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Title: Wagner as Man and Artist
Author: Newman, Ernest
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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                       WAGNER AS MAN AND ARTIST

                         _BY THE SAME AUTHOR_

                         GLUCK AND THE OPERA.

                          A STUDY OF WAGNER.

                 WAGNER (_The Music of the Masters_).

                           MUSICAL STUDIES.

                  ELGAR (_The Music of the Masters_).

                              HUGO WOLF.

                           RICHARD STRAUSS
                     (_Living Masters of Music_).

                               &c., &c.

             [Illustration: _RICHARD AND COSIMA WAGNER._]

                            AS MAN & ARTIST


                             ERNEST NEWMAN


                           LONDON & TORONTO
                       J. M. DENT AND SONS LTD.

                         _All rights reserved_

                      MRS. BERKELEY OF SPETCHLEY


Some apology is perhaps needed from an author for writing three books
on the same subject. I can only plead in extenuation that the subject
of Wagner is inexhaustible; and I am defiant enough to refuse to pledge
myself not to repeat the offence in another ten years or so. It is
possible that readers who have done me the honour to make themselves
familiar with my _Study of Wagner_ (1899) may discover that in the
present book I express myself differently upon one or two points. My
defence is that even a musical critic may be allowed to learn something
in the course of fifteen years; and I can only hope that if here and
there I have changed sides since then, the side I am now on is that of
the angels.

In spite of the size of this volume, many readers will no doubt feel
that it either discusses inadequately several aspects of Wagner's
work and personality, or that it passes them over altogether. Again
I plead guilty; but to have followed Wagner up in every one of his
many-sided activities,--in all his political, ethical, economic,
ethnical, sociological and other speculations--would have necessitated
not one book but four. I have tried to keep within the limits of my
title--first of all to study Wagner as a man, and then his theory
and practice as a musician. His operas are now so universally known
that I could afford to dispense with detailed accounts of them; in
any case the reader will find them fully described in a hundred
books, and best of all in Mr. Runciman's admirable _Richard Wagner,
Composer of Operas_--though I must dissent from Mr. Runciman's views
on _Parsifal_. Nor could I bring myself to attempt a biography of
Wagner. A new biography, incorporating all the material that the last
ten years have placed at our disposal, is urgently needed. The work of
Glasenapp is copious enough and fairly accurate, but it is hopelessly
uncritical of Wagner either as man or artist,--to say nothing of its
occasional lapses into the disingenuous. But even if I had felt that
I were qualified for a new biography of Wagner I should have shrunk
appalled from the magnitude of the task. I have preferred to give
the reader a chronological digest of Wagner's life in the Synthetic
Table at the conclusion of the present volume, and for the rest to
try to reconstruct him as man and musician from his own letters, his
autobiography, the letters and reminiscences of others, his prose
works, and his music. As the book is going to press I learn that
a new edition of his correspondence, containing some two thousand
hitherto unpublished letters, is to appear under the editorship of
that indefatigable Wagner researcher Dr. Julius Kapp. But it ought
to be possible to reconstruct the man from the 2700 letters of his
that we already have, though the picture will no doubt need some
filling-in and perhaps some corrections in detail when Dr. Kapp's
edition is available. With the expiration of the Wagner copyrights, and
the passing of the control of his letters out of the hands of Villa
Wahnfried, we may hope for a higher standard of literary rectitude in
these matters than we have been accustomed to in the past. The earlier,
and even some of the later, editions of the letters have been so
manipulated as to be thoroughly misleading. I have drawn attention to
one or two of these manipulations in the following pages.

I have made all translations from the prose works, the letters, the
autobiography, &c., direct from the originals. This has necessitated
referring to them throughout in the German editions; but no one who has
the current English versions will have any difficulty in tracing any
particular passage by means of dates and indices. I cannot hope that
with prose so involved as that of Wagner's I have always been able to
achieve perfect accuracy; but I am consoled by the consciousness that
native German scholars to whom I have referred a few passages have been
as puzzled over them as myself.

I have used Wagner's prose works in the latest edition (the fifth) of
the _Gesammelte Schriften und Dichtungen_ (always referred to in the
following pages as _G.S._), the Wagner-Liszt correspondence in the new
and expanded and more conscientiously edited third edition, and all
the other letters in the latest editions available. The operas are
always referred to in the new Breitkopf edition.

I have to express my thanks to several friends for help of one kind and
another,--to Mr. Bertram Dobell, the publisher of my earlier _Study
of Wagner_, for allowing me to make whatever use I liked of that book
for the present one; to Messrs. Breitkopf and Härtel for placing at
my disposal a set of proofs of the full scores of Wagner's earliest
unpublished operas, _Die Hochzeit_ and _Die Feen_, and proofs of a
number of other unpublished compositions of his; and, above all, for
lending me the manuscript score of the still unpublished opera _Das
Liebesverbot_. I am indebted also to Professor H. G. Fiedler, Mr. R. A.
Streatfeild, and other friends for assistance of various sorts.

Some of the matter of the book has already appeared in the _Fortnightly
Review_, the _Contemporary Review_, the _Nation_, the _New Music
Review_ (New York), the _International_ (New York), the _Musical
Times_, and the _Harvard Musical Review_. My thanks are due to the
editors of these journals for permission to reproduce such portions of
the articles as I desired to make use of here.

                                                        E. N.




          GENERAL CREDIBILITY OF "MEIN LEBEN"             1

          THE HORNSTEIN CASE                              6

          THE LACHNER CASE                               12

          THE HANSLICK CASE                              19

                               CHAPTER I

                                THE MAN

        I. CHILDHOOD                                     24

       II. THE APEL CORRESPONDENCE                       26

      III. DISLIKE OF CRITICS                            28

       IV. ASPERITIES OF TEMPER                          33


       VI. WAGNER AND MINNA                              42

      VII. THE JESSIE LAUSSOT EPISODE                    45

     VIII. IN LOVE WITH MINNA                            57

       IX. AFTER MARRIAGE                                67

        X. THE MATHILDE WESENDONCK AFFAIR                84

       XI. HIS DUAL NATURE                              100

      XII. LATER LOVES                                  106

     XIII. COSIMA VON BÜLOW                             114


       XV. EGOISM IN FRIENDSHIP                         128

      XVI. GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS                      137

                              CHAPTER II

                         THE ARTIST IN THEORY

        I. HIS EARLY ITALIANISM                         146

       II. COMING TO HIMSELF                            150

      III. THE AWAKENING IN PARIS                       155

       IV. ÆSTHETIC PRINCIPLES                          157

        V. ESSAY ON THE OVERTURE                        163

       VI. FERMENTATION IN DRESDEN                      172

      VII. POLITICAL AND ARTISTIC IDEALS                174

     VIII. "ART AND REVOLUTION"                         176

       IX. "THE ART-WORK OF THE FUTURE"                 180

        X. "OPERA AND DRAMA"                            185



     XIII. WAGNER AND BEETHOVEN                         212

      XIV. BEETHOVEN A TONE-POET                        215

       XV. SYMPHONIC AND DRAMATIC FORM                  220

      XVI. WAGNER'S SYMPHONIC LINEAGE                   223



                              CHAPTER III

                        THE ARTIST IN PRACTICE

    I. THE EARLY MISCELLANEOUS WORKS                    238

   II. THE EARLIEST OPERAS                              246

  III. THE OPERAS OF THE SECOND PERIOD                  257


     1. THE "PHILOSOPHY" OF THE OPERAS                  266

     2. THE NEW STYLE OF THE "RING"                     270

     3. THE EARLY LEIT-MOTIVE                           272

     4. THE LEIT-MOTIVE IN THE "RING"                   274



     7. THE VOICE AND THE ORCHESTRA                     288

     8. POETRY, DRAMA, AND MUSIC                        292

     9. THE PREGNANCY OF HIS THEMES                     301


    11. THE PICTORIAL ELEMENT IN HIS MUSIC              307


    13. "PARSIFAL"                                      315

    14. HIS LINEAGE AND POSTERITY                       321


            "    B. WAGNER AND SUPER-WAGNER             335

        SYNCHRONOUS EVENTS                              359

        INDEX                                           381


    RICHARD AND COSIMA WAGNER                    _Frontispiece_
    (_From Chamberlain, "Richard Wagner,"
     published by F. Bruckmann, Munich._)

    WAGNER'S MOTHER                             _face page_ 26
    (_From Chamberlain, "Richard Wagner,"
    published by F. Bruckmann, Munich._)

    MINNA WAGNER                                  "     "   56
    (_From Chamberlain, "Richard Wagner"
    published by F. Bruckmann, Munich._)

    WAGNER. From a photograph taken in Paris
    in 1861, with facsimile of signature          "     "  106
    (_From Chamberlain, "Richard Wagner,"
    published by F. Bruckmann, Munich._)

    WAGNER IN THE _TRISTAN_ PERIOD                "     "  144
    (_By permission, F. Bruckmann, Munich._)

    RICHARD WAGNER, 1877                          "     "  236
    (_From Chamberlain, "Richard Wagner,"
    published by F. Bruckmann, Munich._)

    RICHARD WAGNER                                "     "  278
    (_From the painting by H. Herkomer at

    WAGNER: THE LAST PHOTOGRAPH                   "     "  320
    (_From Chamberlain, "Richard Wagner,"
    published by F. Bruckmann, Munich._)

    LUDWIG GEYER                                  "     "  326
    (_From Chamberlain, "Richard Wagner,"
    published by F. Bruckmann, Munich._)

                           AS MAN AND ARTIST


While there is at present no adequate Life of Wagner, there is
probably more biographical material available in connection with him
than with any other artist who has ever lived; and on the basis of
this material it seems justifiable now to attempt--what was impossible
until the publication of _Mein Leben_ in 1911--a complete and impartial
psychological estimate of him. There has probably never been a more
complex artist, and certainly never anything like so complex a
musician. A soul and a character so multiform as this are an unending
joy to the student of human nature. It has been Wagner's peculiar
misfortune to have been taken, willy-nilly, under the protection of a
number of worthy people who combine the maximum of good intentions with
the minimum of critical insight. They have painted for us a Wagner so
impeccable in all his dealings with men and women--especially women--a
Wagner so invariably wise of speech, a Wagner so brutally sinned
against and so pathetically incapable of sinning, that one needs not
to have read a line of his at first hand to know that the portrait
is a parody--that no such figure could ever have existed outside a
stained-glass window, or, if it had, could ever have had the energy
to impress itself upon the imagination of mankind even for a day. The
real Wagner may be hard enough to disentangle from the complications
and contradictions presented by his life, his letters, his prose
works, his music, his autobiography, and the testimonies of his
friends and enemies; but in the case of no man is the attempt better
worth making. For the enduring interest of his character, with its
perpetual challenge to constructive psychology, is in the manysidedness
of it. The well-meaning thurifers who try to impose him upon us in a
single formula as one of the greatest and best of mankind,[1] do but
raise him to their own moral and reduce him to their own intellectual
level, making their god in their own image, as is the way of primitive
religious folk. The more interesting Wagner is the one who stands naked
and unashamed before us in the documents of himself and others--equally
capable of great virtues and of great vices, of heroic self-sacrifice
and the meanest egoism, packed with a vitality too superabundant for
the moral sense always to control it; now concentrating magnificently,
now wasting himself tragically, but always believing in himself with
the faith that moves mountains, and finally achieving a roundness and
completeness of life and a mastery of mankind that make his record read
more like romance than reality.

It is in keeping with the whole character of the man that he should
have left us more copious documentary material concerning himself than
any other artist has ever done. Publicity was as much a necessity
to him as food and air. The most interesting person in the universe
to him was always himself; and he took good care that the world
should not suffer from any lack of knowledge of a phenomenon which he
rightly held to be unique. It would be a sign of unwisdom to despise
him for this. It has to be recognised that whatever criticism the
contemporary moralist might have to pass upon this or that portion
of Wagner's conduct with the outer world, he was always the soul of
purity and steadfastness in the pursuit of his ideal. He believed he
had come into the world to do a great and indispensable work; and if
he occasionally sacrificed others to his ideal, it must be admitted
that he never hesitated to sacrifice himself. Regarded purely as an
artist, no man has ever kept his conscience more free from stain.
And it is precisely this ever-present burning sense of the inherent
greatness of his mission that accounts primarily for his constant
pouring-out of himself, not only in music--his musical output, after
all, was not a remarkably large one--but in twelve volumes of literary
works and in innumerable letters. I say "primarily," because a second
set of impulses obviously comes into play here and there. Wagner had
the need that many men of immense vitality have felt--Mr. Gladstone
was a notable example in our own day--of dominance for dominance'
sake; there is something aquiline in them that makes it impossible
for them to breathe anywhere but on the heights. Wagner felt the need
of over-lordship as irresistibly as his own Wotan did. Had he been a
soldier living in a time of warfare he would have become one of the
world's rulers, with Alexander, Julius Cæsar, and Napoleon. Had he been
a business man he would have controlled the commerce of a continent
through the strength and the thoroughness of his organisations. Being
an artist, a dealer in the things of the mind alone, his ends could be
achieved only by example and argument. His voluminous letters and prose
works are the outcome of the one great need of his life--to win the
world to see everything as he saw it. The letters to Liszt, to Roeckel,
to Uhlig, and others show how powerful was this desire in him; the
least expression of disagreement, the least failure of comprehension,
would call forth a whole pamphlet of eager explanations. He yearned to
hunt out misunderstanding with regard to himself as Calvin yearned to
hunt out heresy. Always there was the inability to conceive himself,
Wilhelm Richard Wagner, except as the central sun of his universe;
ideas and persons had to revolve round him or find orbits in another
and smaller universe. Here again ethical commentary by way of either
praise or blame would be the merest supererogation. One simply notes
the phenomenon as one notes the colour of his eyes or the shape of his
head; it was one of the things that made Wagner Wagner, as the lion's
mane is one of the things that make him a lion.

The need for mastery over everything and everybody that came within
his orbit extended from art to life. All accounts agree that with
people who loved and looked up to him he was the most charming of
men;[2] while not only the testimony of his associates but his own
words and conduct show with what difficulty he accommodated himself to
the natural desire of others to take life in their own way. Read, for
example, his naïf account of his anger with Tausig and Cornelius for
not coming to him when he wanted them:

"Cornelius and Tausig had again been to see me. Both had first of all
to bear the brunt of my real ill-temper for their behaviour during the
previous summer [1862]. Having had the idea of bringing the Bülows
and the Schnorrs to me at Biebrich, my cordial interest in these two
young friends of mine decided me to invite them too. Cornelius accepted
immediately, and so I was all the more astonished when one day I
received a letter from him from Geneva, whither Tausig, who suddenly
seemed to have money at his disposal, had taken him on a summer
excursion--no doubt of a more important and more agreeable nature.
Without the slightest expression of regret at not being able to meet
me this summer, I was simply told that they had just gaily 'smoked
a splendid cigar to my health.' When I met them again in Vienna, I
could not refrain from pointing out to them the offensiveness of their
conduct; but they did not seem to understand that I could have had any
objection to their preferring the beautiful tour in French Switzerland
to visiting me at Biebrich. _They obviously thought me a tyrant._"[3]

All through the correspondence and the autobiography we see the
same spirit of unconscious egoism. His conviction that he was always
in the right naturally led to a passionate desire that those who
differed from him should hear every word he had to say on his own
behalf. Hence the frequent and lengthy _plaidoyers_ in the letters;
hence too the autobiography. His lust for dominance looked even beyond
the grave; thirty years after his death the world should read a
document which should be his final, and, he hoped, successful effort
at self-justification. We cannot, I think, understand Wagner fully
unless we recognise that, however honest he was in intention, this
consuming desire to prove himself always in the right should make us
chary of accepting everything he says at its face value. No man is a
perfectly unprejudiced witness on his own behalf, in his own suit; and
in Wagner's case the very vehemence of his pleading lets us see how
earnestly he desired to impress his own reading of himself upon the
world, and is therefore a warning that he may often have seen things as
he desired them to be rather than as they were. It is pretty clear that
at an early age he realised that he was destined to be a great man, and
took care that the world should not suffer from any lack of materials
for the writing of his life.[4] The autobiography is simply the last
and longest speech of a thousand long speeches for the defence. We need
not consider at present the particular opinions upon his friends and
associates and enemies that Wagner expresses there. The only question
for the moment is as to the general trustworthiness of the book. That
he has been exceedingly, even embarrassingly, candid on some points
all the world now knows. Whether he always saw things at the correct
angle is a different matter. It is obviously impossible to check him
throughout, even where one suspects him to be unconsciously distorting
the truth;[5] but there are several instances in which he is obviously
not telling quite the truth or all the truth, and in more than one
instance he can certainly be convicted of manipulating the facts to
suit his own purpose.

I shall try to show later that the account he gives of the episode
with Madame Laussot in 1850 does not square at every point with his
letters to Minna. He deliberately tries to mislead the reader with
regard to his relations with Frau Wesendonck; everyone who has read
Wagner's ardent letters to her must have gasped with astonishment
to find him in _Mein Leben_ glossing over that long and passionate
love-dream, and actually speaking of "Minna's coarse misunderstanding
of my real relations--friendly relations--with the young wife, who was
continually concerned for my repose and my well-being."[6] That is not
an actual untruth, but it is considerably less than the truth. In the
preface to _Mein Leben_ Wagner tells us that the only justification of
the volumes was their "unadorned veracity." Perhaps he found "unadorned
veracity" at this point a trifle embarrassing; perhaps he forgot his
letters to Mathilde, or had never considered the possibility of their
being published. But the fact remains that his own letters show the
account he gives of his relations with Mathilde Wesendonck to be quite
unreliable. What warrant have we, then, for believing him implicitly in
other cases in which it may have been to his interest to suppress or
distort the truth?

Let us take one of the most striking cases of this suppression and
distortion. One of the friends of the middle period of Wagner's life
was a certain Baron Robert von Hornstein. In 1862 Wagner--who was at
that time in Paris--was, as frequently happened with him, looking
for someone who would undertake the burden of keeping a home above
his head. He tried two or three people, but without success; then he
thought of the young Baron von Hornstein. This is the account he gives
of the matter in _Mein Leben_:

"Finally I bethought me of looking for a quiet abode in the
neighbourhood of Mainz, under the financial protection of Schott. He
had spoken to me of a pretty estate of the young Baron von Hornstein
in that region. I thought I was really conferring an honour upon the
latter when I wrote to him, at Munich, asking permission to seek
shelter for a time at his place in the Rhine district; and I was
greatly perplexed at receiving an answer that only expressed terror at
my request."[7]

On the face of it this seems candid and credible enough. Von
Hornstein's son, Ferdinand von Hornstein, has, however, thrown another
light on the affair. When Baron Ferdinand published a memoir of his
father in 1908, he omitted certain letters, he tells us, "out of
consideration for Wagner and his family." The wounding allusions to
Baron Robert in _Mein Leben_, and the evident animus displayed against
him there, unlocked, however, the son's lips. He resents Wagner's
description of his (Hornstein's) father--the friend of Schopenhauer,
Paul Heyse, Hermann Lingg and others--as a "young booby,"[8] and
proceeds to explain "why Wagner has misrepresented my father's

On an earlier page (627) of _Mein Leben_ Wagner tells us that during
their stay together at Zürich in the winter of 1855-6 Hornstein
declared himself to be so "nervous" that he could not bear to touch
the piano--that his mother had died insane, and that he himself was
greatly afraid of losing his reason. "Although," says Wagner, "this
made him to some extent interesting, there was blended so much weakness
of character with all his intellectual gifts that we soon came to the
conclusion that he was pretty hopeless, and were not inconsolable when
he suddenly left Zürich."[9] The impression conveyed--and obviously
intended to be conveyed--is that the young man's departure was a piece
of half-mad caprice.

As it happens, however, Hornstein at his death had left among his
papers an account of the affair that puts a different complexion on
it. Wagner's own eccentricities had been making the relations of
the little circle none too pleasant.[10] And Hornstein, so far from
leaving Zürich in obedience to a sudden impulse, had actually made
arrangements at his lodgings under which he could leave at any time
when the "scenes" with Wagner became intolerable. He often expressed
to Karl Ritter and the latter's mother[11] his regret that he was not
in a position to "take his revenge" for the invitations he received
to Wagner's table. Their reply always was: "Wagner does not at all
expect this now. He knows your circumstances, and is sure to follow
you up later. He is waiting for a more favourable moment." When he
voiced his regret that there should be anything but ordinary friendly
feeling to account for Wagner's attentions to him, his friends replied,
"Oh, there is no doubt Wagner likes you and prizes your talents
greatly; but these calculations (_Hintergedanken_) are too much second
nature with him for him to be able to make an exception." "This,"
says Hornstein, "was to become still clearer to me." He learned that
Wagner's guests were expected to bring bottles of wine with them--a
point on which Hornstein, as a young man of breeding,[12] evidently
felt some delicacy. On his birthday the great man entertained Hornstein
and Baumgartner at dinner. "During the dessert, Wagner asked his
sister-in-law--it came like a pistol shot--to bring him the wine-list
from a neighbouring restaurant. She hesitatingly carried out this
unexpected commission. The card comes. Wagner runs down the list of
the champagnes and their prices, and orders a bottle of a medium
quality to be brought. Everyone felt uncomfortable. The bottle having
been emptied, Wagner turned to his two guests with a sneering smile,
and said loudly, 'Shall I now present another thaler to each of these
two gentlemen?' His wife and his sister-in-law fled in horror, like
the ladies in the Wartburg scene in _Tannhäuser_. Baumgartner and I
were stunned; we looked at one another, and each of us probably had
an impulse to throw a glass at the head of our dear host." Instead of
doing so, they burst into laughter, thanked him, and took their leave.
Baumgartner declared to Hornstein that he would never accept another
invitation from Wagner, "and I, for my part," says Hornstein, "_was
firm in my resolve to leave Zürich as soon as possible_." Afterwards
Wagner, as was no doubt his wont, came and excused himself to Hornstein
and Karl Ritter.[13] He had not meant _them_, he said, but "the German
Princes" who performed his operas and raved about him, but gave him
nothing: "it does not occur to them to send me a hamper of wine"; and
so on. The young men, however, were not to be so easily appeased, and
Wagner "had to listen to many things that he would rather not have
heard." An outward reconciliation was effected, but the sting remained;
Hornstein delayed his departure for a few weeks, and still visited
Wagner's house, though less frequently than before. "I had," he writes,
"to tell this distressing story, as it gives the key to my later
conduct when, soon after my father's death, Wagner tried to borrow so
heavily from me. The correspondence connected with this attempt led to
a permanent separation from Wagner."[14]

All this, it will be seen, puts the Zürich episode in a new light.
There is not the least reason for doubting Hornstein's veracity. What
he says is quite consistent with the accounts of Wagner's behaviour
that we get from other sources, private and public. Moreover,
Hornstein's reminiscences simply take the form of a note left among his
personal papers. He could not have anticipated the misleading version
that was to appear in _Mein Leben_ many years after his death,[15]
and, as has been said, his own version would probably have remained
unpublished for ever, but for the provocation given to his son by the

Baron Ferdinand von Hornstein gives further evidence of the pettiness
of Wagner's rancour against this young man from whom, notwithstanding
his disparagement of him, he was willing to borrow money. For now comes
the full record of the incident to which Wagner alludes so airily in
the passage from _Mein Leben_ quoted on page 6. Here is the actual
letter, dated, "19, Quai Voltaire, Paris, 12th December 1861," in which
Wagner, according to his account, simply asked permission to stay for a
time at Hornstein's place in the Rhine district.

  "DEAR HORNSTEIN,--I hear that you have become rich. In what a wretched
  state I myself am you can easily guess from my failures.[16] I am
  trying to retrieve myself by seclusion and a new work. In order to
  make possible this way to my preservation--that is to say, to lift me
  above the most distressing obligations, cares, and needs that rob me
  of all freedom of mind--I require an immediate loan of ten thousand
  francs. With this I can again put my life in order, and again do
  productive work.

  "It will be rather hard for you to provide me with this sum;
  but it will be possible if you WISH it, and do not shrink from a
  sacrifice. This, however, I desire, and I ask it of you against my
  promise to endeavour to repay you in three years out of my receipts.

  "Now let me see whether you are the right sort of man!

  "If you prove to be such for me,--and why should not this be expected
  of some one some day?--the assistance you give me will bring you into
  very close touch with me, and next summer you must be pleased to let
  me come to you for three months at one of your estates, preferably in
  the Rhine district.

  "I will say no more just now. Only as regards the proposed loan I may
  say that it would be a great relief to me if you could place even six
  thousand francs at my disposal immediately; I hope then to be able to
  arrange to do without the other four thousand francs until March. But
  nothing but the immediate provision of the whole sum can give me the
  help which I so need in my present state of mind.

  "Let us see, then, and hope that the sun will for once shine a little
  on me. What I need now is a success; otherwise--I can probably do
  nothing more!--Yours,

                                                  RICHARD WAGNER."

"I must confess," says Hornstein, "that the largeness of the amount and
the tone of the letter made a refusal easier to me. What made it easier
still was my knowledge that I had to do with a bottomless cask,--that
while ten thousand francs were a great deal for me, they were simply
nothing to him. I knew that Napoleon, Princess Metternich, Morny, and
Erlanger had been bled of large sums that were simply like drops of
water falling on a hot stone." Hornstein was particularly grieved at
the remark that the loan would draw him nearer to Wagner. "Was I not
near to him, then," he asks, "before I gave him money? Was the intimate
intercourse with him at the Lake of Geneva, on the Seelisberg, in
Zürich, intended only to prepare the way for the borrowings he had in
view when my father should die?"[17] So he replied to Wagner in these

  "DEAR HERR WAGNER,--You seem to have a false idea of my riches. I have
  a modest (_hübsch_) fortune on which I can live in plain and decent
  style with my wife and child. You must therefore turn to really rich
  people, of whom you have plenty among your patrons and patronesses all
  over Europe. I regret that I cannot be of service to you.

  "As for your long visit to 'one of my estates,' at present I cannot
  contrive a long visit; if it should become possible later I will let
  you know.

  "I have read in the papers with great regret that the production of
  _Tristan and Isolde_ will not take place this winter. I hope that
  it is only a question of time, and that we shall yet hear the work.
  Greetings to you and your wife.--From yours,

                                            ROBERT VON HORNSTEIN."

To which Wagner replied thus:

  "PARIS, _27th December, 1861_.

  "DEAR HERR VON HORNSTEIN,--It would be wrong of me to pass over
  without censure an answer such as you have given me. Though it will
  probably not happen again that a man like me (_ein Mann meines
  Gleichen_) will apply to you, yet a perception of the impropriety of
  your letter ought of itself to be a good thing for you.

  "You should not have presumed to advise me in any way, even as to who
  is really rich; and you should have left it to myself to decide why I
  do not apply to the patrons and patronesses to whom you refer.

  "If you are not prepared to have me at one of your estates, you
  could have seized the signal opportunity I offered you of making the
  necessary arrangements for receiving me in some place of my choice. It
  is consequently offensive of you to say that you will let me know when
  you will be prepared to have me.

  "You should have omitted the wish you express with regard to my
  _Tristan_; your answer could only pass muster on the assumption that
  you are totally ignorant of my works.

  "Let this end the matter. I reckon on your discretion, as you can on
  mine.--Yours obediently,

                                              RICHARD WAGNER."[18]

I have given this episode in such detail because, as Ferdinand von
Hornstein caustically remarks, it enables us to test the value of
Wagner's claim for the "unadorned veracity" of his memoirs. He is
plainly guilty of serious sins both of omission and of commission in
his account of his dealings with Hornstein. What guarantee have we that
he was any more scrupulous in his record of other matters in which his
reputation or his _amour propre_ were concerned? Let us check him in
one or two other cases.

How unreliable the autobiography is, with what caution we have to
accept Wagner's opinions of men in the absence of confirmatory
testimony, may be seen from a survey of his dealings with Franz

The first reference to Lachner in _Mein Leben_ is under the date 1842.
Wagner had written two articles in Paris _à propos_ of Halévy's opera,
_La Reine de Chypre_.[20] In the article published in the Dresden
_Abendzeitung_, he says, "I made particularly merry over a mischance
that had befallen Kapellmeister Lachner." Küstner, the Munich director,
had commissioned a libretto for Lachner from St. Georges, of Paris (the
librettist of _La Reine de Chypre_). After the production of the latter
opera, it turned out that this book and that of the Lachner opera were
virtually identical. In reply to Küstner's angry protests, St. Georges
"expressed his astonishment that the former should have imagined that
for the paltry price offered in the German commission he would supply a
text intended only for the German stage. As I had already formed my own
opinion as to this French opera-text-business, and nothing in the world
would have induced me to set to music even the most effective piece of
Scribe or St. Georges, I was greatly delighted at this occurrence, and
in the best of spirits I let myself go on the subject for the benefit
of the readers of the _Abendzeitung_, who, it is to be hoped, did not
include my future 'friend' Lachner."[21] Evidently he did not love

The next reference to him in _Mein Leben_ is in 1855. Wagner had
returned to Zürich after his London concerts. There he learned that
Dingelstedt, at that time Intendant of the Munich Court Theatre,
wished to give _Tannhäuser_ there, "although," says Wagner, "thanks
to Lachner's influence," the place was not particularly well disposed
towards him.[22]

The third reference to Lachner is in 1858, just before Wagner's
departure from the "Asyl"; there was a "national vocal festival" at
Zürich that seems to have irritated Wagner a good deal, depressed as he
was at that time by the Minna-Mathilde catastrophe. Lachner was taking
part in the festival. Wagner gave him the cold shoulder, and refused to
return his call.[23]

Now let us see, from documents of the time, how matters really stood
as regards Lachner. In 1854 Wagner was hoping to get _Tannhäuser_
produced at Munich, where, as we have seen, Dingelstedt was Intendant
and Lachner Kapellmeister. Lachner was a conductor and composer of the
old school. Wagner had a poor opinion of him, and apparently thought
him incompetent to do justice to _Tannhäuser_. "I don't at all know,"
he writes to Liszt on May 2, 1854,[24] "how to get Lachner out of the
way. He is an utter ass and knave." In the summer of 1852 there had
been some talk of giving _Tannhäuser_ at Munich. Lachner thought it
advisable first to familiarise the public with the style of the work
by giving the overture at a concert on 1st November. The success was
doubtful. Wagner had previously sent Lachner a copy of the explanatory
programme of the overture that he had written in the preceding March
for the Zürich orchestra. Perhaps this was thought too long for the
Munich programme; in any case a much shorter "explanation" was given,
that aroused Wagner's ire.[25] With his customary blind suspicion of
people he did not like, he assumed that the concert production of the
overture was a deliberate attempt to prejudice the public against the
opera. This suspicion, as Sebastian Röckl says,[26] finds no support
in the external facts. A fortnight after the Munich performance of
the overture, _Tannhäuser_ was given at Wiesbaden with great success,
and soon became one of the favourite pieces in the repertory of the
theatre there. Dingelstedt at once sent his theatre inspector, Wilhelm
Schmitt, to Zürich to arrange with Wagner for a production at Munich.
Unexpected difficulties arose, however; an outcry was raised against
the proposed performance of a work by "the Red Republican, Richard
Wagner"; and there was opposition on the part of the Bavarian Minister,
von der Pforten. By the spring of 1854 all obstacles had been removed,
and, as we have already seen, Dingelstedt now arranged with Wagner for
the production, although the composer thought Munich "not particularly
well-disposed towards him, thanks to Lachner's influence." Having heard
that the singer destined for the part of _Tannhäuser_ was incompetent,
Wagner asked Dr. Härtinger, of the Munich Opera, to undertake it.
Härtinger came to Zürich in May to study the rôle with the composer,
and seems to have deepened Wagner's mistrust of and contempt for
Lachner. The performance did not take place, as was intended, in the
summer of 1854, but, as Röckl says, the cause of the postponement was
not Lachner but the cholera.

Later on, Dingelstedt found himself unable to fulfil his promises
to Wagner with regard to the honorarium. "Thereupon," says Röckl,
"Lachner, fearing that he might be looked upon as answerable for the
production having fallen through a second time, wrote to his friend
Kapellmeister G. Schmidt, of Frankfort, asking him to arrange with
the composer for more favourable conditions."[27] In the end this was
done. "And now," says Röckl,[28] "Lachner, although in his innermost
conscience an opponent of the 'musician of the future,' did all he
could in order to produce the work as excellently as was possible to
him. Rehearsal after rehearsal was held, though the musicians were
always moaning over the extraordinary efforts they were called upon
to make"--as is shown by reference to a Munich comic paper of the
time. As the tenor was unmistakably incompetent, a singer who was
already familiar with the work was engaged from another opera house.
_Tannhäuser_ was given on 12th August 1855 with extraordinary success.
Lachner was called on the stage, whence he thanked the audience in
Wagner's name. He communicated the evening's result to the composer,
and received a letter, dated 17th August 1855, warmly thanking him for
the trouble he had taken over the work and the sympathy he felt with
it, and for the friendliness of his feelings towards Wagner; and he
was asked to thank the singers and orchestra in the composer's name.
"Finally accept the assurance of my great gratification at having been
brought by this circumstance closer to yourself. I sincerely hope for a
continuance of this approach to an understanding that is necessary for
the artist and possible to him alone."[29]

The success of _Tannhäuser_ emboldened Dingelstedt to venture upon
_Lohengrin_ for the winter of 1856, but various events conspired
against the production. In February 1857 Dingelstedt resigned the
Intendantship. _Lohengrin_ was put in rehearsal by his successor, von
Frays, in November 1857, and produced on 28th February 1858, under
Lachner. It was well received on the whole, but the opera found more
antagonists than _Tannhäuser_ had done.

From 21st July to 2nd August there was held at Zürich the vocal
festival at which, as we have seen, Wagner refused to receive
Lachner. What Röckl rightly calls the ambiguous words of Wagner in
this connection in _Mein Leben_ are explained by the following letter
from the composer to Lachner, that is published for the first time in
Röckl's book:

                                "VENICE, _26th September 1858_.

   "HIGHLY HONOURED SIR AND FRIEND,--Now that, after a long and painful
  interruption of the way of living I have been accustomed to for many
  years, I have again won a little repose, permit me to approach you
  with the remembrance of your so friendly advances to me last summer,
  in order in some degree to link myself again with the life on which
  you have imprinted a significantly agreeable memory. If you found
  something strange at our meeting, something on my part apparently
  not quite corresponding to your friendly intentions, I now permit
  myself, by way of exculpation, to say that at that time I was in a
  very agitated and embarrassed frame of mind; few people know what
  difficult resolutions were maturing in me at that time.[30] It may,
  however, suffice for me to tell you that only now, after leaving my
  friendly refuge by the Lake of Zürich, in order to compose my mind
  here, in the greatest seclusion, for the resumption of my work, has
  the pleasant and encouraging significance of your Zürich visit become
  quite clear to me. By my sincere regret to know that you were in
  some degree hurt through a mistake of my servant,[31] you probably,
  nevertheless, understood even then how earnestly I realised the value
  of your visit; your friendly assurance that you were satisfied with my
  explanation of that misunderstanding was most tranquillising for me.
  Let me now say that I estimate highly the value of your advances, and
  with my whole heart I shall do my best to deserve your friendship--if
  you will favour me with it--can and most sincerely to reciprocate it.
  On the occasion of another personal meeting, if you will be so good, I
  hope that you will learn, with some satisfaction, in what sense I give
  you this assurance. I chiefly remember with the greatest pleasure that
  you expressed to me the wish that perhaps the first performance of my
  latest work, _Tristan and Isolde_, might be entrusted to you. I have
  so agreeable a recollection of this wish, that I can only regret not
  being able to gratify it immediately. Unfortunately just at the time
  when we met I was so grievously interrupted in this very work that
  only now again, for the first time, can I cherish the hope of getting
  into the proper mood for continuing and completing it. Consequently
  this _opus_ is not one as to the time of whose coming to the light I
  can decide anything definite--which is in every respect unpleasant for

  "The friendly wish you showed to occupy yourself with me once more
  soon, emboldens me, however, to approach you with regard to the
  granting of a very big request on my part. My _Rienzi_ has again been
  given in Dresden with real success, and since I now no longer have
  any special reason for keeping back this effective work of my youth,
  I have been inviting the theatres that are friendly to me to take up
  this opera as quickly as possible; in so doing I am moved by the firm
  conviction that I am recommending to them a very good and remunerative
  work. Almost all whom I have approached have fallen in with my wishes.
  Would you therefore think it too bold of me if I were to request you
  also to get this score (which you have only to ask for, in my name, of
  Chorus-master Wilhelm Fischer, of Dresden), without much hesitation
  and delay, and to see what you can do with this tamed rebel (_mit
  dem gezähmten Unband_) for my consolation and benefit, while I am
  finishing _Tristan_?

  "I beg you to take this in good part. But in any case I owe you very
  great thanks, and if you are not angry with me on account of this
  request, I shall take this as a particularly good sign.

  "In any case I may probably hope to receive soon from you a friendly
  reply; console me also with the assurance that you have forgiven me,
  and accept in return the assurance of the sincerest devotion and
  esteem of your most indebted

                                              RICHARD WAGNER."[32]

Lachner at once got the score of _Rienzi_ from Fischer, and wrote to
Wagner (October 13) expressing his pleasure at the prospect of an
early production of the opera. "In spite, however, of his sincere
endeavours," says Röckl, "_Rienzi_ was not put into rehearsal. The
reading committee felt the subject to be inadmissible on religious

In July 1860, von Frays had the idea of giving the _Flying Dutchman_,
and wrote to Wagner on the matter. Wagner thought that Lachner had
been the moving spirit in this, and thanked him warmly in a hitherto
unpublished letter of 20th August 1860.[33] But again Wagner's
malignant demon intervened. Von Frays had to resign the Intendantship
on account of illness, and his successor abandoned the _Flying
Dutchman_ project owing to the expense of the new inscenation. It
was taken up again in 1864, and produced on the 4th December, Wagner
conducting. Lachner had taken most of the rehearsals, and, though not
much in sympathy with the work, he plainly did his best with it.[34]

The reader is now in a position to estimate the true value of Wagner's
disparaging references to Lachner in _Mein Leben_. He seems to have
started out with a prejudice against him that nothing could alter.
Lachner was admittedly by temperament and training, and both as
conductor and composer, in the opposite camp to Wagner. This, however,
only entitles him to the more commendation for the pains he took to
establish Wagner in Munich, and for the care he expended upon the
performances.[35] Wagner nurses his imaginary grievance against the
man, persists in believing that he is prejudicing all Munich against
him, insults him, and denies him his door in Zürich; and then, when he
has need of him, writes to him in the friendliest and most flattering
way. Finally, when he pens his memoirs, he forgets all that Lachner
had, on his own admission, done for him, forgets his own letters of
thanks, and refers to him throughout in a tone of scarcely-veiled
contempt and dislike. What conclusion can we come to except that it
would be imprudent of us to accept, without corroborative evidence,
Wagner's disparaging record of anyone he detested? No doubt he found
Lachner in his way when, under cover of King Ludwig's favour, he was
trying to transform the musical life of Munich. But even if Lachner
_did_ intrigue against him then, as the Wagnerians always hold, he
was simply acting in self-defence; and in any case Wagner, when he
came to write his autobiography, should not have passed over Lachner's
earlier services to him without a word, and still less have given the
unsuspecting reader the impression that Lachner's opposition to him
began several years before it actually did. Once more we feel that had
Wagner only postponed the writing of _Mein Leben_ for a few years, till
he had quite got over the bitterness of his Munich failure, the book
would have been both pleasanter in tone and more reliable in fact.

Let us now take another case--his treatment of Hanslick in _Mein
Leben_. At one time these deadly enemies had been friends.[36] In the
course of years Hanslick's antipathy to Wagner became more and more
pronounced, and by the spring of 1861, when Wagner visited Vienna, the
critic of the _Neue Freie Presse_ was an opponent to be feared. Wagner,
as he more than once tells us, never troubled to be particularly polite
to critics; but in Vienna he seems, by his own account, to have been
gratuitously rude to Hanslick. The critic was introduced to him on the
stage at a rehearsal of _Lohengrin_. "I greeted him curtly, and as
if he were a total stranger; whereupon Ander, the tenor, introduced
him to me a second time with the remark that Herr Hanslick was an
old acquaintance of mine. I replied shortly that I remembered Herr
Hanslick very well, and turned my attention to the stage again."[37]
The opera singers did their best to smooth matters over, but Wagner
was irreconcilable; and to his refusal to be friendly with Hanslick he
attributes his subsequent failure to make headway in Vienna.

A little while after, they met again at a dinner party at Heinrich
Laube's, where Wagner refused to speak to Hanslick.[38] They met a
third time, at an evening party at Frau Dustmann's, who was to sing
Isolde in the projected performance of _Tristan_. Wagner being, as he
tells us, in a good temper, he treated the critic as "a superficial
acquaintance." Hanslick, however, drew him aside, "and with tears and
sobs assured me that he could no longer bear to be misjudged by me;
whatever extraordinary there might be in his judgment of me was due
not to any malicious intention, but solely to his limitations; and
that to widen the boundaries of his knowledge he desired nothing more
ardently than to learn from me. These explanations were made with such
an explosion of feeling that I could do nothing but try to soothe his
grief, and promise him my unreserved sympathy with his work in future.
Shortly after my departure from Vienna I heard that Hanslick had
praised me and my amiability in unmeasured terms."[39]

Whether Wagner's account of the interview is strictly accurate or
not, we have no means of knowing; but the story, even as he tells it,
indicates that Hanslick was not at this time a hopelessly prejudiced or
evil-natured antagonist. In November 1862 they met again at the house
of Dr. Standhartner in Vienna. Wagner read the _Meistersinger_ poem to
the company. "As Dr. Hanslick was now supposed to be reconciled with
me, they thought they had done the right thing in inviting him also. We
noticed that as the reading went on the dangerous critic became paler
and more and more out of humour; and it was noticed that at the end
he could not be persuaded to stay, but took his leave at once with an
unmistakable air of irritation. My friends all agreed that Hanslick
regarded the whole poem as a pasquinade against himself, and the
invitation to listen to it as an outrage. And truly from that evening
the critic's attitude towards me underwent a striking change; it ended
in an intensified enmity, of the consequences of which we were soon
made aware."[40]

The innocence of it, the air of perfect candour, of conscious
rectitude, of surprise that men should be found so base as Hanslick
proved himself to be! Would it be believed from this ingenuous record
that Wagner had given Hanslick the most unmistakable cause of offence?
It may have occurred to more than one reader to ask _how_ Hanslick
managed to recognise a caricature of himself in Beckmesser. It is
hardly likely that he could have done so from the poem alone. We may be
tolerably sure he had something more to go upon.

We possess three prose sketches of the _Meistersinger_ libretto. The
first was made in 1845, the second and third--there is hardly any
difference between the two--in the winter of 1861. The actual libretto
was written in Paris in November 1861 and January 1862. In the second
sketch the Marker is given the name of "Hanslich."[41] In the third
he becomes "Veit Hanslich." In these two later sketches the Marker is
drawn with a perceptibly harsher hand. That the conferring of this name
on the Marker was something more than a passing joke is shown by its
appearing in both sketches, and not merely in the list of _dramatis
personæ_, but written out in full throughout. These two sketches were
made, as we have seen, after the first meeting of Wagner and Hanslick
in Vienna in 1861. With an author so fond of reading his own works
to his friends as Wagner was, it is incredible that news of Hanslick
being satirised as the pedantic Marker in the forthcoming opera should
not have spread through musical Vienna, and have reached the critic's
ears. His feeling, therefore, at the party in November 1862, that the
shaft was aimed at himself may safely be put down not so much to his
own intuition as to a pre-suspicion of the truth. He would be quite
justified, then, in regarding the invitation to be present at the
reading as an insult. But even if we allow no weight at all to this
theory, in spite of its inherent probability, what are we to think of
Wagner's later conduct? He tells us more than once of Hanslick's enmity
towards him; he makes no mention of himself having treated Hanslick, in
the _Meistersinger_ sketches, in a way that the critic and his friends
could only regard as insulting. Hanslick was of course hopelessly wrong
about Wagner the musician; but after Wagner's brusque treatment of
him whenever he met him, and after the attempt to ridicule him in the
_Meistersinger_, who will say that Hanslick was under any obligation to
be fond of Wagner the man? Yet it is only Wagner's side of the case, as
usual, that is given us in _Mein Leben_.

The autobiography, then, has to be used with caution: not that Wagner,
I suppose, ever consciously perverted the truth, but that it was
impossible for him to believe he was ever in the wrong in his judgments
of other people, and that it would therefore be necessary to let the
reader have the whole of the story in order that he might judge for
himself. Nor can the careful student of his letters resist the feeling
that Wagner was often writing with at least one eye on the possibility
of the publication of his words at some time or other. His intense
egoism--I use the term here in no condemnatory sense, but simply to
denote the passion of vigorous temperaments like his for mastery--his
intense egoism could probably not bear the thought that any estimate of
his conduct but his own should obtain currency. Time after time we feel
that his letters to and about Minna are speeches of the counsel for the
defence, addressed to a larger audience than their first recipient.
Here again it is only a thick-fingered psychological analysis that
would write him down as a deliberate trickster. Wagner was in some
respects a selfish man, as numberless testimonies agree; but he was
not a bad man in the sense that it ever gave him pleasure to inflict
suffering. His heart no doubt bled for Minna, but it is probable that
he pitied her out of the vast fund of æsthetic and ethical feeling
that was in him, as in all artists, without being a motive part of
his life. The commonest daily facts prove that a musician need not
have a beautiful soul of his own in order to write beautiful music or
to perform music beautifully. This implies no conscious insincerity;
it is simply the actor's faculty for dramatisation, for momentary
self-hypnosis. And many of them can carry the exercise of this faculty
beyond art into life itself. Wagner was apparently one of these. When
he pitied Minna, it was in the abstract, detached way that we pity
Desdemona or Cordelia on the stage--without feeling in the least
impelled to rise from our seats and run any personal risk in order
to save her. Nietzsche, who, for all his tendency to over-write
his subject, often saw to the secret centre of Wagner's soul, was
always laying it down that the instinct of the actor was uppermost
in everything Wagner did. "Like Victor Hugo," he says, "he remained
true to himself even in his biography--he remained an actor."[42] An
actor he certainly is in many of his letters--an actor so consummate
as to deceive not only his audience but himself. And so, when we read
the plentiful and handsome certificates of good conduct that he gives
himself, in _Mein Leben_ and the letters, with regard to Minna,[43]
we may be pretty sure that he believed every word he said, and really
regarded himself as a monumentally patient and saintly sufferer of
unmerited misfortunes. But the Hornstein and other affairs have shown
us that Wagner is not always a perfectly veracious witness in his own
behalf; and we may reasonably decline to give him a verdict in this or
that episode of the Minna matter on his unsupported testimony.

What I have called his passion for self-justification is shown in
nothing more clearly than in the device of postponing his autobiography
for some thirty years after his death, when the persons so liberally
criticised in it would all be tolerably certain to be no more. It is
singular, indeed, how fortunate Wagner has been in having the stage to
himself throughout. This has materially helped to create and sustain
the Wagnerian legend. Most of the people with whom he came into
unfriendly or only partially friendly relations in his youth or middle
age died before it was realised what a world-figure he was to become;
consequently they have left hardly any records of their impressions
of him. Meyerbeer, for example, died in 1864. We need not take up
any brief for Meyerbeer as a whole; but will anyone contend that if
we could get _his_ account of his dealings with Wagner, the present
story would not have to be modified at many points? Wagner, it must be
confessed, was often lacking in delicacy of soul. Had Liszt and Bülow,
Wesendonck and Wille, Cornelius and Tausig been equally indelicate, and
written as frankly of Wagner the man as he has written of them, would
not many features of Wagner's portraits of all of them need altering?
And if Minna had had something of her husband's literary faculty and
passion for special pleading, could she not have shown more alloy than
_he_ ever suspected in the golden image he loved to make of himself?
Everywhere, in fact, in dealing with the memoirs and the letters, we
have to remember that we are face to face with an artist who is as
persuasive as he is powerful, with an overwhelming lust for mastery and
for unfettered self-realisation, and with a faith in himself that must
have made other people's occasional scepticism a pure mystery to him.
Wherever, then, his written words involve the interpretation of his own
or other men's acts and motives, they are to be accepted with caution.
For the rest, the psychologist can only be thankful that Wagner poured
himself out in such profusion. Let us now try to trace from his own
records his general development as a man.


[1] "From her [Frau Wesendonck] it was I earliest learnt a truth which
added years have simply verified; that in Richard Wagner we have more
than a great,--a profoundly good man." Mr. Ashton Ellis's Introduction
to his version of the _Wagner-Wesendonck Letters_, p. xl.

[2] See, for example, the reminiscences of Judith Gautier, _Wagner at
Home_, English translation by Effie D. Massie.

[3] _Mein Leben_, pp. 829, 830.

[4] In 1835 he was travelling about in search of singers for the
Magdeburg Opera. A temporary financial stringency--neither the first
nor the last in his life!--forced him to remain a week at Frankfort.
"To kill time," he says, "I had recourse, among other things, to a
large red pocket-book which I carried about with me in my valise; I
wrote down in this, with exact details of dates, some notes for my
future biography." (He was twenty-two at the time, and almost unknown
outside his own little provincial circle.) "It is the same book that is
before me at this moment to refresh my memory, and which I have kept up
without any breaks at various periods of my life." _Mein Leben_, p. 133.

[5] It would be unwise, for example, to believe without further
evidence his story (_Mein Leben_, p. 743) that the Paris press during
the _Tannhäuser_ events of 1861 "was entirely in Meyerbeer's hands";
that (p. 723) Meyerbeer had some years before bribed Fétis _père_ to
write articles against Wagner; or (p. 708) that Berlioz was influenced
against Wagner by his wife, who had received a present of a valuable
bracelet from Meyerbeer. Everyone who has mixed much with musicians
knows how prone many of them are to believe that their colleagues--and
still more their critics--are always "intriguing against them."

[6] _Mein Leben_, p. 667.

[7] _Mein Leben_, pp. 795, 796.

[8] _Mein Leben_, p. 602. On another page (626) he speaks of the
"young booby" as being "agreeable [_anschmiegend_] and intelligent,"
apparently because he shared Wagner's views upon Schopenhauer.

[9] _Mein Leben_, p. 627.

[10] He admits, on the same page of _Mein Leben_ (627), that he was
very ill at this time, and prone to outbursts of irritability, during
which his friends often had to suffer.

[11] Frau Ritter was at this time making an allowance to Wagner.

[12] He was twenty-two at the time. Wagner was forty-two.

[13] Hornstein had told the story to Karl, who was furious, and
insisted on sending Wagner at once a hamper of champagne.

[14] There is not a word in _Mein Leben_ as to these borrowings.

[15] He died in 1890, twenty-one years before the publication of _Mein

[16] In connection with the Paris production of _Tannhäuser_, &c.

[17] This, it will be remembered, had been hinted by Karl Ritter.

[18] See _Zwei unveröffentlichte Briefe Richard Wagners an Robert von
Hornstein, zur Erklärung der auf Robert von Hornstein bezüglichen
Stellen in Wagners "Mein Leben"; herausgegeben von Ferdinand Frh. von
Hornstein_. Munich, 1911.

[19] Franz Lachner (1803-90) was successively conductor at Vienna,
Mannheim (1834), and Munich (1836). From 1852 to 1865 he was General
Musical Director at Munich.

[20] One of these appeared in the Dresden _Abendzeitung_ of 26, 27, 28,
and 29 January 1842, under the title of _Bericht über eine neue Pariser
Oper._ The other was written for Schlesinger's _Gazette Musicale_,
appearing in the February 27, March 13, April 24, and May 1, 1842,
numbers of that journal. A translation of this article is given by Mr.
Ellis in volume viii. of his English version of the Prose Works. Wagner
tells us in _Mein Leben_ (p. 248), however, that the editor of the
_Gazette Musicale_, Edouard Monnaie, had cut out a number of passages
praising Auber and belittling Rossini. The original German text of the
first half of the article has been preserved in the Wahnfried archives.
It was published for the first time by Julius Kapp in _Der junge
Wagner_, and is now to be had in volume xii. of the _G.S._ The first
two portions of the article are given in German on pp. 129 to 146. A
comparison of this with Mr. Ellis's version will show the passages that
have been omitted. The remainder of the article exists only in French,
as it appeared in the _Gazette Musicale_ of 24th April and 21st May. It
is given in _G.S._, xii. 404-11.

[21] _Mein Leben_, pp. 248, 249. The word "friend" is put in inverted
commas by Wagner himself. The passage to which he refers will be found
in the _Bericht über eine neue Pariser Oper_, in _G.S._, i. 244. He
there mentions 1500 francs as the sum paid by the Munich director for
the libretto. In the original article in the _Abendzeitung_, according
to Mr. Ashton Ellis, the amount was given as 3000 francs, and Lachner
was referred to not as Kapellmeister Lachner, but "der brave Lachner."

[22] _Mein Leben_, p. 626.

[23] _Mein Leben_, p. 675.

[24] _Briefwechsel zwischen Wagner und Liszt_, ii. 25.

[25] See his letter to Uhlig of November 27, 1852.

[26] See the first chapter of his _Ludwig II und Richard Wagner: Erster
Teil, die Jahre 1864 und 1865_. Munich, 1913.

[27] Yet Glasenapp (_Das Leben Richard Wagners_, ii. (2), 108) speaks
of Wagner having "forced his entry" into Munich with _Tannhäuser_ "in
spite of the bitter opposition of Lachner." In dealing with Wagner's
Munich days, again, Glasenapp speaks of Lachner as being "from of old
an embittered opponent, whom the most obliging and amiable behaviour
could not reconcile" (iv. 43).

[28] _Op. cit._, p. 8.

[29] Röckl, p. 12.

[30] The reader will remember that the Wesendonck catastrophe was just
then drawing to a head.

[31] In the light of Wagner's own account of the affair in _Mein
Leben_, we only regard this as a piece of fiction.

[32] Röckl, pp. 17 ff.

[33] Röckl, pp. 21 ff.

[34] Röckl, p. 56.

[35] It is even doubtful whether his conducting was as detrimental
to the operas as Wagner seems to have thought. The records show that
both _Tannhäuser_ and _Lohengrin_ were very well received under his
baton. Liszt heard a performance of _Tannhäuser_ under Lachner at
Munich in 1856, and writes thus to Wagner under date 12th December of
that year: "Lachner had certainly rehearsed the score with the utmost
precision and care, for which we can only thank and praise him." He
doubts whether Lachner understood the _drama_ as Wagner meant it to be
understood; but granting that, the trouble that Lachner had evidently
taken to do justice to the music is all the more creditable to him.
That he was pretty free from prejudice towards Wagner is shown by his
recommending him for the Maximilian Order in 1864, and again in 1873.
The King granted Wagner the Order the second time. See Röckl, pp. 57,

[36] They had met in Dresden in 1845.

