come to the
conclusion that this incredulity, often expressed with much less
modesty, justifies the participation of all Jews in our artistic
concerns. Only once did Halevy speak to me with real candour, when, on
my tardy departure for Germany, he wished me the success he thought my
works deserved.

In the year 1860 I saw him again. I had learned that, while the
Parisian critics were giving vent to the bitterest condemnation of the
concerts I was giving at that time, he had expressed his approval, and
this determined me to visit him at the Palais de l'Institut, of which
he had for some time been permanent secretary. He seemed particularly
eager to learn from my own lips what my new theory about music really
was, of which he had heard such wild rumours. For his own part, he
said, he had never found anything but music in my music, but with this
difference, that mine had generally seemed very good. This gave rise to
a lively discussion on my part, to which he good-humouredly agreed,
once more wishing me success in Paris. This time, however, he did so
with less conviction than when he bade me good-bye for Germany, which I
thought was because he doubted whether I could succeed in Paris. From
this final visit I carried away a depressing sense of the enervation,
both moral and aesthetic, which had overcome one of the last great
French musicians, while, on the other hand, I could not help feeling
that a tendency to a hypocritical or frankly impudent exploitation of
the universal degeneracy marked all who could be designated as Halevy's
successors.

Throughout this period of constant hack-work my thoughts were entirely
bent on my return to Germany, which now presented itself to my mind in
a wholly new and ideal light. I endeavoured in various ways to secure
all that seemed most attractive about the project, or which filled my
soul with longing. My intercourse with Lehrs had, on the whole, given a
decided spur to my former tendency to grapple seriously with my
subjects, a tendency which had been counteracted by closer contact with
the theatre. This desire now furnished a basis for closer study of
philosophical questions. I had been astonished at times to hear even
the grave and virtuous Lehrs, openly and quite as a matter of course,
give expression to grave doubts concerning our individual survival
after death. He declared that in many great men this doubt, even though
only tacitly held, had been the real incitement to noble deeds. The
natural result of such a belief speedily dawned on me without, however,
causing me any serious alarm. On the contrary, I found a fascinating
stimulus in the fact that boundless regions of meditation and knowledge
were thereby opened up which hitherto I had merely skimmed in
light-hearted levity.

In my renewed attempts to study the Greek classics in the original, I
received no encouragement from Lehrs. He dissuaded me from doing so
with the well-meant consolation, that as I could only be born once, and
that with music in me, I should learn to understand this branch of
knowledge without the help of grammar or lexicon; whereas if Greek were
to be studied with real enjoyment, it was no joke, and would not suffer
being relegated to a secondary place.

On the other hand, I felt strongly drawn to gain a closer acquaintance
of German history than I had secured at school. I had Raumer's History
of the Hohenstaufen within easy reach to start upon. All the great
figures in this book lived vividly before my eyes. I was particularly
captivated by the personality of that gifted Emperor Frederick II.,
whose fortunes aroused my sympathy so keenly that I vainly sought for a
fitting artistic setting for them. The fate of his son Manfred, on the
other hand, provoked in me an equally well-grounded, but more easily
combated, feeling of opposition.

I accordingly made a plan of a great five-act dramatic poem, which
should also be perfectly adapted to a musical setting. My impulse to
embellish the story with the central figure of romantic significance
was prompted by the fact of Manfred's enthusiastic reception in Luceria
by the Saracens, who supported him and carried him on from victory to
victory till he reached his final triumph, and this, too, in spite of
the fact that he had come to them betrayed on every hand, banned by the
Church, and deserted by all his followers during his flight through
Apulia and the Abruzzi.

Even at this time it delighted me to find in the German mind the
capacity of appreciating beyond the narrow bounds of nationality all
purely human qualities, in however strange a garb they might be
presented. For in this I recognised how nearly akin it is to the mind
of Greece. In Frederick II. I saw this quality in full flower. A
fair-haired German of ancient Swabian stock, heir to the Norman realm
of Sicily and Naples, who gave the Italian language its first
development, and laid a basis for the evolution of knowledge and art
where hitherto ecclesiastical fanaticism and feudal brutality had alone
contended for power, a monarch who gathered at his court the poets and
sages of eastern lands, and surrounded himself with the living products
of Arabian and Persian grace and spirit--this man I beheld betrayed by
the Roman clergy to the infidel foe, yet ending his crusade, to their
bitter disappointment, by a pact of peace with the Sultan, from whom he
obtained a grant of privileges to Christians in Palestine such as the
bloodiest victory could scarcely have secured.

In this wonderful Emperor, who finally, under the ban of that same
Church, struggled hopelessly and in vain against the savage bigotry of
his age, I beheld the German ideal in its highest embodiment. My poem
was concerned with the fate of his favourite son Manfred. On the death
of an elder brother, Frederick's empire had entirely fallen to pieces,
and the young Manfred was left, under papal suzerainty, in nominal
possession of the throne of Apulia. We find him at Capua, in
surroundings, and attended by a court, in which the spirit of his great
father survives, in a state of almost effeminate degeneration. In
despair of ever restoring the imperial power of the Hohenstaufen, he
seeks to forget his sadness in romance and song. There now appears upon
the scene a young Saracen lady, just arrived from the East, who, by
appealing to the alliance between East and West concluded by Manfred's
noble father, conjures the desponding son to maintain his imperial
heritage. She acts the part of an inspired prophetess, and though the
prince is quickly filled with love for her, she succeeds in keeping him
at a respectful distance. By a skilfully contrived flight she snatches
him, not only from the pursuit of rebellious Apulian nobles, but also
from the papal ban which is threatening to depose him from his throne.
Accompanied only by a few faithful followers, she guides him through
mountain fastnesses, where one night the wearied son beholds the spirit
of Frederick II. passing with feudal array through the Abruzzi, and
beckoning him on to Luceria.

To this district, situated in the Papal States, Frederick had, by a
peaceful compact, transplanted the remnant of his Saracen retainers,
who had previously been wreaking terrible havoc in the mountains of
Sicily. To the great annoyance of the Pope, he had handed the town over
to them in fee-simple, thus securing for himself a band of faithful
allies in the heart of an ever-treacherous and hostile country.

Fatima, as my heroine is called, has prepared, through the
instrumentality of trusty friends, a reception for Manfred in this
place. When the papal governor has been expelled by a revolution, he
slips through the gateway into the town, is recognised by the whole
population as the son of their beloved Emperor, and, amid wildest
enthusiasm, is placed at their head, to lead them against the enemies
of their departed benefactor. In the meantime, while Manfred is
marching on from victory to victory in his reconquest of the whole
kingdom of Apulia, the tragic centre of my action still continues to be
the unvoiced longing of the lovelorn victor for the marvellous heroine.

She is the child of the great Emperor's love for a noble Saracen
maiden. Her mother, on her deathbed, had sent her to Manfred,
foretelling that she would work wonders for his glory provided she
never yielded to his passion. Whether Fatima was to know that she was
his sister I left undecided in framing my plot. Meanwhile she is
careful to show herself to him only at critical moments, and then
always in such a way as to remain unapproachable. When at last she
witnesses the completion of her task in his coronation at Naples, she
determines, in obedience to her vow, to slip away secretly from the
newly anointed king, that she may meditate in the solitude of her
distant home upon the success of her enterprise.

The Saracen Nurreddin, who had been a companion of her youth, and to
whose help she had chiefly owed her success in rescuing Manfred, is to
be the sole partner of her flight. To this man, who loves her with
passionate ardour, she had been promised in her childhood. Before her
secret departure she pays a last visit to the slumbering king. This
rouses her lover's furious jealousy, as he construes her act into a
proof of unfaithfulness on the part of his betrothed. The last look of
farewell which Fatima casts from a distance at the young monarch, on
his return from his coronation, inflames the jealous lover to wreak
instant vengeance for the supposed outrage upon his honour. He strikes
the prophetess to the earth, whereupon she thanks him with a smile for
having delivered her from an unbearable existence. At the sight of her
body Manfred realises that henceforth happiness has deserted him for
ever.

This theme I had adorned with many gorgeous scenes and complicated
situations, so that when I had worked it out I could regard it as a
fairly suitable, interesting, and effective whole, especially when
compared with other well-known subjects of a similar nature. Yet I
could never rouse myself to sufficient enthusiasm over it to give my
serious attention to its elaboration, especially as another theme now
laid its grip upon me. This was suggested to me by a pamphlet on the
'Venusberg,' which accidentally fell into my hands.

If all that I regarded as essentially German had hitherto drawn me with
ever-increasing force, and compelled me to its eager pursuit, I here
found it suddenly presented to me in the simple outlines of a legend,
based upon the old and well-known ballad of 'Tannhauser.' True, its
elements were already familiar to me from Tieck's version in his
Phantasus. But his conception of the subject had flung me back into the
fantastic regions created in my mind at an earlier period by Hoffmann,
and I should certainly never have been tempted to extract the framework
of a dramatic work from his elaborate story. The point in this popular
pamphlet which had so much weight with me was that it brought
'Tannhauser,' if only by a passing hint, into touch with 'The
Minstrel's War on the Wartburg.' I had some knowledge of this also from
Hoffmann's account in his Serapionsbrudern. But I felt that the writer
had only grasped the old legend in a distorted form, and therefore
endeavoured to gain a closer acquaintance with the true aspect of this
attractive story. At this juncture Lehrs brought me the annual report
of the proceedings of the Konigsberg German Society, in which the
'Wartburg contest' was criticised with a fair amount of detail by
Lukas. Here I also found the original text. Although I could utilise
but little of the real setting for my own purpose, yet the picture it
gave me of Germany in the Middle Ages was so suggestive that I found I
had not previously had the smallest conception of what it was like.

As a sequel to the Wartburg poem, I also found in the same copy a
critical study, 'Lohengrin,' which gave in full detail the main
contents of that widespread epic.

Thus a whole new world was opened to me, and though as yet I had not
found the form in which I might cope with Lohengrin, yet this image
also lived imperishably within me. When, therefore, I afterwards made a
close acquaintance with the intricacies of this legend, I could
visualise the figure of the hero with a distinctness equal to that of
my conception of Tannhauser at this time.

Under these influences my longing for a speedy return to Germany grew
ever more intense, for there I hoped to earn a new home for myself
where I could enjoy leisure for creative work. But it was not yet
possible even to think of occupying myself with such grateful tasks.
The sordid necessities of life still bound me to Paris. While thus
employed, I found an opportunity of exerting myself in a way more
congenial to my desires. When I was a young man at Prague, I had made
the acquaintance of a Jewish musician and composer called Dessauer--a
man who was not devoid of talent, who in fact achieved a certain
reputation, but was chiefly known among his intimates on account of his
hypochondria. This man, who was now in flourishing circumstances, was
so far patronised by Schlesinger that the latter seriously proposed to
help him to a commission for Grand Opera. Dessauer had come across my
poem of the Fliegender Hollander, and now insisted that I should draft
a similar plot for him, as M. Leon Pillet's Vaisseau Fantome had
already been given to M. Dietsch, the letter's musical conductor, to
set to music. From this same conductor Dessauer obtained the promise of
a like commission, and he now offered me two hundred francs to provide
him with a similar plot, and one congenial to his hypochondriacal
temperament.

To meet this wish I ransacked my brain for recollections of Hoffmann,
and quickly decided to work up his Bergwerke von Falun. The moulding of
this fascinating and marvellous material succeeded as admirably as I
could wish. Dessauer also felt convinced that the topic was worth his
while to set to music. His dismay was accordingly all the greater when
Pillet rejected our plot on the ground that the staging would be too
difficult, and that the second act especially would entail
insurmountable obstacles for the ballet, which had to be given each
time. In place of this Dessauer wished me to compose him an oratorio on
'Mary Magdalene.' As on the day that he expressed this wish he appeared
to be suffering from acute melancholia, so much so that he declared he
had that morning seen his own head lying beside his bed, I thought well
not to refuse his request. I asked him, therefore, to give me time, and
I regret to say that ever since that day I have continued to take it..

It was amid such distractions as these that this winter at length drew
to an end, while my prospects of getting to Germany gradually grew more
hopeful, though with a slowness that sorely tried my patience. I had
kept up a continuous correspondence with Dresden respecting Rienzi, and
in the worthy chorus-master Fischer I at last found an honest man who
was favourably disposed to me. He sent me reliable and reassuring
reports as to the state of my affairs.

After receiving news, early in January, 1842, of renewed delay, I at
last heard that by the end of February the work would be ready for
performance. I was seriously uneasy at this, as I was afraid of not
being able to accomplish the journey by that date. But this news also
was soon contradicted, and the honest Fischer informed me that my opera
had had to be postponed till the autumn of that year. I realised fully
that it would never be performed if I could not be present in person at
Dresden. When eventually in March Count Redern, the director of the
Theatre Royal in Berlin, told me that my Fliegender Hollander had been
accepted for the opera there, I thought I had sufficient reason to
return to Germany at all costs as soon as possible.

I had already had various experiences as to the views of German
managers on this work. Relying on the plot, which had pleased the
manager of the Paris Opera so much, I had sent the libretto in the
first instance to my old acquaintance Ringelhardt, the director of the
Leipzig theatre. But the man had cherished an undisguised aversion for
me since my Liebesverbot. As he could not this time possibly object to
any levity in my subject, he now found fault with its gloomy solemnity
and refused to accept it. As I had met Councillor Kustner, at that time
manager of the Munich Court Theatre, when he was making arrangements
about La Reine de Chypre in Paris, I now sent him the text of the
Dutchman with a similar request. He, too, returned it, with the
assurance that it was not suited to German stage conditions, or to the
taste of the German public. As he had ordered a French libretto for
Munich, I knew what he meant. When the score was finished, I sent it to
Meyerbeer in Berlin, with a letter for Count Redern, and begged him, as
he had been unable to help me to anything in Paris, in spite of his
desire to do so, to be kind enough to use his influence in Berlin in
favour of my composition. I was genuinely astonished at the truly
prompt acceptance of my work two months later, which was accompanied by
very gratifying assurances from the Count, and I was delighted to see
in it a proof of Meyerbeer's sincere and energetic intervention in my
favour. Strange to say, on my return to Germany soon afterwards, I was
destined to learn that Count Redern had long since retired from the
management of the Berlin Opera House, and that Kustner of Munich had
already been appointed his successor; the upshot of this was that Count
Redern's consent, though very courteous, could not by any means be
taken seriously, as the realisation of it depended not on him but on
his successor. What the result was remains to be seen.

A circumstance that eventually facilitated my long-desired return to
Germany, which was now justified by my good prospects, was the tardily
awakened interest taken in my position by the wealthy members of my
family. If Didot had had reasons of his own for applying to the
Minister Villemain for support for Lehrs, so also Avenarius, my
brother-in-law in Paris, when he heard how I was struggling against
poverty, one day took it into his head to surprise me with some quite
unexpected help secured by his appeal to my sister Louisa. On 26th
December of the fast-waning year 1841 I went home to Minna carrying a
goose under my arm, and in the beak of the bird we found a
five-hundred-franc note. This note had been given me by Avenarius as
the result of a request on my behalf made by my sister Louisa to a
friend of hers, a wealthy merchant named Schletter. This welcome
addition to our extremely straitened resources might not in itself have
been sufficient to put me in an exceedingly good-humour, had I not
clearly seen in it the prospect of escaping altogether from my position
in Paris. As the leading German managers had now consented to the
performance of two of my compositions, I thought I might seriously
reproach my brother-in-law, Friedrich Brockhaus, who had repulsed me
the year before when I applied to him in great distress, on the ground
that he 'disapproved of my profession.' This time I might be more
successful in securing the wherewithal for my return. I was not
mistaken, and when the time came I was supplied from this source with
the necessary travelling expenses.

With these prospects, and my position thus improved, I found myself
spending the second half of the winter 1841-42 in high spirits, and
affording constant entertainment to the small circle of friends which
my relationship to Avenarius had created around me. Minna and I
frequently spent our evenings with this family and others, amongst whom
I have pleasant recollections of a certain Herr Kuhne, the head of a
private school, and his wife. I contributed so greatly to the success
of their little soirees, and was always so willing to improvise dances
on the piano for them to dance to, that I soon ran the risk of enjoying
an almost burdensome popularity.

At length the hour struck for my deliverance; the day came on which, as
I devoutly hoped, I might turn my back on Paris for ever. It was the
7th of April, and Paris was already gay with the first luxuriant
buddings of spring. In front of our windows, which all the winter had
looked upon a bleak and desolate garden, the trees were burgeoning, and
the birds sang. Our emotion at parting from our dear friends Anders,
Lehrs, and Kietz, however, was great, almost overwhelming. The first
seemed already doomed to an early death, for his health was exceedingly
bad, and he was advanced in years. About Lehrs' condition, as I have
already said, there could no longer be any doubt, and it was dreadful,
after so short an experience as the two and a half years which I had
spent in Paris, to see the ravages that want had wrought among good,
noble, and sometimes even distinguished men. Kietz, for whose future I
was concerned, less on grounds of health than of morals, touched our
hearts once more by his boundless and almost childlike good-nature.
Fancying, for instance, that I might not have enough money for the
journey, he forced me, in spite of all resistance, to accept another
five-franc piece, which was about all that remained of his own fortune
at the moment: he also stuffed a packet of good French snuff for me
into the pocket of the coach, in which we at last rumbled through the
boulevards to the barriers, which we passed but were unable to see this
time, because our eyes were blinded with tears.



PART II


1842-1850



The journey from Paris to Dresden at that time took five days and
nights. On the German frontier, near Forbach, we met with stormy
weather and snow, a greeting which seemed inhospitable after the spring
we had already enjoyed in Paris. And, indeed, as we continued our
journey through our native land once more, we found much to dishearten
us, and I could not help thinking that the Frenchmen who on leaving
Germany breathed more freely on reaching French soil, and unbuttoned
their coats, as though passing from winter into summer, were not so
very foolish after all, seeing that we, for our part, were now
compelled to seek protection against this conspicuous change of
temperature by being very careful to put on sufficient clothing. The
unkindness of the elements became perfect torture when, later on,
between Frankfort and Leipzig, we were swept into the stream of
visitors to the Great Easter Fair.

The pressure on the mail-coaches was so great, that for two days and a
night, amid ceaseless storm, snow and rain, we were continually
changing from one wretched 'substitute' to another, thus turning our
journey into an adventure of almost the same type as our former voyage
at sea.

One solitary flash of brightness was afforded by our view of the
Wartburg, which we passed during the only sunlit hour of this journey.
The sight of this mountain fastness, which, from the Fulda side, is
clearly visible for a long time, affected me deeply. A neighbouring
ridge further on I at once christened the Horselberg, and as we drove
through the valley, pictured to myself the scenery for the third act of
my Tannhauser. This scene remained so vividly in my mind, that long
afterwards I was able to give Desplechin, the Parisian scene-painter,
exact details when he was working out the scenery under my direction.
If I had already been impressed by the significance of the fact that my
first journey through the German Rhine district, so famous in legend,
should have been made on my way home from Paris, it seemed an even more
ominous coincidence that my first sight of Wartburg, which was so rich
in historical and mythical associations, should come just at this
moment. The view so warmed my heart against wind and weather, Jews and
the Leipzig Fair, that in the end I arrived, on 12th April, 1842, safe
and sound, with my poor, battered, half-frozen wife, in that selfsame
city of Dresden which I had last seen on the occasion of my sad
separation from my Minna, and my departure for my northern place of
exile.

We put up at the 'Stadt Gotha' inn. The city, in which such momentous
years of my childhood and boyhood had been spent, seemed cold and dead
beneath the influences of the wild, gloomy weather. Indeed, everything
there that could remind me of my youth seemed dead. No hospitable house
received us. We found my wife's parents living in cramped and dingy
lodgings in very straitened circumstances, and were obliged at once to
look about for a small abode for ourselves. This we found in the
Topfergasse for twenty-one marks a month. After paying the necessary
business visits in connection with Rienzi, and making arrangements for
Minna during my brief absence, I set out on 15th April direct for
Leipzig, where I saw my mother and family for the first time in six
years.

During this period, which had been so eventful for my own life, my
mother had undergone a great change in her domestic position through
the death of Rosalie. She was living in a pleasant roomy flat near the
Brockhaus family, where she was free from all those household cares to
which, owing to her large family, she had devoted so many years of
anxious thought. Her bustling energy, which had almost amounted to
hardness, had entirely given place to a natural cheerfulness and
interest in the family prosperity of her married daughters. For the
blissful calm of this happy old age she was mainly indebted to the
affectionate care of her son-in-law, Friedrich Brockhaus, to whom I
expressed my heartfelt thanks for his goodness. She was exceedingly
astonished and pleased to see me unexpectedly enter her room. Any
bitterness that ever existed between us had utterly vanished, and her
only complaint was that she could not put me up in her house, instead
of my brother Julius, the unfortunate goldsmith, who had none of the
qualities that could make him a suitable companion for her. She was
full of hope for the success of my undertaking, and felt this
confidence strengthened by the favourable prophecy which our dear
Rosalie had made about me shortly before her sad death.

For the present, however, I only stayed a few days in Leipzig, as I had
first to visit Berlin in order to make definite arrangements with Count
Redern for the performance of the Fliegender Hollander. As I have
already observed, I was here at once destined to learn that the Count
was on the point of retiring from the directorship, and he accordingly
referred me for all further decisions to the new director, Kustner, who
had not yet arrived in Berlin. I now suddenly realised what this
strange circumstance meant, and knew that, so far as the Berlin
negotiations went, I might as well have remained in Paris. This
impression was in the main confirmed by a visit to Meyerbeer, who, I
found, regarded my coming to Berlin as over hasty. Nevertheless, he
behaved in a kind and friendly manner, only regretting that he was just
on the point of 'going away,' a state in which I always found him
whenever I visited him again in Berlin.

Mendelssohn was also in the capital about this time, having been
appointed one of the General Musical Directors to the King of Prussia.
I also sought him out, having been previously introduced to him in
Leipzig. He informed me that he did not believe his work would prosper
in Berlin, and that he would rather go back to Leipzig. I made no
inquiry about the fate of the score of my great symphony performed at
Leipzig in earlier days, which I had more or less forced upon him so
many years ago. On the other hand, he did not betray to me any signs of
remembering that strange offering. In the midst of the lavish comforts
of his home he struck me as cold, yet it was not so much that he
repelled me as that I recoiled from him. I also paid a visit to
Rellstab, to whom I had a letter of introduction from his trusty
publisher, my brother-in-law Brockhaus. Here it was not so much smug
ease that I encountered; I doubtless felt repulsed more by the fact
that he showed no inclination whatever to interest himself in my
affairs.

I grew very low spirited in Berlin. I could almost have wished
Commissioner Cerf back again. Miserable as had been the time I had
spent here years before, I had then, at any rate, met one man, who, for
all the bluntness of his exterior, had treated me with true
friendliness and consideration. In vain did I try to call to mind the
Berlin through whose streets I had walked, with all the ardour of
youth, by the side of Laube. After my acquaintance with London, and
still more with Paris, this city, with its sordid spaces and
pretensions to greatness, depressed me deeply, and I breathed a hope
that, should no luck crown my life, it might at least be spent in Paris
rather than in Berlin.

On my return from this wholly fruitless expedition, I first went to
Leipzig for a few days, where, on this occasion, I stayed with my
brother-in-law, Hermann Brockhaus, who was now Professor of Oriental
Languages at the University. His family had been increased by the birth
of two daughters, and the atmosphere of unruffled content, illuminated
by mental activity and a quiet but vivid interest in all things
relating to the higher aspects of life, greatly moved my homeless and
vagabond soul. One evening, after my sister had seen to her children,
whom she had brought up very well, and had sent them with gentle words
to bed, we gathered in the large richly stocked library for our evening
meal and a long confidential chat. Here I broke out into a violent fit
of weeping, and it seemed as though the tender sister, who five years
before had known me during the bitterest straits of my early married
life in Dresden, now really understood me. At the express suggestion of
my brother-in-law Hermann, my family tendered me a loan, to help me to
tide over the time of waiting for the performance of my Rienzi in
Dresden. This, they said, they regarded merely as a duty, and assured
me that I need have no hesitation whatever in accepting it. It
consisted of a sum of six hundred marks, which was to be paid me in
monthly instalments for six months. As I had no prospect of being able
to reply on any other source of income, there was every chance of
Minna's talent for management being put severely to the test, if this
were to carry us through; it could be done, however, and I was able to
return to Dresden with a great sense of relief.

While I was staying with my relatives I played and sang them the
Fliegender Hollander for the first time connectedly, and seemed to
arouse considerable interest by my performance, for when, later on, my
sister Louisa heard the opera in Dresden, she complained that much of
the effect previously produced by my rendering did not come back to
her. I also sought out my old friend Apel again. The poor man had gone
stone blind, but he astonished me by his cheeriness and contentment,
and thereby once and for all deprived me of any reason for pitying him.
As he declared that he knew the blue coat I was wearing very well,
though it was really a brown one, I thought it best not to argue the
point, and I left Leipzig in a state of wonder at finding every one
there so happy and contented.

When I reached Dresden, on 26th April, I found occasion to grapple more
vigorously with my lot. Here I was enlivened by closer intercourse with
the people on whom I had to rely for a successful production of Rienzi.
It is true that the results of my interviews with Luttichau, the
general manager, and Reissiger, the musical conductor, left me cold and
incredulous. Both were sincerely astonished at my arrival in Dresden;
and the same might even be said of my frequent correspondent and
patron, Hofrath Winkler, who also would have preferred my remaining in
Paris. But, as has been my constant experience both before and since,
help and encouragement have always come to me from humbler and never
from the more exalted ranks of life.

So in this case, too, I met my first agreeable sensation in the
overwhelmingly cordial reception I received from the old chorus-master,
Wilhelm Fischer. I had had no previous acquaintance with him, yet he
was the only person who had taken the trouble to read my score
carefully, and had not only conceived serious hopes for the success of
my opera, but had worked energetically to secure its being accepted and
practised. The moment I entered his room and told him my name, he
rushed to embrace me with a loud cry, and in a second I was translated
to an atmosphere of hope. Besides this man, I met in the actor
Ferdinand Heine and his family another sure foundation for hearty and,
indeed, deep-rooted friendship. It is true that I had known him from
childhood, for at that time he was one of the few young people whom my
stepfather Geyer liked to see about him. In addition to a fairly
decided talent for drawing, it was chiefly his pleasant social gifts
that had won him an entrance into our more intimate family circle. As
he was very small and slight, my stepfather nicknamed him DavidCHEN,
and under this appellation he used to take part with great affability
and good-humour in our little festivities, and above all in our
friendly excursions into the neighbouring country, in which, as I
mentioned in its place, even Carl Maria von Weber used to join.
Belonging to the good old school, he had become a useful, if not
prominent, member of the Dresden stage. He possessed all the knowledge
and qualities for a good stage manager, but never succeeded in inducing
the committee to give him that appointment. It was only as a designer
of costumes that he found further scope for his talents, and in this
capacity he was included in the consultations over the staging of
Rienzi.

Thus it came about that he had the opportunity of busying himself with
the work of a member, now grown to man's estate, of the very family
with whom he had spent such pleasant days in his youth. He greeted me
at once as a child of the house, and we two homeless creatures found in
our memories of this long-lost home the first common basis to our
friendship. We generally spent our evenings with old Fischer at
Heine's, where, amid hopeful conversation, we regaled ourselves on
potatoes and herrings, of which the meal chiefly consisted.
Schroder-Devrient was away on a holiday; Tichatschek, who was also on
the point of going away, I had just time to see, and with him I went
quickly through a part of his role in Rienzi. His brisk and lively
nature, his glorious voice and great musical talent, gave special
weight to his encouraging assurance that he delighted in the role of
Rienzi. Heine also told me that the mere prospect of having many new
costumes, and especially new silver armour, had inspired Tichatschek
with the liveliest desire to play this part, so that I might rely on
him under any circumstances. Thus I could at once give closer attention
to the preparations for practice, which was fixed to begin in the late
summer, after the principal singers had returned from their holiday.

I had to make special efforts to pacify my friend Fischer by my
readiness to abbreviate the score, which was excessively lengthy. His
intentions in the matter were so honest that I gladly sat down with him
to the wearisome task. I played and sang my score to the astonished man
on an old grand piano in the rehearsing-room of the Court Theatre, with
such frantic vigour that, although he did not mind if the instrument
came to grief, he grew concerned about my chest. Finally, amid hearty
laughter, he ceased to argue about cutting down passages, as precisely
where he thought something might be omitted I proved to him with
headlong eloquence that it was precisely here that the main point lay.
He plunged with me head over heels into the vast chaos of sound,
against which he could raise no objection, beyond the testimony of his
watch, whose correctness I also ended by disputing. As sops I
light-heartedly flung him the big pantomime and most of the ballet in
the second act, whereby I reckoned we might save a whole half-hour.
Thus, thank goodness, the whole monster was at last handed over to the
clerks to make a fair copy of, and the rest was left for time to
accomplish.

We next discussed what we should do in the summer, and I decided upon a
stay of several months at Toplitz, the scene of my first youthful
flights, whose fine air and baths, I hoped, would also benefit Minna's
health. But before we could carry out this intention I had to pay
several more visits to Leipzig to settle the fate of my Dutchman. On
5th May I proceeded thither to have an interview with Kustner, the new
director of the Berlin Opera, who I had been told had just arrived
there. He was now placed in the awkward position of being about to
produce in Berlin the very opera which he had before declined in
Munich, as it had been accepted by his predecessor in office. He
promised me to consider what steps he would take in this predicament.
In order to learn the result of Kustner's deliberations, I determined,
on 2nd June, to seek him out, and this time in Berlin itself. But at
Leipzig I found a letter in which he begged me to wait patiently a
little longer for his final verdict. I took advantage of being in the
neighbourhood of Halle to pay a visit to my eldest brother Albert. I
was very much grieved and depressed to find the poor fellow, whom I
must give the credit of having the greatest perseverance and a quite
remarkable talent for dramatic song, living in the unworthy and mean
circumstances which the Halle Theatre offered to him and his family.
The realisation of conditions into which I myself had once nearly sunk
now filled me with indescribable abhorrence. Still more harrowing was
it to hear my brother speak of this state in tones which showed, alas,
only too plainly, the hopeless submission with which he had already
resigned himself to its horrors. The only consolation I could find was
the personality and childlike nature of his step-daughter Johanna, who
was then fifteen, and who sang me Spohr's Rose, wie bist du so schon
with great expression and in a voice of an extraordinarily beautiful
quality.

Then I returned to Dresden, and at last, in wonderful weather,
undertook the pleasant journey to Toplitz with Minna and one of her
sisters, reaching that place on 9th June, where we took up our quarters
at a second-class inn, the Eiche, at Schonau. Here we were soon joined
by my mother, who paid her usual yearly visit to the warm baths all the
more gladly this time because she knew she would find me there. If she
had before had any prejudice against Minna because of my premature
marriage to her, a closer acquaintance with her domestic gifts soon
changed it into respect, and she quickly learned to love the partner of
my doleful days in Paris. Although my mother's vagaries demanded no
small consideration, yet what particularly delighted me about her was
the astonishing vivacity of her almost childlike imagination, a faculty
she retained to such a degree that one morning she complained that my
relation of the Tannhauser legend on the previous evening had given her
a whole night of pleasant but most tiring sleeplessness.

By dint of appealing letters to Schletter, a wealthy patron of art in
Leipzig, I managed to do something for Kietz, who, had remained behind
in misery in Paris, and also to provide Minna with medical treatment. I
also succeeded to a certain extent in ameliorating my own woeful
financial position. Scarcely were these tasks accomplished, when I
started off in my old boyish way on a ramble of several days on foot
through the Bohemian mountains, in order that I might mentally work out
my plan of the 'Venusberg' amid the pleasant associations of such a
trip. Here I took the fancy of engaging quarters in Aussig on the
romantic Schreckenstein, where for several days I occupied the little
public room, in which straw was laid down for me to sleep on at night.
I found recreation in daily ascents of the Wostrai, the highest peak in
the neighbourhood, and so keenly did the fantastic solitude quicken my
youthful spirit, that I clambered about the ruins of the Schreckenstein
the whole of one moonlit night, wrapped only in a blanket, in order
myself to provide the ghost that was lacking, and delighted myself with
the hope of scaring some passing wayfarer.

Here I drew up in my pocket-book the detailed plan of a three-act opera
on the 'Venusberg,' and subsequently carried out the composition of
this work in strict accordance with the sketch I then made.

One day, when climbing the Wostrai, I was astonished, on turning the
corner of a valley, to hear a merry dance tune whistled by a goatherd
perched up on a crag. I seemed immediately to stand among the chorus of
pilgrims filing past the goatherd in the valley; but I could not
afterwards recall the goatherd's tune, so I was obliged to help myself
out of the matter in the usual way.

Enriched by these spoils, I returned to Toplitz in a wonderfully
cheerful frame of mind and robust health, but on receiving the
interesting news that Tichatschek and Schroder-Devrient were on the
point of returning, I was impelled to set off once more for Dresden. I
took this step, not so much to avoid missing any of the early
rehearsals of Rienzi, as because I wanted to prevent the management
replacing it by something else. I left Minna for a time with my mother,
and reached Dresden on 18th July.

I hired a small lodging in a queer house, since pulled down, facing the
Maximilian Avenue, and entered into a fairly lively intercourse with
our operatic stars who had just returned. My old enthusiasm for
Schroder-Devrient revived when I saw her again more frequently in
opera. Strange was the effect produced upon me when I heard her for the
first time in Gretry's Blaubart, for I could not help remembering that
this was the first opera I had ever seen. I had been taken to it as a
boy of five (also in Dresden), and I still retained my wondrous first
impressions of it. All my earliest childish memories were revived, and
I recollected how frequently and with what emphasis I had myself sung
Bluebeard's song: Ha, die Falsche! Die Thure offen! to the amusement of
the whole house, with a paper helmet of my own making on my head. My
friend Heine still remembered it well.

In other respects the operatic performances were not such as to impress
me very favourably: I particularly missed the rolling sound of the
fully equipped Parisian orchestra of string instruments. I also noticed
that, when opening the fine new theatre, they had quite forgotten to
increase the number of these instruments in proportion to the enlarged
space. In this, as well as in the general equipment of the stage, which
was materially deficient in many respects, I was impressed by the sense
of a certain meanness about theatrical enterprise in Germany, which
became most noticeable when reproductions were given, often with
wretched translations of the text, of the Paris opera repertoire. If
even in Paris my dissatisfaction with this treatment of opera had been
great, the feeling which once drove me thither from the German theatres
now returned with redoubled energy. I actually felt degraded again, and
nourished within my breast a contempt so deep that for a time I could
hardly endure the thought of signing a lasting contract, even with one
of the most up-to-date of German opera houses, but sadly wondered what
steps I could take to hold my ground between disgust and desire in this
strange world.

Nothing but the sympathy inspired by communion with persons endowed
with exceptional gifts enabled me to triumph over my scruples. This
statement applies above all to my great ideal, Schroder-Devrient, in
whose artistic triumphs it had once been my most burning desire to be
associated. It is true that many years had elapsed since my first
youthful impressions of her were formed. As regards her looks, the
verdict which, in the following winter, was sent to Paris by Berlioz
during his stay in Dresden, was so far correct that her somewhat
'maternal' stoutness was unsuited to youthful parts, especially in male
attire, which, as in Rienzi, made too great a demand upon the
imagination. Her voice, which in point of quality had never been an
exceptionally good medium for song, often landed her in difficulties,
and in particular she was forced, when singing, to drag the time a
little all through. But her achievements were less hampered now by
these material hindrances than by the fact that her repertoire
consisted of a limited number of leading parts, which she had sung so
frequently that a certain monotony in the conscious calculation of
effect often developed into a mannerism which, from her tendency to
exaggeration, was at times almost painful.

Although these defects could not escape me, yet I, more than any one,
was especially qualified to overlook such minor weaknesses, and realise
with enthusiasm the incomparable greatness of her performances. Indeed,
it only needed the stimulus of excitement, which this actress's
exceptionally eventful life still procured, fully to restore the
creative power of her prime, a fact of which I was subsequently to
receive striking demonstrations. But I was seriously troubled and
depressed at seeing how strong was the disintegrating effect of
theatrical life upon the character of this singer, who had originally
been endowed with such great and noble qualities. From the very mouth
through which the great actress's inspired musical utterances reached
me, I was compelled to hear at other times very similar language to
that in which, with but few exceptions, nearly all heroines of the
stage indulge. The possession of a naturally fine voice, or even mere
physical advantages, which might place her rivals on the same footing
as herself in public favour, was more than she could endure; and so far
was she from acquiring the dignified resignation worthy of a great
artist, that her jealousy increased to a painful extent as years went
on. I noticed this all the more because I had reason to suffer from it.
A fact which caused me even greater trouble, however, was that she did
not grasp music easily, and the study of a new part involved
difficulties which meant many a painful hour for the composer who had
to make her master his work. Her difficulty in learning new parts, and
particularly that of Adriano in Rienzi, entailed disappointments for
her which caused me a good deal of trouble.

If, in her case, I had to handle a great and sensitive nature very
tenderly, I had, on the other hand, a very easy task with Tichatschek,
with his childish limitations and superficial, but exceptionally
brilliant, talents. He did not trouble to learn his parts by heart, as
he was so musical that he could sing the most difficult music at sight,
and thought all further study needless, whereas with most other singers
the work consisted in mastering the score. Hence, if he sang through a
part at rehearsals often enough to impress it on his memory, the rest,
that is to say, everything pertaining to vocal art and dramatic
delivery, would follow naturally. In this way he picked up any clerical
errors there might be in the libretto, and that with such incorrigible
pertinacity, that he uttered the wrong words with just the same
expression as if they were correct. He waved aside good-humouredly any
expostulations or hints as to the sense with the remark, 'Ah! that will
be all right soon.' And, in fact, I very soon resigned myself and quite
gave up trying to get the singer to use his intelligence in the
interpretation of the part of the hero, for which I was very agreeably
compensated by the light-hearted enthusiasm with which he flung himself
into his congenial role, and the irresistible effect of his brilliant
voice.

With the exception of these two actors who played the leading parts, I
had only very moderate material at my disposal. But there was plenty of
goodwill, and I had recourse to an ingenious device to induce Reissiger
the conductor to hold frequent piano rehearsals. He had complained to
me of the difficulty he had always found in securing a well-written
libretto, and thought it was very sensible of me to have acquired the
habit of writing my own. In his youth he had unfortunately neglected to
do this for himself, and yet this was all he lacked to make a
successful dramatic composer. I feel bound to confess that he possessed
'a good deal of melody'; but this, he added, did not seem sufficient to
inspire the singers with the requisite enthusiasm. His experience was
that Schroder-Devrient, in his Adele de Foix, would render very
indifferently the same final passage with which, in Bellini's Romeo and
Juliet, she would put the audience into an ecstasy. The reason for
this, he presumed, must lie in the subject-matter. I at once promised
him that I would supply him with a libretto in which he would be able
to introduce these and similar melodies to the greatest advantage. To
this he gladly agreed, and I therefore set aside for versification, as
a suitable text for Reissiger, my Hohe Braut, founded on Konig's
romance, which I had once before submitted to Scribe. I promised to
bring Reissiger a page of verse for every piano rehearsal, and this I
faithfully did until the whole book was done. I was much surprised to
learn some time later that Reissiger had had a new libretto written for
him by an actor named Kriethe. This was called the Wreck of the Medusa.
I then learned that the wife of the conductor, who was a suspicious
woman, had been filled with the greatest concern at my readiness to
give up a libretto to her husband. They both thought the book was good
and full of striking effects, but they suspected some sort of trap in
the background, to escape from which they must certainly exercise the
greatest caution. The result was that I regained possession of my
libretto and was able, later on, to help my old friend Kittl with it in
Prague; he set it to music of his own, and entitled it Die Franzosen
vor Nizza. I heard that it was frequently performed in Prague with
great success, though I never saw it myself; and I was also told at the
same time by a local critic that this text was a proof of my real
aptitude as a librettist, and that it was a mistake for me to devote
myself to composition. As regards my Tannhauser, on the other hand,
Laube used to declare it was a misfortune that I had not got an
experienced dramatist to supply me with a decent text for my music.

For the time being, however, this work of versification had the desired
result, and Reissiger kept steadily to the study of Rienzi. But what
encouraged him even more than my verses was the growing interest of the
singers, and above all the genuine enthusiasm of Tichatschek. This man,
who had been so ready to leave the delights of the theatre piano for a
shooting party, now looked upon the rehearsals of Rienzi as a genuine
treat. He always attended them with radiant eyes and boisterous
good-humour. I soon felt myself in a state of constant exhilaration:
favourite passages were greeted with acclamation by the singers at
every rehearsal, and a concerted number of the third finale, which
unfortunately had afterwards to be omitted owing to its length,
actually became on that occasion a source of profit to me. For
Tichatschek maintained that this B minor was so lovely that something
ought to be paid for it every time, and he put down a silver penny,
inviting the others to do the same, to which they all responded
merrily. From that day forward, whenever we came to this passage at
rehearsals, the cry was raised, 'Here comes the silver penny part,' and
Schroder-Devrient, as she took out her purse, remarked that these
rehearsals would ruin her. This gratuity was conscientiously handed to
me each time, and no one suspected that these contributions, which were
given as a joke, were often a very welcome help towards defraying the
cost of our daily food. For Minna had returned from Toplitz, at the
beginning of August, accompanied by my mother.

We lived very frugally in chilly lodgings, hopefully awaiting the tardy
day of our deliverance. The months of August and September passed, in
preparation for my work, amid frequent disturbances caused by the
fluctuating and scanty repertoire of a German opera house, and not
until October did the combined rehearsals assume such a character as to
promise the certainty of a speedy production. From the very beginning
of the general rehearsals with the orchestra we all shared the
conviction that the opera would, without doubt, be a great success.
Finally, the full dress rehearsals produced a perfectly intoxicating
effect. When we tried the first scene of the second act with the
scenery complete, and the messengers of peace entered, there was a
general outburst of emotion, and even Schroder-Devrient, who was
bitterly prejudiced against her part, as it was not the role of the
heroine, could only answer my questions in a voice stifled with tears.
I believe the whole theatrical body, down to its humblest officials,
loved me as though I were a real prodigy, and I am probably not far
wrong in saying that much of this arose from sympathy and lively
fellow-feeling for a young man, whose exceptional difficulties were not
unknown to them, and who now suddenly stepped out of perfect obscurity
into splendour. During the interval at the full dress rehearsal, while
other members had dispersed to revive their jaded nerves with lunch, I
remained seated on a pile of boards on the stage, in order that no one
might realise that I was in the quandary of being unable to obtain
similar refreshment. An invalid Italian singer, who was taking a small
part in the opera, seemed to notice this, and kindly brought me a glass
of wine and a piece of bread. I was sorry that I was obliged to deprive
him of even his small part in the course of the year, for its loss
provoked such ill-treatment from his wife, that by conjugal tyranny he
was driven into the ranks of my enemies. When, after my flight from
Dresden in 1849, I learned that I had been denounced to the police by
this same singer for supposed complicity in the rising which took place
in that town, I bethought me of this breakfast during the Rienzi
rehearsal, and felt I was being punished for my ingratitude, for I knew
I was guilty of having brought him into trouble with his wife.