[37] _Mein Leben_, p. 761.

[38] _Mein Leben_, p. 784.

[39] _Mein Leben_, pp. 818, 819.

[40] _Mein Leben_, p. 829. Writing against Hanslick in the
_Musikalisches Wochenblatt_ of 1877, Wilhelm Tappert gave an account of
these two episodes as he had received it from Wagner himself. Wagner
had presumably copied from _Mein Leben_ the two passages I have just
cited, for they agree almost word for word with the _Wochenblatt_
article. See Glasenapp, _Das Leben Richard Wagners_, iii. 352, 405,
483. Hanslick seems to have denied the authenticity of Wagner's version
of what happened at Standhartner's.

[41] The "h" is without significance. Wagner often spelt proper names
along the line of least resistance.

[42] Postscript to _The Wagner Case_ (English translation), p. 37.

[43] See, for example, _Mein Leben_, pp. 158, 499, &c.; his letters to
Minna of April 17, 1850, January 25, 1859, May 18, 1859, &c. &c.; and
his letter of August 20, 1858, to his sister Clara.

                               CHAPTER I

                                THE MAN


From the autobiography and the letters to Apel we can get an excellent
idea of what he was in his boyhood. He came of a family of rather
more than average ability. As a child he was nervous, excitable and
imaginative, impatient of control either at home or in school, but
quick enough to assimilate life and knowledge in his own way. It is
clear, both from what he says in _Mein Leben_ and from scattered hints
in that book and in his letters, that he was occasionally a source
of great anxiety to his relations. Already he had a bias towards the
theatre, which would be increased by his frequent association with
actors and singers.[44] For a time he haunted the smaller gambling dens
of Leipzig--even going so far on one occasion as to stake his mother's
pension--entered into the usual students' follies and dissipations,
and generally must have seemed to the ordinary eye as complete a young
wastrel as could be imagined. He himself tells us: "I bore, as if in
a state of complete stupor, even the contempt of my sister Rosalie,
who, like my mother, hardly vouchsafed a glance at the incomprehensible
young profligate (_Wüstling_), whose pale and troubled face they
only rarely saw."[45] He picks up the rudiments of a general and of
a musical education. Then he knocks about from one small theatrical
troupe to another, his character inevitably coarsening and relaxing
in the process. He was at this time extraordinarily sensitive to his
environment; and as this was as a rule of an intellectually superficial
kind, he came to take the average actor's or singer's superficial view
of life and art. And as from his boyhood he was hopelessly incapable
of managing his financial affairs with any prudence, and soon acquired
that habit of borrowing from friends and eluding tradespeople that
clung to him for the greater part of his life, the iron was not long in
entering into his soul. So rich a nature as his could of course afford
to waste itself extravagantly, and in the end no doubt his art was all
the better for his having eaten so freely of the tree of the knowledge
of good and evil; but to the relations and companions who cared for him
in those early years he must often have seemed to be wasting himself
beyond all power of recovery. His life until long past his fiftieth
year resembles a ship steering with incredible recklessness among every
sort of shoal and rock. More than once it looked as if the vessel
would founder; only a unique combination of courage and determination
and extraordinary good fortune managed to keep it afloat and bring it
finally into haven.


The best picture of him in his adolescent years is given in the
correspondence with Theodor Apel, the friend of 1832-1836. There
we have in epitome the whole Wagner of the later years, with his
imprudence in all the practical affairs of life, the irrepressible
vitality that enabled him to recover so quickly after each of the many
crises he went through,[46] his extravagance, his incurable tendency to
run up debts with tradesmen and to borrow money from his friends, his
Micawberish confidence in the speedy turning of his luck. It is evident
that at an early stage of their friendship he had drawn upon the purse
of Apel, who had the dangerous gift--for a friend of Wagner's--of
riches. But the young Micawber has no doubts as to the future. In
October 1834 he is quite convinced that he is going to have a great
success with _Die Feen_, which will lead to a still greater success
for _Das Liebesverbot_; he will make a lot of money, and he and Apel
will go and enjoy themselves in Italy for a year or two. This desirable
consummation is to come about in the spring of 1836. In Italy he will
write some Italian operas, and then they will go to France, where he
will write a French opera; and so on.[47] We have some indication of
the depth of the draughts he was then taking of the physical joy of
life in a letter of 6th June 1835, in which he tells Apel to "enjoy and
be merry." "I have now resolved," he says, "to be a complete Epicurean
with regard to my art: nothing for posterity, but everything for the
present and the moment."[48]

                   [Illustration: WAGNER'S MOTHER.]

But soon there comes an emotional crisis of the kind that occurred so
frequently in Wagner's life. The tearful, almost hysterical, letter to
Apel of 21st August 1835 is a remarkable document. Wagner seems to have
got heavily into debt, to have done all sorts of foolish things, and to
have vexed and saddened his friends and relations. Even Apel appears to
have been for a while estranged from him. Wagner beats his breast in
agony. He has been mad; the promised happiness of youth has fled from
him; but he will make a brighter future for himself. Note already, in
this letter, the passion for self-revelation and self-dramatisation
that is evident in so much of his later correspondence. He was not a
dramatist, said Nietzsche once: he merely loved the word drama. He
certainly loved the words repentance and morality.

"I have sinned. Yet not so! Does a man sin when he is mad? I have
fallen out with my family, and must regard our relations as at an
end.... Till now I have managed my life very badly. Dearest, I was
not wicked, I was mad; that is the only expression I can find for
my conduct--it was a conventional madness (_ein konventioneller
Wahnsinn_). I see now only too well that money is not a chimera, not
a despicable, worthless thing of no importance; I have formed the
conviction that money is as much alive as the society in which we
are placed. I was mad, I say, for I did not understand myself and my
relation to the world. I knew that I had no surely-founded foothold
and support at all, and yet I acted like one insane, went beyond my
circumstances in every respect, and with the ignorance and inexperience
of a man who has never any solid title to money; no one, not even a
rich man, throws away money as I did. The result was a whirlpool of
perplexity and misery, the entanglements of which I cannot contemplate
without dismay. I cannot reckon up the details; it is unheard of and
inexplicable into what an abyss I have fallen. Your enormous and
incessant efforts to rescue me from it only made me more daring, and
made me put my trust in a blind something of which, indeed, I could
give no clear account to myself, but that blinded my eyes more and more
completely. My life in Leipzig, the pitiable position I had there, were
intolerable burdens; I was driven into so-called independent displays
of strength; I broke out into extravagances which, combined with the
still lasting consequences of my earlier follies, completely estranged
my family from me, and at last brought about a rupture with all my
surroundings." He is sure, however, that he has now learned wisdom.
Then comes a passage of a type that we often meet with in his letters.
"I cannot, however, go back to Magdeburg[49] until I have got rid of
the burden of a debt of 400 thalers. So I stand--I am forsaken by, and
separated from, everyone, everyone on whom I might otherwise reckon,
and accompanied only by the painful anxiety of my mother. She can give
me nothing. You are the only one left to whom I can appeal"; and so on,
and so on, in the customary professional borrower's style.

A few months later there is a similar wail. He has recovered his
elasticity of spirit; he is working incredibly hard not only at his
conducting but at the composition of his new opera. "I am now at the
focal point of my talent; I do everything easily, and am pleased with
it," he writes to Apel on 27th December 1835. In another three weeks
the repentant sinner who had been so eloquent about having learned
wisdom is once more distracted at the thought of his debts. "I must
have money," he tells Apel, "if I am not to go mad."[50]


We can visualise him in these early years as a creature of the
strangest contradictions--charming enough with those he liked,
supercilious and insulting to people he disliked, and always liable to
some fit of the nerves that would make him unaccountably irritable,
perverse, tactless, and ready to wound even friends; generous with his
help where his sympathies were engaged, and with a fine code of honour
for many of the relationships of life, but a sad lack of delicacy and
even of honour with regard to money matters. The full extent of his
borrowings and his debts, even at this early period of his life, will
never be known; but one feels a sort of terror at the hints as to the
total of them that are given here and there in _Mein Leben_ and his
letters. It is easier to explain than to justify his conduct in this
regard. He was never too well paid, and he had an ineradicable artistic
inclination towards certain of the good things of life that only money
can buy. His incurable optimism, too, was always painting the future
the rosiest of rose-pinks. One can understand his habit of borrowing,
and even sympathise with him to some extent; what one finds it harder
to explain or to condone is his evident callousness towards his
creditors, especially his tradesmen, some of whom had to wait ten years
or more for their money, and then only obtained it with much difficulty.

A man who, for all his fine qualities, had two or three grave defects
of character of this kind, was likely to make as many enemies as
friends--perhaps more. The worshipping official type of biographer
paints for us a sort of ineffable angel of a Wagner, always in the
right, always misunderstood and traduced. The untruthfulness of the
portrait is evident to the most casual readers of the letters and
the autobiography. Wagner's now notorious laxity of principle with
respect to money matters must have been common knowledge in the
small provincial towns in which he lived, and must have done a good
deal to make him distrusted and disliked. In addition, his frequent
irascibility and rudeness must have made many enemies for him. In
_Mein Leben_--more candid and more critical in this respect than his
incense-bearers--he makes several confessions on this score. His
outbursts can no doubt be mostly explained by the irritability of
his temperament and its swift transitions of mood, by his frequently
bad health, or by the action of wine. But it is one thing to make
allowances for a man's failings of temper or manners half a century or
so after the event; it is another to make allowances at the time. We
smile now at the stories that are told of Beethoven's grossness and
ill-breeding; but had we experienced the effect of these at first-hand
we should certainly have voted him an impossible person to live with.
Wagner was undoubtedly very trying to live with at times. In _Mein
Leben_ he occasionally gives us a glimpse of himself in his least
likeable moods. In 1834 he visits Prague, where he meets again some
people whose acquaintance he had made on a previous visit there--the
daughters of the recently deceased Count Pachta. With one or both of
these girls the ever-amorous young man had apparently been in love. "My
behaviour," he says, "was wild and arrogant; in this way the bitter
feelings with which I had formerly taken leave of this circle now
found expression in a capricious passion for revenge." He does nothing
but indulge in the maddest pranks. "They could not understand this
astounding change in me; there was no longer in me any of the old love
of intimacy, the mania for instructing, the zeal for converting,[51]
that they had previously found so annoying. But at the same time no
one could get a sensible word out of me, and the ladies, who were now
disposed to discuss many things seriously, got no answer from me but
the wildest buffoonery."[52]

Every now and then, in his account of the misunderstandings with
Minna, he confesses to the coarseness of his language when he was
angry, the "raging vehemence" of his insults, the "unrestrained
violence" of his speech and behaviour. Nietzsche has given us a hint of
what Wagner could be in a mood of this kind.[53] In Dresden especially,
in the years of his conductorship (1842-49), he appears to have made
many enemies, particularly among the critics. These gentlemen were,
of course, generally wrong as against Wagner in matters of art. But
though musical critics are frequently stupid, they are not, as a rule,
all stupid in the same way. It is possible, as many of the modern
Wagnerians have shown, to be as stupid in approbation of Wagner as
anyone could be in disapprobation of him. So that when we find the
critics--in Dresden, for example--so uniformly opposed to Wagner, it
is a fair supposition that there was more behind their words than mere
disapproval of his art or his theories. They apparently pursued him
with unusual rancor. Even in the absence of evidence, we should be
entitled to assume that when a man becomes the object of such general
and unrelenting hostility in his own town, it implies some defects in
his own character as well as in those of his assailants. Evidence is
not lacking that this was so. Wagner, we all know, loved most those
who agreed with him, and had no use at all for men of opposite ways of
thinking.[54] His constant craving for love in life had its counterpart
in his desire to be approved and believed in as an artist. In _Mein
Leben_ he is always praising someone or other for his devotion to
him, and speaking coolly or angrily of others for their indifference
to his concerns. Alwine Frommann is "faithfully devoted" to him;
he speaks of Bülow's "warm and heart-felt devotion"; the Laussots,
the Ritters, Uhlig, and others are all lauded for their "devotion,"
their "fidelity." He speaks well of Meyerbeer so long as he believes
his interests are being furthered by him, and turns on him and makes
sundry unproved and unprovable charges against him when he thinks
his aid is withdrawn. One does not censure him for this: rational
criticism aims less at giving or withholding marks for conduct than at
understanding the complexities of human nature. One merely notes the
idiosyncrasy, not unsympathetically, and tries to see how it worked in
the actualities of life. A nature of this kind was constitutionally
incapable of taking criticism philosophically; the critic's sin would
not be against the artist so much as against the art. And granting that
many of his critics were not very intelligent men, it is clear that
part at least of their enmity towards him was the result of his own
tactless attitude towards them. "Though I was anxious to be obliging
with everyone, yet I always felt an unconquerable aversion to showing
special consideration towards any man because he was a critic. In the
course of time I carried this to the point of almost studied rudeness,
as a consequence of which I was my whole life long the victim of
unheard-of persecution from the press."[55] It seems probable that his
studiously unconciliatory manners brought him more ill-will than was
ever necessary.

That the mere lack of intelligence of some of these critics was not the
reason for his rudeness to them is shown by the warmth of his welcome
to critics no more intelligent who happened to be with him instead of
against him. A certain Gaillard, of Berlin, happened to have written an
"entirely favorable" criticism of the _Flying Dutchman_. "Although,"
he naïvely says, "I had already of necessity accustomed myself to be
indifferent as to the attitude of the critics, this particular article
impressed me greatly, and I invited the unknown writer to Dresden to
hear the first performance of _Tannhäuser_." The young man comes to
Dresden, and Wagner is distressed to find that he is threatened with
consumption. "I saw from his knowledge and capabilities that he would
never attain to any great influence; but his sincerity of soul and
the receptivity of his intelligence filled me with genuine regard for
the poor man." He dies in a few years, "having never swerved from
his fidelity to and thoughtfulness for me, even in the most trying
circumstances."[56] In other words, he was that very common product, an
enthusiastic admirer possessed of only limited intelligence; but his
"fidelity" was sufficient to make Wagner tolerate and even like him. It
looks as if the "systematic rudeness" was not for "the critics," but
only for the critics who disagreed with Wagner.

How badly he could behave when irritated by the press was shown by his
incessant insinuations against the honesty of the London critics during
and after his conducting of the Philharmonic Concerts in 1855. There is
no proof forthcoming of their being bribed to oppose him. Mr. Ashton
Ellis, who has gone thoroughly into the newspaper history of that
period, and who will not be suspected of any desire to smooth matters
over for Wagner's antagonists, gives it as his opinion that "James
Davison bears the character of an unimpeachably honest 'gentleman.'"
But Wagner could never imagine any other motive for opposing him except
(1) that the opponent was paid to do so, or (2) that he was either a
Jew or under the orders of the Jews.[57] In a letter to Otto Wesendonck
of 5th April he vents his rancour against Davison and Chorley, and
recklessly charges them with being corrupt: "they are paid to keep me
down, and thus they earn their daily bread."[58] He throws out a hint
to the same effect in _Mein Leben_.


Of his irritability and tactlessness we have several instances, some
of them given us by himself. Take, for example, Meissner's account
of the supper that Wagner gave to Laube[59] after the performance
at Dresden of the latter's play, the _Karlsschüler_. There were a
number of people present, and the usual compliments passed. Meanwhile,
however, "Wagner had been fidgeting about on his chair for some time,
and finally he threw out the question: Whether, in order to put a
Schiller into a play, one ought not to have something of Schiller's
genius oneself? The question was first of all couched in general terms;
some compromised, some disagreed. Then Wagner proceeded to a more
positive criticism of the piece that had been produced: it was merely
a well-constructed comedy of intrigue in the style of Scribe, with
several very piquant scenes, and did not at all solve the problem of
how to write a drama the hero of which was the most ideal poet of the
German race. Not till the ice-bucket appeared with its champagne did
he cease; and everything was to be put right again by a congratulatory
toast. But nothing now could put matters right; people emptied their
glasses, and dispersed all out of tune. I myself went off with Laube,
and wandered about for some time with the dejected man in the dark,
quiet streets by the river."[60] Mr. Ellis, in translating this
passage, has to admit that "however exaggerated, there is a grain of
truth in the little tale,[61] for Pecht also informs us: 'After the
performance Wagner gave Laube a feast, at which he congratulated the
poet very intelligently and to the point, but, to the minds of us
enthusiasts, by far too insufficiently, the consciousness of his own
superiority seeming to dominate it all.' Whichever account we accept,"
Mr. Ellis goes on to say, "it was awkward for the guest of the evening,
and scarcely more palatable because, as Meissner himself adds, 'Perhaps
Wagner was right.' He had no intention of wounding his guest,[62] but
he does appear to have had the unfortunate habit of thinking aloud;
and his standards were so far above the heads of his company that his
thoughts were bound to bruise when suddenly let fall on them." Plain
people would probably sum it up in much simpler terms--that Wagner had
been unnecessarily tactless and rude to a guest.

I have already cited Wagner's own confession of similar tactlessness
and ill-breeding towards Count Pachta's daughters in Prague in
1834. He makes a similar confession with regard to his conduct to a
certain Professor Osenbrück, whom he met at a party in Zürich about
1851. "I remember that I made a special exhibition of the immoderate
excitement that was characteristic of me at that time, in a discussion
with Professor Osenbrück. All through supper I irritated him with my
obstinate paradoxes till he had such an absolute horror of me that for
ever afterwards he anxiously avoided meeting me."[63]

The Hornstein episode in Zürich gave us an example of the bad manners
into which his excited nerves sometimes betrayed him. In _Mein Leben_
he frequently confesses that his irritability was very trying to his
friends; and in 1858 he congratulated himself on now being able to
argue with them without getting excited as of old.[64] Whether the
improvement was permanent or not we cannot say; but certainly his
temper stood in need of a curb. In March 1856, he says, "My illness
and the strain of work [on the _Valkyrie_] had reduced me to a state
of unusual irritability. I remember the extreme ill humour with which
I greeted our friends the Wesendoncks when they paid me a sort of
congratulatory visit on the evening of my completion of the full
score. I expressed myself with such extraordinary bitterness on this
way of showing sympathy with my work that the poor distressed visitors
departed at once in the utmost dismay; and it afterwards cost me many
difficult explanations to atone for the mortification I had caused

How tactless and lacking in ordinary courtesy he could be even where
his temper was not on edge, was shown by his conduct to Gounod in Paris
in the _Tannhäuser_ time of 1861. "With Gounod alone did I preserve
friendly relations. I was told that everywhere in society he championed
my cause with enthusiasm; he is said to have remarked: 'Que Dieu me
donne une pareille chute!' To requite him for this I gave him a full
score of _Tristan_,--for his conduct was all the more gratifying to me
in that no consideration of friendship had been able to induce me to
hear his _Faust_."[66]

Sufficient has been said to show that he must have been an exceedingly
difficult person to get on with at times, and that of the many enemies
he made, some of them must have had quite good reasons for disliking

As one studies him, indeed, the innocent, long-suffering angel of the
sentimental biographers disappears from our view, and is replaced by
a less perfect but more complex and more humanly interesting figure.
Again let me repeat that we are not taking sides against him any more
than for him, but simply showing him as he was. That he had some
serious intellectual and moral defects, that he could at times be
selfish and quarrelsome and unjust, can be disputed by no one who reads
him with an open mind. The trouble was that with his immovable belief
in himself it was impossible for him ever to doubt that he was wholly
in the right. A tragedy of some sort is never far from the homes of men
of this type. Wagner's greatest tragedy was Minna; and it will be as
well to consider the history of his relationship with her in detail,
some recent documents having thrown new light upon the old perplexing


Minna has always been the subject of contumelious and sometimes
venomous remarks from the simpler-minded Wagnerians, especially those
who have apparently taken their cue from Villa Wahnfried. Their quick
and easy way with the problem has been to assume, as usual, that
Wagner was in all things the just man made perfect; his marriage with
a woman who was his intellectual inferior was a mistake, but his
conduct was always that of an affectionate husband and an honourable
gentleman,--his patience and forbearance, indeed, with such a thorn
in his side being nothing less than angelic. The Wagnerians detest
poor Minna even more than they detest Meyerbeer or Nietzsche. The
climax of comic pettishness was reached a few years ago in Mr. Ashton
Ellis's remark that for the offence of flicking a pellet of bread on
to a manuscript that Wagner was reading to a young friend she should
have been put in a cab and taken to the nearest station, railway or
police.[67] Fortunately even the Wagnerians are not always so comical
as this; but by way of doing justice to the memory of Wagner, they have
showered their contempt or their hatred in abundance upon poor Minna's
head. How grievously the recollection of the old unhappy days rankled
in Wagner's memory is shown by the meanness of some of his revelations
about her in _Mein Leben_. The fires of fate, when he dictated these
reminiscences, seemed to have scorched rather than warmed him; he had
learned many things from life, but neither delicacy nor magnanimity.
Nor, one regrets to say, was Cosima, vastly as we must admire the power
of her remarkable personality, the woman to impose these virtues upon
him. One can recall nothing in literary history quite so unpleasant in
its moral shabbiness as this spectacle of the second wife taking down
from her husband's dictation the most damaging details he can remember
of the conduct of his first wife,--both of them knowing that in the
circumstances under which these reminiscences would be published it was
impossible for either Minna or her friends to state her case for her
as she herself must have seen it. And all the world knows that this
second wife, when Wagner fell in love with her, was herself wedded
to another man, who divorced her on the 18th July 1869; that their
son Siegfried was born on 6th June 1869, and that she and Wagner were
married on 25th August 1870.[68] Plain people, used to putting things
in plain language, would say that this virtuous gentleman, who was so
severe a censor of Minna's matrimonial conduct, first of all stole
the affections of a friend's wife--or at any rate accepted them when
they were offered to him[69]--and afterwards lived in adultery with
her, to the anger of her father and many of Wagner's best friends.[70]
It strikes one, then, as rather a mean thing for a couple of people
with a far from immaculate record of their own to be laying their
heads together, day after day, to commit to paper, for the benefit of
the world half a century or so later, a record of the failings of a
poor creature who was no worse than either of them,--and a record, of
course, coloured throughout by their own prejudices. The disproportion
between what Richard tells us about Cosima and Frau Wesendonck and what
he tells us about Minna, and the vast difference in candour in his
treatment of these episodes, is very remarkable in a book of which the
sole value is supposed to reside in its "unadorned veracity." Of course
in telling the story of how you took your second wife from a friend,
and deceived him day by day, the fact that the lady herself happens to
be your amanuensis rather militates against "unadorned veracity"; but
Wagner and Cosima might have reflected on this simple fact, and stayed
their eager hands a little when dissecting the first wife. People so
vitreously housed should be the last to commence stone-throwing.

Minnaphobia seems to be traditional in the circles that have chosen
to regard Wagner as peculiarly their own. Apparently no tittle-tattle
about her is too absurd for them to believe. Let us take, in
illustration, the portentous case--that really deserves to become
historic--of Mr. Ashton Ellis and the little dog Fips. Wagner and Minna
were both animal lovers, and were virtually never without a dog or a
bird. These beloved animals, as Wagner more than once tells us, counted
for much in their childless home. Fips had been a present from Frau
Wesendonck. He died somewhat suddenly and inexplicably in June 1861,
during the sojourn of Wagner and Minna in Paris. Apparently a legend
has grown up in certain quarters that as the dog was Frau Wesendonck's
present to Wagner, Minna poisoned it to gratify her hatred and jealousy
of that lady and of Wagner. Mr. Ellis, at any rate, propounded this
theory in his English edition of the letters to Mathilde Wesendonck.
Wagner's account of the death of the dog may here be quoted in Mr.
Ellis's own translation:

"At the last there even died the little dog that you once sent me
from your sick bed; mysteriously suddenly! It is presumed he had been
struck by a cart wheel in the street, injuring one of the little pet's
internal organs. After five hours passed without a moan, quite gently
and affectionately, but with progressive weakness, he silently expired
(June 23)."[71]

Mr. Ellis, in some "valedictory remarks" at the end of the volume,
asks why only fourteen of Frau Wesendonck's letters to Wagner have
been preserved, and of course finds the explanation in the wickedness
of Minna. "Looked at from whichever side [sic], I am forced to the
conclusion that _Minna destroyed the whole bundle_ just before
laudanuming Mathilde's living present, Fips--a doing to death so
plainly hinted page 273."[72]

The reader is now invited to turn once more to the above citation
from Wagner's letter, and to discover, if he can, where this
"laudanuming" of Fips is "so plainly hinted." We know that Minna used
to take laudanum to alleviate her heart trouble, but where in the
letter is the barest suggestion on Wagner's part of her having made
away with Fips by means of that poison? It is safe to say that this
theory that Mr. Ellis believes to be "so plainly hinted," would never
have occurred to a single reader of the letter if it had not been put
into his head by Mr. Ellis.[73] Apart from this, it is interesting
to see that _Mein Leben_ (which was published seven years after the
Wesendonck letters) gives no support to this wild charge. But though
there is not a hint in _Mein Leben_ of an insinuation against Minna in
connection with the dog's death, there is a curious discrepancy between
the account given there (English edition, p. 781; German edition, p.
765), and that in Wagner's letter of July 12, 1861. In the latter,
as we have seen, he says that "it is presumed he had been struck by
a cart-wheel in the street." There is not the barest hint here of
the barest suspicion of poisoning. Mr. Ellis conjectures that the
_vermütlich_ ("it is presumed") is really _vermeintlich_ ("allegedly")
in the manuscript of the letter. It is a wild conjecture, but let us
accept it. It at least makes it clear that Minna had "alleged" that
the dog had been struck by a cart-wheel, and that Wagner accepted the
statement. But in the autobiography we get this surprising sentence:
"According to Minna's account, we could only think that the dog had
swallowed some virulent poison spread in the street." On Wagner's own
showing, this had not been "Minna's account"; and for a true version
of that account one would rather trust a letter written within a few
days of the event than an autobiography written some seven or eight
years later. Does it not look as if the laudanuming legend had grown
up in the interval, among people who made detestation and denigration
of Minna a fundamental article of the Wagnerian faith? But there is
a further mystery to be solved. "Though he" (Fips) "showed no marks
of external injury," says the autobiography, "he was breathing so
convulsively that we concluded his lungs must be seriously damaged."
Why in the name of common sense _should_ he show any marks of _outward_
injury, or should anyone look for such marks, if it was suspected
that the dog had been poisoned? The curious thing is that if we omit
the sentence in the autobiography, quoted above, about the "virulent
poison," the account there agrees with that of the letter of July 12,
1861, in attributing the accident to some external injury received in
the street. It looks as if the "poison" theory had been spatchcocked
into the paragraph later on, without its being observed how it clashed
with the context. In any case it is satisfactory to see that not only
is there not a hint even in Wagner's later and fuller account of any
suspicion of Minna having caused the dog's death, but it is clear that
she was as grieved about it as he was. "In his first frantic pangs
after the accident,"[74] says Wagner, "he had bitten Minna violently in
the mouth, so that I had sent for a doctor immediately, who, however,
soon reassured us as to her not having been bitten by a mad dog."[75]
The dog could not have bitten Minna in the mouth unless she had had
her face very near his, probably against it, caressing and comforting
it; and one leaves it to common sense to decide whether a woman who
had been brutal enough to poison a dog out of hatred of her husband
and another woman would have been foolish enough to put her face near
the teeth of the writhing animal. And, by the way, would laudanum have
brought on "frantic pangs"? Is it not pretty clear that the laudanum
has only been suggested because it is known that Minna became addicted
to that drug as her heart disease developed?

It only needs to be added that although Fips had been given to Richard
and Minna by Frau Wesendonck, _it had always been Minna's dog rather
than Wagner's_. "A special bond of understanding," he says, "had
been formed between them [Minna and Mathilde] by the gift from the
Wesendoncks of a very friendly little dog to be the successor of my
good Peps. He was such a sweet and ingratiating animal that it very
soon gained the tender affection of my wife: I too was always much
attached to him. This time I left the choice of a name to my wife, and
she invented--apparently as a pendant to the name Peps--the name Fips,
which I was willing he should have. But he was always in reality my
wife's friend, for ... on the whole I never again established with them
[_i.e._ any later animals] the intimate relations I had had with Peps
[a previous dog] and Papo [a parrot]."[76]

On examination, then, of this theory that Frau Wesendonck had given
Wagner a dog, which dog Minna had poisoned in her fury against the
pair, it turns out (1) that the dog had always been Minna's pet rather
than Wagner's; (2) that while no reason is given for her suddenly
becoming inflamed with hatred against it, Wagner himself makes it clear
that she was distressed at its dying; (3) that Wagner's account of the
affair in his letters (written from two to nineteen days after the
event) agrees with that in _Mein Leben_ (not written till some years
after), with the exception of that one sentence, in the latter, as to
Minna having said that the dog had swallowed poison in the street;
(4) that this sentence obviously makes nonsense of the remainder of
the account in _Mein Leben_; (5) that the inference is (_a_) that the
poisoning theory was an after-thought on Wagner's or some one else's
part; and (_b_) that the "plain hinting" of Minna's guilt that Mr.
Ellis sees in the letter of July 12, 1861, but that no other living
being can see there, was not suggested to him at all by that letter,
but that he is indebted to some other source for it.[77]


The publication of _Mein Leben_, the Wesendonck letters, and the
letters to Minna have made it possible to see both Wagner and Minna
more in the round than we could do a few years ago. Not that any number
of documents would ever bring reason into the writings of the more
extreme Minnaphobes; their method in the future, as in the past, will
no doubt be to insist that the composer was in every relation of his
life as near impeccable as mortal man could be, and that Minna was
very bad or very mad or a blend of both,--to belittle all the evidence
that does not square with the demigod theory of Wagner, to sneer at
the character and the intellectual attainments of everyone who seems
to be a witness for the other side, and to declare effusively that the
kind of evidence that _does_ square with the demigod theory is "worth
a hundred times" the testimony that does not.[78] It may soothe these
good people--who always become infuriated at the mildest refusal to
see Wagner through their spectacles--if we assure them that to believe
that Minna was not so black as she is generally painted is not at all
to hold that Wagner was an unmitigated villain. As a rule unmitigated
villains exist only in fiction; the tragedies of married life among
real human beings generally come not from deliberate and conscious
turpitude on one side or the other, but from the mere friction of two
quite normal characters who happen to be ill-adapted to each other
in a few more or less trifling respects. Wagner was certainly no
villain of the melodramatic sort. He could be kind enough to Minna at
times; he certainly--when away from her--felt the acutest pity for
her as well as for himself; and he could no more be consciously and
intentionally cruel to her than to any other suffering creature. Yet an
unprejudiced reader of the records can hardly doubt that he was often
cruel unconsciously and unintentionally. It was Minna's misfortune to
be the greatest obstacle to the realisation of himself along certain
lines. Everyone who has studied Wagner knows how impossible it was for
him to tolerate frustration anywhere. There probably never was a man
so honest with himself in most ways. His art absorbed the whole of
his nature. He knew what he wanted to do, and what he needed in order
to do it; and for him to need a thing and to insist on having it were
mental processes hardly separable from each other. At certain periods
of his life it became an imperative necessity for him to win from other
women the spiritual fervour, the idealistic glow, that were denied him
at home. He once found what he wanted in Frau Wesendonck. To reach
her he swept aside with calm indifference both his own wife and Frau
Wesendonck's husband. With the blindness of perfect honesty, he could
not see how Minna could regard the Mathilde Wesendonck affair from
any other standpoint than his own. It seemed unreasonable of Minna to
make such a pother over the matter after he had so carefully and fully
explained to her that his relations with Mathilde were purely ideal.
Why could not his wife keep home for him and be happy in administering
to his physical comfort, and leave his intellectual and emotional
appetites free to satisfy themselves where they would? As an abstract
logical proposition the theorem had a good deal in its favour. It
broke down through Minna declining to be thrilled by the beauty or the
abstract logic of it. She saw herself simply as the wife neglected for
another woman; it did not pacify her in the least to be told that so
far as Wagner was concerned this other woman was an ideal rather than a
reality,--that he sought her society less for what she was in herself
than for something in the finest soul of him that came into being
only when he talked to her. The average wife is not consoled for her
husband's obvious preference of another woman by the assurance that his
passion for the latter is free from any physical implications.[79] That
is simply equivalent to telling the wife, in a roundabout way, that
_she_ has not intelligence enough to be his spiritual companion. It
may be quite true that she has not; but the average wife is not likely
to be pleased at being told so. Minna was an average wife, and she no
doubt strongly objected to what could only appear to her as a criticism
and a slight. Wagner had to choose between her feelings and his own
satisfaction. He chose the latter, as he always did in these cases.
His letters to her place it beyond dispute that his heart bled for her
in her misery; but the demon within him forbade him to terminate the
acquaintanceship that was the cause of her misery. To have done that
would have hindered the one thing in the universe that seemed to him to
be worth any sacrifice to further,--the development of his personality
and his art to their very richest possibilities.

This, I venture to think, is a fair statement of the case as it must
have looked to any impartial friend of the pair in the later 'fifties
and 'sixties who tried to do justice to the psychology of both of them.
I would suggest, though, that there were hitherto unsuspected reasons
for Minna's unrelenting bitterness towards her husband throughout
the Wesendonck affair. Unfortunately we do not possess her letters
to him; but from many of Wagner's letters to her in the 'fifties and
'sixties we can see that she was for ever expressing suspicions of
him--suspicions which he combats at great length and with all the
epistolary skill he can command. Was there anything at the root of this
attitude of Minna's towards him beyond a merely suspicious and jealous
nature? Had she anything concrete to go upon? I think we can show that
she had. The key to a good deal of the trouble, I imagine, is to be
found in the Madame Laussot affair. And in that affair I am afraid
we cannot acquit Wagner of a certain amount of disingenuousness both
towards Minna and towards us.


He was always much more fond of women than of men, having seemingly
found the former more sympathetic not only to his art but to himself.
His great desire, as a thousand passages in his letters and his prose
works show, was for love that knew no bounds in the way of trust
and self-surrender. In his immediate circle he probably had more
experiences of this kind among the women than among the men; the women
probably had a subconscious quasi-maternal sympathy for the sufferings
of the little man, and would no doubt be more likely to overlook the
angularities of his everyday character--if indeed, which is doubtful,
he showed those angularities as openly to them as he did to his male
friends. The story of his life is studded with the names of devoted
women, from the Minna of the earliest days to the Cosima of the latest.
Madame Laussot never attained the sanctification of some of the later
women who played a part in Wagner's life, for the episode in which she
figures was brief, and the end of it was of a kind that admits of no
going back; but for a while she certainly loomed larger in his thoughts
than has hitherto been suspected.[80]

Jessie Laussot was a young Englishwoman who had married a wine
merchant,--Eugène Laussot--of Bordeaux, in which town the pair lived
with Jessie's mother, Mrs. Taylor, the widow of an English lawyer.
Jessie was introduced to Wagner in Dresden, by Karl Ritter, in 1848.
Wagner's first account of the meeting is rather vague, but vague in
that peculiar way that suggests to the careful student of him that he
is deliberately saying less than he might. The young girl had shyly
expressed her admiration for him "in a way," he says, "I had never
experienced before." "It was with a strange, and, in its way, quite
a new sensation," he goes on to say, "that I parted from this young
friend; for the first time since my meeting with Alwine Frommann
and Werder, in the _Flying Dutchman_ days, I experienced again that
sympathetic tone that came as it were out of an old familiar past,
but never reached me from my immediate surroundings."[81] Knowing his
susceptibility to feminine sympathy, we may probably assume that Madame
Laussot counted for slightly more to him just then than he cared to put
into words some twenty years later.

In Zürich, whither he fled after the political troubles of 1849, he
received a letter from her in which she "assured him of her continued
sympathy in kind and affecting terms."[82] (She was a friend, by
the way, of Frau Julie Ritter, who gave Wagner as liberal financial
assistance as she could, both now and later.) Early in 1850 he goes
to Paris with the half hope of getting an opera produced there. He
is very depressed, and has a longing to escape to the East where, he
says, "I could live out my life in some sort of humanly-worthy fashion,
without any concern with this modern world."[83] While in this mood he
receives an invitation from Madame Laussot to spend a little time in
her house. He accepts, and goes to Bordeaux on the 16th March, where
he is received "in a very friendly and flattering manner." He learns
that the Ritters have been corresponding about him with the Laussots,
and that there is a scheme on foot under which Mrs. Taylor, who is
well-to-do, is to join with Frau Ritter in settling three thousand
francs a year upon him.[84] In the explanations that ensue from his
side, he divines that Jessie is the only one who thoroughly understands
him. An _entente_ is established between them.[85] "I soon discovered,"
he says, "the gulf which separated myself, as well as her, from her
mother and her husband. While that handsome young man was attending
to his business for the greater part of the day, and the mother's
deafness generally excluded her from most of our conversations, our
animated exchange of ideas upon many important matters soon led to
great confidence between us."[86] She was evidently intelligent and
cultivated, a good musician and an accomplished pianist. He read her
his poem of _Siegfrieds Tod_ and his sketch of _Wieland der Schmied_,
and they discussed these and other topics connected with his art. "It
was inevitable," he goes on to say with the crude frankness into which
he sometimes falls in _Mein Leben_,[87] "that we should soon feel the
people around us irksome to us in our conversations."

The visit lasts three weeks or so, at the end of which time Minna, like
a prudent and anxious wife, insists on his returning to Paris in order
to pursue his plans for a rehabilitation of the shattered finance of
the home.[88] He evidently does not like her letter. At the same time
he reads in the papers that his friends Röckel, Bakunin and Heubner
had been sentenced to death for their part in the Dresden rising. Out
of tune with the world, he determines, he says, to break with every
one and everything. He will give Minna half of the income his friends
intended to settle on him, and with the other half go to Greece or
Asia Minor, to forget and be forgotten. He communicates this plan to
Jessie, who, dissatisfied with her own life, is disposed to seek a
similar salvation for herself. "This resolve expressed itself in hints
and a brief word thrown out now and then. Without clearly knowing
what this would lead to, and without having come to any arrangement,
I left Bordeaux towards the end of April, more agitated than calmed,
full of regret and anxiety. I went to Paris in a sort of stupor, quite
uncertain what to do next."[89]

Wagner now begins to be a little disingenuous, and we catch a glimpse
or two of him as the "actor" that Nietzsche said he was. The facts and
the dates must be carefully borne in mind. Wagner says[90] that he
went to Bordeaux in the 16th March and that he stayed there more than
three weeks.[91] That would make the date of his departure about the
7th April. In a letter of 17th April to Minna he speaks of having been
"a fortnight again" in Paris,--which would make the date of his return
about the 3rd. The precise date is of no importance; it is sufficient
that it was somewhere between the 3rd and the 7th April.[92]

In this letter of the 17th April he refers to Minna's letter as having
caused "an irremediable" dissonance between them, and he gives, at
great length, the whole story of their married life, the thesis, of
course, being that he had always been the loving and she the loveless
and uncomprehending one. The _plaidoyer_ is needlessly elaborate, and
raises the suspicion that it was ultimately intended for more eyes
than those of Minna; it reads like a plea to posterity to see him as
he saw himself. But it is plainly insincere in part. "Your letters to
Bordeaux," he says, "have startled me violently out of a last beautiful
illusion about ourselves. I believed I had won you at last; I fancied
I saw you softening before the might of true love,--and then realised
with terrible grief, more deeply than ever, the inescapable certainty
that we belonged to each other no more. I could bear it no longer after
that: I could not talk to any one: I wanted to go away at once--to you:
I left my friends in haste and hurried to Paris, thence to go with
all speed back to Zürich. I have been here again a fortnight: my old
nerve-trouble got hold of me: like an incubus it lies on me: I must
shake it off,--I must, for my sake,--and yours." How little truth there
was in his remark that "I wished to go away at once--to you; I left my
friends in haste," &c., can be seen now from his own account in _Mein
Leben_. He plainly left Bordeaux with his head full of the scheme for
going to Greece or Asia Minor with Madame Laussot. Of this scheme he of
course does not breathe a word to Minna; the consummate, self-deluding
actor tries to persuade her that it was to her his injured heart turned

Let us now take up the narrative again in _Mein Leben_. After
his return to Paris, he says, "I was at length obliged to reply
to my wife's urgent communication. I wrote her a copious letter,
recapitulating in a friendly but frank way the whole story of our life
together, _and explaining that I had firmly resolved to release her
from any immediate participation in my lot, since I was quite incapable
of ordering this in a way that would meet with her approval. She
should always have half of whatever money I might have; she must fall
in with this, and accept it as fact that the occasion had now arisen
for parting from me again, as she had said she would do on our first
meeting in Switzerland._ I brought myself to the point of breaking with
her completely."

He then writes to Jessie telling her what he had done, though, in view
of his lack of means, he is unable to give her any definite information
as to his plans for his "complete flight from the world." He receives
from her the positive assurance that she had determined to take the
same step as himself; she asks to be taken under his protection when
she has completely freed herself. "Much alarmed," he tells her that
it is one thing for a man in _his_ woeful difficulties to resolve
on flight, and another thing for a young woman in outwardly happy
circumstances to do so, for reasons which probably no one but he would
understand. This does not frighten her: she calmly tells him that her
flight will be quietly effected,--she will first of all pay a visit to
her friends the Ritters in Dresden. Wagner is so upset by all this that
he has to seek solitude at Montmorency, near Paris, in the middle of

Now of all that I have italicised in the last paragraph but one,
there is not a word in his letter of the 17th April to Minna. The
only passage resembling it is the final sentence of the letter: "Can
I hope to attain that [_i.e._ to make her happy] by _living_ with
you?--Impossible." It may be thought that, writing his reminiscences
of the affair twenty years or more after, his memory had played him
false, and that he imagined he had written to Minna what he no doubt
intended to say. But this explanation is negated by his next letter to
her, dated 4th May, in which he says, "I cannot help writing to you
once more before going far away from you. It has remained unknown to
me--as indeed I could have wished--how you received _the decisive step
on my part which I announced to you in my last letter_. As you have
long familiarised yourself with the thought of living apart from me,
and so regaining your independence, I presume and hope that you were,
if perhaps surprised, at any rate not alarmed by my decision."

Clearly then he _had_ announced, in the letter of 17th April, his
intention of leaving Minna. We may be sure that with his usual tendency
to copiousness he must have occupied considerable space in doing so.
What has become of this passage? Why is it not included in the printed
edition of the letters? If it has been intentionally omitted why has
not someone conceived it to be his editorial duty to advise the reader
of the fact?[94] In any case the omission of the passage does not
strengthen our already tottering confidence in the integrity of such
Wagnerian records as have come from Wahnfried.[95]

There is certainly something inaccurate in the sequence of events as
given in _Mein Leben_.[96] We have seen that, apparently on the 17th
April, he wrote to Minna announcing his intention of leaving her. A
few sentences after the narration of this part of the episode in _Mein
Leben_, he says that he left Paris to seek repose from his worries in
Montmorency, "about the middle of April." We are left to infer that in
these few days the events happened that are narrated in the sentences
in _Mein Leben_ describing his alarm at Jessie's reply. He fixes this
date, both for himself and for us, by the fact that while resting at
Montmorency he looks over the score of _Lohengrin_ and decides to send
it to Liszt, with a request that his friend shall produce it at Weimar.
"Now that I had also got rid of this score I felt as free as a bird,
and a Diogenes-like unconcern as to what might happen took possession
of me. I even invited Kietz to visit me in Montmorency and share the
joys of my retreat."

It is quite true that this happened "about the middle of April." We
have the actual letter to Liszt; it is dated the 21st April. But this
same letter makes it clear _that the project of flight to the East is
still in his mind_:

"Decisive events have just happened in my life: the last fetters have
fallen from me that bound me to a world in which I should shortly
have had to go under, not only spiritually but physically. Through
the endless constraint imposed upon me by those nearest to me,[97]
my health is gone, my nerves are shattered. Now I must live almost
entirely for my recovery. My livelihood is provided for; you shall hear
from me from time to time."[98]

Though there is here no specific mention of the East, there can be
little doubt that he is referring to his projected flight from Europe.
It is hard to explain otherwise the remark as to the last fetters that
bound him to the world having fallen from him, or his promise that
Liszt should hear from him from time to time; and there would be no
truth in his remark that his livelihood was provided for in his new
habitat, except in the sense that Madame Laussot's purse was at his
disposal.[99] Moreover he writes to Liszt some two months and a half
later, when the whole affair had blown over, "When we meet again I
shall have much to tell you: for the present only this much, as regards
my immediate past, that my contemplated voyage to Greece has been
knocked on the head. There were too many impediments (_Bedenken_), all
of which I could not surmount. I should have preferred to have gone out
of the world altogether. Well, you shall hear later."[100]

It is evident, then, that Wagner, whether by accident or design,
has got the sequence wrong in _Mein Leben_. He makes it appear as
if he had worried during the first week or two of April over Madame
Laussot's plan for leaving Europe with him, that he had sought
retirement in Montmorency about the middle of April, and that there the
burden had quickly been shifted from his mind. He says no more about
Madame Laussot and her scheme, but tells us that while in a "state of
complacency" in Montmorency with Kietz he is startled by the news that
Minna had come to Paris to look him up. Now the letter of 21st April
to Liszt suggests a doubt as to the absolute correctness of all this;
and that doubt is turned into certainty by Wagner's letter to Minna of
the 4th May, in which he definitely announces his intention of leaving
her: "The news I have to give you to-day gave me a special reason for
writing to you again, since I have a feeling that it may soften for you
all the possible bitterness of our separation. I am on the point of
setting off to Marseilles, whence I shall go at once in an English ship
to Malta, and thence to Greece and Asia Minor. I have always felt, and
most strongly of all of late, the need of getting out of this mere life
of books and ideas, that consumes me, and once more looking round me in
the world. For the present the modern world is closed behind me, for I
hate it and want nothing more to do either with it or what is nowadays
called 'art.' Germany can only become a field of stimulus to me again
when all its conditions shall be utterly changed.... So of late my
longing has been again directed to distant travel, so as to get quite
away for a time from our present-day conditions, and restore myself
bodily and mentally by a change of sight and sound in other climes."

Not a word, it will be observed, of Madame Laussot's accompanying him!
He has simply felt, as any man might feel, the need of a change of

He continues thus: "In these last decisive days, then, I conceived the
plan of going to Greece and the East, and am lucky enough to find the
means for carrying out this scheme placed at my disposal from London.
For in London I have gained a new protector,--one of the most eminent
English lawyers, who knows my works and will give me his support in
return for the original manuscript of everything I may write."

Even Mr. Ellis, writing before the publication of _Mein Leben_, was
constrained to conjecture, in a footnote to this letter, that this
"new protector" in London "strongly resembles a myth." Let us eschew
more forcible language, and be content to call it a myth. _Mein Leben_
puts it beyond dispute that the financier of the expedition was Madame

Wagner's account of the affair so far is, I venture to say, coloured
by his desire, twenty years later, to minimise the seriousness of the
whole affair. But the story of his disingenuousness or his inaccuracy
is even yet not complete.

By his own account he now does a rather shabby thing. He apparently
dreads meeting Minna; so he "bilks" the lady. He leaves Montmorency,
goes to Paris, and instructs Kietz to tell Minna that he knew nothing
more of her husband than that he had left the capital. The ruse
succeeds. Wagner flies to Villeneuve, on the Lake of Geneva, where he
puts up at the Hôtel Byron. There, in a little while, he is joined
by Karl Ritter. He has not been long settled down at Villeneuve,
however, before the Laussot affair begins to take on a very unpleasant
tinge. Jessie had apparently told her mother, the mother had told
the husband, and the husband had expressed the intention of putting
a bullet through Wagner at the first convenient opportunity. Wagner
writes to Laussot "trying to make him see matters in their true light,"
but at the same time declaring, with characteristic impudence, that
he "could not understand how a man could bring himself to keep a
woman with him by force when she did not want to have anything to do
with him." He is on his way to Bordeaux, he says, where he is at M.
Laussot's service. He also writes to Jessie, advising her to be "calm
and self-possessed." In three days he is at Bordeaux: he sends word
to M. Laussot at nine o'clock in the morning. No reply is vouchsafed;
but late in the afternoon he is summoned to the police station. He is
requested to leave the town, ostensibly because his passport is not in
order, but in reality, as the authorities admit, because they have had
a communication from the Laussots. He obtains a respite of a couple of
days, which he uses to indite a letter to Jessie, "in which I told her
exactly what had occurred, and said that my contempt for the conduct
of her husband, who had exposed his wife's honour by a denunciation to
the police, was so great that I would have nothing more to do with her
until she had released herself from this shameful situation."[102]

The Laussots had left Bordeaux when he arrived; so he obtains admission
to the flat,[103] goes from room to room till he comes to Jessie's
boudoir, places his letter in her work-basket, and returns. Still no
reply is vouchsafed, and he makes his way back to Switzerland in quite
a cheery frame of mind, evidently sure of having acted impeccably all
through this affair.

In this, as in so many other episodes of Wagner's life, we have
unfortunately only his version of what happened. He calls just the
witnesses he wants, elicits just the evidence that suits him, and then
complacently gives the verdict in his own favour. To the outsider it
looks as if he had been extremely foolish with Madame Laussot and
extremely arrogant with her husband; and we may reasonably suppose that
if they could tell the story from their side they could make the case
rather worse for Wagner than he has done for himself. The real facts
will perhaps never be known: I say "the real facts," for no one who has
studied the autobiography carefully, with a knowledge of such cases as
those of Hornstein, Lachner, Hanslick, the Wesendoncks, and others, can
believe that Wagner's account of the affair gives us the whole truth
and nothing but the truth. But letting that pass, we may now observe
how once more the story in _Mein Leben_ fails to square with the
evidence obtainable elsewhere.

That Madame Laussot had become disillusioned concerning him is plain
from his own further account. One day Karl Ritter receives a letter
from her which he hesitates to show to Wagner. The latter tears it out
of his hand, and finds that "she had written to say she felt obliged
to let my friend know that she had become sufficiently enlightened
about me to make it necessary for her to drop my acquaintance." Her
mother and her husband had taken steps to break off all correspondence
between her and Wagner; he gracefully refers to them now as "the
two conspirators," and charges them with "calumniating" him. "Mrs.
Taylor had written to my wife complaining of 'my intention to
commit adultery,' expressing her sympathy with her, and offering
her support; poor Minna, who now suddenly thought she had found a
hitherto unsuspected reason for my resolve to live apart from her, in
turn complained to Mrs. Taylor." There has been, in fact, "a curious
misunderstanding" of a joking remark of his. He is very indignant
over it all, but chiefly at the way Minna had been treated! While he
was himself indifferent as to what the others might think of him, he
accepted Karl Ritter's offer to go to Zürich and set Minna's mind at
rest with a proper explanation.[104]

This looks plausible enough, but I am afraid there is a touch of
fiction in it. Let us look at a letter from Wagner to Minna of nine
years later:

"Neither can I blame you for giving me that dear Bordeaux to smell at
in return, especially as you have kept a secret from me, the hearing of
which really astounds me. So someone wrote you at the time, that I went
that second time to Bordeaux to abduct a young wife from her husband??
Now let me assure you on my honour and most sacred conscience that such
a shameless lie and calumny was never yet invented against any man. If
it would conduce to your honour and peace of mind, I should be quite
ready to give you the exact details of the whole of the episode, and
you would then find that I doubtless acted _very stupidly_ at that
time, but certainly _not evilly_ to any one."[105]

I do not see what meaning we can attach to this except that for nine
years Wagner had been unaware that Minna knew as much as she actually
did of the Bordeaux affair. The revelation evidently comes as a
complete surprise to him. We can take it as certain that, as he says
in _Mein Leben_, Mrs. Taylor had really written to Minna, telling her
what had happened. But the letter of 1859 makes it appear as if Minna
had kept the secret to herself all these years. The only conclusion we
can come to, then, is either that Wagner was in error in saying he had
deputed Karl Ritter to explain matters to Minna, or that he had told
Karl rather less than the full truth. This may seem a bold conclusion
to draw, but I do not see what other is possible from the evidence.
The remark in the letter--"so someone wrote to you at the time,"
&c.--squares with the account given in _Mein Leben_. But the rest of
the letter seems to indicate that till that moment he had no idea of
there having been such a letter. We seem forced to conclude either that
Wagner's memory was playing him false, or that his desire to make the
world see the facts as he would have preferred them to have been had
militated somewhat against strict accuracy--as it did in the Hornstein
and other cases.

And now we have, I think, the explanation, or partial explanation, of
a good deal of Minna's jealous suspicion in the 'fifties and 'sixties,
especially as regards Frau Wesendonck. Knowing of Wagner's relations
with Madame Laussot, knowing also that he had kept these relations a
secret from her both when he was writing to her at the time and in the
years that followed, knowing at first-hand, too, as well as we know
now through _Mein Leben_ and the letters, her husband's ineradicable
tendency to _prendre son bien où il le trouvait_, we can understand her
frequent uneasiness of mind. If we are to be fair to her we must get
away from the historical standpoint, from which all that is seen is the
great musician blundering through life and sacrificing everybody and
everything in order to consummate his art; we must look at it also from
the standpoint of Minna and the moment, putting the genius out of the
question and taking it purely as a case of any husband and any wife.
And when this is done, though we may still regret the tragedy of their
union and admit that Minna was not the best wife possible for such a
man as he--that she had, indeed, almost as many faults as a wife as
Wagner had as a husband--we shall at all events refuse to join in the
venomous outcry of the extreme Wagner partisans against her.[106]

                     [Illustration: MINNA WAGNER.]


That Minna was as much sinned against as sinning will hardly be
disputed by any unprejudiced reader of _Mein Leben_ and Wagner's
correspondence. Let us throw as rapid a glance as possible over the
various stages of their union.

Wagner himself sings the praises of the earlier Minna frequently
enough. The picture we first get of her is that of a pretty bourgeoise,
of no great intellectual capacity, but modest, sensible and
sympathetic. On the other hand, several of Wagner's self-revelations
show him in his youth as the harum-scarum one might expect a genius
of his dynamic temperament to be--not vicious, perhaps, in the style
of more stupid men, but keen for pleasure, and anxious to taste every
vintage that life could offer him. His early life probably differed
from that of tens of thousands of highly-strung young artists only in
the degree of ardour with which he pursued his will-o'-the-wisps, and
his quite abnormal imprudence in the affairs of daily life--financial
affairs in particular. Throughout his career the protection, the
solace, the domestic care of a woman were necessities to him. We may
believe him when he says that he was the most home-loving of men; home
and a devoted woman were haven and anchorage for him.[107] His longing
for this haven would always be increased by the despair into which his
vivacious nature, so keen for pleasure, was for ever bringing him. His
early twenties were undoubtedly a very critical time for him mentally
and morally. The debt-acquiring habit was already firmly rooted in
him, and we get hints here and there of a certain hectic quality in
his views of sex. In the _Autobiographical Sketch_ (1842) he tells us
how, under the impulse of these ideas, he dealt with Shakespeare's
_Measure for Measure_ in the act of metamorphosing it into his own _Das

"Everything around me seemed to be in a state of ferment, and it seemed
to me the most natural thing to give myself up to this fermentation.
During a lovely summer's journey amongst the Bohemian watering places
I drafted the plan of a new opera, _Das Liebesverbot_; I took the
matter for it from Shakespeare's _Measure for Measure_, only with this
difference, that I deprived it of its prevailing seriousness and cast
it in the mould of _Das junge Europa_: free and uncloaked [_offene_]
sensualism [_Sinnlichkeit_] won the victory, purely by its own
strength, over Puritanical hypocrisy."[108]

In this mood even the froth of the lighter French and Italian operas
became a pleasure to him:

"The fantastic dissoluteness of German student-life, after some
violent excesses (_nach heftiger Ausschweifung_) had soon become
distasteful to me: _Woman_ had begun to be a reality for me.[109] The
longing which could nowhere still itself in life found ideal nurture
in the reading of Heinse's _Ardinghello_, as also the works of Heine
and other members of the then 'Young-German' school of literature. The
effect of the impressions thus received found utterance in my actual
life in the only way in which Nature can express herself under the
pressure of the moral bigotry of our social system."[110]

His own commentary on the libretto of _Das Liebesverbot_ is that it
expressed a change in his moral nature of which he was fully conscious
at the time:

"If one compares this subject with that of _Die Feen_, it becomes
evident that there was a possibility of my developing along two
diametrically opposite lines: confronting the religious (_heilige_)
earnestness of my original sensibilities was a pert inclination to the
wild frothing of the senses (_zu wildem sinnlichem Ungestüme_), to a
defiant cheerfulness that seemed utterly at variance with the earlier
mood. This becomes quite obvious to myself when I compare the musical
working-out of these two operas.... The music to _Das Liebesverbot_ had
played its part in shaping both the matter and the manner; and this
music was only the reflex of the influence of modern French and (as
concerns the melody) even Italian opera upon my receptive faculties in
their then state of violent physical excitation."

His libretto and his music were the reflection of his life:

"My path led me first of all straight to frivolity in my artistic
views; this coincides with the epoch of my first practical experience
as theatrical musical director. The rehearsing and conducting of the
loose-jointed French operas that were then the mode, the knowingness
and smartness (_Protzige_) of their orchestral effects, often filled
me with childish delight when I could set the stuff going right and
left from my conductor's desk. In life, which from this time consisted
in the motley life of the theatre, I sought in distraction the
satisfaction of an impulse which showed itself in more immediate things
as sensualism (_Genusssucht_), and in music as a flickering, tingling

_Mein Leben_ shows him as he must have been in the Magdeburg days,
ardent, passionate, variable, lacking in self-control, eager for the
joys of life, and in danger of being sucked down into the maelstrom
of the minor theatrical world. His own version of the outcome of all
this--in the _Mittheilung an meine Freunde_--runs thus:

"The modern retribution for modern levity, however, soon visited
me. I was in love; married in impetuous haste; under the unpleasant
impressions of a moneyless home harassed myself and others; and so fell
into the misery whose nature it is to bring thousands upon thousands to
the ground."[112]

One may be allowed to surmise, however, that his marriage was at the
time a godsend to him: it probably steadied him at a critical moment
and saved him from greater spiritual damage. His picture of Minna as
she appeared to him at their first meeting must be given in his own

"Her appearance and bearing formed the most striking contrast to all
the unpleasant impressions of the theatre which I had received on this
fateful morning. The young actress looked very charming and fresh: I
was struck by the remarkable seemliness (_Bemessenheit_) and grave
assurance of her movements and her behaviour, which lent an agreeable
and engaging dignity to the affability of her expression."[113]
Her "unaffected sobriety of character and her dainty neatness" did
something to reconcile him to the vulgar and superficial theatrical
world in which his lot had been cast. She was exceedingly kind to
the nervous and _maladif_ young conductor, yet all that she did for
him was done "with a friendly calm and composure that had something
almost motherly about it, without a suspicion of frivolity or

After a few weeks or months of acquaintance, in which he had showed a
decided liking for her society, Minna begins to be more distant with
him--apparently because there is a more serious lover in the field.
"I now experienced for the first time," he says, "the cares and pains
of a lover's jealousy." For a time they are estranged; but early in
1835 they return to their former friendly footing. And now we get the
first symptom of that egoism in his attitude towards her that was
afterwards to be so fruitful in misfortune. Though he was not her
accepted lover, he jealously objected to her receiving the attentions
of other men--of whom there were plenty always dancing attendance on
the pretty, engaging girl. He protests with "bitterness and quarrelsome
temper" against her receiving other men's attentions, though he admits
that "thanks to her grave and decorous behaviour, her reputation was
unimpaired"; and while _she_ remained as calm and sensible as ever,
_he_ cubbishly vents his rage in pretended dissipation, which had the
effect of "filling her with the sincerest pity and anxiety" for him.

He gives a New Year's party to the opera company, which is
evidently meant to be a lively affair, and asks Minna to it;
everyone doubts whether she will come. She accepts, however, "with
perfect ingenuousness." As the evening wears on and the liquor
circulates--punch succeeding champagne--"all the shackles of petty
conventionality were thrown off," and the conduct of the theatrical
ladies and gentlemen drifted into what Wagner calls "universal
amiability." One can imagine the scene.[115] Throughout it all Minna
acts with a simplicity, modesty and dignity that win Wagner's praise.

So far she appears much the more decent and likeable human being of the
two. Wagner's further account of her increases our respect for her:

"From that time onward my relations with Minna were of an intimately
friendly kind. I do not believe that she ever felt for me an affection
that came near passion--the genuine feeling of love--or indeed that she
was capable of such a thing; I can only describe her feeling for me as
one of heart-felt good-will, the most fervent wish for my success and
well-being, the kindest sympathy and a genuine delight in my gifts,
which often filled her with astonishment. All this became at last part
and parcel of her ordinary existence (_welches alles ihr endlich zu
einer steten und behäglichen Gewohnheit wurde_)."[116]

The fact that, feeling no genuine passion for him, she should have
been so kind to him as she was, and should have been willing to unite
her life with his, simply increases our respect for her. To her he was
simply a young wastrel of talent, who needed the care and protection of
a sensible woman. She "mothered" him, as other women were destined to
do in the course of his wild and wasteful life.

Then comes the--to Wagner--discreditable episode,[117] too long
for narration here, that makes them avowed lovers. Still there is
apparently nothing more on her side than kindliness and sympathy,
while Wagner is madly in love. He shrinks from marriage in view of the
difficulty and uncertainty of his position, while Minna too "declared
that she was more anxious to see these [their finances] improved than
for us to be married." But soon Minna leaves him to join a theatrical
company in Berlin. This precipitates matters. "In passionate unrest I
wrote to her urging her to return, and, in order to move her not to
separate her fate from mine, spoke formally of an early marriage." He
appears also to have threatened, in the same letter, that if she did
not return he would "take to drink and go to the devil as rapidly as

He persuades the Magdeburg theatre authorities to renew her engagement,
and sets off "in the depth of an awful winter's night" to meet her on
her return, greets her "joyously, with tears from his heart," and leads
her back "in triumph to her cosy Magdeburg home, that had become so
dear to me."[119]

It is evident, however, that in _Mein Leben_ he is not telling the
reader the whole of the facts. Certain passages in the contemporary
letters to Apel make it clear that in at any rate the latter part of
the Magdeburg period he and Minna were husband and wife in everything
but legal form. On 27th October 1835 he writes thus to Apel: "Don't get
too many fancies in your head with regard to Minna. I leave everything
to fate. She loves me,[120] and her love means a great deal to me now:
she is now my central point; she gives me consistency and warmth: I
cannot give her up. I only know that you, dear Theodor, do not yet
know the sweetness of such a relationship; it has nothing common,
unworthy or enervating in it; our epicureanism is pure and strong--not
a miserable illicit liaison;--we love each other, and believe in each
other, and the rest we leave to fate;--this you do not know, and only
with an actress can one live thus; this superiority to the bourgeoise
can only be found where the whole field is fantastic caprice and poetic

_Das Liebesverbot_ is given and fails; his career as musical director
in Magdeburg is terminated, and hungry creditors, seeing the end of
all his hopes and perhaps theirs, begin legal proceedings against him.
Every time he came home he found a summons nailed to the door. "And
now Minna, with her truly comforting assurance and steadfastness in
all circumstances, proved the greatest possible support to me."[122]
She gets an engagement in Königsberg, whither he follows her. Then
he begins to doubt her. He is uneasy as to one Schwabe, who is
"passionately interested" in her. He afterwards learned that the pair
had already been friendly; though he adds that he could not regard
her relation with Schwabe as an infidelity to himself, since she had
rejected the former in his favour. But he was made uneasy by the
reflection that the episode had been concealed from him, and by the
suspicion that Minna's comfortable circumstances were in part due to
the friendship of this man. In fact, he, Wagner, the butterfly amorist,
was jealous like any common person; and the desire grew upon him to
hasten the marriage with Minna in order that he might find peace and
quiet--a refuge from the storms of the miserable theatrical world in
which his lot had been cast.

In Königsberg he obtains an appointment as conductor: and now we behold
him drifting, like his own gods in the _Ring_, headlong to destruction.
His reason warns him of the folly of a union with Minna, but his
impulses drive him irresistibly into it:

"Minna made no objection, and all my past endeavours and resolutions
seemed to show that, for my part, I was anxious for nothing so much as
to enter into this haven of rest. Notwithstanding this, strange enough
things were going on at this time in my inmost being. I had become
sufficiently acquainted with Minna's life and character to be able to
see, as clearly as this important step required, the great differences
between our two natures, if only besides this perception I had had the
needed ripeness of mind."[123] But blind lover as he had been, he goes
into marriage with his eyes open:

"The peculiar power she exercised over me had no source in the
ideal side of things, to which I had always been so susceptible; on
the contrary she attracted me by the soberness and solidity of her
character, which, in my wide wanderings in search of an ideal goal,
gave me the needed support and completion."[124]

Always me! me! me! He used Minna as he used everyone else, as an
instrument for his own happiness and comfort. And as he was the more
intellectual of the two, and saw clearly the fatal differences of
character between them,[125] one can only regard the unfortunate
consequences of his marriage as an avengement of his own egoism and
jealousy. On her part, though she "made no objection" to the marriage,
she was plainly not anxious for it; she never seems to have concealed
the fact that her feeling for him was mainly one of sympathy. He learns
that her friendship with Schwabe had been more intimate than he had

"It ended in a very violent scene between us; it established the type
of all the later similar scenes. I had gone too far in my outbursts,
treating as if I had some real right over her, a woman who was not
tied to me by any sort of passionate love, but who had yielded to my
importunities only out of kindness, and who, in the deepest sense, did
not belong to me at all. To reduce me to utter confusion, Minna had
only to remind me that from a worldly point of view she had refused
really good offers, and had yielded out of sympathy and devotion to
the impetuosity of a penniless and uncomfortable (_übel versorgt_)
man, whose talent had not yet been proved to the satisfaction of the
world. I did myself most harm by the raving violence of my speech, by
which she was so deeply wounded that as soon as I became conscious
of my extravagance I always had to appease her injured feelings by
admitting my injustice and begging her forgiveness. So this, like all
similar scenes in the future, ended, outwardly, in her favour. But
peace was undermined for ever, and by frequent repetition of these
affairs, Minna's character underwent a notable change. Just as in later
times she was perplexed by the (to her) more and more incomprehensible
nature of my conception of art and its relationships, which gave her a
passionate uncertainty as to her judgments upon everything connected
with it, so now she became increasingly confused by my opinion--so
different to hers--with regard to delicacy in moral matters; this
confusion--as in general there was so much freedom in my opinions which
she could not understand or approve--gave to her easy-going temperament
a passionateness that was originally foreign to it."[126]

The "delicacy in moral matters" is good. Minna would probably have
said that she considered it neither moral nor delicate to run away
without paying your tradespeople and to sponge, and make your wife
sponge, upon your friends. She was a bourgeoise, but at any rate she
had the normal bourgeois scrupulosity in matters like these, in which
Wagner's moral sense was anything but delicate. Posterity will refuse
to credit him with moral delicacy of any kind. His failings in this
respect were a source of sorrow to the friends who loved him most.
Cornelius, for example, who adored him, sums him up thus in his Diary
under date 3rd February 1863:

"Wagner! That is a leading chapter! Ah! I may not speak at large upon
that subject. I say in a word: His morality is weak and without any
true basis. His whole course of life, along with his egoistic bent,
has ensnared him in ethical labyrinths. He makes use of people for
himself alone, without having any real feeling towards them, without
even paying them the tribute of pure piety. Within himself he has
been too much bent on making his mental greatness cover all his moral
weaknesses; and I am afraid that posterity will be more critical (_die
Nachwelt nimmt es genauer_)."[127]

Yes, posterity sees the sharp division between the artistic greatness
and the moral littleness of the man even more clearly than his
contemporaries did; and it has learned to distrust the plausibility
of his accounts of himself and others, and to distrust them most when
they are most plausible. If only Minna could have survived to read
_Mein Leben_, and to have given her own version of why the pair drifted
so widely apart in the Dresden days--why she, who had borne untold
sufferings for him in Paris, should in the course of four or five years
have lost all respect for him and all belief in him!

So the breach widened between them. "The really painful feature of our
later life together was the fact that owing to this passionateness of
hers I lost the last support that Minna's peculiar nature had hitherto
afforded me. At the time I was filled only with a dim foreboding
of the fateful consequences of my marrying Minna. Her pleasant and
soothing qualities still had such a salutary effect on me, that with
the levity natural to me, as well as the obstinacy with which I met all
attempts at dissuasion, I silenced the inner voice that prophesied dark

Who, after that, will lay the blame wholly on Minna? He urges her into
a marriage for which she has no great desire, forces her to abandon the
career that had maintained her in decent comfort, hitches her to his
fiery and erratic chariot and drags her through misery and privation
unspeakable, quarrels with her from time to time and insults her with
the "raving violence" of his speech.[129]


In the end they marry. Wagner was twenty-three and a half, Minna
twenty-seven. At the altar, he says, he had the clearest of visions of
his life being dragged in different directions by two cross-currents;
but he accounts for the levity with which he chased away these thoughts
by the "really heart-felt affection" he had for this "truly exceptional
girl," who "gave herself so unhesitatingly to a young man without any
means of support."

Almost immediately after the marriage, whatever little idyll there had
been in it is shattered. In a few months new financial troubles have
accumulated. Minna cannot resign herself to them so easily as he does.
The less he is able to provide for the necessities of the household,
the more does she feel compelled to take upon herself the duty of
supplying them. This she does, to his "unbearable shame," by "making
the most of her personal popularity." He was unable to bring her to
see the matter from his point of view; and as usual, all attempts at
an understanding were frustrated, as he admits, by the bitterness and
violence of his words and manner.[130] What he means by "making the
most of her personal popularity" it is not easy to say. On the surface
it suggests infidelity to Wagner; but a letter of his to Minna of
18th May 1859 makes this hypothesis more than doubtful. Ultimately
there appears on the scene one Dietrich, a rich merchant, of whom
Wagner is obviously jealous. On the 31st May 1837 Minna leaves her
home while Wagner is at the theatre. She has fled to Dresden, Dietrich
accompanying her a small part of the way. Wagner half-recognises that
she has done no more than flee from a desperate situation, and he
reproaches himself for being the cause of her despair. He finds her on
the 3rd June under her parents' roof in Dresden; there she confesses
that she regarded herself as badly treated by him, and thought him
"blind and deaf" to the misery of her position.

Matters grow brighter for a time, but Dietrich turns up once more, and
Minna again disappears with him. In time she writes Wagner "a most
affecting letter," in which she confesses her infidelity, but pleads
that she had been driven to it by despair. She has been deceived in the
character of her seducer; now, again in despair, ill and wretched, she
begs Wagner's forgiveness, and assures him that she has only now become
truly conscious of her love for him. He writes back, taking on himself
the chief blame, and declares that there should never again be any
mention between them of what happened,--a pledge, he says, which he can
pride himself on having carried out to the letter.

He was unquestionably generous on this occasion;[131] no doubt his
conscience told him that he himself was largely answerable for the
distracted state of Minna's mind. Her flight was no romantic love
affair, but the mere willingness to accept any outstretched hand that
would help her to escape from her husband and the disillusionment the
marriage with him had brought her.

His own view of their early married life is further given in two
later letters to Minna. They are both instructive. We have to bear
in mind, in reading them, his inveterate tendency to dramatise and
idealise himself, and his actor's gift of plausible expression. Making
the necessary deductions on this account, the story in the letters
agrees with that told here. He brings passion to the marriage, Minna
brings merely sympathy,--which only makes her sacrifice of herself the
more remarkable. Both letters are much too long for quotation here, and
extracts can give only an imperfect idea of them. They must be read in
full. In the first letter, written, as we have already seen, as a sort
of farewell to her before going to the East with Madame Laussot, he
paints the picture of their early married life as _he_ saw it,--he all
pure, unquestioning love, she possessed merely with an ideal of duty.
"It was duty that bade you bear with me all the troubles we endured
in Paris." (It apparently did not strike him that it must have been a
remarkable sense of duty--hardly distinguishable in its effects from
love--that made his wife endure such torments for his sake.) The cue
of the more inflexible of the Wagner partisans has always been that
Minna was incapable of appreciating her husband's genius. She may not
have been able to follow the later flights of it; how many even of his
musical contemporaries could, for that matter? But there is evidence
enough that whatever doubts she may have had about him as a man,
she had a sincere admiration for his gifts as a composer. After the
Wesendonck catastrophe in 1858, when Minna was living apart from her
husband in Dresden, and had no reason to be particularly well-disposed
towards him, she wrote to a friend: "_Lohengrin_ was at last given on
the 6th of this month, at the Court Theatre in Dresden, for the first
time. I am very fond of this opera.... I have often to refresh and
strengthen myself with Richard's works, or else I could not write to
him in a friendly tone. He certainly has in me an ardent worshipper
of his earlier works. I have a feeling as if I had created them with
him, for during that time I looked after him and took all the household
cares on my own shoulders alone. How different it has been during the
last few years of our union!"[132] And in the grievous Paris days we
find her writing to Apel for help for her husband, and declaring her
willingness to bear her weary burdens cheerfully in order that his
genius might have a chance of coming into its own. "What to do now is
at the moment a chaos to me; but even if I had the means of leaving
Paris, I would never leave Richard in this position, for I know he has
not fallen into it through levity, but the noblest and most natural
aspiration of an artist has brought him where unfortunately every man
perhaps must come without special help." And the poor woman, whose
great desire in life is to live with bourgeois honesty, is reduced to
making a piteous appeal to Apel to rescue her husband by a further loan
of money. The same cry is wrung from her in a letter of three weeks
later. "I am perhaps better fitted than Richard to plead with you to
make a sacrifice on his behalf, as I speak for another rather than for
myself. I can put myself in the same category as you, for I too have
brought him sacrifices; I have given up my own peaceful, independent
lot in order to bind myself to his, for it seems to be appointed that
only through the most violent storms and trials will he reach his goal.
Therefore I am fulfilling now a holy duty; perhaps, indeed, I sacrifice
myself in writing to you again [for money, after Apel's declared
unwillingness to give any more]. You say in your letter to Richard that
it is impossible for you to do more for him than you have done. That
you have given this much shows your good and noble will; and I must
believe, since you assure me it is so, that without overstepping your
usual expenses it is impossible for you to make a greater sacrifice
for him. Let me, however, without any desire to boast, tell you what
I did as a girl for my brother, who perhaps in certain relationships
stood less closely to me than Richard to you. He was to have studied
in Leipzig, but my parents could not support him; so I undertook to
do so, at a time when, owing to the wretched state of the finances of
the theatre, I had not even four groschen for my dinner. I pawned my
ear-rings and such things--which were often indispensable to me at
the theatre--sent the money to my brother for his studies, and kept
for myself only three pfennigs for a bit of bread which I ate for my
dinner while out walking, having pretended to the hotel people that I
was invited out to dinner somewhere. Now should it be only the poor and
needy to make sacrifices of this kind?... In Richard there is a fine
talent to be rescued, that will be brought nigh to ruin, for already
he has nearly lost heart, and if that happens his higher destiny is

Surely here was a character of which one who was a poorer composer but
a better man might have made something finer than Wagner did. In the
light of these letters and the self-sacrifice they reveal, read now the
sublimely egoistic lines in which Wagner speaks of these Parisian days
in his letter to Minna of April 17, 1850:

"Since our reunion after the first disturbance of our married life
[_i.e._ the Dietrich affair] it was really only duty that controlled
your conduct towards me,--it was duty that made you bear with me
all the miseries we suffered in Paris, and even in your last letter
but one you only speak of duty in connection with those days,--not
love. Had you had real love for me in your heart then, you would not
be giving yourself credit now for enduring those miseries, but, in
your firm belief in me and what I am, you would have recognised in
them a necessity in which one acquiesces for the sake of something
higher; when one thinks only of this higher thing, and is happy in the
consciousness of it, he forgets lower sorrows."

This is the magnificent spirit that created Bayreuth; but it is hardly
the spirit for a happy married life, or the way in which to talk about
the hunger your wife has endured for you, the trinkets she pawned for
you, and the lodger's boots she has cleaned for you.[134]

So the letter runs on. Wagner reviews their life in Dresden,--always,
as it seems to me, pleading his case for posterity as much as stating
it to Minna, who probably listened to it with a melancholy curl of the
lip: how often before had she not had to listen to these panegyrics of

Let us be fair to him also, however. The business of criticism--at
any rate a generation after the actors in the drama have become
dust--is to try to see the case for each of them through his own
eyes. Occasionally one's anger or contempt may be stirred at some
particularly unpleasant manifestation of character; but on the
whole, as Oscar Wilde says, "Nobody with the true historical sense
ever dreams of blaming Nero, or scolding Tiberius or censuring Cæsar
Borgia. These personages have become like the puppets of a play....
They have passed into the sphere of art and science, and neither art
nor science knows anything of moral approval or disapproval." It is
quite true, as Wagner goes on to say, that everything he did in Dresden
was the inevitable outcome of his artistic nature; without being
untrue to his faith as an artist he could not have acted otherwise.
With her inartistic clearness of vision, Minna saw all along whither
his idealism was leading them both,--to poverty and a repetition of
the distress of the Paris days. He admits that she gave him "bodily
tending," but complains that what "a man of his inner excitability"
needed most--"mental tending"--was withheld from him. But before we
blame Minna for not fully understanding the Wagner of this period and
seeing the future ruler of musical Europe in him, let us ask how many
even of his musical associates were capable of that feat. After the
Dresden catastrophe everyone must have been of her opinion,--that he
was an excitable and ill-balanced man of genius, with a fatal gift
for making the worst of life, who had by his own folly sacrificed for
ever his chance of making an honourable livelihood. Nobody could judge
him fairly, because no such man as he--no man so possessed with the
idea that anything was permissible to the artist that was necessary
for his self-realisation--had ever come within the ken of any of them.
To the careful housewife, who had endured so much for him only to
see all the hardly-won comfort of the last few years imperilled for
ever, he could only appear an impossible wastrel to whom life could
never teach prudence. How deep was her anger with him is shown by her
long-continued refusal to go to him after his flight. She wrote to him
that "she would not join him till he could support her abroad by his
earnings." Evidently she had not his gift for living complacently on
charity or debts. It is impossible not to be moved by this letter of
Wagner's, however conscious we may be that it is merely a dexterous
piece of special pleading. The situation between them had evidently
become hopeless, yet neither realised that it was so. Minna's hope
was that he would again become the Wagner of the early Dresden days,
working patiently to provide an honourable livelihood for them both.
He had done with all this; henceforth nothing existed for him but his
dreams. We can now see that as an artist, he was, as usual, right; but
what wife, seeing her husband cease from musical composition for six
years and apparently waste his time in writing argumentative books that
few people read and fewer still understood, would have judged him and
their position otherwise than Minna did? It was his great grievance
against her at this time that she insisted on his doing all he could to
get a contract for a new opera for Paris[135]--a project that became
every day more distasteful to him. "You stand before me implacable,"
he cries bitterly: "you seek honour where I almost see disgrace, and
feel shame at what is to me most welcome." He apparently could not
realise that to Minna the thought of living on other women's bounty and
perpetually staving off hungry creditors was as horrible as the idea of
sinking back into the filth of the ordinary operatic world was to him.

The same note of eager self-justification is sounded again in the
interminable letter of 18th May 1859. There is the same inability to
see the problem from any angle but his own. He once more admits that
Minna has suffered greatly for him, especially in those ghastly years
in Paris. But she should regard her sufferings as part of the game.
_He_ was a man of genius, who had to follow his star or die. If _her_
path was not a happy one, she should regard it as "a necessity in which
one acquiesces for the sake of something higher."

Let us look a moment at this second letter, in which the clever actor
is even more apparent. Minna has taken offence at the passage in _Eine
Mittheilung an meine Freunde_ relating to their marriage; and he writes
very sensibly and tactfully on this point, doing all he can to soothe
the poor woman, who was by this time hopelessly ill both in body and
in mind, and, as even her enemies admit, not to be held answerable
for the suspicions by which she was obsessed. He discourses with his
customary wordiness upon the nature of love; like Wotan and some of his
other characters, he could never stop talking when once he had been
wound up on the subject of his wrongs. Like Wotan, Lohengrin and the
rest of them, he always has a grievance, and is always misunderstood;
hence the need for such lengthy explanations. But there is a touch of
meanness in his unnecessary reminder to Minna of her flight from him
in their early married days.[136] In _Mein Leben_ he is candid enough,
as we have seen, to admit that he was chiefly to blame for this lapse
on her part.[137] His thesis now is that she did not love him then, or
she would not have run away; whereas although he had behaved badly to
her, it was all out of the greatness of his love! The sophistry of it
all is too unconscious, too naïve, for us to do anything but smile at
it; but we may doubt whether Minna, with her keen eye for facts and her
impenetrability to words, admired the performance as much as he did.

Then he puts into her mouth a long imaginary description of her own
conduct and psychology, and the sort of plea he was always making for
himself and desirous that _she_ should make for him. He reminds us
irresistibly of his own Wotan:

  "Wouldst thou, oh wife,
  In the castle confine me,
  As god this boon thou must grant me,--
  Though in the fortress fettered,
  Yet to my rule the whole world I must win.
  Ranging and changing
  All love who live;
  This sport I cannot desist from."

So says the self-justifying god to his wife in the _Rhinegold_. And
again in the _Valkyrie_:

  "Nought learnedst thou
  When I would teach thee,
  What ne'er thou canst comprehend
  Till clear in daylight 'tis shown.
  Only custom canst thou understand;
  But what ne'er yet befell
  Thereon fixed is my thought."

So would Wagner have poor Fricka-Minna regard him. He obligingly
writes out for her at length the confession he would like to hear her

"With Richard's individuality, that on the one hand qualified him for
the production of such important works and in the end for such unusual
successes, it was inevitable, on the other hand, that heavy shadows
should thereby fall on our life. I am not thinking of the constant
outward care and trouble, although they taxed my vital powers most
severely; it could not be otherwise than that his original artistic
nature, the peculiarly emotional and wildly moving quality of his
works, should keep him in the same state of excitation as they created
in others,--inevitably causing disturbances of my own repose. An
artist so significant as Richard, one perpetually at work with such
passionate artistic tools, retains all his life a certain youthfulness,
which must no doubt often cause anxiety to the wife at his side; and
whereas this wife remains close to him in the accustomed narrow circle
of the household as an old possession, which one often does not notice
any longer just because one is so sure of it and so intimate with it
from of old, from without there may present themselves new figures,
towards the effect of which the anxious wife will probably have to show

Wotan, in fact, was to do all the ranging and changing. For Fricka the
cue was to be forbearance. Incidentally I may observe that this was
also to be the cue for the masculine heads of the households,--those
of Bülow, Wesendonck, and Laussot for example,--in which Wotan was to
indulge freely in the sport he could not desist from.

It was a simple and lucid philosophy of married life, granting
the premisses. Minna's misfortune was to dispute the premisses. The
egregious self-satisfaction of this letter, and its pose of the wronged
but forgiving husband, apparently provoked her not only into reminding
him of some of his own peccadilloes, but into letting him see, for the
first time, that she knew a little more of his escapades than he had
imagined; for it is in his next letter, dated 30th May, that we find
him raising his eyebrows in astonishment at the news that she had known
all along of the Laussot episode of nine years ago.[139] He, good man,
was no doubt honestly surprised at Minna's inability to see him just
as he saw himself, idealised by a vivid imagination. No man ever had a
higher ideal of duty--the duty of other people towards himself. Nothing
is more remarkable, among the many remarkable features of _Mein Leben_,
than the coolness of his references to the services that various
people had done him, or the total omission, in some cases, of any such
reference.[140] He took all sacrifices as a matter of course; he would
have liked a world full of trusting Elsas and faithful Kurvenals. "You
must let me have peace," he writes to Minna;[141] "take me as I am, and
let me do what I have joy and pleasure in: don't worry me into anything
I cannot and will not do: rest assured, on the other hand, that I shall
always be doing something that somehow gives joy to others and contents
my inner sense." This is apparently a justification of his refusal to
write an opera for Paris, or to do anything else that went against his
artistic conscience. For his determination not to be shaken from his
moral and artistic centre in such matters as this no one will blame
him; the difficulty only began when he imported the doctrine of his
own infallibility into domestic matters. Even his own Elsa, lymphatic
person as she was, had in the end to admit that there was a limit to
her capacity for trusting her husband blindly. Minna's capacity for
that kind of blind devotion was less than Elsa's; yet nothing short of
blind devotion would satisfy him. One hardly knows which is the more
magnificent in some of his letters--his disregard for himself where his
work and his destiny were concerned, or his disregard for the humble
being whom fate had flung upon his hearth. "See, poor wife," he writes
from Venice on 1st September 1858, "your destiny--which surely ought to
have been made easier and more uniform for you--was knit up with the
destiny of a man who, greatly though he longed for quiet happiness, yet
in every respect was appointed to so extraordinary a development that
at last he believes himself bound to renounce even his wishes simply
to fulfil his life-task. All I now seek is inward self-collection,
in order to be able to complete my works: fame has no longer any
effect on me: I even despair of succeeding in producing my works [the
_Ring_]: nothing--nothing--but work, the act of creation itself, keeps
me alive. It is natural that so extraordinary a destiny should also
inspire extraordinary sympathy; there are many people who have turned
to me with deep and ardent feelings. If _you_ must suffer for it, those
sufferings will some day be accounted to you also, and your reward must
be--my success, the success of my works."[142]

Who shall say that the artist's faith in himself was not a noble and
a holy thing? The misfortune was that this faith had too often to be
nourished in ways that the world cannot help calling ignoble. He saw
himself as we see him now, with the eyes of the historical sense; but
people who have no prospect of living in history, and for whom the
present is the only life they know, may be excused for feeling that
the ideals of other people are too dearly bought at the cost of their
own poverty and shame. When all is said, it remains true that Minna
would gladly have borne privation for him, as she did in Paris, in
order to further his genius, but that she could not reconcile herself
to her husband's easy-going attitude with regard to other people's
money and other people's wives. It is one thing to love your neighbour
as yourself; it is another thing to love your neighbour's wife as your
own--or even more.

The toughness of the problem that fate had given her to solve is
shown by Wagner's letters immediately after his flight from Dresden.
The seven years in that town must have been, until near the end, the
happiest of Minna's life. Here at last, it seemed, was a haven: her
husband was secure for life in a Court Kapellmeister's post, and he
had already made an enviable reputation as composer and conductor. She
was wiser than he in many of the simpler things of life, and clearly
foresaw the ruin to which his political activities were leading him.
The unrelenting harshness of her attitude towards him during his
flight, of which he makes so much in his letters and _Mein Leben_, was
no doubt the result of sheer despair at the extent of his folly, and
anger at the grown-up child who could apparently never be brought to
listen to reason. A letter of Minna's, published for the first time by
Julius Kapp, throws an interesting light on their relations at this

"You will know what Wagner was when I married him,--a forlorn, poor,
unknown, unemployed musical director. As regards his intellectual
success, I am happy to think that all his works were created only in my
company: and that I understood him he proved to me by the fact that to
me alone he first read or played all his poems, all his compositions,
scene by scene as he sketched them and discussed them with me. Only I
could not follow his political doings. With my simple understanding
I saw that no good would come to him out of them, and the more he
departed from the path of art, the deeper became the sorrowful feeling
in me that he was breaking away from me also."[143]

His own view of their Dresden life may profitably be placed side by
side with this of Minna's:

"After my appointment in Dresden your growing discord with me came just
at the time and in the degree as, forgetting my personal advantage,
I could no longer, in the interest of my art and of my independence
as man and artist, accommodate myself to the deplorable managerial
relations of that art-establishment, and consequently revolted against
them." Anyone who loved him, he says, would have seen what was going
on within his soul and would have sympathised with him; but "when I
came home profoundly dispirited and agitated by some new annoyance,
some new mortification, some new disappointment, what did my wife give
me in lieu of consolation and uplifting sympathy? Reproaches, fresh
reproaches, nothing but reproaches! Fond of home as I was, I remained
in the house in spite of it all; but at last no longer able to express
myself, to communicate what was in me and be strengthened, but to keep
silence, let my grief eat into me, in order--to be _alone_!"

His makes, no doubt, the finer literary record now; but who would have
said in 1848 that Minna was the more in the wrong?

How hopelessly immiscible were their ideals of living becomes fully
apparent a very little while after their reunion in Switzerland in
1849. Incapable of his imaginative flights and his belief in the
future, she could see nothing but the misery and the humiliations of
the actual day. For him there was his star; with his eyes on that he
could forget his daily cares, or leave them to others; some raven or
other, he knew, would feed him. Nothing is more remarkable in his
letters of this period than the paradoxical sense of relief he felt at
being, so far as the everyday world was concerned, a ruined man. "Never
in all my life have I felt so happy and gay as in the summer of 1849
in glorious Switzerland.... I know that with the best I can do--and
must do, since I can--I cannot earn money, but only love, and that
from those who understand me, if they want to. So I am without a care
for money either, since I know that love is caring for me. So let good
Ottilie [his sister] and all the rest of you be easy in your mind about
me and take it that a great piece of luck--aye, the greatest that could
befall a man--has come to me."[144]

We can well believe him. On the whole his position was probably not
so distressing as it is generally held to have been. He was not rich,
of course; but he seemed to be assured of a livelihood, he had ample
leisure for thought and for quiet self-development[145] without the
necessity of wasting himself in inferior work--which is always the
greatest misery to artists who have to reconcile the claims of art
with those of life--and he was able to get a good deal of enjoyment
out of travel. On one point he was quite firm; he had no intention of
ever again competing in the arena with other men for a living. It was
the world's duty to provide him with food and shelter in return for
his work; how, as he pathetically put it, could he give the world the
best that was in him if he had to waste his energies on futile things?
Thousands of other men, it is needless to say, have felt the same
difficulty; probably nine brain workers out of ten have to squander
two-thirds of their best mental powers on futilities in order to win a
little time in which to exercise the other third in the way they like.
One thinks of George Meredith, for example, feeling his bent to be
mainly towards poetry, but compelled to boil the pot with novels, and
to purchase the pot itself by "reading" for a publisher. But Wagner,
in this as in every other relation of his life, was nothing if not
thorough; it was the secret, indeed, of all his successes and all
his failures. Other men might truckle to expediency, but not he. His
experiences in various opera houses had taught him how difficult it was
for a man like himself to reconcile his artistic ideals with the facts
of the theatre. There has probably never yet been a Kapellmeister with
a soul who has not felt precisely as Wagner did;[146] but he makes the
best of a bad bargain, is content with fifteen shillings if he cannot
get a sovereign, and uses all the tact he can command to smooth his
relations with his colleagues and to bend them to his will without
their suspecting their own compliance. Wagner had no tact where his
susceptibilities were hurt, and compromise was always hateful to him.
Like the singer who was out of tune with the orchestra and expected
it to tune to him when he gave it his A, Wagner blandly took his own
course in everything and called upon the world to follow him. The
call was often heroic and the response magnificent, as in the case of
Bayreuth. But occasionally the call was unreasonable, and the singer
and someone in the orchestra inevitably came to blows.

We see, in a letter of Minna's of about 1851,[147] the clashing of
his ideas and Minna's on the subject of whether it is more honourable
to earn your living by work you do not like or to live--and compel
your wife to live--on charity. "The director [of the Zürich theatre]
had offered Wagner 200 francs a month if he would accept the post
of first Kapellmeister in the theatre; but he thinks it beneath his
dignity to earn money, and prefers to live on charity or on borrowed
money. You can understand, with one of my way of thinking, with what
disesteem--to say nothing of what has already happened--I, as no doubt
any other woman, must regard this. What will become of me--of us--on
such principles as these? I often cry my eyes out, and am quite worn
out with the worry my husband causes me."[148]

It is customary to censure Minna solemnly for not having a better
insight into the genius of her husband, and for not having been willing
to sacrifice the last vestige of her happiness and self-respect in
order that he might be undisturbed in his inner world. It must be
remembered, however, that in time a great many of the friends who had
been most generous to him came round to something like Minna's point
of view. Everyone knows the letter of 25th June 1870 to Frau Wille, in
which Wagner speaks of his happiness in his retreat with Cosima who,
he said, had showed that he "_could_ be helped," and "that the axiom
of so many of my friends, that I could not be helped, was false."[149]
The last phrase hints at earlier disagreements between him and his
friends on the question of finance. In _Mein Leben_ he tells us how
coldly some of them received his entreaties for help in the desperate
days before King Ludwig came to his rescue. Perhaps they had not met
with the gratitude they would have liked. When Madame Kalergis, in
1860, gives him 10,000 francs to wipe off the debt he had incurred in
connection with his concerts in Paris, his only comment is, "I felt
as if something were merely being fulfilled that I had always been
entitled to expect."[150] It is hardly to be wondered at that ideas
on finance so expansive as these did not always appeal with the same
force to those who were expected to find the money as they did to
him. Even the Wesendoncks declined to help him in his dire need in
1863.[151] Later on a request to Otto Wesendonck to harbour him met
with a point-blank refusal,[152] though Wesendonck knew that Wagner was
fleeing from his Vienna creditors, and that he was in serious danger
from the law. Hornstein, as we have seen, refused to open his purse to
him; other people repulsed him still more roughly. At his wits' end to
raise money, he thinks of divorcing Minna in order to marry some rich
woman. "As everything seemed to me expedient and nothing inexpedient,
I actually wrote to my sister Luise Brockhaus, asking her if she could
not have a sensible talk with Minna, and persuade her to be satisfied
in future with her yearly allowance, without making any claims on my
person. In her reply she advised me, with deep feeling, first of all to
think of establishing my good name and of obtaining undisputed credit
by a new work, which would probably help me without my taking any
eccentric step; in any case I should do well to apply for the vacant
Kapellmeister's post in Darmstadt."[153]

Ultimately (23rd March 1864) he fled to Frau Wille at Mariafeld
(Zürich). Wille himself had, as Wagner admits, become cool in his
friendship. But at that time the master of the house was away in
Constantinople. When he returned he was "uneasy" at the guest who had
settled there in his absence. "He probably feared that I might count
on his help also," says Wagner. He might well be alarmed, for Wagner,
untaught by experience, was as convinced as ever that it was the
world's duty to provide for him, and as resolved as ever not to take up
any work of the ordinary kind. Frau Wille has given us an interesting
picture of him brooding over his wrongs and crying in the face of
heaven against mankind:

"I had got together a number of books out of my husband's library
and placed them in Wagner's room--works on Napoleon, on Frederick
the Great, works of the German mystics, who were of significance to
Wagner, while he had turned his back on Feuerbach and Strauss as dry
men of learning. What I could I gave him in happy impartiality for the
best: but cheer him up I could not. I still see him sitting in his
chair at my window (it is still there), and impatiently listening as I
spoke to him one evening of the splendour of the future that would yet
certainly be his.... Wagner said: 'What is the use of talking about
the future, when my manuscripts are locked up in a drawer? Who can
produce the art-work that I, only I, helped by good dæmons, can bring
into being, that all the world may know _so_ it is, _so_ has the master
conceived and willed his work?' He walked agitatedly up and down the
room. Suddenly he stopped in front of me and said, 'I am differently
organised; I have excitable nerves; I must have beauty, brilliancy,
light! The world ought to give me what I need. I cannot live in a
wretched organist's post like your Meister Bach. Is it an unheard-of
demand if I hold that the little luxury I like is my due? I, who am
procuring enjoyment to the world and to thousands?"[154]

It was this unshakable belief in the rightness of whatever ministered
to his own comfort for the time being that accounts in large measure
for the hopelessness of the misunderstanding between him and Minna
on the question of Frau Wesendonck. As this romantic episode had the
deepest bearing on his life and his art, and his attitude during it
gives us the best possible illustration of the dual nature of the man,
it is worth while studying it with some closeness.

As we have seen--as he himself indeed admits--he was always extremely
susceptible to the charm of women. In October 1852 he writes from
Zürich to his niece Franziska: "I cannot endure men, and would like
to have nothing to do with them. No one is worth a toss unless he
can really be loved by a woman. The stupid asses can't even love
now: if they have any talent they tipple, or as a rule are satisfied
with cigar-smoking. Only on the women do I count for anything now.
If there were only more of them!"[155] His ideal of women then and
before and for many a day after was the submissive, unquestioning Elsa.
"Lohengrin," he says, "sought the woman who should _believe_ in him;
who should not ask who he was and whence he came, but love him as he
was, and because he was just as he appeared to himself.[156] He sought
the woman to whom there was no necessity to explain or justify himself,
but who would love him unconditionally."[157] In another place he gives
us his notion of the ideal woman in still more explicit terms, this
time _à propos_ of Senta. "Like Ahasuerus, he [the Dutchman] longs for
death to end his sufferings; but this redemption, denied to the undying
Jew, the Dutchman can win through--_a woman_, who shall sacrifice
herself for him for love. The longing for death drives him on to seek
this woman; but she is no longer the home-tending Penelope, wooed by
Odysseus of old, but woman in general (_das Weib überhaupt_)--the as
yet non-existent, the longed-for, the dreamt-of, infinitely womanly
woman,--in a word, _the Woman of the Future_."[158] This was the kind
of devotion he expected from men and women. I have already pointed out
how, in _Mein Leben_, it is this or that person's "boundless devotion"
to him that stirs his admiration. It is thus he writes of Cosima in
a letter to Clara Wolfram of 1870; she had shown him "an unexampled
devotion and self-sacrifice."[159]


It was not very long after he had been disappointed in Jessie Laussot,
and at a time when Minna had ceased to minister to his mental life,
that he made the acquaintance of Mathilde Wesendonck. They first met
in February 1852. The young wife was fascinated by the man of genius,
and woman-wise pitied his evidently forlorn state. He, for his part,
found in her the mental and moral sunlight his work needed at the time.
Their affection for each other deepened month by month. Writing to his
sister Clara on 20th August 1858, he speaks of having been "for six
years supported, comforted and strengthened to remain by Minna's side,
in spite of enormous differences between our characters and natures, by
the love of that young woman, who drew close to me [_mir sich näherte_]
at first and for a long time timidly, hesitatingly, and shyly, then
more and more decidedly and surely."[160]

In the summer of 1854 he sketched the _Valkyrie_ prelude, placing
on the manuscript the letters "G.......s...M.......," which Frau
Wesendonck afterwards declared to represent "Gesegnet sei Mathilde"
(Blest be Mathilde!). Hornstein, who saw a good deal of Wagner and his
household in 1855, speaks of him as having "long ceased to love his
wife" and being "consumed with passion for another."[161] By September
1856 Mathilde is apparently sufficiently conscious of her love to be
distressed at the idea of Wagner settling in Weimar; so she persuades
her husband to lodge the composer in a house near them. He takes up his
residence in the "Asyl," adjoining the Wesendonck's house, the "Green
Hill," in April 1857.[162] Otto and Mathilde themselves move into their
now completed villa on 22nd August. "Not one of Wagner's brief notes
before that date suggests the faintest shadow of a passion shewn,"
says Mr. Ellis. On 18th September 1858, however,--_i.e._ _after_
the catastrophe that made it impossible for Wagner to accept Otto's
hospitality any longer--he writes to Mathilde that exactly a year ago
he had finished and brought to her the poem of _Tristan_. Then, he
explicitly says, she confessed her love to him.[163] Are we to suppose,
then, that their "passion" had grown up in three weeks--from 22nd
August to 18th September? Mr. Ellis pontifically declares that "we may
dismiss F. Praeger's observation 'during my stay I saw Minna's jealousy
of another' ... as on a par with his usual unreliability." Why? Is
not Hornstein's evidence conclusive as to what was happening under
everybody's eyes as early as 1855?[164] A letter of Wagner's own to
his sister Clara, however, (20th August 1858), puts it beyond question
that there was something going on in the Wesendonck household to which
the friends of the pair could hardly be blind. "His wife's frankness
could have no other effect than soon plunging Wesendonck in increasing
jealousy. Her greatness consisted in this, that she constantly kept
her husband informed of what was going on in her heart, and gradually
brought him to the fullest resignation as regards herself. It can be
imagined what sacrifices and combats it took to bring this about:
her success was only rendered possible by the depth and grandeur of
her attachment (in which there was no trace of self-seeking), which
gave her the power to exhibit herself in such strength (_in solcher
Bedeutung_) to her husband that the latter must stand aside from her
even if she should threaten her own death, and prove his unshakeable
love for her by upholding her in her care for me. It became a matter
of preserving the mother of his children, and for their sakes--who,
indeed, formed an insuperable barrier between us twain--he resigned
himself to his rôle of renunciation. Thus, while he was consumed with
jealousy, she succeeded in again interesting him in me to such an
extent that he often came to my support; and when at length it became
a question of providing me with the little house and garden I desired,
it was she who, by dint of the most unheard-of struggles, persuaded him
to buy for me the lovely piece of land adjoining his own estate. The
most wonderful thing, however, is that I actually never had a notion
of these combats that she endured for me: for her sake her husband
had always to appear friendly and easy towards me: not a frown was
to enlighten me, not a hair of my head was to be touched: serene and
cloudless were the heavens to be above me, smooth and soft was my path
to be. So unheard-of a success had this glorious love of the pure and
noble wife."[165]

It all rings very false. Wagner is simply writing what the French
contemptuously call "literature." He can see nobody in the universe
but himself. He pours out his spurious commendations upon Wesendonck
for his "renunciation,"--a word that obsessed Wagner at that time: but
it never occurred to him to practise a little renunciation on his own
side, and to refrain from driving a wedge between the young husband and
wife.[166] In any case, one would have at least expected him to speak
kindly of the man who had made such unexampled sacrifices for him. This
is how he deals with Wesendonck in _Mein Leben_:

"I had often noticed that Wesendonck, in the honest openness of his
nature, was disturbed at my making myself so much at home in his house:
in many things, such as the heating, the lighting and the hours for
meals, consideration was shown me which seemed to him to encroach on
his rights as master of the house." That is clear enough: what follows
is less clear. "It needed a few confidential talks on the matter
to establish a half-silent, half-expressed agreement, which in the
course of time assumed a doubtful significance in the eyes of others.
Thus there arose with regard to our now so close relations a certain
circumspection [_Rücksicht_] which occasionally afforded amusement to
the two initiated parties." This passage, with its apparently designed
obscurity, tells the practised student of Wagner nothing more than that
he is deliberately concealing more than he is revealing. This suspicion
is strengthened by the sentence that follows: "Curiously enough, the
epoch of this close association with my neighbours coincided with the
beginning of the working out of my poem _Tristan and Isolde_."[167]
The "curiously enough" is a stroke of genius, the splendour of which
will be appreciated by everyone who has read his ardent correspondence
with Mathilde, and knows how inseparable she and the new opera were
in his mind. Only once again did he achieve such a masterpiece of
trail-covering,--when he spoke of Minna's "coarse misunderstanding of
my _merely friendly_ relations" with Frau Wesendonck.[168] And _Mein
Leben_ really would have served to cover up his tracks in more than
one critical place, had he not been imprudent enough to leave so many
letters behind him.

How he repaid Otto's kindness to him, once he was settled in the
"Asyl," may be guessed from other passages in _Mein Leben_. At the
beginning of 1858 he was very melancholy. He attributes his condition
to overwork on _Tristan_: but we may reasonably assume that his
passion for Mathilde had something to do with it. "Even the immediate
and apparently so agreeable proximity of the Wesendonck family only
increased my discomfort, for it became really intolerable to me to
give up whole evenings to conversations and entertainments in which
my good friend Otto Wesendonck thought himself bound to take part at
least as much as myself and others. His anxiety lest, as he imagined,
everything in his house would soon go my way rather than his gave him
moreover that peculiar burdensomeness [_Wucht_] with which a man who
thinks himself slighted throws himself into every conversation in his
presence, something like an extinguisher on a candle."[169] That at any
rate is candid, and gives us a hint of the delicacy of his behaviour
to the husband who had shown him so many kindnesses, and with whose
wife he was openly in love. But what a way to speak of the generous and
unhappy man who had done and suffered so much for him! Wagner could
remember everything, apparently, but the necessity for gratitude.

The crisis in his "merely friendly relations" with Mathilde had
come, as we have seen, three or four months earlier,--on that day in
September 1857 when he had brought her the last act of the poem of
_Tristan_, and she had placed her arms around him, and "dedicated
herself to death that she might give him life."[170] Apparently there
was trouble between Minna and Mathilde about this time. Kapp quotes
from a letter of Minna's in which she says, "I had to say what was in
my heart once more to young Frau Wesendonck. She all at once became
very haughty and absurd, so that I refused her invitations, but she
again asked my pardon, and now I am again friendly for Richard's
sake."[171] Evidently the situation was an intolerable one for
Minna,--her husband openly calling Frau Wesendonck his "Muse," thinking
of nobody but her, and running across the garden every few hours to
sun himself in her presence. And it is equally evident that Wagner
himself was in despair. We have seen him confessing, in _Mein Leben_,
to being woefully out of tune in the winter of 1857-58, though he does
not tell the reader the real cause. There is no reason to suppose
that his relations with Mathilde had been anything else but ideal. At
this juncture, however, he seems to have felt the impossibility of an
indefinite continuance of these "merely friendly relations." Early in
January 1858 he wrote a feverish, despairing letter to Liszt:

"You must come to me quickly. I am at the end of a conflict in which
everything that can be holy to a man is involved. I must decide, and
every choice that I see before me is so terrible that when I decide I
must have by my side the friend who alone has given me heaven."[172]
Liszt, however is not to come to Zürich but to meet him in Paris. He
follows this letter up by another on the 13th,[173] in which he again
speaks of his need of a temporary absence from Zürich. "I have not lost
my head, and my heart is still sound. Nothing will help me but patience
and endurance."[174] That Liszt understood is evident from his reply
of the 15th: "Write me soon, saying what is in your mind and what you
intend to do. Does your wife remain in Zürich? Are you thinking of
returning later? Where is Madame W----?"[175]

Wagner goes to Paris, and at a distance from Mathilde becomes resigned
to the impossibility of possessing her. He sends Liszt a fantasia on
his favourite theme of resignation.[176] He reads Calderon, finds
supreme inward peace, and asks Liszt for some more money.

The end, however, was nearer than he thought. He returned to Zürich
at the beginning of February, and apparently the unlucky pair drifted
helplessly into the coils of circumstance again. The crash came in
April, when Minna intercepted a letter from her husband to Mathilde.
The true story of the catastrophe and the events that led up to it has
hitherto been only imperfectly known: we have had to construct them
as best we could out of the incomplete Wesendonck correspondence and
Wagner's own letters: and needless to say he is not to be accepted as
the most detached of witnesses when addressing the court in his own
defence. Further light has recently been thrown on the history of this
period by Kapp, who is able to quote from a number of Minna's letters
that had hitherto been unknown.