The frame of mind in which I looked forward to the first performance of
my work was a unique experience which I have never felt either before
or since. My kind sister Clara fully shared my feelings. She had been
living a wretched middle-class life at Chemnitz, which, just about this
time, she had left to come and share my fate in Dresden. The poor
woman, whose undoubted artistic gifts had faded so early, was
laboriously dragging out a commonplace bourgeois existence as a wife
and mother; but now, under the influence of my growing success, she
began joyously to breathe a new life. She and I and the worthy
chorus-master Fischer used to spend our evenings with the Heine family,
still over potatoes and herrings, and often in a wonderfully elated
frame of mind. The evening before our first performance I was able to
crown our happiness by myself ladling out a bowl of punch. With mingled
tears and laughter we skipped about like happy children, and then in
sleep prepared ourselves for the triumphant day to which we looked
forward with such confidence..

Although on the morning of 20th October, 1842 I had resolved not to
disturb any of my singers by a visit, yet I happened to come across one
of them, a stiff Philistine called Risse, who was playing a minor bass
part in a dull but respectable way. The day was rather cool, but
wonderfully bright and sunshiny, after the gloomy weather we had just
been having. Without a word this curious creature saluted me and then
remained standing, as though bewitched. He simply gazed into my face
with wonder and rapture, in order to find out, so he at last managed to
tell me in strange confusion, how a man looked who that very day was to
face such an exceptional fate. I smiled and reflected that it was
indeed a day of crisis, and promised him that I would soon drink a
glass with him, at the Stadt Hamburg inn, of the excellent wine he had
recommended to me with so much agitation.

No subsequent experience of mine can be compared with the sensations
which marked the day of the first production of Rienzi. At all the
first performances of my works in later days, I have been so absorbed
by an only too well-founded anxiety as to their success, that I could
neither enjoy the opera nor form any real estimate of its reception by
the public. As for my subsequent experiences at the general rehearsal
of Tristan und Isolde, this took place under such exceptional
circumstances, and its effect upon me differed so fundamentally from
that produced by the first performance of Rienzi, that no comparison
can possibly be drawn between the two.

The immediate success of Rienzi was no doubt assured beforehand. But
the emphatic way in which the audience declared their appreciation was
thus far exceptional, that in cities like Dresden the spectators are
never in a position to decide conclusively upon a work of importance on
the first night, and consequently assume an attitude of chilling
restraint towards the works of unknown authors. But this was, in the
nature of things, an exceptional case, for the numerous staff of the
theatre and the body of musicians had inundated the city beforehand
with such glowing reports of my opera, that the whole population
awaited the promised miracle in feverish expectation. I sat with Minna,
my sister Clara, and the Heine family in a pit-box, and when I try to
recall my condition during that evening, I can only picture it with all
the paraphernalia of a dream. Of real pleasure or agitation I felt none
at all: I seemed to stand quite aloof from my work; whereas the sight
of the thickly crowded auditorium agitated me so much, that I was
unable even to glance at the body of the audience, whose presence
merely affected me like some natural phenomenon--something like a
continuous downpour of rain--from which I sought shelter in the
farthest corner of my box as under a protecting roof. I was quite
unconscious of applause, and when at the end of the acts I was
tempestuously called for, I had every time to be forcibly reminded by
Heine and driven on to the stage. On the other hand, one great anxiety
filled me with growing alarm: I noticed that the first two acts had
taken as long as the whole of Freischutz, for instance. On account of
its warlike calls to arms the third act begins with an exceptional
uproar, and when at its close the clock pointed to ten, which meant
that the performance had already lasted full four hours, I became
perfectly desperate. The fact that after this act, also, I was again
loudly called, I regarded merely as a final courtesy on the part of the
audience, who wished to signify that they had had quite enough for one
evening, and would now leave the house in a body. As we had still two
acts before us, I thought it settled that we should not be able to
finish the piece, and apologised for my lack of wisdom in not having
previously effected the necessary curtailments. Now, thanks to my
folly, I found myself in the unheard-of predicament of being unable to
finish an opera, otherwise extremely well received, simply because it
was absurdly long. I could only explain the undiminished zeal of the
singers, and particularly of Tichatschek, who seemed to grow lustier
and cheerier the longer it lasted, as an amiable trick to conceal from
me the inevitable catastrophe. But my astonishment at finding the
audience still there in full muster, even in the last act--towards
midnight--filled me with imbounded perplexity. I could no longer trust
my eyes or ears, and regarded the whole events of the evening as a
nightmare. It was past midnight when, for the last time, I had to obey
the thunderous calls of the audience, side by side with my trusty
singers.

My feeling of desperation at the unparalleled length of my opera was
augmented by the temper of my relatives, whom I saw for a short time
after the performance. Friedrich Brockhaus and his family had come over
with some friends from Leipzig, and had invited us to the inn, hoping
to celebrate an agreeable success over a pleasant supper, and possibly
to drink my health. But on arriving, kitchen and cellar were closed,
and every one was so worn out that nothing was to be heard but outcries
at the unparalleled case of an opera lasting from six o'clock till past
twelve. No further remarks were exchanged, and we stole away feeling
quite stupefied.

About eight the next morning I put in an appearance at the clerks'
office, in order that in case there should be a second performance I
might arrange the necessary curtailment of the parts. If, during the
previous summer, I had contested every beat with the faithful
chorus-master Fischer, and proved them all to be indispensable, I was
now possessed by a blind rage for striking out. There was not a single
part of my score which seemed any longer necessary--what the audience
had been made to swallow the previous evening now appeared but a chaos
of sheer impossibilities, each and all of which might be omitted
without the slightest damage or risk of being unintelligible. My one
thought now was how to reduce my convolution of monstrosities to decent
limits. By dint of unsparing and ruthless abbreviations handed over to
the copyist, I hoped to avert a catastrophe, for I expected nothing
less than that the general manager, together with the city and the
theatre, would that very day give me to understand that such a thing as
the performance of my Last of the Tribunes might perhaps be permitted
once as a curiosity, but not oftener. All day long, therefore, I
carefully avoided going near the theatre, so as to give time for my
heroic abbreviations to do their salutary work, and for news of them to
spread through the city. But at midday I looked in again upon the
copyists, to assure myself that all had been duly performed as I had
ordered. I then learned that Tichatschek had also been there, and,
after inspecting the omissions that I had arranged, had forbidden their
being carried out. Fischer, the chorus-master, also wished to speak to
me about them: work was suspended, and I foresaw great confusion. I
could not understand what it all meant, and feared mischief if the
arduous task were delayed. At length, towards evening, I sought out
Tichatschek at the theatre. Without giving him a chance to speak, I
brusquely asked him why he had interrupted the copyists' work. In a
half-choked voice he curtly and defiantly rejoined, 'I will have none
of my part cut out--it is too heavenly.' I stared at him blankly, and
then felt as though I had been suddenly bewitched: such an unheard-of
testimony to my success could not but shake me out of my strange
anxiety. Others joined him, Fischer radiant with delight and bubbling
with laughter. Every one spoke of the enthusiastic emotion which
thrilled the whole city. Next came a letter of thanks from the
Commissioner acknowledging my splendid work. Nothing now remained for
me but to embrace Tichatschek and Fischer, and go on my way to inform
Minna and Clara how matters stood.

After a few days' rest for the actors, the second performance took
place on 26th October, but with various curtailments, for which I had
great difficulty in obtaining Tichatschek's consent. Although it was
still of much more than average length, I heard no particular
complaints, and at last adopted Tichatschek's view that, if he could
stand it, so could the audience. For six performances therefore, all of
which continued to receive a similar avalanche of applause, I let the
matter run its course.

My opera, however, had also excited interest among the elder princesses
of the royal family. They thought its exhausting length a drawback, but
were nevertheless unwilling to miss any of it. Luttichau consequently
proposed that I should give the piece at full length, but half of it at
a time on two successive evenings. This suited me very well, and after
an interval of a few weeks we announced Rienzi's Greatness for the
first day, and His Fall for the second. The first evening we gave two
acts, and on the second three, and for the latter I composed a special
introductory prelude. This met with the entire approval of our august
patrons, and especially of the two eldest, Princesses Amalie and
Augusta. The public, on the contrary, simply regarded this in the light
of now being asked to pay two entrance fees for one opera, and
pronounced the new arrangement a decided fraud. Its annoyance at the
change was so great that it actually threatened to be fatal to the
attendance, and after three performances of the divided Rienzi the
management was obliged to go back to the old arrangement, which I
willingly made possible by introducing my cuttings again.

From this time forward the piece used to fill the house to overflowing
as often as it could be presented, and the permanence of its success
became still more obvious when I began to realise the envy it drew upon
me from many different quarters. My first experience of this was truly
painful, and came from the hands of the poet, Julius Mosen, on the very
day after the first performance. When I first reached Dresden in the
summer I had sought him out, and, having a really high opinion of his
talent, our intercourse soon became more intimate, and was the means of
giving me much pleasure and instruction. He had shown me a volume of
his plays, which on the whole appealed to me exceptionally. Among these
was a tragedy, Cola Rienzi, dealing with the same subject as my opera,
and in a manner partly new to me, and which I thought effective. With
reference to this poem, I had begged him to take no notice of my
libretto, as in the quality of its poetry it could not possibly bear
comparison with his own; and it cost him little sacrifice to grant the
request. It happened that just before the first performance of my
Rienzi, he had produced in Dresden Bernhard von Weimar, one of his
least happy pieces, the result of which had brought him little
pleasure. Dramatically it was a thing with no life in it, aiming only
at political harangue, and had shared the inevitable fate of all such
aberrations. He had therefore awaited the appearance of my Rienzi with
some vexation, and confessed to me his bitter chagrin at not being able
to procure the acceptance of his tragedy of the same name in Dresden.
This, he presumed, arose from its somewhat pronounced political
tendency, which, certainly in a spoken play on a similar subject, would
be more noticeable than in an opera, where from the very start no one
pays any heed to the words. I had genially confirmed him in this
depreciation of the subject matter in opera; and was therefore the more
startled when, on finding him at my sister Louisa's the day after the
first performance, he straightway overwhelmed me with a scornful
outburst of irritation at my success. But he found in me a strange
sense of the essential unreality in opera of such a subject as that
which I had just illustrated with so much success in Rienzi, so that,
oppressed by a secret sense of shame, I had no serious rejoinder to
offer to his candidly poisonous abuse. My line of defence was not yet
sufficiently clear in my own mind to be available offhand, nor was it
yet backed by so obvious a product of my own peculiar genius that I
could venture to quote it. Moreover, my first impulse was only one of
pity for the unlucky playwright, which I felt all the more constrained
to express, because his burst of fury gave me the inward satisfaction
of knowing that he recognised my great success, of which I was not yet
quite clear myself.

But this first performance of Rienzi did far more than this. It gave
occasion for controversy, and made an ever-widening breach between
myself and the newspaper critics. Herr Karl Bank, who for some time had
been the chief musical critic in Dresden, had been known to me before
at Magdeburg, where he once visited me and listened with delight to my
playing of several fairly long passages from my Liebesverbot. When we
met again in Dresden, this man could not forgive me for having been
unable to procure him tickets for the first performance of Rienzi. The
same thing happened with a certain Herr Julius Schladebach, who
likewise settled in Dresden about that time as a critic. Though I was
always anxious to be gracious to everybody, yet I felt just then an
invincible repugnance for showing special deference to any man because
he was a critic. As time went on, I carried this rule to the point of
almost systematic rudeness, and was consequently all my life through
the victim of unprecedented persecution from the press. As yet,
however, this ill-will had not become pronounced, for at that time
journalism had not begun to give itself airs in Dresden. There were so
few contributions sent from there to the outside press that our
artistic doings excited very little notice elsewhere, a fact which was
certainly not without its disadvantages for me. Thus for the present
the unpleasant side of my success scarcely affected me at all, and for
a brief space I felt myself, for the first and only time in my life, so
pleasantly borne along on the breath of general good-will, that all my
former troubles seemed amply requited.

For further and quite unexpected fruits of my success now appeared with
astonishing rapidity, though not so much in the form of material
profit, which for the present resolved itself into nine hundred marks,
paid me by the General Board as an exceptional fee instead of the usual
twenty golden louis. Nor did I dare to cherish the hope of selling my
work advantageously to a publisher, until it had been performed in some
other important towns. But fate willed it, that by the sudden death of
Rastrelli, royal director of music, which occurred shortly after the
first production of Rienzi, an office should unexpectedly become
vacant, for the filling of which all eyes at once turned to me.

While the negotiations over this matter were slowly proceeding, the
General Board gave proof in another direction of an almost passionate
interest in my talents. They insisted that the first performance of the
Fliegender Hollander should on no account be conceded to the Berlin
opera, but reserved as an honour for Dresden. As the Berlin authorities
raised no obstacle, I very gladly handed over my latest work also to
the Dresden theatre. If in this I had to dispense with Tichatschek's
assistance, as there was no leading tenor part in the play, I could
count all the more surely on the helpful co-operation of
Schroder-Devrient, to whom a worthier task was assigned in the leading
female part than that which she had had in Rienzi. I was glad to be
able thus to rely entirely upon her, as she had grown strangely out of
humour with me, owing to her scanty share in the success of Rienzi. The
completeness of my faith in her I proved with an exaggeration by no
means advantageous to my own work, by simply forcing the leading male
part on Wachter, a once capable, but now somewhat delicate baritone. He
was in every respect wholly unsuited to the task, and only accepted it
with unfeigned hesitation. On submitting my play to my adored prima
donna, I was much relieved to find that its poetry made a special
appeal to her. Thanks to the genuine personal interest awakened in me
under very peculiar circumstances by the character and fate of this
exceptional woman, our study of the part of Senta, which often brought
us into close contact, became one of the most thrilling and momentously
instructive periods of my life.

It is true that the great actress, especially when under the influence
of her famous mother, Sophie Schroder, who was just then with her on a
visit, showed undisguised vexation at my having composed so brilliant a
work as Rienzi for Dresden without having specifically reserved the
principal part for her. Yet the magnanimity of her disposition
triumphed even over this selfish impulse: she loudly proclaimed me 'a
genius,' and honoured me with that special confidence which, she said,
none but a genius should enjoy. But when she invited me to become both
the accomplice and adviser in her really dreadful love affairs, this
confidence certainly began to have its risky side; nevertheless there
were at first occasions on which she openly proclaimed herself before
all the world as my friend, making most flattering distinctions in my
favour.

First of all I had to accompany her on a trip to Leipzig, where she was
giving a concert for her mother's benefit, which she thought to make
particularly attractive by including in its programme two selections
from Rienzi--the aria of Adriano and the hero's prayer (the latter sung
by Tichatschek), and both under my personal conductorship. Mendelssohn,
who was also on very friendly terms with her, had been enticed to this
concert too, and produced his overture to Ruy Blas, then quite new. It
was during the two busy days spent on this occasion in Leipzig that I
first came into close contact with him, all my previous knowledge of
him having been limited to a few rare and altogether profitless visits.
At the house of my brother-in-law, Fritz Brockhaus, he and Devrient
gave us a good deal of music, he playing her accompaniment to a number
of Schubert's songs. I here became conscious of the peculiar unrest and
excitement with which this master of music, who, though still young,
had already reached the zenith of his fame and life's work, observed or
rather watched me. I could see clearly that he thought but little of a
success in opera, and that merely in Dresden. Doubtless I seemed in his
eyes one of a class of musicians to whom he attached no value, and with
whom he proposed to have no intercourse. Nevertheless my success had
certain characteristic features, which gave it a more or less alarming
aspect. Mendelssohn's most ardent desire for a long time past had been
to write a successful opera, and it was possible he now felt annoyed
that, before he had succeeded in doing so, a triumph of this nature
should suddenly be thrust into his face with blunt brutality, and based
upon a style of music which he might feel justified in regarding as
poor. He probably found it no less exasperating that Devrient, whose
gifts he acknowledged, and who was his own devoted admirer, should now
so openly and loudly sound my praises. These thoughts were dimly
shaping themselves in my mind, when Mendelssohn, by a very remarkable
statement, drove me, almost with violence, to adopt this
interpretation. On our way home together, after the joint concert
rehearsal, I was talking very warmly on the subject of music. Although
by no means a talkative man, he suddenly interrupted me with curiously
hasty excitement by the assertion that music had but one great fault,
namely, that more than any other art it stimulated not only our good,
but also our evil qualities, such, for instance, as jealousy. I blushed
with shame to have to apply this speech to his own feelings towards me;
for I was profoundly conscious of my innocence of ever having dreamed,
even in the remotest degree, of placing my own talents or performances
as a musician in comparison with his. Yet, strange to say, at this very
concert he showed himself in a light by no means calculated to place
him beyond all possibility of comparison with myself. A rendering of
his Hebrides Overture would have placed him so immeasurably above my
two operatic airs, that all shyness at having to stand beside him would
have been spared me, as the gulf between our two productions was
impassable. But in his choice of the Ruy Blas Overture he appears to
have been prompted by a desire to place himself on this occasion so
close to the operatic style that its effectiveness might be reflected
upon his own work. The overture was evidently calculated for a Parisian
audience, and the astonishment Mendelssohn caused by appearing in such
a connection was shown by Robert Schumann in his own ungainly fashion
at its close. Approaching the musician in the orchestra, he blandly,
and with a genial smile, expressed his admiration of the 'brilliant
orchestral piece' just played..

But in the interests of veracity let me not forget that neither he nor
I scored the real success of that evening. We were both wholly eclipsed
by the tremendous effect produced by the grey-haired Sophie Schroder in
a recitation of Burger's Lenore. While the daughter had been taunted in
the newspapers with unfairly employing all sorts of musical attractions
to cozen a benefit concert out of the music lovers of Leipzig for a
mother who never had anything to do with that art, we, who were there
as her musical aiders and abettors, had to stand like so many idle
conjurers, while this aged and almost toothless dame declaimed Burger's
poem with truly terrifying beauty and grandeur. This episode, like so
much else that I saw during these few days, gave me abundant food for
thought and meditation.

A second excursion, also undertaken with Devrient, took me in the
December of that year to Berlin, where the singer had been invited to
appear at a grand state concert. I for my part wanted an interview with
Director Kustner about the Fliegender Hollander. Although I arrived at
no definite result regarding my own personal business, this short visit
to Berlin was memorable for my meeting with Franz Liszt, which
afterwards proved of great importance. It took place under singular
circumstances, which placed both him and me in a situation of peculiar
embarrassment, brought about in the most wanton fashion by Devrient's
exasperating caprice.

I had already told my patroness the story of my earlier meeting with
Liszt. During that fateful second winter of my stay in Paris, when I
had at last been driven to be grateful for Schlesinger's hack-work, I
one day received word from Laube, who always bore me in mind, that F.
Liszt was coming to Paris. He had mentioned and recommended me to him
when he was in Germany, and advised me to lose no time in looking him
up, as he was 'generous,' and would certainly find means of helping me.
As soon as I heard that he had really arrived, I presented myself at
the hotel to see him. It was early in the morning. On my entrance I
found several strange gentlemen waiting in the drawing-room, where,
after some time, we were joined by Liszt himself, pleasant and affable,
and wearing his indoor coat. The conversation was carried on in French,
and turned upon his experiences during his last professional journey in
Hungary. As I was unable to take part, on account of the language, I
listened for some time, feeling heartily bored, until at last he asked
me pleasantly what he could do for me. He seemed unable to recall
Laube's recommendation, and all the answer I could give was that I
desired to make his acquaintance. To this he had evidently no
objection, and informed me he would take care to have a ticket sent me
for his great matinee, which was to take place shortly. My sole attempt
to introduce an artistic theme of conversation was a question as to
whether he knew Lowe's Erlkonig as well as Schubert's. His reply in the
negative frustrated this somewhat awkward attempt, and I ended my visit
by giving him my address. Thither his secretary, Belloni, presently
sent me, with a few polite words, a card of admission to a concert to
be given entirely by the master himself in the Salle Erard. I duly
wended my way to the overcrowded hall, and beheld the platform on which
the grand piano stood, closely beleaguered by the cream of Parisian
female society, and witnessed their enthusiastic ovations of this
virtuoso, who was at that time the wonder of the world. Moreover, I
heard several of his most brilliant pieces, such as 'Variations on
Robert le Diable,' but carried away with me no real impression beyond
that of being stunned. This took place just at the time when I
abandoned a path which had been contrary to my truer nature, and had
led me astray, and on which I now emphatically turned my back in silent
bitterness. I was therefore in no fitting mood for a just appreciation
of this prodigy, who at that time was shining in the blazing light of
day, but from whom I had turned my face to the night. I went to see
Liszt no more.

As already mentioned, I had given Devrient a bare outline of this
story, but she had noted it with particular attention, for I happened
to have touched her weak point of professional jealousy. As Liszt had
also been commanded by the King of Prussia to appear at the grand state
concert at Berlin, it so happened that the first time they met Liszt
questioned her with great interest about the success of Rienzi. She
thereupon observed that the composer of that opera was an altogether
unknown man, and proceeded with curious malice to taunt him with his
apparent lack of penetration, as proved by the fact that the said
composer, who now so keenly excited his interest, was the very same
poor musician whom he had lately 'turned away so contemptuously' in
Paris. All this she told me with an air of triumph, which distressed me
very much, and I at once set to work to correct the false impression
conveyed by my former account. As we were still debating this point in
her room, we were startled by hearing from the next the famous bass
part in the 'Revenge' air from Donna Anna, rapidly executed in octaves
on the piano. 'That's Liszt himself,' she cried. Liszt then entered the
room to fetch her for the rehearsal. To my great embarrassment she
introduced me to him with malicious delight as the composer of Rienzi,
the man whose acquaintance he now wished to make after having
previously shown him the door in his glorious Paris. My solemn
asseverations that my patroness--no doubt only in fun--was deliberately
distorting my account of my former visit to him, apparently pacified
him so far as I was concerned, and, on the other hand, he had no doubt
already formed his own opinion of the impulsive singer. He certainly
regretted that he could not remember my visit in Paris, but it
nevertheless shocked and alarmed him to learn that any one should have
had reason to complain of such treatment at his hands. The hearty
sincerity of Listz's simple words to me about this misunderstanding, as
contrasted with the strangely passionate raillery of the incorrigible
lady, made a most pleasing and captivating impression upon me. The
whole bearing of the man, and the way in which he tried to ward off the
pitiless scorn of her attacks, was something new to me, and gave me a
deep insight into his character, so firm in its amiability and
boundless good-nature. Finally, she teased him about the Doctor's
degree which had just been conferred on him by the University of
Konigsberg, and pretended to mistake him for a chemist. At last he
stretched himself out flat on the floor, and implored her mercy,
declaring himself quite defenceless against the storm of her invective.
Then turning to me with a hearty assurance that he would make it his
business to hear Rienzi, and would in any case endeavour to give me a
better opinion of himself than his evil star had hitherto permitted, we
parted for that occasion.

The almost naive simplicity and naturalness of his every phrase and
word, and particularly his emphatic manner, left a most profound
impression upon me. No one could fail to be equally affected by these
qualities, and I now realised for the first time the almost magic power
exerted by Liszt over all who came in close contact with him, and saw
how erroneous had been my former opinion as to its cause.

These two excursions to Leipzig and Berlin found but brief
interruptions of the period devoted at home to our study of the
Fliegender Hollander. It was therefore, of paramount importance to me
to maintain Schroder-Devrient's keen interest in her part, since, in
view of the weakness of the rest of the cast, I was convinced that it
was from her alone I could expect any adequate interpretation of the
spirit of my work.

The part of Senta was essentially suited to her, and there were just at
that moment peculiar circumstances in her life which brought her
naturally emotional temperament to a high pitch of tension. I was
amazed when she confided to me that she was on the point of breaking
off a regular liaison of many years' standing, to form, in passionate
haste, another much less desirable one. The forsaken lover, who was
tenderly devoted to her, was a young lieutenant in the Royal Guards,
and the son of Muller, the ex-Minister of Education; her new choice,
whose acquaintance she had formed on a recent visit to Berlin, was Herr
von Munchhausen. He was a tall, slim young man, and her predilection
for him was easily explained when I became more closely acquainted with
her love affairs. It seemed to me that the bestowal of her confidence
on me in this matter arose from her guilty conscience; she was aware
that Muller, whom I liked on account of his excellent disposition, had
loved her with the earnestness of a first love, and also that she was
now betraying him in the most faithless way on a trivial pretext. She
must have known that her new lover was entirely unworthy of her, and
that his intentions were frivolous and selfish. She knew, too, that no
one, and certainly none of her older friends who knew her best, would
approve of her behaviour. She told me candidly that she had felt
impelled to confide in me because I was a genius, and would understand
the demands of her temperament. I hardly knew what to think. I was
repelled alike by her passion and the circumstances attending it; but
to my astonishment I had to confess that the infatuation, so repulsive
to me, held this strange woman in so powerful a grasp that I could not
refuse her a certain amount of pity, nay, even real sympathy.

She was pale and distraught, ate hardly anything, and her faculties
were subjected to a strain so extraordinary that I thought she would
not escape a serious, perhaps a fatal illness. Sleep had long since
deserted her, and whenever I brought her my unlucky Fliegender
Hollander, her looks so alarmed me that the proposed rehearsal was the
last thing I thought of. But in this matter she insisted; she made me
sit down at the piano, and then plunged into the study of her role as
if it were a matter of life and death. She found the actual learning of
the part very difficult, and it was only by repeated and persevering
rehearsal that she mastered her task. She would sing for hours at a
time with such passion that I often sprang up in terror and begged her
to spare herself; then she would point smiling to her chest, and expand
the muscles of her still magnificent person, to assure me that she was
doing herself no harm. Her voice really acquired at that time a
youthful freshness and power of endurance. I had to confess that which
often astonished me: this infatuation for an insipid nobody was very
much to the advantage of my Senta. Her courage under this intense
strain was so great that, as time pressed, she consented to have the
general rehearsal on the very day of the first performance, and a delay
which would have been greatly to my disadvantage was thus avoided.

The performance took place on 2nd January, in the year 1843. Its result
was extremely instructive to me, and led to the turning-point of my
career. The ill-success of the performance taught me how much care and
forethought were essential to secure the adequate dramatic
interpretation of my latest works. I realised that I had more or less
believed that my score would explain itself, and that my singers would
arrive at the right interpretation of their own accord. My good old
friend Wachter, who at the time of Henriette Sontag's first success was
a favourite 'Barber of Seville,' had from the first discreetly thought
otherwise. Unfortunately, even Schroder-Devrient only saw when the
rehearsals were too far advanced how utterly incapable Wachter was of
realising the horror and supreme suffering of my Mariner. His
distressing corpulence, his broad fat face, the extraordinary movements
of his arms and legs, which he managed to make look like mere stumps,
drove my passionate Senta to despair. At one rehearsal, when in the
great scene in Act ii. she comes to him in the guise of a guardian
angel to bring the message of salvation, she broke off to whisper
despairingly in my ear, 'How can I say it when I look into those beady
eyes? Good God, Wagner, what a muddle you have made!' I consoled her as
well as I could, and secretly placed my dependence on Herr von
Munchhausen, who promised faithfully to sit that evening in the front
row of the stalls, so that Devrient's eyes must fall on him. And the
magnificent performance of my great artiste, although she stood
horribly alone on the stage, did succeed in rousing enthusiasm in the
second act. The first act offered the audience nothing but a dull
conversation between Herr Wachter and that Herr Risse who had invited
me to an excellent glass of wine on the first night of Rienzi, and in
the third the loudest raging of the orchestra did not rouse the sea
from its dead calm nor the phantom ship in its cautious rocking. The
audience fell to wondering how I could have produced this crude,
meagre, and gloomy work after Rienzi, in every act of which incident
abounded, and Tichatschek shone in an endless variety of costumes.

As Schroder-Devrient soon left Dresden for a considerable time, the
Fliegender Hollander saw only four performances, at which the
diminishing audiences made it plain that I had not pleased Dresden
taste with it. The management was compelled to revive Rienzi in order
to maintain my prestige; and the triumph of this opera compared with
the failure of the Dutchman gave me food for reflection. I had to
admit, with some misgivings, that the success of my Rienzi was not
entirely due to the cast and staging, although I was fully alive to the
defects from which the Fliegender Hollander suffered in this respect.
Although Wachter was far from realising my conception of the Fliegender
Hollander I could not conceal from myself the fact that Tichatschek was
quite as far removed from the ideal Rienzi. His abominable errors and
deficiencies in his presentation of the part had never escaped me; he
had never been able to lay aside his brilliant and heroic leading-tenor
manners in order to render that gloomy demonic strain in Rienzi's
temperament on which I had laid unmistakable stress at the critical
points of the drama. In the fourth act, after the pronouncement of the
curse, he fell on his knees in the most melancholy fashion and
abandoned himself to bewailing his fate in piteous tones. When I
suggested to him that Rienzi, though inwardly despairing, must take up
an attitude of statuesque firmness before the world, he pointed out to
me the great popularity which the end of this very act had won as
interpreted by himself, with an intimation that he intended making no
change in it.

And when I considered the real causes of the success of Rienzi, I found
that it rested on the brilliant and extraordinarily fresh voice of the
soaring, happy singer, in the refreshing effect of the chorus and the
gay movement and colouring on the stage. I received a still more
convincing proof of this when we divided the opera into two, and found
that the second part, which was the more important from both the
dramatic and the musical point of view, was noticeably less well
attended than the first, for the very obvious reason, as I thought,
that the ballet occurred in the first part. My brother Julius, who had
come over from Leipzig for one of the performances of Rienzi, gave me a
still more naive testimony as to the real point of interest in the
opera. I was sitting with him in an open box, in full sight of the
audience, and had therefore begged him to desist from giving any
applause, even if directed only to the efforts of the singers; he
restrained himself all through the evening, but his enthusiasm at a
certain figure of the ballet was too much for him, and he clapped
loudly, to the great amusement of the audience, telling me that he
could not hold himself in any longer. Curiously enough, this same
ballet secured for Rienzi, which was otherwise received with
indifference, the enduring preference of the present King of Prussia,
[FOOTNOTE: William the First.]who many years afterwards ordered the
revival of this opera, although it had utterly failed in arousing
public interest by its merits as a drama.

I found, when I had to be present later on at a representation of the
same opera at Darmstadt, that while wholesale cuts had to be made in
its best parts, it had been found necessary to expand the ballets by
additions and repetitions. This ballet music, which I had put together
with contemptuous haste at Riga in a few days without any inspiration,
seemed to me, moreover, so strikingly weak that I was thoroughly
ashamed of it even in those days at Dresden, when I had found myself
compelled to suppress its best feature, the tragic pantomime. Further,
the resources of the ballet in Dresden did not even admit of the
execution of my stage directions for the combat in the arena, nor for
the very significant round dances, both admirably carried out at a
later date in Berlin. I had to be content with the humiliating
substitution of a long, foolish step-dance by two insignificant
dancers, which was ended by a company of soldiers marching on, bearing
their shields on high so as to form a roof and remind the audience of
the Roman testudo; then the ballet-master with his assistant, in
flesh-coloured tights, leaped on to the shields and turned somersaults,
a proceeding which they thought was reminiscent of the gladiatorial
games. It was at this point that the house was always moved to
resounding applause, and I had to own that this moment marked the
climax of my success.

I thus had my doubts as to the intrinsic divergence between my inner
aims and my outward success; at the same time a decisive and fatal
change in my fortunes was brought about by my acceptance of the
conductorship at Dresden, under circumstances as perplexing in their
way as those preceding my marriage. I had met the negotiations which
led up to this appointment with a hesitation and a coolness by no means
affected. I felt nothing but scorn for theatrical life; a scorn that
was by no means lessened by a closer acquaintance with the apparently
distinguished ruling body of a court theatre, the splendours of which
only conceal, with arrogant ignorance, the humiliating conditions
appertaining to it and to the modern theatre in general. I saw every
noble impulse stifled in those occupied with theatrical matters, and a
combination of the vainest and most frivolous interests maintained by a
ridiculously rigid and bureaucratic system; I was now fully convinced
that the necessity of handling the business of the theatre would be the
most distasteful thing I could imagine. Now that, through Rastrelli's
death, the temptation to be false to my inner conviction came to me in
Dresden, I explained to my old and trusted friends that I did not think
I should accept the vacant post.

But everything calculated to shake human resolution combined against
this decision. The prospect of securing the means of livelihood through
a permanent position with a fixed salary was an irresistible
attraction. I combated the temptation by reminding myself of my success
as an operatic composer, which might reasonably be expected to bring in
enough to supply my moderate requirements in a lodging of two rooms,
where I could proceed undisturbed with fresh compositions. I was told
in answer to this that my work itself would be better served by a fixed
position without arduous duties, as for a whole year since the
completion of the Fliegender Hollander I had not, under existing
circumstances, found any leisure at all for composition. I still
remained convinced that Rastrelli's post of musical director, in
subordination to the conductor, was unworthy of me, and I declined to
entertain the proposal, thus leaving the management to look elsewhere
for some one to fill the vacancy.

There was therefore no further question of this particular post, but I
was then informed that the death of Morlacchi had left vacant a court
conductorship, and it was thought that the King would be willing to
offer me the post. My wife was very much excited at this prospect, for
in Germany the greatest value is laid on these court appointments,
which are tenable for life, and the dazzling respectability pertaining
to them is held out to German musicians as the acme of earthly
happiness. The offer opened up for us in many directions the prospect
of friendly relations in a society which had hitherto been outside our
experience. Domestic comfort and social prestige were very alluring to
the homeless wanderers who, in bygone days of misery, had often longed
for the comfort and security of an assured and permanent position such
as was now open to them under the august protection of the court. The
influence of Caroline von Weber did much in the long-run to weaken my
opposition. I was often at her house, and took great pleasure in her
society, which brought back to my mind very vividly the personality of
my still dearly beloved master. She begged me with really touching
tenderness not to withstand this obvious command of fate, and asserted
her right to ask me to settle in Dresden, to fill the place left sadly
empty by her husband's death. 'Just think,' she said, 'how can I look
Weber in the face again when I join him if I have to tell him that the
work for which he made such devoted sacrifices in Dresden is neglected;
just imagine my feelings when I see that indolent Reissiger stand in my
noble Weber's place, and when I hear his operas produced more
mechanically every year. If you loved Weber, you owe it to his memory
to step into his place and to continue his work.' As an experienced
woman of the world she also pointed out energetically and prudently the
practical side of the matter, impressing on me the duty of thinking of
my wife, who would, in case of my death, be sufficiently provided for
if I accepted the post.

The promptings of affection, prudence and good sense, however, had less
weight with me than the enthusiastic conviction, never at any period of
my life entirely destroyed, that wherever fate led me, whether to
Dresden or elsewhere, I should find the opportunity which would convert
my dreams into reality through currents set in motion by some change in
the everyday order of events. All that was needed for this was the
advent of an ardent and aspiring soul who, with good luck to back him,
might make up for lost time, and by his ennobling influence achieve the
deliverance of art from her shameful bonds. The wonderful and rapid
change which had taken place in my fortunes could not fail to encourage
such a hope, and I was seduced on perceiving the marked alteration that
had taken place in the whole attitude of Luttichau, the general
director, towards me. This strange individual showed me a kindliness of
which no one would hitherto have thought him capable, and that he was
prompted by a genuine feeling of personal benevolence towards me I
could not help being absolutely convinced, even at the time of my
subsequent ceaseless differences with him.

Nevertheless, the decision came as a kind of surprise. On 2nd February
1843 I was very politely invited to the director's office, and there
met the general staff of the royal orchestra, in whose presence
Luttichau, through the medium of my never-to-be-forgotten friend
Winkler, solemnly read out to me a royal rescript appointing me
forthwith conductor to his Majesty, with a life salary of four thousand
five hundred marks a year. Luttichau followed the reading of this
document by a more or less ceremonious speech, in which he assumed that
I should gratefully accept the King's favour. At this polite ceremony
it did not escape my notice that all possibility of future negotiations
over the figure of the salary was cut off; on the other hand, a
substantial exemption in my favour, the omission of the condition,
enforced even on Weber in his time, of serving a year's probation under
the title of mere musical director, was calculated to secure my
unconditional acceptance. My new colleagues congratulated me, and
Luttichau accompanied me with the politest phrases to my own door,
where I fell into the arms of my poor wife, who was giddy with delight.
Therefore I fully realised that I must put the best face I could on the
matter, and unless I wished to give unheard-of offence, I must even
congratulate myself on my appointment as royal conductor.

A few days after taking the oath as a servant of the King in solemn
session, and undergoing the ceremony of presentation to the assembled
orchestra by means of an enthusiastic speech from the general director,
I was summoned to an audience with his Majesty. When I saw the features
of the kind, courteous, and homely monarch, I involuntarily thought of
my youthful attempt at a political overture on the theme of Friedrich
und Freiheit. Our somewhat embarrassed conversation brightened with the
King's expression of his satisfaction with those two of my operas which
had been performed in Dresden. He expressed with polite hesitation his
feeling that if my operas left anything to be desired, it was a clearer
definition of the various characters in my musical dramas. He thought
the interest in the persons was overpowered by the elemental forces
figuring beside them--in Hienzi the mob, in the Fliegender Hollander
the sea. I thought I understood his meaning perfectly, and this proof
of his sincere sympathy and original judgment pleased me very much. He
also made his excuses in advance for a possible rare attendance at my
operas on his part, his sole reason for this being that he had a
peculiar aversion from theatre-going, as the result of one of the rules
of his early training, under which he and his brother John, who had
acquired a similar aversion, were for a long time compelled regularly
to attend the theatre, when he, to tell the truth, would often have
preferred to be left alone to follow his own pursuits independent of
etiquette.

As a characteristic instance of the courtier spirit, I afterwards
learned that Luttichau, who had had to wait for me in the anteroom
during this audience, had been very much put out by its long duration.
In the whole course of my life I was only admitted twice more to
personal intercourse and speech with the good King. The first occasion
was when I presented him with the dedication copy of the pianoforte
score of my Rienzi; and the second was after my very successful
arrangement and performance of the Iphigenia in Aulis, by Gluck, of
whose operas he was particularly fond, when he stopped me in the public
promenade and congratulated me on my work.

That first audience with the King marked the zenith of my hastily
adopted career at Dresden; thenceforward anxiety reasserted itself in
manifold ways. I very quickly realised the difficulties of my material
situation, since it soon became evident that the advantage won by new
exertions and my present appointment bore no proportion to the heavy
sacrifices and obligations which I incurred as soon as I entered on an
independent career. The young musical director of Riga, long since
forgotten, suddenly reappeared in an astonishing reincarnation as royal
conductor to the King of Saxony. The first-fruits of the universal
estimate of my good fortune took the shape of pressing creditors and
threats of prosecution; next followed demands from the Konigsberg
tradesmen, from whom I had escaped from Riga by means of that horribly
wretched and miserable flight. I also heard from people in the most
distant parts, who thought they had some claim on me, dating even from
my student, nay, my school days, until at last I cried out in my
astonishment that I expected to receive a bill next from the nurse who
had suckled me. All this did not amount to any very large sum, and I
merely mention it because of the ill-natured rumours which, I learned
years later, had been spread abroad about the extent of my debts at
that time. Out of three thousand marks, borrowed at interest from
Schroder-Devrient, I not only paid these debts, but also fully
compensated the sacrifices which Kietz had made on my behalf, without
ever expecting any return, in the days of my poverty in Paris. I was,
moreover, able to be of practical use to him. But where was I to find
even this sum, as my distress had hitherto been so great that I was
obliged to urge Schroder-Devrient to hurry on the rehearsals of the
Fliegender Hollander by pointing out to her the enormous importance to
me of the fee for the performance? I had no allowance for the expenses
of my establishment in Dresden, though it had to be suitable for my
position as royal conductor, nor even for the purchase of a ridiculous
and expensive court uniform, so that there would have been no
possibility of my making a start at all, as I had no private means,
unless I borrowed money at interest.

But no one who knew of the extraordinary success of Rienzi at Dresden
could help believing in an immediate and remunerative rage for my
operas on the German stage. My own relatives, even the prudent Ottilie,
were so convinced of it that they thought I might safely count on at
least doubling my salary by the receipts from my operas. At the very
beginning the prospects did indeed seem bright; the score of my
Fliegender Hollander was ordered by the Royal Theatre at Cassel and by
the Riga theatre, which I had known so well in the old days, because
they were anxious to perform something of mine at an early date, and
had heard that this opera was on a smaller scale, and made smaller
demands on the stage management, than Rienzi. In May, 1843 I heard good
reports of the success of the performances from both those places. But
this was all for the time being, and a whole year went by without the
smallest inquiry for any of my scores. An attempt was made to secure me
some benefit by the publication of the pianoforte score of the
Fliegender Hollander, as I wanted to reserve Rienzi, after the
successes it had gained, as useful capital for a more favourable
opportunity; but the plan was spoilt by the opposition of Messrs.
Hartel of Leipzig, who, although ready enough to publish my opera,
would only do so on the condition that I abstained from asking any
payment for it.