"Madame Wesendonck," Minna writes, "visited my husband secretly, as
he did her, and forbade my servant, when he opened the door for her,
to tell me that she was above. [Minna occupied the ground floor of the
house, Wagner the first floor.] I let it all go on calmly. Men often
have an affair; why should not I tolerate it in the case of my husband?
I did not know jealousy. Only the meannesses, these humiliations, might
have been spared me, and my ludicrously vain husband must conceal it
from me."[177] In another letter of the 30th April 1858 she refers to
the gossip of the place that had come to her ears, which at first she
did not believe. But it struck her that Wagner "went over too often
when the good man [Wesendonck] was not at home," and she was annoyed at
the daily exchange of correspondence between the "Green Hill" and the
"Asyl," and the secret visits. "On the 6th they were both with us. On
the 7th I noticed that Richard was strangely restless:[178] at every
ring he came out; he had a big roll of papers in his hand [sketches for
Act I. of _Tristan_], which he wanted to send to Frau Wesendonck: but
he would not part with it when I wanted to look after it for him, and
he hid it awkwardly. All this astonished me a little. When he could
wait no longer, he called our servant. I was there by chance when the
latter passed, and I asked him for the roll of music. I undid it, and
took out the thick letter that was enclosed in it, opened it, and read
the most jealous love letter, from which I will give you a couple of
passages. After a wild night of love that he had had, he writes to
her: 'Thus it went on the whole night through. In the morning I was
rational again, and from the depth of my heart could pray to my angel,
and this prayer is love! Love! Deepest soul's joy on this love, the
source of my redemption. Then came the day with its evil weather, the
joy of seeing you was denied me, my work would not go at all. Thus my
whole day was a struggle between melancholy and longing for you,' &c.
The letter ended in this way: 'Be good to me: the weather seems mild:
to-day I will come again to your garden as soon as I see you. I hope
to find you undisturbed for a moment. Now my whole soul to the morning
greeting. R. W.' What do you say to that? At mid-day I told my husband
that I had opened and read his fine letter; he was rather alarmed,
but I said I would not suffer this deception towards the poor man: I
would go away, but he must call this woman his own for ever. Richard
wanted to justify himself with his wonderful gift of the gab,[179] but
I would not have it.... Richard tried to force me to be silent, and to
persuade me of the purity of his relations. How ridiculous! I abide by
my conviction."[180]

Now let us look at the letter in which Wagner gives his sister Clara
_his_ version of the catastrophe. After narrating the sacrifices Otto
had made for him,[181] and declaring that although he and Mathilde
loved each other they had been forced to recognise the necessity of
resignation, he continues:

"My wife seemed, with shrewd feminine instinct, to understand what was
going on: certainly she often showed jealousy, and was scoffing and
disparaging: but she tolerated our intercourse, which never violated
morals, but simply aimed at the possibility of knowledge of each
other's presence. Therefore I assumed that Minna would be sensible and
understand that there was really nothing for her to fear, since there
could be no question of a union between us, and that therefore the
most advisable and best thing for her to do was to be indulgent. I had
to learn that I had probably deceived myself in that respect: chatter
reached my ears, and she at last so far lost her senses as to intercept
a letter of mine and--open it. This letter, if she had been at all
able to understand it, would really have been able to give her all the
pacification she could have desired, for the theme of it too was our
resignation. However, she fastened simply on the intimate expressions
in it, and lost her head. She came to me in a fury, and I was compelled
to explain to her calmly and explicitly how things stood, that she had
brought misfortune on herself by opening such a letter, and that if
she did not know how to contain herself we must part. On this point we
were agreed, I tranquilly, she passionately. Next day, however, I was
sorry for her: I went to her and said, 'Minna, you are very ill.'[182]
We arranged the plan of a cure (_Kur_) for her: she seemed to become
composed again. The day for her departure to the _Kurort_ drew near. At
first she absolutely insisted on speaking to Frau Wesendonck. I firmly
forbade her to do so. Everything depended on my gradually making Minna
acquainted with the character of my relations with Frau Wesendonck,
and thus convincing her that there was nothing at all to be feared
for the continuance of our wedded life, wherefore she had only to be
wise, prudent and noble, abjure all foolish ideas of vengeance, and
avoid any sort of sensation. In the end she promised me this. She could
not keep quiet, however. She went over [to the Green Hill] behind my
back, and--no doubt without realising it herself--wounded the gentle
lady most grossly. After she had told her: 'If I were an ordinary
woman I should go to your husband with this letter,' there was nothing
for Frau Wesendonck--who was conscious of never having had a secret
from her husband (which a woman like Minna cannot understand!)--but
to inform him at once of the scene and its cause.--Herewith, then,
had the delicacy and purity of our relations been broken in upon in a
coarse and vulgar way, and many things must now alter. Not till some
time after did I make it clear to my friend [Mathilde] that it would
never be possible to make a nature like my wife's comprehend relations
so lofty and unselfish as ours: for I had to endure her grave and deep
reproach that I had omitted this, whereas her husband had always been
her confidant."

Minna goes away to her cure, and returns unappeased. There are violent
scenes between her and Wagner: the situation becomes quite impossible
for everybody, and there is nothing for it but for the Wagners to quit
the "Asyl." He can endure the bickering no longer, he tells Clara,
if he is to fulfil his life's task. "Whoever has observed me closely
must have been surprised from of old at my patience, kindness, aye,
weakness; and if I am now condemned by superficial judges, I have
become insensitive to that kind of thing. But never had Minna such
an occasion to show herself worthy to be my wife as here, when it
was a question of preserving for me the highest and dearest: it lay
within her hand to prove if she really loved me. But she does not even
understand what such true love is, and her rage runs away with her." He
excuses her on the score of her ill-health, but is resolved not to live
with her again. "She really is unfortunate: she would have been happier
with a lesser man. And so take pity on her with me."[183]

Well might Minna be driven to distraction by his "vortreffliche
Suade." Who, with no knowledge of the facts beyond what he could derive
from this letter, would not think that Wagner had been at once the
most perfect and the most ill-used of men? Here we have the actor--the
self-deluding actor--marching and counter-marching across the stage in
his full panoply. He is, as usual, dramatising himself: he is painting
the picture of himself that he desires his friends and posterity to
see. He is at work on _Tristan_. Frau Wesendonck is necessary to him
if he is to maintain the artistic mood that the poem and the music
require. Everything and everybody must therefore give way to his great
need. He is utterly and honestly unable to see the situation through
either Otto's eyes or Minna's. The former he dramatised also; of the
grief the good man must have felt at seeing his wife's infatuation
for a man who calmly took possession not only of the wife but of the
whole household, he had plainly no conception. He allots Otto _his_
part in the play: they are all playing parts, and the title of the
tragi-comedy is "The Three Renunciators." Wagner and Mathilde may talk
as they like about their "renunciation" and "resignation": these words
are only literary symbols with them, a subtle self-flattery, an extra
and rather delicious flavouring in their cup. But the cup itself was
a sweet one. Poor Otto had _his_ part thrust upon him willy-nilly:
he was dragged on the scene, against his will, to act in a play for
which he had no fancy, dressed up as Third Renunciator, and primed to
speak the lines the author of the piece put in his mouth. But there
was no delight in _his_ cup: and probably he could not, like Wagner,
drug himself with words. As for Minna, she simply was not in the play
at all. Her business was merely to attend to the costumes and sweep
out the dressing-room of the principal comedian, and generally to keep
the stage clear for him and the leading lady. So colossal was Wagner's
egoism that he could not realise the bare possibility of the affair
taking on in other people's eyes any aspect but that it had in his own.
He evidently thought in all sincerity that it was Otto's and Minna's
duty to step aside in favour of himself and Mathilde, and that Minna in
particular ought to prove that she really loved him by turning a blind
eye to everything that wounded her as woman and as wife. And in the act
of demanding these impossible renunciations from other people in order
that _he_ might have his way, he appealed volubly to God and man to
witness the extent of _his_ renunciation and to have compassion on him!
It is easy enough to follow your star if other people will do the rough
work of cutting out your path for you: it is easy enough to live in a
world of ideal emotional freedom if the real people around you will be
content to become mere feeders for your own inward life. The only weak
spot in Wagner's position was his forgetfulness of the fact that Minna
was a human being like himself. How he and Mathilde appeared in eyes
that saw things as they were, without any haze of romance about them,
may be guessed from Minna's description of Mathilde as "that cold woman
spoilt by happiness," and Frau Herwegh's incisive description of Wagner
as "this pocket edition of a man, this folio of vanity, heartlessness,
and egoism."[184]

A comparison of Minna's letter with that of Wagner's concerning the
incident that led to the rupture with the Wesendoncks will suggest
how little he is ever to be relied upon for full and strict accuracy
when he is stating his own case. We may acquit him, as a rule, of any
wilful intention to deceive; but he is so incapable of seeing the
matter from any other angle than his own that he unconsciously distorts
or re-arranges the picture. Like the artist he is, he sees only the
inside of the Mathilde affair. Minna sees only the outside of it: but
precisely for that reason she is more likely to have given us the
outward facts as they were. These facts could never be gathered from
Wagner's letter alone. That letter shows us an angelic, patient and
greatly misunderstood man, worshipping his "Muse" as one might worship
a saint in a shrine, and astonished and disgusted when coarser souls
declined to see either a saint in her or an angel in him. As usual, he
does not photograph the scene: he lets his imagination paint a fancy
picture of it. It is from Minna's prosaic photograph that we get the
facts and details,--the secret visits on both sides, the deceptions
and evasions, the trickery with the servants, and all the other petty
irritations. Once more, sympathetic as we may feel towards him,--and
we are bound to sympathise with this eager, hungry, suffering soul,
so wise in art, so foolish in life,--can we deny that Minna merely
acted as any other woman in the world would have done in the same
circumstances? To be kept by his side for her value as a domestic
animal,[185] yet be shut out from her husband's inner life while
another woman was admitted to it under her very eyes, and to be living
all the while in a home provided for them by this very rival,--that was
surely more than any woman with a spirit above that of a poodle could
be expected to suffer quietly.

Leaving the psychology of the case, let us take up again the thread of
the external facts. Minna's account of what happened during and after
her interview with Mathilde runs thus:

"Frau Wesendonck was very grateful and friendly to me, accompanied me
hand-in-hand to the steps, and everything was settled in a friendly
way. Afterwards, however, she thought differently of it: she told her
husband that I had insulted her frightfully, but without telling him
the real truth as to the relations. She cried out to Richard how deeply
and horribly I had offended her,--in spite of the fact that I had been
delicate enough not to show her the fatal letter, which I had in my
pocket. But this is the way with common little natures. They can do
nothing but tittle-tattle and stir up mischief."[186]

Minna's heart trouble had been greatly aggravated by these emotional
storms. To do Wagner justice, he was always making allowance in his
correspondence for her conduct on the score of her ill-health,[187]
but, needless to say, it never occurred to him to help to restore her
health by refraining from his pursuit of his "Muse" at the Green Hill,
or by making any other "renunciation" of the things he liked.[188]
"My good husband," writes Minna to Frau Herwegh on 14th June 1858
from Brestenberg, where she had been undergoing a "cure," "could be
good and assuage my pains[189] if he would not let himself be dragged
about by certain people: his heart is good but very weak! So it comes
about that he often writes me really good, dear, comforting letters,
but still more often throws the wickedest and vulgarest things at me
in them, cracks other people up to the skies, and levels me to the
earth. This, my dear Emma, eats away my heart. I can seldom weep over
these vulgarities, and that is very bad for me: but the heart in my
body chokes as if it were being twisted about. On Sunday, a week ago,
I was at home, but only for twenty-three hours, so that I had no time
to visit you. I wish I had not gone: the dear Richard vented his spleen
on me till two in the morning"[190]--by way, presumably, of exercising
himself in "renunciation" and "resignation."

She returns to the "Asyl," but every day the impossibility of an
understanding between them becomes more evident. Their letters, read
side by side, are pathetic. Wagner is convinced that the purity of his
relations with Frau Wesendonck ought to absolve him in everyone's eyes,
and reconcile Minna to a more accommodating attitude towards him and
his ways. (According to his own account, he invariably reasons with
her patiently and from the serene height of his superior wisdom. This
is not always borne out by Minna's testimony.) Minna, on the other
hand, was resolved not to tolerate a situation that seemed to her to be
beyond all reason.

"It grieves me," she writes to a lady friend on 2nd August 1858,[191]
"to hear you talk as if I alone were the cause of my separating from
my husband. You know only too well, if you question yourself closely,
how hard for me even a short separation has always been, especially
now when it is uncertain whether and when I shall see him again. It is
no small thing when a separation faces one after twenty-two years of
marriage. I at any rate cannot take it lightly. If it rested with me,
I assure you it would certainly not happen. As regards forbearance for
men I am likewise enlightened, and have already overlooked a good many
things, like other women. I have besides gone on being blind a good six
years. It is simply impossible, for the sake of Richard's honour, to
remain here, since her husband,--I don't know how--has also learned of
the relation. When I returned I was violently assailed and threatened
by my husband, with the object of getting me to associate again with
that woman. I yielded, was willing to go this great length: that is
really all that it is possible for a wife in my position to do: but
the husband and in the end this woman herself will not: she is--so my
husband himself shouted at me--raging, beside herself, at my being
there, and out of jealousy will not suffer me to remain: only Richard
shall live here, which, however, he cannot do. Richard has two natures;
he is ensnared on the other side, and clings to me from habit, that is
all. My resolve now is, since this woman will not endure it, to remain
with my husband; and he is weak enough to fall in with her wishes that
he should live by turns in Dresden, Berlin and Weimar, until either
Richard or God calls me away. My health does not improve under these
circumstances; all the waters in the world are no use when the mind is
assailed by upsets of this kind."[192]

So on the 17th August 1858 Wagner leaves the "Asyl" and goes to Venice
(_viâ_ Geneva) with Karl Ritter, while Minna takes refuge with her
friends in Dresden. Wagner continues to write to Mathilde, but his
letters are returned to him unopened. Each of the lovers, however,
makes a confidante of Frau Wille, and each of them keeps a diary. These
diaries are exchanged in the autumn. That of Wagner is in the form of
letters to Mathilde. These are full of the most ardent protestations
of love. His declaration in _Mein Leben_ that his relations with Frau
Wesendonck were "merely friendly" reads rather curiously after such
outbursts as these:

"When I have thought of you, never have parents or children or duties
come into my mind; I only knew that you loved me, and that everything
noble in this world must be unhappy." (7th Sept.)

"That you loved me I know well: you are, as always, good, profound and
sensible.... Our love is superior to all impediments, and every check
to it makes us richer, brighter, nobler, and ever more intent upon the
substance and the essence of our love, ever more indifferent towards
the inessential." (13th Sept.)

"It always remained clear to me that your love was my highest
possession, and without it my existence must be a contradiction of
itself." (18th Sept.)

"The course of my life till the time when I found you, and you at last
became mine, lies plain before you." (12th Oct.)[193]

"Once more,--that you could plunge into every conceivable sorrow of
the world, to say to me 'I love you,'--that has redeemed me, and was
for me that holy hour of calm that has given my life another meaning."
(12th October.)


Nothing shows more instructively the fundamental dualism of his
nature than a comparison of these letters to Mathilde with those he
was writing at the same time to Minna. Every thought of Mathilde is a
dream, an intoxication; to Minna he is the practical man, discussing
the ordinary little things of life in the most prosaic fashion. Their
parting was not intended to be a permanent one: each of them was to
"go his own way for a while in peace and reconciliation" in order to
"win calmness and new strength for life."[194] As is often the case
when he is away from her, he sees their relationship in something
like its true aspect. He admits that she "has a hard time" with him,
on account of his "indifference and recklessness towards the outer
relations of life." She is to enjoy herself in Dresden, and to try to
win self-control and strength to bear her trial. But an understanding
was plainly impossible between two people one of whom persisted in
regarding his extra-domestic love affairs as special dispensations of
Providence to assist him in his work as an artist, while the other
as persistently looked upon them as a selfish seeking of his own
gratification at her expense. Wagner sums it all up very appositely
in a letter of 25th August 1858: "Your letter showed me that it will
probably be always impossible for you to see correctly and clearly.
With you, a definite blame must always be attached to a definite
person: you do not comprehend the nature of things and Fate, but simply
think that if this person or that thing had never been, everything
would have happened differently."[195] To his dual nature it did not
seem in the least an impossible thing for him to retain Mathilde as
his "Muse" and Minna as his housekeeper--a very competent housekeeper,
as he frequently lets us see--if only Minna would be sensible enough
to consent to this _ménage à trois_. On the 3rd September he tells
Mathilde that he hopes to get well for her sake. "To save you for
me means to save myself for my art. With it,--to live to be your
consolation, that is my mission, this accords with my nature, my fate,
my will,--my love. Thus am I yours: you too shall get well through
me. Here will _Tristan_ be completed--a defiance to all the raging of
the world. And with this work, if I may, I will return to see you, to
comfort you, to make you happy. This is my holiest, loveliest wish."
But while he intends returning to Mathilde he also counts on returning
to Minna, to whom he writes on the 14th September, advising her to
select carefully her future home; "thither I would come to you as often
as I needed a home: and for the rest, quite apart from my personal need
of habitation, it would be _your_ peaceful retreat to which I also
could withdraw when all the storms of life were weathered, there at
last to find enduring repose beneath your care."

His whole spiritual life is centred in Mathilde: but his physical man
also needs caring for, and who is so well qualified for this as Minna?
A wandering life will not suit him in the long run, he tells his wife;
at bottom he loves a permanent abode. He means to finish _Tristan_, and
has hopes of being amnestied,[196] so that he can return to Germany
and settle down in some town of his choice. "You can thus count with
certainty on seeing me again next Easter, and--God willing--we shall
then have no difficulty in finding the place where you can pitch the
abiding tent for this wandering life of mine."

"How happy could I be with either," was the sigh of the old poet.
"How happy could I be with both," says Wagner in effect. Even more
than in most artists the inner and the outer life in him were separate
and distinct. Into Mathilde's ear he could pour his dreams and his
longings, while Minna's ear would be open to receive his less spiritual
but equally sincere confidences upon the more material things of
life. He looks at the stars over the Lido and thinks of Mathilde: "I
have absolutely no hope, no future," he writes to her. This is the
genuine artist, amorous of his own sorrows, lapping luxuriously the
bitter-sweet water of his dreams. For the real man we have to turn to
his letter of the preceding day (28th September) to Minna, from which
it appears that although he is absolutely without a future and without
hope, he is trying all he can "to use the great success of _Rienzi_ in
Dresden" to "get profits out of the work elsewhere"; accordingly he has
been inviting all the theatres with which he has friendly relations
to acquire the opera quickly. He describes the material side of his
life in Venice in detail. The world-weary one seems to be enjoying
his existence, working each day until four in the afternoon, crossing
the canal, walking up the St. Mark Piazza, dining with Karl Ritter
"well but dear (even without wine I can never get off under four to
five francs)"; then in a gondola to the Public Garden, where he has a
promenade; then a glass of ice at the pavilion on the Molo, and so home
to bed. "So I have been living for four weeks now, and am not tired of
it yet, even without real absorbing work. The secret of the enduring
charm of it all is" so-and-so and so-and-so.

He keeps his dual psychological life going with perfect honesty
and absolute unconsciousness. How easy it was for him to adopt a
different attitude upon the same question, according to which of his
correspondents he was addressing, is shown by his letters of 28th
September 1858 to Minna and the 1st October to Mathilde. In each of
them he discusses the nature and attributes of joy and grief. He had
witnessed the killing of a hen at a poulterer's stall a day or two
before; the sufferings of the poor creature had stirred his sympathetic
soul to its depths, and set him thinking of the general problem of
suffering and pity. To Minna he writes thus:

"You are wrong to make light of compassion. Perhaps it is only because
you have a false idea of it. All our relations with others have only
one ground,--sympathy or decided antipathy. The essence of love
consists in community of grief and of joy: but _community of joy is
most illusory, for in this world there is little ground for joy, and
our sympathy only has real durability when it is directed to another's

To Mathilde he sings a different song. For her he can feel nothing
but "community of joy, reverence, worship.... So do not contemn my
pity where you see me exercise it, for to yourself I can now pour out
nothing but community of joy. Oh, this is the sublimest: it can appear
only in conjunction with the fullest sympathy. From the commoner nature
to which I gave pity I must quickly turn away as soon as it demands
community of joy of me. This was the cause of the last discord with my
wife. The unhappy woman had understood in her own way my resolve not to
enter your house again, and conceived it as a rupture with you: and she
imagined that on her return, comfort and intimacy would necessarily be
re-established between us. How fearfully I had to undeceive her!"

Yet it is to this "commoner nature" that he desires to return and
settle down in some quiet corner of Germany for the rest of his life.
"Only keep up your courage, my dear good Minna," he writes to her from
Venice on 14th November 1858. "Overcome, and believe firmly in the
perfect sincerity with which I now aspire to nothing--nothing on this
earth--but to make up for what has been inflicted on you, to support
and guard you, preserve you in loyalty and love, so that your suffering
state may also improve, that you may once more feel joy in your life,
and we may enjoy the evening of our days together as cheerfully and
uncloudedly as possible,"--with a break, presumably, to permit of his
dying in Mathilde's arms. And again in a second letter on the evening
of the same day: "Think of nothing but our reunion: and to make that
thoroughly good and enduring and beneficial for both of us, simply
attend to nothing now but your health. For this you can do nothing,
nothing in the world, but--cultivate tranquillity of mind." To do this
she is to forget the Wesendonck episode; he insists on her never saying
a word about it again to anyone. At Zürich "we were far too buried and
thrown too much on our own resources; that was bound in time to be
injurious and to set us bickering. When once we are in a large town
again, where I can have performances to look after, and you can tend
me when I am exhausted, and rejoice with me over their success,--it
will be to you a dream that we were ever packed into a little den like
that.... Well, well! All that will be altered, and a quite new life
will begin, full of fame, honours and recognition, as much as I shall
desire; so get in good trim to enjoy that harvest with me after a long
and painful seed-time."

Thirteen days previously he had written thus to Mathilde:

"Help me to tend the unfortunate woman.[198] Probably I can do it only
from a distance, for I myself must regard remoteness from her as most
apt for this purpose. When I am near her I become incapable of it:
only from a distance can I tranquillise her, as then I can choose the
time and the mood for my communications, so as to be always mindful
of my task towards her.[199] But I cannot do even that unless--you
help me. I must not know that _your_ heart is bleeding," &c., &c. "You
know that I am yours, and that only you dispose of my actions, deeds,
thoughts and resolutions." The night before he had stood on the balcony
of his house, and looking into the black waters of the canal below him
the thought of suicide had flashed upon him. But he withdrew his hand
from the rail as he thought of Mathilde: "Now I know that it still is
granted to me to die in your arms."

He talked to Minna, on his own showing, much as one talks to a child,
without meaning all one says, one's only object being to comfort it
in its grief. He meant to be kind, for Minna's sufferings undoubtedly
rent his heart. He could be sympathetic with her at a distance. The
difficulties always arose when they set up house again together, for
then the impossibility of his giving up anything he really desired,
even for an ailing wife's sake, became manifest. He was, as usual,
hypnotised by his own eloquence. On paper he could easily settle
every question that arose between Minna and himself: it was merely in
practical domestic matters that he was a failure. It probably never
occurred to him to ask how he was going to square the problem of
living for the remainder of his days with Minna with the problem of
dying in Mathilde's arms, or indeed the general problem of maintaining
his passionate intercourse with his "Muse" and at the same time of
resuming relations with the commonplace wife he had quarrelled with so
desperately over this very "Muse."

With this dualism of soul and this blindness in the face of facts
it was inevitable that the catastrophe of 1858 should have befallen
him,--inevitable also that any renewal of his relations with Mathilde
should lead to another catastrophe of the same kind. The renewal took
place in April 1859, Wesendonck having once more invited Wagner to
visit him, apparently in order to give a _démenti_ to Zürich gossip.
Later on Wagner seems to have realised that Minna's stay in Dresden was
doing her little good, either bodily or mentally: so he resolved to set
up house with her once more in Paris.[200]

In _Mein Leben_ he tells us that "under these circumstances [_i.e._ the
difficulties he was finding in the way of his giving some concerts in
Paris] I could only regard it as a most singular intervention of fate
that Minna should announce her readiness to join me in Paris and that I
was to expect her arrival shortly." But it is clear from letters of his
to Minna of 19th and 25th September 1859, and to Dr. Anton Pusinelli
of 3rd October,[201] that it was _his own suggestion_ that she should
come to Paris to take charge of his new household. He needed her, and
he argued eagerly against the objections which Pusinelli had evidently
put forward. He was going to live very quietly: Minna would be in ideal
surroundings for her health of body and peace of mind; and all would
again be for the best in the best of all possible worlds. "So I beg
you not to advance any objections against her coming to Paris: have
faith in my reasons!... A decided medical treatment was indispensable
for my wife: finally, however, notwithstanding all the art and care
of the physician, moral influences are the weightiest with patients
of this kind; and in this respect--I know it--the life and death of
my wife depend solely upon myself. I can destroy her or preserve her:
consequently, since I know her fate to be given into my hands, my
future conduct towards her is prescribed with the greatest certainty.
Trust me!"

No doubt he meant it all,--on paper.


Minna joined him in Paris on the 17th November 1859. Their relations
were soon as embittered as usual. Wagner was playing for high
stakes, living feverishly and expensively, entertaining largely,
giving disastrous concerts, accumulating new and heavy debts. The
clear-sighted and careful Minna was appalled at the prospect of the
ruin that was threatening them once more: and Wagner made the mistake
of not confiding in her. She felt herself shut out from his inner life.
Apparently he was also giving her fresh cause for jealousy, the lady
this time, it is said, being Liszt's eldest daughter Blandine, the wife
of the Paris lawyer Ollivier.[202]

After the disastrous _Tannhäuser_ performances in March 1861, Wagner
fluctuated for a while between Paris, Karlsruhe and Vienna, at length
settling down on the 14th August in the last-named city, where it was
proposed to produce _Tristan_. Minna had gone to Soden for a cure on
the 10th July: from there she went on to Dresden once more.[203] In
Vienna Wagner had the loan of Dr. Standhartner's house for some weeks
during the physician's absence. His wants were attended to by a "pretty
niece" of Standhartner's.[204] This pretty niece was one Seraphine
Mauro. According to Kapp,[205] "Wagner was not insensible to so much
beauty in his daily surroundings, and his 'dear little doll' [_Puppe_],
as he always called Seraphine, did not let him sigh in vain.... The
suffering in this affair of Wagner's fell upon his friend Peter
Cornelius, who ... had lost his heart to the beautiful Seraphine some
time before."


Standhartner having returned to Vienna at the end of September,
Wagner had to leave his comfortable quarters, and as there seemed no
prospect of an early performance of _Tristan_, and life at a hotel was
expensive, he accepted an invitation from the Wesendoncks to meet them
in Venice. He remained there only four days--"four miserable days" he
calls them.[206] How unbridgeable was the gulf made between him and
Minna by the memory of the Mathilde affair of three years before may
be estimated from his letters to his wife of 19th October and 13th
November 1861. The first is sensible and tender; he is full of pity for
the poor suffering woman, and will gladly do anything in his power to
alleviate her misery,--anything, that is, but give up the Wesendonck
acquaintance. He still has plans for a reunion, and a quiet old age
to be spent together. But as a preliminary to any _rapprochement_
he insists, as he had always done on her consenting never again to
mention the name of Mathilde, for whom, he declares, his passion has
from beginning to end been absolutely pure. Of all the tragedies of
Wagner's life this surely is the greatest, that his one truly noble
love, the one that was so necessary to him as an artist, to which we
owe _Tristan_ and many of the finest moods of the _Meistersinger_ and
_Parsifal_, should have been the one to embitter his existence and his
wife's beyond all hope of remedy while his less worthy attachments were
either unknown to Minna or counted for little with her. With Wagner
obstinately resolved not to give up the Wesendonck acquaintance, and
Minna--blind to the ideal nature of the attachment, and seeing it, in
all probability, merely as another Laussot affair[207]--as obstinately
bent on making the cessation of this acquaintance a condition of a
full reconciliation with her husband, it was impossible that the
breach between the two tortured and self-torturing souls should ever
be healed. That Wagner dreaded giving Minna any cause to be reminded
of Mathilde's name is evident from the sophisticated version he gives
her of his Venice excursion, in his letter of 13th November 1861:
we can only regard as a piece of well-meant fiction his story that
Dr. Standhartner, having been summoned in haste, as deputy physician
in ordinary, to attend the Empress of Austria in Venice, pressingly
insisted upon Wagner accompanying him for his health's sake. "I
returned early this morning. I hope it has done me good; at least I had
no talking to do for several days, but only to go sight-seeing, which
really benefited me." Not a word, it will be observed, as to having
gone to Venice at the request of the Wesendoncks, or even as to their
being in Venice at that time.

So matters drifted on in the old way until Wagner had settled down in
Biebrich (end of February 1862), after yet another visit to Paris.
He took with him the furniture that had been in their Paris house.
Minna came to help in the unpacking and arranging. She remained
with him a week. According to the account he gives in _Mein Leben_
"the old scenes were soon renewed," Minna being angry at his having
removed from the custom-house the articles he required for his new
home, without awaiting for her arrival.[208] The real reason of their
quarrel, however--concealed from us, as usual, in _Mein Leben_--was
once more Frau Wesendonck. By a most unlucky coincidence a letter and
a box arrived from Mathilde on the second and third days of Minna's
visit. They were quite harmless,[209] but Minna would not listen to
reason; she was more than ever convinced that her husband was carrying
on another intrigue with Mathilde behind her back. It was enough, as
poor Wagner says, to drive him out of his senses--the same scenes as
four years before, the same invective, word for word. Yet in spite of
it all, once more the wretched pair began making plans for a home in
common, Minna's importunities among the Dresden Government officials
having made it possible for Wagner to obtain an amnesty by a formal
petition to the King.

Biebrich remained his home until the autumn. He was working at the
music of the _Meistersinger_, and perhaps, on the whole, not unhappy.
He made several new friends, among them the actress Friederike
Meyer--the sister of the Frau Dustmann who was to have "created"
the part of Isolde in the Vienna production of _Tristan_--and a
pretty and intelligent young girl, Mathilde Maier, the daughter of a
deceased lawyer. The fire of his passion for Frau Wesendonck having
already cooled, he fell in love with the gentle Mathilde Maier. Kapp
conjectures that rumours of their "friendly relations" had come to
Minna's ears, and that the renewed bitterness of her letters at this
time decided Wagner to take the step that had long been urged upon
him by his friends, and obtain a divorce from Minna. He commissioned
his Dresden friend Dr. Pusinelli to sound Minna on the subject; she
declined to oblige him.[210] His desire to marry Mathilde Maier,
however, says Kapp, found a new and insurmountable obstacle. She was
threatened with hereditary deafness; this, she thought, would unfit
her to be the wife of a musician. "The full significance of this
tragic love in Wagner's life cannot be estimated yet," says Kapp,
"since the autobiography preserves complete silence on this matter,
out of consideration for Cosima, and the large and carefully guarded
collection of intimate documents from Wagner's hands that Mathilde left
behind her will not be published during Cosima's life-time."[211]

Meanwhile his relations with Friederike Meyer--a lively
actress-temperament--had become more and more friendly. When he left
Biebrich for Vienna in November 1862, he was accompanied by Friederike,
who had surrendered her engagement at the Frankfort theatre for his
sake.[212] He soon became involved, as he tells us, in disagreements
with his Isolde, Frau Dustmann, Friederike's sister. "It was
impossible," he says, "to make her see how matters really stood; she
regarded her sister as being involved in a liaison, and cast out by her
family,[213] so that Friederike's settling in Vienna was compromising
for _her_."

We get a little light on the pair in an entry in the diary of Peter
Cornelius under date 20th November 1862:

"We were at Wagner's. He gave a musical evening for his Fräulein
Friederike M.... Her chambermaid was there as duenna. Friederike isn't
so bad as they made out in Mainz; she isn't amiss as far as appearances
go. She is intelligent, without making any attempt to thrust herself
forward. She is not very pretty, but her face is animated. Wagner
behaved very properly and decently in her presence. If he really must
have a liaison of this sort, it looks as if he would get on quite
tolerably with this one."[214]

The liaison seems to have been in one way at least a harmful one for
Wagner. Frau Dustmann was so angered at Friederike's association with
him and at her attempt to procure an engagement at the Burg theatre
that she cooled towards _Tristan_. This, says Kapp, was the real cause
of the failure to produce the opera in Vienna, not, as has hitherto
been supposed, the difficulty the singers found with the work.

Friederike soon passed out of his life. With his liking for women's
society, however, it was impossible for him to live alone for long.
We may believe him when he tells Minna (December 27, 1862), "I
am living an utterly wretched life, daily, hourly--and am never,
never happy."[215] He is busy with concerts and with the _Tristan_
rehearsals; but he is getting no sleep, has palpitations of the heart,
and is "completely knocked to pieces." After his Russian concert tour
he settles in Penzing, a suburb of Vienna (May 12, 1863), in order
to continue work at the _Meistersinger_. He has apparently given up
all idea of a reunion with Minna. He tells us that about this time
he suffered a great deal of trouble on her account: "she reproached
me bitterly for everything I did."[216] He kept, he says, to his
resolution of the previous year; he wrote instead to Minna's daughter
Nathalie, who was still living with her, and still under the impression
that she was Minna's sister.[217] The idea occurred to him of getting
Mathilde Maier to take charge of his Penzing household. Apparently
the proposal created some commotion in the Maier circle. Mathilde, he
had thought, "would be sensible enough to take my meaning correctly,
without being shocked. No doubt I was right in that supposition; but
I had not taken sufficient account of her mother and her bourgeois
surroundings in general. She seemed to have been thrown into the
utmost excitement by my invitation; and her friend Luise Wagner, with
bourgeois sense and precision, gave me the good advice first of all to
obtain a divorce from my wife, and then everything else would easily
be arranged. Greatly shocked at this, I at once withdrew my invitation
as having been made without proper consideration."[218] Perhaps he
really was shocked, though we have to remember that these memoirs were
dictated to Cosima, and he would probably be disposed to paint himself
in the most favourable colours. But the whole passage, ambiguous as
it is, in a way that the student of _Mein Leben_ becomes accustomed
to, points quite clearly to the belief in the Maier circle that his
relations with Mathilde were very intimate.

Feminine society was an absolute necessity to him at all times, and
now, perhaps, more than ever, for his life was a round of anxieties
and his health was wretched. His lonely abode was brightened for a
time by "a maiden of seventeen years, of an irreproachable family."
According to his account,[219] she was bored and wanted to get back to
the town again. He got rid of her with as much regard for her feelings
as possible, and her place was taken by an elder sister. "She is more
experienced," he tells Frau Wesendonck, "staid (_gemessen_), seems
gentle, and is not unagreeable." "Eccentric as the episode may seem in
itself," says Mr. Ashton Ellis,[220] "it disposes of the ridiculous
legend--founded on a Viennese dressmaker's bills--that the writer
used to dress himself in female garments. Long ago I had been struck
by the 'we' in one of the crumbs of that correspondence flaunted by
addle-brained purveyors of gossip, and felt more inclined to credit
Hanslick's story of 'a pretty ballet-dancer'; but the amazing innocence
of the whole arrangement is proved alike by its narration to Elisabeth
and her unrebuking answer."

Whether the purveyors of gossip were addle-brained or not, gossip
there certainly was: and apparently there was some fire to account for
the smoke. That this second serving maiden, says Kapp, "had a better
understanding [than her sister] of the position she was intended for,
and gave Wagner thorough satisfaction," is evident from the following
love letter, addressed to her after he had been away from Penzing some
time on a concert tour:

  "DEAR LITTLE MARIE,--I shall be home again next Wednesday. I shall be
  at the Northern station in Vienna at half-past seven in the evening.
  Franz [his man servant] must be there punctually with the carriage,
  and he must also have what is necessary for the trunk. Now, my best
  sweetheart, have everything in the house very nice, so that I can get
  a cosy rest, which I very much need. Everything must be quite tidy,
  and--well warmed. See that everything is very nice in the lovely
  study; if it is hot, open it a little, so that the study may be warm;
  _and perfume it nicely: buy the best bottles of scent, so as to give
  it a nice odour_. Ach Gott! how delighted I am to be able to rest
  again with you there. (_I hope the rose-coloured pants are ready?_)
  Aye, aye! You must be very pretty and charming; I deserve to have
  a thoroughly good time once more. At Christmas I will arrange the
  Christmas tree: and then, my sweetheart, you will get all sorts of
  presents. My arrival need not be made known to everybody; but Franz
  must tell the barber and the hairdresser to come at half-past nine
  on Thursday morning. So: _Wednesday_ evening at half-past seven in
  Vienna, and soon after in Penzing. I leave it wholly to yourself as to
  whether you will meet me at the station. Perhaps it will be nicer if
  you meet me first in the house, in the warm rooms. I shall probably
  need only the _coupée_. Kind greetings to Franz and Anna [Franz's
  wife]. Tell them to have everything thoroughly nice. Many kisses to my
  sweetheart. _Au revoir!_"[221]

This, it need hardly be said, is scarcely the sort of letter one writes
to a servant who is no more than a servant.

In July 1863 he gives two concerts in Pesth, where he seems to have
been smitten by the charms of a young Hungarian singer who greatly
pleased him by her renderings of some of Elsa's music, and still more
by her evident incandescence for himself.

There is no mention of this young lady in _Mein Leben_, but Wagner
tells Mathilde about her in the same letter (3rd August 1863) in which
he speaks of the engagement of Marie as successor to her sister. "I
was quite touched at meeting with something so pure and unspoiled
for my music; and the good child, on her side, seemed so moved by
myself and my music that for the first time in her life she really
felt. The expression of these feelings was indescribably charming and
touching, and many might have thought that the maiden had conceived an
ardent love for me:[222] so now I have to 'write' to her as well." He
evidently takes a sort of impish pleasure in thus piquing the curiosity
of his old love and "Muse." He adds "See, I am telling you all the good
I can; but I really don't know of anything more, and I am not even sure
whether you will credit this last tale to me as something 'good.'"


All this while the understanding between himself and von Bülow's wife
had evidently been quietly ripening. Reading between the lines of his
earlier accounts of Cosima, it is easy to see that there had been for
some time a tentative if unavowed _rapprochement_ between them. In
1861, when taking leave of Cosima at Reichenhall, she gave him, he
says, "an almost timid look of enquiry,"[223]--which strikes the old
Wagnerian hand as one of those phrases in which the composer conceals
more than he discloses.

By the following summer, matters had evidently matured a little. "The
increasing and often excessive ill-humour of poor Hans, who seemed to
be always in torment, had sometimes drawn a helpless sigh from me. On
the other hand Cosima appeared to have lost the timidity (_Scheu_)
towards me that I had noticed during my visit to Reichenhall in the
previous year; she was now more friendly. One day, after I had sung
'Wotan's Farewell' to my friends in my own way, I noticed on Cosima's
face the same expression that, to my astonishment, I had seen there
when bidding her good-bye at Zürich; only now the ecstasy of it was
raised to a serene transfiguration. There was silence and mystery
over everything now; but the belief that she was mine took hold of me
with such certainty, that in moments of more than normal excitement I
behaved in the most extravagantly riotous way."[224]

He visits the Bülows both before and after his Russian concerts
(March 1863), and again in November of the year, after the concerts
at Budapest, Prague and elsewhere. Bülow being busy on the latter
occasion with preparations for a concert of his own, Wagner went for a
drive with Cosima. "This time all our jocularity gave way to silence;
we gazed into each other's eyes without speaking, and a passionate
longing for an avowal of the truth overpowered us and brought us to
a confession--which needed no words--of the infinite unhappiness
that weighed upon us. It gave us relief. Profoundly appeased, we
won sufficient cheerfulness to go to the concert without feeling
oppressed.... After the concert we had to go to a supper at my friend
Weitzmann's, the length of which reduced us, yearning as we were for
the profoundest soul's peace, to almost frantic despair. But at last
the day came to an end, and after a night spent under Bülow's roof
I resumed my journey. Our farewell so strongly reminded me of that
first wonderfully affecting parting from Cosima at Zürich, that all
the intervening years vanished from me like a wild dream between two
days of the highest life's significance. If on that first occasion our
presentiment of something not yet understood constrained us to silence,
it was no less impossible to give voice to what we now recognised but
did not utter."[225] Here again, anyone familiar with Wagner's literary
manner must feel instinctively that there is a great deal more beneath
these words than appears on the surface of them. This is the last
reference to Cosima in _Mein Leben_: the further story of the pair has
to be derived from other sources.

The Zürich leave-taking to which he refers can only be that of the
16th August 1858, the day before he was compelled to leave the "Asyl"
as a result of the Mathilde catastrophe. His account of the farewell
in _Mein Leben_, however, does not suggest any special community of
feeling between himself and Cosima; all that he says is that "on the
16th August the Bülows left; Hans was dissolved in tears, Cosima
was gloomy and silent." If it were not for the tragedy of it, the
situation would be decidedly piquant: Wagner, on the very eve of
his severance from one man's wife, finding some consolation in the
look that another man's wife gives him, and assuring us,--or was it
simply Cosima, his unofficial wife and amanuensis of the hour, that
he was assuring?--that all the passion he poured out so eloquently
to Mathilde in the days that followed the separation vanished from
him, in 1863, "like a wild dream" at another look from Cosima. One
could understand the elevated affection he felt for this remarkable
woman ousting the smokier memories of Friederike Meyer and Blandine
Ollivier and the maid-servant Marie, but hardly the luminous figure
of Mathilde Wesendonck. Could he really forget so easily, or did he
only imagine he forgot, or did he simply wish Cosima to believe he had
forgotten? But alas, he forgot Cosima too when she was away from him.
As we have seen, during his stay at Frau Wille's at Mariafeld, after
his flight from his Vienna creditors (March 1864) he had it in his mind
to restore his broken finances by means of a rich marriage.[226] Kapp
conjectures that the lady he had in view was Henriette von Bissing,
the sister of Frau Wille. (She had recently been left a widow, with
a considerable fortune.) It is certain that Frau von Bissing and he
had been drawn very close together at the end of 1863. When he went
to Breslau in November, he tells us, she put up at the same hotel,
listened sympathetically to his story of his woes and his financial
difficulties, and dissuaded him from his projected Russian tour,
promising to give him "the not inconsiderable sum necessary to maintain
me in independence for some time to come."[227] But she found some
difficulty in getting the needful funds from her family, "from whom she
was meeting with the most violent opposition, apparently spiced with
calumnies against myself." Plunged more and more deeply into debt, he
at last appeals point blank to the lady for "a clear declaration not
as to whether she _could_ help me at once, but whether she _would_,
as I could no longer stave off ruin." "She must," he says, "have been
very deeply wounded by something that had been told her of which I
knew nothing, for her to be able to bring herself to answer somewhat
to this effect--'You want to know finally whether I will or will not?
Well then, in God's name, No!'" He accounts for this answer afterwards,
as might be expected, by "the weakness of her not very independent
character," particulars of which he had had from Frau Wille.[228]

Knowing him as well as we do, and knowing his trick of explaining every
unpleasantness in other people's conduct towards him in a way that lays
the blame with them rather than with himself, we can hardly accept his
own account of the affair as the last possible word on the subject.
It would be interesting to have Frau von Bissing's version of it. But
if he has given us the events in their true sequence, Kapp's theory
is untenable, for the rupture with Frau von Bissing must have taken
place before the Mariafeld conversation on the subject of a divorce. It
is not impossible, however, that he is anticipating the story of the
severance from Frau von Bissing by a page or two.[229]

In May 1864 came his dramatic rescue by King Ludwig. His financial
troubles were, for a time, at an end. And now the stage was clear for
the last act of the drama in which he and Cosima were the principal
actors. As the autobiography ends with the summons to Munich by King
Ludwig, we are henceforth without any guidance from Wagner himself. We
can imagine, however, that for a man of his temperament the necessity
for feminine companionship soon became urgent. Minna was now out of
the question; his other flames--Mathilde Wesendonck, Friederike Meyer,
Mathilde Maier, Henriette von Bissing--had one by one died out. Only
Cosima remained; and for the man who, with the turn of his fiftieth
year, began to love with his reason more than with his senses, the
masterful Cosima was obviously the one woman in the world for him. She
had apparently never loved Bülow, nor he her; we are told that his
marriage with her was an act of chivalry on his part, due to the desire
to legitimise in the eyes of the world the illegitimate daughter of
the Liszt whom he so admired and loved. The truth seems to have slowly
dawned on Cosima that it was her mission in life to tend the buffeted
composer of genius. He must have admired her both for her insight and
her indomitable will; and no admirer of Wagner would grudge him the
splendid instrument for his purposes that came to him in Cosima after
so many years of delusion and disappointment. But it is tolerably clear
that the pair, in the egoism of their devotion to each other, acted
with a total lack of regard either for Bülow's feelings or for his
position in the eyes of the world. In 1864, Bülow, at Wagner's request,
sent Cosima and his own child to keep the lonely musician company in
his Starnberg villa; and apparently at this time all barriers between
the two were broken down, though their love for each other was still
concealed from Bülow, who came to them in July at Wagner's request.
Wagner persuaded the King to appoint Bülow his Court pianist--his
avowed object being to rescue Hans from his unpleasant artistic
surroundings in Berlin, the real object, as Kapp says, being "to keep
the beloved woman near him."

In October Wagner settled in the Munich house placed at his disposal
by the King, and the Bülows took up their residence in the capital in
the following month. Cosima constituted herself Wagner's secretary
and general woman of affairs, two rooms being provided for her in his
house, where she worked for several hours each day. On the 10th April
1865, a daughter, Isolde, was born to Cosima. Bülow believed the child
to be his own,[230] and Wagner became its godfather. In reality the
child was Wagner's own. (A second child, Eva, was born to them 18th
February 1867 at Tribschen; Siegfried was born 6th June 1869.)

On the 25th January 1866 Minna died in Dresden. As soon as Cosima
heard of it, Cornelius tells us, she telegraphed to Wagner, who was in
Geneva at the time, asking whether she should come at once to him; he
advised her to wait. But while Bülow was on a concert tour in March she
went to Geneva and stayed three weeks with Wagner. His unpopularity in
Munich had made it imperative for the King, however unwillingly, to
request him to leave the city. He and Cosima now looked out for a Swiss
refuge, and at the end of March found the ideal retreat in Tribschen,
near Lucerne. There Cosima joined him, with her children, on the 12th
May 1866. A letter from Wagner to her arrived in Munich after she had
left. "It was opened by Bülow, who thought it might contain something
that it would be necessary to telegraph to his wife; it revealed to
him the whole bitter truth."[231] His position was an unenviable one,
Munich gossip already making very free with his name. He went to
Tribschen, and learned that Cosima was resolved not to return to him.
He agreed to a dissolution of the marriage, but stipulated that, out
of regard for himself, and to give pause to the malice of the world,
Cosima should not be united to Wagner for another two years, which
time she was to spend with her father in Rome. She refused him this
concession; and Bülow, after remaining in the house two months, in the
hope of giving a _démenti_ to Munich tittle-tattle, retired to Basle,
leaving his family with Wagner.

In April 1867 King Ludwig appointed Bülow Court Kapellmeister. At
the same time the King asked Wagner to superintend some projected
performances of _Lohengrin_ and _Tannhäuser_, which necessitated his
frequent visits to Munich. Apparently to save appearances, Cosima took
up her abode for a time with Bülow at his house in the Arcostrasse,
where two rooms were always ready for Wagner's use. But gossip and
calumny only raged all the more fiercely, both in the town and in the
press. It was openly said of Bülow that he owed his appointment at
the Court "to his complaisance as a husband"; and at the end there
was nothing for it but for Wagner and Cosima to retire together to
Tribschen, and cut the last traces that bound them to Munich and
convention. Deeply wounded, Bülow found it impossible to continue his
work in the town: he resigned his appointment in June 1869, sent his
own two children to Cosima, and went out alone into the world.[232]

The conduct of Wagner and Cosima led to a long estrangement between
them and Liszt, and a cooling of other friendships; the King, too,
pointedly showed his displeasure. Wagner, in his Tribschen retreat,
turned his back angrily upon everyone who disapproved of him, and
immersed himself in _Siegfried_ and _The Twilight of the Gods_. On the
6th June 1869 the birth of a son, Siegfried, sent him into the seventh
heaven of delight. Cosima's marriage was dissolved, on Bülow's suit, on
18th July 1870; and on the 25th of the following month she was married
to Wagner.

It is a thousand pities that Wagner himself has left us no account of
the Bülow-Cosima affair. No one who has followed him thus far with me
can doubt that he would have made himself, as usual, the suffering hero
of the piece, that his intentions and his acts would have been strictly
honourable from first to last, and that Bülow would somehow or other
have been put in the wrong, as all the other friends and enemies were
who happened to cross his path. The interesting thing would have been
to see how he managed this.


I have given the erotic history of Wagner in such detail not only
because of the enormous part the erotic played in his life and in the
shaping of his character, but because to know him thoroughly from
this side is to have the key to his whole nature. Nowhere and at no
time was a middle course possible for him. It was all or nothing. To
that extent he was consistent: yet viewed in detail he was a bundle
of inconsistencies,--at once a voluptuary and an ascetic, a hero and
a rogue, a saint and a sinner, always longing for death, yet always
fighting lustily for his life, despising the public and pining for
seclusion, yet unable to live anywhere except in the very centre of
the stage and the full glare of the limelight. Frau Wesendonck once
reproached him very gravely and wisely with his inconsistency in this
last regard: "The wretchedness of your state of mind froze my blood.
I felt I could do nothing. I was to tell myself that all the gifts of
nature, even the most glorious, are wasted if they are not crowned by
empty external success; that they are futile in and for themselves,
and he who has them above others possesses only the right to be more
wretched than they! It made me almost bitter to think you would have
me believe that.... It is quite incomprehensible to me how anyone can
at once despise and seek mere success, _i.e._ applause. It seems to
me that only the sage, who asks nothing of the world, may despise it;
the man who uses it becomes its accomplice by mere contact with it,
and can no longer be its judge. You are at once a knower (_Wissender_)
and accomplice in the last degree. You hurriedly grasp at every new
deception, apparently to wipe out from your breast the disappointment
of previous deceptions; and yet no one knows better than yourself that
it never can or will be. Friend, how is this to end? Are fifty years'
experience not enough, and should the moment not come at last when you
are wholly at one with yourself?"[233]

He knew no law of life except the full realisation, of himself at the
moment. He was by turns Christian and Freethinker and Christian again,
republican and royalist, lover of Germany and despiser of Germany,
anti-Semite (in theory), and pro-Semite (in practice);[234] but in each
of his many metamorphoses he was sincerely convinced that he was not
only right as against all the world, but right as against the Wagner
of earlier years. Feuerbach, Schopenhauer, Hafiz, and heaven knows who
besides, were in turn the one great philosopher the world has known. In
later life he becomes a vegetarian: it therefore went without saying
that all mankind should forthwith abjure meat. He has the sense to
recognise that a flesh diet is imperative for most people in a climate
like that of Northern Europe. But a little difficulty of this kind does
not daunt him; all that European humanity has to do, he tells us, is to
migrate into other parts of the world.[235] He gives us, in 1851 and
1856, two divergent interpretations of the philosophies that underlie
_Tannhäuser_ and the _Ring_. He of course explains it all by the fact
that in his "intellectual ideas" he was at first working in opposition
to his "intuitive ideal." The truth is that in 1851 he was still
something of an optimist, while in 1856 he had become a pessimist with

The many contradictions of his character have of course made him the
easy butt of the satirists.[237] In 1877 there were published in the
Vienna _Neue Freie Presse_[238] a series of letters of his to the
milliner Bertha, who made him his wonderful lace shirts and satin
trousers[239] and dressing-gowns, and decorated his Penzing rooms
(and later his house at Tribschen) with the soft luxurious stuffs and
colours he so loved. The witty editor of the Letters, Daniel Spitzer,
twitted him on the inconsistency between his acts and his opinions,
between his art and his life. Who would believe, he asks, that the man
who indulged in these effeminacies was the same man who used to sneer
in his books at the seductions of Paris: who, in his _Opera and Drama_,
reproached Rossini with "living in the lap of luxury," called him the
"luxurious son of Italy," and even, in a moment of towering virtue,
styled him an "ausgestochene Courtisane"; or that the Wagner who, in
the deplorable squib he wrote upon the French nation after its downfall
in 1871, sneered at the French for their passion for bouquets, was
himself ordering bouquets and rose garlands of the most extravagant
kind from the Putzmacherin?

The man, in truth, who wrote with such a comic rage against the rich
and their luxury, was himself the most luxurious of mankind. He may
have admired the Spartan virtues of the poor, but he had not the least
wish to practise them himself. He could not exist without a certain
amount of pampering both of body and of soul, even in the days when,
unable to make both ends meet, he was living on the charity of certain
friends and borrowing at every opportunity from others. "It is with
genuine desperation that I always pick up art again," he writes to
Liszt on the 15th January 1854; "if I am to do this, if I am once more
to renounce reality,--if I am to plunge again into the woes of artistic
fancy in order to find tranquillity in the world of imagination, my
fancy must at least be helped, my imaginative faculty supported. I
cannot live like a dog; I cannot sleep on straw and refresh myself with
bad liquor. My excitable, delicate, ardently craving and uncommonly
soft and tender sensibility must be coaxed in some ways if my mind is
to accomplish the horribly difficult task of creating a non-existent
world."[240] A few days after it is the same story; he must have money
by hook or by crook. Liszt will understand him,--though it will be
"impossible for a Philistine to comprehend the exuberance[241] of my
nature, which in these and those moods of my life drove me to satisfy
a colossal inner desire by such external means as must seem to him
questionable,[242] and at all events unsympathetic. No one knows the
needs of men like us: I myself am often surprised at regarding so many
'useless' things as indispensable."[243]

He grew more and more luxurious in middle age. The scale of
expenditure revealed in the _Putzmacherin_ letters, and a stray piece
of information or two from other quarters, give us a hint of his
recklessness in the early 'sixties,--a recklessness that brought him
so near the verge of absolute ruin that it is terrible to think what
might have happened to him had not King Ludwig come to his rescue.
For the Christmas of 1863 he had, as is usual in Germany, a Christmas
tree loaded with gifts for his friends. For a man without any income
to speak of, very dubious prospects, and a grievous load of debt,
his presents were magnificent. "The mad Wagner," says Cornelius in a
letter to his sister Susanne (Vienna, 11th January, 1864), "had a great
Christmas tree, with a royally rich table beneath it for me. Just
imagine: a marvellous heavy overcoat--an elegant grey dressing-gown--a
red scarf, a blue cigar-case and tinder-box--lovely silk handkerchiefs,
splendid gold shirt studs--the _Struwelpeter_--elegant pen-wipers
with gold mottoes--fine cravats, a meerschaum cigar-holder with
his initials--in short, all sorts of things that only an Oriental
imagination could think of. It made my heart heavy, and the next day I
gave away half of them, and only then was I happy,--to Seraphine the
gold studs, to Ernestine a lovely purse with a silver thaler, to Gustav
Schönaich a sash, to young Ruben the cigar-holder, to Fritz Porges the
pen-wiper, something to each of my house people, a yellow handkerchief
to Marie, a red one to Frau Müller, ... to Herr Müller the tinder-box,
to Karl Müller a new waistcoat from myself, in place of which I kept
the one from Wagner."[244] All this was for Cornelius alone; no doubt
his other guests were treated in equally generous fashion. We happen
to have his own account of this affair; it is delightful. "Having very
little ready money, but solid hopes,[245] I could now greet my few
friends with tolerable good humour.... On Christmas Eve I invited them
all to my house, had the Christmas tree lighted up, and gave each of
them an appropriate trifle."[246]

With tastes and habits of this kind it is no wonder that he
accumulated enormous debts, and came to be regarded by all his friends
as perfectly hopeless on the financial side. King Ludwig gave him, as
we have seen, 15,000 gulden with which to return to Vienna, to satisfy
the more pressing of his creditors and to make arrangements with the
others. He took up his Munich residence in the Briennerstrasse (No.
21), in October 1864, and sent for the _Putzmacherin_ Bertha to drape
and decorate it for him according to his liking, and to provide him
with the satin dressing-gowns, trousers, &c., &c., that he loved,
paying her, of course, now and then when funds were more than usually
plentiful.[247] His manner of living in Munich may be guessed from the
fact that he was threatened with a writ on the day of the projected
first performance of _Tristan_ (15th May 1865);[248] while in October
of the same year he was compelled to borrow another 40,000 gulden of
the King.[249] He soon earned in Munich the reputation of a reckless
spendthrift, a reputation that has never left him. It is sometimes
said that the standard of domestic comfort was so low among the good
Müncheners of that epoch that a very modest expenditure upon fineries
may have seemed to them a Capuan indulgence in luxury.[250] But the
details of the fitting-up of one of his rooms in the Briennerstrasse
are proof enough that he was giving full rein to his sybaritic tastes.
"In the middle of the first floor was a large room containing Wagner's
grand piano. On the right a door led into the so-called Grail or
Satin Room, which was about 3½ m. high, 4½ broad, and 5 deep
[roughly 11½ feet by 14½ feet by 1½ feet]. The walls were
covered with fine yellow satin, which was finished off above with
yellow vallances of the same material. The two blunt corners of the
long wall that faced Count von Schack's house were broken by iron
galleries, making artificial recesses. These, about 70 cm. deep (about
28 inches), were covered with rose-coloured satin in folds. Each of
the iron galleries was covered with two wings of white silk tulle,
trimmed with lace. The white curtains and the draperies were also
adorned with delicate artificial roses. The room was lighted by a
window at the small side at the left of the entrance. The curtains of
this window were of rose-coloured satin, garnished with interlaced
red and white satin draperies.... The top of the window curtain, the
frame of the mirror [on one of the walls], and that of the picture
[on another wall], were draped with rose-coloured satin, tied back
with white satin bows. The ceiling was entirely covered with richly
festooned white satin, then divided diagonally from one corner to the
other with ruches of pearl grey satin of about 14 cm. wide (about 6
inches). The ceiling was also bordered on all four sides with similar
pearl grey ruches; these were sown with artificial roses. The middle
of the ceiling was decorated with a rosette of white satin, about 30
cm. (12 inches) in circumference and 25 cm. (10 inches) deep, trimmed
with narrow silk lace and with roses like the others on the ceiling.
The ground was covered with a soft Smyrna carpet. In the middle of
the room was a soft and elastically upholstered couch, covered with a
white flowered moire."[251] Satin, I believe, was much more expensive
in the 'sixties than it is now; but any lady reader will be able to
make an approximate estimate of the expense of fitting up such a room.
No one to-day, of course, will presume to pass moral censure upon him
for his love of luxury. Every sensible man surrounds himself with all
the luxury he can procure. The remarkable features in Wagner's case
are the uncontrollable nature of the desires that urged him to their
gratification at anyone's or everyone's expense, and the dualism of
soul that permitted him equally to evoke primeval heroes and to expound
the doctrine of renunciation from the centre of a bower of satin.

Bülow once confessed to Weissheimer that he could not make out how
Wagner managed to get through so much money. The secret apparently was
that he had to indulge himself liberally in luxuries in order to put
into practice his doctrine of renunciation. Here is an instance given
us by Weissheimer himself from the dark days of 1862. Through the
non-performance of _Tristan_ at Vienna, Wagner had been disappointed
of the expected honorarium, which, as was usual with him, had been
squandered in advance.

He had been in the habit of giving splendid dinners after the concerts
to his friends and the chief performers; and his hotel-keeper had a
two months' bill against him for food and lodging. "One evening when
Tausig and I were with him, he bemoaned and lamented his wretched
condition. We listened to him sympathetically, and sat miserably on
the sofa, while he paced up and down in nervous haste. Suddenly he
stopped and said, 'Here, I know what I need,' ran to the door, and rang
vigorously. Tausig whispered to me, 'What's he up to? He looks just
like Wotan after he has come to some great resolution.' The waiter
came in sight slowly and hesitatingly--these people soon see how the
wind is blowing--and was no less astonished than we when Wagner said,
'Bring me at once two bottles of champagne on ice!' 'Heavens above--in
this state!' we said when the waiter had gone out. But Wagner gave us
a fervid dissertation on the indispensability of champagne precisely
when a situation was desperate: only _this_ could help us over the
painfulness of it."[252]

Glasenapp tells how in the very last years of his life he could
not work unless surrounded by soft lines and colours and perfumes.
His almost morbid sensitivity multiplied enormously the ordinary
pleasant or unpleasant sensations of touch and of sight. When in a
difficulty with his composition he would stroke the folds of a soft
curtain or table-cover till the right mood came. Not only the fabrics
but the lines about him had to be melting, indefinite: he could not
endure even books in the room he was working in, or bear to let his
eyes follow the garden paths; "they suggested the outer world too
definitely and prevented concentration." Among scents he particularly
loved attar of roses, which he used to get direct from Paris--sent to
him, however, under the fictitious name and address of "Mr. Bernard
Schnappauf, Ochsengasse, Bayreuth," his barber obtaining delivery of
it for him.[253] Such was the creator of the heroic, athletic boy
Siegfried,--this poor little sickly, supersensitive, self-indulgent
being who could hardly deny himself the smallest of his innocent little
voluptuousnesses. The antinomy would be unresolvable did we not know
from a hundred other cases that art is not life, and that the artist
may be very different from his art. The Grand Duke of Baden once
wounded Wagner deeply by declaring that he "could distinguish between
the work and the man."[254] We have often to make that distinction with


At once a Spartan and a voluptuary in body, ready to endure many
miseries rather than live any kind of life but the one he desired to
live, yet unable to deny himself all sorts of luxuries even when he had
not the money to pay for them, he was both a Spartan and a voluptuary
in the things of the mind. He cut himself adrift uncompromisingly, even
with rudeness, from people he disliked, even though they for their
part were not ill-disposed towards him and might have been useful to
him. But to his friends he clung with the same hungry passion as to
his silks and satins and perfumes, and, it must be confessed, for the
same reasons,--because they warmed and refreshed and soothed him. He
loved his friends, but for his own sake, not for theirs. This may seem
a harsh judgment of him, but his letters and his record admit of no
other reading. With his lust for domination, he could never endure
independence in anyone round about him. This was Nietzsche's great
offence, that he dared to think his own way through life, instead of
falling into the ranks and becoming simply the instrument of Wagner's
will.[255] We have seen Wagner commending this person and that for
their "devotion," their "fidelity" to himself, and becoming pettishly
angry with Cornelius and Tausig for not coming to him the moment
he wanted them. In his old age he was as insistent as ever that no
one in his circle should follow a desire of his own if it clashed
with his. In the later Wahnfried days he used to go through Bach's
preludes and fugues in the evenings, expatiating upon each of them
to an admiring company. One night he was deeply displeased at young
Kellermann for having absented himself from Wahnfried, having preferred
to go to some concert in the town; Wagner "got violently excited over
it, and regretted afterwards that he could not 'give it to' anyone
quietly and calmly, on which account he would rather avoid doing so
altogether. On this day it was a long time before we could get to the

The unique correspondence with Liszt thrills us in its better moments
even to-day; yet it can hardly be doubted that he loved Liszt
selfishly, for the intellectual and emotional warmth his colleague
brought into his life. He needs Liszt, we can see, in order that he
may talk about and realise himself. After the Wesendonck rupture,
in 1858, he goes to Venice. In September Liszt is in the Tyrol with
the Princess von Wittgenstein and her daughter. Wagner writes him on
the 12th September, asking him, as he is so near, to come to him at
Venice, Liszt having been unable to accept a previous invitation to
visit him at Zürich, owing to his having to attend the Jena University
Jubilee celebrations. There had been some misunderstanding over another
proposed meeting-place, and Liszt did not go to Venice. Thereupon
Wagner becomes very angry, as usual, and actually writes to this man,
to whom he owed such infinite benefactions, in the same half-grieved,
half-accusing tone that he adopted towards Tausig. "Your letter of 23rd
ult. ... awoke in me the hope that I should soon be able to see you
and speak to you. But I doubt whether my letter to you to that effect,
addressed to you at the Hôtel de Bavière, Munich, reached you in time,
for I have neither seen you nor had an answer from you. I now fear
that my desire to tell you of many things by word of mouth will not be
realised; so I write, as I feel I owe you an explanation with regard to
certain points that have not been clear to you. Altogether it cannot
amount to much; in conversation it might have been more.

"I will not enlarge upon the moral necessities for my departure from
Zürich; they must be known to you, and perhaps I may assume that Cosima
or Hans has told you enough about them. To remain in Zürich under
the previous conditions was not to be thought of; I had to carry out
without any further delay a resolution made some months before. Each
new day brought with it new and intolerable torments; only my departure
could end them. From day to day I had to postpone this, however, for
lack of the necessary means; I had to provide my wife with money,
and make our definitive departure from Zürich possible by settling
accounts, &c., that otherwise I should not have had to settle until
the New Year. It was an unspeakable agony to go through day after
day hoping in vain for money to arrive, and to see the troubles and
torments that were the cause of my delay increasing. For you to have
come to me suddenly at this time would have been a heavenly consolation
for me and everyone involved in the conflict.

"You had to attend to University celebrations, &c., which, pardon me
for saying so, appeared incredibly trivial to me in the mood I was
in then. I did not press you any more, and was angry with Bülow for
pressing you; but I must confess that when at last I received the
news of your coming on the 20th, I had already become indifferent
(_unempfindlich_) about it."[257]

In short, he was in trouble, thought that Liszt would be able to
console him, and was angry with him for not coming to him at the
instant he needed him. Liszt, always long-suffering and courteous,
chides him gently in his reply of the 9th October.

"Another point in your letter, dearest Richard, has almost hurt me,
though I can quite understand that you, in the midst of the griefs and
agitations that embittered your last days in Zürich, should think the
official impediments in the way of my coming to Zürich 'trivial,' and
that you should not attach sufficient importance to the Jena University
Jubilee and to the many considerations which I have to observe with
regard to the Grand Duke,--were it only in order that I may be useful
to you now and then in small matters. In a calmer mood, however, you
will easily understand that I cannot and ought not to leave Weimar at
every moment, and you will certainly feel that the delay of my journey
to Zürich was not motived by any sort of 'triviality.' When I wrote
that I should be with you on the 20th August I took it for certain
that even in case of your earlier departure from Zürich you would
appoint some other place. Lucerne or Geneva, for our meeting. I came to
the conclusion which, however, I gladly put aside on your assurance,
although, as I told you a little while ago, for years I have had to
endure many incredible and deeply wounding things from the Countess

"Enough of this, dearest Richard; we shall remain what we
are,--inseparable, true friends, and such another pair will not be
found soon."[258]

But Wagner was unappeasable. He does indeed write back to Liszt in
cordial terms--"Thanks, dear friend! After the profoundest solace
through the noblest, tenderest love that fell to my lot [_i.e._
Mathilde Wesendonck], your beautiful friendship alone can make any
impression on me."[259] But that he still cherished some rancour
against Liszt is evident from the account he gives of the episode in
_Mein Leben_, written some years later. Liszt had carefully explained
that he could not come to Zürich just at the time Wagner wanted him.
That is not sufficient for Richard. Liszt had no right to have other
engagements or other wishes when _he_ had need of his society; when
_he_ was in tears, was it not the duty of the heavens themselves to
weep with him? "It seemed to me that there must be one human being
specially qualified to bring light and solace, or at all events
tolerable order, into the confusion that enveloped us all. Liszt had
promised us a visit; he stood so fortunately outside these dreadful
relations and conditions, knew the world so well, and had in such a
high degree what is called '_aplomb_' of personality, that I could
not help feeling he was just the man to approach these discords in a
rational spirit.[260] I was almost inclined to make my last resolutions
depend on the effect of his expected visit. In vain we urged him to
hasten his journey: he gave me a rendezvous for a month later at the
Lake of Geneva"![261] It is clear that he thought Liszt still in the
wrong in not setting everything aside in order to fly to _him_ at once.

A year later he is sending Liszt congratulations on his birthday, and
talking very beautifully about friendship. It soon becomes clear,
however, that he is using the word in a sense of his own. "Your
friendship is an absolute necessity for me; I hold on to it with my
last vital strength. When shall I see you at last? Have you any idea
of the position I am in,--what miracles of love and fidelity I need in
order to win ever new courage and patience? Ponder upon this yourself,
so that I need not say it to you! You _must_ know me sufficiently now
to be able to say it to yourself, although we have not lived much

To this Liszt evidently replied that he could not come to Paris just
then for any length of time, but that he would be glad to meet Wagner
in Strassburg for a couple of days. This proposal Wagner curtly
rejects. "What will be the use, to me, of these Strassburg days? I
have nothing hurried to say to you, nothing that makes a discussion
necessary. I want to enjoy you, to live with you for a while, as we
have hitherto lived so little with each other.... My poor deserted life
makes me incapable of understanding an existence that has the whole
world in view at every step. You must pardon me, but I decline the
Strassburg meeting, greatly as I value the sacrifice you thereby offer
me; it is just this sacrifice that seems to me too great at the price
of a few hurried days in a Strassburg hotel."[263]

That is to say, he loved Liszt, and valued his friendship above
everything else in the world; but he must have Liszt on his own terms
and at his own time or not at all. He claimed the right to live his
own life in his own way, while his friends were to stand by with
their sympathies, their purses, their wives and daughters ready.
Always hungering for the love and self-sacrifice of others, he never
sacrificed for their sakes a single desire of his heart. And always
there was the same honest, childlike inability to comprehend how
people could be so cruel as to refuse him whatever he wanted. He was
generous and honourable enough in his own way; he supported Minna's
parents, for instance, and would never let Minna be without money if
he could provide it. But his good qualities were those of a benevolent
despot. He could be kind where kindness was compatible with power; but
he could never be just to a personality too independent to be drawn
into his orbit, nor could he ever understand other people's desire
for independence as against himself. With a nature so self-centred as
his, it was inevitable that at one time or other friend after friend
should find it necessary to part company from him. No man ever had
such friends; no man ever lost such friends; and he lost them all by
placing too great a strain on their friendship, their finances, their
rights or their independence. Cornelius once cut him to the quick with
the remark that "he let his old friends drop,"--"whereas," says the
faithful Glasenapp with unconscious humour, "he himself had the sad
consciousness that _they_ had given _him_ up as soon as he had tried
to lift them above the narrow confines of their 'independence,' and
demanded of them more than they were capable of performing,--Herwegh,
for example, and Baumgartner, and Cornelius, and Weissheimer, and Karl
Ritter and others."[264] But these were not all,--there were also
Liszt, King Ludwig, Bülow, the Wesendoncks, Wille, Madame Laussot, and
many another besides from whom he was estranged permanently or for
a time. All his life through he insisted on being the centre of his
own universe. He saw and felt himself with exaggerated sensibilities;
whatever happened to him was either a bliss or a woe above anything
that could happen to ordinary mortals. Like Strindberg he imagines at
one time that the whole world exists simply to hurt him; at another, it
is a portent of happiness for the whole world because _he_ is happy.
He cannot go through so simple an experience as becoming a father
without feeling that an event of this kind happening to him is a vastly
different thing from the superficially similar events that happen to
ordinary people. He must call the child "Siegfried,"--the name of the
ideal hero of his life's work. He must write a serenade for the wife
who has conferred this dazzling wonder upon an astonished cosmos. Even
the serenade is not enough; it must be accompanied by a poem in which
the importance of the event for him and for music shall be made clear
to everyone.[265] He dropped into verse at the slightest provocation;
never could he repress his inborn impulse to pour himself out copiously
upon any and every subject under the sun. Our old English poets used
to write "Poems Upon Several Occasions." Wagner wrote poems upon every
occasion. He could not even build himself a house without conferring a
portentously symbolical title on it, and engraving a couple of lines of
pompous doggerel over the lintel.

That this interpretation of his conduct and his psychology is not a
strained one will be evident when the story of his dealings with Peter
Cornelius is put beside the Liszt episode I have lately narrated. In
the mad Paris and Vienna time of the early 'sixties he had become
deeply attached to Cornelius; Liszt, the generous, kind Liszt, had
apparently passed out of his life. He writes to Cornelius from Paris
on 9th January 1862 in the strain that is now so familiar to us: he
is tired of his wanderings and his buffetings; he must settle in some
cosy nest if he is to go on with his work. But he needs a sympathetic
friend near him. "Heavens! how glad I should be to have the poor 'Doll'
(_Puppe_)[266] with me as well! In these matters my moral sense is
incurably naïf. I would see nothing at all in it if the maiden were
also to come to me, and were to be to me just what, with her pretty
little nature, she can be. But how to find the 'terminus socialis'
for this? Ach Himmel! It amuses me and it grieves me!" However, if
Seraphine could not come, Cornelius was to come alone; and they two
were henceforth to be inseparable.[267]

When Wagner is settled at Starnberg under the protection of King
Ludwig, Cornelius is again to come to live with him and be his love.
They are to live in the same house,--Cornelius can bring his piano,
and there is a box of cigars awaiting him--yet each is to maintain his
own independence. "Exactly two years ago I ardently expected you in
Biebrich: for a long time I had no news of you, and then I suddenly
learned from a third person that you had let Tausig take you off to
Geneva. You have never fully known how deeply this put me out of
humour. Nothing of that sort must happen this time; but we must be
open with each other, like men." He knew that Cornelius was working at
his opera the _Cid_, and doubted whether he could do this as well in
Wagner's proximity as apart from him.[268] Wagner will have it that
Cornelius can work at the _Cid_ and he at his _Meistersinger_ in their
common home; he is willing and anxious, indeed, to advise his friend
about his opera. "Either you accept my invitation immediately," he
concludes, "and settle yourself for your whole life in the same house
with me, or--you disdain me, and expressly abjure all desire to unite
yourself with me. In the latter case I abjure you also root and branch
(_ganz und vollständig_), and never admit you again in any way into my
life.... From this you can guess one thing,--how sorely I need _peace_.
And this makes it necessary for me to know definitely where I stand: my
present connection with you tortures me horribly. It must either become
complete, or be utterly severed!"[269]

Cornelius hesitated, as well he might, to give himself up body and
soul to this devouring flame of a man; he knew Wagner, and knew what
sacrifices a friendship of _his_ kind meant for the friend. Wagner
was very angry with him for not accepting the invitation at once. He
came to Vienna to liquidate his debts with the 15,000 gulden placed at
his disposal for that purpose by the King, and generally to put his
affairs in order. Asked by Seraphine Mauro the object of his visit to
the city, he curtly replied, "To quarrel with my friends." Heinrich
Porges and his brother had called upon Wagner, but Cornelius did not
go. "There were such scenes," he writes to his brother Carl on 15th
June, "and tears of rage and despair over my conduct: no answer to his
letter--my _Cid_ had 'miscarried,'--he could put everything in order,
go through it all cordially and calmly with me--at Starnberg, &c.,
&c., pianoforte ready--a box full of cigars--Peter as man and artist,
&c., &c." He saw Standhartner, who advised him, in case he did not
mean to accept Wagner's invitation, not to go near him just then, as
it would probably lead to a complete rupture. So Cornelius writes to
Wagner between one and three in the morning, telling him that he could
not settle in Munich now with anyone but his brother, but that when
he has finished the _Cid_ he will be willing to live there in merry
companionship with Carl and Wagner. No answer was vouchsafed to this
letter. "Standhartner speaks to him again in my interest. Heinrich
Porges writes him--'Reconciliation with Peter: otherwise--Egoist!'
Thereupon he writes at once to Porges: 'do not visit me to-day,' and
to Standhartner: 'do not come till to-morrow,' &c., &c., &c., and when
they come next day he is gone! So that one can truly say that he has
treated his best friends in Vienna like so many shoe-blacks.... He came
in May 1861. This is the upshot of these three years!"[270]

Cornelius writes at the same time to Reinhold Köhler on the 24th: "A
row with Wagner.... I was simply to be a Kurvenal. Wagner does not
understand that though I have many qualifications for that,--even to
a dog-like fidelity,--I have unfortunately just a little too much
_independence_ of character and talent to be this cipher behind his
unit." And on the same day to his sister Susanne: "Unfortunately we
have separated, perhaps for ever. He wrote me: Come to Starnberg--come
for ever--or I will have absolutely nothing more to do with you.--I
could not consent to that,--for the _Cid_ has haunted me all the time
since February, and is now coming to life,--_and if I were with Wagner
I should not write a note_.... I should be no more than a piece of
spiritual furniture for him, as it were, without influence on his
deeper life. I send you his letter. Tell me if any man ought to put
such an 'Or' to a friend: either everything, skin and hair,--or nothing
at all. I have never forced myself on Wagner. I rejoiced sincerely in
his friendship, and was truly devoted to him in word and deed. But to
share his life,--that entices me not."[271]

Wagner apparently got over his petulance, and still had hopes of
inducing Cornelius to come to Munich, where he could have a post either
at the Conservatoire or under the King. "But if he is really well
disposed towards me," Cornelius writes to his brother on 4th September
1864, "let him interest himself actively in the _Cid_. Everything
depends on that now. But salvation will not come to me _the_ way;
Wagner never for a moment thinks seriously of anyone but himself."[272]

That is the conclusion to which the study of Wagner's life and letters
so often lead us.


In _Mein Leben_ he half-humorously admits another little failing of
his--a passion for reading his own works to his friends.[273] With
the production of each new work he feels that here is something that
the whole world of thinking men must be hungry to see and hear; so
he either has it printed at his own expense--little as he can afford
such a luxury--or he calls his friends and acquaintances together and
remorselessly reads it to them. In 1851 he read the whole of _Opera
and Drama_ to his Zürich circle on twelve consecutive evenings! We
have seen him reading the _Meistersinger_ poem in Vienna.[274] As
soon as he has finished the poem of the _Ring_ (1853) he cannot rest
until he has "tried it on the dog"; so he "decides," he tells us, to
pay the Willes a visit and read it to the company there. He arrives
in the evening, begins at once on the _Rhinegold_, continues with the
_Valkyrie_ till after midnight, polishes off _Siegfried_ the next
morning, and finishes with the _Götterdämmerung_ at night. The ladies
"ventured no comment"; he attributes their silence to their having been
very deeply moved. But the effort had worked him up to such a pitch of
excitement that he could not sleep, and the next morning he left in
a hurry, to the mystification of the company. A few weeks afterwards
he reads the tetralogy on four successive evenings to a number of
people in the Hôtel Baur. He publishes the poem privately in February
1853,--twenty-three years before the performance of the whole work--so
anxious is this artist who despises our modern world, and shrinks from
appealing to it, to keep in the very centre of that world's eye.

This mania for reading to his friends increased as he grew older; in
the last years at Bayreuth he would read not only his own works, but
anything he was interested in at the moment. But at Wahnfried he had
a carefully selected audience of worshippers, who indulged him to the
full in his little vanities and weaknesses. The _Erinnerungen_ of Hans
von Wolzogen and the sixth volume of Glasenapp are full of his _obiter
dicta_ on these occasions. Like the bulk of the philosophising in his
prose works, they do not strike us as showing any particular insight
into the problems he is handling; but he dearly loved the sound of
his own voice. In 1879 he makes everyone listen night after night to
a reading of the thirty-years-old _Opera and Drama_; while to his
little daughters he reads, on successive evenings, the _Pilgrimage to
Beethoven_ and _The End of a Musician in Paris_.[275] Only the most
devoted admirers could have stood this kind of thing night after night;
did any one of them dare to rebel, he no doubt met with the same fate
as the audacious and irreverent Kellermann.[276]

His nature was all extremes; he either loved intensely or hated
furiously, was either delirious with happiness, or in the darkest
depths of woe. His chequered life, so full of dazzling fortunes and
incredible misfortunes, of dramatic changes from intoxicating hope
to blind despair, had bred in him the conviction that he was born
under a peculiarly powerful and maleficent star. "Each man has his
dæmon," he said to Edouard Schuré one day in 1865, when he was still
crushed by the news of the tragic death of his great singer Schnorr
von Carolsfeld, "and mine is a frightful monster. When he is hovering
about me a catastrophe is in the air. The only time I have been on the
sea I was very nearly shipwrecked; and if I were to go to America, I
am certain that the Atlantic would greet me with a cyclone."[277] He
himself was either all cyclone or all zephyr: intermediate weathers
were impossible for him. In 1865 he spent the happiest days of his life
rehearsing _Tristan_ in Munich. "He would listen with closed eyes to
the artists singing to Bülow's pianoforte accompaniment. If a difficult
passage went particularly well, he would spring up, embrace or kiss the
singer warmly, or out of pure joy stand on his head on the sofa, creep
under the piano, jump up on to it, run into the garden and scramble
joyously up a tree, or make caricatures, or recite, with improvised
disfigurements, a poem that had been dedicated to him."[278]

Edouard Schuré also saw something of him in those _Tristan_ days. To
him too Wagner exhibited both poles of his temperament. "To look at him
was to see turn by turn in the same visage the front face of Faust and
the profile of Mephistopheles.... His manner was no less surprising
then his physiognomy. It varied between absolute reserve, absolute
coldness, and complete familiarity and _sans-gêne_.... When he showed
himself he broke out as a whole, like a torrent bursting its dikes.
One stood dazzled before that exuberant and protean nature, ardent,
personal, excessive in everything, yet marvellously equilibrated by
the predominance of a devouring intellect. The frankness and extreme
audacity with which he showed his nature, the qualities and defects of
which were exhibited without concealment, acted on some people like a
charm, while others were repelled by it.... His gaiety flowed over in
a joyous foam of facetious fancies and extravagant pleasantries; but
the least contradiction provoked him to incredible anger. Then he would
leap like a tiger, roar like a stag. He paced the room like a caged
lion, his voice became hoarse and the words came out like screams; his
speech slashed about at random. He seemed at these times like some
elemental force unchained, like a volcano in eruption. Everything in
him was gigantic, excessive."[279]

Liszt describes him thus to the Princess Wittgenstein in 1853: "Wagner
has sometimes in his voice a sort of shriek of a young eagle. When he
saw me he wept, laughed and ranted for joy for at least a quarter of an
hour.... A great and overwhelming nature, a sort of Vesuvius, which,
when it is in eruption, scatters sheaves of fire and at the same time
bunches of rose and elder.... It is his habit to look down on people
from the heights, even on those who are eager to show themselves
submissive to him. He decidedly has the style and the ways of a ruler,
and he has no consideration for anyone, or at least only the most
obvious. He makes a complete exception, however, in my case."[280]

Turn where we will we find the same testimony. "He talked incredibly
much and rapidly," says Hanslick.... "He talked continuously, and
always of himself, of his works, his reforms, his plans. If he happened
to mention the name of another composer, it was certain to be in a tone
of disdain."[281] And again: "He was egoism personified, restlessly
energetic for himself, unsympathetic towards and regardless of

He apparently could not even accommodate himself to such small
courtesies of life as a sympathetic interest in other men's music. We
have seen how chilled Cornelius was by his attitude towards the _Cid_.
Weissheimer tells us that Bülow once played a composition of his own
to Wagner, and was much hurt by the older man's reception of it. He
said to Weissheimer afterwards: "It is really astonishing how little
interest he takes in other people; I shall never play him anything of
my own again."[283]

Weissheimer tells us of an experience of his own of the same kind.
"Once when I began to play my opera to Bülow alone at his wish (without
Wagner), the servant came immediately to say that we were to stop
our music, as the Meister wanted to sleep! It was then eleven in the
morning! Bülow banged the lid of the piano down, and sprang up in
agitation with the words, "It is a high honour for me to live with the
great Master,--but it is often beyond bearing."[284]

So he goes through life, luxuriant, petulant, egoistic, improvident,
extreme in everything, roaring, shrieking, weeping, laughing, never
doubting himself, never doubting that whoever opposed him, or did not
do all for him that he expected, was a monster of iniquity--_Wagner
contra mundum_, he always right, the world always wrong. He ended his
stormy course with hardly a single friend of the old type; followers
he had in the last days, parasites he had in plenty; but no friends
whose names rang through Europe as the old names had done. One by one
he had used them all for his own purposes, one by one he had lost them
by his unreasonableness and his egoism. Even where they maintained
the semblance of friendship with him, as Liszt did, the old bloom had
vanished, the old fire had died out. Yet it is impossible not to be
thrilled by this life, by the superb vitality that radiates from that
little body at every stage of its career, by the dazzling light that
emanates from him and gives a noontide glory to the smallest person who
comes within its range. There was not one of his friends who did not
sorrowfully recognise, at some time or other, how much there was of
clay in this idol to which they all had made sacrifice after sacrifice.
Turn by turn they left him or were driven away from him, hopelessly
disillusioned. Yet none of them could escape the magnetic attraction
of the man, even after he had wounded and disappointed them. Bülow, as
we have seen, worked nobly for him and for Bayreuth after the cruel
Munich experiences. Nietzsche, after pouring out his sparkling malice
upon the man and the musician who had once been for him a very beacon
light of civilisation and culture, sings his praises in the end in a
passage that is full of a strange lyrism and a strange pathos. "As I
am speaking here of the recreations of my life, I feel I must express
a word or two of gratitude for that which has refreshed me by far the
most heartily and most profoundly. This, without the slightest doubt,
was my relationship with Richard Wagner. All my other relationships
with men I treat quite lightly; but I would not have the days I spent
at Tribschen--those days of confidence, of cheerfulness, of sublime
flashes, and of profound moments--blotted from my life at any price.
I know not what Wagner may have been for others; but no cloud ever
darkened _our_ sky." And again: "I suppose I know better than anyone
the prodigious feats of which Wagner was capable, the fifty worlds of
strange ecstasies to which no one else had wings to soar; and as I am
alive to-day and strong enough to turn even the most suspicious and
most dangerous things to my own advantage, and thus to grow stronger,
I declare Wagner to have been the greatest benefactor of my life. The
bond which unites us is the fact that we have suffered greater agony,
even at each other's hands, than most men are able to bear nowadays,
and this will always keep our names associated in the minds of men."
"I have loved Wagner," he says in another place; and in another he
speaks of "the hallowed hour when Richard Wagner gave up the ghost in

There is something titanic in the man who can inspire such hatred and
such love, and such love to overpower the hatred in the end. Into
whatever man's life he came, he rang through it for ever after like a
strain of great music. With his passionate need for feeling himself
always in the right it was hard for him to bow that proud and obstinate
head of his even when he must have felt, in his inmost heart, that some
at least of the blame of parting lay with him. But when he did unbend,
how graciously and nobly human he could be! There is no finer letter in
the whole of his correspondence than the one he wrote to Liszt to beg
his old friend and benefactor to end their long estrangement by coming
to him at Bayreuth in the hour of his triumph, for the laying of the
foundation stone of the new theatre on his fifty-ninth birthday.

  "MY GREAT AND DEAR FRIEND,--Cosima maintains that you would not come
  even if I were to invite you. We should have to endure that, as we
  have had to endure so many things! But I cannot forbear to invite you.
  And what is it I cry to you when I say 'Come'? You came into my life
  as the greatest man whom I could ever address as an intimate friend;
  you went apart from me for long, perhaps because I had become less
  close to you than you were to me. In place of you there came to me
  your deepest new-born being, and completed my longing to know you very
  close to me. So you live in full beauty before me and in me, and we
  are one beyond the grave itself. You were the first to ennoble me by
  your love; to a second, higher life am I now wedded in _her_, and can
  accomplish what I should never have been able to accomplish alone.
  Thus you could become everything to me, while I could remain so little
  to you: how immeasurably greater is my gain!

  "If now I say to you 'Come,' I thereby say to you 'Come to yourself'!
  For it is yourself that you will find. Blessings and love to you,
  whatever decision you may come to!--Your old friend,


The old egoistic note is there--it is he of course who has borne most
and suffered most and is prepared to be most forgiving--but his heart
must have been more than usually full when he wrote this. It must have
cost his proud soul many an inward struggle to bring himself to take
this first step towards a _rapprochement_.

But the stupendous power and the inexhaustible vitality of the man
are shown in nothing more clearly than in the sacrifices every one
made for him and the tyrannies they endured from him. Even those who
rebelled against him were none the less conscious of a unique quality
in him that made it inevitable that he should rule and others obey.
"He exercised," says his enemy Hanslick, "an incomprehensible magic
in order to make friends, and to retain them; friends who sacrificed
themselves for him, and, three times offended, came three times back
to him again. The more ingratitude they received from Wagner, the more
zealously they thought it their duty to work for him. The hypnotic
power that he everywhere exerted, not merely by his music but by his
personality, overbearing all opposition and bending every one to
his will, is enough to stamp him as one of the most remarkable of
phenomena, a marvel of energy and endowment."[287]

A remark of Draeseke's to Weissheimer gives us another hint of the same
imperious fascination: "At present it is not exactly agreeable to have
relations with him. Later, however, in another thirty or forty years,
we [who knew him] shall be envied by all the world, for a phenomenon
like him is something so gigantic that after his death it will become
ever greater and greater, particularly as then the great image of the
man will no longer be disfigured by any unpleasant traits [_durch
nichts Widerhaariges_]."[288]

He was indeed, in the mixture of elements he contained, like nothing
else that has been seen on earth. His life itself is a romance. In
constant danger of shipwreck as he was, it seems to us now as if some
ironic but kindly Fate were deliberately putting him to every kind
of trial, but with the certain promise of haven at the end. The most
wonderful thing in all his career, to me, is not his rescue by King
Ludwig, not even the creation of Bayreuth, but his ceasing work upon
the second Act of _Siegfried_ in 1857, and not resuming it till 1869.
Here was a gigantic drama upon which he had been engaged since 1848; no
theatre in Europe, he knew, was fit to produce it,--for that he would
have to realise his dream of a theatre of his own. After incredible
vicissitudes he had completed two of the great sections of the work and
half of the third. The writing of the remainder, and the production of
it, one would have thought, would have been sufficient for the further
life energies of any man. To any one else, the thought of dying with
such a work unfinished would have been an intolerable, maddening agony.
It would have been to him, had the possibility of such a happening ever
seriously occurred to him. But he knew it was impossible--impossible
that he, Richard Wagner, ill and poor and homeless and disappointed as
he was, should die before his time, before his whole work was done.
He gambled superbly with life, and he won. In those twelve hazardous
years he wrote two of the world's masterpieces in music. He played for
great stakes in city after city, losing ruinously time after time,
but in the end winning beyond his wildest dreams. He saw _Tristan_
and the _Meistersingers_ produced; he dictated his memoirs. And then
he turns calmly again to the great work that had been so long put
aside, takes it up as if only a day, instead of twelve years, had gone
by since he locked it in his drawer, thinks himself back in a moment
into that world from which he had been so long banished, and, still
without haste, adds stone upon stone till the whole mighty building is
complete. What a man! one says in amazement. What belief in himself, in
his strength, in his destiny, in his ability to wait! And then, after
that, the toil of the creation of Bayreuth, and the bringing to birth
of the masterpiece, twenty-eight years after the vision of it had first
dawned upon the eager young spirit that had just completed _Lohengrin_!
Was there ever anything like it outside a fairy tale?

        [Illustration: WAGNER IN THE _TRISTAN_ PERIOD.]

He lived, indeed, to see himself victor everywhere, in possession of
everything for which he had struggled his whole feverish life through.
He completed, and saw upon the stage, every one of the great works
he had planned. He found the one woman in the world who was fitted
to share his throne with him when alive and to govern his kingdom
after his death with something of his own overbearing, inconsiderate
strength. He achieved the miracle of building in a tiny Bavarian town a
theatre to which, for more than a generation after his death, musicians
still flock from all the ends of the earth. After all its dangers and
its buffetings, the great ship at last sailed into haven with every
timber sound, and with what a store of incomparable merchandise within!


[44] See _Mein Leben_, pp. 19, 20. Later on he speaks of "the
importance the theatrical had assumed in his mind in comparison with
the ordinary bourgeois life" (_Mein Leben_, p. 25).

[45] _Mein Leben_, p. 65.

[46] "He had it temperament like a watch-spring, easily compressed, but
always flying back with redoubled energy," says Pecht, who knew him
during the time of his appalling misery in Paris. Glasenapp, _Das Leben
Richard Wagners_, i. 329.

[47] _Briefe an Apel_, p. 15.

[48] _Briefe an Apel_, p. 48.

[49] He is writing from Frankfort.

[50] Letter of January 21, 1836.

[51] He was twenty-one at this time, and evidently very like his later

[52] _Mein Leben_, p. 105.

[53] See the account of his quarrel with Wagner in Daniel Halévy's
_Life of Friedrich Nietzsche_ (English translation), p. 167.

[54] This was true of him even as a boy of seventeen. He cared, he
said, only for a companion who would accompany him on his excursions,
"and to whom I could pour out my inmost being to my heart's content,
without my caring what the effect might be on him" (_Mein Leben_, p.

[55] _Mein Leben_, p. 282.

[56] _Mein Leben_, p. 368.

[57] Mr. Ashton Ellis (_Life of Wagner_, v. 126 ff.) has pointed out
how many difficulties might have been avoided had Wagner taken the
advice of some of his friends and called upon Davison, the critic
of the _Times_. Wagner would have cleared Davison's mind of many
misconceptions that had become current as to the aims of "Wagnerism"
and his own attitude towards the older composers and Mendelssohn.
Wagner's temper and his dislike of critics made him refuse. He refers
to them _en masse_, in a letter to Otto Wesendonck, as "blackguards,"
and again (to Liszt) as "this blackguard crew of journalists." Mr.
Henry Davison, in his biography of his father, the former musical
critic of the _Times_, gives a reasonable enough explanation of the
antipathy of the London press to Wagner in 1855. Berlioz was giving
concerts in London at the same time. His music was as strange to
English ears as Wagner's; but he was much more gently handled by the
press. "The explanation," says Mr. Davison, "is not very difficult....
Berlioz had not written books in advertisement of his theories and
himself. He had not attacked cherished composers--far otherwise. He
had not studiously held aloof from the critics; on the contrary, he
had courted and conciliated them. In fine, with all the peculiarities
of an irritable, extraordinary, and self-conscious mind, Berlioz was
polished, courteous and fascinating. Wagner was somewhat pedantic,
harsh and uncouth" (Henry Davison, _From Mendelssohn to Wagner_, p.

[58] The charge was indignantly repudiated by Davison when it came
to his ears. See the quotation from the _Musical World_ of May 12,
1855, in Ellis, v. 128 _n._ Davison replied to a letter of Wagner's
to a Berlin paper (after the London concerts were over) in the
_Musical World_ of September 22, 1855. (See Mr. Henry Davison's _From
Mendelssohn to Wagner_, p. 175.) Wagner's readiness to bring these
unfounded charges must make us regard with suspicion his unproved
allegations against Meyerbeer and others.

[59] November 12, 1846.

[60] Glasenapp, ii. 171.

[61] It would be interesting to know how Mr. Ellis, who was _not_
present at the supper, is able to decide that the account of a man who
_was_ present is "exaggerated," but still has "a grain of truth in it."

[62] How does Mr. Ellis know?

[63] _Mein Leben_, pp. 568, 569.

[64] See _Mein Leben_, pp. 627, 641, 656, 659, 662, &c.

[65] _Mein Leben_, p. 631.

[66] _Mein Leben_, p. 755.

[67] See the _Fortnightly Review_ for July 1905.

[68] It is less generally known that while Cosima was still the wife of
Bülow she bore Wagner two daughters--Isolde, born in Munich on April
10, 1865, and Eva, born at Tribschen on February 10, 1867.

[69] It was the third case of the kind, though the Madame Laussot and
Frau Wesendonck affairs apparently did not go so far.

[70] Wagner's candour about Minna contrasts strongly with the
concealments the worshipping Wagnerian biographers practise with regard
to the fact of his son Siegfried being born out of wedlock. At the
end of the first volume of the Glasenapp _Life_, for example, is a
genealogical table of the Wagner family from 1643. It ends thus:--

                  WILHELM RICHARD WAGNER (1813-83)
  Married (first) 1836, Christine Wilhelmine Planer (1814-66), secondly
              Cosima Wagner [_sic_], née Liszt (born 1837)

        Helferich Siegfried Richard Wagner, born 6th June 1869.

It will be seen that the date of Wagner's marriage with Cosima, which
must have been perfectly well known to Glasenapp, is deliberately
omitted; nor is there any mention of the two daughters Cosima bore
Wagner while she was still von Bülow's wife, or indeed of the fact that
she had previously been married to von Bülow.

[71] _Richard Wagner to Mathilde Wesendonck_, p. 273.

[72] _Ibid._, p. 372. The italics are Mr. Ellis's own. He does not
offer any evidence in support of this charge. He merely remarks loftily
that "it is too long an argument to set forth here."

[73] Wagner writes thus to Otto Wesendonck on the 25th June 1861,
seventeen days before the letter to Mathilde: "In this anxious time
[the Paris _Tannhäuser_ fiasco had occurred three months before, and
his prospects were unusually black], when any resolution is impossible
for me, and I am incapable of any mental effort, everything conspires
to grieve me. The dear little dog that you once gave me died the day
before yesterday, quite suddenly and in an almost inexplicable way. I
had become so used to the gentle animal, and the manner of its death,
everything, distressed me greatly." _Briefe Richard Wagners an Otto
Wesendonck_, pp. 99, 100.

[74] "Nach dem Vorfalle," which may mean either "after the accident,"
or "after the occurrence."

[75] _Mein Leben_, pp. 765, 766.

[76] _Mein Leben_, p. 631.

[77] _Mein Leben_ had not been given to the world at the time Mr.
Ellis wrote; but in the _Richard Wagner und die Tierwelt_ of the
well-known Wahnfried partisan Hans von Wolzogen occurs this passage:
"but the little dog died suddenly in the confusion of Paris, _perhaps
poisoned_." (Quoted in Glasenapp, iii. 330.) These last words are
probably due either to a private reading of the then unpublished _Mein
Leben_, or to conversations in the Wagner circle. Again there is no
evidence: we are simply left with Wagner's own words in _Mein Leben_
and the two Wesendonck letters.

[78] See, for instance, Mr. Ashton Ellis's Introduction to the English
edition of the letters to Mathilde Wesendonck.

[79] Especially when the wife does not believe the husband on this
point. As we shall shortly see, Minna had good reasons for doubting the
purely ideal attitude of Wagner towards other women.

[80] Chamberlain actually tells us (_Richard Wagner_, Eng. trans., p.
65) that she was "personally unknown to Wagner." Glasenapp ignores the
whole episode.

[81] _Mein Leben_, p. 429.

[82] _Mein Leben_, p. 510.

[83] _Mein Leben_, p. 515.

[84] See _Mein Leben_, p. 530, and his letter to Minna of February 13,

[85] She was about twenty-two years of age.

[86] _Mein Leben_, p. 516.

[87] One is reminded of his calm recitals of how he almost shouldered
Otto Wesendonck and François Wille off their own hearths.

[88] One gathers from other sources that she had also got an inkling of
the state of affairs in Bordeaux.

[89] _Mein Leben_, p. 519.

[90] Letter of March 17, 1850, to Minna.

[91] _Mein Leben_, p. 518.

[92] In the passage just quoted from _Mein Leben_ he says he returned
"towards the end of April." This is demonstrably a slip of the pen for
either "the end of March" or "the beginning of April." The true dates
are clearly established by letters to Minna and to Liszt, and indeed by
Wagner's own remarks, on the next page of _Mein Leben_, that "towards
the middle of April" he left Paris for Montmorency.

[93] _Mein Leben_, pp. 519, 520.

[94] It may be argued that Wagner wrote _two_ letters about this
time, that it was in the _second_ of these that he told Minna of his
impending separation from her, and that this letter has been lost.
This theory, however, is put out of court by the passage last quoted
from _Mein Leben_. The "long and detailed letter" in which he retraced
their married life is clearly that of the 17th April. It is significant
that the letter of 17th April, as printed, terminates with the utmost
abruptness and bears no signature. Has the ending been lost or

[95] The letters to Minna were given to the world in two volumes in
1908, without any editor's name, and without a preface or a single
explanatory note. It appears, however, from the publisher's preliminary
announcement, that the editing was done by Baron Hans von Wolzogen.

[96] It is not improbable that he was deliberately trying to minimise
the importance of the matter.

[97] "Durch meine nächste Umgebung." In the English version of the
Wagner-Liszt letters this is rendered "by my immediate surroundings."
Apparently Minna is meant.

[98] _Briefwechsel zwischen Wagner und Liszt_, i. 48.

[99] It will be remembered that he proposed to divide between Minna and
himself the annuity of 3000 francs he was to receive from Frau Ritter
and Mrs. Taylor. We can hardly imagine Wagner maintaining life on £60
per annum, even in Greece or Asia Minor; and he could hardly expect
that Mrs. Taylor would continue the annuity after he had eloped with
her married daughter.

[100] Letter of July 2, 1850, _Briefwechsel_, i. 49.

[101] Her father, by the way, _was_ an English lawyer. But as he
had been in the grave for some time he could hardly be said, with a
strict regard for truth, to be interested in Wagner's music, and to be
advancing money on phantom assignments of the copyright of unwritten

[102] The people in whose private affairs he was thus confidently
meddling were, on his own showing, "utter strangers," to him a few
weeks before this. It would be interesting to have Laussot's opinion of

[103] According to his own account, which makes some demands on our
credulity, he simply "rang the bell and the door sprang open: without
meeting anyone I entered the open first floor, passed from room to
room," &c. Julius Kapp cynically suggests that he must have been
wearing the Tarnhelm.

[104] _Mein Leben_, p. 528.

[105] Letter of May 30, 1859: _Richard an Minna Wagner_, ii. 95.

[106] The Laussot story as told in _Mein Leben_ is another instance of
the damage Wagner has done his own case by voluntarily going into the
witness box to give evidence on his own behalf. The older biographers
apparently know nothing of the Laussot affair. There is not a word of
it even in the latest Glasenapp biography, though it is hard to believe
that Glasenapp had never heard of it. (His work as a whole, with its
copiousness and its general accuracy as to facts, suggests access to
_Mein Leben_ before publication of the latter.) Reading his account of
the Paris-Zürich excursion of 1850, indeed, in the light of our present
knowledge, it is hard to resist the conclusion that he knows more than
he is telling.

It is interesting to recall the fact that Ferdinand Praeger, whose
_Wagner as I Knew Him_ is anathema to the Wagnerians--and to some
extent rightly so--has a story that is evidently a muddled version of
the Laussot affair. "At Bordeaux," says Praeger, "an episode occurred
similar to one which happened later at Zürich [Frau Wesendonck?], about
which the press of the day made a good deal of unnecessary commotion
and ungenerous comment. I mention the incident to show the man as he
was. The opposition have not spared his failings, and over the Zürich
incident were hypercritically censorious. The Bordeaux story I am
alluding to is, that the wife of a friend, Mrs. H----, having followed
Wagner to the south, called on him at his hotel, and throwing herself
at his feet, passionately told of her affection. Wagner's action in the
matter was to telegraph to the husband to come and take his wife home.
On telling me the story, Wagner jocosely remarked that poor Beethoven,
so full of love, never had his affection returned, and lived and died,
so it is said, a hermit" (p. 196).

There is plainly an enormous admixture of fiction here; but equally
plainly the basis of the story is the Laussot episode. Had there really
been an affair of the kind narrated by Praeger, in which Wagner had
shone so brilliantly, we may be sure we should have been told all
about it in _Mein Leben_. It looks as if Wagner had been indiscreetly
confidential to Praeger, and had told the story with embellishments,
or that Praeger had heard it from another source--perhaps someone in
Minna's _entourage_--and the story had been decorated and transformed
in its transit from one mouth to another. The novellettish touch about
telegraphing for the husband, however, is more likely to have come from
the Wagnerian side than from that of the "opposition." Whatever may be
the explanation, however, the fact remains that Praeger, whom it has
become the fashion to despise as a mere Munchausen, did actually know
of a "Bordeaux episode" of some sort; and that though he had hold of
the wrong end of the stick, that there _was_ a stick of some sort has
now been proved by Wagner himself.

[107] From his childhood he was extremely susceptible to women. His
heart, he tells us, used to "beat wildly" at the touch of the contents
of his sisters' theatrical wardrobe (_Mein Leben_, p. 21).

[108] _Autobiographische Skizze_, in _G.S._, i. 10.

[109] In the first edition (1852) there came after this a passage
in which Wagner more than hints at sexual escapades in his youth.
He deleted the passage from the second edition (1872), as also
the following words after "moral bigotry of our social system";
namely,--"as what people call unfortunately to-be-tolerated vice." See
Mr. Ellis's translation of the _Prose Works_, i. 396.

[110] _Eine Mittheilung an meine Freunde_, in _G.S._, iv. 253.

[111] _Eine Mittheilung an meine Freunde_, in _G.S._, iv. 256.

[112] _Eine Mittheilung an meine Freunde_, in _G.S._, iv. 256.

[113] _Mein Leben_, p. 109.

[114] _Mein Leben_, p. 110.

[115] He had been so certain in advance of the liveliness of the party
that he had warned the landlord of possible damage to his furniture,
for which he would be compensated.

[116] _Mein Leben_, p. 117.

[117] See _Mein Leben_, p. 117 ff.

[118] This letter is not included in the published volume of Wagner's
correspondence with Minna, which commences with 1842. I quote it
from Julius Kapp's _Richard Wagner und die Frauen: eine erotische
Biographie_ (1912), p. 34. Kapp has had access to a large number of
still unpublished Wagner letters.

[119] _Mein Leben_, p. 138.

[120] The bitterness of the later years seems to have affected Wagner's
memory of the earlier ones. In _Mein Leben_ his thesis is that Minna
was kind enough to him, but without love, and perhaps without the
capacity for loving. That was not his opinion at the time, however.
"Minna was here," he writes to Apel on 6th June 1835 from Leipzig,
"and stayed three days for my sake, in the most dreadful weather, and
without knowing a single other person, and without going anywhere,
simply to be with me.... It is remarkable what influence I have
acquired over the girl. You should read her letters; they burn with
fire, and we both know that fire is not native to her" (_Richard Wagner
an Theodor Apel_, p. 48).

[121] _Richard Wagner an Theodor Apel_, p. 62.

[122] _Mein Leben_, p. 146.

[123] _Mein Leben_, pp. 154, 155. At this point he digresses to give
us the story of Minna's early life. From the age of ten she had had to
help to maintain the family, her father having sustained misfortunes in
business. She was a most charming girl, "and at an early age attracted
the attention of men." At sixteen she was seduced; her child, Natalie,
was always supposed during her life-time to be her younger sister.
Minna went on the stage. She had no particular talent for acting, and
saw in the theatre only a means of livelihood. According to Wagner she
was "devoid of levity or coquetry," but used her powers of charm to
make friends and obtain security of tenure in the theatre.

[124] _Mein Leben_, p. 157.

[125] He had soon accustomed himself, he says, not to talk of his ideal
cravings before her. Uncertain of them himself as he was, he passed
over this side of his life with a laugh and a joke. With the better
part of him thus sealed up from her, it is no wonder they ultimately
drifted apart.

[126] _Mein Leben_, pp. 157, 158.

[127] Cornelius, _Ausgewählte Briefe_, i. 698.

[128] _Mein Leben_, p. 158.

[129] He pleads guilty more than once to an offensive manner of speech
when he was angry. We can dimly imagine what he was like in moments
such as these. Hornstein, Nietzsche, and others had experience of it.
Nietzsche's account of _his_ scene with Wagner has become classical.
See Daniel Halévy's _Life of Friedrich Nietzsche_, Eng. trans., p. 167.

[130] _Mein Leben_, p. 166.

[131] It must be remembered, however, that we have only his account of
all this. It is just possible that the accounts of the other actors in
the episode might have given it a slightly different colour here and

[132] Printed for the first time in Julius Kapp's _Richard Wagner und
die Frauen_, p. 143.

[133] Minna's letters of 28th October and 17th November 1840, in
_Richard Wagner an Theodor Apel_, pp. 80-87.

[134] See _Mein Leben_, pp. 212, 213, 232. His feeling towards her
seems to have hardened during their later residence in Dresden. In the
first sketch of the _Flying Dutchman_ he gave the name of Minna to the
redeeming heroine; and as late as 1845 he could speak warmly of her
to Hanslick. When the latter praised Minna's good looks, Wagner said,
"Ah, you can scarcely recognise her now. You should have seen her a few
years ago. The poor woman has gone through much trouble and privation
with me. In Paris we had a wretched time, and without Meyerbeer's help
we might have starved" (Hanslick, _Aus meinem Leben_, i. 65, 66).

[135] Liszt also urged him to do this.

[136] He had apparently forgotten his promise (_Mein Leben_, p. 177)
never to mention the affair to her again; and when he said in _Mein
Leben_, "I can pride myself on having kept this resolution to the
letter," he had evidently forgotten this epistle of May 18, 1859.

[137] See p. 68.

[138] _Richard Wagner an Minna Wagner_, ii. 92.

[139] See pp. 55, 56. He protests that she has been misinformed; the
object of his "second journey to Bordeaux" was not to "abduct a young
wife from her husband." So far as it goes, that statement is correct.
The object of his _second_ journey, apparently, was merely to pacify
Eugène Laussot. But he does not seem to have told Minna as much of his
relations with Jessie Laussot as he has told the world in _Mein Leben_.

[140] No one would guess, for example, from _Mein Leben_ how much money
had been put at his disposal and how much consideration had been shown
him by Napoleon III and others during the Paris _Tannhäuser_ period.

[141] November 9, 1851; _Briefe_, i. 88.

[142] _Richard Wagner an Minna Wagner_, i. 302.

[143] Kapp, _Richard Wagner und die Frauen_, p. 65.

[144] Letter to Hermann Brockhaus of February 2, 1851, in
_Familienbriefe_, p. 165.

[145] Minna objected energetically to the time he spent in writing
prose instead of music. Between August 1847, when he finished
_Lohengrin_, and the autumn of 1853 he seems to have written no music
at all, though he was occupied with the text of the _Ring_.

[146] See, for example, Weingartner's tragic-comic account of his
experiences, in his _Akkorde_.

[147] It is quoted in Kapp's _Richard Wagner und die Frauen_, p. 90,
but without date or name of addressee. It is simply given as "addressed
to a lady friend."

[148] Wagner, however, conducted some concerts at Zürich for a fee.

[149] _Richard Wagner an Eliza Wille_, p. 123.

[150] _Mein Leben_, p. 731.

[151] "I left Baden to fill up my time with a little trip to Zürich,
where I again tried to get a few days' rest in the Wesendoncks' house.
The idea of helping me did not occur to my friends, though I told them
frankly of the position I was in." _Mein Leben_, p. 857.

[152] "Whereupon," he characteristically remarks, "I could not resist
sending him a reply pointing out the wrongness of this." _Mein Leben_,
p. 865.

[153] _Mein Leben_, pp. 866, 867.

[154] _Richard Wagner an Eliza Wille_, pp. 74, 75.

[155] _Familienbriefe_, pp. 189, 190. He recurs to the same idea
in a letter to his sister Cäcile Avernarius of 30th December 1852:
_Familienbriefe_, p. 194. See also the letter to Uhlig of December
1849, and other passages.

[156] "Und weil er so sei, wie er ihm erschiene." Mr. Ashton Ellis
(_Wagner's Prose Works_, i. 341) translates this, "and because he was
whate'er _she_ deemed him," reading, perhaps rightly, "ihr" for "ihm."

[157] _Eine Mittheilung an meine Freunde_, in _G.S._, iv. 295.