So I had, for the present, to content myself with the moral
satisfaction of my successes, of which my unmistakable popularity with
the Dresden public, and the respect and attention paid to me, formed
part. But even in this respect my Utopian dreams were destined to be
disturbed. I think that my appearance at Dresden marked the beginning
of a new era in journalism and criticism, which found food for its
hitherto but slightly developed vitality in its vexation at my success.
The two gentlemen I have already mentioned, C. Bank and J. Schladebach,
had, as I now know, first taken up their regular abode in Dresden at
that time; I know that when difficulties were raised about the
permanence of Bank's appointment, they were waived, owing to the
testimonials and recommendation of my present colleague Reissiger. The
success of my Rienzi had been the source of great annoyance to these
gentlemen, who were now established as musical critics to the Dresden
press, because I made no effort to win their favour; they were not
ill-pleased, therefore, to find an opportunity of pouring out the
vitriol of their hatred over the universally popular young musician who
had won the sympathy of the kindly public, partly on account of the
poverty and ill-luck which had hitherto been his lot. The need for any
kind of human consideration had suddenly vanished with my 'unheard-of'
appointment to the royal conductorship. Now 'all was well with me,'
'too well,' in fact; and envy found its congenial food; this provided a
perfectly clear and comprehensible point of attack; and soon there
spread through the German press, in the columns given to Dresden news,
an estimate of me which has never fundamentally changed, except in one
point, to this day. This single modification, which was purely
temporary and confined to papers of one political colour, occurred on
my first settlement as a political refugee in Switzerland, but lasted
only until, through Liszt's exertions, my operas began to be produced
all over Germany, in spite of my exile. The orders from two theatres,
immediately after the Dresden performance, for one of my scores, were
merely due to the fact that up to that time the activity of my
journalistic critics was still limited. I put down the cessation of all
inquiries, certainly not without due justification, mainly to the
effect of the false and calumnious reports in the papers.

My old friend Laube tried, indeed, to undertake my defence in the
press. On New Year's Day, 1843 he resumed the editorship of the Zeitung
fur die Elegante Welt, and asked me to provide him with a biographical
notice of myself for the first number. It evidently gave him great
pleasure to present me thus in triumph to the literary world, and in
order to give the subject more prominence he added a supplement to that
number in the shape of a lithograph reproduction of my portrait by
Kietz. But after a time even he became anxious and confused in his
judgment of my works, when he saw the systematic and increasingly
virulent detraction, depreciation, and scorn to which they were
subjected. He confessed to me later that he had never imagined such a
desperate position as mine against the united forces of journalism
could possibly exist, and when he heard my view of the question, he
smiled and gave me his blessing, as though I were a lost soul.

Moreover, a change was observable in the attitude of those immediately
connected with me in my work, and this provided very acceptable
material for the journalistic campaign. I had been led, though by no
ambitious impulse, to ask to be allowed to conduct the performances of
my own works. I found that at every performance of Rienzi Reissiger
became more negligent in his conducting, and that the whole production
was slipping back into the old familiar, expressionless, and humdrum
performance; and as my appointment was already mooted, I had asked
permission to conduct the sixth performance of my work in person. I
conducted without having held a single rehearsal, and without any
previous experience, at the head of the Dresden orchestra. The
performance went splendidly; singers and orchestra were inspired with
new life, and everybody was obliged to admit that this was the finest
performance of Rienzi that had yet been given. The rehearsing and
con-ducting of the Fliegender Hollander were willingly handed over to
me, because Reissiger was overwhelmed with work, in consequence of the
death of the musical director, Rastrelli. In addition to this I was
asked to conduct Weber's Euryanthe, by way of providing a direct proof
of my capacity to interpret scores other than my own. Apparently
everybody was pleased, and it was the tone of this performance that
made Weber's widow so anxious that I should accept the Dresden
conductorship; she declared that for the first time since her husband's
death she had heard his work correctly interpreted, both in expression
and time.

Thereupon, Reissiger, who would have preferred to have a musical
director under him, but had received instead a colleague on an equal
footing, felt himself aggrieved by my appointment. Though his own
indolence would have inclined him to the side of peace and a good
understanding with me, his ambitious wife took care to stir up his fear
of me. This never led to an openly hostile attitude on his part, but I
noticed certain indiscretions in the press from that time onwards,
which showed me that the friendliness of my colleague, who never talked
to me without first embracing me, was not of the most honourable type.

I also received a quite unexpected proof that I had attracted the
bitter envy of another man whose sentiments I had no reason to suspect.
This was Karl Lipinsky, a celebrated violinist in his day, who had for
many years led the Dresden orchestra. He was a man of ardent
temperament and original talent, but of incredible vanity, which his
emotional, suspicious Polish temperament rendered dangerous. I always
found him annoying, because however inspiring and instructive his
playing was as to the technical execution of the violinists, he was
certainly ill-fitted to be the leader of a first-class orchestra. This
extraordinary person tried to justify Director Luttichau's praise of
his playing, which could always be heard above the rest of the
orchestra; he came in a little before the other violins; he was a
leader in a double sense, as he was always a little ahead. He acted in
much the same way with regard to expression, marking his slight
variations in the piano passages with fanatical precision. It was
useless to talk to him about it, as nothing but the most skilful
flattery had any effect on him. So I had to endure it as best I could,
and to think out ways and means of diminishing its ill effects on the
orchestral performances as a whole by having recourse to the most
polite circumlocutions. Even so he could not endure the higher
estimation in which the performances of the orchestra under my
conductorship were held, because he thought that the playing of an
orchestra in which he was the leader must invariably be excellent,
whoever stood at the conductor's desk. Now it happened, as is always
the case when a new man with fresh ideas is installed in office, that
the members of the orchestra came to me with the most varied
suggestions for improvements which had hitherto been neglected; and
Lipinsky, who was already annoyed about this, turned a certain case of
this kind to a peculiarly treacherous use. One of the oldest
contrabassists had died. Lipinsky urged me to arrange that the post
should not be filled in the usual way by promotion from the ranks of
our own orchestra, but should be given, on his recommendation, to a
distinguished and skilful contrabassist from Darmstadt named Muller.
When the musician whose rights of seniority were thus threatened,
appealed to me, I kept my promise to Lipinsky, explained my views about
the abuses of promotion by seniority, and declared that, in accordance
with my sworn oath to the King, I held it my paramount duty to consider
the maintenance of the artistic interests of the institution before
everything else. I then found to my great astonishment, though it was
foolish of me to be surprised, that the whole of the orchestra turned
upon me as one man, and when the occasion arose for a discussion
between Lipinsky and myself as to his own numerous grievances, he
actually accused me of having threatened, by my remarks in the
contrabassist case, to undermine the well-established rights of the
members of the orchestra, whose welfare it was my duty to protect.
Luttichau, who was on the point of absenting himself from Dresden for
some time, was extremely uneasy, as Reissiger was away on his holiday,
at leaving musical affairs in such a dangerous state of unrest. The
deceit and impudence of which I had been the victim was a revelation to
me, and I gathered from this experience the calm sense necessary to set
the harassed director at ease by the most conclusive assurances that I
understood the people with whom I had to deal, and would act
accordingly. I faithfully kept my word, and never again came into
collision either with Lipinsky or any other member of the orchestra. On
the contrary, all the musicians were soon so firmly attached to me that
I could always pride myself on their devotion.

From that day forward, however, one thing at least was certain, namely,
that I should not die as conductor at Dresden. My post and my work at
Dresden thenceforward became a burden, of which the occasionally
excellent results of my efforts made me all the more sensible.

My position at Dresden, however, brought me one friend whose intimate
relations with me long survived our artistic collaboration in Dresden.
A musical director was assigned to each conductor; he had to be a
musician of repute, a hard worker, adaptable, and, above all, a
Catholic, for the two conductors were Protestants, a cause of much
annoyance to the clergy of the Catholic cathedral, numerous positions
in which had to be filled from the orchestra. August Rockel, a nephew
of Hummel, who sent in his application for this position from Weimar,
furnished evidence of his suitability under all these heads. He
belonged to an old Bavarian family; his father was a singer, and had
sung the part of Florestan at the time of the first production of
Beethoven's Fidelio, and had himself remained on terms on close
intimacy with the Master, many details about whose life have been
preserved through his care. His subsequent position as a teacher of
singing led him to take up theatrical management, and he introduced
German opera to the Parisians with so much success, that the credit for
the popularity of Fidelio and Der Freischutz with French audiences, to
whom these works were quite unknown, must be awarded to his admirable
enterprise, which was also responsible for Schroder-Devrient's debut in
Paris. August Rockel, his son, who was still a young man, by helping
his father in these and similar undertakings, had gained practical
experience as a musician. As his father's business had for some time
even extended to England, August had won practical knowledge of all
sorts by contact with many men and things, and in addition had learned
French and English. But music had remained his chosen vocation, and his
great natural talent justified the highest hopes of success. He was an
excellent pianist, read scores with the utmost ease, possessed an
exceptionally fine ear, and had indeed every qualification for a
practical musician. As a composer he was actuated, not so much by a
strong impulse to create, as the desire to show what he was capable of;
the success at which he aimed was to gain the reputation of a clever
operatic composer rather than recognition as a distinguished musician,
and he hoped to obtain his end by the production of popular works.
Actuated by this modest ambition he had completed an opera, Farinelli,
for which he had also written the libretto, with no other aspiration
than that of attaining the same reputation as his brother-in-law
Lortzing.

He brought this score to me, and begged me--it was his first visit
before he had heard one of my operas in Dresden--to play him something
from Rienzi and the Fliegender Hollander. His frank, agreeable
personality induced me to try and meet his wishes as far as I could;
and I am convinced that I soon made such a great and unexpectedly
powerful impression on him that from that moment he determined not to
bother me further with the score of his opera. It was not until we had
become more intimate and had discovered mutual personal interests, that
the desire of turning his work to account induced him to ask me to show
my practical friendship by turning my attention to his score. I made
various suggestions as to how it might be improved, but he was soon so
hopelessly disgusted with his own work that he put it absolutely aside,
and never again felt seriously moved to undertake a similar task. On
making a closer acquaintance with my completed operas and plans for new
works, he declared to me that he felt it his vocation to play the part
of spectator, to be my faithful helper and the interpreter of my new
ideas, and, as far as in him lay, to remove entirely, and at all events
to relieve me as far as possible from, all the unpleasantnesses of my
official position and of my dealings with the outside world. He wished,
he said, to avoid placing himself in the ridiculous position of
composing operas of his own while living on terms of close friendship
with me.

Nevertheless, I tried to urge him to turn his own talent to account,
and to this end called his attention to several plots which I wished
him to work out. Among these was the idea contained in a small French
drama entitled Cromwell's Daughter, which was subsequently used as the
subject for a sentimental pastoral romance, and for the elaboration of
which I presented him with an exhaustive plan.

But in the end all my efforts remained fruitless, and it became evident
that his productive talent was feeble. This perhaps arose partly from
his extremely needy and trying domestic circumstances, which were such
that the poor fellow wore himself out to support his wife and numerous
growing children. Indeed, he claimed my help and sympathy in quite
another fashion than by arousing my interest in his artistic
development. He was unusually clear-headed, and possessed a rare
capacity for teaching and educating himself in every branch of
knowledge and experience; he was, moreover, so genuinely true and
good-hearted that he soon became my intimate friend and comrade. He
was, and continued to be, the only person who really appreciated the
singular nature of my position towards the surrounding world, and with
whom I could fully and sincerely discuss the cares and sorrows arising
therefrom. What dreadful trials and experiences, what painful anxieties
our common fate was to bring upon us, will soon be seen.

The earlier period of my establishment in Dresden brought me also
another devoted and lifelong friend, though his qualities were such
that he exerted a less decisive influence upon my career. This was a
young physician, named Anton Pusinelli, who lived near me. He seized
the occasion of a serenade sung in honour of my thirtieth birthday by
the Dresden Glee Club to express to me personally his hearty and
sincere attachment. We soon entered upon a quiet friendship from which
we derived a mutual benefit. He became my attentive family doctor, and
during my residence in Dresden, marked as it was by accumulating
difficulties, he had abundant opportunities of helping me. His
financial position was very good, and his ready self-sacrifice enabled
him to give me substantial succour and bound me to him by many
heartfelt obligations.

A further development of my association with Dresden buddy was provided
by the kindly advances of Chamberlain von Konneritz's family. His wife,
Marie von Konneritz (nee Fink), was a friend of Countess Ida Hahn-Hahn,
and expressed her appreciation of my success as a composer with great
warmth, I might almost say, with enthusiasm. I was often invited to
their house, and seemed likely, through this family, to be brought into
touch with the higher aristocracy of Dresden. I merely succeeded in
touching the fringe, however, as we really had nothing in common. True,
I here made the acquaintance of Countess Rossi, the famous Sontag, by
whom, to my genuine astonishment, I was most heartily greeted, and I
thereby obtained the right of afterwards approaching her in Berlin with
a certain degree of familiarity. The curious way in which I was
disillusioned about this lady on that occasion will be related in due
course. I would only mention here that, through my earlier experiences
of the world, I had become fairly impervious to deception, and my
desire for closer acquaintance with these circles speedily gave way to
a complete hopelessness and an entire lack of ease in their sphere of
life.

Although the Konneritz couple remained friendly during the whole of my
prolonged sojourn in Dresden, yet the connection had not the least
influence either upon my development or my position. Only once, on the
occasion of a quarrel between Luttichau and myself, the former observed
that Frau von Konneritz, by her unmeasured praises, had turned my head
and made me forget my position towards him. But in making this taunt he
forgot that, if any woman in the higher ranks of Dresden society had
exerted a real and invigorating influence upon my inward pride, that
woman was his own wife, Ida von Luttichau (nee von Knobelsdorf).

The power which this cultured, gentle, and distinguished lady exercised
over my life was of a kind I now experienced for the first time, and
might have become of great importance had I been favoured with more
frequent and intimate intercourse. But it was less her position as wife
of the general director than her constant ill-health and my own
peculiar unwillingness to appear obtrusive, that hindered our meeting,
except at rare intervals. My recollections of her merge somewhat, in my
memory, with those of my own sister Rosalie. I remember the tender
ambition which inspired me to win the encouraging sympathy of this
sensitive woman, who was painfully wasting away amid the coarsest
surroundings. My earliest hope for the fulfilment of this ambition
arose from her appreciation of my Fliegender Hollander, in spite of the
fact that, following close upon Rienzi, it had so puzzled the Dresden
public. In this way she was the first, so to speak, who swam against
the tide and met me upon my new path. So deeply was I touched by this
conquest that, when I afterwards published the opera, I dedicated it to
her. In the account of my later years in Dresden I shall have more to
record of the warm sympathy for my new development and dearest artistic
aims for which I was indebted to her. But of real intercourse we had
none, and the character of my Dresden life was not affected by this
acquaintance, otherwise so important in itself.

On the other hand, my theatrical acquaintances thrust themselves with
irresistible importunancy into the wide foreground of my life, and in
fact, after my brilliant successes, I was still restricted to the same
limited and familiar sphere in which I had prepared myself for these
triumphs. Indeed, the only one who joined my old friends Heine and
Gaffer Fischer was Tichatschek, with his strange domestic circle. Any
one who lived in Dresden at that time and chanced to know the court
lithographer, Furstenau, will be astonished to hear that, without
really being aware of it myself, I entered into a familiarity that was
to prove a lasting one with this man who was an intimate friend of
Tichatschek's. The importance of this singular connection may be judged
from the fact that my complete withdrawal from him coincided exactly
with the collapse of my civic position in Dresden.

My good-humoured acceptance of election to the musical committee of the
Dresden Glee Club also brought me further chance acquaintances. This
club consisted of a limited number of young merchants and officials,
who had more taste for any kind of convivial entertainment than for
music. But it was seduously kept together by a remarkable and ambitious
man, Professor Lowe, who nursed it with special objects in view, for
the attainment of which he felt the need of an authority such as I
possessed at that time in Dresden.

Among other aims he was particularly and chiefly concerned in arranging
for the transfer of Weber's remains from London to Dresden. As this
project was one which interested me also, I lent him my support, though
he was in reality merely following the voice of personal ambition. He
furthermore desired, as head of the Glee Club--which, by the way, from
the point of view of music was quite worthless--to invite all the male
choral unions of Saxony to a great gala performance in Dresden. A
committee was appointed for the execution of this plan, and as things
soon became pretty warm, Lowe turned it into a regular revolutionary
tribunal, over which, as the great day of triumph approached, he
presided day and night without resting, and by his furious zeal earned
from me the nickname of 'Robespierre.'

In spite of the fact that I had been placed at the head of this
enterprise, I luckily managed to evade his terrorism, as I was fully
occupied with a great composition promised for the festival. The task
had been assigned to me of writing an important piece for male voices
only, which, if possible, should occupy half an hour. I reflected that
the tiresome monotony of male singing, which even the orchestra could
only enliven to a slight extent, can only be endured by the
introduction of dramatic themes. I therefore designed a great choral
scene, selecting the apostolic Pentecost with the outpouring of the
Holy Ghost as its subject. I completely avoided any real solos, but
worked out the whole in such a way that it should be executed by
detached choral masses according to requirement. Out of this
composition arose my Liebesmahl der Apostel ('Lovefeast of the
Apostles'), which has recently been performed in various places.

As I was obliged at all costs to finish it within a limited time, I do
not mind including this in the list of my uninspired compositions. But
I was not displeased with it when it was done, more especially when it
was played at the rehearsals given by the Dresden choral societies
under my personal supervision. When, therefore, twelve hundred singers
from all parts of Saxony gathered around me in the Frauenkirche, where
the performance took place, I was astonished at the comparatively
feeble effect produced upon my ear by this colossal human tangle of
sounds. The conclusion at which I arrived was, that these enormous
choral undertakings are folly, and I never again felt inclined to
repeat the experiment.

It was with much difficulty that I shook myself free of the Dresden
Glee Club, and I only succeeded in doing so by introducing to Professor
Lowe another ambitious man in the person of Herr Ferdinand Hiller. My
most glorious exploit in connection with this association was the
transfer of Weber's ashes, of which I will speak later on, though it
occurred at an earlier date. I will only refer now to another
commissioned composition which, as royal bandmaster, I was officially
commanded to produce. On the 7th of June of this year (1843) the statue
of King Frederick Augustus by Rietschl was unveiled in the Dresden
Zwinger [Footnote: This is the name by which the famous Dresden Art
Galleries are known.--Editor.] with all due pomp and ceremony. In
honour of this event I, in collaboration with Mendelssohn, was
commanded to compose a festal song, and to conduct the gala
performance. I had written a simple song for male voices of modest
design, whereas to Mendelssohn had been assigned the more complicated
task of interweaving the National Anthem (the English 'God Save the
King,' which in Saxony is called Heil Dir im Rautenkranz) into the male
chorus he had to compose. This he had effected by an artistic work in
counterpoint, so arranged that from the first eight beats of his
original melody the brass instruments simultaneously played the
Anglo-Saxon popular air. My simpler song seems to have sounded very
well from a distance, whereas I understood that Mendelssohn's daring
combination quite missed its effect, because no one could understand
why the vocalists did not sing the same air as the wind instruments
were playing. Nevertheless Mendelssohn, who was present, left me a
written expression of thanks for the pains I had taken in the
production of his composition. I also received a gold snuff-box from
the grand gala committee, presumably meant as a reward for my male
chorus, but the hunting scene which was engraved on the top was so
badly done that I found, to my surprise, that in several places the
metal was cut through.

Amid all the distractions of this new and very different mode of life,
I diligently strove to concentrate and steel my soul against these
influences, bearing in mind my experiences of success in the past. By
May of my thirtieth year I had finished my poem Der Venusberg ('The
Mount of Venus'), as I called Tannhauser at that time. I had not yet by
any means gained any real knowledge of mediaeval poetry. The classical
side of the poetry of the Middle Ages had so far only faintly dawned
upon me, partly from my youthful recollections, and partly from the
brief acquaintance I had made with it through Lehrs' instruction in
Paris.

Now that I was secure in the possession of a royal appointment that
would last my lifetime, the establishment of a permanent domestic
hearth began to assume great importance; for I hoped it would enable me
to take up my serious studies once more, and in such a way as to make
them productive--an aim which my theatrical life and the miseries of my
years in Paris had rendered impossible. My hope of being able to do
this was strengthened by the character of my official employment, which
was never very arduous, and in which I met with exceptional
consideration from the general management. Though I had only held my
appointment for a few months, yet I was given a holiday this first
summer, which I spent in a second visit to Toplitz, a place which I had
grown to like, and whither I had sent on my wife in advance.

Keenly indeed did I appreciate the change in my position since the
preceding year. I could now engage four spacious and well-appointed
rooms in the same house--the Eiche at Schonau--where I had before lived
in such straitened and frugal circumstances. I invited my sister Clara
to pay us a visit, and also my good mother, whose gout necessitated her
taking the Toplitz baths every year. I also seized the opportunity of
drinking the mineral waters, which I hoped might have a beneficial
effect on the gastric troubles from which I had suffered ever since my
vicissitudes in Paris. Unfortunately the attempted cure had a contrary
effect, and when I complained of the painful irritation produced, I
learned that my constitution was not adapted for water cures. In fact,
on my morning promenade, and while drinking my water, I had been
observed to race through the shady alleys of the adjacent Thurn
Gardens, and it was pointed out to me that such a cure could only be
properly wrought by leisurely calm and easy sauntering. It was also
remarked that I usually carried about a fairly stout volume, and that,
armed with this and my bottle of mineral water, I used to take rest in
lonely places.

This book was J. Grimm's German Mythology. All who know the work can
understand how the unusual wealth of its contents, gathered from every
side, and meant almost exclusively for the student, would react upon
me, whose mind was everywhere seeking for something definite and
distinct. Formed from the scanty fragments of a perished world, of
which scarcely any monuments remained recognisable and intact, I here
found a heterogeneous building, which at first glance seemed but a
rugged rock clothed in straggling brambles. Nothing was finished, only
here and there could the slightest resemblance to an architectonic line
be traced, so that I often felt tempted to relinquish the thankless
task of trying to build from such materials. And yet I was enchained by
a wondrous magic. The baldest legend spoke to me of its ancient home,
and soon my whole imagination thrilled with images; long-lost forms for
which I had sought so eagerly shaped themselves ever more and more
clearly into realities that lived again. There rose up soon before my
mind a whole world of figures, which revealed themselves as so
strangely plastic and primitive, that, when I saw them clearly before
me and heard their voices in my heart, I could not account for the
almost tangible familiarity and assurance of their demeanour. The
effect they produced upon the inner state of my soul I can only
describe as an entire rebirth. Just as we feel a tender joy over a
child's first bright smile of recognition, so now my own eyes flashed
with rapture as I saw a world, revealed, as it were, by miracle, in
which I had hitherto moved blindly as the babe in its mother's womb.

But the result of this reading did not at first do much to help me in
my purpose of composing part of the Tannhauser music. I had had a piano
put in my room at the Eiche, and though I smashed all its strings,
nothing satisfactory would emerge. With much pain and toil I sketched
the first outlines of my music for the Venusberg, as fortunately I
already had its theme in my mind. Meanwhile I was very much troubled by
excitability and rushes of blood to the brain. I imagined I was ill,
and lay for whole days in bed, where I read Grimm's German legends, or
tried to master the disagreeable mythology. It was quite a relief when
I hit upon the happy thought of freeing myself from the torments of my
condition by an excursion to Prague. Meanwhile I had already ascended
Mount Millischau once with my wife, and in her company I now made the
journey to Prague in an open carriage. There I stayed once more at my
favourite inn, the Black Horse, met my friend Kittl, who had now grown
fat and rotund, made various excursions, revelled in the curious
antiquities of the old city, and learned to my joy that the two lovely
friends of my youth, Jenny and Auguste Pachta, had been happily married
to members of the highest aristocracy. Thereupon, having reassured
myself that everything was in the best possible order, I returned to
Dresden and resumed my functions as musical conductor to the King of
Saxony.

We now set to work on the preparations and furnishing of a roomy and
well-situated house in the Ostra Allee, with an outlook upon the
Zwinger. Everything was good and substantial, as is only right for a
man of thirty who is settling down at last for the whole of his life.
As I had not received any subsidy towards this outlay, I had naturally
to raise the money by loan. But I could look forward to a certain
harvest from my operatic successes in Dresden, and what was more
natural than for me to expect soon to earn more than enough? The three
most valued treasures which adorned my house were a concert grand piano
by Breitkopf and Hartel, which I had bought with much pride; a stately
writing-desk, now in possession of Otto Kummer, the chamber-music
artist; and the title-page by Cornelius for the Nibelungen, in a
handsome Gothic frame--the only object which has remained faithful to
me to the present day. But the thing which above all else made my house
seem homelike and attractive was the presence of a library, which I
procured in accordance with a systematic plan laid down by my proposed
line of study. On the failure of my Dresden career this library passed
in a curious way into the possession of Herr Heinrich Brockhaus, to
whom at that time I owed fifteen hundred marks, and who took it as
security for the amount. My wife knew nothing at the time of this
obligation, and I never afterwards succeeded in recovering this
characteristic collection from his hands. Upon its shelves old German
literature was especially well represented, and also the closely
related work of the German Middle Ages, including many a costly volume,
as, for instance, the rare old work, Romans des douze Paris. Beside
these stood many excellent historical works on the Middle Ages, as well
as on the German people in general. At the same time I made provision
for the poetical and classical literature of all times and languages.
Among these were the Italian poets, Shakespeare and the French writers,
of whose language I had a passable knowledge. All these I acquired in
the original, hoping some day to find time to master their neglected
tongues. As for the Greek and Roman classics, I had to content myself
with standard German translations. Indeed, on looking once more into my
Homer--whom I secured in the original Greek--I soon recognised that I
should be presuming on more leisure than my conductorship was likely to
leave me, if I hoped to find time for regaining my lost knowledge of
that language. Moreover, I provided most thoroughly for a study of
universal history, and to this end did not fail to equip myself with
the most voluminous works. Thus armed, I thought I could bid defiance
to all the trials which I clearly foresaw would inevitably accompany my
calling and position. In hopes, therefore, of long and peaceable
enjoyment of this hard-earned home, I entered into possession with the
best of spirits in October of this year (1843), and though my
conductor's quarters were by no means magnificent, they were stately
and substantial.

The first leisure in my new home which I could snatch from the claims
of my profession and my favourite studies was devoted to the
composition of Tannhauser, the first act of which was completed in
January of the new year, 1844. I have no recollections of any
importance regarding my activities in Dresden during this winter. The
only memorable events were two enterprises which took me away from
home, the first to Berlin early in the year, for the production of my
Fliegender Hollander, and the other in March to Hamburg for Rienzi.

Of these the former made the greater impression upon my mind. The
manager of the Berlin theatre, Kustner, quite took me by surprise when
he announced the first performance of the Fliegender Hollander for an
early date.

As the opera house had been burnt down only about a year before, and
could not possibly have been rebuilt, it had not occurred to me to
remind them about the production of my opera. It had been performed in
Dresden with very poor scenic accessories, and knowing how important a
careful and artistic execution of the difficult scenery was for my
dramatic sea-scapes, I had relied implicitly on the admirable
management and staging capacities of the Berlin opera house.
Consequently I was very much annoyed that the Berlin manager should
select my opera as a stopgap to be produced at the Comedy Theatre,
which was being used as a temporary opera house. All remonstrances
proved useless, for I learned that they were not merely thinking about
rehearsing the work, but that it was already actually being rehearsed,
and would be produced in a few days. It was obvious that this
arrangement meant that my opera was to be condemned to quite a short
run in their repertoire, as it was not to be expected that they would
remount it when the new opera house was opened. On the other hand, they
tried to appease me by saying that this first production of the
Fliegender Hollander was to be associated with a special engagement of
Schroder-Devrient, which was to begin in Berlin immediately. They
naturally thought I should be delighted to see the great actress in my
own work. But this only confirmed me in the suspicion that this opera
was simply wanted as a makeshift for the duration of
Schroder-Devrient's visit. They were evidently in a dilemma with regard
to her repertoire, which consisted mainly of so-called grand
operas--such as Meyerbeer's--destined exclusively for the opera house,
and which were being specially reserved for the brilliant future of the
new building. I therefore realised beforehand that my Fliegender
Hollander was to be relegated to the category of conductor's operas,
and would meet with the usual predestined fate of such productions. The
whole treatment meted out to me and my works all pointed in the same
direction; but in consideration of the expected co-operation of
Schroder-Devrient I fought against these vexatious premonitions, and
set out for Berlin to do all I could for the success of my opera. I saw
at once that my presence was very necessary. I found the conductor's
desk occupied by a man calling himself Conductor Henning (or Henniger),
an official who had won promotion from the ranks of ordinary musicians
by an upright observance of the laws of seniority, but who knew
precious little about conducting an orchestra at all, and about my
opera had not the faintest glimmer of an idea. I took my seat at the
desk, and conducted one full rehearsal and two performances, in neither
of which, however, did Schroder-Devrient take part. Although I found
much to complain of in the weakness of the string instruments and the
consequent mean sound of the orchestra, yet I was well satisfied with
the actors both as regards their capacity and their zeal. The careful
staging, moreover, which under the supervision of the really gifted
stage manager, Blum, and with the co-operation of his skilful and
ingenious mechanics, was truly excellent, gave me a most pleasant
surprise.

I was now very curious to learn what effect these pleasing and
encouraging preparations would have upon the Berlin public when the
full performance took place. My experiences on this point were very
curious. Apparently the only thing that interested the large audience
was to discover my weak points. During the first act the prevalent
opinion seemed to be that I belonged to the category of bores. Not a
single hand was moved, and I was afterwards informed that this was
fortunate, as the slightest attempt at applause would have been
ascribed to a paid claque, and would have been energetically opposed.
Kustner alone assured me that the composure with which, on the close of
this act, I quitted my desk and appeared before the curtain, had filled
him with wonder, considering this entire absence--lucky as it appears
to have been--of all applause. But so long as I myself felt content
with the execution, I was not disposed to let the public apathy
discourage me, knowing, as I did, that the crucial test was in the
second act.

It lay, therefore, much nearer my heart to do all I could for the
success of this than to inquire into the reasons for this attitude on
the part of the Berlin public. And here the ice was really broken at
last. The audience seemed to abandon all idea of finding a proper niche
for me, and allowed itself to be carried away into giving vent to
applause, which at last grew into the most boisterous enthusiasm. At
the close of the act, amid a storm of shouts, I led forward my singers
on to the stage for the customary bows of thanks. As the third act was
too short to be tedious, and as the scenic effects were both new and
impressive, we could not help hoping that we had won a veritable
triumph, especially as renewed outbursts of applause marked the end of
the performance. Mendelssohn, who happened at that time to be in
Berlin, with Meyerbeer, on business relating to the general musical
conductorship, was present in a stage box during this performance. He
followed its progress with a pale face, and afterwards came and
murmured to me in a weary tone of voice, 'Well, I should think you are
satisfied now!' I met him several times during my brief stay in
Berlin., and also spent an evening with him listening to various pieces
of chamber-music. But never did another word concerning the Fliegender
Hollander pass his lips, beyond inquiries as to the second performance,
and as to whether Devrient or some one else would appear in it. I
heard, moreover, that he had responded with equal indifference to the
earnest warmth of my allusions to his own music for the Midsummer
Night's Dream, which was being frequently played at that time, and
which I had heard for the first time. The only thing he discussed with
any detail was the actor Gern, who was playing in Zettel, and who he
considered was overacting his part.

A few days later came a second performance with the same cast. My
experiences on this evening were even more startling than on the
former. Evidently the first night had won me a few friends, who were
again present, for they began to applaud after the overture. But others
responded with hisses, and for the rest of the evening no one again
ventured to applaud. My old friend Heine had arrived in the meantime
from Dresden, sent by our own board of directors to study the scenic
arrangements of the Midsummer Night's Dream for our theatre. He was
present at this second performance, and had persuaded me to accept the
invitation from one of his Berlin relatives to have supper after the
performance in a wine-bar unter den Linden. Very weary, I followed him
to a nasty and badly lighted house, where I gulped down the wine with
hasty ill-humour to warm myself, and listened to the embarrassed
conversation of my good-natured friend and his companion, whilst I
turned over the day's papers. I now had ample leisure to read the
criticisms they contained on the first performance of my Fliegender
Hollander. A terrible spasm cut my heart as I realised the contemptible
tone and unparalleled shamelessness of their raging ignorance regarding
my own name and work. Our Berlin friend and host, a thorough
Philistine, said that he had known how things would go in the theatre
that night, after having read these criticisms in the morning. The
people of Berlin, he added, wait to hear what Rellstab and his mates
have to say, and then they know how to behave. The good fellow was
anxious to cheer me up, and ordered one wine after another. Heine
hunted up his reminiscences of our merry Rienzi times in Dresden, until
at last the pair conducted me, staggering along in an addled condition,
to my hotel.

It was already midnight. As I was being lighted by the waiter through
its gloomy corridors to my room, a gentleman in black, with a pale
refined face, came forward and said he would like to speak to me. He
informed me that he had waited there since the close of the play, and
as he was determined to see me, had stopped till now. I excused myself
on the ground of being quite unfit for business, and added that,
although not exactly inclined to merriment, I had, as he might
perceive, somewhat foolishly drunk a little too much wine. This I said
in a stammering voice; but my strange visitor seemed only the more
unwilling to be repulsed. He accompanied me to my room, declaring that
it was all the more imperative for him to speak with me. We seated
ourselves in the cold room, by the meagre light of a single candle, and
then he began to talk. In flowing and impressive language he related
that he had been present at the performance that night of my Fliegender
Hollander, and could well conceive the humour in which the evening's
experiences had left me. For this very reason he felt that nothing
should hinder him from speaking to me that night, and telling me that
in the Fliegender Hollander I had produced an unrivalled masterpiece.
Moreover, the acquaintance he had made with this work had awakened in
him a new and unforeseen hope for the future of German art; and that it
would be a great pity if I yielded to any sense of discouragement as
the result of the unworthy reception accorded to it by the Berlin
public. My hair began to stand on end. One of Hoffmann's fantastic
creations had entered bodily into my life. I could find nothing to say,
except to inquire the name of my visitor, at which he seemed surprised,
as I had talked with him the day before at Mendelssohn's house. He said
that my conversation and manner had created such an impression upon him
there, and had filled him with such sudden regret at not having
sufficiently overcome his dislike for opera in general, to be present
at the first performance, that he had at once resolved not to miss the
second. His name, he added, was Professor Werder. That was no use to
me, I said, he must write his name down. Getting paper and ink, he did
as I desired, and we parted. I flung myself unconsciously on the bed
for a deep and invigorating sleep. Next morning I was fresh and well. I
paid a farewell call on Schroeder-Devrient, who promised me to do all
she could for the Fliegender Hollander as soon as possible, drew my fee
of a hundred ducats, and set off for home. On my way through Leipzig I
utilised my ducats for the repayment of sundry advances made me by my
relatives during the earlier and poverty-stricken period of my sojourn
in Dresden, and then continued my journey, to recuperate among my books
and meditate upon the deep impression made on me by Werder's midnight
visit.

Before the end of this winter I received a genuine invitation to
Hamburg for the performance of Rienzi. The enterprising director, Herr
Cornet, through whom it came, confessed that he had many difficulties
to contend against in the management of his theatre, and was in need of
a great success. This, after the reception with which it had met in
Dresden, he thought he could secure by the production of Rienzi. I
accordingly betook myself thither in the month of March. The journey at
that time was not an easy one, as after Hanover one had to proceed by
mail-coach, and the crossing of the Elbe, which was full of floating
ice, was a risky business. Owing to a great fire that had recently
broken out, the town of Hamburg was in process of being rebuilt, and
there were still many wide spaces encumbered with ruins. Cold weather
and an ever-gloomy sky make my recollections of my somewhat prolonged
sojourn in this town anything but agreeable. I was tormented to such an
extent by having to rehearse with bad material, fit only for the
poorest theatrical trumpery, that, worn out and exposed to constant
colds, I spent most of my leisure time in the solitude of my inn
chamber. My earlier experiences of ill-arranged and badly managed
theatres came back to me afresh. I was particularly depressed when I
realised that I had made myself an unconscious accomplice of Director
Cornet's basest interests. His one aim was to create a sensation, which
he thought should be of great service to me also; and not only did he
put me off with a smaller fee, but even suggested that it should be
paid by gradual instalments. The dignity of scenic decoration, of which
he had not the smallest idea, was completely sacrificed to the most
ridiculous and tawdry showiness. He imagined that pageantry was all
that was really needed to secure my success. So he hunted out all the
old fairy-ballet costumes from his stock, and fancied that if they only
looked gay enough, and if plenty of people were bustling about on the
stage, I ought to be satisfied. But the most sorry item of all was the
singer he provided for the title-role. He was a man of the name of
Wurda, an elderly, flabby and voiceless tenor, who sang Rienzi with the
expression of a lover--like Elvino, for instance, in the Somnanibula.
He was so dreadful that I conceived the idea of making the Capitol
tumble down in the second act, so as to bury him sooner in its ruins, a
plan which would have cut out several of the processions, which were so
dear to the heart of the director. I found my one ray of light in a
lady singer, who delighted me with the fire with which she played the
part of Adriano. This was a Mme. Fehringer, who was afterwards engaged
by Liszt for the role of Ortrud in the production of Lohengrin at
Weimar, but by that time her powers had greatly deteriorated. Nothing
could be more depressing than my connection with this opera under such
dismal circumstances. And yet there were no outward signs of failure.
The manager hoped in any case to keep Rienzi in his repertoire until
Tichatschek was able to come to Hamburg and give the people of that
town a true idea of the play. This actually took place in the following
summer.

My discouragement and ill-humour did not escape the notice of Herr
Cornet, and discovering that I wished to present my wife with a parrot,
he managed to procure a very fine bird, which he gave me as a parting
gift. I carried it with me in its narrow cage on my melancholy journey
home, and was touched to find that it quickly repaid my care and became
very much attached to me. Minna greeted me with great joy when she saw
this beautiful grey parrot, for she regarded it as a self-evident proof
that I should do something in life. We already had a pretty little dog,
born on the day of the first Rienzi rehearsal in Dresden, which, owing
to its passionate devotion to myself, was much petted by all who knew
me and visited my house during those years. This sociable bird, which
had no vices and was an apt scholar, now formed an addition to our
household; and the pair did much to brighten our dwelling in the
absence of children. My wife soon taught the bird snatches of songs
from Rienzi, with which it would good-naturedly greet me from a
distance when it heard me coming up the stairs.

And thus at last my domestic hearth seemed to be established with every
possible prospect of a comfortable competency.

No further excursions for the performance of any of my operas took
place, for the simple reason that no such performances were given. As I
saw it was quite clear that the diffusion of my works through the
theatrical world would be a very slow business, I concluded that this
was probably due to the fact that no adaptations of them for the piano
existed. I therefore thought that I should do well to press forward
such an issue at all costs, and in order to secure the expected
profits, I hit upon the idea of publishing at my own expense. I
accordingly made arrangements with F. Meser, the court music-dealer,
who had hitherto not got beyond the publication of a valse, and signed
an agreement with him for his firm to appear as the nominal publishers
on the understanding that they should receive a commission of ten per
cent, whilst I provided the necessary capital.

As there were two operas to be issued, including Rienzi, a work of
exceptional bulk, it was not likely that these publications would prove
very profitable unless, in addition to the usual piano selections, I
also published adaptations, such as the music without words, for duet
or solo. For this a fairly large capital was necessary. I also needed
funds for the repayment of the loans already mentioned, and for the
settlement of old debts, as well as to pay off the remaining expenses
of my house-furnishing. I was therefore obliged to try and procure much
larger sums. I laid my project and its motive before Schroder-Devrient,
who had just returned to Dresden, at Easter, 1844, to fulfil a fresh
engagement. She believed in the future of my works, recognised the
peculiarity of my position, as well as the correctness of my
calculations, and declared her willingness to provide the necessary
capital for the publication of my operas, refusing to consider the act
as one involving any sacrifice on her part. This money she proposed to
get by selling out her investments in Polish state-bonds, and I was to
pay the customary rate of interest. The thing was so easily done, and
seemed so much a matter of course, that I at once made all needful
arrangements with my Leipzig printer, and set to work on the
publication of my operas.

When the amount of work delivered brought with it a demand for
considerable payments on account, I approached my friend for a first
advance. And here I became confronted with a new phase of that famous
lady's life, which placed me in a position which proved as disastrous
as it was unexpected. After having broken away from the unlucky Herr
von Munchhausen some time previously, and returned, as it appeared,
with penitential ardour to her former connection with my friend,
Hermann Muller, it now turned out that she had found no real
satisfaction in this fresh relationship. On the contrary, the star of
her being, whom she had so long and ardently desired, had now at last
arisen in the person of another lieutenant of the Guards. With a
vehemence which made light of her treachery to her old friend, she
elected this slim young man, whose moral and intellectual weaknesses
were patent to every eye, as the chosen keystone of her life's love. He
took the good luck that befell him so seriously, that he would brook no
jesting, and at once laid hands on the fortune of his future wife, as
he considered that it was disadvantageously and insecurely invested,
and thought that he knew of much more profitable ways of employing it.
My friend therefore explained, with much pain and evident
embarrassment, that she had renounced all control over her capital, and
was unable to keep her promise to me.

Owing to this I entered upon a series of entanglements and troubles
which henceforth dominated my life, and plunged me into sorrows that
left their dismal mark on all my subsequent enterprises. It was clear
that I could not now abandon the proposed plan of publication. The only
satisfactory solution of my perplexities was to be found in the
execution of my project and the success which I hoped would attend it.
I was compelled, therefore, to turn all my energies to the raising of
the money wherewith to publish my two operas, to which in all
probability Tannhauser would shortly have to be added. I first applied
to my friends, and in some cases had to pay exorbitant rates of
interest, even for short terms. For the present these details are
sufficient to prepare the reader for the catastrophe towards which I
was now inevitably drifting.

The hopelessness of my position did not at first reveal itself. There
seemed no reason to despair of the eventual spread of my operatic works
among the theatres in Germany, though my experience of them indicated
that the process would be slow. In spite of the depressing experiences
in Berlin and Hamburg, there were many encouraging signs to be seen.
Above all, Rienzi maintained its position in favour of the people of
Dresden, a place which undoubtedly occupied a position of great
importance, especially during the summer months, when so many strangers
from all parts of the world pass through it. My opera, which was not to
be heard anywhere else, was in great request, both among the Germans
and other visitors, and was always received with marked approbation,
which surprised me very much. Thus a performance of Rienzi, especially
in summer, became quite a Dionysian revelry, whose effect upon me could
not fail to be encouraging.

On one occasion Liszt was among the number of these visitors. As Rienzi
did not happen to be in the repertoire when he arrived, he induced the
management at his earnest request to arrange a special performance. I
met him between the acts in Tichatschek's dressing-room, and was
heartily encouraged and touched by his almost enthusiastic
appreciation, expressed in his most emphatic manner. The kind of life
to which Liszt was at that time condemned, and which bound him to a
perpetual environment of distracting and exciting elements, debarred us
from all more intimate and fruitful intercourse. Yet from this time
onward I continued to receive constant testimonies of the profound and
lasting impression I had made upon him, as well as of his sympathetic
remembrance of me. From various parts of the world, wherever his
triumphal progress led him, people, chiefly of the upper classes, came
to Dresden for the purpose of hearing Rienzi. They had been so
interested by Liszt's reports of my work, and by his playing of various
selections from it, that they all came expecting something of
unparalleled importance.

Besides these indications of Liszt's enthusiastic and friendly
sympathy, other deeply touching testimonies appeared from different
quarters. The startling beginning made by Werder, on the occasion of
his midnight visit after the second performance of the Fliegender
Hollander in Berlin, was shortly afterwards followed by a similarly
unsolicited approach in the form of an effusive letter from an equally
unknown personage, Alwino Frommann, who afterwards became my faithful
friend. After my departure from Berlin she heard Schroder-Devrient
twice in the Fliegender Hollander, and the letter in which she
described the effect produced upon her by my work conveyed to me for
the first time the vigorous and profound sentiments of a deep and
confident recognition such as seldom falls to the lot of even the
greatest master, and cannot fail to exercise a weighty influence on his
mind and spirit, which long for self-confidence.

I have no very vivid recollections of my own doings during this first
year of my position as conductor in a sphere of action which gradually
grew more and more familiar. For the anniversary of my appointment, and
to some extent as a personal recognition, I was commissioned to procure
Gluck's Armida. This we performed in March, 1843, with the co-operation
of Schroder-Devrient, just before her temporary departure from Dresden.
Great importance was attached to this production, because, at the same
moment, Meyerbeer was inaugurating his general-directorship in Berlin
by a performance of the same work. Indeed, it was in Berlin that the
extraordinary respect entertained for such a commemoration of Gluck had
its origin. I was told that Meyerbeer went to Rellstab with the score
of Armida in order to obtain hints as to its correct interpretation.

As not long afterwards I also heard a strange story of two silver
candlesticks, wherewith the famous composer was said, to have
enlightened the no less famous critic when showing him the score of his
Feldlager in Schlesien, I decided to attach no great importance to the
instructions he might have received, but rather to help myself by a
careful handling of this difficult score, and by introducing some
softness into it through modulating the variations in tone as much as
possible. I had the gratification later of receiving an exceedingly
warm appreciation of my rendering from Herr Eduard Devrient, a great
Gluck connoisseur. After hearing this opera as presented by us, and
comparing it with the Berlin performance, he heartily praised the
tenderly modulated character of our rendering of certain parts, which,
he said, had been given in Berlin with the coarsest bluntness. He
mentioned, as a striking instance of this, a brief chorus in C major of
male and female nymphs in the third act. By the introduction of a more
moderate tempo and very soft piano I had tried to free this from the
original coarseness with which Devrient had heard it rendered in
Berlin--presumably with traditional fidelity. My most innocent device,
and one which I frequently adopted, for disguising the irritating
stiffness or the orchestral movement in the original, was a careful
modification of the Basso-continuo, which was taken uninterruptedly in
common time. This I felt obliged to remedy, partly by legato playing,
and partly by pizzicato.

Our management were lavish in their expenditure on externals,
especially decoration, and as a spectacular opera the piece drew fairly
large houses, thus earning me the reputation of being a very suitable
conductor for Gluck, and one who was in close sympathy with him. This
result was the more conspicuous from the fact that Iphigenia in Tauris
which is a far superior work, and in which Devrient's interpretation of
the title-role was admirable had been performed to empty houses.

I had to live upon this reputation for a long time, as it often
happened that I was compelled to give inferior performances of
repertoire pieces, including Mozart's operas. The mediocrity of these
was particularly disappointing to those who, after my success in
Armida, had expected a great deal from my rendering of these pieces,
and were much disappointed in consequence. Even sympathetic hearers
sought to explain their disappointment on the ground that I did not
appreciate Mozart and could not understand him. But they failed to
realise how impossible it was for me, as a mere conductor, to exercise
any real influence on such desultory performances, which were merely
given as stopgaps, and often without rehearsal. Indeed, in this matter
I often found myself in a false position, which, as I was powerless to
remedy it, contributed not a little to render unbearable both my new
office and my dependence upon the meanest motives of a paltry
theatrical routine, already overweighted with the cares of business.
This, in fact, became worse than I had expected, in spite of my
previous knowledge of the precariousness of such a life. My colleague
Reissiger, to whom from time to time I poured out my woes regarding the
scant attention given by the general management to our demands for the
maintenance of correct representations in the realm of opera, comforted
me by saying that I, like himself, would sooner or later relinquish all
these fads and submit to the inevitable fate of a conductor. Thereupon
he proudly smote his stomach, and hoped that I might soon be able to
boast of one as round as his own.

I received further provocation for my growing dislike of these jog-trot
methods from a closer acquaintance with the spirit in which even
eminent conductors undertook the reproduction of our masterpieces.
During this first year Mendelssohn was invited to conduct his St. Paul
for one of the Palm Sunday concerts in the Dresden chapel, which was
famous at that time. The knowledge I thus acquired of this work, under
such favourable circumstances, pleased me so much, that I made a fresh
attempt to approach the composer with sincere and friendly motives; but
a remarkable conversation which I had with him on the evening of this
performance quickly and strangely repelled my impulse. After the
oratorio Reissiger was to produce Beethoven's Eighth Symphony. I had
noticed in the preceding rehearsal that Keissiger had fallen into the
error of all the ordinary conductors of this work by taking the tempo
di minuetto of the third movement at a meaningless waltz time, whereby
not only does the whole piece lose its imposing character, but the trio
is rendered absolutely ridiculous by the impossibility of the
violoncello part being interpreted at such a speed. I had called
Reissiger's attention to this defect, and he acquiesced in my opinion,
promising to take the part in question at true minuetto tempo. I
related this to Mendelssohn, when he was resting after his own
performance in the box beside me, listening to the symphony. He, too,
acknowledged that I was right, and thought that it ought to be played
as I said. And now the third movement began. Reissiger, who, it is
true, did not possess the needful power suddenly to impress so
momentous a change of time upon his orchestra with success, followed
the usual custom and took the tempo di minuetto in the same old waltz
time. Just as I was about to express my anger, Mendelssohn gave me a
friendly nod, as though he thought that this was what I wanted, and
that I had understood the music in this way. I was so amazed by this
complete absence of feeling on the part of the famous musician, that I
was struck dumb, and thenceforth my own particular opinion of
Mendelssohn gradually matured, an opinion which was afterwards
confirmed by R. Schumann. The latter, in expressing the sincere
pleasure he had felt on listening to the time at which I had taken the
first movement of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, told me that he had been
compelled to hear it year after year taken by Mendelssohn at a
perfectly distracting speed.

Amid my yearning anxiety to exert some influence upon the spirit in
which our noblest masterpieces were executed, I had to struggle against
the profound dissatisfaction I felt with my employment on the ordinary
theatre repertoire. It was not until Palm Sunday of the year 1844, just
after my dispiriting expedition to Hamburg, that my desire to conduct
the Pastoral Symphony was satisfied. But many faults still remained
unremedied, and for the removal of these I had to adopt indirect
methods which gave me much trouble. For instance, at these famous
concerts the arrangement of the orchestra, the members of which were
seated in a long, thin, semicircular row round the chorus of singers,
was so inconceivably stupid that it required the explanation given by
Reissiger to make me understand such folly. He told me that all these
arrangements dated from the time of the late conductor Morlacchi, who,
as an Italian composer of operas, had no true realisation of the
importance of the orchestra nor of its necessities. When, therefore, I
asked why they had permitted him to meddle with things he did not
understand, I learned that the preference shown to this Italian, both
by the court and the general management, even in opposition to Carl
Maria von Weber, had always been absolute and brooked no contradiction.
I was warned that, even now, we should experience great difficulty in
ridding ourselves of these inherited vices, because the opinion still
prevailed in the highest circles that he must have understood best what
he was about.

Once more my childish memories of the eunuch Sassaroli flashed through
my mind, and I remembered the warning of Weber's widow as to the
significance of my succession to her husband's post of conductor in
Dresden. But, in spite of all this, our performance of the Pastoral
Symphony succeeded beyond expectation, and the incomparable and
wonderfully stimulating enjoyment, which I was in future to derive from
my intercourse with Beethoven's works, now first enabled me to realise
his prolific strength. Kockel shared in this enjoyment with heartfelt
sympathy; he supported me with eye and ear at every rehearsal, always
stood by my side, and was at one with me both in his appreciation and
his aims.

After this encouraging success I was to receive the gratification of
another triumph in the summer, which, although it was of no particular
moment from the musical point of view, was of great social importance.
The King of Saxony, towards whom, as I have already said, I had felt
warmly drawn when he was Prince Friedrich, was expected home from a
long visit to England. The reports received of his stay there had
greatly rejoiced my patriotic soul. While this homely monarch, who
shrank from all pomp and noisy demonstration, was in England, it
happened that the Tsar Nicholas arrived quite unexpectedly on a visit
to the Queen. In his honour great festivities and military reviews were
held, in which our King, much against his will, was obliged to
participate, and he was consequently compelled to receive the
enthusiastic acclamations of the English crowd, who were most
demonstrative in showing their preference for him, as compared with the
unpopular Tsar. This preference was also reflected in the newspapers,
so that a flattering incense floated over from England to our little
Saxony which filled us all with a peculiar pride in our King. While I
was in this mood, which absorbed me completely, I learned that
preparations were being made in Leipzig for a special welcome to the
King on his return, which was to be further dignified by a musical
festival in the directing of which Mendelssohn was to take part. I made
inquiries as to what was going to be done in Dresden, and learned that
the King did not propose to call there at all, but was going direct to
his summer residence at Pillnitz.

A moment's reflection showed me that this would only further my desire
of preparing a pleasant and hearty reception for his Majesty. As I was
a servant of the Crown, any attempt on my part to render an act of
homage in Dresden might have had the appearance of an official parade
which would not be admissible. I seized the idea, therefore, of
hurriedly collecting together all who could either play or sing, so
that we might perform a Reception song hastily composed in honour of
the event. The obstacle to my plan was that my Director Luttichau was
away at one of his country seats. To come to an understanding with my
colleague Reissiger would, moreover, have involved delay, and given the
enterprise the very aspect of an official ovation which I wished to
avoid. As no time was to be lost, if anything worthy of the occasion
was to be done--as the King was due to arrive in a few days--I availed
myself of my position as conductor of the Glee Club, and summoned all
its singers and instrumentalists to my aid. In addition to these, I
invited the members of our theatrical company, and also those of the
orchestra, to join us. This done, I drove quickly to Pillnitz to
arrange matters with the Lord Chamberlain, whom I found favourably
disposed towards my project. The only leisure I could snatch for
composing the verses of my song and setting them to music was during
the rapid drive there and back, for by the time I reached home I had to
have every thing ready for the copyist and lithographer. The agreeable
sensation of rushing through the warm summer air and lovely country,
coupled with the sincere affection with which I was inspired for our
German Prince, and which had prompted my effort, elated me and worked
me up to a high pitch of tension, in which I now formed a clear
conception of the lyrical outlines of the 'Tannhauser March,' which
first saw the light of day on the occasion of this royal welcome. I
soon afterwards developed this theme, and thus produced the march which
became the most popular of the melodies I had hitherto composed.

On the next day it had to be tried over with a hundred and twenty
instrumentalists and three hundred singers. I had taken the liberty of
inviting them to meet me on the stage of the Court Theatre, where
everything went off capitally. Every one was delighted, and I not the
least so, when a messenger arrived from the director, who had just
returned to town, requesting an immediate interview. Littichau was
enraged beyond measure at my high-handed proceedings in this matter, of
which he had been informed by our good friend Reissiger. If his
baronial coronet had been on his head during this interview, it would
assuredly have tumbled off. The fact that I should have conducted my
negotiations in person with the court officials, and could report that
my endeavours had met with extraordinarily prompt success, aroused his
deepest fury, for the chief importance of his own position consisted in
always representing everything which had to be obtained by these means
as surrounded by the greatest obstacles, and hedged in by the strictest
etiquette. I offered to cancel everything, but that only embarrassed
him the more. I thereupon asked him what he wanted me to do, if the
plan was still to be carried out. On this point he seemed uncertain,
but thought I had shown a great lack of fellow-feeling in having not
only ignored him, but Reissiger as well. I answered that I was
perfectly ready to hand over my composition and the conducting of the
piece to Reissiger. But he could not swallow this, as he really had an
exceedingly poor opinion of Reissiger, of which I was very well aware.
His real grievance was that I had arranged the whole business with the
Lord Chamberlain, Herr von Reizenstein, who was his personal enemy, and
he added that I could form no conception of the rudeness he had been
obliged to endure from the hands of this official. This outburst of
confidence made it easier for me to exhibit an almost sincere emotion,
to which he responded by a shrug of the shoulders, meaning that he must
resign himself to a disagreeable necessity.

But my project was even more seriously threatened by the wretched
weather than by this storm with the director; for it rained all day in
torrents. If it lasted, which it seemed only too likely to do, I could
hardly start on the special boat at five o'clock in the morning, as
proposed, with my hundreds of helpers, to give an early morning concert
at Pillnitz, two hours away. I anticipated such a disaster with genuine
dismay. But Rockel consoled me by saying that I could rely upon it that
we should have glorious weather the next day; for I was lucky! This
belief in my luck has followed me ever since, even down to my latest
days; and amid the great misfortunes which have so often hampered my
enterprises, I have felt as if this statement were a wicked insult to
fate. But this time, at least, my friend was right; the 12th of August,
1844 was from sunrise till late at night the most perfect summer day
that I can remember in my whole life. The sensation of blissful content
with which I saw my light-hearted legion of gaily dressed bandsmen and
singers gathering through the auspicious morning mists on board our
steamer, swelled my breast with a fervent faith in my lucky star.

By my friendly impetuosity I had succeeded in overcoming Reissiger's
smouldering resentment, and had persuaded him to share the honour of
our undertaking by conducting the performance of my composition
himself. When we arrived at the spot, everything went off splendidly.
The King and royal family were visibly touched, and in the evil times
that followed the Queen of Saxony spoke of this occasion, I am told,
with peculiar emotion, as the fairest day of her life. After Reissiger
had wielded his baton with great dignity, and I had sung with the
tenors in the choir, we two conductors were summoned to the presence of
the royal family. The King warmly expressed his thanks, while the Queen
paid us the high compliment of saying that I composed very well and
that Reissiger conducted very well. His Majesty asked us to repeat the
last three stanzas only, as, owing to a painful ulcerated tooth, he
could not remain much longer out of doors. I rapidly devised a combined
evolution, the remarkably successful execution of which I am very
proud, even to this day. I had the entire song repeated, but, in
accordance with the King's wish, only one verse was sung in our
original crescent formation. At the beginning of the second verse I
made my four hundred undisciplined bandsmen and singers file off in a
march through the garden, which, as they gradually receded, was so
arranged that the final notes could only reach the royal ear as an
echoing dream-song. Thanks to my unexampled activity and ever-present
help, this retreat was so steadily carried out that not the slightest
faltering was perceptible either in time or delivery, and the whole
might have been taken for a carefully rehearsed theatrical manoeuvre.
On reaching the castle court we found that, by the Queen's kindly
forethought, an ample breakfast had been provided for our party on the
lawn, where the tables were already spread. We often saw our royal
hostess herself busily supervising the attendants, or moving with
excited delight about the windows and corridors of the castle. Every
eye beamed rapture to my soul, as the successful author of the general
happiness, and I almost felt amid the glories of that day as though the
millennium had been proclaimed. After roaming in a body through the
lovely grounds of the castle, and not omitting to pay a visit to the
Keppgrund which had been so dear to me in my youth, we returned late at
night, and in the highest spirits, to Dresden.

Next morning I was again summoned to the presence of the director. But
a change had come over him during the night.

As I began to offer my apologies for the anxiety I had caused him, the
tall thin man, with the hard dry face, seized me by the hand and
addressed me with a rapturous expression, which I am sure no one else
ever saw on his face. He told me to say no more about these anxieties.
I was a great man, and soon no one would know anything about him,
whereas I should be universally admired and loved. I was deeply moved,
and wished only to express my embarrassment at so unexpected an
outburst, when he kindly interrupted me and sought an escape from his
own emotion in good-humoured confidences. He referred, with a smile, to
the self-denial which had yielded the place of honour on so
extraordinary an occasion to an undeserving man like Reissiger. When I
assured him that this act had afforded me the liveliest satisfaction,
and that I had myself persuaded my colleague to take the baton, he
confessed that at last he began to understand me, but failed altogether
to comprehend how the other could accept a position to which he had no
right.

Luttichau's altered attitude towards me was such that for some time our
intercourse on matters of business assumed an almost confidential tone.
But, unfortunately, in course of time things changed for the worse, so
that our relationship became one of open enmity; nevertheless, a
certain peculiar tenderness towards me on the part of this singular man
was always clearly perceptible. Indeed, I might almost say that much of
his subsequent abuse of me sounded more like the strangely perverted
plaints of a love that met with no response.

For my holiday this year I went, early in September, to Fischer's
vineyard, near Loschwitz, not far from the famous Firidlater vineyard,
where, somewhat late in the year, I rented a summer residence. Where
under the kindly and strengthening stimulus of six week of open-air
life, I composed my music for the second act of Tannhauser, which I
completed by the 15th of October. During this period a performance of
Rienzi was given before an audience of no ordinary importance. For this
event I went up to town. Spontini, Meyerbeer, and General Lwoff, the
composer of the Russian National Anthem, were seated together in a
stage box. I sought no opportunity of learning the impression made by
my opera upon these learned judges and magnates of the musical world.
It was enough for me to have the complacent satisfaction of knowing
that they had heard my oft-repeated work performed before a crowded
house and amid overwhelming applause. I was delighted at the close of
the opera to have my little dog Peps, which had run after me all the
way from the country, brought to me; and without waiting to greet the
European celebrities, I drove off with it at once to our quiet
vineyard, where Minna was greatly relieved to recover her little pet,
which for hours she had believed to be lost.

Here I also received a visit from Werder, the man whose friendship I
had made in Berlin under such dramatic circumstances. But this time he
appeared in ordinary human guise, beneath the kindly light of heaven,
by which we disputed in a friendly way concerning the true worth of the
Fliegender Hollander, my mind having somewhat turned against this work
since Tannhauser had got into my head. It certainly seemed odd to find
myself contradicted on this point by my friend, and to receive
instruction from him on the significance of my own work.

When we returned to our winter quarters I tried to avoid allowing so
lengthy an interval to elapse between the composition of the second and
third acts as had separated that of the first and second. In spite of
many absorbing engagements I succeeded in my aim. By carefully
cultivating a habit of taking solitary walks, and thanks to their
soothing influence over me, I managed to finish the music of Act iii.
by the 29th of December, that is to say, before the end of the year.

During this period my time was otherwise very seriously occupied by a
visit paid us by Spontini with reference to a proposed presentation of
his Vestalin, the preparation for which had just begun. The singular
episodes and characteristic features of the intercourse which I thus
gained with this eminent and hoary-headed master are still so vividly
imprinted on my memory that they seem worthy of a place in this record.

Since, with the co-operation of Schroder-Devrient, we could, on the
whole, rely upon an admirable presentation of the opera, I had inspired
Luttichau with the idea of inviting Spontini to undertake the personal
superintendence of his justly famous work. He had just left Berlin for
ever, after enduring great humiliation there, and such an invitation at
this moment would be a well-timed proof of respect. This was
accordingly sent, and as I had myself been entrusted with the
conductorship of the opera, I was given the singular task of deciding
this point with the master. My letter, it appears, although written in
French, inspired him with a high opinion of my zeal for the enterprise,
and in a gracious reply he informed me what his special wishes were
regarding the arrangements to be made for his collaboration. As far as
the vocalists were concerned, and seeing that a Schroder-Devrient was
among the number, he frankly expressed his satisfaction. As for chorus
and ballet, he took it for granted that nothing would be lacking to the
dignity of the performance; and finally, as regarded the orchestra, he
expected that this also would be sure to please him, as he presumed it
contained the necessary complement of excellent instruments which, to
use his own words, 'he hoped would furnish the performance with twelve
good contrabass!' (le tout garni de douze bonnes contre-basses). This
phrase bowled me over, for the proportion thus bluntly stated in
figures gave me so logical a conception of his exalted expectations,
that I hurried away at once to the director to warn him that the
enterprise on which we had embarked would not, after all, prove as easy
as we thought. His alarm was great, and he said that some plan must at
once be devised for breaking off the engagement.

When Schroder-Devrient heard of our dilemma, knowing Spontini well, she
laughed as though she would never stop at the ingenuous impudence with
which we had issued our invitation. A trifling indisposition from which
she then suffered provided a reasonable excuse for a delay, more or
less prolonged, and this she generously placed at our disposal.
Spontini had, in fact, urged us to use all possible despatch in the
execution of our project, for, as he was impatiently awaited in Paris,
he could spare us but little time. It fell to my lot to weave the
tissue of innocent deceptions by which we hoped to divert the master
from a definite acceptance of our invitation. Now we could breathe
again, and duly began rehearsing. But on the very day before we
proposed to hold our full-dress rehearsal at our leisure, lo and
behold! about noon a carriage drove up to my door, in which, clad in a
long blue coat of pilot-cloth, sat no other than the haughty master
himself, whose manners resembled those of a Spanish grandee. All
unattended and greatly excited, he entered my room, showed me my
letters, and proved from our correspondence that the invitation had not
been declined, but that he had in all points accurately complied with
our wishes. Forgetting for the moment all the possible embarrassments
which might arise, in my genuine delight at beholding the wonderful man
before me, and hearing his work conducted by himself, I at once
undertook to do everything I possibly could to meet his desires. This
declaration I made with the utmost sincerity of zeal. He smiled with
almost childlike kindliness on hearing me, and I at once begged him to
conduct the rehearsal arranged for the morrow. He thereupon grew
suddenly thoughtful, and began to weigh the numerous disadvantages of
such an action on his part. So acute did his agitation become that he
had the greatest difficulty in expressing himself clearly on any point,
and I found it no easy matter to inquire what arrangements on our part
would persuade him to undertake the morrow's rehearsal. After a
moment's reflection he asked what sort of baton I was accustomed to use
when conducting. With my hands I indicated the approximate length and
thickness of a medium-sized wooden rod, such as our choir-attendant was
in the habit of supplying, freshly covered with white paper. He sighed,
and asked if I thought it possible to procure him by to-morrow a baton
of black ebony, whose very respectable length and thickness he
indicated by a gesture, and on each end of which a fairly large knob of
ivory was to be affixed. I promised to have one prepared for the next
rehearsal, which should at least be similar in appearance to what he
desired, and another of the specified materials in time for the actual
performance. Visibly relieved, he then passed his hand over his brow,
and granted me permission to announce his consent to conduct on the
following day. After once more strongly enforcing his instructions as
to the baton, he went back to his hotel.

I seemed to be moving in a dream, and hastened in a whirl-wind of
excitement to publish the news of what had happened and was to be
expected. We were fairly trapped. Schroder-Devrient offered to become
our scapegoat, while I entered into precise details with the theatre
carpenter concerning the baton. This turned out so far correct that it
possessed the requisite length and breadth, was black in its colour,
and had two large white knobs. Then came the fateful rehearsal.
Spontini was evidently ill at ease on his seat in the orchestra. First
of all he wished to have the oboists placed behind him. As this partial
change of position just at that moment would have caused much confusion
in the disposition of the orchestra, I promised to effect the
alteration after the rehearsal. He said no more, and took up his baton.
In a moment I understood why he attached such importance to its form
and size. He held it, not as other conductors do, by the end, but
gripped it about the middle with his clenched fist, waving it so as to
make it evident that he wielded his baton like a field-marshal's staff,
not for beating time, but for command.

Confusion arose in the very first scene, which was increased by the
fact that the master's instructions, both to orchestra and singers,
were rendered almost unintelligible by his confused use of the German
language. This much at least we were soon able to grasp, that he was
particularly anxious to disabuse us of the idea that this was a
full-dress rehearsal, and to show us that he was set upon a thorough
re-study of the opera from the very beginning. Great, indeed, was the
despair of my good old chorus-master and stage manager, Fischer--who
before had enthusiastically advocated the invitation of Spontini--when
he recognised that the dislocation of our repertoire was now
inevitable. This feeling swelled by degrees to open anger, in the
blindness of which every fresh suggestion of Spontini's appeared but
frivolous fault-finding, to which he bluntly responded in the coarsest
German. After one of the choruses Spontini beckoned me to his side and
whispered: 'Mais savez-vous, vos choeurs ne chantent pas mal';
whereupon Fischer, regarding this with suspicion, shouted out to me in
a rage: 'What does the old hog want now?' and I had some trouble to
pacify the speedily converted enthusiast.

But our most serious delay arose, during the first act, through the
evolutions of a triumphal march. With the most vociferous emphasis the
master expressed intense dissatisfaction with the apathetic demeanour
of our populace during the procession of vestal virgins. He was quite
unaware of the fact that, in obedience to our stage manager's
instructions, they had fallen on their knees upon the appearance of the
priestesses; for he was so excited, and withal so terribly
short-sighted, that nothing which appealed to the eye alone was
perceptible to his senses. What he demanded was that the Roman army
should manifest its devout respect in more drastic fashion by flinging
themselves as one man to the ground, and marking this by delivering a
crashing blow of their spears on their shields. Endless attempts were
made, but some one always clattered either too soon or too late. Then
he repeated the action himself several times with his baton on the
desk, but all to no purpose; the crash was not sufficiently sharp and
emphatic. This reminded me of the impression made upon me some years
before in Berlin by the wonderful precision and almost alarming effect
with which I had seen similar evolutions carried out in the play of
Ferdinand Cortez, and I realized that it would require an immediate and
tedious accentuation of our customary softness of action in such
maneouvres before we could meet the fastidious master's requirements.
At the end of the first act Spontini went on the stage himself, in
order to give a detailed explanation of his reasons for wishing to
defer his opera for a considerable time, so as to prepare by
multitudinous rehearsals for its production in accordance with his
taste. He expected to find the actors of the Dresden Court Theatre
gathered there to hear him; but the company had already dispersed.
Singers and stage manager had hastily scattered in every direction to
give vent, each in his own fashion, to the misery of the situation.
None but the workmen, lamp-cleaners, and a few of the chorus gathered
in a semicircle around Spontini, in order to have a look at that
remarkable man, as he held forth with wonderful effect on the
requirements of true theatrical art. Turning towards the dismal scene,
I gently and respectfully pointed out to Spontini the uselessness of
his declamation, and promised that everything should eventually be done
precisely as he desired.

Finally, I succeeded in extricating him from the undignified position
in which, to my horror, he had been placed, by telling him that Herr
Eduard Devrient, who had seen the Vestalin in Berlin, and carried every
detail of the performance in his mind, should personally drill our
chorus and supers into a becoming solemnity during the reception of the
vestals. This pacified him, and we proceeded to settle on a plan for a
series of rehearsals according to his wishes. But, in spite of all
this, I was the only person to whom this strange turn of affairs was
not unwelcome; for through the burlesque extravagances of Spontini, and
notwithstanding his extraordinary eccentricities, which, however, I
learned in time to understand, I could perceive the miraculous energy
with which he pursued and attained an ideal of theatrical art such as
in our days had become almost unknown.

We began, therefore, with a pianoforte rehearsal, at which the master
made a point of telling the singers what he wanted. He did not tell us
anything new, however, for he said little about the details of the
rendering; on the other hand, he expatiated upon the general
interpretation, and I noticed that in doing this, he had accustomed
himself to make the most decided allowances for the great singers,
especially Schroder-Devrient and Tichatschek. The only thing he did was
to forbid the latter to use the word Braut (bride) with which Licinius
had to address Julia in the German translation; this word sounded
horrible in his ears, and he could not understand how anybody could set
such a vulgar sound as that to music. He gave a long lecture, however,
to the somewhat coarse and less talented singer who took the part of
the high-priest, and explained to him how to understand and interpret
this character from the dialogue (in recitative) between him and
Haruspex. He told him that he must understand that the whole thing was
based upon priestcraft and superstition. Pontifex must make it clear
that he does not fear his antagonist at the head of the Roman army,
because, should the worst come to the worst, he has his machines ready,
which, if necessary, will miraculously rekindle the dead fire of Vesta.
In this way, even though Julia should escape the sacrifice, the power
of the priesthood would still be unassailable.

During one of the rehearsals I asked Spontini why he, who, as a rule,
made such very effective use of the trombone, should have left it
entirely out in the magnificent triumphal march of the first act. Very
much astonished he asked: 'Est-ce que je n'ai pas de trombones?' I
showed him the printed score, and he then asked me to add the trombones
to the march, so that, if possible, they might be used at the next
rehearsal. He also said: 'J'ai entendu dans votre Rienzi un instrument,
que vous appelez Basse-tuba; je ne veux pas bannir cet instrument de
l'orchestre: faites m'en une partie pour la Vestale.' It gave me great
pleasure to perform this task for him with all the care and good
judgment I could dispose of. When at the rehearsal he heard the effect
for the first time, he threw me a really grateful glance, and so much
appreciated the really simple additions I had made to his score, that a
little later on he wrote me a very friendly letter from Paris in which
he asked me kindly to send him the extra instrumental parts I had
prepared for him. His pride would not allow him, however, to ask
outright for something for which I alone had been responsible, so he
wrote: 'Envoyez-moi une partition des trombones pour la marche
triomphale et de la Basse-tuba telle qu'elle a ete executee sous ma
direction a Dresde.' Apart from this, I also showed how greatly I
respected him, in the eagerness with which, at his special request, I
regrouped all the instruments in the orchestra. He was forced to this
request more by habit than by principle, and how very important it
seemed to him not to make the slightest change in his customary
arrangements, was proved to me when he explained his method of
conducting. He conducted the orchestra, so he said, only with his eyes:
'My left eye is the first violin, my right eye the second, and if the
eye is to have power, one must not wear glasses (as so many bad
conductors do), even if one is short-sighted. I,' he admitted
confidentially, 'cannot see twelve inches in front of me, but all the
same I can make them play as I want, merely by fixing them with my
eye.' In some respects the arbitrary way in which he used to arrange
his orchestra was really very irrational. From his old days in Paris he
had retained the habit of placing the two oboists immediately behind
him, and although this was a fad which owed its origin to a mere
accident, it was one to which he always adhered. The consequence was
that these players had to avert the mouthpiece of their instruments
from the audience, and our excellent oboist was so angry about this
arrangement, that it was only by dint of great diplomacy that I
succeeded in pacifying him.

Apart from this, Spontini's method was based upon the absolutely
correct system (which even at the present time is misunderstood by some
German orchestras) of spreading the string quartette over the whole
orchestra. This system further consisted in preventing the brass and
percussion instruments from culminating in one point (and drowning each
other) by dividing them on both sides, and by placing the more delicate
wind instruments at a judicious distance from each other, thus forming
a chain between the violins. Even some great and celebrated orchestras
of the present day still retain the custom of dividing the mass of
instruments into two halves, the string and the wind instruments, an
arrangement that denotes roughness and a lack of understanding of the
sound of the orchestra, which ought to blend harmoniously and be well
balanced.

I was very glad to have the chance of introducing this excellent
improvement in Dresden, for now that Spontini himself had initiated it,
it was an easy matter to get the King's command to let the alteration
stand. Nothing remained after Spontini's departure but to modify and
correct certain eccentricities and arbitrary features in his
arrangements; and from that moment I attained a high level of success
with my orchestra.

With all the peculiarities he showed at rehearsals, this exceptional
man fascinated both musicians and singers to such an extent that the
production attracted quite an unusual amount of attention. Very
characteristic was the energy with which he insisted on exceptionally
sharp rhythmic accents; through his association with the Berlin
orchestra he had acquired the habit of marking the note that he wished
to be brought out with the word diese (this), which at first was quite
incomprehensible to me. The great singer Tichatschek, who had a
positive genius for rhythm, was highly pleased by this; for he also had
acquired the habit of compelling the chorus to great precision in very
important entries, and maintained that if one only accentuated the
first note properly, the rest followed as a matter of course. On the
whole, therefore, a spirit of devotion to the master gradually pervaded
the orchestra; the violas alone bore him a grudge for a while, and for
this reason. In the accompaniment of the lugubrious cantilena of Julia
at the end of the second act, he would not put up with the way in which
the violas played the horribly sentimental accompaniment. Suddenly
turning towards them he called in a sepulchral tone, 'Are the violas
dying?' The two pale and incurably melancholy old men who held on
tenaciously to their posts in the orchestra, notwithstanding their
right to a pension, stared at Spontini with real fright, reading a
threat in his words, and I had to explain Spontini's wish in sober
language in order to call them back to life.

On the stage Herr Eduard Devrient helped very materially in bringing
about wonderfully distinct ensembles; he also knew how to gratify a
certain wish of Spontini's, which threw us all into tremendous
confusion. In accordance with the cuts adopted by all the German
theatres, we too ended the opera with the fiery duet, supported by the
chorus, between Licinius and Julia after their rescue. The master,
however, insisted on adding a lively chorus and ballet to the finale,
according to the antiquated method of ending common to French opera
seria. He was absolutely against finishing his work with a dismal
churchyard episode; consequently the whole scene had to be altered.
Venus was to shine resplendent in a rose bower, and the long-suffering
lovers were to be wedded at her altar, amid lively dancing and singing,
by rose-bedecked priests and priestesses. We performed it like this,
but unluckily not with the success we had all hoped for.

In the course of the production, which was proceeding with wonderful
accuracy and verve, we came across a difficulty with regard to the
principal part for which none of us had been prepared. Our great
Schroder-Devrient was obviously no longer of an age to give the desired
effect as the youngest of the vestal virgins; she had acquired matronly
contours, and her age was moreover accentuated by the extremely
girlish-looking high-priestess with whom she had to act, and whose
youth it was difficult to dissimulate. This was my niece, Johanna
Wagner, who, because of her marvellous voice and great talent as an
actress, made every one in the audience long to see the parts of the
two women reversed. Schroder-Devrient, who was well aware of this fact,
tried by every effective means in her power to overcome her most
difficult position; this effort, however, resulted not infrequently in
great exaggeration and straining of the voice, and in one very
important place her part was sadly overacted. When, after the great
trio in the second act, she had to gasp the words, 'er ist frei' ('he
is free'), and to move away from her rescued lover towards the front of
the stage, she made the mistake of speaking the words instead of
singing them.

She had often proved the effect of a decisive word uttered with an
exaggerated and yet careful imitation of the ordinary accents of the
spoken language, by exciting the audience's wildest enthusiasm when she
almost whispered the words, 'Noch einen Schritt und du bist todt!'
('Just one more step and thou art dead!') in Fidelia. This terrific
effect, which I too had felt, was produced by the shock--like unto the
blow of an executioner's axe--which I received on suddenly coming down
from the ideal sphere to which music itself can exalt the most awful
situations, to the naked surface of dreadful reality. This sensation
was due simply to the knowledge of the utmost height of the sublime,
and the memory of the impression I received led me to call that
particular moment the moment of lightning; for it was as if two
different worlds that meet, and yet are divided, were suddenly
illumined and revealed as by a flash. Thoroughly to understand such a
moment, and not to treat it wrongly, was the whole secret, and this I
fully realised on that day from the absolute failure on the great
singer's part to produce the right effect. The toneless, hoarse way in
which she uttered the words was like throwing cold water over the
audience and myself, and not one of those present could see any more in
the incident than a botched theatrical effect. It is possible that the
public had expected too much, for they were curious to see Spontini
conduct, and the prices had been raised accordingly; it may also have
been that the whole style of the work, with its antiquated French plot,
seemed rather obsolete in spite of the majestic beauty, of the music;
or, perhaps, the very tame end left the same cold impression as
Devrient's dramatic failure. In any case there was no real enthusiasm,
and the only sign of approval was a rather lukewarm call for the
celebrated master, who, covered with numerous decorations, made a sad
impression on me as he bowed his thanks to the audience for their very
moderate applause.

Nobody was less blind to the somewhat disappointing result than
Spontini himself. He decided, however, to defy fate, and to this end
had recourse to means which he had often employed in Berlin, in order
to get packed houses for his operatic productions. Thus, he always gave
Sunday performances, for experience had taught him that he could always
have a full house on that day. As the next Sunday on which his Vestalin
was to be produced was still some time ahead, his prolonged stay gave
us several more chances of enjoying his interesting company. I have
such a vivid recollection of the hours spent with him either at Madame
Devrient's or at my house, that I shall be pleased to quote a few
reminiscences.

I shall never forget a dinner at Schroder-Devrient's house at which we
had a charming conversation with Spontini and his wife (a sister of the
celebrated pianoforte maker, Erard). Spontini generally listened
deferentially to what the others had to say, his attitude being that of
a man who expected to be asked for his opinion. When he did speak in
the end it was with a sort of rhetorical solemnity, in sharp and
precise sentences, categorical and well accentuated, which forbade
contradiction from the outset. Herr Ferdinand Hiller was among the
invited guests, and he began to speak about Liszt. After some time
Spontini gave his opinion in his characteristic fashion, but in a
spirit which showed only too clearly, that from the heights of his
Berlin throne he had not judged the affairs of the world either with
impartiality or goodwill. While he was laying down the law in this
style he could not brook any interruption. When, therefore, during the
dessert, the general conversation became livelier, and Madame Devrient
happened to laugh with her neighbour at the table in the middle of a
long harangue of Spontini's, he shot an extremely angry glance at his
wife. Madame Devrient apologised for her at once by saying that it was
she (Madame Devrient) who had been laughing about some lines on a
bonbonniere, whereupon Spontini retorted: 'Pourtant je suis sur que
c'est ma femme qui a suscite ce rire; je ne veux pas que l'on rie
devant moi, je ne rie jamais moi, j'aime le serieux.' In spite of that
he sometimes succeeded in being jovial. For instance, it amused him to
set us all wondering at the way in which he crunched enormous lumps of
sugar with his marvellous teeth. After dinner, when we drew our chairs
closer together, he usually became very excited.

As far as he was capable of affection he seemed really to like me; he
declared openly that he loved me, and said that he would prove this
best by trying to keep me from the misfortune of proceeding in my
career as a dramatic composer. He said he knew it would be difficult to
convince me of the value of this friendly service, but as he felt it
his sacred duty to look after my happiness in this particular line, he
was prepared to stay in Dresden for another half-year, during which
period he suggested that we should produce his other operas, and
especially Agnes von Hohenstaufen, under his direction. To explain his
views about the fatal mistake of trying to succeed as a dramatic
composer 'after Spontini,' he began by praising me in these terms:
'Quand j'ai entendu votre Rienzi, j'ai dit, c'est un homme de genie,
mais deja il a plus fait qu'il ne peut faire.' In order to show me what
he meant by this paradox, he proceeded as follows: 'Apres Gluck c'est
moi qui ai fait la grande revolution avec la Vestale; j'ai introduit le
Vorhalt de la sexte' (the suspension of the sixth) 'dans l'harmonie et
la grosse caisse dans l'orchestre; avec Cortez j'ai fait un pas de plus
en avant; puis j'ai fait trois pas avec Olympic. Nurmahal, Alcidor et
tout ce que j'ai fait dans les premiers temps a Berlin, je vous les
livre, c'etaient des oeuvres occasionnelles; mais depuis j'ai fait cent
pas en avant avec Agnes de Hohenstaufen, ou j'ai imagine un emploi de
l'orchestre remplacant parfaitement l'orgue.'

Since then he had tried his hand at a new work, Les Atheniennes; the
Crown Prince (now King of Prussia [Footnote: William the First.]) had
urged him to finish this work, and to testify to the truth of his
words, he took several letters which he had received from this monarch
out of his pocket-book, and handed them to us for inspection. Not until
he had insisted upon our reading them carefully through did he continue
by saying that, in spite of this flattering invitation, he had given up
the idea of setting this excellent subject to music, because he felt
sure he could never surpass his Agnes von Hohenstaufen, nor invent
anything new. In conclusion he said: 'Or, comment voulez-vous que
quiconque puisse inventer quelque chose de nouveau, moi Spontini
declarant ne pouvoir en aucune facon surpasser mes oeuvres precedentes,
d'autre part etant avise que depuis la Vestale il n'a point ete ecrit
une note qui ne fut volee de mes partitions.'

To prove that this assertion was not merely talk, but that it was based
on scientific investigations, he quoted his wife, who was supposed to
have read with him an elaborate discussion on the subject by a
celebrated member of the French academy, and he added that the essay in
question had, for some mysterious reason, never been printed. In this
very important and scientific treatise it was proved that without
Spontini's invention of the suspension of the sixth in his Vestalin,
the whole of modern melody would not have existed, and that any and
every form of melody that had been used since had been borrowed from
his compositions. I was thunderstruck, but hoped all the same to bring
the inexorable master to a better frame of mind, especially in regard
to certain reservations he had made. I acknowledged that the
academician in question was right in many ways, but I asked him if he
did not believe that if somebody brought him a dramatic poem full of an
absolutely new and hitherto unknown spirit, it would not inspire him to
invent new musical combinations? With a ring of compassion in his
voice, he replied that my question was wholly mistaken; in what would
the novelty consist? 'Dans la Vestale j'ai compose un sujet romain,
dans Ferdinand Cortez un sujet espagnol-mexicain, dans Olympic un sujet
greco-macedonien, enfin dans Agnes de Hohenstaufen un sujet allemand:
tout le reste ne vaut rien!' He hoped that I was not thinking of the
so-called romantic style a la Freischutz? With such childish stuff no
serious man could have anything to do; for art was a serious thing, and
he had exhausted serious art! And, after all, what nation could produce
the composer who could surpass HIM? Surely not the Italians, whom he
characterised simply as cochons; certainly not the French, who had only
imitated the Italians; nor the Germans, who would never get beyond
their childhood in music, and who, if they had ever possessed any
talent, had had it all spoilt for them by the Jews? 'Oh, croyez-moi, il
y avait de l'espoir pour l'Allemagne lorsque j'etais empereur de la
musique a Berlin; mais depuis que le roi de Prusse a livre sa musique
au desordre occasionne par les deux juifs errants qu'il a attires, tout
espoir est perdu.'

Our charming hostess now thought it time to change the subject, and to
divert the master's thoughts. The theatre was situated quite near to
her house; she invited him to go across with our friend Heine, who was
amongst the guests, and to have a look at Antigone, which was then
being given, and which was sure to interest him on account of the
antique equipment of the stage, which had been carried out according to
Semper's excellent plans. At first he wanted to refuse, on the plea
that he had seen all this so much better when his Olympia had been
performed. After a while he consented; but in a very short time he
returned to his original opinion, and, smiling scornfully, assured us
that he had seen and heard enough to strengthen him in his verdict.
Heine told us that shortly after he and Spontini had taken their seats
in the almost empty amphitheatre, and as soon as the Bacchus chorus had
started, Spontini had said to him: 'C'est de la Berliner Sing-Academie,
allons-nous-en.' Through an open door a streak of light had fallen on a
lonely figure behind one of the columns; Heine had recognised
Mendelssohn, and concluded that he had overheard Spontini's remark.