[158] _Ibid._, p. 266.

[159] _Familienbriefe_, p. 279.

[160] _Familienbriefe_, pp. 217, 218. See also Wagner's letter to
Mathilde in his diary of August 21, 1858: "What you have been and are
to me these six years now."

[161] Robert von Hornstein, _Erinnerungen an Richard Wagner_, in the
_Neue Freie Presse_ for 23rd and 24th September 1904 (written in 1884;
Hornstein died in 1890). I have been unable to procure a copy of
the article. My quotation is from Mr. Ashton Ellis's preface to his
translation of the Wesendonck correspondence, p. lv. Hornstein adds,
"he [Wagner] would turn sulky, hasty, perverse, never coarse. With one
little word he might have thrust a poniard in the woman [Minna]; he
never breathed it."

[162] Earlier in the month a child had been born to Mathilde. Hornstein
tells us that at the christening he stood by Wagner's side. "He was
very moody; all at once he muttered to himself, 'It is like attending
one's own execution.'" Ellis, p. lviii.

[163] _Richard Wagner an Mathilde Wesendonck_, pp. 44, 45.

[164] I do not know that Mr. Ashton Ellis is justified in assuming
that "Wagner at last made his bosom friend [Liszt] a confidant and
counsellor," on the basis of the letter to Liszt of [5?] November 1857
which he quotes: "Now take my hand, and take my kiss; a kiss such as
you gave me a year ago, when you accompanied me home one night--you
remember, after I had told my doleful tale to both of you. However much
it may lose its impression on me,--what you were to me that night, the
wondrous sympathy that lay in what you told me as we walked,--this
heavenliness in your nature will follow with me, as my most splendid
memory, to each future existence." (_Op. cit._, lvii.) What Mr. Ellis
translates as "told my doleful tale to you both," is in the German
"nachdem ich Euch bei Dir meine traurige Geschichte von Bordeaux
erzählt" ("after I had told you both my mournful Bordeaux story").
_Briefwechsel zwischen Wagner und Liszt_, ii. 181. Wagner's confidence
and Liszt's sympathy were apparently as much in connection with the
Laussot affair as with the other. But the words "von Bordeaux" were
suppressed in the first edition of the letters.

[165] In _Mein Leben_ Wagner tells the story of the purchase of the
"Asyl" somewhat differently. There is not a word there of Wesendonck
having been persuaded by his wife into buying the property for Wagner,
or of the trouble in the Wesendonck household over him. See _Mein
Leben_, p. 645.

The passage I have just quoted from Wagner's letter to his sister Clara
has been suppressed in the German edition of the _Familienbriefe_ (p.
218). Mr. Ashton Ellis, in his English version (_Family Letters of
Richard Wagner_, p. 215), opines that Glasenapp, the German editor of
the _Familienbriefe_, omitted the passage in compliance "with Wahnfried
wishes." It is one more evidence of the utter untrustworthiness of the
Wahnfried coterie. The letter was originally published in the _Deutsche
Rundschau_ in 1902. A complete English version of it will be found
in the opening of Mr. Ellis' translation of the Wagner-Wesendonck
correspondence. The German of the passage quoted above is given in
Kapp's _Richard Wagner und die Frauen_, pp. 116, 117.

[166] I am well aware that he filled his letters with moanings about
his "renunciation" and "resignation." But the words were little more
than resounding literary counters for him, helping him to some of the
best of his epistolary effects.

[167] _Mein Leben_, p. 654.

[168] _Mein Leben_, p. 667. In his Venice diary of September 18, 1858
(after his flight from the Asyl) he reminds her how she has placed her
arm round him and declared that she loved him. See also under 12th
October. On 1 January 1859 he speaks with ardent recollection of her
caresses. On 1 November 1858 he tells her how sweet it would be "to die
in her arms." If we are to die in the arms of all the women with whom
our relations have been "merely friendly" we shall all of us need more
lives than a cat.

[169] _Mein Leben_, pp. 658, 659.

[170] _Richard Wagner an Mathilde Wesendonck_, p. 45. In the same
winter he set to music the "Five Poems" of Mathilde.

[171] Kapp, _Richard Wagner und die Frauen_, p. 119.

[172] _Briefwechsel zwischen Wagner und Liszt_, ii. 184. This letter
was omitted from the first issue of the Wagner-Liszt correspondence,
and consequently will not be found in the English edition.

[173] Also published for the first time in the expanded edition (1910).

[174] _Ibid._, ii. 186.

[175] _Ibid._, ii. 188. This passage was suppressed in the previous
editions of the Wagner-Liszt letters.

[176] Letter of 24 (?) January 1858, ii. 188 ff. That matters at Zürich
had been on the verge of a crisis we may guess from a sentence in a
previous letter (18-20 (?) January); in which Wagner speaks of it being
necessary for him to go away in order to "give some appeasement to the
sufferings of the good-natured man [Otto Wesendonck]," and that this
being done he will return in a few weeks. All this, again, and more,
was suppressed in the first issue of the correspondence. Truly the way
of Wahnfried passeth understanding.

[177] Kapp, _Richard Wagner und die Frauen_, p. 123.

[178] I have ventured, here and elsewhere, to improve upon Minna's
rather illiterate system of punctuation.

[179] "Mit seiner vortrefflichen Suade."

[180] Kapp, pp. 124, 125. Mr. Ellis wrongly conjectures the intercepted
note to be the one quoted as No. 36 in the German edition of the
Wagner-Wesendonck correspondence (No. 49 in the English edition).

[181] See the quotation on p. 86.

[182] In Mr. Ellis's translation of the letter (preface to the
English edition of the Wagner-Wesendonck correspondence, p. ix.),
this sentence is followed by "get well first, and let us have another
talk then." I cannot find this sentence in the German edition of the
_Familienbriefe_, p. 219.

[183] _Familienbriefe_, pp. 218 ff.

[184] Kapp, _op. cit._, p. 102. The remainder of the letter shows
that while Frau Herwegh had a good opinion of Minna, she was not
blindly prejudiced in her favour; and she was quite conscious that
intellectually Minna was unfitted to keep pace with her husband's
development. Her testimony to the excellency of Minna's heart and the
hardness of her lot with Wagner is therefore all the more valuable.
Wagner, it is hardly necessary to say, did not like Frau Herwegh.

[185] With all his sense of the intellectual and other divergencies
between them, Wagner was not as a rule anxious to sever his life from
Minna. He admits more than once that she was an excellent housewife,
and specially expert in ministering to his comforts. After every
dispute we find him setting up house with her again.

[186] Kapp, p. 127.

[187] See, for example, his letter of 1st November 1858 to the Dresden
physician and friend Anton Pusinelli, to whose care he had entrusted
Minna. _Bayreuther Blätter_, 1902, p. 98. "By periodical separations I
have attained what I instinctively contemplate--namely, to place myself
in a position to be able always to exert only a pacifying, conciliating
influence upon her spirit. In view of the sad state of her health, this
had been my only design during the time we lately lived together; but
with a character as irritable as mine the agitation and excitement of
the moment were too much for me now and then, as in general I too needs
must truly suffer greatly during these eternal, useless and senseless
vexations. Here, however, at a distance, I can choose the hour and the
mood when I am fully master of myself, and have to achieve faithfully
only my purpose, my duty." Letter of 18th November to Pusinelli;
_ibid._, p. 100.

[188] He reminds us of Mr. Shaw's Prossy in _Candida_, who was only a
beer teetotaler, not a champagne teetotaler.

[189] She has just given a distressing account of her sufferings from
her heart disease.

[190] Kapp, pp. 129, 130.

[191] Kapp (p. 134) wrongly gives the date as 1850.

[192] Kapp, pp. 134, 135.

[193] Mr. Ashton Ellis, reading "liegt deutlich vor mir," instead of
"vor dir," translates this "lies plain before _me_."

[194] See his letter of 19th August 1858, _Richard Wagner an Minna
Wagner_, i. 296.

[195] _Ibid._, i. 299.

[196] The warrant for his arrest for his supposed complicity in the
Dresden rising of 1849 was still in force.

[197] Italics mine.

[198] He had just had the Dresden physician's distressing report on
Minna's health. In addition to her heart trouble and the nervous
ravages made by laudanum, she was now said to be developing dropsy of
the chest.

[199] Compare his letter to Pusinelli of 18th November 1858, quoted on
p. 97.

[200] Otto Wesendonck provided the funds, giving Wagner 24,000 francs
for the rights of the still unfinished _Ring_.

[201] _Richard Wagner an Minna Wagner_, ii. 139 ff.; _Bayreuther
Blätter_, 1902, p. 101.

[202] According to Kapp (p. 159), Wagner's relations with her were the
subject of much comment in Paris at that time, and were the reason
for the Princess Wittgenstein--Liszt's companion--breaking off all
intercourse with him and refusing to visit him in Paris in 1860. "An
anxious silence upon this affair," Kapp remarks, "has been maintained
in the Wagnerian literature, which was the easier inasmuch as all the
passages relating to it in Wagner's letters have been suppressed before
publication. Later publications will bring to light much interesting

[203] Except for a few days, they never lived together again. They kept
up their correspondence, however.

[204] _Mein Leben_, p. 779.

[205] _Richard Wagner und die Frauen_, p. 157.

[206] He seems to have taken it rather ill of his friends that
they should have been prosperous and happy while he was poor and
disappointed and up to his eyes in difficulties of all kinds. See his
account of the visit in _Mein Leben_, pp. 787, 788.

[207] Mathilde's character, like that of Wagner, has probably been
slightly idealised for us by time. She had probably been less agreeable
to the bourgeoise Minna than to her genius of a husband.

[208] _Mein Leben_, p. 798.

[209] Owing to his having ceased to correspond with the Wesendoncks,
his changes of address were unknown to them. The box contained a
present that Mathilde had sent him the preceding Christmas; after
many journeyings it had been returned to her through the post. Having
learned his Biebrich address, she sent it to him there. See his letter
to Minna of 12th June 1862.

[210] _Mein Leben_, p. 806. See, however, his letter to Pusinelli of
1st July 1862, in _Bayreuther Blätter_, 1902, p. 103.

[211] _Richard Wagner und die Frauen_, p. 182. In a letter to his
sister Clara of 11th July 1862, Wagner denies that the idea of a
divorce proceeded from him, "obvious as it is, and excusable as it
might be for me to indulge the wish to utilise my remaining years for
the benefit of my work, by the side of someone sympathetic to me"
(_Familienbriefe_, pp. 247, 248), which last remark probably refers
to Mathilde Maier. In this letter he makes it clear that a reunion
with Minna is out of the question. His idea was that she should have
a small establishment of her own in Dresden, where he can visit her
occasionally. In a letter to Minna of two days earlier he makes out
that being unusually distressed as to her health--which was steadily
worsening--he had sent Pusinelli to report upon her, but the physician
had broached the question of divorce of his own accord (_Richard Wagner
an Minna Wagner_, ii. 290). "Your believing that you were to understand
the opinion he gave you of his own account as if I too entertained the
idea of a divorce from you has greatly distressed me. Never has that
entered _my_ head, and it never will." Whether or not it had entered
his head at that time, it certainly entered it later. In less than
two years he had to fly from his Vienna creditors to Mariafeld, near
Zürich. He was at the very end of his resources, and was apparently
a ruined man had not King Ludwig come to his rescue. Discussing his
prospects with his hostess, Frau Wille, "we touched, among other
things, on the necessity of obtaining a divorce from my wife, in order
that I might contract a rich marriage. As everything seemed to me
expedient, and nothing inexpedient, I actually wrote to my sister Luise
Brockhaus, asking her whether she could not, in a sensible talk with
Minna, induce her to be satisfied with her settled yearly allowance,
and abandon her claim to my person" (_Mein Leben_, p. 866). This letter
is not to be found in the _Familienbriefe_. It would be interesting to
know whether it is one of the letters that Glasenapp speaks of as being
"lost beyond recall," or has simply been suppressed.

Minna was of course a hopeless wreck by this time. She died in Dresden
on the 25th January 1866. The last of Wagner's published letters to her
is dated 8th November 1863.

[212] Kapp, _op. cit._, p. 187. See Wagner's own account in _Mein
Leben_, p. 828.

[213] _Mein Leben_, p. 828. Later on he said that his relations
with Friederike had involved her in serious trouble. Friederike had
apparently already been the mistress of von Guiata, the manager of the
Frankfort theatre.

[214] Peter Cornelius, _Ausgewählte Briefe_, in _Literarische Werke_,
i. 683.

[215] "Keep that in mind," he continues, "and your own griefs will
seem less to you. They simply add to mine." _Richard Wagner an Minna
Wagner_, ii. 310, 311.

[216] _Mein Leben_, p. 848. What was the subject of these reproaches it
is impossible to say, as Minna's letters to him have not been published.

[217] It is a little difficult to know what he means by a resolution
made "in the previous year." He corresponded with her a good deal in
1862, and we have a few of his letters to her of 1863. In one of these,
dated 8th November 1863, he tells her that there is a possibility of
his conducting a concert in Dresden on the 25th, and asks her if she
can put him up. This letter is not included in the German edition. It
was published in Adolf Kohut's _Der Meister von Bayreuth_ (1905), and a
translation of it will be found in Mr. Ellis's English version of the
letters to Minna, p. 787.

[218] _Mein Leben_, pp. 848, 849.

[219] See his letter to Frau Wesendonck of 3rd August 1863.

[220] _Richard Wagner to Mathilde Wesendonck_, p. 318.

[221] Kapp, _Richard Wagner und die Frauen_, p. 194.

[222] "Eine heftige Liebe." Mr. Ashton Ellis renders this "a sudden

[223] _Mein Leben_, p. 777.

[224] _Mein Leben_, p. 816. This was in the summer of 1862, just a year
before the Marie episode.

[225] _Mein Leben_, pp. 858, 859.

[226] King Ludwig gave him 15,000 gulden with which to pay his debts in
Vienna. Röckl, _Ludwig II und Richard Wagner_, Erster Teil, p. 33.

[227] _Mein Leben_, p. 861.

[228] _Mein Leben_, p. 863.

[229] In a letter to Peter Cornelius of the end of March 1864,
addressed from Frau Wille's house at Mariafeld, he says that that lady,
Frau Wesendonck and Frau von Bissing "love him equally: only Frau von
Bissing was lately so very jealous (I had a suspicion of it!), that her
behaviour towards me is only now, through that discovery, intelligible
to me." Peter Cornelius, _Ausgewählte Briefe_, in _Literarische Werke_,
i. 762.

[230] See his letter of 14th April 1865 to Dr. Gille, in _Hans von
Bülow: Briefe_, iv. 24.

[231] Kapp, _Richard Wagner und die Frauen_, p. 222.

[232] He behaved afterwards with the greatest nobility to Wagner,
raising by his concerts £2000 for the Bayreuth venture, though his
presence at the Festival was of course impossible.

[233] Letter of 23rd September 1863: _Richard Wagner an Mathilde
Wesendonck_, p. 355.

[234] He never had any objection to accepting money from Jews, nor to
calling on their assistance in the production of his operas. The first
performance of _Parsifal_ was conducted by Hermann Levi.

[235] "If the assumption be correct that a flesh diet is indispensable
in Northern climates, what is to prevent us from carrying out a
rationally conducted emigration into such countries of the globe as,
by reason of their luxuriant fertility, are capable of sustaining the
present population of the whole world,--as has been asserted of the
South American peninsula itself?... The unions we have in mind would
have to devote their activities and their care--perhaps not without
success--to emigration; and according to the latest experiences it
seems not impossible that these northern lands, in which a flesh food
is said to be absolutely indispensable, will soon be wholly abandoned
to hunters of boars and big game...." _Religion und Kunst_, in _G.S._,
x. 243.

[236] See _Eine Mittheilung an meine Freunde_, in _G.S._, iv. 279, and
the letter to Roeckel of 23rd August 1856; also a general discussion of
the subject in Henri Lichtenberger's _Wagner, Poète et Penseur_, pp.

[237] See, for example, the very prejudiced and rather foolish book of
Emil Ludwig, _Wagner, oder die Entzauberten_ (1913).

[238] Afterwards in book form as the _Briefe Richard Wagners an eine
Putzmacherin_. Vienna, 1906.

[239] We must always remember that his extremely sensitive and
irritable skin made coarse fabrics intolerable to him.

[240] _Briefwechsel zwischen Wagner und Liszt_, ii. pp. 4, 5.

[241] "Das Überschwängliche meiner Natur." In the English version
of the Correspondence this is rendered "the transcendent part of my

[242] "Bedenklich"--rendered in Hueffer's version "dangerous."

[243] _Briefwechsel zwischen Wagner und Liszt_, ii. 10.

[244] _Ausgewählte Briefe_, i. 748, 749.

[245] He had just returned from the meeting with Frau von Bissing, at
which she had undertaken to provide for him.

[246] _Mein Leben_, p. 862.

[247] The _Putzmacherin_ letters extend into the Lucerne period of

[248] Röckl, _Ludwig II und Richard Wagner_, Erster Theil, p. 151.

[249] The relations between Wagner and the King's ministers were
already embittered at this time, and the King granted the loan against
their wish. The Court Treasurer objecting to sending the money by a
servant, Cosima had to call for it personally. He gave her the whole
of the sum in silver coins, which she had to carry away in sacks, his
object being to render the transport of it as public as possible, and
so arouse popular feeling against the composer. The loan was repaid to
the Munich Treasury by Wagner's heirs. See Röckl, _op. cit._, p. 197.

[250] See Ludwig Nohl, _Neues Skizzenbuch_, p. 146.

[251] Röckl, _op. cit._, pp. 245, 246.

[252] Weissheimer, _Erlebnisse mit Richard Wagner, Franz Liszt und
vielen anderen Zeitgenossen_, 3rd ed., 1898, pp. 229, 230.

[253] Glasenapp, _Das Leben Richard Wagners_, vi. 154, 155.

[254] _Mein Leben_, p. 811.

[255] "Wagner has not the strength to make those around him free
and great," he writes in his diary. "Wagner is not loyal; he is, on
the contrary, suspicious and haughty." See Daniel Halévy, _Life of
Friedrich Nietzsche_ (Eng. trans.), p. 130.

[256] Glasenapp, vi. 165.

[257] _Briefwechsel_, ii. 216, 217. This and several other passages in
the letter were suppressed in the first edition of the correspondence.
The Countess d'Agoult--the mother of Liszt's daughter Cosima--was
visiting Wagner at the same time as Cosima and Hans. Apparently there
had been some gossip as to Wagner's behaviour with her; and in this
letter he indignantly protests against Liszt's "suspicions."

[258] _Briefwechsel_, ii. 222. The passage relating to the Countess
d'Agoult was at first suppressed.

[259] _Briefwechsel_, ii. 294. The first part of the sentence, as
far as "fell to my lot," was suppressed in the first edition of the
letters, as well as the succeeding sentences,--"The love of a tender
woman has made me happy: she can throw herself into a sea of sorrows
and torments in order to say to me 'I love you,'" &c. &c. This was the
lady with whom his relations were "merely friendly." The first edition
of the Wagner-Liszt correspondence was systematically manipulated so as
to keep from the reader all knowledge of the Wesendonck affair.

[260] The English version (p. 687) makes nonsense of this passage.

[261] _Mein Leben_, p. 674.

[262] Letter of 20th October 1859 (Paris), in _Briefwechsel_, ii. 275.

[263] Letter of 23rd November 1859, in _Briefwechsel_, ii. 276, 277.

[264] Glasenapp, vi. 139.

[265] See the poem _Siegfried-Idyl_, in the _G.S._, xii. 372.

[266] Seraphine Mauro. See p. 106.

[267] Cornelius, _Ausgewählte Briefe_, i. 640 ff.

[268] The gentle and honourable Cornelius--whom it obviously pains
to have to say a word in disparagement of Wagner--knew that his only
chance of developing his artistic nature along its own lines was
to avoid coming too much under the influence of the much stronger
personality of the older man; he should, he says, "hatch only Wagnerian

[269] Letter of 31st May 1854, in Peter Cornelius' _Ausgewählte
Briefe_, i. 767.

[270] _Ausgewählte Briefe_, i. 770, 771.

[271] _Ibid._, i. 774.

[272] _Ausgewählte Briefe_, i. 784. At a later time Cornelius did yield
to Wagner's solicitations and take up his abode for a time in Munich.

[273] All testimonies agree as to the extraordinary expressiveness and
dramatic vivacity of his reading--as indeed of his conversation also.
See Cornelius, _Ausgewählte Briefe_, i. 623, Weissheimer, _Erlebnisse_,
pp. 89, 90, and Liszt's letter to the Princess Wittgenstein, in
_Briefe_, iv. 145. His tumultuous conversation used to give King Ludwig
a headache.

[274] He writes thus to Cornelius from Paris, at the end of January
1862: "Listen! On Wednesday evening, the 5th February, I am to read the
_Meistersinger_ at Schott's house, in Mainz. You have no idea what it
is, what it means for me, and what it will be to my friends! You must
be there that evening! Get Standhartner at once to give you, on my
account, the necessary money for the journey [from Vienna]. In Mainz I
will reimburse you this, and whatever may be necessary for the return
journey." See the letter in Cornelius' _Ausgewählte Briefe_, i. 643.

[275] Glasenapp, vi. 161.

[276] See p. 129.

[277] Edouard Schuré, _Souvenirs sur Richard Wagner_, p. 76.

[278] Röckl, _op. cit._, p. 133.

[279] Schuré, _op. cit._, pp. 54, 57.

[280] Liszt, _Briefe_, iv. 140, 145.

[281] Hanslick, _Aus meinem Leben_, ii. 11.

[282] _Ibid._, p. 12.

[283] Weissheimer, _Erlebnisse_, p. 128.

[284] Weissheimer, _Erlebnisse_, p. 392.

[285] _Ecce Homo_ (Eng. trans.), pp. 41, 44, 122, 97.

[286] Liszt's reply of the 22nd runs thus:

  "DEAR AND NOBLE FRIEND,--I am too deeply moved by your letter to be
  able to thank you in words. But from the depths of my heart I hope
  that every shadow of a circumstance that could hold me fettered may
  disappear, and that soon we may see each other again. Then shall you
  see in perfect clearness how inseparable is my soul from you both,
  and how intimately I live again in that 'second' and higher life of
  yours in which you are able to accomplish what you could never have
  accomplished alone. Herein is heaven's pardon for me: God's blessing
  on you both, and all my love."

These are the first letters that appear in the correspondence between
the two since 7th July 1861. _Briefwechsel_, ii. 307-8. The two letters
are given in a slightly different form in Liszt's _Briefe_, vi. 350.

[287] _Aus meinem Leben_, ii. 12.

[288] Weissheimer, _Erlebnisse_, p. 391.

                              CHAPTER II

                         THE ARTIST IN THEORY


For a great revolutionary, Wagner was curiously long in coming to
consciousness of himself. The record of his youth and early manhood
is one of constant fluctuation between one ideal or influence and
another. The most remarkable feature of him in these days, indeed, is
his mental malleability. In his later years he is the centre of a solar
system of his own; everything else in his orbit is a mere planet that
must revolve around him or be cast out. In his younger days, on the
contrary, he is extraordinarily sensitive to the changing currents of
men and circumstances. One of the earliest writers to influence him
was E. T. A. Hoffmann, under whose sway he fell apparently as early as
1827. It was about the same time that he first heard, at a Gewandhaus
concert, some of Beethoven's music. During the early 'thirties he was
deeply absorbed in Beethoven, especially in the Ninth Symphony--a work
which, he tells us, was at that time regarded in Leipzig as the raving
of a semi-madman. Wagner's knowledge of it was at first derived solely
from copying the score; it was without having heard a performance of
the work that he made in 1830 the two-hands pianoforte arrangement of
it which he vainly tried to induce Schott to publish. His own Overture
in D minor (1831), his _King Enzio_ Overture and his Symphony in C
major (1832) were, as he admits, all inspired by Beethoven, the first
of them being more particularly influenced by the _Coriolan_ Overture.
He heard the Ninth Symphony for the first time at a Gewandhaus concert
in the winter of 1831-2; the performance, under Pohlenz, seems to have
been a very unintelligent one, and it left Wagner in considerable
doubt as to the value of the work. "There arose in me," he says, "the
mortifying doubt whether I had really understood this strange piece
of music[289] or not. For a long time I gave up racking my brains
about it, and unaffectedly turned my attention to a clearer and less
disturbing sort of music."[290]

Weber's _Freischütz_ had also powerfully affected the boy's
imagination; no doubt Weber struck him even then as a musician
peculiarly German. In his own _Die Feen_ (1833), he tells us, he
tried to write "in German style."[291] Nevertheless, in spite of all
these influences, he turned for a while against German music, which
he criticises with some frankness in an article on _Die deutsche
Oper_,[292] published anonymously in the _Zeitung für die elegante
Welt_ in June 1834. The Germans have no German opera, he says, for the
same reason that they have no national drama. "We are too intellectual
and much too learned to be able to create warm human figures." Mozart
could do this in the Italian melodic style; but with their contempt
for that style the modern Germans have got further from the path that
Mozart opened out for dramatic music. "Weber did not understand how to
handle song; Spohr is hardly any better"; yet it is through Song that a
man expresses himself musically. Here the Italians have the advantage
over the Germans. It is true that the Italians have abused the organ
of late--"yet I shall never forget the impression that a Bellini
opera lately made on me, after I had become heartily sick of the
eternally allegorising orchestral bustle, and a simple and noble Song
made its appearance again." Weber was too purely lyrical, and Spohr
is too elegiac, for the drama. Weber's best work is consequently the
romantic _Der Freischütz_; as for _Euryanthe_, "what paltry refinements
of declamation, what a finiking use of this instrument or that for
bringing out the expression of some word or other!" His style is not
broad enough; it dissipates itself in mincing details. His _ensembles_
are almost without life. And as the audience do not understand a note
of it, they console themselves by calling it amazingly _learned_, and
respecting it accordingly. "O this fatal learnedness," he cries, "this
source of all the evils that afflict us Germans!" In Bach's time music
was regarded only from the learned side. The forms were then limited,
but the composers full of learning. Now the forms are freer, but the
composers have less learning, though they make a pretence of it. The
public also wants to appear learned, affects to despise the simple, and
is ashamed to admit that it enjoys a lively French opera. We must not
be hypocritical, but must admit there is a good deal that is good in
both French and Italian opera; we must throw over a lot of our affected
science, and become natural men. No real German opera composer has
appeared for some time, because no one has known how to "gain the voice
of the people"--no one has grasped life in its real truth and warmth.
We must find a form suited to the needs of our own days. "We must seize
upon the epoch, and honestly try to perfect its new forms; and he will
be the master who writes neither Italian nor French--nor even German."

The youthful essayist repeats a good deal of this, with additions, in
an article entitled _Pasticcio_, published in the _Neue Zeitschrift
für Musik_ in November of the same year, under the pseudonym of "Canto
Spianato."[293] He is greatly concerned at the deplorable fact that
there are hardly a couple of dozen well-trained singers in Germany.
"Nowadays one hardly ever hears a really beautiful and technically
perfect _trillo_; very rarely flawless mordents; very seldom a rounded
_coloratura_, a genuine unaffected, soul-moving _portamento_, a
perfect equalisation of the registers, and absolute maintenance of the
intonation through all the various nuances of crescendo and diminuendo.
Most singers, as soon as they attempt the noble art of _portamento_,
get out of tune; and the public, accustomed to imperfect execution,
overlooks the defects of the singer if only he is a capable actor and
knows the routine of the stage."

Nor do our German composers know how to write for the voice; they
are like bunglers who presume to orchestrate without having studied
the peculiarities of the clarinet, say, as distinct from those of the
pianoforte. "Most of our modern German vocal composers appear to regard
the voice as merely a part of the instrumental mass, and misapprehend
the true nature of Song. Our worthy opera-composers," in fact, "must
take lessons in the good Italian cantabile style, taking care to
steer clear of its modern excrescences, and, with their superior
artistic capacity, give us something good in a good style. Then will
vocal art bloom anew; then some day will a man come who in this good
style shall re-establish on the stage the broken unity of Poetry and
Song." He argues with portentous seriousness for ornate as well as
simple Song; and ends with a claim that poetry is the only basis of
opera,--poetry, of which words and tones are merely the expression.
"The majority of our operas are merely a string of musical numbers
without any psychological connection; our singers have been degraded
into musical-boxes, set to a certain number of tunes, brought on to the
stage, and started by a wave of the conductor's baton." Once more he
lays it down that "he will be the master who writes neither Italian nor
French--nor even German," and concludes thus: "But would you inspire,
purify, and train yourselves by models, would you create living shapes
in music, then combine, for example, Gluck's masterly declamation and
dramatic power with Mozart's varied art of melody, _ensemble_ and
orchestration, and you will produce dramatic works that will satisfy
the strictest criticism."[294]

This enthusiasm for the Italian style was largely due to the
overwhelming impression made on Wagner by the great singer and actress
Wilhelmine Schröder-Devrient, whom he heard as Romeo in Bellini's
_Montecchi e Capuleti_ in March 1834.[295] Her performance, however,
magical as it must have been, would not have affected him so deeply
had he not already been brought by other influences to a turning
in the road. What these influences were he has himself told us in
_Mein Leben_. Heinse's _Ardinghello_ and Laube's _Young Europe_ had
inflamed the imagination of most of the young men of the day. Wagner
was caught up by and carried along in a current of generous enthusiasm
for a supposedly new spirit in art and literature; the older men were
mercilessly ridiculed as pedants, and a newer and more sprightly art
was to hustle the ponderous old one off the stage. Wagner's boyish life
had been, in spite of an occasional wildness, one of almost morbid
seriousness, culminating in what he calls "pathetic mysticism." The
truth seems to have been that he was moving about in intellectual
worlds too subtle for his spirit then to realise; he was mysteriously
drawn to the greatest things in Beethoven and Weber, but when brought
into actual contact with them he had to admit that they spoke a
language he could hardly understand. The magnetic personality of
Schröder-Devrient dissipated the clouds that had formed around him. He
could hardly have been so much his own dupe as his confessions would
lead us to believe. He knew that the performance of Weber's _Euryanthe_
he had recently heard was as superlatively bad as the performance
of Bellini's opera was superlatively good; and he would have been a
much worse reasoner than we know him to have been, had he not been
able to see that from these facts no valid conclusion could be drawn
as to the worth of the two works. We may reasonably assume that his
volatile nature was ripe for another change of front--there were plenty
more of a similar kind even in his mature life--and that these outer
experiences only marked the moment of the turning. He as good as admits
this, indeed, in _Mein Leben_. He was disposed, he says, to take as
lightly as possible the problem[296] that had arisen before him, and
to show his determination to get rid of all prejudice by writing the
article on _Euryanthe_ in which he "simply jeered" at that work. "Just
as I had passed in my student-time through my 'Flegeljahr,' I now
boldly entered upon a similar development in my artistic taste."[297]


That the articles praising the Italians at the expense of the
Germans were the products of more than the mere impression of
Schröder-Devrient's singing and acting--that they came from the depths
of a real change in his intellectual and emotional nature--is shown by
the length of time he remained at the same standpoint.

The text of _Das Liebesverbot_ was written in a mood of fiery youthful
protest against what he held to be the cramping puritanism of the
moralists. He deliberately transforms Shakespeare's _Measure for
Measure_. "_Young Europe_ and _Ardinghello_, helped by the strange
antipathy I had conceived towards classical operatic music, gave me
the keynote for my conception, which was especially directed against
puritanical hypocrisy, and consequently led to the bold glorification
of unfettered sensualism (_freien Sinnlichkeit_). I took care to
understand the serious Shakespearean subject only in this sense; I
saw only the gloomy strait-laced viceroy, himself burning with love
for the beautiful novice, who, while she implores him to pardon her
brother condemned to death for illicit love, kindles a ruinous fire
in the rigid Puritan's breast by the lovely warmth of her own human
emotion. The fact that these powerful motives are so richly developed
by Shakespeare only in order that in the end they may be all the more
seriously weighed in the scales of justice, did not concern me in the
least; all I had in mind was to expose the sinfulness of hypocrisy and
the unnaturalness of harsh moral judgments."[298] He adds that he was
probably influenced by Auber's _Masaniello_ and the _Sicilian Vespers_.

The composition of _Das Liebesverbot_ carries us from 1834 to the
spring of 1836, and still the Southern fever has not abated. In 1837
he carries the same enthusiasm about with him in Königsberg and Riga;
we can imagine that the more serious side of him had some difficulty
in developing in such an environment as a fourth-rate operatic and
theatrical troupe. While in Magdeburg he writes a short article on
"Dramatic Song," in which he returns to the thesis of three years
before, though with more wisdom. "Why," he asks, "cannot we Germans
see that we are not the possessors of everything; why cannot we openly
and freely admit that the Italian is superior to the German in Song,
and the Frenchman superior to him in the light and animated treatment
of operatic music? Can he not oppose to these his deeper science, his
more thorough culture, and above all the happy faculty that makes it
possible for him easily to make the advantages of the Italians and the
French his own, whereas they will never be able to acquire ours? The
Italians are singers by nature. The less richly-endowed German can
hope to emulate the Italian only by hard study." Wagner rightly points
out that no artist can hope to achieve full expression of himself
without a technique that has become second nature to him. It was the
acquirement by Mozart of this technique in his childhood that gave his
mature music its incomparable ease and finish, while there was always
a certain awkwardness about Weber, owing to his having begun late and
learned his technique during the years when he was actually practising
his art. Without perfect vocal technique, the highest kind of dramatic
expression is impossible. The great Schröder-Devrient, the finest
operatic artist in Germany, was at one time within an ace of giving up
her career as a singer, so great was the strain on her voice through
a faulty production; but she studied hard on the right Italian lines,
with the result that she can now sing the most trying parts without
the slightest fatigue.[299] All this is sensible enough--so sensible,
indeed, that Wagner could repeat it thirty years later in his "Report
upon a proposed German School of Music for Munich." But that the nimble
and relatively superficial Italian music still exercised something of
its old fascination upon him is shown by another article of the same
year on Bellini. Here, while admitting that a good deal of Italian
music is poor stuff, and that the forms and tricks of the Bellinian
opera are things only too easy to imitate, he yet lauds Bellini's
melody at the expense of that of the Germans, and his simplicity at the
expense of their clumsy erudition. "The German connoisseur of music,"
he says, "listens to one of Bellini's operas with the spectacles off
his tired-out eyes," giving himself wholly up for once to "delight in
lovely Song";[300] he evidently feels "a deep and ardent longing for
a full deep breath, to win ease of being at one stroke, to get rid
of all the stew of prejudice and pedantry that has so long compelled
him to be a German connoisseur of music--to become instead a man at
last, glad, free, and endowed with every glorious organ for perceiving
beauty of every kind, no matter in what form it reveals itself." He
has been enchanted by "the limpid melody, the simple, noble, lovely
Song of Bellini. It is surely no sin to confess this and to believe in
it; perhaps even it would not be a sin if before we went to sleep we
were to pray Heaven that some day German composers might achieve such
melodies and such an art of handling song. Song, Song, and yet again
Song, ye Germans!"

We see again his temporary lack of sympathy with the richer German
style in a passage like the following, which reads like one of the less
intelligent criticisms of his own later music:

"When we consider the boundless disorder, the medley of forms, periods
and modulations of so many of the new German opera composers, by which
we are prevented from enjoying many an isolated piece of beauty, we
often might wish to see this ravelled skein put in order by means of
that stable Italian form.[301] As a matter of fact, the instantaneous
clear apprehension of a whole dramatic passion is made much easier
when, along with all its connected feelings and emotions, it is cast
into one lucid intelligent melody at a single stroke, than when it
is muddled up with a hundred little commentaries, with this and that
harmonic nuance, this and that instrumental interpolation, till in the
end it is subtilised out of existence."[302]

It was his "zeal and fervour for modern Italian and French opera,"
in fact, that procured for him the conductorship at Riga, where
the Director, Holtei, was all for the lighter and more frivolous
music.[303] At Riga Wagner met his old Leipzig mentor, Heinrich Dorn,
who was, he says, surprised to see his former pupil, "the eccentric
Beethoven worshipper, transformed into a partisan of Bellini and
Adam."[304] The reaction, however, was coming fast. At Riga he seems
to have passed through one of those spiritual crises that are not
uncommon with artists of his many-sided temperament. The loneliness
of Riga, he says, gave him an anxious feeling of homelessness, which
developed into a passionate longing to escape from the turbid whirl of
theatrical life. "The levity with which in Magdeburg I had both let my
musical taste degenerate and had allowed myself to take pleasure in
the most frivolous theatrical society, gradually faded away under the
influence of this longing."[305] A bass aria which he interpolated into
Winter's _Schweizerfamilie_ was "of a devotional character," and "bore
witness to the great transformation that was taking place in my musical
development."[306] In the winter of 1838 he derived much benefit from
the study of Méhul's _Joseph in Egypt_ for the theatre. "Its noble and
simple style, along with the moving effect of the music, contributed
not a little to the favourable turn in my taste, which had been sadly
debauched by my theatrical work."[307] At the same time he grew weary
of the Bohemianism that had attracted him so strongly at Magdeburg, and
consequently he got more and more out of touch with the actors and the

His weariness of it all culminated in a secret resolve to be quit
of this kind of life as soon as possible. The deliverance was to be
effected by his new opera, _Rienzi_.[308] He deliberately planned the
opera on a scale so large that he would necessarily have to seek a
better stage than that of Riga for its production. Everything conspired
at the time to deepen his sense of the seriousness of things, and to
make him loathe himself for having so long worshipped false gods both
in art and in life. Matrimonial troubles crowded thick and fast upon
him, and he lost his favourite sister, Rosalie, by death. In March
1839 he was dismissed from his post at the Riga theatre. Penniless
as he was, he welcomed the discharge as the first step towards his
redemption. To Paris he would go, and in Paris make his fortune: of
that he had no doubt.


The miseries of his two years and a half in Paris are known to
every reader of his life. Penury, deceptions, degradations, however,
could not break him either intellectually or morally. A temperament
so elastic as his could never be crushed, and least of all when it
was young. He himself has told us of the amazement his associates
expressed at the toughness and resilience of his spirit. But the fire
he passed through in those dreadful days purified him as an artist.
It was not alone the failure to get _Rienzi_ accepted at the Paris
Opéra that caused him to turn away in disgust from the hollow world of
make-believe around him; visions were coming to him of shining deeds
to be done, of untried possibilities in music. As usual with him, an
external event brought all his faculties and desires swiftly into
the one focus. In the winter of 1839 he heard a number of rehearsals
and a performance of the Ninth Symphony at the Conservatoire, under
Habeneck. The interpretation, he says, was so perfect that "in a stroke
the picture I had had of the wonderful work in the days of my youthful
enthusiasm, and that had been effaced by the murderous performance
of it given by the Leipzig Orchestra under the worthy Pohlenz, now
rose up again before me in such clearness that it seemed as if I
could grasp it with my hands. Where formerly I had seen nothing but
mystic constellations and soundless magical shapes, there was now
poured out, as from innumerable springs, a stream of inexhaustible
and heart-compelling melody. The whole period of the degradation of
my taste, which really began with my confusion as to the expression
in Beethoven's later works, and had been so aggravated by my numbing
association with the dreadful theatre, now fell away from me as into
an abyss of shame and remorse. If this inner change had been preparing
in me for some years--more particularly as a consequence of my painful
experiences--it was the inexpressible effect of the Ninth Symphony,
performed in a way I had hitherto had no notion of, that gave real life
to my new-won old spirit; and so I compare this--for me--important
event with the similarly decisive impression made on me, when I was a
boy of sixteen, by the Fidelio of Schröder Devrient."[309]

 The _Autobiographical Sketch_ which he wrote for Laube's _Zeitung
für die elegante Welt_ in 1842, after his settling in Dresden, ends
with these words: "As regards Paris itself I was now without prospects
there for some years: so I left it in the spring of 1842. For the first
time I saw the Rhine: with great tears in his eyes the poor artist
swore eternal fidelity to his German fatherland." It was indeed the
prodigal's return: the service that Paris did him was to make him a
better German and so a better artist. Seen from a distance, Paris had
once glittered before his dazzled eyes as a symbol of liberalism and
freedom. Seen at too close quarters, Germany had laid itself bare to
him in all its littlenesses, its stuffy provinciality. Now he saw
them both from another angle. Paris was about him in all the cold
brutality it can show to the stranger, the helpless, the penniless:
its heart seemed to the eager young musician as hard as the stones of
its streets. And he saw his native country as all exiles see theirs,
with its asperities toned down, its little parochialisms hidden from
view, and a certain kindly haze of idealism over all. It is with German
affairs that he occupies himself as far as he can in the articles he
writes at this time to keep the domestic pot boiling. The essay _On
German Music_ (1840) is very touching in its wistful little visions
of tiny, cosy German towns, each with its circle of humble musicians
roughly but lovingly wooing their art in their own simple, honest way.
The lonely and homesick German artist has his quiet revenge upon Paris
in the delightfully humorous and satirical article upon the ludicrous
French perversion of _Der Freischütz_ at the Opéra.[310] Beethoven
is much in his mind: he begins the attempt to fathom the secret of
Beethoven's power, to grasp the profoundly logical workings of his
music, and to take his own bearings with regard to sundry æsthetic
questions, such as "painting" in music, the reading of poetical ideas
into purely instrumental works, the relations between vocal and
instrumental music, and so on. His views upon Beethoven were far ahead
of those of his contemporaries, to whom, indeed, they must have been
in large part unintelligible. He was beginning to realise dimly that
out of the Beethovenian melody he could himself beget a new art-work.
In _A Pilgrimage to Beethoven_ he puts his own views of opera into
the mouth of his predecessor. He has apparently already conceived the
idea that instrumental music had come to the end of its resources with
Beethoven, that music could in the future renew its vitality only by
being "fertilised by poetry," and that the ideal music drama will be
continuous in tissue. "Were I to make an opera after my own heart," he
makes Beethoven say, "people would run away from it: for it would have
no arias, duets, trios, or any of the other stuff with which operas are
patched up to-day: and what I would put in the place of these no singer
would sing and no audience would listen to. They all know nothing but
glittering lies, brilliant nonsense and sugared tedium. Anyone who
should write a real music drama would be taken for a fool." And the old
composer proceeds to outline the theory of the relation between words
and music that is made so familiar to us in Wagner's later writings.
"The instruments represent the primal organs of Creation and Nature:
what they express can never be clearly defined and settled, for they
reproduce the primal feelings themselves as they emerged from the
chaos of the first creation, when probably there was not one human
being to take them up into his heart. It is quite otherwise with the
genius of the human voice: this represents man's heart and its definite
(_abgeschlossen_) individual emotion. Its character is therefore
restricted, but definite and clear. Now bring these two elements
together, unite them! Set against the wild-wandering, illimitable
primal feeling, represented by the instruments, the clear definite
emotion of the human heart, represented by the voice. The incoming of
this second element will smooth and soothe the conflict of the primal
feelings, will turn their flood into a definite, united course: while
the human heart itself, taking up into itself those primal feelings,
will be infinitely strengthened and expanded, and capable of feeling
clearly its earlier indefinite presage of the Highest now transformed
into god-like consciousness."[311]


It has often been pointed out that the subjects of all Wagner's
dramas were conceived by him before his fortieth year. It is equally
true that virtually the whole of the æsthetic theories of his later
life were immanent in him from the days of his Parisian sojourn, and
needed only to be brought into clearer outline by the thought and the
practice of the 'forties and 'fifties. In the essay on _Beethoven_
(1870) he insists that it is the human character of the voice, rather
than the mere sentiment the voice is used to express, that gives the
choral ending of the Ninth Symphony its tremendous significance.
"Thus," he says, "with even what we have just called the ordaining will
that led him to this melody" (_i.e._ the great melody of the final
movement) "we see the master steadily remaining in music,--the idea of
the world:[312] for in truth it is not the meaning of the Word that
engages us at this entry of the human voice, but the character of the
voice itself. Nor is it the thought expressed in Schiller's verses that
henceforth occupies us, but the intimate timbre of the choral song, in
which we feel ourselves invited to join, and so take part as a kind
of congregation in an ideal divine service, as was the case at the
entry of the chorale in the 'Passions' of Bach. It is quite evident,
especially with regard to the main melody, that Schiller's words have
been tacked on arbitrarily (_nothdürftig_) and with little skill: for
this melody had first of all unfolded itself in all its breadth before
us as a thing in itself, given to the instruments alone, and there had
filled us with a nameless feeling of joy in a paradise regained."[313]

The same idea is seen in embryo in _A Pilgrimage to Beethoven_. "If men
are to sing, they must have words. Yet who is capable of expressing
in words the poetry that should form the basis of such a union of
all the elements? The poem must of necessity be something inferior
(_zurückstehen_), for words are too weak an organ for such a task.--You
will soon meet with a new composition of mine, which will remind you of
what I have just been descanting upon. It is a symphony with choruses.
I ask you to observe how difficult it was for me to get over the
inadequacy of the poetical art that I had called in to my aid. I have
fully resolved to make use of our Schiller's beautiful hymn 'To Joy';
it is in any case a noble and uplifting poem, even if far from giving
voice to what, in sooth, in this connection, no verses in the world
could say."[314]

Here we light upon one of the fundamental principles of the Wagnerian
æsthetic. Wagner did not set words to music: the words were merely
the projection of an already conceived musical emotion into the
sphere of speech.[315] There is in most musicians a certain amount of
correspondence and interplay between the poetic and musical factors.
With some composers the musical thought, having begun and completed
itself along its own lines and according to its own laws, turns
half appealingly, half condescendingly, to words for a title or an
elucidation, as was often the case with Schumann. With others, as with
Bach and Hugo Wolf and Strauss, the word, written or implied, is the
generator of the musical idea. It would be the very midsummer madness
of æsthetics to attempt to decide which is the more purely "musical"
of these two types of mind. Neither of them is "the" musical mind, any
more than Shakespeare's or Milton's or Browning's or Blake's or Pope's
or Swinburne's is "the" poetical mind. It is only the most superficial
of psychologists and æstheticians who can regard any human faculty
as wholly cut off from the rest. Our perceptions of sight, of taste,
of touch, of hearing, are inextricably inter-blended, as is shown by
our constantly expressing one set of sensations in terms of another,
as when we speak of the colour of music, the height, or depth, or
thickness, or clarity, or muddiness of musical tone. In every poet
there is something of the painter and the musician: in every musician,
something of the poet and painter: in every painter, something of the
musician and poet.[316] The character of the man's work will depend
upon the strength or weakness of the tinge that is given to his own
special art by the relative strength or weakness of the infusion of one
or more of the other arts. In composers like Bach, Wagner, Berlioz,
Schubert, Wolf, and Strauss the eye is constantly transmitting very
definite impression to the brain, with the result that their music
readily leans to realistic suggestion: on a composer like Brahms the
actualities of the visible, mobile world make comparatively little
impression.[317] No one of these types is _per se_ any better than the
rest, or has any more right than his fellows to arrogate to himself the
title of "pure" musician. We must just accept them all as branches of
the one great tree.

It is no paradox to say that though Wagner was irresistibly impelled to
express himself in the form of opera he was by nature an instrumental
composer of the line of Bach and Beethoven. It is the orchestra that
always bears the main burden of expression in his later works. His
ideal was a stream of endless melody in the orchestra, to the moods of
which the words give a definiteness unattainable by music alone. And
so, just as he did not "set words to music" in the ordinary way, so
he did not set poetic ideas to music in the ordinary way. No man was
ever more prompt to interpret great musical works in terms of poetry or
life, as anyone may see by reading his elucidations of the Beethoven
symphonies or the great C sharp minor quartet. But it is important to
remember, if we are not to misunderstand him utterly, that he never
supposed that the music was developed consciously out of any such
poetic scheme as our fantasy may read into it. The music grew out of
the spirit of music, and only rouses a poetic vision in us because it
is the generalised expression of many particular visions of the kind.
This conception of music was rooted in him from his earliest days of
maturity, as we may see from the article _A Happy Evening_, which he
wrote in Paris in 1841. The narrator of the story is discussing with
a friend--evidently intended for Wagner himself--a concert at which
they have just heard performances of Mozart's Symphony in E flat and
Beethoven's in A. The question arises as to what it is that Beethoven
has expressed. The friend, who is designated R., objects energetically
to an arbitrary romance being foisted upon the symphony:

"It is unfortunate that so many people give themselves useless trouble
to confuse musical speech with poetical speech, and to make one of them
supplement or replace the other where, in their limited view, this
is incomplete. It remains true once for all that music begins where
speech leaves off. Nothing is more intolerable than the preposterous
pictures and stories that people imagine to be at the basis of those
instrumental works. What quality of mind and feeling is displayed when
the hearer of a Beethoven symphony can only keep his interest in it
alive by imagining that the musical flood is the reproduction of the
plot of some romance? These people in consequence often grumble at
the great master when some unexpected stroke disturbs the even tenour
of the little tale they have foisted on the work: they reproach the
composer with unclearness and disconnectedness, and lament his lack of
coherency. Oh the ninnies!"

R. is afterwards careful to explain that he has no objection to
each hearer associating the music, as he hears it, with any moods or
episodes he likes out of his own experience. All he objects to is the
audience having the terms of the poetic association dictated to them
by the musical journalists. "I should like to tear the hair from their
silly heads when they stuff this stupid nonsense into honest people,
and so rob them of all the ingenuousness with which they would have
otherwise have given themselves up to hearing Beethoven's symphony.
Instead of abandoning themselves to their natural feelings, the poor
deluded people of full heart but feeble head think themselves obliged
to follow the course of some village wedding, a thing of which they
probably know nothing at first hand, and in place of which they would
certainly have been much more likely to imagine something quite
different, something from the circle of their own experience.... I hold
that no one stereotyped interpretation is admissible. Definitely as
the purely musical edifice stands complete and rounded in the artistic
proportions of a Beethoven symphony, perfect and indivisible as it
appears to the higher sense, just so is it impossible to reduce the
effects of the work on the human heart to one authoritative symbol.
This is more or less the case with the creations of the other arts:
how diversely will one and the same picture, one and the same drama,
affect diverse individuals, and even the same individual at different
times! And yet how much more definitely and positively the painter
or the poet must draw his figures than the instrumental composer,
who is not bound, like them, to model his form by the appearances
of the everyday world, but who has at his disposal an immeasurable
realm in a super-terrestrial kingdom, and to whose hand is given the
most spiritual of substances--tone! But it is degrading to this high
office of the musician to force him to make him fit his inspiration
to the appearances of the everyday world; and still more would the
instrumental composer deny his mission, or expose his own weakness, who
should try to carry the restricted proportions of merely worldly things
into the realm of his own art."[318]

"In instrumental music," he said in later life, "I am a
_Réactionnaire_, a conservative. I dislike everything that requires
a verbal explanation beyond the actual sounds."[319] In the light
of this declaration, and of the æsthetic doctrines he expounds in
the article _On Franz Liszt's Symphonic Poems_ and elsewhere, it is
interesting to see him setting forth the same doctrine of music as
early as 1840. In _A Happy Evening_ R. lays it down that he rejects all
tone-painting, except when it is used in jest or to reproduce purely
musical phenomena.[320] He further dissents from his friend's theory
that whereas Mozart's symphonies came from nothing but a purely inward
musical source, Beethoven may have "first of all conceived and worked
out the plan of a symphony according to a certain philosophical idea,
before he left it to his imagination to invent the musical themes." The
friend adduces the _Eroica_ Symphony in support of this contention.
"You know that it was at first intended that this symphony should bear
the title 'Bonaparte.' Can you deny, then, that Beethoven was inspired
to this gigantic work, and the plan of it decided, by an idea outside
the realm of music?"

R. sweeps his friend off his feet with the vehemence of his reply. The
_Eroica_ Symphony, he contends, is not a translation into music of the
petty details of Napoleon's first Italian campaign. Nowhere does the
work suggest that the composer has had his eye on any special episode
in the general's career. No realistic explanation of this kind can be
made to square with the Funeral March, the Scherzo with the hunting
horns, or the Finale with its soft, emotional Andante. "Where is the
bridge of Lodi, where the battle of Arcola, where the march to Leoben,
where the victory under the Pyramids, where the 18th Brumaire? Are
these not incidents which no composer of our day would have passed by
had he been writing a biographical symphony on Bonaparte?" Then R.
gives his own theory of the genesis of such a work as the _Eroica_.
What stimulates the musician to composition in the first place is a
purely musical mood: it may have come from either an inner or an outer
experience, but it is wholly musical in essence and in its manner of
expression. "But the grand passions and enduring emotions that dominate
the current of our feelings and ideas for months or for half a year,
it is these that urge the musician to those ampler, more comprehensive
concepts to which we owe, among others, the origin of a _Sinfonia
eroica_. These great moods, as deep suffering of soul or mighty
exaltation, may derive from outer events, for we are human beings and
our fate is ruled by external circumstances: but when they impel the
musician to production these great moods have already turned to music
within him, so that in the moment of creative inspiration it is no
longer the outer events that guide and govern the composition, but the
musical emotion that this event has generated." We may imagine that the
republican Beethoven's emotional nature had been fired by the career
and character of Napoleon. "He was no general,--he was a musician: and
in his own domain he saw the spirit in which he could accomplish the
equivalent of what Bonaparte had accomplished on the plains of Italy."
The product of this passionate yearning for self-realisation was the
_Eroica_ Symphony, "and as he knew well to whom he owed the impulse
to this gigantic work, he inscribed the name of Bonaparte on the
title-page. Yet not a single feature of the development of the symphony
can be said to have an immediate outer connection with the fate of the


Of even more importance than the article _A Happy Evening_ in the
story of Wagner's development is the essay on _The Overture_ that
appeared in the _Gazette Musicale_ in January 1841,--that is to say,
a couple of months after the completion of _Rienzi_, and nearly six
months before the commencement of the _Flying Dutchman_. Here he
anticipates some of the æsthetic he was afterwards to expound so
eloquently and so convincingly in the great article on Beethoven
and elsewhere. He begins with a survey of the early history of the
Overture. There had always been, apparently, a reluctance to plunging
the spectator forthwith into the opera, just as in earlier times a
prologue had always preceded the play. The prologue, however, had
this at any rate to be said for it, that it summarised the action of
the coming play, and in this and other ways prepared the spectator
to listen more intelligently. The early Overture, however, could not
do this, for at that time the psychological powers of music were not
sufficiently developed to permit of the summarising in a few minutes
of the actions and the motives of an opera. It became a conventional,
not a characteristic prelude. Later on a regular "Overture form" was
elaborated, but even this was psychologically impotent. What connection
has the overture to the _Messiah_, for example, with the oratorio
itself? Would it not serve equally well as prelude to a hundred others
of the old oratorios or operas? Practically the only method of musical
development these composers had at their service was the fugal: it was
impossible for them to work out an extended musical piece by means of
ever-widening circles of pure feeling.