From the master's very excited conversations we soon realised very
distinctly that he intended to stay longer in Dresden, so as to get all
his operas performed. It was Schroder-Devrient's idea to save Spontini,
in his own interest, from the mortifying disappointment of finding all
his enthusiastic hopes in regard to a second performance of Vestalin
unfounded, and, if possible, to prevent this second performance during
his stay in Dresden. She pretended to be ill, and the director
requested me to inform Spontini of the fact that his production would
have to be indefinitely postponed. This visit was so distasteful to me,
that I was glad to make it in Rockel's company. He was also a friend of
Spontini's, and his French was moreover much better than mine. As we
were quite prepared for a bad reception, we were really frightened to
enter. Imagine, therefore, our astonishment when we found the master,
who had already been informed of the news in a letter from Devrient, in
the very brightest spirits.

He told us that he had to leave immediately for Paris, and that from
there he was to travel to Rome, the Holy Father having commanded him to
come in order to receive the title of 'Count of San Andrea.' Then he
showed us a second document, in which the King of Denmark was supposed
to have raised him to the Danish nobility. This meant, however, only
that the title of 'Ritter' of the 'Elephanten-Order' had been conferred
upon him; and although this was indeed a high honour, in speaking about
it he only mentioned the word 'Ritter' without referring to the
particular order, because this seemed to him too ordinary for a person
of his dignity. He was, however, childishly pleased over the affair,
and felt that he had been miraculously rescued from the narrow sphere
of his Dresden Vestalin production to find himself suddenly transported
into regions of glory, from which he looked down upon the distressing
'opera' world with sublime self-content.

Meanwhile Rockel and I silently thanked the Holy Father and the King of
Denmark from the bottom of our hearts. We bode an affectionate farewell
to the strange master, and to cheer him I promised him seriously to
think over his friendly advice with regard to my career as a composer
of opera.

Later on I heard what Spontini had said about me, on hearing that I had
fled from Dresden for political reasons, and had sought refuge in
Switzerland. He thought that this was in consequence of my share in a
plot of high treason against the King of Saxony, whom he looked upon as
my benefactor, because I had been nominated conductor of the royal
orchestra, and he expressed his opinion about me by ejaculating in
tones of the deepest anguish: 'Quelle ingratitude!'

From Berlioz, who was at Spontini's deathbed until the end, I heard
that the master had struggled most determinedly against death, and had
cried repeatedly, 'Je ne veux pas mourir, je ne veux pas mourir!' When
Berlioz tried to comfort him by saying, 'Comment pouvez-vous penser
mourir vous, mon maitre, qui etes immortel!' Spontini retorted angrily,
'Ne faites pas de mauvaises plaisanteries!' In spite of all the
extraordinary experiences I had had with him, the news of his death,
which I received in Zurich, touched me very deeply. Later on I
expressed my feelings towards him, and my opinion of him as an artist,
in a somewhat condensed form in the Eidgenossischen Zeitung, and in
this article the quality I extolled more particularly in him was that,
unlike Meyerbeer, who was then the rage, and the very aged Rossini, he
believed absolutely in himself and his art. All the same, and somewhat
to my disgust, I could not but see that this belief in himself had
deteriorated into a veritable superstition.

I do not remember in those days having gone deeply into my feelings
about Spontini's exceedingly strange individuality, nor do I recollect
having troubled to discover how far they were consistent with the high
opinion I formed of him after I had got to know him more intimately.
Obviously I had only seen the caricature of the man, although the
tendency towards such plainly overweening self-confidence may, at all
events, have manifested itself earlier in life. At the same time, one
could trace in all this the influence of the decay of the musical and
dramatic life of the period, which Spontini, situated as he was in
Berlin, was well able to witness. The surprising fact that he saw his
chief merit in unessential details showed plainly that his judgment had
become childish; in my opinion this did not detract from the great
value of his works, however much he might exaggerate their value. In a
sense I could justify his boundless self-confidence, which was
principally the outcome of the comparison between himself and the great
composers who were now replacing him; for in my heart of hearts I
shared the contempt which he felt for these artists, although I did not
dare to say so openly. And thus it came about that, in spite of his
many somewhat absurd idiosyncrasies, I learned during this meeting at
Dresden to feel a deep sympathy for this man, the like of whom I was
never again to meet.

My next experiences of important musical celebrities of this age were
of quite a different character. Amongst the more distinguished of these
was Heinrich Marschner, who, as a very young man, had been nominated
musical director of the Dresden orchestra by Weber. After Weber's death
he seemed to have hoped that he would take his place entirely, and it
was due less to the fact that his talent was still unknown, than to his
repellent manner, that he was disappointed in his expectations. His
wife, however, suddenly came into some money, and this windfall enabled
him to devote all his energies to his work as composer of operas,
without being obliged to fill any fixed post.

During the wild days of my youth Marschner lived in Leipzig, where his
operas Der Vampir and Templer und Judin saw their first appearance. My
sister Rosalie had once taken me to him in order to hear his opinion
about me. He did not treat me uncivilly, but my visit led to nothing. I
was also present at the first night of his opera Des Falkner's Braut,
which however was not a success. Then he went to Hanover. His opera
Hans Heiling, which was originally produced in Berlin, I heard for the
first time in Wurzburg; it showed vacillation in its tendency, and a
decrease in constructive power. After that he produced several other
operas, such as Das Schloss am Aetna and Der Babu, which never became
popular. He was always neglected by the management at Dresden, as
though they bore him some grudge, and only his Templer was played at
all often. My colleague, Reissiger, had to conduct this opera, and as
in his absence I always had to take his place, it also fell to my lot
on one occasion to direct a performance of this work.

This was during the time that I worked at my Tannhauser. I remember
that, although I had often conducted this opera before in Magdeburg, on
this occasion the wild nature of the instrumentation and its lack of
mastership affected me to such an extent that it literally made me ill,
and as soon as he returned, therefore, I implored Reissiger at any cost
to resume the leadership. On the other hand, immediately after my
nomination I had started on the production of Hans Heiling, but merely
for the sake of the artistic honour. The insufficient distribution of
the parts, however, a difficulty which in those days could not be
overcome, made a complete success impossible. In any case, though, the
whole spirit of the work seemed to be terribly old-fashioned.

I now heard that Marschner had finished another opera called Adolph von
Nassau, and in a criticism of this work, of the genuineness of which I
was unable to judge, particular stress was laid upon the 'patriotic and
noble German atmosphere' of this new creation. I did my best to make
the Dresden theatre take the initiative, and to urge Luttichau to
secure this opera before it was produced elsewhere. Marschner, who did
not seem to have been treated with particular consideration by the
Hanoverian opera authorities, accepted the invitation with great joy,
sent his score, and declared himself willing to come to Dresden for the
first performance. Luttichau, however, was not anxious to see him take
his place at the head of the orchestra; while I, also, was of the
opinion that the too frequent appearance of outside conductors, even if
it were for the purpose of conducting their own works, would not only
lead to confusion, but might also fail to be as amusing and instructive
as Spontini's visit had proved to be. It was therefore decided that I
should conduct the new opera myself. And how I lived to regret it!

The score arrived: to a weak plot by Karl Golmick the composer of the
Templer had written such superficial music, that the principal effect
lay in a drinking song for a quartette, in which the German Rhine and
German wine played the usual stereotyped part peculiar to such male
quartettes. I lost all courage; but we had to go on with it now, and
all I could do was to try, by maintaining a grave bearing, to make the
singers take an interest in their task; this, however, was not easy. To
Tichatschek and Mitterwurzer were assigned the two principal male
parts; being both eminently musical, they sang everything at first
sight, and after each number looked up at me as if to say, 'What do you
think of it all?' I maintained that it was good German music; they must
not allow themselves to get confused. But all they did was to stare at
each other in amazement, not knowing what to make of me. Nevertheless,
in the end they could not stand it any longer, and when they saw that I
still retained my gravity, they burst into loud laughter, in which I
could not help joining.

I now had to take them into my confidence, and make them promise to
follow my lead and pretend to be serious, for it was impossible to give
up the opera at this stage. A Viennese 'colorature' singer of the
latest style--Madame Spatser Gentiluomo--who came to us from Hanover,
and on whose services Marschner greatly relied, was rather taken with
her part chiefly because it gave her the chance of showing
'brilliancy.' And, indeed, there was a finale in which my 'German
master' had actually tried to steal a march on Donizetti. The Princess
had been poisoned by a golden rose, a present from the wicked Bishop of
Mainz, and had become delirious. Adolph von Nassau, with the knights of
the German empire, swears vengeance, and, accompanied by the chorus,
pours out his feelings in a stretta of such incredible vulgarity and
amateurishness that Donizetti would have thrown it at the head of any
of his pupils who had dared to compose such a thing. Marschner now
arrived for the dress rehearsal; he was very pleased, and, without
compelling me to falsehood, he gave me sufficient opportunities for
exercising my powers in the art of concealing my real thoughts. At all
events I must have succeeded fairly well, for he had every reason to
think himself considerately and kindly treated by me.

During the performance the public behaved very much as the singers had
done at the rehearsals. We had brought a still-born child into the
world. But Marschner was comforted by the fact that his drinking
quartette was encored. This was reminiscent of one of Becker's songs:
Sie sollen ihn nicht haben, den freien deutschen Rhein ('They shall not
have it, our free German Rhine'). After the performance the composer
was my guest at a supper party at which, I am sorry to say, the
singers, who had had enough of it, would not attend. Herr Ferdinand
Hiller had the presence of mind to insist, in his toast to Marschner,
that 'whatever one might say, all stress must be laid on the GERMAN
master and GERMAN art.' Strangely enough, Marschner himself
contradicted him by saying that there was something wrong with German
operatic compositions, and that one ought to consider the singers and
how to write more brilliantly for their voices than he had succeeded in
doing up to the present.

Highly gifted as Marschner was, there can be no doubt that the decline
of his genius was due partly to a tendency which even in the ageing
master himself, as he frankly admitted, was effecting an important and
most salutary change. In later years I met him once more in Paris at
the time of my memorable production of Tannhauser. I did not feel
inclined to renew the old relations, for, to tell the truth, I wanted
to spare myself the unpleasantness of witnessing the consequences of
his change of views, of which we had seen the beginning in Dresden. I
learned that he was in a state of almost helpless childishness, and
that he was in the hands of a young and ambitious woman, who was trying
to make a last attempt at conquering Paris for him. Among other puff
paragraphs calculated to spread Marschner's glory, I read one which
said that the Parisians must not believe that I (Wagner) was
representative of German art; no--if only Marschner were given a
hearing, it would be discovered that he was beyond a doubt better
suited to the French taste than I could ever be. Marschner died before
his wife had succeeded in establishing this point.

Ferdinand Hiller, on the other hand, who was in Dresden, behaved in a
very charming and friendly manner, particularly at this time. Meyerbeer
also stayed in the same town from time to time; precisely why, nobody
knew. Once he had rented a little house for the summer near the
Pirnaischer Schlag, and under a pretty tree in the garden of this place
he had had a small piano installed, whereon, in this idyllic retreat,
he worked at his Feldlager in Schlesien. He lived in great retirement,
and I saw very little of him. Ferdinand Hiller, on the contrary, took a
commanding position in the Dresden musical world in so far as this was
not already monopolised by the royal orchestra and its masters, and for
many years he worked hard for its success. Having a little private
capital, he established himself comfortably amongst us, and was soon
known as a delightful host, who kept a pleasant house, which, thanks to
his wife's influence, was frequented by a numerous Polish colony. Frau
Hiller was indeed an exceptional Jewish woman of Polish origin, and she
was perhaps all the more exceptional seeing that she, in company with
her husband, had been baptized a Protestant in Italy. Hiller began his
career in Dresden with the production of his opera, Der Traum in der
Christnacht. Since the unheard-of fact that Rienzi had been able to
rouse the Dresden public to lasting enthusiasm, many an opera composer
had felt himself drawn towards our 'Florence on the Elbe,' of which
Laube once said that as soon as one entered it one felt bound to
apologise because one found so many good things there which one
promptly forgot the moment one departed.

The composer of Der Traum in der Christnacht looked upon this work as a
peculiarly 'German composition.' Hiller had set to music a gruesome
play by Raupach, Der Muller und sein Kind ('The Miller and his Child'),
in which father and daughter, within but a short space of time, both
die of consumption. He declared that he had conceived the dialogue and
the music of this opera in what he called the 'popular style,' but this
work met with the same fate as that which, according to Liszt, befell
all his compositions. In spite of his undoubted musical merits, which
even Rossini acknowledged, and whether he gave them in French in Paris
or in Italian in Italy, it was his sad experience always to see his
operas fail. In Germany he had tried the Mendelssohnian style, and had
succeeded in composing an oratorio called Die Zerstorung Jerusalems,
which luckily was not taken notice of by the moody theatre-going
public, and which consequently received the unassailable reputation of
being 'a solid German work.' He also took Mendelssohn's place as
director of the Leipzig Gewandhaus concerts when the latter was called
to Berlin in the capacity of general director. Hiller's evil fortune
still pursued him, however, and he was unable to retain his position,
everybody being given to understand that it was because his wife was
not sufficiently acknowledged as concert prima-donna. Mendelssohn
returned and made Hiller leave, and Hiller boasted of having quarrelled
with him.

Dresden and the success of my Rienzi now weighed so much upon his mind
that he naturally made another attempt to succeed as an opera composer.
Owing to his great energy, and to his position as son of a rich banker
(a special attraction even to the director of a court theatre), it
happened that he induced them to put aside my poor friend Rockel's
Farinelli (the production of which had been promised him) in favour of
his (Hiller's) own work, Der Traum in der Christnacht. He was of the
opinion that next to Reissiger and myself, a man of greater musical
reputation than Rockel was needed. Luttichau, however, was quite
content to have Reissiger and myself as celebrities, particularly as we
got on so well together, and he remained deaf to Hiller's wishes. To me
Der Traum in der Christnacht was a great nuisance. I had to conduct it
a second time, and before an empty house. Hiller now saw that he had
been wrong in not taking my advice before, and in not shortening the
opera by one act and altering the end, and he now fancied that he was
doing me a great favour by at last declaring himself ready to act on my
suggestion in the event of another performance of his opera being
possible. I really managed to have it played once more. This was,
however, to be the last time, and Hiller, who had read my book of
Tannhauser, thought that I had a great advantage over him in writing my
own words. He therefore made me promise to help him with the choice and
writing of a subject for his next opera.

Shortly afterwards Hiller was present at a performance of Rienzi, which
was again given before a crowded and enthusiastic house. When, at the
end of the second act, and after frantic recalls from the audience, I
left the orchestra in a great state of excitement, Hiller, who was
waiting for me in the passage, took the opportunity of adding to his
very hasty congratulations, 'Do give my Traum once more!' I promised
him laughingly to do this if I had the chance, but I cannot remember
whether it came off or not. While he was waiting for the creation of an
entirely new plot for his next opera, Hiller devoted himself to the
study of chamber music, to which his large and well-furnished room lent
itself most admirably.

A beautiful and solemn event added to the seriousness of the mood in
which I finished the music to Tannhauser towards the end of the year,
and neutralised the more superficial impressions made upon me by the
stirring events above described. This was the removal of the remains of
Carl Maria von Weber from London to Dresden in December, 1844. As I
have already said, a committee had for years been agitating for this
removal. From information given by a certain traveller, it had become
known that the insignificant coffin which contained Weber's ashes had
been disposed of in such a careless way in a remote corner of St.
Paul's, that it was feared it might soon become impossible to identify
it.

My energetic friend, Professor Lowe, whom I have already mentioned, had
availed himself of this information in order to urge the Dresden Glee
Club, which constituted his hobby, to take the matter in hand. The
concert of male singers arranged to this end had been a fair success
financially, and they now wanted to induce the theatre management to
make similar efforts, when suddenly they met with serious opposition
from this very quarter. The management of the Dresden theatre told the
committee that the King had religious scruples with regard to
disturbing the peace of the dead. However much we felt inclined to
doubt the genuineness of these reasons, nothing could be done, and I
was next approached on the subject, in the hope that my influential
position might lend weight to my appeal. I entered into the spirit of
the enterprise with great fervour. I consented to be made president;
Herr Hofrat Schulz, director of the 'Antiken-Cabinet,' who was a
well-known authority on artistic matters, and another gentleman, a
Christian banker, were also elected members of the committee, and the
movement thus received fresh life. Prospectuses were sent round,
exhaustive plans were made, and numerous meetings held. Here, again, I
met with opposition on the part of my chief, Luttichau; if he could
have done so, he would have forbidden me to move in the matter by
making the most of the King's scruples referred to above. But he had
had a warning not to pick a quarrel with me after his experience in the
summer, when, contrary to his expectations, the music written by me to
celebrate the King's arrival had found favour with the monarch. As his
antipathy to the proceedings was not so very serious, Luttichau must
have seen that even the direct opposition of his Majesty could not have
prevented the enterprise from being carried out privately, and that, on
the contrary, the court would cut a sorry figure if the Royal Court
Theatre (to which Weber once belonged) should assume a hostile
attitude. He therefore tried in a would-be friendly way to make me
desist from furthering the cause, well knowing that, without me, the
plan would fail. He tried to convince me that it would be wrong to pay
this exaggerated honour to Weber's memory, whereas nobody thought of
removing the ashes of Morlacchi from Italy, although the latter had
given his services to the royal orchestra for a much longer period than
Weber had done. What would be the consequence? By way of argument he
said, 'Suppose Reissiger died on his journey to some
watering-place--his wife would then be as much justified as was Frau
von Weber (who had annoyed him quite enough already) in expecting her
husband's dead body to be brought home with music and pomp.' I tried to
calm him, and if I did not succeed in making him see the difference
between Reissiger and Weber, I managed to make him understand that the
affair must take its course, as the Berlin Court Theatre had already
announced a benefit performance to support our undertaking.

Meyerbeer, to whom my committee had applied, was instrumental in
bringing this about, and a performance of Euryanthe was actually given
which yielded the handsome balance of six thousand marks. A few
theatres of lesser importance now followed our lead. The Dresden Court
Theatre, therefore, could not hold back any longer, and as we now had a
fairly large sum at the bank, we were able to cover the expenses of the
removal, as well as the cost of an appropriate vault and monument; we
even had a nucleus fund for a statue of Weber, which we were to fight
for later on. The elder of the two sons of the immortal master
travelled to London to fetch the remains of his father. He brought them
by boat down the Elbe, and finally arrived at the Dresden
landing-stage, from whence they were to be conducted to German soil.
This last journey of the remains was to take place at night. A solemn
torchlight procession was to be formed, and I had undertaken to see to
the funeral music.

I arranged this from two motives out of Euryanthe, using that part of
the music in the overture which relates to the vision of spirits. I
introduced the Cavatina from Euryanthe--Hier dicht am Quell ('Here near
the source'), which I left unaltered, except that I transposed it into
B flat major, and I finished the whole, as Weber finished his opera, by
a return to the first sublime motive. I had orchestrated this symphonic
piece, which was well suited to the purpose, for eight chosen wind
instruments, and notwithstanding the volume of sound, I had not
forgotten softness and delicacy of instrumentation. I substituted the
gruesome tremolo of the violas, which appears in that part of the
overture adapted by me, by twenty muffled drums, and as a whole
attained to such an exceedingly impressive effect, especially to us who
were full of thoughts of Weber, that, even in the theatre where we
rehearsed, Schroder-Devrient, who was present, and who had been an
intimate friend of Weber's, was deeply moved. I had never carried out
anything more in keeping with the character of the subject; and the
procession through the town was equally impressive.

As the very slow tempo, devoid of any strongly marked accents, offered
numerous difficulties, I had had the stage cleared for the rehearsal,
in order to command a sufficient space for the musicians, once they had
thoroughly practised the piece, to walk round me in a circle playing
all the while. Several of those who witnessed the procession from their
windows assured me that the effect of the procession was indescribably
and sublimely solemn. After we had placed the coffin in the little
mortuary chapel of the Catholic cemetery in Friedrichstadt, where
Madame Devrient met it with a wreath of flowers, we performed, on the
following morning, the solemn ceremony of lowering it into the vault.
Herr Hofrat Schulz and myself, as presidents of the committee, were
allowed the honour of speaking by the graveside, and what afforded me
an appropriate subject for the few, somewhat affecting, words which I
had to pronounce, was the fact that, shortly before the removal of
Weber's remains, the second son of the master, Alexander von Weber, had
died. The poor mother had been so terribly affected by the sudden death
of this youth, so full of life and health, that had we not been in the
very midst of our arrangements, we should have been compelled to
abandon them; for in this new loss the widow saw a judgment of God who,
in her opinion, looked upon the removal of the remains as an act of
sacrilege prompted by vanity. As the public seemed particularly
disposed to hold the same view, it fell to my lot to set the nature of
our undertaking in the proper light before the eyes of the world. And
this I so far succeeded in doing that, to my satisfaction, I learned
from all sides that my justification of our action had received the
most general acceptance.

On this occasion I had a strange experience with regard to myself, when
for the first time in my life I had to deliver a solemn public speech.
Since then I have always spoken extemporarily; this time, however, as
it was my first appearance as an orator, I had written out my speech,
and carefully learned it by heart. As I was thoroughly under the
influence of my subject, I felt so sure of my memory that I never
thought of making any notes. Thanks to this omission, however, I made
my brother Albert very unhappy. He was standing near me at the
ceremony, and he told me afterwards that, in spite of being deeply
moved, he felt at one moment as if he could have sworn at me for not
having asked him to prompt me. It happened in this way: I began my
speech in a clear and full voice, but suddenly the sound of my own
words, and their particular intonation, affected me to such an extent
that, carried away as I was by my own thoughts, I imagined I SAW as
well as HEARD myself before the breathless multitude. While I thus
appeared objectively to myself I remained in a sort of trance, during
which I seemed to be waiting for something to happen, and felt quite a
different person from the man who was supposed to be standing and
speaking there. It was neither nervousness nor absent-mindedness on my
part; only at the end of a certain sentence there was such a long pause
that those who saw me standing there must have wondered what on earth
to think of me. At last my own silence and the stillness round me
reminded me that I was not there to listen, but to speak. I at once
resumed my discourse, and I spoke with such fluency to the very end
that the celebrated actor, Emil Devrient, assured me that, apart from
the solemn service, he had been deeply impressed simply from the
standpoint of a dramatic orator.

The ceremony concluded with a poem written and set to music by myself,
and, though it presented many difficulties for men's voices, it was
splendidly rendered by some of the best opera singers. Luttichau, who
was present, was now not only convinced of the justice of the
enterprise, but also strongly in favour of it. I was deeply thankful
that everything had succeeded so well, and when Weber's widow, upon
whom I called after the ceremony, told me how profoundly she, too, had
been moved, the only cloud that still darkened my horizon was
dispelled. In my youth I had learned to love music through my
admiration for Weber's genius, and the news of his death was a terrible
blow to me. To have, as it were, come into contact with him again and
after so many years by this second funeral, was an event that stirred
the very depths of my being.

From all the particulars I have given concerning my intimacy with the
great masters who were my contemporaries, it is easy to see at what
sources I had been able to quench my thirst for intellectual
intercourse. It was not a very satisfactory outlook to turn from
Weber's grave to his living successors; but I had still to find out how
absolutely hopeless this was.

I spent the winter of 1844-5 partly in yielding to attractions from
outside, and partly in indulging in the deepest meditation. By dint of
great energy, and by getting up very early, even in winter, I succeeded
in completing my score to Tannhauser early in April, having, as already
stated, finished the composition of it at the end of the preceding
year. In writing down the orchestration I made things particularly
difficult for myself by using the specially prepared paper which the
printing process renders necessary, and which involved me in all kinds
of trying formalities. I had each page transferred to the stone
immediately, and a hundred copies printed from each, hoping to make use
of these proofs for the rapid circulation of my work. Whether my hopes
were to be fulfilled or not, I was at all events fifteen hundred marks
out of pocket when all the expenses of the publication were paid.

In regard to this work which called for so many sacrifices, and which
was so slow and difficult, more details will appear in my
autobiography. At all events, when May came round I was in possession
of a hundred neatly bound copies of my first new work since the
production of the Fliegender Hollander, and Hiller, to whom I showed
some parts of it, formed a tolerably good impression of its value.

These plans for rapidly spreading the fame of my Tannhauser were made
with the hope of a success which, in view of my needy circumstances,
seemed ever more and more desirable. In the course of one year since I
had begun my own publication of my operas, much had been done to this
end. In September of the year 1844 I had presented the King of Saxony
with a special richly bound copy of the complete pianoforte arrangement
of Rienzi, dedicated to his Majesty. The Fliegender Hollander had also
been finished, and the pianoforte arrangement of Rienzi for duet, as
well as some songs selected from both operas, had either been published
or were about to be published. Apart from this I had had twenty-five
copies made of the scores of both these operas by means of the
so-called autographic transfer process, although only from the writing
of the copyists. All these heavy expenses made it absolutely imperative
that I should try to send my scores to the different theatres, and
induce them to produce my operas, as the outlay on the piano scores had
been heavy, and these could only have a sale if my works got to be
known sufficiently well through the theatre.

I now sent the score of my Rienzi to the more important theatres, but
they all returned my work to me, the Munich Court Theatre even sending
it back unopened! I therefore knew what to expect, and spared myself
the trouble of sending my Dutchman. From a speculative business point
of view the situation was this: the hoped-for success of Tannhauser
would bring in its wake a demand for my earlier works. The worthy
Meser, my agent, who was the music publisher appointed to the court,
had also begun to feel a little doubtful, and saw that this was the
only thing to do. I started at once on the publication of a pianoforte
arrangement of Tannhauser, preparing it myself while Rockel undertook
the Fliegender Hollander, and a certain Klink did Rienzi.

The only thing that Meser was absolutely opposed to was the title of my
new opera, which I had just named Der Venusberg; he maintained that, as
I did not mix with the public, I had no idea what horrible jokes were
made about this title. He said the students and professors of the
medical school in Dresden would be the first to make fun of it, as they
had a predilection for that kind of obscene joke. I was sufficiently
disgusted by these details to consent to the change. To the name of my
hero, Tannhauser, I added the name of the subject of the legend which,
although originally not belonging to the Tannhauser myth, was thus
associated with it by me, a fact which later on Simrock, the great
investigator and innovator in the world of legend, whom I esteemed so
highly, took very much amiss.

Tannhauser und der Sangerkrieg auf Wartburg should henceforth be its
title, and to give the work a mediaeval appearance I had the words
specially printed in Gothic characters upon the piano arrangement, and
in this way introduced the work to the public.


The extra expenses this involved were very heavy; but I went to great
pains to impress Meser with my belief in the success of my work. So
deeply were we involved in this scheme, and so great were the
sacrifices it had compelled us to make, that there was nothing else for
it but to trust to a special turn of Fortune's wheel. As it happened,
the management of the theatre shared my confidence in the success of
Tannhauser. I had induced Luttichau to have the scenery for Tannhauser
painted by the best painters of the great opera house in Paris. I had
seen their work on the Dresden stage: it belonged to the style of
German scenic art which was then fashionable, and really gave the
effect of first-class work.

The order for this, as well as the necessary negotiations with the
Parisian painter, Desplechin, had already been settled in the preceding
autumn. The management agreed to all my wishes, even to the ordering of
beautiful costumes of mediaeval character designed by my friend Heine.
The only thing Luttichau constantly postponed was the order for the
Hall of Song on the Wartburg; he maintained that the Hall for Kaiser
Karl the Great in Oberon, which had only recently been delivered by
some French painters, would answer the purpose just as well. With
superhuman efforts I had to convince my chief that we did not want a
brilliant throne-room, but a scenic picture of a certain character such
as I saw before my mind's eye, and that it could be painted only
according to my directions. As in the end I became very irritable and
cross, he soothed me by saying that he had no objection to having this
scene painted, and that he would order it to be commenced at once,
adding that he had not agreed immediately, only with the view of making
my joy the greater, because, what one obtained without difficulty, one
rarely appreciated. This Hall of Song was fated to cause me great
trouble later on.

Thus everything was in full swing; circumstances were favourable, and
seemed to cast a hopeful light upon the production of my new work at
the beginning of the autumn season. Even the public was looking forward
to it, and for the first time I saw my name mentioned in a friendly
manner in a communication to the Allgemeine Zeitung. They actually
spoke of the great expectations they had of my new work, the poem of
which had been written 'with undoubted poetic feeling.'

Full of hope, I started in July on my holiday, which consisted of a
journey to Marienbad in Bohemia, where my wife and I intended to take
the cure. Again I found myself on the 'volcanic' soil of this
extraordinary country, Bohemia, which always had such an inspiring
effect on me. It was a marvellous summer, almost too hot, and I was
therefore in high spirits. I had intended to follow the easy-going mode
of life which is a necessary part of this somewhat trying treatment,
and had selected my books with care, taking with me the poems of
Wolfram von Eschenbach, edited by Simrock and San Marte, as well as the
anonymous epic Lohengrin, with its lengthy introduction by Gorres. With
my book under my arm I hid myself in the neighbouring woods, and
pitching my tent by the brook in company with Titurel and Parcival, I
lost myself in Wolfram's strange, yet irresistibly charming, poem.
Soon, however, a longing seized me to give expression to the
inspiration generated by this poem, so that I had the greatest
difficulty in overcoming my desire to give up the rest I had been
prescribed while partaking of the water of Marienbad.

The result was an ever-increasing state of excitement. Lohengrin, the
first conception of which dates from the end of my time in Paris, stood
suddenly revealed before me, complete in every detail of its dramatic
construction. The legend of the swan which forms such an important
feature of all the many versions of this series of myths that my
studies had brought to my notice, exercised a singular fascination over
my imagination.

Remembering the doctor's advice, I struggled bravely against the
temptation of writing down my ideas, and resorted to the most strange
and energetic methods. Owing to some comments I had read in Gervinus's
History of German Literature, both the Meistersinger von Nurnberg and
Hans Sachs had acquired quite a vital charm for me. The Marker alone,
and the part he takes in the Master-singing, were particularly pleasing
to me, and on one of my lonely walks, without knowing anything
particular about Hans Sachs and his poetic contemporaries, I thought
out a humorous scene, in which the cobbler--as a popular
artisan-poet--with the hammer on his last, gives the Marker a practical
lesson by making him sing, thereby taking revenge on him for his
conventional misdeeds. To me the force of the whole scene was
concentrated in the two following points: on the one hand the Marker,
with his slate covered with chalk-marks, and on the other Hans Sachs
holding up the shoes covered with his chalk-marks, each intimating to
the other that the singing had been a failure. To this picture, by way
of concluding the second act, I added a scene consisting of a narrow,
crooked little street in Nuremberg, with the people all running about
in great excitement, and ultimately engaging in a street brawl. Thus,
suddenly, the whole of my Meistersinger comedy took shape so vividly
before me, that, inasmuch as it was a particularly cheerful subject,
and not in the least likely to over-excite my nerves, I felt I must
write it out in spite of the doctor's orders. I therefore proceeded to
do this, and hoped it might free me from the thrall of the idea of
Lohengrin; but I was mistaken; for no sooner had I got into my bath at
noon, than I felt an overpowering desire to write out Lohengrin, and
this longing so overcame me that I could not wait the prescribed hour
for the bath, but when a few minutes elapsed, jumped out and, barely
giving myself time to dress, ran home to write out what I had in my
mind. I repeated this for several days until the complete sketch of
Lohengrin was on paper.

The doctor then told me I had better give up taking the waters and
baths, saying emphatically that I was quite unfit for such cures. My
excitement had grown to such an extent that even my efforts to sleep as
a rule ended only in nocturnal adventures. Among some interesting
excursions that we made at this time, one to Eger fascinated me
particularly, on account of its association with Wallenstein and of the
peculiar costumes of the inhabitants.

In mid-August we travelled back to Dresden, where my friends were glad
to see me in such good spirits; as for myself, I felt as if I had
wings. In September, when all our singers had returned from their
summer holidays, I resumed the rehearsals of Tannhauser with great
earnestness. We had now got so far, at least with the musical part of
the performance, that the possible date of the production seemed quite
close at hand. Schroder-Devrient was one of the first to realise the
extraordinary difficulties which the production of Tannhauser would
entail. And, indeed, she saw these difficulties so clearly that, to my
great discomfiture, she was able to lay them all before me. Once, when
I called upon her, she read the principal passages aloud with great
feeling and force, and then she asked me how I could have been so
simple-minded as to have thought that so childish a creature as
Tichatschek would be able to find the proper tones for Tannhauser. I
tried to bring her attention and my own to bear upon the nature of the
music, which was written so clearly in order to bring out the necessary
accent, that, in my opinion, the music actually spoke for him who
interpreted the passage, even if he were only a musical singer and
nothing more. She shook her head, saying that this would be all right
in the case of an oratorio.

She now sang Elizabeth's prayer from the piano score, and asked me if I
really thought that this music would answer my intentions if sung by a
young and pretty voice without any soul or without that experience of
life which alone could give the real expression to the interpretation.
I sighed and said that, in that case, the youthfulness of the voice and
of its owner must make up for what was lacking: at the same time, I
asked her as a favour to see what she could do towards making my niece,
Johanna, understand her part. All this, however, did not solve the
Tannhauser problem, for any effort at teaching Tichatschek would only
have resulted in confusion. I was therefore obliged to rely entirely
upon the energy of his voice, and on the singer's peculiarly sharp
'speaking' tone.

Devrient's anxiety about the principal parts arose partly out of
concern about her own. She did not know what to do with the part of
Venus; she had undertaken it for the sake of the success of the
performance, for although a small part, so much depended upon its being
ideally interpreted! Later on, when the work was given in Paris, I
became convinced that this part had been written in too sketchy a
style, and this induced me to reconstruct it by making extensive
additions, and by supplying all that which I felt it lacked. For the
moment, however, it looked as if no art on the part of the singer could
give to this sketch anything of what it ought to represent. The only
thing that might have helped towards a satisfactory impersonation of
Venus would have been the artist's confidence in her own great physical
attraction, and in the effect it would help to produce by appealing to
the purely material sympathies of the public. The certainty that these
means were no longer at her disposal paralysed this great singer, who
could hide her age and matronly appearance no longer. She therefore
became self-conscious, and unable to use even the usual means for
gaining an effect. On one occasion, with a little smile of despair, she
expressed herself incapable of playing Venus, for the very simple
reason that she could not appear dressed like the goddess. 'What on
earth am I to wear as Venus?' she exclaimed. 'After all, I cannot be
clad in a belt alone. A nice figure of fun I should look, and you would
laugh on the wrong side of your face!'

On the whole, I still built my hopes upon the general effect of the
music alone, the great promise of which at the rehearsals greatly
encouraged me. Hiller, who had looked through the score and had already
praised it, assured me that the instrumentation could not have been
carried out with greater sobriety. The characteristic and delicate
sonority of the orchestra delighted me, and strengthened me in my
resolve to be extremely sparing in the use of my orchestral material,
in order to attain that abundance of combinations which I needed for my
later works.

At the rehearsal my wife alone missed the trumpets and trombones that
gave such brightness and freshness to Rienzi. Although I laughed at
this, I could not help feeling anxious when she confided to me how
great had been her disappointment when, at the theatre rehearsal, she
noticed the really feeble impression made by the music of the
Sangerkrieg. Speaking from the point of view of the public, who always
want to be amused or stirred in some way or other, she had thus very
rightly called attention to an exceedingly questionable side of the
performance. But I saw at once that the fault lay less with the
conception than with the fact that I had not controlled the production
with sufficient care.

In regard to the conception of this scene I was literally on the horns
of a dilemma, for I had to decide once for all whether this Sangerkrieg
was to be a concert of arias or a competition in dramatic poetry. There
are many people even nowadays, who, in spite of having witnessed a
perfectly successful production of this scene, have not received the
right impression of its purport. Their idea is that it belongs to the
traditional operatic 'genre,' which demands that a number of vocal
evolutions shall be juxtaposed or contrasted, and that these different
songs are intended to amuse and interest the audience by means of their
purely musical changes in rhythm and time on the principle of a concert
programme, i.e. by various items of different styles. This was not at
all my idea: my real intention was, if possible, to force the listener,
for the first time in the history of opera, to take an interest in a
poetical idea, by making him follow all its necessary developments. For
it was only by virtue of this interest that he could be made to
understand the catastrophe, which in this instance was not to be
brought about by any outside influence, but must be the outcome simply
of the natural spiritual processes at work. Hence the need of great
moderation and breadth in the conception of the music; first, in order
that according to my principle it might prove helpful rather than the
reverse to the understanding of the poetical lines, and secondly, in
order that the increasing rhythmic character of the melody which marks
the ardent growth of passion may not be interrupted too arbitrarily by
unnecessary changes in modulation and rhythm. Hence, too, the need of a
very sparing use of orchestral instruments for the accompaniment, and
an intentional suppression of all those purely musical effects which
must be utilised, and that gradually, only when the situation becomes
so intense that one almost ceases to think, and can only feel the
tragic nature of the crisis. No one could deny that I had contrived to
produce the proper effect of this principle the moment I played the
Sangerkrieg on the piano. With the view of ensuring all my future
successes, I was now confronted with the exceptional difficulty of
making the opera singers understand how to interpret their parts
precisely in the way I desired. I remembered how, through lack of
experience, I had neglected properly to superintend the production of
the Fliegender Hollander, and as I now fully realised all the
disastrous consequences of this neglect, I began to think of means by
which I could teach the singers my own interpretation. I have already
stated that it was impossible to influence Tichatschek, for if he were
made to do things he could not understand, he only became nervous and
confused. He was conscious of his advantages. He knew that with his
metallic voice he could sing with great musical rhythm and accuracy,
while his delivery was simply perfect. But, to my great astonishment, I
was soon to learn that all this did not by any means suffice; for, to
my horror, at the first performance, that which had strangely escaped
my notice in the rehearsals became suddenly apparent to me. At the
close of the Sangerkrieg, when Tannhauser (in frantic excitement, and
forgetful of everybody present) has to sing his praise to Venus, and I
saw Tichatschek moving towards Elizabeth and addressing his passionate
outburst to her, I thought of Schroder-Devrient's warning in very much
the same way as Croesus must have thought when he cried, 'O Solon!
Solon!' at the funeral pyre. In spite of the musical excellence of
Tichatschek, the enormous life and melodic charm of the Sangerkrieg
failed entirely.

On the other hand, I succeeded in calling into life an entirely new
element such as probably had never been seen in opera! I had watched
the young baritone Mitterwurzer with great interest in some of his
parts--he was a strangely reticent man, and not at all sociably
inclined, and I had noticed that his delightfully mellow voice
possessed the rare quality of bringing out the inner note of the soul.
To him I entrusted Wolfram, and I had every reason to be satisfied with
his zeal and with the success of his studies. Therefore, if I wished my
intention and method to become known, especially in regard to this
difficult Sangerkrieg, I had to rely on him for the proper execution of
my plans and everything they involved. I began by going through the
opening song of this scene with him; but, after I had done my utmost to
make him understand how I wanted it done, I was surprised to find how
very difficult this particular rendering of the music appeared to him.
He was absolutely incapable of repeating it after me, and with each
renewed effort his singing became so commonplace and so mechanical that
I realised clearly that he had not understood this piece to be anything
more than a phrase in recitative form, which he might render with any
inflections of the voice that happened to be prescribed, or which might
be sung either this way or that, according to fancy, as was usual in
operatic pieces. He, too, was astonished at his own want of capacity,
but was so struck by the novelty and the justice of my views, that he
begged me not to try any more for the present, but to leave him to find
out for himself how best to become familiar with this newly revealed
world. During several rehearsals he only sang in a whisper in order to
get over the difficulty, but at the last rehearsal he acquitted himself
so admirably of his task, and threw himself into it so heartily, that
his work has remained to this day as my most conclusive reason for
believing that, in spite of the unsatisfactory state of the world of
opera to-day, it is possible not only to find, but also properly to
train, the singer whom I should regard as indispensable for a correct
interpretation of my works. It was through the impression made by
Mitterwurzer that I ultimately succeeded in making the public
understand the whole of my work. This man, who had utterly changed
himself in bearing, look, and appearance in order to fit himself to the
role of Wolfram, had, in thus solving the problem, not only become a
thorough artist, but by his interpretation of his part had also proved
himself my saviour at the very moment when my work was threatening to
fail through the unsatisfactory result of the first performance.

By his side the part of Elizabeth made a sweet impression. The youthful
appearance of my niece, her tall and slender form, the decidedly German
cast of her features, as well as the incomparable beauty of her voice,
with its expression of almost childlike innocence, helped her to gain
the hearts of the audience, even though her talent was more theatrical
than dramatic. She soon rose to fame by her impersonation of this part,
and often in later years, when speaking about Tannhauser performances
in which she had appeared, people used to tell me that its success had
been entirely due to her. Strange to say, in such reports people
referred principally to the charm of her acting at the moment when she
received the guests in the Wartburg Hall; and I used to account for
this by remembering the untiring efforts with which my talented brother
and I had trained her to perform this very part. And yet it was never
possible to make her understand the proper interpretation of the prayer
in the third act, and I felt inclined to say, 'O Solon! Solon!' as I
had done in the case of Tichatschek, when after the first performance I
was obliged to make a considerable cut in this solo, a proceeding which
greatly reduced its importance for ever afterwards. I heard later that
Johanna, who for a short period actually had the reputation of being a
great singer, had never succeeded in singing the prayer as it ought to
be sung, whereas a French singer, Mademoiselle Marie Sax, achieved this
in Paris to my entire satisfaction.

In the beginning of October we had so far progressed with our
rehearsals that nothing stood in the way of an immediate production of
Tannhauser save the scenery, which was not yet complete. A few only of
the scenes ordered from Paris had arrived, and even these had come very
late. The Wartburg Valley was beautifully effective and perfect in
every detail. The inner part of the Venusberg, however, gave me much
anxiety: the painter had not understood me; he had painted clusters of
trees and statues, which reminded one of Versailles, and had placed
them in a wild cave; he had evidently not known how to combine the
weird with the alluring. I had to insist on extensive alterations, and
chiefly on the painting out of the shrubs and statues, all of which
required time. The grotto had to lie half hidden in a rosy cloud,
through which the Wartburg Valley had to loom in the distance; this was
to be done in strict obedience to my own ideas.

The greatest misfortune, however, was to befall me in the shape of the
tardy delivery of the scenery for the Hall of Song. This was due to
great negligence on the part of the Paris artists; and we waited and
waited until every detail of the opera had been studied and studied
again ad nauseam. Daily I went to the railway station and examined all
the packages and boxes that had arrived, but there was no Hall of Song.
At last I allowed myself to be persuaded not to postpone the first
performance any longer, and I decided to use the Hall of Karl the Great
out of Oberon, originally suggested to me by Luttichau, instead of the
real thing. Considering the importance I attached to practical effect,
this entailed a great sacrifice of my personal feelings. And true
enough, when the curtain rose for the second act, the reappearance of
this throne-room, which the public had seen so often, added
considerably to the general disappointment of the audience, who had
anticipated astonishing surprises in this opera.

On the 19th of October the first performance took place. In the morning
of that day a very beautiful young lady was introduced to me by the
leader Lipinsky. Her name was Mme. Ivalergis, and she was a niece of
the Russian Chancellor, Count von Nesselrode. Liszt had spoken to her
about me with such enthusiasm that she had travelled all the way to
Dresden especially to hear the first production of my new work. I
thought I was right in regarding this flattering visit as a good omen.
But although on this occasion she turned away from me, somewhat
perplexed and disappointed by the very unintelligible performance and
the somewhat doubtful reception with which it met, I had sufficient
cause in after-years to know how deeply this remarkable and energetic
woman had nevertheless been impressed.

A great contrast to this visit was one I received from a peculiar man
called C. Gaillard. He was the editor of a Berlin musical paper, which
had only just started, and in which I had read with great astonishment
an entirely favourable and important criticism of my Fliegender
Hollander. Although necessity had compelled me to remain indifferent to
the attitude of the critics, yet this particular notice gave me much
pleasure, and I had invited my unknown critic to come and hear the
first production of Tannhauser in Dresden.

This he did, and I was deeply touched to find that I had to deal with a
young man who, in spite of being threatened by consumption, and being
also exceedingly badly off, had come at my invitation, simply from a
sense of duty and honour, and not with any mercenary motive. I saw from
his knowledge and capacities that he would never be able to attain a
position of great influence, but his kindness of heart and his
extraordinarily receptive mind filled me with a feeling of profound
respect for him. A few years later I was very sorry to hear that he had
at last succumbed to the terrible disease from which I knew him to be
suffering; for to the very end he remained faithful and devoted to me,
in spite of the most trying circumstances.

Meanwhile I had renewed my acquaintance with the friend I had won
through the production of the Fliegender Hollander in Berlin, and who
for a long time I had never had an opportunity of knowing more
thoroughly. The second time I met her was at Schroder-Devrient's, with
whom she was already on friendly terms, and of whom she used to speak
as 'one of my greatest conquests.'

She was already past her first youth, and had no beauty of feature
except remarkably penetrating and expressive eyes that showed the
greatness of soul with which she was gifted. She was the sister of
Frommann, the bookseller of Jena, and could relate many intimate facts
about Goethe, who had stayed at her brother's house when he was in that
town. She had held the position of reader and companion to the Princess
Augusta of Prussia, and had thus become intimately acquainted with her,
and was regarded by her own association as almost a bosom friend and
confidante of that great lady. Nevertheless, she lived in extreme
poverty, and seemed proud of being able, by means of her talent as a
painter of arabesques, to secure for herself some sort of independence.
She always remained faithfully devoted to me, as she was one of the few
who were uninfluenced by the unfavourable impression produced by the
first performance of Tannhauser, and promptly expressed her
appreciation of my latest work with the greatest enthusiasm.

With regard to the production itself the conclusions I drew from it
were as follows: the real faults in the work, which I have already
mentioned incidentally, lay in the sketchy and clumsy portrayal of the
part of Venus, and consequently of the whole of the introductory scene
of the first act. In consequence of this defect the drama never even
rose to the level of genuine warmth, still less did it attain to the
heights of passion which, according to the poetic conception of the
part, should so strongly work upon the feelings of the audience as to
prepare them for the inevitable catastrophe in which the scene
culminates, and thus lead up to the tragic denouement. This great scene
was a complete failure, in spite of the fact that it was entrusted to
so great an actress as Schroder-Devrient, and a singer so unusually
gifted as Tichatschek. The genius of Devrient might yet have struck the
right note of passion in the scene had she not chanced to be acting
with a singer incapable of all dramatic seriousness, and whose natural
gifts only fitted him for joyous or declamatory accents, and who was
totally incapable of expressing pain and suffering. It was not until
Wolfram's touching song and the closing scene of this act were reached
that the audience showed any signs of emotion. Tichatschek wrought such
a tremendous effect in the concluding phrase by the jubilant music of
his voice that, as I was afterwards informed, the end of this first act
left the audience in a great state of enthusiasm. This was maintained,
and even exceeded in the second act, during which Elizabeth and Wolfram
made a very sympathetic impression. It was only the hero of Tannhauser
who continued to lose ground, and at last so completely failed to hold
the audience that in the final scene he almost broke down himself in
dejection, as though the failure of Tannhauser were his own. The fatal
defect of his performance lay in his inability to find the right
expression for the theme of the great Adagio passage of the finale
beginning with the words: 'To lead the sinner to salvation, the
Heaven-sent messenger drew near.' The importance of this passage I have
explained at length in my subsequent instructions for the production of
Tannhauser. Indeed, owing to Tichatschek's absolutely expressionless
rendering, which made it seem terribly long and tedious, I had to omit
it entirely from the second performance. As I did not wish to offend so
devoted and, in his way, so deserving a man as Tichatschek, I let it be
understood I had come to the conclusion that this theme was a failure.
Moreover, as Tichatschek was thought to be an actor chosen by myself to
take the parts of the heroes in my works, this passage, which was so
immeasurably vital to the opera, continued to be omitted in all the
subsequent productions of Tannhauser, as though this proceeding had
been approved and demanded by me. I therefore cherished no illusions
about the value of the subsequent universal success of this opera on
the German stage. My hero, who, in rapture as in woe, should always
have asserted his feelings with boundless energy, slunk away at the end
of the second act with the humble bearing of a penitent sinner, only to
reappear in the third with a demeanour designed to awaken the
charitable sympathy of the audience. His pronunciation of the Pope's
excommunication, however, was rendered with his usual full rhetorical
power, and it was refreshing to hear his voice dominating the
accompanying trombones. Granted that this radical defect in the hero's
acting had left the public in a doubtful and unsatisfied state of
suspense regarding the meaning of the whole, yet the mistake in the
execution of the final scene, arising from my own inexperience in this
new field of dramatic creation, undoubtedly contributed to produce a
chilling uncertainty as to the true significance of the scenic action.
In my first complete version I had made Venus, on the occasion of her
second attempt to recall her faithless lover, appear in a vision to
Tannhauser when he is in a frenzy of madness, and the awfulness of the
situation, is merely suggested by a faint roseate glow upon the distant
Horselberg. Even the definite announcement of Elizabeth's death was a
sudden inspiration on the part of Wolfram. This idea I intended to
convey to the listening audience solely by the sound of bells tolling
in the distance, and by a faint gleam of torches to attract their eyes
to the remote Wartburg. Moreover, there was a lack of precision and
clearness in the appearance of the chorus of young pilgrims, whose duty
it was to announce the miracle by their song alone. At that time I had
given them no budding staves to carry, and had unfortunately spoiled
their refrain by a tedious and unbroken monotony of accompaniment.

When at last the curtain fell, I was under the impression, not so much
from the behaviour of the audience, which was friendly, as from my own
inward conviction, that the failure of this work was to be attributed
to the immature and unsuitable material used in its production. My
depression was extreme, and a few friends who were present after the
piece, among them my dear sister Clara and her husband, were equally
affected. That very evening I decided to remedy the defects of the
first night before the second performance. I was conscious of where the
principal fault lay, but hardly dared give expression to my conviction.
At the slightest attempt on my part to explain anything to Tichatschek
I had to abandon it, as I realised the impossibility of success, I
should only have made him so embarrassed and annoyed, that on one
pretext or another he would never have sung Tannhauser again. In order
to ensure the repetition of my opera, therefore, I took the only course
open to me by arrogating to myself all blame for the failure. I could
thus make considerable curtailments, whereby, of course, the dramatic
significance of the leading role was considerably lessened; this,
however, did not interfere with the other parts of the opera, which had
been favourably received. Consequently, although inwardly very
humiliated, I hoped to gain some advantage for my work at the second
performance, and was particularly desirous that this should take place
with as little delay as possible. But Tichatschek was hoarse, and I had
to possess my soul in patience for fully a week.

I can hardly describe what I suffered during that time; it seemed as if
this delay would completely ruin my work. Every day that elapsed
between the first and second performance left the result of the former
more and more problematic, until at last it appeared to be a generally
acknowledged failure. While the public as a whole expressed angry
astonishment that, after the approval they had shown of my Rienzi, I
had paid no attention to their taste in writing my new work, there were
may kind and judicious friends who were utterly perplexed at its
inefficiency, the principal parts of which they had been unable to
understand, or thought were imperfectly sketched and finished. The
critics, with unconcealed joy, attacked it as ravens attack carrion
thrown out to them. Even the passions and prejudices of the day were
drawn into the controversy in order, if possible, to confuse men's
minds, and prejudice them against me. It was just at the time when the
German-Catholic agitation, set in motion by Czersky and Ronge as a
highly meritorious and liberal movement, was causing a great commotion.
It was now made out that by Tannhauser I had provoked a reactionary
tendency, and that precisely as Meyerbeer with his Huguenots had
glorified Protestantism, so I with my latest opera would glorify
Catholicism.

The rumour that in writing Tannhauser I had been bribed by the Catholic
part was believed for a long time. While the effort was being made to
ruin my popularity by this means, I had the questionable honour of
being approached, first by letter, afterwards in person, by a certain
M. Rousseau, at that time editor of the Prussian Staatszeitung, who
wished for my friendship and help. I knew of him only in connection
with a scathing criticism of my Fliegender Hollander. He informed me
that he had been sent from Austria to further the Catholic cause in
Berlin, but that he had had so many sad experiences of the
fruitlessness of his efforts, that he was now returning to Vienna to
continue his work in this direction undisturbed, with which work I had,
by my Tannhauser, proclaimed myself fully in accord.

That remarkable paper, the Dresdener Anzeiger, which was a local organ
for the redress of slander and scandal, daily published some fresh bit
of news to my prejudice. At last I noticed that these attacks were met
by witty and forcible little snubs, and also that encouraging comments
appeared in my favour, which for some time surprised me very much, as I
knew that only enemies and never friends interested themselves in such
cases. But I learned, to my amusement, from Rockel, that he and my
friend Heine had carried out this inspiriting campaign on my behalf.

The ill-feeling against me in this quarter was only troublesome because
at that unfortunate period I was hindered from expressing myself
through my work. Tichatschek continued hoarse, and it was said he would
never sing in my opera again. I heard from Luttichau that, scared by
the failure of Tannhauser, he was holding himself in readiness to
countermand the order for the promised scenery for the Hall of Song, or
to cancel it altogether. I was so terrified at the cowardice which was
thus revealed, that I myself began to look upon Tannhauser as doomed.
My prospects and my whole position, when viewed in this mood, may be
readily gathered from my communications, especially those referring to
my negotiations for the publication of my works.

This terrible week dragged out like an endless eternity. I was afraid
to look anybody in the face, but was one day obliged to go to Meser's
music shop, where I met Gottfried Semper just buying a text-book of
Tannhauser. Only a short time before I had been very much put out in
discussing this subject with him; he would listen to nothing I had to
say about the Minnesangers and Pilgrims of the Middle Ages in
connection with art, but gave me to understand that he despised me for
my choice of such material.

While Meser assured me that no inquiry whatever had been received for
the numbers of Tannhauser already published, it was strange that my
most energetic antagonist should be the only person who had actually
bought and paid for a copy. In a peculiarly earnest and impressive
manner he remarked to me that it was necessary to be thoroughly
acquainted with the subject if a just opinion was to be passed on it,
and that for this purpose, unfortunately, nothing but the text was
available. This very meeting with Semper, strange as it may appear, was
the first really encouraging sign that I can remember.

But I found my greatest consolation in those days of trouble and
anxiety in Rockel, who from that time forward entered into a lifelong
intimacy with me. He had, without my being aware of it, disputed,
explained, quarrelled, and petitioned on my behalf, and thereby roused
himself to a veritable enthusiasm for Tannhauser. The evening before
the second performance, which was at last to take place, we met over a
glass of beer, and his bright demeanour had such a cheering effect upon
me that we became very lively. After contemplating my head for some
time, he swore that it was impossible to destroy me, that there was a
something in me, something, probably, in my blood, as similar
characteristics also appeared in my brother Albert, who was otherwise
so unlike me. To speak more plainly, he called it the peculiar HEAT of
my temperament; this heat, he thought, might consume others, whereas I
appeared to feel at my best when it glowed most fiercely, for he had
several times seen me positively ablaze. I laughed, and did not know
what to make of his nonsense. Well, he said, I should soon see what he
meant in Tannhauser, for it was simply absurd to think the work would
not live; and he was absolutely certain of its success. I thought over
the matter on my way home, and came to the conclusion that if
Tannhauser did indeed win its way, and become really popular,
incalculable possibilities might be attained.

At last the time arrived for our second performance. For this I thought
I had made due preparation by lessening the importance of the principal
part, and lowering my original ideals about some of the more important
portions, and I hoped by accentuating certain undoubtedly attractive
passages to secure a genuine appreciation of the whole. I was greatly
delighted with the scenery which had at last arrived for the Hall of
Song in the second act, the beautiful and imposing effect of which
cheered us all, for we looked upon it as a good omen. Unfortunately I
had to bear the humiliation of seeing the theatre nearly empty. This,
more than anything else, sufficed to convince me what the opinion of
the public really was in regard to my work. But, if the audience was
scanty, the majority, at any rate, consisted of the first friends of my
art, and the reception of the piece was very cordial. Mitterwurzer
especially aroused the greatest enthusiasm. As for Tichatschek, my
anxious friends, Rockel and Heine, thought it necessary to endeavour by
every artifice to keep him in a good humour for his part. In order to
give practical assistance in making the undoubted obscurity of the last
scene clear, my friends had asked several young people, more especially
artists, to give vent to torrents of applause at those parts which are
not generally regarded by the opera-going public as provoking any
demonstration. Strange to say, the outburst of applause thus provoked
after the words, 'An angel flies to God's throne for thee, and will
make his voice heard; Heinrich, thou art saved,' made the entire
situation suddenly clear to the public. At all subsequent productions
this continued to be the principal moment for the expression of
sympathy on the part of the audience, although it had passed quite
unnoticed on the first night. A few days later a third performance took
place, but this time before a full house, Schroder-Devrient, depressed
at the small share she was able to take in the success of my work,
watched the progress of the opera from the small stage box; she
informed me that Luttichau had come to her with a beaming face, saying
he thought we had now carried Tannhauser happily through.

And this certainly proved to be the case; we often repeated it in the
course of the winter, but noticed that when two performances followed
close upon one another, there was not such a rush for the second, from
which we concluded that I had not yet gained the approval of the great
opera-going public, but only of the more cultured section of the
community. Among these real friends of Tannhauser there were many, as I
gradually discovered, who as a rule never visited the theatre at all,
and least of all the opera. This interest on the part of a totally new
public continued to grow in intensity, and expressed itself in a
delightful and hitherto unknown manner by a strong sympathy for the
author. It was particularly painful to me, on Tichatschek's account, to
respond alone to the calls of the audience after almost every act;
however, I had at last to submit, as my refusal would only have exposed
the vocalist to fresh humiliations, for when he appeared on the stage
with his colleagues without me, the loud shouts for me were almost
insulting to him. With what genuine eagerness did I wish that the
contrary were the case, and that the excellence of the execution might
overshadow the author. The conviction that I should never attain this
with my Tannhauser in Dresden guided me in all my future undertakings.
But, at all events, in producing Tannhauser in this city I had
succeeded in making at least the cultured public acquainted with my
peculiar tendencies, by stimulating their mental faculties and
stripping the performance of all realistic accessories. I did not,
however, succeed in making these tendencies sufficiently clear in a
dramatic performance, and in such an irresistible and convincing manner
as also to familiarise the uncultivated taste of the ordinary public
with them when they saw them embodied on the stage.

By enlarging the circle of my acquaintances, and making interesting
friends, I had a good opportunity during the winter of obtaining
further information on this point in a way that was both instructive
and encouraging. My acquaintance and close intimacy at this time with
Dr. Hermann Franck of Breslau, who had for some time been living
quietly in Dresden, was also very inspiring. He was very comfortably
off, and was one of those men who, by a wide knowledge and good
judgment, combined with considerable gifts as an author, won an
excellent reputation for himself in a large and select circle of
private friends, without, however, making any great name for himself
with the public. He endeavoured to use his knowledge and abilities for
the general good, and was induced by Brockhaus to edit the Deutsche
Allgemeine Zeitung when it first started. This paper had been founded
by Brockhaus some years earlier. However, after editing it for a year,
Franck resigned this post, and from that time forward it was only on
the very rarest occasions that he could be persuaded to touch anything
connected with journalism. His curt and spirited remarks about his
experiences in connection with the Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung
justified his disinclination to engage in any work connected with the
public press. My appreciation was all the greater, therefore, when,
without any persuasion on my part, he wrote a full report on Tannhauser
for the Augsburger Allgemeine Zeitung. This appeared in October or
November, 1845, in a supplement to that paper, and although it
contained the first account of a work which has since been so widely
discussed, I regard it, after mature consideration, as the most
far-reaching and exhaustive that has ever been written. By this means
my name figured for the first time in the great European political
paper, whose columns, in consequence of a remarkable change of front
which was to the interests of the proprietors, have since been open to
any one who wished to make merry at the expense of me or my work.

The point which particularly attracted me in Dr. Franck was the
delicate and tactful art he displayed in his criticism and his methods
of discussion. There was something distinguished about them that was
not so much the outcome of rank and social position as of genuine
world-wide culture.

The delicate coldness and reserve of his manner charmed rather than
repelled me, as it was a characteristic I had not met with hitherto.
When I found him expressing himself with some reserve in regard to
persons who enjoyed a reputation to which I did not think they were
always entitled, I was very pleased to see during my intercourse with
him that in many ways I exercised a decisive influence over his
opinion. Even at that time I did not care to let it pass unchallenged
when people evaded the close analysis of the work of this or that
celebrity, by referring in terms of eulogy to his 'good-nature.' I even
cornered my worldly wise friend on this point, when a few years later I
had the satisfaction of getting from him a very concise explanation of
Meyerbeer's 'good-nature,' of which he had once spoken, and he recalled
with a smile the extraordinary questions I had put to him at the time.
He was, however, quite alarmed when I gave him a very lucid explanation
of the disinterestedness and conspicuous altruism of Mendelssohn in the
service of art, of which he had spoken enthusiastically. In a
conversation about Mendelssohn he had remarked how delightful it was to
find a man able to make real sacrifices in order to free himself from a
false position that was of no service to art. It was assuredly a grand
thing, he said, to have renounced a good salary of nine thousand marks
as general musical conductor in Berlin, and to have retired to Leipzig
as a simple conductor at the Gewandhaus concerts, and Mendelssohn was
much to be admired on that account. Just at that time I happened to be
in a position to give some correct details regarding this apparent
sacrifice on the part of Mendelssohn, because when I had made a serious
proposal to our general management about increasing the salaries of
several of the poorer members of the orchestra, Luttichau was requested
to inform me that, according to the King's latest commands, the
expenditure on the state bands was to be so restricted that for the
present the poorer chamber musicians could not claim any consideration,
for Herr von Falkenstein, the governor of the Leipzig district, who was
a passionate admirer of Mendelssohn's, had gone so far as to influence
the King to appoint the latter secret conductor, with a secret salary
of six thousand marks. This sum, together with the salary of three
thousand marks openly granted him by the management of the Leipzig
Gewandhaus, would amply compensate him for the position he had
renounced in Berlin, and he had consequently consented to migrate to
Leipzig. This large grant had, for decency's sake, to be kept secret by
the board administering the band funds, not only because it was
detrimental to the interests of the institution, but also because it
might give offence to those who were acting as conductors at a lower
salary, if they knew another man had been appointed to a sinecure. From
these circumstances Mendelssohn derived not only the advantage of
having the grant kept a secret, but also the satisfaction of allowing
his friends to applaud him as a model of self-sacrificing zeal for
going to Leipzig; which they could easily do, although they knew him to
be in a good financial position. When I explained this to Franck, he
was astonished, and admitted it was one of the strangest cases he had
ever come across in connection with undeserved fame.

We soon arrived at a mutual understanding in our views about many other
artistic celebrities with whom we came in contact at that time in
Dresden. This was a simple matter in the case of Ferdinand Hiller, who
was regarded as the chief of the 'good-natured' ones. Regarding the
more famous painters of the so-called Dusseldorf School, whom I met
frequently through the medium of Tannhauser, it was not quite so easy
to come to a conclusion, as I was to a great extent influenced by the
fame attached to their well-known names; but here again Franck startled
me with opportune and conclusive reasons for disappointment. When it
was a question between Bendemann and Hubner, it seemed to me that
Hubner might very well be sacrificed to Bendemann. The latter, who had
only just completed the frescoes for one of the reception-rooms at the
royal palace, and had been rewarded by his friends with a banquet,
appeared to me to have the right to be honoured as a great master. I
was very much astonished, therefore, when Franck calmly pitied the King
of Saxony for having had his room 'bedaubed' by Bendemann!
Nevertheless, there was no denying that these people were
'good-natured.' My intercourse with them became more frequent, and at
all events offered me opportunities of mixing with the more cultured
artistic society, in distinction to the theatrical circles with which I
had usually associated; yet I never derived from it the least
enthusiasm or inspiration. The latter, however, appears to have been
Hiller's main object, and that winter he organised a sort of social
circle which held weekly meetings at the home of one or the other of
its members in turn. Reinecke, who was both painter and poet, joined
this society, together with Hubner and Bendemann, and had the bad
fortune to write the new text for an opera for Hiller, the fate of
which I will describe later on. Robert Schumann, the musician, who was
also in Dresden at this time, and was busy working out on opera, which
eventually developed into Genovefa, made advances to Hiller and myself.
I had already known Schumann in Leipzig, and we had both entered upon
our musical careers at about the same time. I had also occasionally
sent small contributions to the Neue Zeitschrift fur Musik, of which he
had formerly been editor, and more recently a longer one from Paris on
Rossini's Stabat Mater. He had been asked to conduct his Paradies und
Peri at a concert to be given at the theatre; but his peculiar
awkwardness in conducting on that occasion aroused my sympathy for the
conscientious and energetic musician whose work made so strong an
appeal to me, and a kindly and friendly confidence soon grew up between
us. After a performance of Tannhauser, at which he was present, he
called on me one morning and declared himself fully and decidedly in
favour of my work. The only objection he had to make was that the
stretta of the second finale was too abrupt, a criticism which proved
his keenness of perception; and I was able to show him, by the score,
how I had been compelled, much against my inclination, to curtail the
opera, and thereby create the position to which he had taken exception.
We often met when out walking and, as far as it was possible with a
person so sparing of words, we exchanged views on matters of musical
interest. He was looking forward to the production, under my baton, of
Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, as he had attended the performances at
Leipzig, and had been very much disappointed by Mendelssohn's
conducting, which had quite misunderstood the time of the first
movement. Otherwise his society did not inspire me particularly, and
the fact that he was too conservative to benefit by my views was soon
shown, more especially in his conception of the poem of Genovefa. It
was clear that my example had only made a very transient impression on
him, only just enough, in fact, to make him think it advisable to write
the text of an opera himself. He afterwards invited me to hear him read
his libretto, which was a combination of the styles of Hebbel and
Tieck. When, however, out of a genuine desire for the success of his
work, about which I had serious misgivings, I called his attention to
some grave defects in it, and suggested the necessary alterations, I
realised how matters stood with this extraordinary person: he simply
wanted me to be swayed by himself, but deeply resented any interference
with the product of his own ideals, so that thenceforward I let matters
alone.

In the following winter, our circle, thanks to the assiduity of Hiller,
was considerably widened, and it now became a sort of club whose object
was to meet freely every week in a room at Engel's restaurant at the
Postplatz. Just about this time the famous J. Schnorr of Munich was
appointed director of the museums in Dresden, and we entertained him at
a banquet. I had already seen some of his large and well-executed
cartoons, which made a deep impression on me, not only on account of
their dimensions, but also by reason of the events they depicted from
old German history, in which I was at that time particularly
interested. It was through Schnorr that I now became acquainted with
the 'Munich School' of which he was the master. My heart overflowed
when I thought what it meant for Dresden, if such giants of German art
were to shake hands there. I was much struck by Schnorr's appearance
and conversation, and I could not reconcile his whining pedagogic
manner with his mighty cartoons; however, I thought it a great stroke
of luck when he also took to frequenting Engel's restaurant on
Saturdays. He was well versed in the old German legends, and I was
delighted when they formed the topic of conversation. The famous
sculptor, Hanel, used also to attend these meetings, and his marvellous
talent inspired me with the greatest respect, although I was not an
authority on his work, and could only judge of it by my own feelings. I
soon saw that his bearing and manner were affected; he was very fond of
expressing his opinion and judgment on questions of art, and I was not
in a position to decide whether they were reliable or otherwise. In
fact, it often occurred to me that I was listening to a Philistine
swaggerer. It was only when my old friend Pecht, who had also settled
in Dresden for a time, clearly and emphatically explained to me Hanel's
standing as an artist, that I conquered all my secret doubts, and tried
to find some pleasure in his works. Rietschel, who was also a member of
our society, was the very antithesis of Hanel. I often found it
difficult to believe that the pale delicate man, with the whining
nervous way of expressing himself, was really a sculptor; but as
similar peculiarities in Schnorr did not prevent me from recognising
him as a marvellous painter, this helped me to make friends with
Rietschel, as he was quite free from affectation, and had a warm
sympathetic soul that drew me ever closer to him. I also remember
hearing from him a very enthusiastic appreciation of my personality as
a conductor. In spite, however, of being fellow-members of our
versatile art club, we never attained a footing of real comradeship,
for, after all, no one thought much of anybody else's talents. For
instance, Hiller had arranged some orchestral concerts, and to
commemorate them he was entertained at the usual banquet by his
friends, when his services were gratefully acknowledged with due
rhetorical pathos. Yet I never found, in my private intercourse with
Hiller's friends, the least enthusiasm in regard to his work; on the
contrary, I only noticed expressions of doubt and apprehensive shrugs.

These feted concerts soon came to an end. At our social evenings we
never discussed the works of the masters who were present; they were
not even mentioned, and it was soon evident that none of the members
knew what to talk about. Semper was the only man who, in his
extraordinary fashion, often so enlivened our entertainments that
Rietschel, inwardly sympathetic, though painfully startled, would
heartily complain against the unrestrained outbursts that led not
infrequently to hot discussions between Semper and myself. Strange to
say, we two always seemed to start from the hypothesis that we were
antagonists, for he insisted upon regarding me as the representative of
mediaeval Catholicism, which he often attacked with real fury. I
eventually succeeded in persuading him that my studies and inclinations
had always led me to German antiquity, and to the discovery of ideals
in the early Teutonic myths. When we came to paganism, and I expressed
my enthusiasm for the genuine heathen legends, he became quite a
different being, and a deep and growing interest now began to unite us
in such a way that it quite isolated us from the rest of the company.
It was, however, impossible ever to settle anything without a heated
argument, not only because Semper had a peculiar habit of contradicting
everything flatly, but also because he knew his views were opposed to
those of the entire company. His paradoxical assertions, which were
apparently only intended to stir up strife, soon made me realise,
beyond any doubt, that he was the only one present who was passionately
in earnest about everything he said, whereas all the others were quite
content to let the matter drop when convenient. A man of the latter
type was Gutzkow, who was often with us; he had been summoned to
Dresden by the general management of our court theatre, to act in the
capacity of dramatist and adapter of plays. Several of his pieces had
recently met with great success: Zopf und Schwert, Das Urbild des
Tartuffe, and Uriel Acosta, shed an unexpected lustre on the latest
dramatic repertoire, and it seemed as though the advent of Gutzkow
would inaugurate a new era of glory for the Dresden theatre, where my
operas had also been first produced. The good intentions of the
management were certainly undeniable. My only regret on that occasion
was that the hopes my old friend Laube entertained of being summoned to
Dresden to fill that post were unrealised. He also had thrown himself
enthusiastically into the work of dramatic literature. Even in Paris I
had noticed the eagerness with which he used to study the technique of
dramatic composition, especially that of Scribe, in the hope of
acquiring the skill of that writer, without which, as he soon
discovered, no poetical drama in German could be successful. He
maintained that he had thoroughly mastered this style in his comedy,
Rococo, and he cherished the conviction that he could work up any
imaginable material into an effective stage play.

At the same time, he was very careful to show equal skill in the
selection of his material. In my opinion this theory of his was a
complete failure, as his only successful pieces were those in which
popular interest was excited by catch-phrases. This interest was always
more or less associated with the politics of the day, and generally
involved some obvious diatribes about 'German unity' and 'German
Liberalism.' As this important stimulus was first applied by way of
experiment to the subscribers to our Residenz Theater, and afterwards
to the German public generally, it had, as I have already said, to be
worked out with the consummate skill which, presumably, could only be
learned from modern French writers of comic opera.

I was very glad to see the result of this study in Laube's plays, more
especially as when he visited us in Dresden, which he often did on the
occasion of a new production, he admitted his indebtedness with modest
candour, and was far from pretending to be a real poet. Moreover, he
displayed great skill and an almost fiery zeal, not only in the
preparation of his pieces, but also in their production, so that the
offer of a post at Dresden, the hope of which had been held out to him,
would at least, from a practical point of view, have been a benefit to
the theatre. Finally, however, the choice fell on his rival Gutzkow, in
spite of his obvious unsuitability for the practical work of dramatist.
It was evident that even as regards his successful plays his triumph
was mainly due to his literary skill, because these effective plays
were immediately followed by wearisome productions which made us
realise, to our astonishment, that he himself could not have been aware
of the skill he had previously displayed. It was, however, precisely
these abstract qualities of the genuine man of letters which, in the
eyes of many, cast over him the halo of literary greatness; and when
Luttichau, thinking more of a showy reputation than of permanent
benefit to his theatre, decided to give the preference to Gutzkow, he
thought his choice would give a special impetus to the cause of higher
culture. To me the appointment of Gutzkow as the director of dramatic
art at the theatre was peculiarly objectionable, as it was not long
before I was convinced of his utter incompetence for the task, and it
was probably owing to the frankness with which I expressed my opinion
to Luttichau that our subsequent estrangement was originally due. I had
to complain bitterly of the want of judgment and the levity of those
who so recklessly selected men to fill the posts of managers and
conductors in such precious institutions of art as the German royal
theatres. To obviate the failure I felt convinced must follow on this
important appointment, I made a special request that Gutzkow should not
be allowed to interfere in the management of the opera; he readily
yielded, and thus spared himself great humiliation. This action,
however, created a feeling of mistrust between us, though I was quite
ready to remove this as far as possible by coming into personal contact
with him whenever opportunity offered on those evenings when the
artists used to gather at the club, as already described. I would
gladly have made this strange man, whose head was anxiously bowed down
on his breast, relax and unburden himself in his conversations with me,
but I was unsuccessful, on account of his constant reserve and
suspicion, and his studied aloofness. An opportunity arose for a
discussion between us when he wanted the orchestra to take a
melodramatic part (which they afterwards did) in a certain scene of his
Uriel Acosta, where the hero had to recant his alleged heresy. The
orchestra had to execute the soft tremolo for a given time on certain
chords, but when I heard the performance it appeared to me absurd, and
equally derogatory both for the music and the drama.

On one of these evenings I tried to come to an understanding with
Gutzkow concerning this, and the employment of music generally as a
melodramatic auxiliary to the drama, and I discussed my views on the
subject in accordance with the highest principles I had conceived. He
met all the chief points of my discussion with a nervous distrustful
silence, but finally explained that I really went too far in the
significance which I claimed for music, and that he failed to
understand how music would be degraded if it were applied more
sparingly to the drama, seeing that the claims of verse were often
treated with much less respect when it was used as a mere accessory to
operatic music. To put it practically, in fact, it would be advisable
for the librettist not to be too dainty in this matter; it wasn't
possible always to give the actor a brilliant exit; at the same time,
however, nothing could be more painful than when the chief performer
made his exit without any applause. In such cases a little distracting
noise in the orchestra really supplied a happy diversion. This I
actually heard Gutzkow say; moreover, I saw that he really meant it!
After this I felt I had done with him.

It was not long before I had equally little to do with all the
painters, musicians, and other zealots in art belonging to our society.
At the same time, however, I came into closer contact with Berthold
Auerbach. With great enthusiasm, Alwine Frommann had already drawn my
attention to Auerbach's Pastoral Stories. The account she gave of these
modest works (for that is how she characterised them) sounded quite
attractive. She said that they had had the same refreshing effect on
her circle of friends in Berlin as that produced by opening the window
of a scented boudoir (to which she compared the literature they had
hitherto been used to), and letting in the fresh air of the woods.
After that I read the Pastoral Stories of the Black Forest, which had
so quickly become famous, and I, too, was strongly attracted by the
contents and tone of these realistic anecdotes about the life of the
people in a locality which it was easy enough to identify from the
vivid descriptions. As at this time Dresden seemed to be becoming ever
more and more the rendezvous for the lights of our literary and
artistic world, Auerbach also reconciled himself to taking up his
quarters in this city; and for quite a long time, lived with his friend
Hiller, who thus again had a celebrity at his side of equal standing
with himself. The short, sturdy Jewish peasant boy, as he was placed to
represent himself to be, made a very agreeable impression. It was only
later that I understood the significance of his green jacket, and above
all of his green hunting-cap, which made him look exactly what the
author of Swabian Pastoral Stories ought to look like, and this
significance was anything but a naive one. The Swiss poet, Gottfried
Keller, once told me that, when Auerbach was in Zurich, and he had
decided on taking him up, he (Auerbach) had drawn his attention to the
best way in which to introduce one's literary effusions to the public,
and to make money, and he advised him, above all things, to get a coat
and cap like his own, for being, as he said, like himself, neither
handsome nor well grown, it would be far better deliberately to make
himself look rough and queer; so saying, he placed his cap on his head
in such a way as to look a little rakish. For the time being, I
perceived no real affectation in Auerbach; he had assimilated so much
of the tone and ways of the people, and had done this so happily, that,
in any case, one could not help asking oneself why, with these
delightful qualities, he should move with such tremendous ease in
spheres that seemed absolutely antagonistic. At all events, he always
seemed in his true element even in those circles which really seemed
most opposed to his assumed character; there he stood in his green
coat, keen, sensitive, and natural, surrounded by the distinguished
society that flattered him; and he loved to show letters he had
received from the Grand Duke of Weimar and his answers to them, all the
time looking at things from the standpoint of the Swabian peasant
nature which suited him so admirably.

What especially attracted me to him was the fact that he was the first
Jew I ever met with whom one could discuss Judaism with absolute
freedom. He even seemed particularly desirous of removing, in his
agreeable manner, all prejudice on this score; and it was really
touching to hear him speak of his boyhood, and declare that he was
perhaps the only German who had read Klopstock's Messiah all through.
Having one day become absorbed in this work, which he read secretly in
his cottage home, he had played the truant from school, and when he
finally arrived too late at the school-house, his teacher angrily
exclaimed: 'You confounded Jew-boy, where have you been? Lending money
again?' Such experiences had only made him feel pensive and melancholy,
but not bitter, and he had even been inspired with real compassion for
the coarseness of his tormentors. These were traits in his character
which drew me very strongly to him. As time went on, however, it seemed
to me a serious matter that he could not get away from the atmosphere
of these ideas, for I began to feel that the universe contained no
other problem for him than the elucidation of the Jewish question. One
day, therefore, I protested as good-naturedly and confidentially as I
could, and advised him to let the whole problem of Judaism drop, as
there were, after all, many other standpoints from which the world
might be criticised. Strange to say, he thereupon not only lost his
ingeniousness, but also fell to whining in an ecstatic fashion, which
did not seem to me very genuine, and assured me that that would be an
impossibility for him, as there was still so much in Judaism which
needed his whole sympathy. I could not help recalling the surprising
anguish which he had manifested on this occasion, when I learned, in
the course of time, that he had repeatedly arranged Jewish marriages,
concerning the happy result of which I heard nothing, save that he had,
by this means, made quite a fortune. When, several years afterwards, I
again saw him in Zurich, I observed that his appearance had
unfortunately changed in a manner quite disconcerting: he looked really
extraordinarily common and dirty; his former refreshing liveliness had
turned into the usual Jewish restlessness, and it was easy to see that
all he said was uttered as if he regretted that his words could not be
turned to better account in a newspaper article.

During his time in Dresden, however, Auerbach's warm agreement with my
artistic projects really did me good, even though it may have been only
from his Semitic and Swabian standpoint; so did the novelty of the
experience I was at that time undergoing as an artist, in meeting with
ever-increasing regard and recognition among people of note, of
acknowledged importance and of exceptional culture. If, after the
success obtained by Rienzi, I still remained with the circle of the
real theatrical world, the greater success following on Tannhauser
certainly brought me into contact with such people as I have mentioned
above, who, though to be sure they considerably enlarged my ideas, at
the same time impressed me very unfavourably with what was apparently
the pinnacle of the artistic life of the period. At any rate, I felt
neither rewarded nor, fortunately, even diverted by the acquaintances I
won by the first performance of my Tannhauser that winter. On the
contrary, I felt an irresistible desire to withdraw into my shell and
leave these gay surroundings into which, strangely enough, I had been
introduced at the instigation of Hiller, whom I soon recognised as
being a nonentity. I felt I must quickly compose something, as this was
the only means of ridding myself of all the disturbing and painful
excitement Tannhauser had produced in me.

Only a few weeks after the first performances I had worked out the
whole of the Lohengrin text. In November I had already read this poem
to my intimate friends, and soon afterwards to the Hiller set. It was
praised, and pronounced 'effective.' Schumann also thoroughly approved
of it, although he did not understand the musical form in which I
wished to carry it out, as he saw no resemblance in it to the old
methods of writing individual solos for the various artists. I then had
some fun in reading different parts of my work to him in the form of
arias and cavatinas, after which he laughingly declared himself
satisfied.

Serious reflection, however, aroused my gravest doubts as to the tragic
character of the material itself, and to these doubts I had been led,
in a manner both sensible and tactful, by Franck. He thought it
offensive to effect Elsa's punishment through Lohengrin's departure;
for although he understood that the characteristics of the legend were
expressed precisely by this highly poetical feature, he was doubtful as
to whether it did full justice to the demands of tragic feeling in its
relation to dramatic realism. He would have preferred to see Lohengrin
die before our eyes owing to Elsa's loving treachery. As, however, this
did not seem feasible, he would have liked to see Lohengrin spell-bound
by some powerful motive, and prevented from getting away. Although, of
course, I would not agree to any of these suggestions, I went so far as
to consider whether I could not do away with the cruel separation, and
still retain the incident of Lohengrin's departure, which was
essential. I then sought for a means of letting Elsa go away with
Lohengrin, as a form of penance which would withdraw her also from the
world. This seemed more promising to my talented friend. While I was
still very doubtful about all this, I gave my poem to Frau von
Luttichau, so that she might peruse it, and criticise the point raised
by Franck. In a little letter, in which she expressed her pleasure at
my poem, she wrote briefly, but very decidedly, on the knotty question,
and declared that Franck must be devoid of all poetry if he did not
understand that it was exactly in the way I had chosen, and in no
other, that Lohengrin must depart. I felt as if a load had fallen from
my heart. In triumph I showed the letter to Franck, who, much abashed,
and by way of excusing himself, opened a correspondence with Frau von
Luttichau, which certainly cannot have been lacking in interest, though
I was never able to see any of it. In any case, the upshot of it was
that Lohengrin remained as I had originally conceived it. Curiously
enough, some time later, I had a similar experience with regard to the
same subject, which again put me in a temporary state of uncertainty.
When Adolf Stahr gravely raised the same objection to the solution of
the Lohengrin question, I was really taken aback by the uniformity of
opinion; and as, owing to some excitement, I was just then no longer in
the same mood as when I composed Lohengrin, I was foolish enough to
write a hurried letter to Stahr in which, with but a few slight
reservations, I declared him to be right. I did not know that, by this,
I was causing real grief to Liszt, who was now in the same position
with regard to Stahr as Frau von Luttichau had been with regard to
Franck. Fortunately, however, the displeasure of my great friend at my
supposed treachery to myself did not last long; for, without having got
wind of the trouble I had caused him, and thanks to the torture I
myself was going through, I came to the proper decision in a few days,
and, as clear as daylight, I saw what madness it had been. I was
therefore able to rejoice Liszt with the following laconical protest
which I sent him from my Swiss resort: 'Stahr is wrong, and Lohengrin
is right.'

For the present I remained occupied with the revision of my poem, for
there could be no question of planning the music to it just now. That
peaceful and harmonious state of mind which is so favourable to
creative work, and always so necessary to me for composing, I now had
to secure with the greatest difficulty, for it was one of the things I
always had the hardest struggle to obtain. All the experiences
connected with the performance of Tannhauser having filled me with true
despair as to the whole future of my artistic operations, I saw it was
hopeless to think of its production being extended to other German
theatres--for I had not been able to achieve this end even with the
successful Rienzi. It was perfectly obvious, therefore, that my work
would, at the utmost, be conceded a permanent place in the Dresden
repertoire. As the result of all this, my pecuniary affairs, which have
already been described, had got into such a serious state that a
catastrophe seemed inevitable. While I was preparing to meet this in
the best way I could, I tried to stupefy myself, on the one hand, by
plunging into the study of history, mythology, and literature, which
were becoming ever dearer and dearer to me, and on the other by working
incessantly at my artistic enterprises. As regards the former, I was
chiefly interested in the German Middle Ages, and tried to make myself
familiar with every point relative to this period. Although I could not
set about this task with philological precision, I proceeded with such
earnestness that I studied the German records, published by Grimm, for
instance, with the greatest interest. As I could not put the results of
such studies immediately into my scenes, there were many who could not
understand why, as an operatic composer, I should waste my time on such
barren work. Different people remarked later on, that the personality
of Lohengrin had a charm quite its own; but this was ascribed to the
happy selection of the subject, and I was specially praised for
choosing it. Material from the German Middle Ages, and later on,
subjects from Scandinavian antiquity, were therefore looked forward to
by many, and, in the end, they were astonished that I gave them no
adequate result of all my labours. Perhaps it will be of help to them
if I now tell them to take the old records and such works to their aid.
I forgot at that time to call Hiller's attention to my documents, and
with great pride he seized upon a subject out of the history of the
Hohenstaufen. As, however, he had no success with his work, he may
perhaps think I was a little artful for not having spoken to him of the
old records.