Next came a tripartite form of overture,--an opening and closing
movement in quicker time, with an intermediate section in slower time
and of softer character. This gave a certain amount of opportunity
for the presentation of one or two of the main moods or episodes
or characters of the opera: and in the "Symphony" that introduces
the _Seraglio_, Mozart has given us a little masterpiece in this
_genre_. But there was a certain helplessness in the division of the
"Symphony" into three sections, and in the predetermined nature of
their contents: and in course of time there was evolved the operatic
overture proper,--a continuous musical piece, making a sort of dramatic
play with the main motives of the opera. This was the form with which
Gluck and Mozart worked such wonders. Gluck's masterpiece is the
overture to _Iphigenia in Aulis_: Mozart's, those to the _Magic Flute_,
_Figaro_, and _Titus_. According to Wagner, Mozart's merit was that he
did not attempt to express in his overture all the details of the plot,
but "fastened with his poet's eye on the leading idea of the drama,
divested it of all its inessentials and material accidentiæ, and set
it forth as a musically transfigured creation, a passion personified
in tones, and presented it to the main idea as the justificatory
counterpart of this,--a something through which the idea, and even
the dramatic action itself, became intelligible to the spectator's
feeling." At the same time the overture became a self-contained
tone-piece,--this being true even of an overture like that to _Don
Giovanni_, which runs without any formal close into the first scene
of the opera. This form of overture became the property of Cherubini
and Beethoven. The former remained mostly faithful to the transmitted
type, which Beethoven also used in the E major overture to _Fidelio_.
But Beethoven in time broke through the cramping limitations of this
form. His "prodigious dramatic instinct," having never found the opera
into which it could pour the whole of itself, turned for an outlet to
instrumental music pure and simple,--to the field in which he could
"shape in his own way the drama of his desire out of pure tone-images,"
a drama "set free from the petty trimmings of the timorous playwright."
The result of this effort was the great _Leonora_ overture, which, "far
from giving us a musical introduction to the drama, really sets that
drama before us more completely and more affectingly than the ensuing
broken action does. This work is no longer an overture, but itself the
mightiest of dramas."[322]

Weber too is commended for making his overtures dramatic "without
losing and wasting himself in a painful depiction of insignificant
accessories of the plot." Even when his rich fantasy led him to
incorporate more subsidiary musical motives than the form transmitted
to him could conveniently carry, he always managed to preserve the
dramatic unity of his conception. He invented a new form, that of
the "dramatic fantasia," of which the _Oberon_ overture is one of
the finest examples. "Nevertheless," says Wagner,--and here again
we see his rooted antipathy to anything in the nature of excessive
detail-painting in music[323]--"it is not to be denied that the
independence of purely musical production must suffer by subordination
to a dramatic thought, if this thought is not seized in one broad trait
consistent with the spirit of music,--for the composer who tries to
depict the details of the action itself cannot develop his dramatic
theme without breaking his musical work to fragments." The inevitable
ending of this style of overture is the _pot-pourri_,--a form of which
Spontini's overture to the _Vestale_ may be said to have been the
beginning. The public liked this kind of thing because it dished up for
them again the most effective snatches of melody from the operas.

The summing up is that the ideal form and ideal achievement are
those of the _Don Giovanni_ and _Leonora_ overtures. In the former no
attempt is made to reproduce the course of the drama itself step by
step: the drama is freshly conceived as the contest between two broad
principles--the arrogance of Don Giovanni and the anger of a higher
power--and "the invention, as well as the conduct," of these symbolic
motives "belongs quite unmistakably to no other province than that of
music." Beethoven's method in the _Leonora_ overture, on the other
hand, is "to concentrate in all its noble unity the _one_ sublime
action which, in the drama itself, is weakened and impeded by the
necessity of padding it out with trivial details,--to show this action
in its ideal new motion, nourished only by its inner impulses." This
"ideal action" is, of course, the loving self-sacrifice of Leonora.
But by reason of its very greatness and its intense dramatic quality,
the _Leonora_ overture ceases to be an _overture_ in the proper sense
of the word. It anticipates too fully the completed drama: if it is
not understood by the hearer, because of his lack of knowledge of the
opera, it conveys only a fragment of its real message to him: if it is
wholly understood, it weakens his subsequent enjoyment of the drama

Wagner therefore returns to the overture to _Don Giovanni_ as the
ideal, because here "the leading thought of the drama is worked out
in a purely musical, not a dramatic, form." In this way the musician
"most surely attains the general artistic aim of the overture, which
is simply an ideal prologue, transporting us into that higher sphere
in which to prepare our mind for the drama." The musical conception
of the main idea of the drama can still be distinctly worked out and
brought to a definite close; in fact "the overture should form a
musical art-work complete in itself." No better model could be had
than Gluck's overture to _Iphigenia in Aulis_. In a word, though the
overture must not attempt to reproduce stage by stage all the episodes
of the story, it can suggest in its own way the dramatic contest of two
main principles by a contest between two symbolic musical ideas: only
the working-out of these musical ideas must follow from the nature of
the themes themselves. But it must be always borne in mind--and the
frequency with which Wagner returns to this point shows the importance
he attached to it--that "the working-out must always take its rise from
the purely musical significance of the themes: never should it take
account of the course of events in the drama itself, for this would at
once destroy the sole effective character of a piece of music."

As I have already pointed out, this and one or two of the other
articles of the Paris time are interesting because they show us
the mature æsthetics of the 'sixties and 'seventies trying to find
expression in the young Wagner of 1840. To most of the principles here
laid down he remained faithful, as we shall see, to the end of his
days. But it is interesting also to note that though theoretically he
always remained constant to the guiding principles he here lays down
for the overture, his practice by no means always conformed to them.
His ideal overture, as we have just seen, was one of the type of that
to _Don Giovanni_ or that to _Iphigenia in Aulis_--_i.e._ one that
either made no use at all of thematic material from the opera itself,
or the minimum use of it, the dramatic conflict of the stage action
being fought out ideally, as it were, in the overture, in the persons
of two symbolic musical themes. "In this conception of the overture,"
he says, "the highest task would be to reproduce the characteristic
idea of the drama by means pure and simple (_mit den eigentlichen
Mitteln_) of self-subsistent (_selbstständigen_) music, and to conduct
it to a conclusion which should correspond, by anticipation, with the
solution of the problem in the scenic play."

It is difficult to square his practice in some of his own overtures
with the theoretical principles he here lays down. Not one of
his overtures corresponds with the form he so greatly admired
in the overtures to _Don Giovanni_ and _Iphigenia in Aulis_,--a
re-presentation of the coming dramatic conflict in terms of a musical
piece that made no drafts at all, or practically none, upon the
thematic material of the opera itself. The brief Prelude to _Lohengrin_
comes under no suspicion of being a _pot-pourri_ of motives from
the opera; but then it achieves its concision and its singular air
of detachment from anything in the nature of mere story-telling in
music by failing to do just what Mozart and Gluck are commended for
doing--summing up the ensuing dramatic conflict by the opposition of
two main musical moods and their final resolution. The _Lohengrin_
Prelude tells us nothing of any dramatic contest,--not even that
which rages in the heart of Elsa. It shows us only Lohengrin, the
representative of the Grail, coming to earth and leaving it again.
There is no hint of the reason for his return to Monsalvat: there is
no hint even that his stay on earth has been in any degree troubled by
enemies or evil. Beautiful as it is, therefore, and eloquently as it
sings of Lohengrin himself, the Prelude is not in the full sense of
the word a real prelude to the drama. On the other hand, when Wagner
_does_ make his overture a genuine introduction to, and instrumental
summary of, the opera, he inevitably approaches the _pot-pourri_. It
is true that his fine sense of form mostly saves him from attempting
to reproduce in the overture _all_ the dramatic or thematic motives
of the opera. In the _Flying Dutchman_ overture, for example, there
is no reference to Erik: so far as the overture itself is concerned,
no such person might have ever come into the lives of Senta and the
Dutchman. There is no mention of Daland, and no reference to the
spinning scene--the latter a musical motive that, it is safe to say,
none of the French or Italian writers of overtures, or perhaps even
Weber himself, would have had the heart to set aside. On the whole
the _Flying Dutchman_ overture is concerned simply with the Dutchman,
his curse and his grief, with Senta, and with the sea that forms the
imaginative background to their drama:[324] and though of course the
overture is entirely built up of thematic material derived from the
opera, this is all so freshly and imaginatively treated, and made into
so coherent and organic a piece of instrumental music, that, though
the overture is by no means of the type of those to _Don Giovanni_ and
_Iphigenia in Aulis_, which Wagner praised as models, nothing could
be further removed from the old-style _pot-pourri_. The overtures to
_Tannhäuser_ and the _Meistersinger_, however, must frankly be called
_pot-pourris_,--though _pot-pourris_ of genius. In the _Tannhäuser_
overture we are given not merely an instrumental symbol of the drama,
but the drama itself compressed into a sort of feuilleton. The ground
covered is so vast, and the expression so intense, that at the end of
the overture we are inclined to ask ourselves whether it has not, like
the great _Leonora_ overture, made a good deal of the ensuing drama
almost superfluous, a mere padding out or watering down of the emotions
and the spiritual oppositions set before us with such drastic power in
the overture itself. One is inclined to say that an overture lasting
nearly a quarter of an hour is not so much the door to a mansion as
a cottage in itself. A work like the _Tannhäuser_ overture has its
justification as a kind of symphonic poem for the concert room; it has
little justification as a prelude to a drama in the theatre.

In any case a piece of prolonged story-telling of this kind is
not what Wagner had in his mind when he wrote the article on _The
Overture_: it is not too much to say, indeed, that it is the very type
of musical introduction he expressly wished to bar. It is true that
he advises the composer who wishes to make his overture "reproduce
the characteristic idea of the drama by means pure and simple of
self-subsistent music, and to conduct it to a conclusion which shall
correspond, by anticipation, with the solution of the problem in the
scenic play," to give the introductory instrumental piece some thematic
connection with the opera. But not, be it observed, by utilising
long stretches of this material, as is done in the _Tannhäuser_
overture. Wagner's advice to the composer is "to introduce into the
characteristic motives of his overture certain melismic or rhythmic
features that are of importance in the dramatic action itself--not
features, however, strewn accidentally among the action, but such as
play a decisively weighty part in it, characteristics that determine,
as it were, the orientation of a human action on a specific _terrain_,
and so give an individual stamp to the overture. These features must
of course be purely musical in their nature, _i.e._ such motives
from the world of tone as have a relation to human life. I would
cite as excellent examples the trombone blasts of the Priests in the
_Magic Flute_, the trumpet signal in the _Leonora_, and the call of
the magic horn in _Oberon_. These musical motives from the opera,
employed in advance in the overture, serve, when introduced there at
the decisive moment, as veritable points of contact of the dramatic
with the musical motion, and effect a happy individualisation of the
tone-piece, which is intended to be a mood-defining introduction to a
particular dramatic subject."[325] The ideal overture that Wagner had
in his mind at this time was evidently something very different from
the one he subsequently wrote for _Tannhäuser_: but the discrepancy
between his theory and his practice is still more strikingly shown by a
sentence that appears in the French version of the article but not in
the German. In the French, the passage quoted above, commencing with
the words "these features must of course be purely musical in their
nature," was prefaced by the following: "But one should never forget
that they [_i.e._ "the melismic or rhythmical features" from the opera
that were to be interwoven into the tissue of the overture] should be
entirely musical in their source, and not borrow their significance
from the words that accompany them in the opera. The composer would
in this case commit the error of sacrificing both himself and the
independence of his art to the intervention of an alien art. These
elements, I say, must be in their nature purely musical, and I would
cite as examples," &c.

It is at once evident that this bars out whole passages such as the
Pilgrims' Chorus, The Sirens' Chorus, and Tannhäuser's Hymn to Venus,
and, in the _Meistersinger_ overture, such passages as Sachs's final
address, the phrases in which the populace jeer at Beckmesser, &c.
Strictly speaking, indeed, neither of these overtures can be made
to square with Wagner's theoretical principles. The question of the
overture was one of those on which he never attained to complete
consistency. In _Tristan_, as in _Lohengrin_, he devotes himself
simply to working out in a broad form one great emotional motive of
the drama. The overtures to _Tannhäuser_ and the _Meistersinger_, and,
in a lesser degree, that to the _Flying Dutchman_, are a mixture of
the _pot-pourri_ and the symphonic poem. The Prelude to _Parsifal_
is again a sort of _pot-pourri_, though here, of course, there is no
attempt at story-telling in detail, the Prelude setting before us, as
Wagner himself said, the three motives of "Love, Faith and Hope," and
showing, as it were, the emotional outcome of them. To the _Rhinegold_
there is no overture, or even a Prelude in the formal sense of that
word: the long-drawn chord of E flat is merely the oral counterpart of
the visible sensation given the spectator by the Rhine. Similarly the
preludial bars to the _Valkyrie_ only paint the storm in which Siegmund
is flying from his enemies.

Even the greatest men and the boldest revolutionaries are fettered
in their thinking by the age in which they live. Only in this way can
we account for Wagner's failure to see that the true solution of the
problem of the overture was to abolish the overture. It had never any
real æsthetic justification. As he himself points out, it had its
origin simply in the fact that at one stage of the development of
opera the composer saw the necessity of keeping the audience occupied
in some way for a few minutes before it would be safe to raise the
curtain on the play. It is one more of the many illustrations that may
be cited of what may be called the dead hand in art,--the survival in
a new art of some method of procedure that had its origin under quite
other conditions. Pottery, for instance, continued for long to be
decorated with lines that were merely imitations in clay--unnecessary
imitations--of the designs and colours of the interlaced osiers out of
which the primitive vessel was made. The symphony developed out of the
custom of stringing certain dance movements into a suite: and in spite
of the clearly recognised fact that there is no logical justification
either in art or in life for casting the modern symphony into this
arbitrary four-movement form, composers still weakly adhere to it.
Wagner was fond of pointing out, again, how Beethoven's congenital
inability to break away from the sonata form of his day led to a clash
between this form and the purely dramatic, onward-urging impulse of
the great _Leonora_ overture. It is little wonder, therefore, that
Wagner was so far the slave of his epoch that it never occurred to
him, and least of all in 1841, to question the necessity of having
any overture at all. The freer thought of the present day has been
able either to reduce the overture to a few bars of prelude, simply
attuning the mind of the spectator to the coming scene, as in Debussy's
_Pelleas and Melisande_, or to dispense altogether with an instrumental
introduction, as in _Salome_ and _Elektra_.


After the Paris articles of 1841 Wagner wrote little or nothing upon
the æsthetics of his art for some ten years. For a time, indeed, he
wrote practically no prose of any kind. He left Paris for Dresden in
April 1842. At the end of that year he wrote his _Autobiographical
Sketch_ for Laube's _Zeitung für die elegante Welt_. His pen was
then silent until 1844, in which year we have the _Account of the
bringing home of Weber's remains from London to Dresden_, and the
_Speech at Weber's Grave_. To 1846 belongs the programme he wrote
for the performance of Beethoven's choral symphony on Palm Sunday at
Dresden.[326] No doubt his duties at the Dresden Opera, which he seems
to have fulfilled with great thoroughness and conscientiousness, left
him little time for anything else but these and the composition of
_Tannhäuser_ and _Lohengrin_. When he at length took up the pen again
it was not to expound a system of musical æsthetics but to preach a
social evangel, and to come to the first grips with the new dramatic
ideas that had been slowly maturing in him. In May 1848 he submits to
the Minister his _Project for the Organisation of a German National
Theatre for the Kingdom of Saxony_. In September he sketches two
operatic poems, _Siegfried's Death_ and _Friedrich Barbarossa_, the
former of which he works out in detail by November. Early in January
the religious drama _Jesus of Nazareth_ is sketched. In the summer of
1848 he writes the essay on the _Wibelungen_.

During these years his discontent with the social and political
conditions of the times had been slowly rising. Though it would be
unfair to Wagner to attribute this discontent solely to the miserable
circumstances of his own life, it is certain that his poverty, his
debts and his disappointments had a good deal to do with making him a
rebel against the established order of things. Mr. H. S. Chamberlain
holds that Wagner was already a "revolutionist against the artistic
world of the present" in Paris in 1840. It is quite possible, for
Wagner was even poorer in Paris at that time than he was a few years
later in Dresden. Gustav Levy agrees with Mr. Chamberlain, but even
his own sympathetic summary of the case unconsciously makes it clear
that Wagner's personal experiences and circumstances had something to
do with making a revolutionary of him. "Beginning of November (1847),
Wagner returns (from Berlin)[327] in a state of discouragement. The
incessant difficulties in the way of winning appreciation for his
works, and his consequently ever-increasing financial embarrassments,
as well as the persistent enmity of the press, the lack of support
he received from Meyerbeer, and the refusal of Lüttichau[328] to
take up his reform of the Opera, bring on an illness: he thinks of
suicide. Everything in him presses powerfully towards the _spiritual_
revolution, to the freeing of art from the fetters of un-German feeling
and conventional, deeply-rooted ignorance (_Unverstand_)."[329]


The years 1848 to 1852 were for Wagner a long spell of intellectual and
spiritual indigestion; his too receptive brain was taking into itself
more impressions of all kinds than it could assimilate. Art and life,
opera and politics, called clamorously to him, and all at the same
time, deafening and confusing him. With _Lohengrin_ his second great
creative epoch, that had commenced with the _Flying Dutchman_, had
come to its perfect end. New ideas of music and drama were ripening
in him, but as yet he had no clear conception of their drift. He had
gradually become profoundly disgusted with the theatre, yet saw no
possible reformation of it except by way of a reformation of man and
society as a whole. So he became a revolutionist,--not for politics'
sake but for art's sake. To cooler heads than his own he seemed to
be drifting towards destruction. Minna saw clearly enough that his
views on politics were too idealistic to have any real bearing on the
practicalities of the day; and other sympathisers no doubt regretted
that the artist in him should be in danger of being ruined by the

At first he thought it possible to reform the theatre from the inside:
and apparently nothing could surpass the zeal he showed in his work
at the opera house, or the sincerity of his desire to raise the music
of the town to the highest possible efficiency. In February 1846 he
drafted a scheme for the improvement of the orchestra, that runs to
nearly sixty pages of close print in the _Gesammelte Schriften_, and
leaves not the smallest practical detail untouched.[331] Two years
later he worked out his admirable scheme for the organisation of a
German National Theatre for the Kingdom of Saxony. Here again one is
struck by the practical nature of his genius.[332] But once more his
appeal fell on deaf ears.

His failure to interest the theatre authorities in his schemes for the
regeneration of the drama and music drove him deeper into politics.
Only from a new humanity, a new relationship between man and the
State, could come a clean and healthy and art-loving civilisation. In
June 1848 he made his famous "Vaterlandsverein" speech, that created
so many new enemies for him at the Court.[333] In February 1849 he
wrote an article on "Man and Existing Society"[334] for Roeckel's
_Volksblätter_, and in April one on "The Revolution" for the same
journal.[335] Each of these is a passionate cry of welcome to the
new era that he thought was dawning. "In the year 1848 began the war
of man's fight against existing society." For society as at present
constituted "is an attack on man: the ordering of existing society is
inimical to the destiny, the right of man.... Man's destiny is, through
the ever higher perfecting of his mental, moral, and bodily faculties,
to attain an ever higher, purer happiness. Man's right is, through the
ever higher perfecting of his mental, moral and bodily faculties, to
achieve the enjoyment of a constantly increasing, purer happiness."
But this can only be done by the union of all, not by the unit. "Men
therefore are not only entitled but bound to demand of society that it
shall lead them to ever higher, purer happiness through the perfecting
of their mental, moral and bodily faculties." The second of the essays
chants a dithyramb to the coming revolution. Volcano rumblings are to
be heard beneath the soil of all Europe; soon the great upheaval will
come. "The old world is crumbling to ruin; a new world will be born
from it." The artist burns with sympathy for the poor, the suffering,
the oppressed, and looks forward to a new civilisation, in which man
will be free and have joy of his labour. It is impossible not to be
moved to this day by the eloquence and passionate sincerity of his cry,
and the purity of his hopes.

But the end was near,--a very different end from the one anticipated by
this ardent soul. All hope of success faded before the Prussian rifles,
and on the 9th May the disillusioned idealist was in flight.

It was long, however, before the hopes and dreams of 1848 and 1849
finally forsook him. From his Swiss and Parisian exile he sent forth
two treatises--_Art and Revolution_ (written in June 1849), and the
_Art-Work of the Future_ (written in October of the same year),--in
which he voices once more his aspirations for a new humanity and a new


In an interesting introduction that he wrote to _Art and Revolution_
when reprinting the essay in his collective works in 1872, Wagner
speaks of the influence of Feuerbach upon him at this time: in
Feuerbach's conception of art he thought he recognised his own artistic
ideal. What that ideal was is painted for us in full in the heated
pages of _Art and Revolution_.

His central point is the one to which he remained true his whole life
long,--that art should be the pure expression of a free community's
joy in itself; it should be accessible to all, and placed beyond the
necessity of maintaining itself by commercial means. He paints a fancy
picture of "the free Greek,"--a being evolved by Wagner out of his own
inner consciousness,--and elaborates the theory that the community as
a whole creates great art. "The tragedies of Æschylus and Sophocles
were the work of Athens." "The public art of the Greeks, which reached
its highest point in tragedy, was the expression of the deepest and
noblest consciousness of the people: with _us_ the deepest and noblest
of man's consciousness is the direct antithesis of this,--the denial of
our public art." The Greek tragedy was witnessed by the whole populace:
in our superior theatres only the well-to-do can watch the play. Among
the Greeks the production of a tragedy was a religious festival: in
the modern State art is only an amusement or a distraction for tired
people in the evening. The Greek was educated to make an artistic
whole of his body and his spirit; we are trained merely for industrial
gain. "Whereas the Greek artist found his reward in his own enjoyment
of the work of art, in its success, and in the public approval, the
modern artist is maintained--and _paid_. Thus we attain the clear
definition of the essential distinction between the two. Greek public
art was really _Art_; with us it is artistic _handicraft_." He admits
that the Greek freedom was the result of the State being founded on
slavery; but to-day _all_ are slaves together. "Our god is gold, our
religion the pursuit of wealth." With the Greeks, art lived in the
public conscience: with us it lives only in the conscience of private
individuals. "Greek art was therefore _conservative_, because it was a
worthy and adequate expression of the public conscience: with us, true
art is _revolutionary_, because it exists only in opposition to the
community in general." "This is art," he cries, "as it now fills the
whole civilised world. Its real essence is industry; its ethical aim
the gaining of gold; its æsthetic pretext the entertainment of bored

In _Art and Revolution_ we get the first hint of that "united
art-work" that was to occupy his mind so much during the succeeding
years.[336] He holds that "with the Greeks the perfect work of art,
the drama, was the sum and substance of all that could be expressed in
the Greek nature; it was--in intimate connection with its history--the
nation itself that stood facing itself in the art-work, that became
conscious of itself, and, during a few hours, rapturously devoured,
as it were, its own essence." With the later downfall of tragedy,
"art became less and less the expression of the public conscience:
the drama split up into its component parts,--rhetoric, sculpture,
painting, opera, &c., forsook the ranks in which they had formerly
moved together, and now went each its own way and pursued its own
development, self-sufficing, indeed, but lonely and egoistic." The
great "unified art-work" has been lost for us; only the dissevered arts
exist now. In each of them wonders have been wrought; "but the one true
art has never been born again, either in the Renaissance or since."
And only "the great revolution of mankind" can restore to us this
art-work. "If the Greek art-work comprehended the spirit of a beautiful
nation, the art-work of the future must comprehend the spirit of a free
humanity soaring above all barriers of race." The new art demands a
new mankind, and, as a preliminary, a return to nature. Man has been
destroyed by culture. The goal both of art and of the social impulse
must be "the strong and beautiful man, to whom _revolution_ shall give
his _strength_, and _art_ his _beauty_."

He looks forward to the time when man shall be free from care for
the material things of life, with which the collective wisdom of the
community will supply him; and "then will man's enfranchised energy
manifest itself only in artistic impulse." Every man will become
an artist, and the expression of the artistic emotion of the whole
community will be the drama. But art will not be practised for gain.
The theatre too must be freed from the greed of industrial speculation.
The care of the theatre will be the first concern of an emancipated and
enlightened community; it must be managed by "the whole body of the
artists themselves, who unite in the art-work and ensure the success
of their common efforts by proper co-operation." Admission to the
theatre must be free, the community recompensing the dramatists and the

The essay is written at a white heat throughout. His dreams are
unrealisable in any world that we can think of at present: but he
evidently believed in not only the possible but the speedy realisation
of them. In Dresden, in the days before the rising, he expounded them
enthusiastically to everyone he met. And he clung to them long after
his flight from Dresden. Though he thought nothing was now to be
achieved by working for reform, and that only by revolution could a new
heaven and a new earth be brought into being,[337] in the possibility
of this new heaven and earth he continued to believe. To Sulzer, in
Zürich, he "insisted in attaching to the artistic destiny of mankind
an importance far above that of any concern of the State."[338] Even
in 1851 he had not given up hope that the social revolution that would
bring with it the artistic revolution was near at hand. "I assumed that
there would soon come a huge revulsion with regard to the public and
indeed our whole social life; for the new resulting state of affairs
and its real needs I believed that the right material for a quite new
and instantaneous relationship of art to the public lay in the work I
had sketched so boldly." He saw that the political movement had been
crippled, but hoped all the more from the social movement, especially
in France. He counted on a great blow for freedom being struck in the
French presidential election of 1852. "The condition of the other
European States, in which every aspiration was suppressed with stupid
brutality, justified one in thinking that this state of affairs also
could not last very long anywhere, and everything seemed to be looking
towards the great decision that was to be taken in the following
year." Uhlig, as he says, argued against him: but nothing could shake
Wagner's faith. "Whenever we had to complain of any baseness, I always
pointed him to this hopeful and fateful year, my opinion being that we
should calmly wait for the expected upheaval, so that when no one else
should know what to do, we could make a start. I cannot measure how
deeply this hope had taken root in me; I soon, however, was forced to
recognise that the confident pride of my assumptions and affirmations
was largely due to the greatly increased excitement of my nerves. The
news of the _coup d'état_ of the 2nd December in Paris seemed to me
absolutely incredible: I was certain the world was coming to an end.
When the news was confirmed, and it became clear that events no one had
thought possible had happened and seemed likely to endure, I turned
away from the investigation of this enigmatic world, as one turns from
a mystery the fathoming of which no longer seems to be worth while."
So deep was his disappointment at the triumph of reaction that for a
little while his health was affected.[339]


It was while he was still panting in the mists of idealism that he
wrote _The Art-Work of the Future_, in which the æsthetic ideas that
had been maturing in him during the latter part of the Dresden period
found their first full expression.

The basis of his theory is again the belief that we shall not have a
real art until we have a new and free humanity. "Man will never be
what he can and should be, until his life is a true mirror of nature,
a conscious following of the only real necessity, _the inner natural
necessity_, and not subjected to an _outer_, imaginary, and so not a
necessary but an arbitrary power." He is still vibrating with anger
against the politicians of the day, to whom he attributes all the evils
under the sun; and of course he idealises that mysterious abstraction
"the Folk," to whom he sings a rapturous pæan.[340] It is the Folk
alone that acts as Necessity dictates,--the Folk being defined as "the
sum of all those who feel a common need"; while opposed to the Folk
are all those "who feel no want," whose motive force is an artificial
and egoistic need, satisfaction for which they seek in luxury,--"which
can only be generated and maintained in opposition to and at the cost
of the sacrifices of the needy." These were not the views he held
upon luxury in later years, when he, one of the most luxurious-souled
of men, had the opportunity to satisfy his cravings for silk
dressing-gowns and lace shirts and other vanities of this world. His
fulminations against luxury are simply the eternal cry of the Have-nots
against the Haves.

He is, as always, discontented with the life and the art of his
day, both of which seem to him fundamentally false and artificial.
"The spirit, in its artistic striving for reunion with nature in
the art-work, must either look forward with hope to the future, or
mournfully practise resignation." He recognises that we can find
redemption only in the art-work that is physically present to the
senses (_nur im sinnlich gegenwärtigen Kunstwerke_), "thus only in a
truly art-needing, _i.e._ art-conditioning Present that shall bring
forth art from its own natural truth and beauty": that is to say, he
has faith in the power of Necessity, for which this work of the Future
is reserved.... "The great united art-work, that must embrace all
the _genres_ of art and in some degree undo [_verbrauchen_] each of
them in order to use it as a means to an end, to annul it in order to
attain the common aim of _all_, namely, the unconditioned, immediate
representation of perfected human nature,--this great united art-work
we cannot recognise as the arbitrary need of the individual, but only
as the inevitable [_nothwendig denkbare_] associated work of the
humanity of the future."[341]

He proceeds to elaborate his idea of this united art-work, though
the full exposition of it is only to be found in _Opera and Drama_.
With his Teutonic passion for categorisation, he divides man up into
neat mental parcels. The intellect has for its organ speech; the
organ of feeling is tone. Speech gives determination to the otherwise
indeterminate vocal tone: it is "the condensed element of the voice,
and the word is the consolidated measure of tone." The whole man is the
man of intellect (speech), heart (tone) and body (gesture). Thus the
three primeval intertwining sisters of art are Dance, Tone, and Poetry:
and true art is a union of the three. Such an art expresses all the
faculties of man, whereas the separate arts,--the art-varieties, as he
calls them,--only issue from and express this or that faculty. Art must
appeal to the eye. "Unless it communicates itself to the eye, all art
remains unsatisfying, and thus itself unsatisfied, unfree. No matter
how fully it may express itself to the ear, or merely to the combining
and mediately compensating faculty of thought [_das kombinierende,
mittelbar ersetzende Denkvermögen_], until it communicates itself
intelligibly to the eye it remains only a thing that _wills_, and
not yet fully _can_. Art, however, must _can_--it is from _können_
that art, in our language, has acquired the appropriate name of _Die

Each of the dissevered arts longs for reunion with the others, "Dance
longs to pass over into Tone, there to find herself again and know
herself; Tone in turn receives the marrowy frame of its structure
from the rhythm of Dance.... But Tone's most living flesh is the
human voice; the Word again is as it were the bony, muscular rhythm
of the human voice." Thus the emotion that overflowed from Dance
into Tone finds definition and certainty in the Word, and so is able
to reveal itself clearly. The union of these three is "the united
lyric art-work," of which the perfected form is the drama. Both the
music and the poetry of to-day are impotent. He looks forward to "the
overwhelming blow of fate that shall make an end of all the unwieldy
musical trash, to make room for the art-work of the future." Nor can
poetry alone create the genuine art-work, for no genuine art-work is
possible without an appeal to the eye. Poetry should be written to be
acted, not read. "The whole impenetrable medley of stored-up literature
is in truth--in spite of its million phrases--nothing but the toilsome
stammering of speech-impotent thought that longs to pass over into
natural immediacy,--a stammering that has been going on for centuries,
in verse and prose, without achieving the living Word." Shakespeare
was to the art-work of the future no more than Thespis was to the
perfected Greek drama. "The deed of the unique Shakespeare, which
made a universal man, a very god of him, is yet only the deed of the
solitary Beethoven, that revealed to him the language of the artistic
manhood of the future. Only where these two Prometheus,--Shakespeare
and Beethoven--shall reach out hands to one another; where the marble
creations of Phidias shall become living, moving flesh and blood; where
Nature, instead of being represented on a narrow canvas on the chamber
walls of the egoist, shall unfold herself luxuriantly on the ample
stage of the future, swept by the warm breath of life,--only then, in
the fellowship of his fellow artists, will the poet find redemption."

It is evident throughout that his theory is the product of his own
æsthetic bias. _He_ can express himself only in terms of poetry and
music on the stage; it is therefore illegitimate for any other artist
to adopt any other medium of expression. Poetry without music, music
without poetry, cannot satisfy _him_; therefore no one else has any
right to be satisfied with either of these arts separately. The truth
is that he was utterly insensitive to the peculiar qualities in each
of the separate arts that constitute its special charm for those who
practise it exclusively. When he was in Milan in 1859 he suddenly
realised, he tells us, that he was "no good as a judge of pictures,
because the subject, when once it had made a clear and sympathetic
appeal to me, at once and completely decided me."[343] The confession
is quite superfluous. It is writ large over all his prose works that
he had nothing of the painter's delight in painting, or any real
understanding of its æsthetic effect. He seems to have been equally
blind or deaf to the peculiar appeal of the other arts. If it were
not so, he would hardly have laid it down, in all seriousness, that
"literature poetry," as the "mere organ of the intellect," should be
dissolved, self-abrogated, into the "unified art-work of the future,"
or that architecture decays when it passes from the service of the
State and religion into the service of the "egoistic individual," or
that sculpture too has become a merely "egoistic" art, only to be
"redeemed" by being taken up into the "united art-work,"[344] or that
painting too must seek a similar "redemption." His notions that the
landscape painter will find his impulses satisfied in the painting
of scenery or a background for the living man of drama, and that the
gestures of the mime will amply compensate us for the cessation of
sculpture, are indeed not to be taken seriously; they are possible only
to a man without the least understanding of the plastic arts. It is of
course quite untrue that in such a union of the arts as he suggests
"the highest faculty of each is unfolded to the fullest." Even in the
Wagnerian opera none of the contributing arts receives anything like
its full unfolding except music. The truth is that Wagner had still not
rid his artistic ideas of their political encumbrances. He was poor,
and unable to realise himself in the world as it was then. He naturally
supposed there must be something fundamentally wrong with a world of
that kind, and he looked forward to a speedy dissolution of it, and the
rising of a new civilisation from its ashes. He saw the rich buying
pictures and sculptures and building houses for themselves, and the
ordinary people reading poetry or prose, instead of them all flocking
to the opera. People had a reprehensible passion for being what he
called "units," each of them enjoying his own art in his own way.
"True" art, therefore, would be possible only in a society in which the
unit had lost consciousness of himself in the community. The communal
art, the art enjoyed by great masses of people in the same place and
at the same time, is the drama. The "units" who could not quite stifle
their liking for painting and sculpture must therefore be satisfied
with so much of these as could be given them in the theatre. It was a
very logical and symmetrical piece of pleading: the only defect in it
was that it left just one thing out of account--human nature.

His political speculations have the triple disadvantage that they are
rarely true in themselves, they are too obviously the product merely
of the circumstances of Wagner's own time and place, and they have no
practical bearing upon art. The angry idealist overshoots his mark when
he tells us that our modern States are the most unnatural associations
of men, inasmuch as they arose solely out of a "mere external caprice,
_i.e._ dynastic family interests," and that "they yoke together
once for all a certain number of men for an aim that either never
corresponded to a need they had in common, or, owing to the changes
wrought by time, is certainly no longer common to them now." Even if
it were true it would be without any practical significance either for
politics or art,--for politics, because there is no one art that can
be said to possess the imagination of a complex modern State, no one
"need" for the satisfaction of which it is possible to induce all the
citizens to labour: and for art, because art's business is to display
to us the endless beauty and interest of things, not to argue us into
the adoption of this or that view of this infinite, incomprehensible
world. Too much of Wagner's political theorising is the mere outcome
of affairs as they happened to be in Germany at the latter end of the
first half of the nineteenth century. He idealised the "Folk" because
that unfixable abstraction was the natural antithesis of the rich
governing class whom he held in abhorrence. It is right that the artist
should have his dreams of life as well as of art, and if he chooses
to find his ideal in an abstraction no one can say him nay. But when
he proceeds to endow that abstraction with all the impossible virtues
under the sun, when he tells us that "the artist of the future" will
be, not the poet, the actor, the musician or the plastician, but the
"Folk,"--"to whom alone we owe all Art itself,"--we can only decline
to keep company with him until he shall be able to use words with some
meaning in them. There is, in fact, a sort of nonsense prose as there
is a nonsense verse. Wagner's dithyrambs upon the Folk--and upon many
another topic--are simply the prose counterpart of Lear and Carroll.


Wagner was the most many-sided of musicians, as a glance at the titles
of his prose works will show. He benefited greatly by his versatility:
no one can doubt that his music is all the richer for the stimuli his
nature received from so many quarters. But if he gained something by
it, it is probable that the world lost as much. There are few of us
who would not give three-fourths of the prose works for another opera
from his pen; and he would have had time to write half a dozen if
he had abstained from all this prose. But the prose was a necessity
to him; it was a needed purgation of the intellect, without which
the emotion could not function fully and freely. The most striking
illustration of this is _Opera and Drama_. Wagner had already poured
out his ideas upon man and art at great length in _Art and Revolution_
and the _Art-Work of the Future_. His mind was now brooding upon the
great dramatic subject that was to occupy the bulk of his thinking
for the next twenty years or more of his life. It was only for the
realisation of this dream that he now clung to existence. Yet the dæmon
within him drove him to postpone the composition of this poem until he
had produced yet another huge theoretical treatise. The reasons for
this were two-fold. In the first place he had a despairing sense of
the futility of bringing so new and vast a work into being until he
had educated the artistic public of that day to comprehend his novel
aims and style. In the second place, he felt an imperative need of
coming to an understanding with himself. He probably saw the whole plan
and technique of _Siegfried's Death_[345] more or less vaguely--too
vaguely for him to be willing to trust himself all at once on that
huge uncharted sea. It would clarify his own ideas, as well as prepare
the public, if he were to draw out the ground plan, as it were, of
the music drama of the future. This he accordingly did in _Opera and
Drama_. "My literary works," he wrote to Roeckel, "were testimonies
to my want of freedom as an artist; it was dire compulsion alone that
wrung them from me."[346]

_Opera and Drama_ was written in the winter of 1850-1. As it is the
most thorough and the most comprehensive statement that Wagner has
given us of his theory of drama and music, it will be as well to
summarise its arguments and conclusions for the reader.

I. Until the present time, men have indeed felt that the opera was a
monument of the corruption of artistic taste, but criticism has not
fully fathomed the matter: and it therefore becomes the task of the
creative artist to practise criticism, in order at once to "annihilate
error and uplift criticism." The writer of an article on modern opera
in Brockhaus' Lexicon[347] has pointed out the defects of this form of
art, showing its artificialities and conventions; but when he comes to
the practical problem, "How is all this to be remedied?" he can only
regret that Mendelssohn's too early death should have "prevented the
solution of the riddle." But this is still proceeding on the wrong
track. Had Mendelssohn any musical gift which Mozart, for example, did
not possess? Could anything, from the standpoint of music, be more
perfect than each individual number of _Don Giovanni_? Plainly the
critic cannot wish for better music than this. It is evident, then,
that what he wants in opera is the power and force of _drama_. But he
is blind enough still to expect this from the _musician_; that is,
wanting a house built for him, he applies, not to the architect, but
to the upholsterer. And by the very failure of the critic's effort to
solve the problem in this way, there is driven home the conclusion that
_this way_ the problem is really insoluble. Yet the true solution, so
far from being difficult of attainment, simply stares one in the face;
and the formula for it is that--

  "The error in the art-genre of Opera consists in the fact that _a
  Means of Expression (Music) has been made the object, while the Object
  of Expression (the Drama) has been made a means_."

The truth of this formula can be attested by an appeal to the history
of the opera. It arose, not from the folk-plays of the Middle Ages,
in which there were the rudiments of a natural co-operation of music
and drama, but at the luxurious courts of Italy, where the aristocrats
engaged singers to entertain them with arias, that is, with "folk-tunes
stripped of their _naïveté_ and natural truth," embroidered on a
story whose only _raison d'être_ was the occasional advent of these
arias.[348] Music, in fact, was the all-in-all of opera, as is clearly
shown by the old-time domination of the singer: while all the poet had
to do was to stand as little as possible in the way of the musician.
The great merit of Metastasio,[349] according to the standard of the
practice of his own day, was that he almost effaced his own art in
favour of music--"never embarrassed the musician in the least, never
advanced any unusual claim upon him from the dramatic standpoint."
Nor has the situation changed, in its main features, down even to the
present day. It still is held to be necessary for the poet to shape his
material according to the necessities of the musician from first to
last. The whole aim of the opera is simply _music_, the dramatic story
being only utilised to serve music as a means for its own display. The
anomaly has finally become so fundamental a part of men's lives that
they no longer realise that it _is_ an anomaly: and accordingly they
still have hopes of erecting the genuine drama on the basis of absolute
music--that is, of achieving the impossible. The object of _Opera and
Drama_ is to prove that great artistic results can follow from the
collaboration of music with dramatic poetry, while from the unnatural
position which music bears towards opera in our present system nothing
but sterility can result.

Let us, then, in the first place, consider "Opera and the Nature of

Music has been betrayed into a position where she has lost sight of
her own limitations; although in herself she is simply an "organ of
expression," she has fallen into "the error of desiring to define
with perfect clearness the thing to be expressed." The musical basis
of the opera was the aria, that is, the folk-song deprived of its own
original words, and adapted at once to the vanity of the singer and the
luxurious tastes of the world of rank. Aria and dance-tune, with an
admixture of recitative, made up an opera, into the musical domain of
which the poet was only allowed to enter in order to supply a little
narrative cohesion. The significance of the so-called reformation of
Gluck has been greatly exaggerated. All he did was to curtail the
arrogant pretensions of the singer, while leaving the texture and
plan of opera untouched. His was a revolt of the composer fighting
merely for his own hand, not for the ends of _drama_: and every means
by which he increased the power of music in opera was necessarily a
further shackle on the limbs of the poet. Méhul, Cherubini and Spontini
in their turn broadened the old musical forms of opera, and made the
musical expression more consonant with that of the words, but did
nothing for opera except from the standpoint of music. The poet may now
have had to provide a slightly better and firmer groundwork for the
musician, but it was to the musician, and to him alone, that he still
owed his existence in opera. People failed to see that the source of
regenerative power could be nowhere but in the drama: and the trouble
was that music tried by itself to perform the functions of drama, to be
a "content" instead of mere "expression."

Mozart, again, was so entirely a musician that his work throws the
clearest light on the relations of musician and poet; and we find him
unable to write at his best where the poem was flat and meaningless.
He could not write music for _Tito_ like that of _Don Giovanni_, or
for _Cosi fan tutte_ like that of _Figaro_. He, the most absolute of
all musicians, would long ago have solved the operatic problem had he
met the proper poet. This poet he was never fortunate enough to meet:
all his "poets" did was to give him a medley of arias, duets, and
_ensembles_ to set to music. But the flood of beauty and expression
which Mozart poured into opera was too great for that narrow bed; the
stream overflowed into wider and freer channels, until it became a
mighty sea in the symphonies of Beethoven.

The aria was a degeneration of the folk-song, in which poetry and music
had been spontaneously one. The operatic aria was the music of the
folk-song, arbitrarily wrested from the words, and made to serve the
indolent pleasure of the man of luxury. In course of time people forgot
that a word-stave should by rights go with the melody. It was Rossini
who took this artificial flower, drenched it with manufactured perfume,
and gave it the semblance of life. Rossini saw that the life-blood
of ordinary opera was melody--"naked, ear-tickling, absolute-melodic
melody." Spontini erred in imagining the "dramatic tendency" to be
the essence of opera: the real essence, as Rossini showed, and as the
future history of opera proves, was simply absolute melody.

Earnest composers, however, while by no means denying the claims of
melody, held that Rossini's melody was cheap and superficial, and
endeavoured to derive theirs more directly from the fountains of
expression of the Folk. This was the course taken by Weber, who gave
opera-aria the deep and genuine feeling of the folk-song; though the
flower, thus torn from its native meadow, could not thrive in the
salons of modern luxury and artificiality. And Weber, no less than
Rossini, made his melody the main factor of opera, though of course
it was far worthier and more honest than the melody of the Italian
composer. Weber directed and constrained the poet of _Der Freischütz_
as emphatically as Rossini did the poet of _Tancredi_. And Weber's
failure proves afresh the assertion that instead of the drama being
taken up into the being of music, music must be taken up into the drama.

Weber's success in harking back to the Folk was envied by the
composers of other nationalities, and a number of operas were produced
which tried to proceed on similar lines--such as _Masaniello_ and
_William Tell_. The Folk, in fact, was exploited, but its real
inspiration could not, from the very nature of the case, be embodied
in opera. In the epic and the drama the Folk celebrated the deeds of
the Hero, and in true drama the action and the character are recognised
as necessary; but under the influence of the modern State, dramatic
characters lose their personality and become mere masks. This was
particularly the case in opera, where the folk-song has degenerated
into the aria, and the Folk itself has become the Mass, the Chorus.
"Historic" opera became the fashion, and even Religion was dragged
upon the stage, as in the operas of Meyerbeer. But the outlandishness
thus imported into opera led in its turn to worse degeneration:
and the "historic" mania became "hysteric" mania--in other words,

Up to this time, every influence that had shaped the course of opera
had come from the domain of absolute music alone. After Rossini,
operatic melody was varied by the introduction of instrumental melody.
People had not perceived that instrumental music was also unfruitful,
by reason of its not expressing the purely-human in the form of
definite, individual feelings.

  "That the expression of an absolutely definite and
  clearly-understandable individual Content was in truth impossible
  in this language that was capable only of generalised emotional
  expression, could not be demonstrated until the coming of that
  instrumental composer in whom the longing to express such a Content
  became the burning, consuming motive-force of all artistic

It was the function of Beethoven to show what music can do if it
confines itself to its true sphere, that of expression. In his later
works, Beethoven, having his mind filled with a definite content, burst
the bounds of many of the old absolute forms, and stammered through
tentative new ones. Future symphonists followed him from this point,
without seeing what it was in Beethoven that made him act in this way;
they consequently misapplied his forms, copying the externals only.
Hence the vogue of programme music, of which the great representative
is Berlioz. Then there came an influx of the wealth of instrumental
music (developed independently of vocal music) into operatic melody.
This is modern _characteristic_, of which Meyerbeer, the cosmopolitan
Jew, is the great exploiter, and which differs from that of Gluck and
Mozart in that the poet is infinitely more degraded, and absolute
melody more exalted. This held good even in Paris, where the poet had
hitherto always had _some_ rights; but now Meyerbeer forced Scribe,
his librettist, to run wherever he chose to drive him. The secret of
his music is "Effect without Cause." Yet even Meyerbeer wrote fine
music where he allowed the poet to guide him--as in parts of the great
love-scene in the fourth act of _Les Huguenots_.

To sum up, then, Music has tried to be the drama, and the attempt
has ended in impotence. The only salvation for it lies in sensible
co-operation with the poet. This may be seen by a glance at the nature
of our present music. The most perfect expression of the inner being
of music is melody; it is to harmony and rhythm what the external side
of the organism is to the internal. Now the Folk's melodies were a
revelation of the nature of things. Christianity, however, with its
anxiety to lay bare the soul, found itself face to face not with life
but death; and the Folk-song, the indivorcible union of poetry and
music, almost died out. In the ages of human mechanism the longing of
things was to produce the real man, which man "was really none other
than Melody, _i.e._ the moment of most definite, most convincing
manifestation of Music's actual, living organism." The struggle of
Beethoven's great works is the struggle of mechanism to become a man,
an organism, uttering itself in melody. Thus while other composers
merely took melody, ready-made, from the mouth of the Folk, and applied
it to their own purposes, Beethoven's melody was the spontaneous effort
of Music's inner organism to find expression. But it is only in the
verbal outburst of the Ninth Symphony that Beethoven brings melody
to true life; music was sterile until fertilised by the poet. The
error had always been that operatic melody, coming as it did from the
Folk-song, ran on certain rhythmical and structural lines, beyond which
the musician could not stray; so that melody had no chance to be born
spontaneously out of poetry, for the poet had simply to adapt his words
to the one invariable musical scaffolding. "Every musical organism
is by its nature a womanly; it is merely a bearer, not a begetter;
the begetting force lies outside it, and without fecundation by this
force it cannot bear." In the Choral Symphony Beethoven had to call in
the poet to fertilise absolute music; and the folly of the latter is
seen in its attempts not only to bear but also to beget. "_Music is a
woman_," whose nature is to surrender in love. Who now is to be the Man
to whom this surrender is to be made? Let us look at _the Poet_.

II. When Lessing tries to mark out the boundaries of poetry and
painting in the _Laocöon_, he has in his eye merely descriptive,
literary poetry, not "the dramatic art-work brought immediately into
view by physical performance." Now the literary poem is an artificial
art, appealing to the imagination instead of to the senses. All
the egoistically severed arts, indeed, appeal only to the force of
imagination. They "_merely suggest_; an _actual presentation_ would be
possible to them only if they could address themselves to the totality
of man's artistic receptivity, communicate with his entire perceptive
organism, instead of merely his faculty of imagination; for the real
art-work only comes into being when it passes from imagination into
actuality, _i.e._ physical presentation." There should be no _arts_,
there should be _one veritable Art_. It is an error to look upon Drama
as merely a _branch of literature_; although it is true that our drama
is no more true Drama than a single musical instrument is an orchestra.

The modern drama has a two-fold origin--in Romance, and in the Greek
drama; the flower of the former being Shakespeare--of the latter,
Racine. Our dramatic literature hovers undecidedly between these two
extremes. The romance was not the portrayal of the complete man; this
only became possible in drama, which actualised life, presented it
visibly to the senses. Shakespeare "condensed the narrative romance
into the drama"--made it, that is, suitable for stage representation.
The great characteristic of his art was that human actions did not come
before us merely in descriptive poetry, but by the actors addressing
themselves directly to the actual eye, and the poet had to narrow
down the diversity of the old Folk-stage to suit the scenic and other
demands of the theatre. The action and the characters had to be made
more definite, more individual, more circumstantial, in order to give
the spectators the impression of an artistic whole. The appeal, in
short, was no longer to fancy but to sense, the only domain left to
fancy being _the imagining the scene itself_--for the stage-craft
of those days fell short of actually _representing_ reality. This
mixture of fancy and sense-presentation in the drama was the source of
endless future confusion in dramatic art; the giving-up to fancy of the
representation of the scene left an open door in drama through which
romance and history might pass in and out at pleasure.

In the French drama, outward unity of scene determined the whole
structure of the play, diminishing the part played by action, and
increasing the function of "mere delivery of speeches." For the same
reason, the French dramatists could not choose for representation the
romance, with its bewildering multiplicity of incident; they had to
fall back on the already condensed plots which they found in Greek
mythology. Instead of dealing with his own people's life, then, as
Shakespeare had tried to do, the French tragedian merely imitated the
finished Greek drama. This unnatural, artificial world was reproduced
in French opera, and most saliently in the French opera of Gluck.

  "Opera was thus the premature bloom on an unripe fruit grown from
  an unnatural,[350] artificial soil. The outer form, with which the
  Italian and French drama _began_, must be attained by the new drama by
  organic evolution from within, on the path of the Shakespearean drama;
  then first will ripen, also, the natural fruit of musical drama."

German dramatic art found itself between the Shakespearean play on the
one side and the scenic Southern opera on the other--between the appeal
to hearing, aided slightly by fancy in the representation of the scene,
and the appeal to the eye alone. There were two final courses open:
either, as Tieck suggested, to act Shakespeare with no more scenery
than was employed in Shakespeare's own theatre, or to represent each
change of scene in the plays--that is, employ the gigantic apparatus of
scenic opera.

The result to the modern poet was perplexity and disillusion. The play
was neither literature--as it was when men merely read it, allowing
their imagination to represent the scene--nor actual, visualised drama.
Hence the poet either wrote plays simply to be read, not acted, or,
if he wrote for the stage, he employed the reflective type of drama,
the modern origin of which may be traced to the pseudo-antique drama,
constructed according to Aristotle's rules of unity. These results
and tendencies are exhibited in Goethe and Schiller. Goethe, after
various experiments, found his full expression in _Faust_, which makes
no pretence of stage-representation, and is therefore really neither
romance nor drama. _Faust_ is "the point of separation between the
mediæval _romance_ ... and the real _dramatic matter_ of the future."
Schiller was always perplexed by the contradiction between history
and drama. The whole dilemma is this. On the one side are romance and
history, with all their multiplicity of character and action: on the
other is the ideal dramatic form, presenting a simple, definite action
and real moving characters visibly to the eye; and a compromise has
to be effected between these two. The plain truth is "that we have no
drama, and can have no drama; that our literary-drama is as far removed
from the genuine drama as the pianoforte from the symphonic song of
human voices; that in the modern drama we can arrive at the production
of poetry only by the most calculated devices of literary mechanism,
just as on the pianoforte we only arrive at the production of music by
means of the most complicated devices of technical mechanism--that is
to say, a soulless poetry, a toneless music." With _this_ drama true
music can have nothing to do.

Man, conceiving the external world, is impelled to reproduce his
conceptions in art in a mode that shall be intelligible to others. This
has only once been done thoroughly--in the expression of the Greek
world-view in the Greek drama. The material of this drama was the
myth--the Folk's mode of condensation of the phenomena of life--"the
poem of a life-view in common." The Christian myth was concerned with
death where the Greek had been concerned with life. It could therefore
be painted or described, but not _represented_ in drama. The Germanic
myth, like the Greek, was in its essence a religious intuition, a
life-view in common; but Christianity laid hold of it and dispersed it
into fragments of fable and legend--the Romance of the Middle Ages.
What the artist had to do was to find _Man_ under all this _débris_.
Now whereas the drama selects an action from a mass of actions, and
limits the surroundings to just so much as will illuminate and justify
this action, the romance has to enter circumstantially and at great
length into the surrounding circumstances, in order to make the action
and the character artistically convincing. The drama goes from within
outwards, the romance from without inwards: the drama lays bare the
organism of mankind, the romance shows us merely the mechanism of
history; the art-procedure in drama is organic, in romance merely
mechanical; the drama gives us the man, the romance the citizen; the
drama exhibits the fullness of human nature, the romance the penury of
the State. In the evolution that has gone on since the Middle Ages,
Burgher-society has come uppermost; but it offers nothing to romance
but unloveliness. Everything in life is being disintegrated past the
capacity of art to reunite it; the poet's art has turned to politics,
and until we have no more politics the poet cannot come to light again.
As Napoleon said, the rôle of Fate in the ancient world is filled in
the modern by politics; and this is what we shall have to comprehend
before we can discover the true content and form of drama.