Concerning my other duties, my chief undertaking for this winter
consisted in an exceptionally carefully prepared performance of
Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, which took place in the spring on Palm
Sunday. This performance involved many a struggle, besides a host of
experiences which were destined to exercise a strong influence over my
further development. Roughly they were as follows: the royal orchestra
had only one opportunity a year of showing their powers independently
in a musical performance outside the Opera or the church. For the
benefit of the Pension Fund for their widows and orphans, the old
so-called Opera House was given up to a big performance originally only
intended for oratorios. Ultimately, in order to make it more
attractive, a symphony was always added to the oratorio; and, as
already mentioned, I had performed on such occasions, once the Pastoral
Symphony, and later Haydn's Creation. The latter was a great joy to me,
and it was on this occasion that I first made its acquaintance. As we
two conductors had stipulated for alternate performances, the Symphony
on Palm Sunday of the year 1846 fell to my lot. I had a great longing
for the Ninth Symphony, and I was led to the choice of this work by the
fact that it was almost unknown in Dresden. When the directors of the
orchestra, who were the trustees of the Pension Fund, and who had to
promote its increase, got to know of this, such a fright seized them
that they interviewed the general director, Luttichau, and begged him,
by virtue of his high authority, to dissuade me from carrying out my
intention. They gave as a reason for this request, that the Pension
Fund would surely suffer through the choice of this symphony, as the
work was in ill-repute in the place, and would certainly keep people
from going to the concert. The symphony had been performed many years
before by Reissiger at a charity concert, and, as the conductor himself
honestly admitted, had been an absolute failure. Now it needed my whole
ardour, and all the eloquence I could command, to prevail over the
doubts of our principal. With the orchestral directors, however, there
was nothing for me to do but quarrel, as I heard that they were
complaining all over the town about my indiscretion. In order to add
shame to their trouble, I made up my mind to prepare the public in such
a way for the performance, upon which I had resolved, and for the work
itself, that at least the sensation caused would lead to a full hall
and thus, in a very favourable manner, guarantee satisfactory returns,
and contradict their belief that the fund was menaced. Thus the Ninth
Symphony had, in every conceivable way, become for me a point of
honour, for the success of which I had to exercise all my powers to the
utmost. The committee had misgivings regarding the outlay needed for
procuring the orchestral parts, so I borrowed them from the Leipzig
Concert Society.

Imagine my feelings, however, on now seeing for the first time since my
earliest boyhood the mysterious pages of this score, which I studied
conscientiously! In those days the sight of these same pages had filled
me with the most mystic reveries, and I had stayed up for nights
together to copy them out. Just as at the time of my uncertainty in
Paris, on hearing the rehearsal of the first three movements performed
by the incomparable orchestra of the Conservatoire, I had been carried
back through years of error and doubt to be placed in marvellous touch
with my earliest days, while all my inmost aspirations had been
fruitfully stimulated in a new direction, so now in the same way the
memory of that music was secretly awakened in me as I again saw before
my own eyes that which in those early days had likewise been only a
mysterious vision. I had by this time experienced much which, in the
depths of my soul, drove me almost unconsciously to a process of
summing-up, to an almost despairing inquiry concerning my fate. What I
dared not acknowledge to myself was the fact of the absolute insecurity
of my existence both from the artistic and financial point of view; for
I saw that I was a stranger to my own mode of life as well as to my
profession, and I had no prospects whatsoever. This despair, which I
tried to conceal from my friends, was now converted into genuine
exaltation, thanks entirely to the Ninth Symphony. It is not likely
that the heart of a disciple has ever been filled with such keen
rapture over the work of a master, as mine was at the first movement of
this symphony. If any one had come upon me unexpectedly while I had the
open score before me, and had seen me convulsed with sobs and tears as
I went through the work in order to consider the best manner of
rendering it, he would certainly have asked with astonishment if this
were really fitting behaviour for the Conductor Royal of Saxony!
Fortunately, on such occasions I was spared the visits of our orchestra
directors, and their worthy conductor Reissiger, and even those of F.
Hiller, who was so versed in classical music.

In the first place I drew up a programme, for which the book of words
for the chorus--always ordered according to custom--furnished me with a
good pretext. I did this in order to provide a guide to the simple
understanding of the work, and thereby hoped to appeal not to the
critical judgment, but solely to the feelings, of the audience. This
programme, in the framing of which some of the chief passages in
Goethe's Faust were exceedingly helpful to me, was very well received,
not only on that occasion in Dresden, but later on in other places.
Besides this, I made use of the Dresden Anzeiger, by writing all kinds
of short and enthusiastic anonymous paragraphs, in order to whet the
public taste for a work which hitherto had been in ill-repute in
Dresden.

Not only did these purely extraneous exertions succeed in making the
receipts of that year by far exceed any that had been taken
theretofore, but the orchestra directors themselves, during the
remaining years of my stay in Dresden, made a point of ensuring
similarly large profits by repeated performances of the celebrated
symphony. Concerning the artistic side of the performance, I aimed at
making the orchestra give as expressive a rendering as possible, and to
this end made all kinds of notes, myself, in the various parts, so as
to make quite sure that their interpretation would be as clear and as
coloured as could be desired. It was principally the custom which
existed then of doubling the wind instruments, that led me to a most
careful consideration of the advantages this system presented, for, in
performances on a large scale, the following somewhat crude rule
prevailed: all those passages marked piano were executed by a single
set of instruments, while those marked forte were carried out by a
duplicated set. As an instance of the way in which I took care to
ensure an intelligible rendering by this means, I might point to a
certain passage in the second movement of the symphony, where the whole
of the string instruments play the principal and rhythmical figure in C
major for the first time; it is written in triple octaves, which play
uninterruptedly in unison and, to a certain degree, serve as an
accompaniment to the second theme, which is only performed by feeble
wood instruments. As fortissimo is indicated alike for the whole
orchestra, the result in every imaginable rendering must be that the
melody for the wood instruments not only completely disappears, but
cannot even be heard through the strings, which, after all, are only
accompanying. Now, as I never carried my piety to the extent of taking
directions absolutely literally, rather than sacrifice the effect
really intended by the master to the erroneous indications given, I
made the strings play only moderately loudly instead of real
fortissimo, up to the point where they alternate with the wind
instruments in taking up the continuation of the new theme: thus the
motive, rendered as it was as loudly as possible by a double set of
wind instruments, was, I believe for the first time since the existence
of the symphony, heard with real distinctness. I proceeded in this
manner throughout, in order to guarantee the greatest exactitude in the
dynamical effects of the orchestra. There was nothing, however
difficult, which was allowed to be performed in such a way as not to
arouse the feelings of the audience in a particular manner. For
example, many brains had been puzzled by the Fugato in 6/8 time which
comes after the chorus, Froh wie seine Sonnen fliegen, in the movement
of the finale marked alia marcia. In view of the preceding inspiriting
verses, which seemed to be preparing for combat and victory, I
conceived this Fugato really as a glad but earnest war-song, and I took
it at a continuously fiery tempo, and with the utmost vigour. The day
following the first performance I had the satisfaction of receiving a
visit from the musical director Anacker of Freiburg, who came to tell
me somewhat penitently, that though until then he had been one of my
antagonists, since the performance of the symphony he certainly
reckoned himself among my friends. What had absolutely overwhelmed him,
he said, was precisely my conception and interpretation of the Fugato.
Furthermore, I devoted special attention to that extraordinary passage,
resembling a recitative for the 'cellos and basses, which comes at the
beginning of the last movement, and which had once caused my old friend
Pohlenz such great humiliation in Leipzig. Thanks to the exceptional
excellence of our bass players, I felt certain of attaining to absolute
perfection in this passage. After twelve special rehearsals of the
instruments alone concerned, I succeeded in getting them to perform in
a way which sounded not only perfectly free, but which also expressed
the most exquisite tenderness and the greatest energy in a thoroughly
impressive manner.

From the very beginning of my undertaking I had at once recognised,
that the only method of achieving overwhelming popular success with
this symphony was to overcome, by some ideal means, the extraordinary
difficulties presented by the choral parts. I realised that the demands
made by these parts could be met only by a large and enthusiastic body
of singers. It was above all necessary, then, to secure a very good and
large choir; so, besides adding the somewhat feeble Dreissig 'Academy
of Singing' to our usual number of members in the theatre chorus, in
spite of great difficulties I also enlisted the help of the choir from
the Kreuzschule, with its fine boys' voices, and the choir of the
Dresden seminary, which had had much practice in church singing. In a
way quite my own I now tried to get these three hundred singers, who
were frequently united for rehearsals, into a state of genuine ecstasy;
for instance, I succeeded in demonstrating to the basses that the
celebrated passage Seid umschlungen, Millionen, and especially Bruder,
uber'm Sternenzelt muss ein guter Vater wohnen, could not be sung in an
ordinary manner, but must, as it were, be proclaimed with the greatest
rapture. In this I took the lead in a manner so elated that I really
think I literally transported them to a world of emotion utterly
strange to them for a while; and I did not desist till my voice, which
had been heard clearly above all the others, began to be no longer
distinguishable even to myself, but was drowned, so to speak, in the
warm sea of sound.

It gave me particular pleasure, with Mitterwurzer's cooperation, to
give a most overwhelmingly expressive rendering of the recitative for
baritone: Freunde, nicht diese Tone. In view of its exceptional
difficulties this passage might almost be considered impossible to
perform, and yet he executed it in a way which showed what fruit our
mutual interchange of ideas had borne. I also took care that, by means
of the complete reconstruction of the hall, I should obtain good
acoustic conditions for the orchestra, which I had arranged according
to quite a new system of my own. As may be imagined, it was only with
the greatest difficulty that the money for this could be found;
however, I did not give up, and owing to a totally new construction of
the platform, I was able to concentrate the whole of the orchestra
towards the centre, and surround it, in amphitheatre fashion, by the
throng of singers who were accommodated on seats very considerably
raised. This was not only of great advantage to the powerful effect of
the choir, but it also gave great precision and energy to the finely
organised orchestra in the purely symphonic movements.

Even at the general rehearsal the hall was overcrowded. Reissiger was
guilty of the incredible stupidity of working up the public mind
against the symphony and drawing attention to Beethoven's very
regrettable error. Gade, on the other hand, who came to visit us from
Leipzig, where he was then conducting the Gewandhaus Concerts, assured
me after the general rehearsal, that he would willingly have paid
double the price of his ticket in order to hear the recitative by the
basses once more; whilst Hiller considered that I had gone too far in
my modification of the tempo. What he meant by this I learned
subsequently when I heard him conducting intricate orchestral works;
but of this I shall have more to say later on.

There was no denying that the performance was, on the whole, a success;
in fact, it exceeded all our expectations, and was particularly well
received by the non-musical public. Among these I remember the
philologist Dr. Kochly, who came to me at the end of the evening and
confessed that it was the first time he had been able to follow a
symphonic work from beginning to end with intelligent interest. This
experience left me with a pleasant feeling of ability and power, and
strongly confirmed me in the belief, that if I only desired anything
with sufficient earnestness, I was able to achieve it with irresistible
and overwhelming success. I now had to consider, however, what the
difficulties were, which hitherto had prevented a similarly happy
production of my own new conceptions. Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, which
was still such a problem to so many, and had, at all events, never
attained to popularity, I had been able to make a complete success;
yet, as often as it was put on the stage, my Tannhauser taught me that
the possibilities of its success had yet to be discovered. How was this
to be done? This was and remained the secret question which influenced
all my subsequent development.

I dared not, however, indulge at that time in any meditation on this
point with the view of arriving at any particular results, for the real
significance of my failure, of which I was inwardly convinced, stood
absolutely bare before me with all its terrifying lessons. Albeit, I
could no longer delay taking even the most disagreeable steps with the
view of warding off the catastrophe which menaced my financial position.

I was led to this, thanks to the influence of a ridiculous omen. My
agent, the purely nominal publisher of my three operas--Rienzi, the
Fliegender Hollander, and Tannhauser--the eccentric court music
publisher, C. F. Meser, invited me one day to the cafe known as the
'Verderber' to discuss our money affairs. With great qualms we talked
over the possible results of the Annual Easter Fair, and wondered
whether they would be tolerably good or altogether bad. I gave him
courage, and ordered a bottle of the best Haut-Sauterne. A venerable
flask made its appearance; I filled the glasses, and we drank to the
good success of the Fair; when suddenly we both yelled as though we had
gone mad, while, with horror, we tried to rid our mouths of the strong
Tarragon vinegar with which we had been served by mistake. 'Heavens!'
cried Meser, 'nothing could be worse!' 'True enough,' I answered, 'no
doubt there is much that will turn to vinegar for us.' My good-humour
revealed to me in a flash that I must try some other way of saving
myself than by means of the Easter Fair.

Not only was it necessary to refund the capital which had been got
together by dint of ever-increasing sacrifices, in order to defray the
expenses of the publication of my operas; but, owing to the fact that I
had been obliged ultimately to seek aid from the usurers, the rumour of
my debts had spread so far abroad, that even those friends who had
helped me at the time of my arrival in Dresden were seized with anxiety
on my account. At this time I met with a really sad experience at the
hands of Madame Schroder-Devrient, who, as the result of her
incomprehensible lack of discretion, did much to bring about my final
undoing. When I first settled in Dresden, as I have already pointed
out, she lent me three thousand marks, not only to help me to discharge
my debts, but also to allow me to contribute to the maintenance of my
old friend Kietz in Paris. Jealousy of my niece Johanna, and suspicion
that I had made her (my niece) come to Dresden in order to make it
easier for the general management to dispense with the services of the
great artist, had awakened in this otherwise so noble-minded woman the
usual feelings of animosity towards me, which are so often met with in
the theatrical profession. She had now given up her engagement; she
even declared openly that I had been partly instrumental in obtaining
her dismissal; and abandoning all friendly regard for me, whereby she
deeply wronged me in every respect, she placed the I.O.U. I had given
her in the hands of an energetic lawyer, and without further ado this
man sued me for the payment of the money. Thus I was forced to make a
clean breast of everything to Luttichau, and to beseech him to
intervene for me, and if possible to obtain a royal advance that would
enable me to clear my position, which was so seriously compromised.

My principal declared himself willing to support any request I might
wish to address to the King on this matter. To this end I had to note
down the amount of my debts; but as I soon discovered that the
necessary sum could only be assigned to me as a loan from the Theatre
Pension Fund, at an interest of five per cent., and that I should
moreover have to secure the capital of the Pension Fund by a life
insurance policy, which would cost me annually three per cent, of the
capital borrowed, I was, for obvious reasons, tempted to leave out of
my petition all those of my debts which were not of a pressing nature,
and for the payment of which I thought I could count on the receipts
which I might finally expect from my publishing enterprises.
Nevertheless, the sacrifices I had to make in order to repay the help
offered me increased to such an extent, that my salary of conductor, in
itself very slender, promised to be materially diminished for some time
to come. I was forced to make the most irksome efforts to gather
together the necessary sum for the life insurance policy, and was
therefore obliged frequently to appeal to Leipzig. In addition to this,
I had to overcome the most appalling doubts in regard both to my health
and to the probable length of my life, concerning which I fancied I had
heard all sorts of malicious apprehensions expressed by those who had
observed me but casually in the miserable condition which I was in at
that time. My friend Pusinelli, as a doctor who was very intimate with
me, eventually managed to give such satisfactory information concerning
the state of my health, that I succeeded in insuring my life at the
rate of three per cent.

The last of these painful journeys to Leipzig was, at all events, made
under pleasant circumstances owing to a kind invitation from the old
Maestro Louis Spohr. I was particularly pleased over this, because to
me it meant nothing less than an act of reconciliation. As a matter of
fact, Spohr had written to me on one occasion, and had declared that,
stimulated by the success of my Fliegender Hollander and his own
enjoyment of it, he had once more decided to take up the career of a
dramatic composer, which of recent years had brought him such scant
success. His last work was an opera--Die Kreuz-fahrer--which he had
sent to the Dresden theatre in the course of the preceding year in the
hope, as he himself assured me, that I would urge on its production.
After asking this favour, he drew my attention to the fact that in this
work he had made an absolutely new departure from his earlier operas,
and had kept to the most precise rhythmically dramatic declamation,
which had certainly been made all the more easy for him by the
'excellent subject.' Without being actually surprised, my horror was
indeed great when, after studying not only the text, but also the
score, I discovered that the old maestro had been absolutely mistaken
in regard to the account he had given me of his work. The custom in
force at that time that the decision concerning the production of works
should not, as a rule, rest with one of the conductors alone, did not
tend to make me any less fearful of declaring myself emphatically in
favour of this work. In addition to this, it was Reissiger, who, as he
had often boasted, was an old friend of Spohr's, whose turn it was to
select and produce a new work. Unfortunately, as I learned later, the
general management had returned Spohr's opera to its author in such a
curt manner as to offend him, and he complained bitterly of this to me.
Genuinely concerned at this, I had evidently managed to calm and
appease him, for the invitation mentioned above was clearly a friendly
acknowledgment of my efforts. He wrote that it was very painful for him
to have to touch at Dresden on his way to one of the watering-places;
as, however, he had a real longing to make my acquaintance, he begged
me to meet him in Leipzig, where he was going to stay for a few days.

This meeting with him did not leave me unimpressed. He was a tall,
stately man, distinguished in appearance, and of a serious and calm
temperament. He gave me to understand, in a touching, almost apologetic
manner, that the essence of his education and of his aversion from the
new tendencies in music, had its origin in the first impressions he had
received on hearing, as a very young boy, Mozart's Magic Flute, a work
which was quite new at that time, and which had a great influence on
his whole life. Regarding my libretto to Lohengrin, which I had left
behind for him to read, and the general impression which my personal
acquaintance had made on him, he expressed himself with almost
surprising warmth to my brother-in-law, Hermann Brockhaus, at whose
house we had been invited to dine, and where, during the meal, the
conversation was most animated. Besides this, we had met at real
musical evenings at the conductor Hauptmann's as well as at
Mendelssohn's, on which occasion I heard the master take the violin in
one of his own quartettes. It was precisely in these circles that I was
impressed by the touching and venerable dignity of his absolutely calm
demeanour. Later on, I learned from witnesses--for whose testimony, be
it said, I cannot vouch--that Tannhauser, when it was performed at
Cassel, had caused him so much confusion and pain that he declared he
could no longer follow me, and feared that I must be on the wrong road.

In order to recover from all the hardships and cares I had gone
through, I now managed to obtain a special favour from the management,
in the form of a three months' leave, in which to improve my health in
rustic retirement, and to get pure air to breathe while composing some
new work. To this end I had chosen a peasant's house in the village of
Gross-Graupen, which is half-way between Pillnitz and the border of
what is known as 'Saxon Switzerland.' Frequent excursions to the
Porsberg, to the adjacent Liebethaler, and to the far distant bastion
helped to strengthen my unstrung nerves. While I was first planning the
music to Lohengrin, I was disturbed incessantly by the echoes of some
of the airs in Rossini's William Tell, which was the last opera I had
had to conduct. At last I happened to hit on an effective means of
stopping this annoying obtrusion: during my lonely walks I sang with
great emphasis the first theme from the Ninth Symphony, which had also
quite lately been revived in my memory. This succeeded! At Pirna, where
one can bathe in the river, I was surprised, on one of my almost
regular evening constitutionals, to hear the air from the Pilgrim's
Chorus out of Tannhauser whistled by some bather, who was invisible to
me. This first sign of the possibility of popularising the work, which
I had with such difficulty succeeded in getting performed in Dresden,
made an impression on me which no similar experience later on has ever
been able to surpass. Sometimes I received visits from friends in
Dresden, and among them Hans von Bulow, who was then sixteen years old,
came accompanied by Lipinsky. This gave me great pleasure, because I
had already noticed the interest which he took in me. Generally,
however, I had to rely only on my wife's company, and during my long
walks I had to be satisfied with my little dog Peps. During this summer
holiday, of which a great part of the time had at the beginning to be
devoted to the unpleasant task of arranging my business affairs, and
also to the improvement of my health, I nevertheless succeeded in
making a sketch of the music to the whole of the three acts of
Lohengrin, although this cannot be said to have consisted of anything
more than a very hasty outline.

With this much gained, I returned in August to Dresden, and resumed my
duties as conductor, which every year seemed to become more and more
burdensome to me. Moreover, I immediately plunged once more into the
midst of troubles which had only just been temporarily allayed. The
business of publishing my operas, on the success of which I still
counted as the only means of liberating me from my difficult position,
demanded ever-fresh sacrifices if the enterprise were to be made worth
while. But as my income was now very much reduced, even the smallest
outlays necessarily led me into ever-new and more painful
complications; and I once more lost all courage.

On the other hand, I tried to strengthen myself by again working
energetically at Lohengrin. While doing this, I proceeded in a manner
that I have not since repeated. I first of all completed the third act,
and in view of the criticism already mentioned of the characters and
conclusion of this act, I determined to try to make it the very pivot
of the whole opera. I wished to do this, if only for the sake of the
musical motive appearing in the story of the Holy Grail; but in other
respects the plan struck me as perfectly satisfactory.

Owing to previous suggestions on my part, Gluck's Iphigenia in Aulis
was to be produced this winter. I felt it my duty to give more care and
attention to this work, which interested me particularly on account of
its subject, than I had given to the study of the Armida. In the first
place, I was upset by the translation in which the opera with the
Berlin score was presented to us. In order not to be led into false
interpretations through the instrumental additions which I considered
very badly applied in this score, I wrote for the original edition from
Paris. When I had made a thorough revision of the translation, with a
view merely to the correctness of declamation, I was spurred on by my
increasing interest to revise the score itself. I tried to bring the
poem as far as possible into agreement with Euripides' play of the same
name, by the elimination of everything which, in deference to French
taste, made the relationship between Achilles and Iphigenia one of
tender love. The chief alteration of all was to cut out the inevitable
marriage at the end. For the sake of the vitality of the drama I tried
to join the arias and choruses, which generally followed immediately
upon each other without rhyme or reason, by connecting links, prologues
and epilogues. In this I did my best, by the use of Gluck's themes, to
make the interpolations of a strange composer as unnoticeable as
possible. In the third act alone was I obliged to give Iphigenia, as
well as Artemis, whom I had myself introduced, recitatives of my own
composition. Throughout the rest of the work I revised the whole
instrumentation more or less thoroughly, but only with the object of
making the existing version produce the effect I desired. It was not
till the end of the year that I was able to finish this tremendous
task, and I had to postpone the completion of the third act of
Lohengrin, which I had already begun, until the New Year.

The first thing to claim my attention at the beginning of the year
(1847) was the production of Iphigenia. I had to act as stage manager
in this case, and was even obliged to help the scene-painters and the
mechanicians over the smallest details. Owing to the fact that the
scenes in this opera were generally strung together somewhat clumsily
and without any apparent connection, it was necessary to recast them
completely, in order so to animate the representation as to give to the
dramatic action the life it lacked. A good deal of this faultiness of
construction seemed to me due to the many conventional practices which
were prevalent at the Paris Opera in Gluck's time. Mitterwurzer was the
only actor in the whole cast who gave me any pleasure. In the role of
Agamemnon he showed a thorough grasp of that character, and carried out
my instructions and suggestions to the letter, so that he succeeded in
giving a really splendid and intelligent rendering of the part. The
success of the whole performance was far beyond my expectations, and
even the directors were so surprised at the exceptional enthusiasm
aroused by one of Gluck's operas, that for the second performance they,
on their own initiative, had my name put on the programme as 'Reviser.'
This at once drew the attention of the critics to this work, and for
once they almost did me justice; my treatment of the overture, the only
part of the opera which these gentlemen heard rendered in the usual
trivial way, was the only thing that they could find fault with. I have
discussed and given an accurate account of all that relates to this in
a special article on 'Gluck's Overture to Iphigenia in Aulis' and I
only wish to add here that the musician who made such strange comments
on this occasion was Ferdinand Hiller.

As in former years, the winter meetings of the various artistic
elements in Dresden which Hiller had inaugurated, continued to take
place; but they now assumed more the character of 'salons' in Hiller's
own house, and it seemed to me intended solely for the purpose of
laying the foundations for a general recognition of Hiller's artistic
greatness. He had already founded, among the more wealthy patrons of
art, the chief of whom was the banker Kaskel, a society for running
subscription concerts. As it was impossible for the royal orchestra to
be placed at his disposal for this purpose, he had to content himself
with members of the town and military bands for his orchestra, and it
cannot be denied that, thanks to his perseverance, he attained a
praiseworthy result. As he produced many compositions which were still
unknown in Dresden, especially from the domain of more modern music, I
was often tempted to go to his concerts. His chief bait to the general
public, however, seemed to lie in the fact that he presented unknown
singers (among whom, unfortunately, Jenny Lind was not to be found) and
virtuosos, one of which, Joachim, who was then very young, I became
acquainted with.

Hiller's treatment of those works with which I was already well
acquainted, showed what his musical power was really worth. The
careless and indifferent manner in which he interpreted a Triple
Concerto by Sebastian Bach positively astounded me. In the tempo di
minuetto of the Eighth Symphony of Beethoven, I found that Hiller's
rendering was even more astonishing than Reissiger's and Mendelssohn's.
I promised to be present at the performance of this symphony if I could
rely on his giving a correct rendering of the tempo of the third
phrase, which was generally so painfully distorted, He assured me that
he thoroughly agreed with me about it, and my disappointment at the
performance was all the greater when I found the well-known waltz
measure adopted again. When I called him to account about it he excused
himself with a smile, saying that he had been seized with a fit of
temporary abstraction just at the beginning of the phrase in question,
which had made him forget his promise. For inaugurating these concerts,
which, as a matter of fact, only lasted for two seasons, Hiller was
given a banquet, which I also had much pleasure in attending.

People in these circles were surprised at that time to hear me speak,
often with great animation, about Greek literature and history, but
never about music. In the course of my reading, which I zealously
pursued, and which drew me away from my professional activities to
retirement and solitude, I was at that time impelled by my spiritual
needs to turn my attention once more to a systematic study of this
all-important source of culture, with the object of filling the
perceptible gap between my boyhood's knowledge of the eternal elements
of human culture and the neglect of this field of learning due to the
life I had been obliged to lead. In order to approach the real goal of
my desires--the study of Old and Middle High German--in the right frame
of mind, I began again from the beginning with Greek antiquity, and was
now filled with such overwhelming enthusiasm for this subject that,
whenever I entered into conversation, and by hook or by crook had
managed to get it round to this theme, I could only speak in terms of
the strongest emotion. I occasionally met some one who seemed to listen
to what I had to say; on the whole, however, people preferred to talk
to me only about the theatre because, since my production of Gluck's
Iphigenia, they thought themselves justified in thinking I was an
authority on this subject. I received special recognition from a man to
whom I quite rightly gave the credit of being at least as well versed
as myself in the matter. This was Eduard Devrient, who had been forced
at that time to resign his position as stage manager-in-chief owing to
a plot against him on the part of the actors, headed by his own brother
Emil. We were brought into closer sympathy by our conversations in
connection with this, which led him into dissertations on the
triviality and thorough hopelessness of our whole theatrical life,
especially under the ruining influence of ignorant court managers,
which could never be overcome.

We were also drawn together by his intelligent understanding of the
part I had played in the production of Iphigenia, which he compared
with the Berlin production of the same piece, that had been utterly
condemned by him. He was for a long time the only man with whom I could
discuss, seriously and in detail, the real needs of the theatre and the
means by which its defects might be remedied. Owing to his longer and
more specialised experience, there was much he could tell me and make
clear to me; in particular he helped me successfully to overcome the
idea that mere literary excellence is enough for the theatre, and
confirmed my conviction that the path to true prosperity lay only with
the stage itself and with the actors of the drama.

From this time forward, till I left Dresden, my intercourse with Eduard
Devrient grew more and more friendly, though his dry nature and obvious
limitations as an actor had attracted me but little before. His highly
meritorious work, Die Geschichte der deutschen Schauspielkunst
('History of German Dramatic Art'), which he finished and published
about that time, threw a fresh and instructive light on many problems
which exercised my mind, and helped me to master them for the first
time.

At last I managed once more to resume my task of composing the third
act of Lohengrin, which had been interrupted in the middle of the
Bridal Scene, and I finished it by the end of the winter. After the
repetition, by special request, of the Ninth Symphony at the concert on
Palm Sunday had revived me, I tried to find comfort and refreshment for
the further progress of my new work by changing my abode, this time
without asking permission. The old Marcolini palace, with a very large
garden laid out partly in the French style, was situated in an outlying
and thinly populated suburb of Dresden.

It had been sold to the town council, and a part of it was to be let.
The sculptor, Hanel, whom I had known for a long time, and who had
given me as a mark of friendship an ornament in the shape of a perfect
plaster cast of one of the bas-reliefs from Beethoven's monument
representing the Ninth Symphony, had taken the large rooms on the
ground floor of a side-wing of this palace for his dwelling and studio.
At Easter I moved into the spacious apartments, above him, the rent of
which was extremely low, and found that the large garden planted with
glorious trees, which was placed at my disposal, and the pleasant
stillness of the whole place, not only provided mental food for the
weary artist, but at the same time, by lessening my expenses, improved
my straitened finances. We soon settled down quite comfortably in the
long row of pleasant rooms without having incurred any unnecessary
expense, as Minna was very practical in her arrangements. The only real
inconvenience which in the course of time I found our new home
possessed, was its inordinate distance from the theatre. This was a
great trial to me after fatiguing rehearsals and tiring performances,
as the expense of a cab was a serious consideration. But we were
favoured by an exceptionally fine summer, which put me in a happy frame
of mind, and soon helped to overcome every inconvenience.

At this time I insisted with the utmost firmness on refraining from
taking any further share in the management of the theatre, and I had
most cogent reasons to bring forth in defence of my conduct. All my
endeavours to set in order the wilful chaos which prevailed in the use
of the costly artistic materials at the disposal of this royal
institution were repeatedly thwarted, merely because I wished to
introduce some method into the arrangements. In a carefully written
pamphlet which, in addition to my other work, I had compiled during the
past winter, I had drawn up a plan for the reorganisation of the
orchestra, and had shown how we might increase the productive power of
our artistic capital by making a more methodical use of the royal funds
intended for its maintenance, and showing greater discretion regarding
salaries. This increase in the productive power would raise the
artistic spirit as well as improve the economic position of the members
of the orchestra, for I should have liked them at the same time to form
an independent concert society. In such a capacity it would have been
their task to present to the people of Dresden, in the best possible
way, a kind of music which they had hitherto hardly had the opportunity
of enjoying at all. It would have been possible for such a union,
which, as I pointed out, had so many external circumstances in its
favour, to provide Dresden with a suitable concert-hall. I hear,
however, that such a place is wanting to this day.

With this object in view I entered into close communication with
architects and builders, and the plans were completed, according to
which the scandalous buildings facing a wing of the renowned prison
opposite the Ostra Allee, and consisting of a shed for the members of
the theatre and a public wash-house, were to be pulled down and
replaced by a beautiful building, which, besides containing a large
concert-hall adapted to our requirements, would also have had other
large rooms which could have been, let out on hire at a profit. The
practicality of these plans was disputed by no one, as even the
administrators of the orchestra's widows' fund saw in them an
opportunity for the safe and advantageous laying out of capital; yet
they were returned to me, after long consideration on the part of the
general management, with thanks and an acknowledgment of my careful
work, and the curt reply that it was thought better for things to
remain as they were.

All my proposals for meeting the useless waste and drain upon our
artistic capital by a more methodical arrangement, met with the same
success in every detail that I suggested. I had also found out by long
experience that every proposal which had to be discussed and decided
upon in the most tiring committee meetings, as for instance the
starting of a repertoire, might at any moment be overthrown and altered
for the worse by the temper of a singer or the plan of a junior
business inspector. I was therefore driven to renounce my wasted
efforts and, after many a stormy discussion and outspoken expression of
my sentiments, I withdrew from taking any part whatever in any branch
of the management, and limited myself entirely to holding rehearsals
and conducting performances of the operas provided for me.

Although my relations with Luttichau grew more and more strained on
this account, for the time being it mattered little whether my conduct
pleased him or not, as otherwise my position was one which commanded
respect, on account of the ever-increasing popularity of Tannhauser and
Rienzi, which were presented during the summer to houses packed with
distinguished visitors, and were invariably chosen for the gala
performances.

By thus going my own way and refusing to be interfered with, I
succeeded this summer, amid the delightful and perfect seclusion of my
new home, in preserving myself in a frame of mind exceedingly
favourable to the completion of my Lohengrin. My studies, which, as I
have already mentioned, I pursued eagerly at the same time as I was
working on my opera, made me feel more light-hearted than I had ever
done before. For the first time I now mastered AEschylus with real
feeling and understanding. Droysen's eloquent commentaries in
particular helped to bring before my imagination the intoxicating
effect of the production of an Athenian tragedy, so that I could see
the Oresteia with my mind's eye, as though it were actually being
performed, and its effect upon me was indescribable. Nothing, however,
could equal the sublime emotion with which the Agamemnon trilogy
inspired me, and to the last word of the Eumenides I lived in an
atmosphere so far removed from the present day that I have never since
been really able to reconcile myself with modern literature. My ideas
about the whole significance of the drama and of the theatre were,
without a doubt, moulded by these impressions. I worked my way through
the other tragedians, and finally reached Aristophanes. When I had
spent the morning industriously upon the completion of the music for
Lohengrin, I used to creep into the depths of a thick shrubbery in my
part of the garden to get shelter from the summer heat, which was
becoming more intense every day. My delight in the comedies of
Aristophanes was boundless, when once his Birds had plunged me into the
full torrent of the genius of this wanton favourite of the Graces, as
he used to call himself with conscious daring. Side by side with this
poet I read the principal dialogues of Plato, and from the Symposium I
gained such a deep insight into the wonderful beauty of Greek life that
I felt myself more truly at home in ancient Athens than in any
conditions which the modern world has to offer.

As I was following out a settled course of self-education, I did not
wish to pursue my way further in the leading-strings of any literary
history, and I consequently turned my attention from the historical
studies, which seemed to be my own peculiar province, and in which
department Droysen's history of Alexander and the Hellenistic period,
as well as Niebuhr and Gibbon, were of great help to me, and fell back
once more upon my old and trusty guide, Jakob Grimm, for the study of
German antiquity. In my efforts to master the myths of Germany more
thoroughly than had been possible in my former perusal of the Nibelung
and the Heldenbuch, Mone's particularly suggestive commentary on this
Heldensage filled me with delight, although stricter scholars regarded
this work with suspicion on account of the boldness of some of its
statements. By this means I was drawn irresistibly to the northern
sagas; and I now tried, as far as was possible without a fluent
knowledge of the Scandinavian languages, to acquaint myself with the
Edda, as well as with the prose version which existed of a considerable
portion of the Heldensage.

Read by the light of Mone's Commentaries, the Wolsungasaga had a
decided influence upon my method of handling this material. My
conceptions as to the inner significance of these old-world legends,
which had been growing for a long time, gradually gained strength and
moulded themselves with the plastic forms which inspired my later works.

All this was sinking into my mind and slowly maturing, whilst with
unfeigned delight I was finishing the music of the first two acts of
Lohengrin, which were now at last completed. I now succeeded in
shutting out the past and building up for myself a new world of the
future, which presented itself with ever-growing clearness to my mind
as the refuge whither I might retreat from all the miseries of modern
opera and theatre life. At the same time, my health and temper were
settling down into a mood of almost unclouded serenity, which made me
oblivious for a long time of all the worries of my position. I used to
walk every day up into the neighbouring hills, which rose from the
banks of the Elbe to the Plauenscher Grand. I generally went alone,
except for the company of our little dog Peps, and my excursions always
resulted in producing a satisfactory number of ideas. At the same time,
I found I had developed a capacity, which I had never possessed before,
for good-tempered intercourse with the friends and acquaintances who
liked to come from time to time to the Marcolini garden to share my
simple supper. My visitors used often to find me perched on a high
branch of a tree, or on the neck of the Neptune which was the central
figure of a large group of statuary in the middle of an old fountain,
unfortunately always dry, belonging to the palmy days of the Marcolini
estate. I used to enjoy walking with my friends up and down the broad
footpath of the drive leading to the real palace, which had been laid
especially for Napoleon in the fatal year 1813, when he had fixed his
headquarters there.

By August, the last month of summer, I had completely finished the
composition of Lohengrin, and felt that it was high time for me to have
done so, as the needs of my position demanded imperatively that I
should give my most serious attention to improving it, and it became a
matter of supreme importance for me once more to take steps for having
my operas produced in the German theatres.

Even the success of Tannhauser in Dresden, which became more obvious
every day, did not attract the smallest notice anywhere else. Berlin
was the only place which had any influence in the theatrical world of
Germany, and I ought long before to have given my undivided attention
to that city. From all I had heard of the special tastes of Friedrich
Wilhelm IV., I felt perfectly justified in assuming that he would feel
sympathetically inclined towards my later works and conceptions if I
could only manage to bring them to his notice in the right light. On
this hypothesis I had already thought of dedicating Tannhauser to him,
and to gain permission to do so I had to apply to Count Redern, the
court musical director. From him I heard that the King could only
accept the dedication of works which had actually been performed in his
presence, and of which he thus had a personal knowledge. As my
Tannhauser had been refused by the managers of the court theatre
because it was considered too epic in form, the Count added that if I
wished to remain firm in my resolve, there was only one way out of the
difficulty, and that was to adapt my opera as far as possible to a
military band, and try to bring it to the King's notice on parade. This
drove me to determine upon another plan of attack on Berlin.

After this experience I saw that I must open my campaign there with the
opera that had won the most decided triumph in Dresden. I therefore
obtained an audience of the Queen of Saxony, the sister of the King of
Prussia, and begged her to use her influence with her brother to obtain
a performance in Berlin by royal command of my Rienzi, which was also a
favourite with the court of Saxony. This manoeuvre was successful, and
I soon received a communication from my old friend Kustner to say that
the production of Rienzi was fixed for a very early date at the Berlin
Court Theatre, and at the same time expressing the hope that I would
conduct my work in person. As a very handsome author's royalty had been
paid by this theatre, at the instigation of Kustner, on the occasion of
the production of his old Munich friend Lachner's opera, Katharina von
Cornaro, I hoped to realise a very substantial improvement in my
finances if only the success of Rienzi in this city in any degree
rivalled that in Dresden. But my chief desire was to make the
acquaintance of the King of Prussia, so that I might read him the text
of my Lohengrin, and arouse his interest in my work. This from various
signs I flattered myself was perfectly possible, in which case I
intended to beg him to command the first performance of Lohengrin to be
given at his court theatre.

After my strange experiences as to the way in which my success in
Dresden had been kept secret from the rest of Germany, it seemed to me
a matter of vital importance to make the future centre of my artistic
enterprises the only place which exercised any influence on the outside
world, and as such I was forced to regard Berlin. Inspired by the
success of my recommendation to the Queen of Prussia, I hoped to gain
access to the King himself, which I regarded as a most important step.
Full of confidence, and in excellent spirits, I set out for Berlin in
September, trusting to a favourable turn of Fortune's wheel, in the
first place for the rehearsals of Rienzi, though my interests were no
longer centred in this work.

Berlin made the same impression on me as on the occasion of my former
visit, when I saw it again after my long absence in Paris. Professor
Werder, my friend of the Fliegender Hollander, had taken lodgings for
me in advance in the renowned Gensdarmeplatz, but when I looked at the
view from my windows every day I could not believe that I was in a city
which was the very centre of Germany. Soon, however, I was completely
absorbed by the cares of the task I had in hand.

I had nothing to complain of with regard to the official preparations
for Rienzi, but I soon noticed that it was looked upon merely as a
conductor's opera, that is to say, all the materials to hand were duly
placed at my disposal, but the management had not the slightest
intention of doing anything more for me. All the arrangements for my
rehearsals were entirely upset as soon as a visit from Jenny Lind was
announced, and she occupied the Royal Opera exclusively for some time.

During the delay thus caused I did all I could to attain my main
object--an introduction to the King--and for this purpose made use of
my former acquaintance with the court musical director, Count Redern.
This gentleman received me at once with the greatest affability,
invited me to dinner and a soiree, and entered into a hearty discussion
with me about the steps necessary for attaining my purpose, in which he
promised to do his utmost to help me. I also paid frequent visits to
Sans-Souci, in order to pay my respects to the Queen and express my
thanks to her. But I never got further than an interview with the
ladies-in-waiting, and I was advised to put myself into communication
with M. Illaire, the head of the Royal Privy Council. This gentleman
seemed to be impressed by the seriousness of my request, and promised
to do what he could to further my wish for a personal introduction to
the King. He asked what my real object was, and I told him it was to
get permission from the King to read my libretto Lohengrin to him. On
the occasion of one of my oft-repeated visits from Berlin, he asked me
whether I did not think it would be advisable to bring a recommendation
of my work from Tieck. I was able to tell him that I had already had
the pleasure of bringing my case to the notice of the old poet, who
lived near Potsdam as a royal pensioner.

I remembered very well that Frau von Luttichau had sent the themes
Lohengrin and Tannhauser to her old friend some years ago, when these
matters were first mentioned between us. When I called upon Tieck, I
was welcomed by him almost as a friend, and I found my long talks with
him exceedingly valuable. Although Tieck had perhaps gained a somewhat
doubtful reputation for the leniency with which he would give his
recommendation for the dramatic works of those who applied to him, yet
I was pleased by the genuine disgust with which he spoke of our latest
dramatic literature, which was modelling itself on the style of modern
French stagecraft, and his complaint at the utter lack of any true
poetic feeling in it was heartfelt. He declared himself delighted with
my poem of Lohengrin, but could not understand how all this was to be
set to music without a complete change in the conventional structure of
an opera, and on this score he objected to such scenes as that between
Ortrud and Frederick at the beginning of the second act. I thought I
had roused him to a real enthusiasm when I explained how I proposed to
solve these apparent difficulties, and also described my own ideals
about musical drama. But the higher I soared the sadder he grew when I
had once made known to him my hope of securing the patronage of the
King of Prussia for these conceptions, and the working out of my scheme
for an ideal drama. He had no doubt that the King would listen to me
with the greatest interest, and even seize upon my ideas with warmth,
only I must not entertain the smallest hope of any practical result,
unless I wished to expose myself to the bitterest disappointment. 'What
can you expect from a man who to-day is enthusiastic about Gluck's
Iphigenia in Tauris, and to-morrow mad about Donizetti's Lucrezia
Borgia?' he said. Tieck's conversation about these and similar topics
was much too entertaining and charming for me to give any serious
weight to the bitterness of his views. He gladly promised to recommend
my poem, more particularly to Privy Councillor Illaire, and dismissed
me with hearty goodwill and his sincere though anxious blessing. The
only result of all my labours was that the desired invitation from the
King still hung fire. As the rehearsals for Rienzi, which had been
postponed on account of Jenny Lind's visit, were being carried on
seriously again, I made up my mind to take no further trouble before
the performance of my opera, as I thought myself, at any rate,
justified in counting on the presence of the monarch on the first
night, as the piece was being played at his express command, and at the
same time I hoped this would conduce to the fulfilment of my main
object. However, the nearer we came to the event the lower did the
hopes I had built upon it sink. To play the part of the hero I had to
be satisfied with a tenor who was absolutely devoid of talent, and far
below the average. He was a conscientious, painstaking man, and had
moreover been strongly recommended to me by my kind host, the renowned
Meinhard. After I had taken infinite pains with him, and had in
consequence, as so often happens, conjured up in my mind certain
illusions as to what I might expect from his acting, I was obliged,
when it came to the final test of the dress rehearsal, to confess my
true opinion. I realised that the scenery, chorus, ballet, and minor
parts were on the whole excellent, but that the chief character, around
whom in this particular opera everything centred, faded into an
insignificant phantom. The reception which this opera met with at the
hands of the public when it was produced in October was also due to
him; but in consequence of the fairly good rendering of a few brilliant
passages, and more especially on account of the enthusiastic
recognition of Frau Koster in the part of Adriano, it might have been
concluded from all the external signs that the opera had been fairly
successful. Nevertheless, I knew very well that this seeming triumph
could have no real substance, as only the immaterial parts of my work
could reach the eyes and ears of the audience; its essential spirit had
not entered their hearts. Moreover, the Berlin reviewers in their usual
way began their attacks immediately, with the view of demolishing any
success my opera might have won, so that after the second performance,
which I also conducted myself, I began to wonder whether my desperate
labours were really worth while.

When I asked the few intimate friends I had their opinion on this
point, I elicited much valuable information. Among these friends I must
mention, in the first place, Hermann Franck, whom I found again. He had
lately settled in Berlin, and did much to encourage me. I spent the
most enjoyable part of those sad two months in his company, of which,
however, I had but too little. Our conversation generally turned upon
reminiscences of the old days, and on to topics which had no connection
with the theatre, so that I was almost ashamed to trouble him with my
complaints on this subject, especially as they concerned my worries
about a work which I could not pretend was of any practical importance
to the stage. He for his part soon arrived at the conclusion that it
had been foolish of me to choose my Rienzi for this occasion, as it was
an opera which appealed merely to the general public, in preference to
my Tannhauser, which might have educated a party in Berlin useful to my
higher aims. He maintained that the very nature of this work would have
aroused a fresh interest in the drama in the minds of people who, like
himself, were no longer to be counted among regular theatre-goers,
precisely because they had given up all hope of ever finding any nobler
ideals of the stage.

The curious information as to the character of Berlin art in other
respects, which Werder gave me from time to time, was most
discouraging. With regard to the public, he told me once that at a
performance of an unknown work, it was quite useless for me to expect a
single member of the audience from the stalls to the gallery to take
his seat with any better object in view than to pick as many holes as
possible in the production. Although Werder did not wish to discourage
me in any of my endeavours, he felt himself obliged to warn me
continually not to expect anything above the average from the cultured
society of Berlin. He liked to see proper respect paid to the really
considerable gifts of the King; and when I asked him how he thought the
latter would receive my ideas about the ennobling of opera, he
answered, after having listened attentively to a long and fiery tirade
on my part: 'The King would say to you, "Go and consult Stawinsky!"'
This was the opera manager, a fat, smug creature who had grown rusty in
following out the most jog-trot routine. In short, everything I learned
was calculated to discourage me. I called on Bernhard Marx, who some
years ago had shown a kindly interest in my Fliegender Hollander, and
was courteously received by him. This man, who in his earlier writings
and musical criticisms had seemed to me filled with a fire of energy,
now struck me as extraordinarily limp and listless when I saw him by
the side of his young wife, who was radiantly and bewitchingly
beautiful. From his conversation I soon learned that he also had
abandoned even the remotest hope of success for any efforts directed
towards the object so dear to both our hearts, on account of the
inconceivable shallowness of all the officials connected with the head
authority. He told me of the extraordinary fate which had befallen a
scheme he had brought to the notice of the King for founding a school
of music. In a special audience the King had gone into the matter with
the greatest interest, and noticed the minutest detail, so that Marx
felt justified in entertaining the strongest possible hopes of success.
However, all his labours and negotiations about the business, in the
course of which he was driven from pillar to post, proved utterly
futile, until at last he was told to have an interview with a certain
general. This personage, like the King, had Marx's proposals explained
to him in the minutest detail, and expressed his warmest sympathy with
the undertaking. 'And there,' said Marx, at the end of this long
rigmarole, 'the matter ended, and I never heard another word about it.'

One day I learned that Countess Rossi, the renowned Henriette Sontag,
who was living in quiet seclusion in Berlin, had pleasant recollections
of me in Dresden, and wished me to visit her. She had at this time
already fallen into the unfortunate position which was so detrimental
to her artistic career. She too complained bitterly of the general
apathy of the influential classes in Berlin, which effectually
prevented any artistic aims from being realised. It was her opinion
that the King found a sort of satisfaction in knowing that the theatre
was badly managed, for though he never opposed any criticisms which he
received on the subject, he likewise never supported any proposal for
its improvement. She expressed a wish to know something of my latest
work, and I gave her my poem of Lohengrin for perusal. On the occasion
of my next morning call she told me she would send me an invitation to
a musical evening which she was going to have at her house in honour of
the Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, her elderly patron, and she
also gave me back the manuscript of Lohengrin, with the assurance that
it had appealed to her very much, and that while she was reading it she
had often seen the little fairies and elves dancing about in front of
her. As in the old days I had been heartily encouraged by the warm and
friendly sympathy of this naturally cultured woman, I now felt as if
cold water had been suddenly poured down my back. I soon took my leave,
and never saw her again. Indeed, I had no particular object in doing
so, as the promised invitation never came. Herr E. Kossak also sought
me out, and although our acquaintance did not lead to much, I was
sufficiently kindly received by him to give him my poem of Lohengrin to
read. I went one day by appointment to see him, and found that his room
had just been scrubbed with boiling water. The steam from this
operation was so unbearable that it had already given him a headache,
and was not less disagreeable to me. He looked into my face with an
almost tender expression when he gave me back the manuscript of my
poem, and assured me, in accents which admitted of no doubt of his
sincerity, that he thought it 'very pretty.'

I found my casual intercourse with H. Truhn rather more entertaining. I
used to treat him to a good glass of wine at Lutter and Wegener's,
where I went occasionally on account of its association with Hoffmann,
and he would then listen with apparently growing interest to my ideas
as to the possible development of opera and the goal at which we should
aim. His comments were generally witty and very much to the point, and
his lively and animated ways pleased me very much. After the production
of Rienzi, however, he too, as a critic, joined the majority of
scoffers and detractors. The only person who supported me stoutly but
uselessly, through thick and thin, was my old friend Gaillard. His
little music-shop was not a success, his musical journal had already
failed, so that he was only able to help me in small ways.
Unfortunately I discovered not only that he was the author of many
exceedingly dubious dramatic works, for which he wished to gain my
support, but also that he was apparently in the last stages of the
disease from which he was suffering, so that the little intercourse I
had with him, in spite of all his fidelity and devotion, only exercised
a melancholy and depressing influence upon me.

But as I had embarked upon this Berlin enterprise in contradiction to
all my inmost wishes, and prompted solely by the desire of winning the
success so vital to my position, I made up my mind to make a personal
appeal to Rellstab.

As in the case of the Fliegender Hollander he had taken exception more
particularly to its 'nebulousness' and 'lack of form,' I thought I
might with advantage point out to him the brighter and clearer outline
of Rienzi. He seemed to be pleased at my thinking I could get anything
out of him, but told me at once of his firm conviction that any new art
form was utterly impossible after Gluck, and that the only thing that
the best of good luck and hard work was capable of producing was
meaningless bombast. I then realised that in Berlin all hope had been
abandoned. I was told that Meyerbeer was the only man who had been able
in any way to master the situation.

This former patron of mine I met once more in Berlin, and he declared
that he still took an interest in me. As soon as I arrived I called on
him, but in the hall I found his servant busy packing up trunks, and
learned that Meyerbeer was just going away. His master confirmed this
assertion, and regretted that he would not be able to do anything for
me, so I had to say good-bye and how-do-you-do at the same time. For
some time I thought he really was away, but after a few weeks I learned
to my surprise that he was still staying in Berlin without letting
himself be seen by any one, and at last he made his appearance again at
one of the rehearsals of Rienzi. What this meant I only discovered
later from a rumour which was circulated among the initiated, and
imparted to me by Eduard von Bulow, my young friend's father. Without
having the slightest idea how it originated, I learned, about the
middle of my stay in Berlin, from the conductor Taubert, that he had
heard on very good authority that I was trying for a director's post at
the court theatre, and had good expectations of securing the
appointment in addition to special privileges. In order to remain on
good terms with Taubert, as it was very necessary for me to do, I had
to give him the most solemn assurances that such an idea had never even
entered my head, and that I would not accept such a position if it were
offered to me. On the other hand, all my endeavours to get access to
the King continued to be fruitless. My chief mediator, to whom I always
turned, was still Count Redern, and although my attention had been
called to his staunch adherence to Meyerbeer, his extraordinary open
and friendly manner always strengthened my belief in his honesty. At
last the only medium that remained open to me was the fact that the
King could not possibly stay away from the performance of Rienzi, given
at his express command, and on this conviction I based all further hope
of approaching him. Whereupon Count Redern informed me, with an
expression of deep despair, that on the very day of the first
performance the monarch would be away on a hunting party. Once more I
begged him to make very effort in his power to secure the King's
presence, at least at the second performance, and at length my
inexhaustible patron told me that he could not make head or tail of it,
but his Majesty seemed to have conceived an utter disinclination to
accede to my wish; he himself had heard these hard words fall from the
royal lips: 'Oh bother! have you come to me again with your Rienzi?'

At this second performance I had a pleasant experience. After the
impressive second act the public showed signs of wishing to call me,
and as I went from the orchestra to the vestibule, in order to be ready
if necessary, my foot slipped on the smooth parquet, and I might have
had perhaps a serious fall had I not felt my arm grasped by a strong
hand. I turned, and recognised the Crown Prince of Prussia [FOOTNOTE:
This Prince subsequently became the Emperor William the First. He was
given the title of Crown Prince in 1840 on the death of his father,
Frederick William III., as he was then heir-presumptive to his brother,
Frederick William IV., whose marriage was without issue.--EDITOR.], who
had come out of his box, and who at once seized the opportunity of
inviting me to follow him to his wife, who wished to make my
acquaintance. She had only just arrived in Berlin, and told me that she
had heard my opera for the first time that evening, and expressed her
appreciation of it. She had, however, long ago received very favourable
reports of me and my artistic aims from a common friend, Alwine
Frommann. The whole tenor of this interview, at which the Prince was
present, was unusually friendly and pleasant.

It was indeed my old friend Alwine who in Berlin had not only followed
all my fortunes with the greatest sympathy, but had also done all in
her power to give me consolation and courage to endure. Almost every
evening, when the day's business made it possible, I used to visit her
for an hour of recreation, and gain strength from her ennobling
conversation for the struggle against the reverses of the following
day. I was particularly pleased by the warm and intelligent sympathy
which she and our mutual friend Werder devoted to Lohengrin, the object
of all my labours at that time. On the arrival of her friend and
patroness, the Crown Princess, which had been delayed till now, she
hoped to hear something more definite as to how my affairs stood with
the King, although she intimated to me that even this great lady was in
deep disfavour, and could only bring her influence to bear upon the
King by observing the strictest etiquette. But from this source also no
news reached me till it was time for me to leave Berlin and I could
postpone my departure no longer.

As I had to conduct a third performance of Rienzi, and there still
remained a remote possibility of receiving a sudden command to
Sans-Souci, I accordingly fixed on a date which would be the very
latest I could wait to ascertain the fate of the projects I had nearest
to heart. This period passed by, and I was forced to realise that my
hopes of Berlin were wholly shattered.

I was in a very depressed state when I made up my mind to this
conclusion. I can seldom remember having been so dreadfully affected by
the influence of cold and wet weather and an eternally grey sky as
during those last wretched weeks in Berlin, when everything that I
heard, in addition to my own private anxieties, weighed upon me with a
leaden weight of discouragement.

My conversations with Hermann Franck about the social and political
situation had assumed a peculiarly gloomy tone, as the King of
Prussia's efforts to summon a united conference had failed. I was among
those who had at first been inclined to see a hopeful significance in
this undertaking, but it was a shock to have all the intimate details
relating to the project clearly set before me by so well informed a man
as Franck. His dispassionate views on this subject, as well as on the
Prussian State in particular, which was supposed to be representative
of German intelligence, and was universally considered to be a model of
order and good government, so completely disillusioned me and destroyed
all the favourable and hopeful opinions I had formed of it, that I felt
as if I had plunged into chaos, and realised the utter futility of
expecting a prosperous settlement of the German question from this
quarter. If in the midst of my misery in Dresden I had founded great
hopes from gaining the King of Prussia's sympathy for my ideas, I could
no longer close my eyes to the fearful hollowness which the state of
affairs disclosed to me on every side.

In this despairing mood I felt but little emotion when, on going to say
good-bye to Count Redern, he told me with a very sad face the news,
which had just arrived, of Mendelssohn's death. I certainly did not
realise this stroke of fate, which Redern's obvious grief first brought
to my notice. At all events, he was spared more detailed and heartfelt
explanation of my own affairs, which he had so much at heart.

The only thing that remained for me to do in Berlin was to try and make
my material success balance my material loss. For a stay of two months,
during which my wife and my sister Clara had been with me, lured on by
the hope that the production of Rienzi in Berlin would be a brilliant
success, I found my old friend, Director Kustner, by no means inclined
to compensate me. From his correspondence with me he could prove up to
the hilt that legally he had only expressed the desire for my
co-operation in studying Rienzi, but had given me no positive
invitation. As I was prevented by Count Redern's grief over
Mendelssohn's death from going to him for help in these trivial private
concerns, there was no alternative but for me to accept with a good
grace Kustner's beneficence in paying me on the spot the royalties on
the three performances which had already taken place. The Dresden
authorities were surprised when I found myself obliged to beg an
advance of income from them in order to conclude this brilliant
undertaking in Berlin.

As I was travelling with my wife in the most horrible weather through
the deserted country on my way home, I fell into a mood of the blackest
despair, which I thought I might perhaps survive once in a lifetime but
never again. Nevertheless, it amused me, as I sat silently looking out
of the carriage into the grey mist, to hear my wife enter into a lively
discussion with a commercial traveller who, in the course of friendly
conversation, had spoken in a disparaging way about the 'new opera
Rienzi.' My wife, with great heat and even passion, corrected various
mistakes made by this hostile critic, and to her great satisfaction
made him confess that he had not heard the opera himself, but had only
based his opinion upon hearsay and the reviews. Whereupon my wife
pointed out to him most earnestly that 'he could not possibly know
whose future he might not injure by such irresponsible comment.'

These were the only cheering and consoling impressions which I carried
back with me to Dresden, where I soon felt the direct results of the
reverses I had suffered in Berlin in the condolences of my
acquaintances. The papers had spread abroad the news that my opera had
been a dismal failure. The most painful part of the whole proceeding
was that I had to meet these expressions of pity with a cheerful
countenance and the assurance that things were by no means so bad as
had been made out, but that, on the contrary, I had had many pleasant
experiences.

This unaccustomed effort placed me in a position strangely similar to
that in which I found Hiller on my return to Dresden. He had given a
performance of his new opera, Conradin von Hohenstaufen, here just
about this time. He had kept the composition of this work a secret from
me, and had hoped to make a decided hit with it after the three
performances which took place in my absence. Both the poet and the
composer thought that in this work they had combined the tendencies and
effects of my Rienzi with those of my Tannhauser in a manner peculiarly
suited to the Dresden public. As he was just setting out for
Dusseldorf, where he had been appointed concert-director, he commended
his work with great confidence to my tender mercies, and regretted not
having the power of appointing me the conductor of it. He acknowledged
that he owed his great success partly to the wonderfully happy
rendering of the male part of Conradin by my niece Johanna. She, in her
turn, told me with equal confidence that without her Hiller's opera
would not have had such an extraordinary triumph. I was now really
anxious to see this fortunate work and its wonderful staging for
myself; and this I was able to do, as a fourth performance was
announced after Hiller and his family had left Dresden for good. When I
entered the theatre at the beginning of the overture to take my place
in the stalls, I was astonished to find all the seats, with a few
scarcely noticeable exceptions, absolutely empty. At the other end of
my row I saw the poet who had written the libretto, the gentle painter
Reinike. We moved, naturally, towards the middle of the space and
discussed the strange position in which we found ourselves. He poured
out melancholy complaints to me about Hiller's musical setting to his
poetry; the secret of the mistake which Hiller had made about the
success of his work he did not explain, and was evidently very much
upset at the conspicuous failure of the opera. It was from another
quarter that I learned how it had been possible for Hiller to deceive
himself in such an extraordinary way. Frau Hiller, who was of Polish
origin, had managed at the frequent Polish gatherings which took place
in Dresden to persuade a large contingent of her countrymen, who were
keen theatre-goers, to attend her husband's opera. On the first night
these friends, with their usual enthusiasm, incited the public to
applaud, but had themselves found so little pleasure in the work that
they had stayed away from the second performance, which was otherwise
badly attended, so that the opera could only be considered a failure.
By commandeering all the help that could possibly be got from the Poles
by way of applause, every effort was made to secure a third performance
on a Sunday, when the theatre generally filled of its own accord. This
object was achieved, and the Polish theatre aristocracy, with the
charity that was habitual to them, fulfilled their duty towards the
needy couple in whose drawing-room they had often spent such pleasant
evenings.

Once more the composer was called before the curtain, and everything
went off well. Hiller thereupon placed his confidence in the verdict on
the third performance, according to which his opera was an undoubted
success, just as had been the case with my Tannhauser. The
artificiality of this proceeding was, however, exposed by this fourth
performance, at which I was present, and at which no one was under an
obligation to the departed composer to attend. Even my niece was
disgusted with it, and thought that the best singer in the world could
not make a success of such a tedious opera. Whilst we were watching
this miserable performance I managed to point out to the poet some
weaknesses and faults that were to be found in the subject-matter. The
latter reported my criticisms to Hiller, whereupon I received a warm
and friendly letter from Dusseldorf, in which Hiller acknowledged the
mistake he had made in rejecting my advice on this point. He gave me
plainly to understand that it was not too late to alter the opera
according to my suggestions; I should thus have had the inestimable
benefit of having such an obviously well-intentioned, and, in its way,
so significant, a work in the repertoire, but I never got so far as
that.

On the other hand, I experienced the small satisfaction of hearing the
news that two performances of my Rienzi had taken place in Berlin, for
the success of which Conductor Taubert, as he informed me himself,
thought he had won some credit on account of the extremely effective
combinations he had arranged. In spite of this, I was absolutely
convinced that I must abandon all hope of any lasting and profitable
success from Berlin, and I could no longer hide from Luttichau that, if
I were to continue in the discharge of my duties with the necessary
good spirits, I must insist on a rise of salary, as, beyond my regular
income, I could not rely on any substantial success wherewith to meet
my unlucky publishing transactions. My income was so small that I could
not even live on it, but I asked nothing more than to be placed on an
equal footing with my colleague Reissiger, a prospect which had been
held out to me from the beginning.

At this juncture Luttichau saw a favourable opportunity for making me
feel my dependence on his goodwill, which could only be secured by my
showing due deference to his wishes. After I had laid my case before
the King, at a personal interview, and asked for the favour of the
moderate increase in income which was my object, Luttichau promised to
make the report he was obliged to give of me as favourable as possible.
How great was my consternation and humiliation when one day he opened
our interview by telling me that his report had come back from the
King. In it was set forth that I had unfortunately overestimated my
talent on account of the foolish praise of various friends in a high
position (among whom he counted Frau v. Konneritz), and had thus been
led to consider that I had quite as good a right to success as
Meyerbeer. I had thereby caused such serious offence that it might,
perhaps, be considered advisable to dismiss me altogether. On the other
hand, my industry and my praiseworthy performance with regard to the
revision of Gluck's Iphigenia, which had been brought to the notice of
the management, might justify my being given another chance, in which
case my material condition must be given due consideration. At this
point I could read no further, and stupefied by surprise I gave my
patron back the paper. He tried at once to remove the obviously bad
impression it had made upon me by telling me that my wish had been
granted, and I could draw the nine hundred marks belonging to me at
once from the bank. I took my leave in silence, and pondered over what
course of action I must pursue in face of this disgrace, as it was
quite out of the question for me to accept the nine hundred marks.

But in the midst of these adversities a visit of the King of Prussia to
Dresden was one day announced, and at the same time by his special
request a performance of Tannhauser was arranged. He really did make
his appearance in the theatre at this performance in the company of the
royal family of Saxony, and stayed with apparent interest from
beginning to end. On this occasion the King gave a curious explanation
for having stayed away from the performances of Rienzi in Berlin, which
was afterwards reported to me. He said he had denied himself the
pleasure of hearing one of my operas in Berlin, because it was
important to get a good impression of them, and he knew that in his own
theatre they would only be badly produced. This strange event had, at
any rate, the result of giving me back sufficient self-confidence to
accept the nine hundred marks of which I was in such desperate need.

Luttichau also seemed to make a point of winning back my trust to some
extent, and I gathered from his calm friendliness that I must suppose
this wholly uncultured man had no consciousness of the outrage he had
done me. He returned to the idea of having orchestral concerts, in
accordance with the suggestions I had made in my rejected report on the
orchestra, and in order to induce me to arrange such musical
performances in the theatre, said the initiative had come from the
management and not from the orchestra itself. As soon as I discovered
that the profits were to go to the orchestra I willingly entered into
the plan. By a special device of my own the stage of the theatre was
made into a concert-hall (afterwards considered first-class) by means
of a sounding board enclosing the whole orchestra, which proved a great
success. In future six performances were to take place during the
winter months. This time, however, as it was the end of the year, and
we only had the second half of the winter before us, subscription
tickets were issued for only three concerts, and the whole available
space in the theatre was filled by the public. I found the preparations
for this fairly diverting, and entered upon the fateful year 1848 in a
rather more reconciled and amiable frame of mind.

Early in the New Year the first of these orchestral concerts took
place, and brought me much popularity on account of its unusual
programme. I had discovered that if any real significance were to be
given to these concerts, in distinction to those consisting of
heterogeneous scraps of music of every different species under the sun,
and which are so opposed to all serious artistic taste, we could only
afford to give two kinds of genuine music alternately if a good effect
was to be produced. Accordingly between two symphonies I placed one or
two longer vocal pieces, which were not to be heard elsewhere, and
these were the only items in the whole concert. After the Mozart
Symphony in D major, I made all the musicians move from their places to
make room for an imposing choir, which had to sing Palestrina's Stabat
Mater, from an adaptation of the original recitative, which I had
carefully revised, and Bach's Motet for eight voices: Singet dem Herrn
ein neues Lied ('Sing unto the Lord a new song'); thereupon I let the
orchestra again take its place to play Beethoven's Sinfonia Eroica, and
with that to end the concert.

This success was very encouraging, and disclosed to me a somewhat
consoling prospect of increasing my influence as musical conductor at a
time when my disgust was daily growing stronger at the constant
meddling with our opera repertoire, which made me lose more and more
influence as compared with the wishes of my would-be prima donna niece,
whom even Tichatschek supported. Immediately on my return from Berlin I
had begun the orchestration of Lohengrin, and in all other respects had
given myself up to greater resignation, which made me feel I could face
my fate calmly, when I suddenly received a very disturbing piece of
news.

In the beginning of February my mother's death was announced to me. I
at once hastened to her funeral at Leipzig, and was filled with deep
emotion and joy at the wonderfully calm and sweet expression of her
face. She had passed the latter years of her life, which had before
been so active and restless, in cheerful ease, and at the end in
peaceful and almost childlike happiness. On her deathbed she exclaimed
in humble modesty, and with a bright smile on her face: 'Oh! how
beautiful! how lovely! how divine! Why do I deserve such favour?' It
was a bitterly cold morning when we lowered the coffin into the grave
in the churchyard, and the hard, frozen lumps of earth which we
scattered on the lid, instead of the customary handful of dust,
frightened me by the loud noise they made. On the way home to the house
of my brother-in-law, Hermann Brockhaus, where the whole family were to
gather together for an hour, Laube, of whom my mother had been very
fond, was my only companion. He expressed his anxiety at my unusually
exhausted appearance, and when he afterwards accompanied me to the
station, we discussed the unbearable burden which seemed to us to lie
like a dead weight on every noble effort made to resist the tendency of
the time to sink into utter worthlessness. On my return to Dresden the
realisation of my complete loneliness came over me for the first time
with full consciousness, as I could not help knowing that with the loss
of my mother every natural bond of union was loosened with my brothers
and sisters, each of whom was taken up with his or her own family
affairs. So I plunged dully and coldly into the only thing which could
cheer and warm me, the working out of my Lohengrin and my studies of
German antiquity.

Thus dawned the last days of February, which were to plunge Europe once
more into revolution. I was among those who least expected a probable
or even possible overthrow of the political world. My first knowledge
of such things had been gained in my youth at the time of the July
Revolution, and the long and peaceful reaction that followed it. Since
then I had become acquainted with Paris, and from all the signs of
public life which I saw there, I thought all that had occurred had been
merely the preliminaries of a great revolutionary movement. I had been
present at the erection of the forts detaches around Paris, which Louis
Philippe had carried out, and been instructed about the strategic value
of the various fixed sentries scattered about Paris, and I agreed with
those who considered that everything was ready to make even an attempt
at a rising on the part of the populace of Paris quite impossible.
When, therefore, the Swiss War of Separation at the end of the previous
year, and the successful Sicilian Revolution at the beginning of the
New Year, turned all men's eyes in great excitement to watch the effect
of these risings on Paris, I did not take the slightest interest in the
hopes and fears which were aroused. News of the growing restlessness in
the French capital did indeed reach us, but I disputed Rockel's belief
that any significance could be attached to it. I was sitting in the
conductor's desk at a rehearsal of Martha when, during an interval,
Rockel, with the peculiar joy of being in the right, brought me the
news of Louis Philippe's flight, and the proclamation of the Republic
in Paris. This made a strange and almost astonishing impression on me,
although at the same time the doubt as to the true significance of
these events made it possible for me to smile to myself. I too caught
the fever of excitement which had spread everywhere. The German March
days were coming, and from all directions ever more alarming news kept
coming in. Even within the narrow confines of my native Saxony serious
petitions were framed, which the King withstood for a long time; even
he was deceived, in a way which he was soon to acknowledge, as to the
meaning of this commotion and the temper that prevailed in the country.

On the evening of one of these really anxious days, when the very air
was heavy and full of thunder, we gave our third great orchestral
concert, at which the King and his court were present, as on the two
previous occasions. For the opening of this one I had chosen
Mendelssohn's Symphony in A minor, which I had played on the occasion
of his funeral. The mood of this piece, which even in the would-be
joyful phrases is always tenderly melancholy, corresponded strangely
with the anxiety and depression of the whole audience, which was more
particularly accentuated in the demeanour of the royal family. I did
not conceal from Lipinsky, the leader of the orchestra, my regret at
the mistake I had made in the arrangement of that day's programme, as
Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, also in a minor key, was to follow this
minor symphony. With a merry twinkle in his eyes the eccentric Pole
comforted me by exclaiming: 'Oh, let us play only the first two
movements of the Symphony in C minor, then no one will know whether we
have played Mendelssohn in the major or the minor key.' Fortunately
before these two movements began, to our great surprise, a loud shout
was raised by some patriotic spirit in the middle of the audience, who
called out 'Long live the King!' and the cry was promptly repeated with
unusual enthusiasm and energy on all sides. Lipinsky was perfectly
right: the symphony, with the passionate and stormy excitement of the
first theme, swelled out like a hurricane of rejoicing, and had seldom
produced such an effect on the audience as on that night. This was the
last of the newly inaugurated concerts that I ever conducted in Dresden.

Shortly after this the inevitable political changes took place. The
King dismissed his ministry and elected a new one, consisting partly of
Liberals and partly even of really enthusiastic Democrats, who at once
proclaimed the well-known regulations, which are the same all over the
world, for founding a thoroughly democratic constitution. I was really
touched by this result, and by the heartfelt joy which was evident
among the whole population, and I would have given much to have been
able to gain access to the King, and convince myself of his hearty
confidence in the people's love for him, which seemed to me so
desirable a consummation. In the evening the town was gaily
illuminated, and the King drove through the streets in an open
carriage. In the greatest excitement I went out among the dense crowds
and followed his movements, often running where I thought it likely
that a particularly hearty shout might rejoice and reconcile the
monarch's heart. My wife was quite frightened when she saw me come back
late at night, tired out and very hoarse from shouting.

The events which took place in Vienna and Berlin, with their apparently
momentous results, only moved me as interesting newspaper reports, and
the meeting of a Frankfort parliament in the place of the dissolved
Bundestag sounded strangely pleasant in my ears. Yet all these
significant occurrences could not tear me for a single day from my
regular hours of work. With immense, almost overweening satisfaction, I
finished, in the last days of this eventful and historic month of
March, the score of Lohengrin with the orchestration of the music up to
the vanishing of the Knight of the Holy Grail into the remote and
mystic distance.

About this time a young Englishwomen, Madame Jessie Laussot, who had
married a Frenchman in Bordeaux, one day presented herself at my house
in the company of Karl Ritter, who was barely eighteen years of age.
This young man, who was born in Russia of German parents, was a member
of one of those northern families who had settled down permanently in
Dresden, on account of the pleasant artistic atmosphere of that place.
I remembered that I had seen him once before not long after the first
performance of Tannhauser, when he asked me for my autograph for a copy
of the score of that opera, which was on sale at the music-shop. I now
learned that this copy really belonged to Frau Laussot, who had been
present at those performances, and who was now introduced to me.
Overcome with shyness, the young lady expressed her admiration in a way
I had never experienced before, and at the same time told me how great
was her regret at being called away by family affairs from her
favourite home in Dresden with the Ritter family, who, she gave me to
understand, were deeply devoted to me. It was with a strange, and in
its way quite a new, sensation that I bade farewell to this young lady.
This was the first time since my meeting with Alwine Frommann and
Werder, when the Fliegender Hollander was produced, that I came across
this sympathetic tone, which seemed to come like an echo from some old
familiar past, but which I never heard close at hand. I invited young
Ritter to come and see me whenever he liked, and to accompany me
sometimes on my walks. His extraordinary shyness, however, seemed to
prevent him from doing this, and I only remember seeing him very
occasionally at my house. He used to turn up more often with Hans von
Bulow, whom he seemed to know pretty well, and who had already entered
the Leipzig University as a student of law. This well-informed and
talkative young man showed his warm and hearty devotion to me more
openly, and I felt bound to reciprocate his affection. He was the first
person who made me realise the genuine character of the new political
enthusiasm. On his hat, as well as on his father's, the black, red, and
gold cockade was paraded before my eyes.

Now that I had finished my Lohengrin, and had leisure to study the
course of events, I could no longer help myself sympathising with the
ferment aroused by the birth of German ideals and the hopes attached to
their realisation. My old friend Franck had already imbued me with a
fairly sound political judgment, and, like many others, I had grave
doubts as to whether the German parliament now assembling would serve
any useful purpose. Nevertheless, the temper of the populace, of which
there could be no question, although it might not have been given very
obvious expression, and the belief, everywhere prevalent, that it was
impossible to return to the old conditions, could not fail to exercise
its influence upon me. But I wanted actions instead of words, and
actions which would force our princes to break for ever with their old
traditions, which were so detrimental to the cause of the German
commonwealth. With this object I felt inspired to write a popular
appeal in verse, calling upon the German princes and peoples to
inaugurate a great crusade against Russia, as the country which had
been the prime instigator of that policy in Germany which had so
fatally separated the monarchs from their subjects. One of the verses
ran as follows:--

The old fight against the East Returns again to-day. The people's sword
must not rust Who freedom wish for aye.

As I had no connection with political journals, and had learned by
chance that Berthold Auerbach was on the staff of a paper in Mannheim,
where the waves of revolution ran high, I sent him my poem with the
request to do whatever he thought best with it, and from that day to
this I have never heard or seen anything of it.

Whilst the Frankfort Parliament continued to sit on from day to day,
and it seemed idle to conjecture whither this big talk by small men
would lead, I was much impressed by the news which reached us from
Vienna. In the May of this year an attempt at a reaction, such as had
succeeded in Naples and remained indecisive in Paris, had been
triumphantly nipped in the bud by the enthusiasm and energy of the
Viennese people under the leadership of the students' band, who had
acted with such unexpected firmness. I had arrived at the conclusion
that, in matters directly concerning the people, no reliance could be
placed on reason or wisdom, but only on sheer force supported by
fanaticism or absolute necessity; but the course of events in Vienna,
where I saw the youth of the educated classes working side by side with
the labouring man, filled me with peculiar enthusiasm, to which I gave
expression in another popular appeal in verse. This I sent to the
Oesterreichischen Zeitung, where it was printed in their columns with
my full signature.

In Dresden two political unions had been formed, as a result of the
great changes that had taken place. The first was called the Deutscher
Verein (German Union), whose programme aimed at 'a constitutional
monarchy on the broadest democratic foundation.' The names of its
principal leaders, among which, in spite of its broad democratic
foundation, my friends Eduard Devrient and Professor Rietschel had the
courage openly to appear, guaranteed the safety of its objects. This
union, which tried to include every element that regarded a real
revolution with abhorrence, conjured into existence an opposition club
which called itself the Vaterlands-Verein (Patriotic Union). In this
the 'democratic foundation' seemed to be the chief basis, and the
'constitutional monarchy' only provided the necessary cloak.

Rockel canvassed passionately for the latter, as he seemed to have lost
all confidence in the monarchy. The poor fellow was, indeed, in a very
bad way. He had long ago given up all hope of rising to any position in
the musical world; his directorship had become pure drudgery, and was,
unfortunately, so badly paid that he could not possibly keep himself
and his yearly increasing family on the income he derived from his
post. He always had an unconquerable aversion from teaching, which was
a fairly profitable employment in Dresden among the many wealthy
visitors. So he went on from bad to worse, running miserably into debt,
and for a long time saw no hope for his position as the father of a
family except in emigration to America, where he thought he could
secure a livelihood for himself and his dependants by manual labour,
and for his practical mind by working as a farmer, from which class he
had originally sprung. This, though tedious, would at least be certain.
On our walks he had of late been entertaining me almost exclusively
with ideas he had gleaned from reading books on farming, doctrines
which he applied with zeal to the improvement of his encumbered
position. This was the mood in which the Revolution of 1848 found him,
and he immediately went over to the extreme socialist side, which,
owing to the example set by Paris, threatened to become serious. Every
one who knew him was utterly taken aback at the apparently vital change
which had so suddenly taken place in him, when he declared that he had
at last found his real vocation--that of an agitator.

His persuasive faculties, on which, however, he could not rely
sufficiently for platform purposes, developed in private intercourse
into stupefying energy. It was impossible to stop his flow of language
with any objection, and those he could not draw over to his cause he
cast aside for ever. In his enthusiasm about the problems which
occupied his mind day and night, he sharpened his intellect into a
weapon capable of demolishing every foolish objection, and suddenly
stood in our midst like a preacher in the wilderness. He was at home in
every department of knowledge. The Vaterlands-Verein had elected a
committee for carrying into execution a plan for arming the populace;
this included Rockel and other thoroughgoing democrats, and, in
addition, certain military experts, among whom was my old friend
Hermann Muller, the lieutenant of the Guards who had once been engaged
to Schroder-Devrient. He and another officer named Zichlinsky were the
only members of the Saxon army who joined the political movement. The
part I played in the meetings of this committee, as in everything else,
was dictated by artistic motives. As far as I can remember, the details
of this plan, which at last became a nuisance, afforded very sound
foundation for a genuine arming of the people, though it was impossible
to carry it out during the political crisis.

My interest and enthusiasm about the social and political problems
which were occupying the whole world increased every day, until public
meetings and private intercourse, and the shallow platitudes which
formed the staple eloquence of the orators of the day, proved to me the
terrible shallowness of the whole movement.

If only I could rest assured that, while such senseless confusion was
the order of the day, people well versed in these matters would
withhold from any demonstration (which to my great regret I observed in
Hermann Franck, and told him of, openly), then, on the contrary, I
should feel myself compelled, as soon as the opportunity arose, to
discuss the purport of such questions and problems according to my
judgment. Needless to say, the newspapers played an exciting and
prominent part on this occasion. Once, when I went incidentally (as I
might go to see a play) to a meeting of the Vaterlands-Verein, when
they were assembled in a public garden, they chose for the subject of
their discussion, 'Republic or Monarchy?' I was astonished to hear and
to read with what incredible triviality it was carried on, and how the
sum-total of their explanation was, that, to be sure, a republic is
best, but, at the worst, one could put up with a monarchy if it were
well conducted. As the result of many heated discussions on this point,
I was incited to lay bare my views on the subject in an article which I
published in the DRESDENER ANZEIGER, but which I did not sign. My
special aim was to turn the attention of the few who really took the
matter seriously, from the external form of the government to its
intrinsic value. When I had pursued and consistently discussed the
utmost idealistic conclusions of all that which, to my mind, was
necessary and inseparable from the perfect state and from social order,
I inquired whether it would not be possible to realise all this with a
king at the head, and entered so deeply into the matter as to portray
the king in such a fashion, that he seemed even more anxious than any
one else that his state should be organised on genuinely republican
lines, in order that he might attain to the fulfilment of his own
highest aims. I must own, however, that I felt bound to urge this king
to assume a much more familiar attitude towards his people than the
court atmosphere and the almost exclusive society of his nobles would
seem to render possible. Finally, I pointed to the King of Saxony as
being specially chosen by Fate to lead the way in the direction I had
indicated, and to give the example to all the other German princes.
Rockel considered this article a true inspiration from the Angel of
Propitiation, but as he feared that it would not meet with proper
recognition and appreciation in the paper, he urged me to lecture on it
publicly at the next meeting of the Vaterlands-Verein for he attached
great importance to my discoursing on the subject personally. Quite
uncertain as to whether I could really persuade myself to do this, I
attended the meeting, and there, owing to the intolerable balderdash
uttered by a certain barrister named Blode and a master-furrier Klette,
whom at that time Dresden venerated as a Demosthenes and a Cleon, I
passionately decided to appear at this extraordinary tribunal with my
paper, and to give a very spirited reading of it to about three
thousand persons.

The success I had was simply appalling. The astounded audience seemed
to remember nothing of the speech of the Orchestral Conductor Royal
save the incidental attack I had made upon the court sycophants. The
news of this incredible event spread like wildfire. The next day I
rehearsed Rienzi, which was to be performed the following evening. I
was congratulated on all sides upon my self-sacrificing audacity. On
the day of the performance, however, I was informed by Eisolt, the
attendant of the orchestra, that the plans had been changed, and he
gave me to understand that thereby there hung a tale. True enough, the
terrible sensation I had made became so great, that the directors
feared the most unheard-of demonstrations at any performance of Rienzi.
Then a perfect storm of derision and vituperation broke loose in the
press, and I was besieged on all sides to such an extent that it was
useless to think of self-defence. I had even offended the Communal
Guard of Saxony, and was challenged by the commander to make a full
apology. But the most inexorable enemies I made were the court
officials, especially those holding a minor office, and to this day I
still continue to be persecuted by them. I learned that, as far as it
lay in their power, they incessantly besought the King, and finally the
director, to deprive me at once of my office. On account of this I
thought it necessary to write to the monarch personally, in order to
explain to him that my action was to be regarded more in the light of a
thoughtless indiscretion than as a culpable offence. I sent this letter
to Herr von Luttichau, begging him to deliver it to the King, and to
arrange at the same time a short leave for me, so that the provoking
disturbance should have a chance of dying down during my absence from
Dresden. The striking kindness and goodwill which Herr von Luttichau
showed me on this occasion made no little impression upon me, and this
I took no pains to conceal from him. As in the course of time, however,
his ill-controlled rage at various things, and especially at a good
deal that he had misunderstood in my pamphlet, broke loose, I learned
that it was not from any humane motives that he had spoken in such a
propitiatory manner to me, but rather by desire of the King himself. On
this point I received most accurate information, and heard that when
everybody, and even von Luttichau himself, were besieging the King to
visit me with punishment, the King had forbidden any further talk on
the subject. After this very encouraging experience, I flattered myself
that the King had understood not only my letter, but also my pamphlet,
better than many others.

In order to change my mind a little, I determined for the present (it
was the beginning of July) to take advantage of the short period of
leave granted to me, by going to Vienna. I travelled by way of Breslau,
where I looked up an old friend of my family, the musical director
Mosewius, at whose house I spent an evening. We had a most lively
conversation, but, unfortunately, were unable to steer clear of the
stirring political questions of the day. What interested me most was
his exceptionally large, or even, if I remember rightly, complete
collection of Sebastian Bach's cantatas in most excellent copies.
Besides this, he related, with a humour quite his own, several amusing
musical anecdotes which were a pleasant memory for many a year. When
Mosewius returned my visit in the course of the summer at Dresden, I
played a part of the first act of Lohengrin on the piano for him, and
the expression of his genuine astonishment at this conception was very
gratifying to me. In later years, however, I found that he had spoken
somewhat scoffingly about me; but I did not stop to reflect as to the
truth of this information, or as to the real character of the man, for
little by little I had had to accustom myself to the most inconceivable
things. At Vienna the first thing I did was to call on Professor
Fischhof, as I knew that he had in his keeping important manuscripts,
chiefly by Beethoven, among which the original of the C minor Sonata,
opus 111, I was particularly curious to see. Through this new fri