Now the myth is true for all time, and its content forever
inexhaustible. Understanding it well, we see in it "an intelligible
picture of the whole history of mankind, from the beginnings of
society to the necessary downfall of the State." The political State
lives on the vices of society; salvation and art are only to be found
in the free, purely-human individual. The essence of the State is
_caprice_, of the free individual, _necessity_. It is then essential
for us to annul the State and create afresh the free individual. The
poet who tried to portray this individual found that he was face to
face with him _only as he had been shaped by the State_; he could not
then portray him, but only imagine him; could only represent him to
thought, not to feeling. Our drama, in consequence, has been forced to
make its appeal to the _understanding_ instead of the _feeling_. Out
of the mass of man's modern surroundings the poet has to reconstruct
the individual, and present him to feeling, to sense, instead of to
understanding. But this the poet cannot do; he can only address the
understanding, and that through the organ of understanding "abstract
and conditioned word-speech." "The course to be taken by the drama of
the future will be a return from understanding to feeling, in so far
as we advance from the mentally-conceived individuality to an actual
individuality." By the annihilation of the State, society will realise
its purely-human essence, and determine the free individual. And it is
only in the most perfect art-work, the drama, that the poet's insight
into life can find complete expression, because this drama will address
not the understanding, but the feeling, through the senses. It will
present the poet's view of life physically to the eye; it will be a
true _emotionalisation of the intellect_. It must present things to
us in such a manner that we cannot help realising their necessity.
This can only be done by avoiding the by-paths of the intellect, and
by appealing directly to the feeling. The _action_, then, must be so
chosen as to make this appeal instinctively. Now an historic action,
or one "which can only be justified from the standpoint of the State,"
is only representable to the understanding, not to the feeling; that
is, by its very multiplicity and lack of warmth it cannot be seized
definitely and quickly by the senses, but needs the combining function
of thought. The true dramatic "action" must be seen at once to be the
essential centre of the periphery of circumstance. Man and nature, as
cognised by the understanding, are split up into fragments; it is the
_feeling_ that grasps the organic unity of things, and it is from this
point _outwards_ that the true drama must work. In other words, it must
be generated from the _myth_.

Up to a certain point the intellect can work in the selection of
material, and express itself through its own organ, word-speech;
but for the full _realisation_ of the action and the motives to the
feeling, the organ of feeling--tone-speech--has to be called in.
"Tone-speech is the beginning and end of word-speech, as the feeling is
beginning and end of the understanding, as myth is beginning and end
of history, as lyric is beginning and end of poetry." The lyric "holds
within itself all the germs of the essential art of poetry, which
in the end can only be the justification of the lyric; and the work
that accomplishes this justification is nothing but the highest human
art-work, the _complete drama_."

The primal organ of utterance of the inner man is tone-speech, the
fundamental nature of which may be seen by removing the consonants from
our word-speech. The latter is the result of the addition of prefixes
and suffixes to the open sound, as distinguishing and delimiting signs
of objects. In this way speech-roots were formed from the primal melody
of tone-speech. In alliteration, or _Stabreim_, speech, by combining
these roots according to similarity and kinship, "made equally plain
to the feeling both the impression of the object and its corresponding
expression, through an increased strengthening of that expression";
showed, that is, the unity in multiplicity of the object. _Stabreim's_
similarity of syllabic sounds brings a collective image to the feeling.
The _Stabreim_ and the word-verse were fundamentally conditioned by
that melody which is the expression of primal human feeling, because
the breathing-conditions of man's organism determined the duration
and segmentation of the utterance. When poetry developed along the
line of the understanding instead of that of the feeling, word-speech
became dissociated from its sister, tone-speech; and having lost the
instinctive sense of this bond, it tried to find "another bond of union
with the melodic breathing-pauses." This was done in the _end-rhyme_,
which was the sign that the natural bond of tone-speech and word-speech
in the _Stabreim_ had been forgotten. This line of degeneration ended
in "the dreary turmoil of prose"; and the separation from the feeling
was complete. We now go upon convention instead of upon conviction.
We cannot properly express our emotions in our present language,
for it allows us to speak only to the understanding, not to the
feeling; which is why the feeling "has tried to escape from absolute
intellectual-speech into absolute tone-speech--our music of to-day."

The poet, then, cannot realise his aim in modern speech, because he
cannot speak directly to the feeling. Yet he must not simply work
out his drama on the lines of the understanding, and then try to add
expression to it by means of music. _This was the error of opera._ The
emotional expression itself must _also_ be governed by the poetical
aim. "_A tone-speech to be struck-into from the outset_ is therefore
the organ of expression by means of which the poet must make himself
intelligible by turning from the understanding to the feeling, and
for this purpose he has to take his stand upon a soil on which he can
have intercourse with feeling alone." We must go back, in fact, to
the primal _melodic_ faculty, to which is given the expression of the
purely-human; the drama must utter itself in a form that shall be the
marriage of understanding and feeling, of word-speech and tone-speech.

III. Until now the poet has tried in two ways to attune the organ of
the understanding--word-speech--to an emotional expression which would
find its way to the feeling; through _rhyme_ and through _melody_. It
was a mistake to try to import the rhythms of Greek verse into modern
poetry, for these rhythms were conditioned by the gestures of the
dance, and the dislocation of the speaking-accents was atoned for by
melody. Our modern languages not being adapted to this ruling into
longs and shorts, Greek prosody is impossible for us. Our iambic verse,
for example, hobbles along mechanically, "putting grievous constraint
upon the live accent of speech for the sake of this monotonous rhythm."
"Longs" become "shorts," and "shorts" become "longs," simply to
get the requisite number of feet into the line. On the other hand,
where, as among the Romanic peoples, this kind of rhythm is not in
vogue, the _end-rhyme_ has been imported into poetry, and has become
indispensable. The whole line is built up with reference to this
end-rhyme, as the up-stroke to the down-stroke. The result is that the
attention of the ear is only momentarily won, and the poet does not
reach the _feeling_, for all he does is to make understanding speak to

We have seen that word-speech and melody have travelled along
divergent lines of development, and now neither can be properly applied
to the other. Even where, as in Gluck's music, the composer tries to
find a bond of union in the speaking-accent of the word-speech, his
selection of this mere rhetorical accent leads to a disintegration of
the rest of the line as _poetry_; it becomes dissolved into prose, and
the melody itself becomes merely musical prose. The usual course is for
the melody to do what it likes with the verse; to dislocate its rhythm,
ignore its accents, and drown its end-rhyme, according to its own
pleasure. The poet ought really "so to employ the speaking accent as
the only determinative 'moment' for his verse, that in its symmetrical
return it should clearly define a wholesome rhythm, as necessary to the
verse itself as to the melody." Instead of this, we find on the one
hand that many of Goethe's verses are declared too beautiful to be set
to music, while on the other hand Mendelssohn writes _Songs without

We shall have to deal with speech as we dealt with action and the
content of the drama. Just as we took away from the action all that was
extraneous and accidental; just as we took away from the content all
that savoured of the State or of history, in order to reach simply the
purely-human; so we must "cut away from the verbal expression all that
springs from and answers to these disfigurements of the purely-human
and emotionally necessary," so that only the purely-human core shall
remain. Thus we shall arrive "at the natural basis of rhythm in the
spoken verse, as revealed in the _liftings_ and _lowerings_ of the
accent," which in turn can only find full expression when intensified
into musical rhythm. The strong and weak accents must correspond to
the "good" and "bad" halves of the musical bar. We must reach back
through the understanding and its organ to "the sensuous substance of
our _roots of speech_"; we must breathe the breath of life into the
defunct organism of speech. This breath is music. The roots of words
were brought into being by the Folk's primal emotional stress; the
essence of these roots is the open vowel sound, which finds its fullest
sensuous uplifting in music; while the function of the consonants
is to determine the general expression to a particular one. The
_Stabreim_ indicates to the feeling the unity of sensation underlying
the roots--shows their emotional kinship. It appeals, as it were, to
the "eye" of hearing, while the vowel is addressed to the "ear" of
hearing. And as a man only reveals himself fully to us by addressing
both eye and ear at once, so "the communicating-organ of the inner man
only completely convinces our hearing when it addresses itself with
equal persuasiveness to both 'eye and ear' of this hearing. But this is
possible only in _word-tone-speech_. Poet and musician have hitherto
each addressed no more than half the man: the poet turned towards
this hearing's eye alone, the musician only to its ear." The musician
will take the vowel-sounds of the poet, and display their fundamental
kinship by giving them their full emotional value by means of musical
tone. Here then the word-poet ends, and the tone-poet begins. The
melody of the musician is "the redemption of the endlessly-conditioned
poetic thought into a deep-felt consciousness of the highest emotional
freedom." This was the melody that rose from Beethoven's Ninth Symphony
to the light of day.

When Beethoven wrote the simple melody with which he accompanies
the "_Freude, schöner Götterfunken_," he was writing as an absolute
musician. This melody "did not arise out of the poem of Schiller, but
rather was invented outside the word-verse and merely spread above
it." But in the "_Seid umschlungen, Millionen_," and the "_Ahnest
du den Schöpfer, Welt?_" he obeys the dictates of the poetic aim,
and the broadening of the key-kinship leads the feeling back to the

The kinship of feeling which the poet can only approximately
express by _Stabreim_, the musician can bring to full expression by
key-modulation. Take, for example, the line "_Liebe giebt Lust zum
Leben_." The one emotion being expressed throughout, the musician
would keep in one key. When setting "_Die Liebe bringt Lust und
Leid_," however, the change of feeling at the end of the line would be
expressed by a modulation; while if this line were followed by "_Doch
in ihr Weh auch webt sie Wonnen_,"[351] at the _webt_ a modulation
would be effected back into the original key. It is from this
poetico-musical "_period_" that the true art-work, the perfected drama,
must take its rise.

Melody is the horizontal surface of harmony; and in harmony "the
ear ... obtains an entire fulfilling--and thus a satisfying--of its
capacity for sensuous impression, and consequently can devote itself
with the necessary composure to the apt emotional expression of
the melody." But harmony in absolute music has existed solely for
and in itself: whereas the melody ought to be conditioned by the
speaking-verse, and the concurrent harmony be used for making this
obvious to the feeling.

In the drama of the future there must be no characters whose only
function is to swell the harmonic volume of sound; there must only be
such characters as are essential in themselves to the plot. The chorus,
then, "as hitherto employed in opera, ... will have to disappear from
our drama." Neither the chorus nor the main characters "are to be used
by the poet as a musical symphonic tone-body for making the underlying
harmonic conditions of the melody perceptible." The musician, however,
possesses an organ which can make plain the harmony and characterise
the melody in a far superior way to that of the vocal mass. This organ
is the orchestra, which is an immense aid in the realisation of the
poetic aim. Until now the error has consisted in writing _absolute_
melody in opera--melody, that is, which was conditioned by the
orchestra itself, not by the word-verse, and which was therefore only
"vocal" melody in the sense that it was given to the voice. It ought
really to come from "an announcement of the purely emotional content of
the verse, through a dissolution of the vowel into the musical tone";
the verse melody in this way becoming the mediator and bond of union
between word-speech and tone-speech, the offspring of the marriage of
poetry and music.

The great value of the orchestra is its power of uttering the
_unspeakable_, _i.e._ that which is unutterable through the organ
of the understanding. It may do this in three ways--by its organic
alliance with _gesture_, by bringing up the _remembrance_ of an
emotion, when the singer is not giving voice to it, and by giving a
foreboding of moods as yet unspoken.

All the constituents of drama have now been enumerated. It only
remains to consider how they are to be knit together into a single
form corresponding to the single substance. Just as the poet obtained
his action by compressing all the motives into an easily comprehended
content, so, for the realisation of this action, must he proceed
with the composition on the same principles. The expression, like
the action, must be free from the accidental, the contingent, the

We approach the drama in a mood of expectancy, that is ministered to
by the orchestra in its quality of a producer of foreboding--although
this preliminary utterance of the orchestra must by no means be
interpreted to mean the ordinary "overture." This expectancy is
afterwards satisfied by the word-speech of the performer, lifted into
the higher emotional sphere of tone-speech. The unity of content in the
drama must be made evident in a unity of artistic expression; that is,
the expression "must convey to the feeling the most comprehensive aim
of the poetic understanding." Wherever the word-speech approaches the
language of ordinary life--the organ of understanding--the orchestra
must keep the expression still on the higher plane, by means of its
faculty of conveying foreboding or remembrance. Yet it must assume this
function not through the mere caprice of the musician, but in obedience
only to the poet's aim. Unity of content and unity of expression must
go hand in hand. These melodic moments of the orchestra will take their
rise only from the _weightiest motives of the drama_, which are the
pillars of the edifice. In this way a binding principle of musical form
may be obtained which springs directly from the poetic aim, and far
surpasses the arbitrary, _merely musical_ form of the old opera, which
was loose, uncentralised, and inorganic.

Finally let us ask, "Has the poet to _restrict_ himself in presence
of the musician, and the musician in presence of the poet?" The
answer is that they ought not to restrict each other, but raise each
other to higher potency, in order thus to generate the true drama. If
both the poet's aim and the musician's expression are visible, the
necessary inspiration of each by each has not been effected. We must
not be reminded of either aim or expression, "but the content must
instinctively take possession of us as a human action fully justified
to our feeling." In every moment of the musician's expression the
poetic aim must be contained; and this poetic aim must always find
complete realisation in the musician's expression. Whereas Voltaire
said, "When a thing is too silly to be said, one sings it," we now may
say "What is not worth being sung is not worth the poet's pains to

There is no need to assume that poet and musician must necessarily be
one person. Only in the present egoistic relations of these two--who
are types of the egoism of the modern State--does it seem necessary for
one man to become the unit of creation.

Three nations--the Italian, French and German--have contributed to
the evolution of opera; but the German language alone "still coheres
directly and unmistakably with its roots," and therefore is alone
adapted for the new art-work. But the practice of singing operas
with German words merely translated from the French or Italian, and
therefore not coinciding in meaning and accent with the music, has mis
educated and demoralised German singers. In the new drama, the melody
will always be conditioned by the word-verse, and singers must learn to
render it intelligently, bringing out not merely the melodic sequence
but the _verbal sense_ of the melody. And gesture must be employed with
intelligent understanding, in order to make the orchestral moments of
foreboding and remembrance[352] in their turn intelligible. But the
primary condition for this new drama is a new public, that shall look
at it seriously, as at an organism; a public that wants an art-work,
not a mere evening's distraction. We are less fortunate than the older
artists, whose audience, whatever its social faults may have been, had
at least delicacy and high breeding; whereas we are ruled by the vulgar
and ignorant Philistine, the characteristic product of our commercial
civilisation. Yet even under the _débris_ of modern life the artist can
see the primal source of things, can reach to the _human being_, to
whom the future belongs.


It will be seen from this summary that Wagner, though now mainly
occupied with purely æsthetic ideas, was still unable to refrain from
mixing these up with political and other considerations that were
quite alien to them. He still believes in the "Folk" as "always ...
the fructifying source of all art."[353] He is still angry--almost
comically angry at times--with the richer classes, who, in the
Wagnerian philosophy of that period, are always to the Folk what the
aristocratic villain of the melodrama is to the poor but virtuous
hero. He might have forgiven Meyerbeer for writing bad music; but he
could never forgive him for being a banker. The State too is still the
most persistent of bees in his bonnet. He solemnly assures us that the
reason for the decline in dramatic character-drawing since Shakespeare
is "the influence of the State, with its perpetual tendency to make
everything uniform, and to suppress, with more and more deadly power,
the might of free personality."[354] This wicked "political State,"
indeed, "lives entirely on the vices of Society, the virtues of which
are the product of the human individuality exclusively.... The State is
the oppressor of Society, in proportion as the latter turns its vicious
side to the individual"; though it is a comfort to know that "the
downfall of the State" is "necessary."[355]

And he is as insensitive as ever to the appeal of the other arts. All
the arts except drama "merely indicate." The "only real kind of art"
is the drama, because there the thing portrayed is not left to the
imagination, but is presented bodily to the eye. So blind is he to
the characteristic essence and charm of painting and sculpture--for
painters and sculptors--that he can speak of the new drama as not
only "uniting within itself all the features of plastic art," but
even "carrying these to higher perfections otherwise unattainable."
A "literary poem" is merely a "miserable shadow" of the real
art-work.[356] In one of his letters to Uhlig he goes even further than
this, actually laying it down that "plastic art must cease entirely in
the future."[357] The poor practitioners of these "egoistically severed
arts" are majestically swept aside: "only a true artist,--an artistic
man, in fact, can understand this matter; but no other, even though he
has the best will in the world to do so. Who, for instance, amongst our
art-egoistic handicraft-copying, can comprehend the natural attitude
of plastic art to the direct, purely-human art? I altogether set aside
what a statue sculptor or a historical painter would say to this."[358]

In the _Communication to my Friends_, that followed _Opera and
Drama_ at an interval of a few months, he once more insists on the
impossibility of the dissevered arts continuing to exist after the
way to the one true art has been pointed out. "Together with the
historico-political _subject_ I also of necessity rejected that
dramatic _art-reform_ in which alone it could have been embodied; for
I recognised that this form had only issued from that subject, and
by it alone could be justified, and that it was utterly incapable of
convincingly communicating to the feeling the purely human subject that
alone I had in my eye; and therefore, with the disappearance of the
historico-political subject there must necessarily also vanish, in the
future, the spoken play [_die Schauspielform_], as inadequate for the
novel subject, unwieldy and defective."[359]

Everywhere, as usual with him, he not only sees everything from his
own angle, but is quite incapable of understanding how anyone else can
have a different view-point. Just as he had nothing of the painter's
or sculptor's feeling for painting or sculpture, so he had little of
the poet's feeling for poetry. Apparently all that he assimilated
from poetry was the idea; the characteristic charm of poetry,--the
subtle interlacement or inter blending of idea and expression--did not
exist for him. To what may be called the poetic atmosphere or aroma
of words he was quite insensitive. For the poet the bare idea is next
to nothing: the value of the idea, for him as for us, lies in the
imaginative heat it engenders, the imaginative odours it diffuses.
It is doubtful, indeed, whether there is anything either original or
striking in nine poetical ideas out of ten; the poet's traffic must
of necessity be for the most part with sentiments that, taken in
themselves, have been the merest commonplaces for thousands of years.
What difference is there, purely in idea, between "we are here to-day
and gone to-morrow" and Shakespeare's

                      "We are such stuff
  As dreams are made on; and our little life
  Is rounded with a sleep"?

Shakespeare's magic is in the phrasing,--not, be it remembered, a
merely extraneous, artificial grace added to the idea, a mere clothing
that can be put on or off it at will, but a subtle interaction
and mutual enkindlement of idea and expression. For the musician
that enkindlement comes from the adding of music to the words: the
music does for the idea what the style does for it in the case of
the poet,--raises it to a higher emotional power, gives it colour,
odour, incandescence, wings. Brynhilde comes to tell Siegfried that
he must die. The mere announcement of the fact is next to nothing;
the infinities and the solemn silences only gather about it when the
orchestra gives out the wonderful theme.


The pure poet, working in his own material alone, would give us this
sense of illimitable sadness by the infusion into the mere idea of some
remote, unanalysable wizardry of words and rhythms, as in Clough's

  "Ah, that I were far away from the crowd and the streets of the city,
  Under the vine-trellis laid, O my beloved, with thee!"

or Arnold's

  "Hear it from thy broad lucent Arno-vale
      (For there thine earth-forgetting eyelids keep
      The morningless and unawakening sleep
   Under the flowery oleanders pale)."

Wagner was blind to this super-intellectual quality in words because
for him that quality was most naturally added to them by music.
Speech was with him always "the organ of the intellect"; our modern
speech was "utterly feelingless": the poet cannot communicate feeling
because "articulate language" is capable only of "description and
indication."[360] He himself was strictly speaking hardly a poet at
all: he was simply a writer of words for music,--words to which the
music had to add the emotional beauty that the genuine poet would have
conveyed by speech alone. We are therefore not in the least surprised
to learn that Wagner first of all wrote his "poems" in prose, which
he then turned into rhyme or rhythm at his leisure. We possess, in
_Wieland the Smith_,[361] an intended operatic libretto of his that
never got past the prose stage. Having decided not to set it to music
himself, he offered it to Liszt. "The poem," he writes to the Princess
Wittgenstein, "is fully worked out; nothing remains to be done [_sic_]
but the simple versification, which any tolerably skilful verse-maker
could do. Liszt will easily find one. In the most important places I
have written the verses myself."[362]

Hence all this elaborate analysis of vowels and consonant sounds is
quite beside the mark. He imagines "the feeling" of a word to reside
in the "root-syllable" of it,--"which was invented or discovered by
the primitive emotional need of humanity" (_die aus der Nothwendigkeit
des ursprünglichsten Empfindungszwanges des Menschen erfunden oder
gefunden ward_). And the fountain of that emotional force in the root
is the vowel sound, which is "the inner feeling incarnate" (_das
verkörperte innere Gefühl_).[363] Portentous attributes are also given
to the consonants, and the initial consonant is pronounced to be of
more significance than the terminal. Most of this is merely fantastic.
Words, especially in the hands of a poet, are not simply clothed vowel
sounds; they are entities with a marvellous life of their own. The
appeal of Keats's

            "The same that ofttimes hath
  Charmed magic casements, opening on the foam
  Of perilous seas in faery lands forlorn,"

has nothing whatever to do with vowels and consonants: we no more
think of these than we think of vibration numbers when we listen to
a succession of musical harmonies. The beauty of the lines is in the
totality and the rareness of the imaginative picture they flash upon
our vision; and to attempt to explain the secret of this in terms of
vowels and consonants is as futile as to try to explain a flower by its
physical particles.


One is sometimes amazed, in reading _Opera and Drama_, at the
persistence with which Wagner pursues the obvious, hunting it down, as
Oscar Wilde said of James Payn, with the enthusiasm of a short-sighted
detective. He is almost as elaborately absurd over his vowels and
consonants as M. Jourdain. The explanation is to be sought partly
in the tendency to long-windedness, the passion for pursuing every
idea to the death, that was always characteristic of him,--it derived
ultimately from the inexorably logical nature of his mind,--and partly
from the fact that he had a very stupid public and a very stupid set
of artists to educate. _Opera and Drama_ has been made both more lucid
and somewhat obvious for us to-day by Wagner's own operas. If there is
less need to-day to labour certain points as he does, it is because
they are now such universally accepted truths that it is hard for us
to imagine a time when people needed to have them driven into them at
the point of a pen. Here and there his letters give us an inkling of
the difficulties with which he had to contend. Few people in the middle
of the nineteenth century, apparently, had any idea of real drama in
opera.[364] Even the singers,--with the exception of a born genius here
and there like Schröder-Devrient,--had little notion that their parts
consisted of anything but so many words to be sung as brilliantly as
possible. In one of his letters to Liszt, Wagner describes his horror
at seeing, in the Dresden opera house, the Tannhäuser, in the "Hall
of Song" scene, shouting his declaration of unholy love for Venus
straight into the face of the chaste Elisabeth!--and this in spite of
the composer having taken particular care to have all directions copied
in full in the separate vocal parts. "What result was possible but that
the public should be confused and not know in the least what to make of
it? Indeed, I discovered in Dresden that the public became acquainted
with the dramatic contents of the opera only by reading the text-book;
that is, they only came to understand the performance by abstracting
their minds from the actual performance and filling-in from their own
imagination."[365] And as he hints, if these things could be done in a
first-class opera house like Dresden, what hair-raising horrors must go
on in the smaller theatres?

A good deal of _Opera and Drama_, then, took its rise in the immediate
circumstances of the German operatic life of the early nineteenth
century, and has no particular validity for the world in general
to-day.[366] Other portions of it relate only or mainly to the
_Ring_. For all his insistence on the necessity of alliterative verse
(_Stabreim_), he virtually discarded it when he had finished with the
_Ring_. The _Meistersingers_ is written throughout in rhymed verse. In
_Tristan_ he employs in turn alliteration, rhyme, and unrhymed verse;
_Parsifal_ fluctuates between a sort of _vers libre_ that is often
as near as possible to prose, and a rhymed stanza-form for the more
pronouncedly lyric portions. _Opera and Drama_, in fact, was in large
part the reduction to theory of the principles of structures that
were slowly taking shape within him as he pondered on the Siegfried
legend. As with all great artistic creators, each subject was seen so
vividly, took such complete possession of him, that it unconsciously
made for itself its own inevitable form. He himself knew that it was
in the _Ring_ that the theories of _Opera and Drama_ had their origin.
"Even now," he writes to Uhlig, "must I learn that I should not have
discovered the most important conditions for the conformation of the
drama of the future had I not, as artist, lighted quite unconsciously
upon them in my _Siegfried_."[367] And working backwards, as it were,
from the completed work as we have it now, it is easy enough to see
how the subject led him of itself to a new theory of opera. He had
a gigantic saga to condense into the dimensions of a normal stage
action; the most drastic economy of words was therefore necessary.
As the burden of the emotional expression was to be undertaken by
the music, the purely verbal portion would have to be reduced to the
barest essentials consistent with making the conduct of the drama and
the motives of the characters clear. And as every word had to be vital
to the drama, and the musical phrase was to fit the verbal phrase as
if the two had been predestined for each other from the beginning of
time, each line, short as it might be, had to be packed with accents as
salient as those of the music itself. This condition seemed to be most
perfectly fulfilled in _Stabreim_, because there the vowel or consonant
that gave definition to the word was thrown into the highest possible
relief at the very moment of the incidence of the musical accent. The
following quotations from the _Valkyrie_ will make this clear:


  Die Betrog'ne lass auch zertreten.
  Let them trample on the betrayed one.


  Dass mit Zwang ich halte, was dir nicht haftet.
  That by force I hold what denies thee homage.



  Wer bist du, sag', die so schön und ernst mir erscheint?
  Who art thou, say, who dost stand so beauteous and stern?

It was therefore, as usual, the musician in him controlling the poet,
although he always strenuously denied this, and indeed his complaint
against the old-time opera was that the poet was held in servitude
to the musician. In each case the poet was the serf, but the terms
of slavery were different. In the older opera he had to work within
the limits of a set scheme that gave him little or no scope for
character-drawing or for the natural evolution of a great dramatic
action. In the Wagnerian opera the poet was indeed allowed to make his
portion of the work worthy and consistent, but he was permitted no
further scope than was consistent with the necessities of the music. If
it be true that Wagner restored the poet to liberty by making the drama
the end and the music the means, it was only in the sense that he first
of all made the drama of the dimensions and the pattern that music
required. Beyond these dimensions, away from that pattern, it could not
be allowed to go.

That the musician in Wagner ruled the poet is plain enough to us now,
but it was always denied by Wagner himself. In the _Communication to my
Friends_, that elucidates so gratefully for us so many dark passages
in _Opera and Drama_, he is persistently blind to the fact that is
obvious enough to everyone else. As far as _Rienzi_, he tells us, he
had taken his operatic subjects from ready-made stories, while with the
_Flying Dutchman_ he struck out a new path, framing his own libretto
out of the simple unpolished outlines of a folk-saga. "Henceforward,"
he goes on to say, "with regard to all my dramatic works I was in
the first instance _Poet_, and only in the complete working out of
the poem did I become once more _Musician_. Only," he rather naïvely
continues, "_I was a poet who was conscious in advance of the power of
musical expression for the working out of his poems._"[368] Quite so:
when a subject took possession of him he would see it all in terms of
musical expression and development; and unconsciously the poem would be
so planned as to provide the needful framework, and no more, for the
musical emotion. Later on, after arguing that music is the emotional
expression _per se_, but that it can only ally itself with words that
contain the possibility of emotion, he once more lets us see that it
was the musician in him that determined his choice of subject and the
manner of its treatment. "What I perceived, I now looked at solely
with the eyes of music [_nur aus dem Geiste der Musik_]; though not,"
he rightly points out, "_that_ music whose formal rules might still
have embarrassed my expression, but the music that was complete within
me, and in which I could express myself as in a mother tongue."[369]
Granting that the musical world from the centre of which he wished to
pour himself out upon poetry was not that of the stereotyped operatic
composer, the fact remains that it was from the centre of music itself
that the outpouring was to come. And we may further grant that "it was
precisely by the facility of musical expression" he had acquired that
"he became a poet." What had happened in the interval between _Rienzi_
and the _Flying Dutchman_, and still more in the interval between the
_Flying Dutchman_ and the _Ring_, was that his musical sense had so
enormously expanded that it was now capable of weaving a continuous
emotional tissue of its own,--a tissue, however, that required the
framework of poetry to make it definite. He was right; it was of
the musician in him that the poet was born. And it was the musician
insisting on the dramatic "stuff" being reduced to its pure essentials
that led him to reject the wide-spreading romance and history, and to
seize upon the myth, in which a human content was presented in the
simplest possible form.


The musician, then, being at the basis of all his æsthetics, all
his theories of opera and drama, the question arises, what sort of
a musician was he? He was the spiritual son of Beethoven; a remoter
ancestor was Bach. This is the cardinal fact in the psychology of
Wagner; and it will need to be examined in all its bearings.

Wagner was one of those dynamically charged personalities after whose
passing the world can never be the same as it was before he came--one
of the tiny group of men to whom it is given to bestride an old world
and a new, but to sunder them by a gulf that becomes ever more and more
impassable; one of the very few who are able so to fill the veins of
a whole civilisation with a new principle of vitality that the tingle
of it is felt not only by the rarer but by the commonest spirits--some
new principle from which, whether a man likes it or not, he will find
it impossible to escape. Wagner is probably the only figure in the
whole history of music of whom this can be said. Bach created no such
upheaval. He counts for next to nothing in the music of his own day
and that of the two generations that followed him. He did not make a
new world in music: rather had a new world to be made before men's
eyes were competent to take the measure of that towering stature,
or men's hearts quick enough with life to respond to the profound
humanism of that great soul. We were not fit for Bach until Beethoven
and Wagner--and Wagner, perhaps, even more than Beethoven--made us
so. Beethoven, again, had it not been for Wagner, would probably not
have meant as much to us as he does now, or become the fertilising
force he is in modern music; and even that fertilisation is effected
through Wagner's work rather than along lines in continuation of
Beethoven's own. If anyone doubts this, let him ask himself what new
spirit of enduring vitality and power of propagation has come out of
the classical symphony pure and simple. Not Brahms, assuredly, great
as he is: "arrested development" is written large upon the forms and
the ideas of all the music that has come out of Brahms's symphonies
as clearly as upon those symphonies themselves. So far as modern
instrumental music has developed in humanity of utterance or in breadth
of structure, it is from assimilating from Beethoven, through Wagner,
just the urgent poetic spirit that Brahms passed by in Beethoven,--the
spirit of which Beethoven was himself only dimly conscious, but which
Wagner from the beginning saw to be inherent in him, and which he
distilled from the general tissue of Beethoven's work and used in a
new form for magical results of his own. The only explosive force
in music at all comparable in general to Wagner was Monteverdi. But
Monteverdi came a couple of hundred years too soon. The world was not
ready for him--it is hardly a paradox to say that he was not ready for
himself--and his explosion mostly spent itself in a desert. Wagner
had first-rate luck in this as in everything else in his life that
really mattered to him as an artist; not only had he the right dynamic
spark within him, but he was born into an atmosphere made electrically
ready by the passionate soul's cry of Beethoven. The explosion came--a
cataclysmic upheaval, leading to a new geological formation, as it
were, in music, new geographical delimitations, a new fauna and flora.

He had access to Beethoven's heart: and from the blood in Beethoven's
veins he won the strength both for his own new expression and his
new freedom of form. It is one of the things we should be constantly
thanking Providence for that the natural man in him insisted on making
its own world in its own way. Busoni, in his suggestive _Entwurf einer
neuen Aesthetik der Tonkunst_, has remarked upon the curious formalism
of most music, even the greatest. Here is an art fortunate enough to be
free from all material factors: it is, as Busoni says, simply "sounding
air," and is therefore presumably capable of a freedom of handling that
should be the despair of workers in the other arts. Perfect freedom
has yet to come; looked at from the heights, even giants like Bach and
Beethoven and Mozart are seen to be loaded with chains of their own and
their fellows' forging, and to be performing the same timid evolutions
again and again in one small corner of a field, while glorious leagues
of unexplored country unroll themselves all around them. Bach and
Beethoven enriched music by a sort of intensive culture of an inherited
estate. Wagner was really the first to leap the fences and break down
the gates and send his ploughshare deep into the bowels of a new
earth. Almost from his earliest years he had an instinctive sense of
the great force of emotional liberation that was struggling for an
outlet in Beethoven's music. He was probably the only man in Europe to
be aware of it and its tremendous significance for the future. There
were plenty of men who felt the greatness of Beethoven; but not one of
them, apparently, saw him as Wagner did. It is evident that people like
Mendelssohn and Robert and Clara Schumann, for example, with whom he
talked much in the 'forties, had no inkling that out of the spume of
this eager, restless mind the future of music was to be born. To them
his far-darting talk about Beethoven was apparently no more than the
interesting speculations of a clever but slightly eccentric visionary.
From the first he fastened upon the seminal essence of Beethoven's
later work--the attempt of a great soul, hampered somewhat by a
transmitted form, to pour out an endless fund of quasi-dramatic emotion
in music. The problem that lay before Wagner was how to release this
fund of emotion, to give it wings that would carry it over the whole
field of human life, to give it a new and more wonderful articulation.
After years of struggling he found his way to the light. It was one of
the extremely lucky "throws" of nature--a throw she will probably not
achieve again for generations--that within the musician who had this
unique vision of a music infinitely human and perfectly free there was
a dramatist capable of providing the definite framework upon which the
indefinite musical emotion could be woven into firm, coherent shapes.
His theory that purely instrumental music had shot its last bolt with
Beethoven, and that the choral ending to the Ninth Symphony is the
unconscious, instinctive cry of the musician for the redemption of
music by poetry, is the soundest of æsthetics if we do not take it too
literally. Music _did_ need this fertilisation by poetry if it was to
win a new procreative power. Agreeable music has been made, and will
continue to be made, by the passionless, disinterested weaving for its
own sake of beautiful strands of tone. But great music must go deeper
than this, and the deeper it goes the closer it comes to the heart; and
our name for the necessities of the heart is poetry.


Having thus summarised the attitude of Wagner to Beethoven and to
poetic music in general, let us proceed to fill in the details of the
theory, allowing Wagner, wherever possible, to speak for himself.

He has set forth his views upon Beethoven with the greatest
positiveness in his letters to Uhlig, and much more lucidly there than
in _Opera and Drama_.[370] He saw in Beethoven's music the struggle to
express a definite poetic idea in an abstract form that necessarily
made the communication of the nature of the idea itself impossible. He
always protested against the current fashion of performing Beethoven's
symphonies as if they were nothing more than agreeable or exciting
musical patterns. They were tone poems, and could mean nothing to the
hearer unless the poetry at the core of them was made clear. "The
essence of the great works of Beethoven," he writes to Uhlig, "is that
they are only in the last place _Music_, but contain in the first place
a poetic subject. Or shall we be told that this _subject_ is only
taken from music itself? Would not this be like saying that the poet
takes his subject from speech, and the painter his from colour? The
musical conductor who sees in one of Beethoven's tone-works nothing
but the music, is exactly like a reciter who should hold only by the
language of a poem, or the explainer of a picture who could not get
beyond its colour. This, however, is the case with our conductors,
even in the best instances--for many do not even so much as understand
the music; they understand the key, the themes, the working of the
parts, the instrumentation, and so on, and think that with these they
understand the whole of the content of the tone-work."[371] And again:
"The characteristic of the great compositions of Beethoven is that they
are veritable poems, in which it is sought to bring a real subject
to representation. The obstacle to their comprehension lies in the
difficulty of finding with certainty the subject that is represented.
Beethoven was completely possessed by a subject: his most significant
tone pictures are indebted almost solely to the individuality of the
subject that filled him; the consciousness of this made it seem to him
superfluous to indicate his subject otherwise than in the tone picture
itself. Just as our literary poets really address themselves only to
other literary poets, so Beethoven, in these works, involuntarily
addressed himself only to tone poets. The absolute musician, that is to
say the manipulator of absolute music, could not understand Beethoven,
because this absolute musician fastens only on the 'How,' and not
the 'What.' The layman, on the other hand, could but be completely
confused by these tone pictures, and at best only receive pleasure
from _that_ which to the tone poet was merely the material means of

Wagner recognised, however, the difficulty of grasping a poetic subject
that had not been revealed by the composer, and held that it could
only be divined by a poetic musician of the same kind. "If no special
poetic subject is expressed in the tone speech, it may undoubtedly
pass as easily understandable; for there can here be no question of
_real_ understanding. If, however, the expression of the tone speech is
conditioned by a poetic subject, this speech at once becomes the most
incomprehensible of all, unless the poetic subject be at the same time
defined by some other means of expression than those of absolute music.

"The poetic subject of a tone piece by Beethoven is thus only to
be divined by a tone poet; for, as I remarked before, Beethoven
involuntarily appealed only to such, to those who were of like
feelings, like culture, aye, well-nigh like capability with himself.
Only a man like this can make these compositions intelligible to the
laity, and above all by making the subject of the tone poem clear
both to the executants and to the audience, and thus making good an
involuntary error in the technique of the tone poet, who omitted
this indication. Any other sort of performance of one of Beethoven's
veritable tone poems, however technically perfect it may be, must
remain incomprehensible in proportion as the understanding is not
facilitated in the way I have suggested."[373]

This indeed, he held, was Beethoven's error--an error forced upon him
by the conditions of his time--that he should endeavour to make his
music truly human without giving the hearer the clue to the emotions
upon which it was based. Beethoven's mistake, he says, in one of the
happiest and most famous of his analogies, was the same as that of
Columbus, who, though merely trying to find the way to the India that
was already known, actually discovered thereby a new world.[374] His
vain effort to "achieve the artistically necessary in the artistically
impossible" has, however, revealed to the modern world the infinitely
expressive capacity of music. But though it is only by being fertilised
by poetry that music can attain to the full expression of the truly
human, Wagner, as was to be expected from one who allowed so little
liberty to the imagination in art, was against this fertilisation
taking the form of programme music. The poetic content must be
communicated immediately and visibly to the hearer by presentation on
the stage. In all this, of course, he was once more merely expressing
an individual bias, and one that is not in the least binding upon
musicians in general. When the musician, he tells us, tries to paint by
means of the orchestra alone, what he produces is neither music nor a
painting.[375] He failed to perceive not only that instrumental music
offers numberless instances of quite successful tone painting, but that
a good deal of the pictorialism of his own music has to justify itself
by means of the imagination alone. Every time the _Feuerzauber_, for
example, is played in the concert room the imagination supplies, quite
successfully, the spectacle of the flames; and even in the theatre it
is left to the imagination to picture to itself the waves of the Rhine
in the opening scene of the _Rhinegold_, for while the wave music
is going on from the commencement the curtain does not rise until
the 126th bar. There is no need to elaborate the point. Hundreds of
composers, from Bach to the present day, have "painted" in music time
without number without the assistance of a stage setting, the subject
of the painting being quite sufficiently indicated either by the words
of the poem,--the spinning-wheel in Schubert's _Gretchen am Spinnrade_,
for example,--or by means of an explanatory note or title, as with the
modern symphonic poem.

Without pursuing this side issue further now, let us follow up the
more essential lines of the Wagnerian theory. We have seen him first
of all frame his dramatic action in such a way that while making
itself fully intelligible to the spectator it supplies the music with
endless opportunities for the outpouring of feeling. Romance and
"historical" drama have both been rejected because of their containing
so much that, according to Wagner, appeals less to the feeling than
to the intellect. It was in the myth that he found the condensation
he desired. Upon the myth the composer was to pour out the full flood
of his emotion. The form and quality of the musical utterance are to
be determined by the poem. Lyrism must no longer be imposed upon the
drama from without, as in the older opera, but must grow out of the
drama as a necessary consequence. It follows that neither the chorus
nor any of the characters is to be employed purely for the purposes of
concerted music. In the orchestra the musician has at his disposal an
instrument of unlimited expressiveness. The orchestra, as Wagner says,
has a capacity of its own for speech. In the Beethoven symphony this
capacity was developed to such a height as to urge the orchestra to
make the vain attempt to deliver a message which from its very nature
it was impossible for it to deliver clearly. That message, however, can
be _précisé_ by the Word: and the true function of the orchestra is to
announce what cannot be conveyed by speech.[376] Its specific meaning
can be still further _précisé_ by means of gesture--not the ordinary
gesture of the older opera, which derived solely from the dance
pantomime, but gesture that is the visible counterpart of the auditory
sensation communicated by the orchestra. The range of this kind of
gesture is as wide as human emotion itself. Moreover, the orchestra can
carry on the action even after speech and gesture have ceased; it can
use themes in such a way as to create presentiment, and it can recall
the past. The orchestra in fact, is to the drama of the future what
the chorus was to the Greek drama,--a totalised individuality apart
from, yet intimately bound up with, the separate individualities on the
stage. The musical expression will vary in intensity according to the
intensity of the situations. The form of the music drama will therefore
be a unified one, but one containing the possibility of an infinite
variety of expressions; but it will not be permissible to introduce
any expression for the mere sake of musical effect; everything must
grow spontaneously out of the emotions and situations presented by the
poet. The drama can be thoroughly unified by the employment of salient
"leading motives";[377] whereas the older opera had no unity at all,
but was a mere conglomeration of arias, duets, _ensembles_, and so


It must be clear to almost every reader, after this exposition
of Wagner's own views upon music in general and dramatic music in
particular, that, paradoxical as it may seem, he was under a life-long
illusion as to the nature of his own genius and the origin and
significance of his reforms. So far from the poet in him shaping and
controlling the musician, it was the musician who led the poet where
he would have him go; so far from drama being with him the end and the
music the means, it was music that was more than ever the end, to which
the drama only served as means; and so far from Wagner being first and
last a dramatist, the whole significance of his work lay precisely
in the fact that he was a great symphonist. This last conclusion too
may seem a paradox; but on a broad survey it will, I think, be seen
to be true. It was not for nothing that Wagner always claimed descent
from Beethoven rather than from even the greatest of opera writers,
such as Gluck and Mozart and Weber. His instinct was a sound one; it
was Beethoven's work that he was really carrying on. The whole of
his productivity is given us, in essence, in the later stages of the
_Ring_, in _Tristan_, and in the _Meistersinger_. It was to achieve
such an expression, such a tissue, as this that he had been labouring
and experimenting and thinking for nearly thirty years; and what are
these works, seen with the historical eye of the twentieth century,
but stupendous symphonies for orchestra and voices? He himself always
proudly pointed to _Tristan_ as the supremely successful realisation
of all his theories as to the expressive capacity and the formal
possibilities of music. Very well; _Tristan_ is of all his works the
most symphonic, the one that least needs the apparatus of the stage,
the one in which the actors could most easily be dispensed with for
long stretches of time with the minimum of loss.

I have already pointed out that he was probably the only musician in
Europe in the 'thirties and 'forties with an intuition of all that the
achievements of the later Beethoven meant for music.[379] All through
Wagner's theoretical writings runs the same simile of music as a vast
sea, on which Beethoven alone had so far been able to trust himself
with any freedom. While the other composers of his day--and indeed of a
later day, as the case of Brahms shows--had little idea beyond cruising
in Beethoven's track with more or less varied merchandise, Wagner even
as a boy saw the infinite wonders that were awaiting the first mariner
who should have the courage to leave the shelter of the great bay and
adventure out into the unknown main. He knew all that Beethoven had
added to German music, the new emotions he had poured into it, the
new logic of form with which he had endowed it. He knew also that as
much could still be superadded to Beethoven as Beethoven had added to
Mozart and Haydn; and the story of his evolution, both as dramatist and
musician, is the story of this gradual extension of the borders of the
Beethoven territory.

He had in abundance what has hitherto been almost the exclusive
possession of the German school of music,--the sense of a far-sweeping
logic of form. He had the rigorous, clean-cutting intellect that
instinctively makes straight for what is the very essence of form--the
spontaneous shaping of an idea, by itself, for itself, into the
lines and colours most natural to it. "Swords without blades" was
his contemptuous description of the empty rules of "form" that they
sell in schools and text-books, much as the chemist sells the dried
leaves of flowers. The true artist, he says, is always creating forms
without knowing it.[380] _His_ problem was to find the new form that
should be as valid for what he had to say as Beethoven's form was
for him. No such form was then in existence. In this respect he was
far less fortunate than any of his great predecessors or successors;
each of them had found his work all the easier in that he began
with an inherited form, of opera or of instrumental music, which he
simply exploited or expanded according to his necessities. Wagner's
glance round upon the music of his day showed him that there was no
form that _he_ could take up and patch or hammer into a serviceable
instrument. The symphony was not, nor is it yet, a truly logical form.
Its divisions, the number of its divisions, the order of its divisions,
are all in large part arbitrary and conventional. Within each of the
frames made by these divisions it had to submit itself to a more
or less formalistic method of procedure that was often at variance
with the very nature of the idea. Even Beethoven, giant as he was,
could not quite burst the bonds of custom and prescription. Wagner's
favourite illustration of the clash that sometimes occurred between
the traditional form and a new artistic purpose was the repeat in the
_Leonora No. 3_ Overture. The controlling influence in the evolution
of symphonic form had been the dance; the business of music had
primarily been to make what variable play it could with certain given
thematic figures. But bit by bit there had stolen into instrumental
music the desire for more than this--the desire to follow out in tone
not the changing aspects of a theme alone but the vicissitudes of a
dramatic idea; and composers had long felt that the logic of the latter
must be something other than the logic of the former, though as yet
they did not quite know how to attain the structure they wanted. The
purely thematic working-out aimed mostly at alternation: the dramatic
working-out must depend mostly on psychological development. "It is
obvious," says Wagner, "that in the conflict of a dramatic idea with
[symphonic] form, there must at once arise the necessity of either
sacrificing the development (the idea) to the alternation (the form),
or the latter to the former.... I once held up Gluck's Overture to
_Iphigenia in Aulis_ as a model, because the master, with the surest
feeling for the nature of the problem we are now considering, had here
so happily understood that he must open his drama with an alternation
of moods and their antitheses, in keeping with the overture form,
instead of with a development impossible in that form. That the great
masters who came after him, however, felt themselves circumscribed by
this, we may clearly see in Beethoven's overtures; the composer knew
the infinitely richer delineations of which his music was capable; he
felt equal to carrying out the idea of development; and nowhere do we
realise this more distinctly than in the great _Leonora_ Overture. But
anyone with eyes can see precisely in this overture how prejudicial to
Beethoven the retention of the transmitted form was bound to be; for
who that is capable of understanding such a work will not agree with me
that its weakness consists in the repetition of the first part after
the middle section, whereby the idea of the work is marred almost to
the point of making it unintelligible; and that the more as in all the
other parts, and especially at the end, Beethoven is obviously governed
simply by the dramatic development? But whoever is intelligent and
unprejudiced enough to see this must also admit that this mishap could
only have been avoided by forswearing the repetition altogether--which,
however, would mean the abrogation of the overture form, _i.e._ the
original symphonic dance form with its mere play of motives (_nur
motivirte_), and the first step towards the shaping of a new form."[381]


Beethoven, in fact, had brought a new spirit into the symphony and
the overture without being able to discover a new and inevitable form
in which this spirit could express itself. Wagner from his earliest
years must have felt that he too had a dim perception of a new world
of expression, if only he could discover the form for it. That form
clearly did not exist in the symphony even as Beethoven had left it,
for Wagner's vision was ready to take a bolder poetic flight even than
Beethoven's, and it would have been as sadly hampered by the more
freely symphonic but still largely formal method of Beethoven as the
latter had been by the traditions of form he had taken over from his
predecessors. It was still more useless for Wagner to seek the new
logic of form in the other great art-genre of his day--the opera--for
here illogic reigned supreme. The opera not only did not achieve the
unity it professed to aim at; it did not even let either of its two
great and ever warring constituents tyrannise effectively over the
other. Instead, each merely lamed the other; the average opera was
neither a good play spoiled by music, nor good music spoiled by a play,
but merely a bad play and formless music adding each to the other's
foolishness. How hopelessly impotent the current opera was to furnish a
form that should be adequate for all that a modern musician might have
to say was shown by the practice of Beethoven: the greatest musical
brain of its epoch turned in anger and disappointment and disgust from
the opera after one experiment with it, and concentrated more and more
on the symphonic forms, endeavouring to make these more expansive and
more flexible.

A hundred composers and theorists had for a century past realised
the insufficiency of the opera. Gluck's manifestos are known to
every student. More than a generation after Gluck the same problems
were still being discussed in virtually the same terms and with the
same results. Theory was evidently a long way ahead of practice; but
even theory failed because it missed just the one seminal thing that
it was Wagner's function to bring to light. The excellencies and
the final limitations of the theory of the time are best seen in a
rather remarkable work--Ignaz Franz Mosel's _Versuch einer Aesthetik
des dramatischen Tonsatzes_ ("Attempt at an Æsthetic of the Musical
Drama")--that, curiously enough, was published in the year of Wagner's
birth.[382] Much in this book might have been written by Gluck; some
of it might even have been written by Wagner himself. Mosel expresses
more clearly perhaps than any previous writer that conception of the
unified art-work upon which Wagner so strongly insisted. For Mosel the
ideal opera is a combination, on practically equal terms, of poetry,
music, acting, singing and the art of the stage; the plastic arts,
however, play a smaller part in his theory than they do in Wagner's.
He regards the drama as the basis of opera. He sees, as Wagner did,
that the rules of procedure of pure music are not applicable in their
entirety to the dramatic stage. Like Wagner, again, he holds that
complicated subjects, founded on intrigue or political action, are
unsuitable for opera. Music being a purely emotional art, addressing
itself more to the heart than the head, the best subject is that that
gives full play to the emotional power of tone. The best subjects
are the mythological ones. The poet must so shape his text that it
is "thoroughly musical, that is, not only containing nothing that is
outside the possibility of musical expression, but also nothing to
which music cannot give a heightened beauty and a strengthened effect."
The verse should be of such a kind that the composer's melody can
spring naturally out of it. As a rule one syllable should be set to one
note only. The melody must rise or fall precisely at the point where a
good declaimer of the verses who is not musical would make them do so.
Mosel sees that dramatic music frequently demands a different method of
structure from that of pure music; as he puts it, the so-called musical
period of two, four or eight-bar melodies can often be departed from
with advantage. The style of the music as a whole must vary with the
quality of the poetic subject; and not only must the general nature
of the theme be reproduced in music, but also the physical, moral or
conventional character of each person; and this adaptability of style
to subject must be preserved in the orchestra as well as in the voice.
The overture, having for its subject the preparation of the hearer for
what is to come, must bear the same character as that which is dominant
in the opera itself. There must be as little distinction as possible
between recitative and aria. Form and expression must always follow the
feeling. And so on and so on.

This was the sole result of a hundred years of keen theory and ardent
practice. The form of opera remained virtually what it always had been;
the most that anyone could suggest was a rationalising of the form here
and there, the ridding it of some excrescence or absurdity. And so,
in all probability, it would have remained for another hundred years,
had not Wagner come with the conception that the old form itself was
not worth tinkering with, but must be cast aside, and a new one made,
not out of Mozart, not out of Gluck, not, indeed, out of any opera
whatever, but _out of the instrumental music of Beethoven_. And this,
I repeat, was a marvellous perception for one man out of all Europe's
music-making millions to have.

His own accounts of the dawning of this idea upon him betray a
fundamental inconsistency. On the one hand he is always stoutly
asserting that he only found his way to the new music at the impulse
and under the guidance of the poet. On the other hand it is clearer to
us than it was to him that the poet in him was allowed to co-operate
with the musician only in much the same way that he is allowed to
co-operate in the symphonic poem. The musician, that is to say, feels a
vague desire to express certain emotions of love, of pity, of terror,
of aspiration; and he calls in the poet to supply him with a framework
that shall be able to give consistency to his emotions and make the
sequence of them intelligible to his hearers. Wagner, in his analysis
of his own psychological processes, inverted the real relations of
them, misled by the fact that _as a musician he developed much later
than as a poet_--the obvious reason for this being that in poetry he
had not, as in music, to make a new instrument, a new vocabulary and a
new technique for himself. But even from his own account it is evident
that the new ideal of music drama arose in him through the convergence
of two great impressions--the acting and singing of Schröder-Devrient,
and the later symphonies and quartets of Beethoven. He was amazed
to find how much Schröder-Devrient could do in the way of dramatic
expression with the poor puppets and absurd situations of the Italian
opera stage. "I said to myself, what an incomparable work must that be,
that in all its parts should be worthy of the histrionic talent of such
an artist, and still more, of a body of artists like her." Then, he
says, he got the idea of what could be done with the operatic _genre_
"by turning the whole rich stream of German music, that Beethoven had
swelled to the full, into the bed of the musical drama."[383]

And the essence of Beethoven's achievement, as he saw, was that not
only had all the earlier formalism become inevitable form, but that
form itself was dissolved in the idea; the Beethoven symphony becomes
in the end simply a continuous flood of meaningful melody. "For it is
surprising," he says, "that this method of procedure, developed in the
field of instrumental music, should have been employed to some degree
in mixed choral and orchestral music, but as yet never properly in
opera.... Yet the possibility must exist of obtaining in the dramatic
poem itself a poetic counterpart to the symphonic form, which, while it
completely fills this copious form, should at the same time correspond
to the inmost laws of dramatic form."[384]

The real ancestry of Wagner the opera writer is then clear enough; it
is not an operatic but a symphonic ancestry. I therefore cannot wholly
agree with Dr. Guido Adler that "as an opera composer Wagner stands
in the frame of Renaissance art and culture. His fundamental aims
coincide more or less with those of the founders of this culture epoch
in general and of the representatives of the High Renaissance in the
musical drama in particular.... The founders of the opera created the
_stilo rappresentativo_, in which the musical expression was to follow
the representation and the action as closely as possible.... The true
theatre style proceeds historically from Peri, Monteverde and Cavalli
to Wagner and Verdi. These are the representatives of emotionalism
in music, of that fundamental æsthetic principle that recognises
expression as the sole or main essence of music."[385] Resemblances
between Wagner and the Renaissance founders of the opera there
certainly are; but in comparison with the basic difference between
him and them the resemblances are superficial. That basic difference
is that while their reforms were born of the desire to model music
upon and control it by speech,[386] Wagner's reform was born of the
conception that the most copious and eloquent of musical instruments is
the orchestra, to the emotions of which the voices, by means of words,
can give direction and precision. Wagner's true lineage is that of
instrumental music, the symphony and the symphonic poem. He is not the
child either of the stage or of the song; the instrumental musician in
him simply enters into an alliance with these for purposes of his own.


Of this he was more than half conscious himself; and it was always
clear to him that as he was in the great line of instrumental
succession, and that what he was doing was to extend still further the
expressive range of instrumental, endlessly melodic music, it might
be urged against him that the logical outcome of all his theory and
his practice was not the opera but the symphonic poem or the programme
symphony. But against that conclusion he always strenuously protested
in advance. Something he saw there _must_ be to make definite to the
hearer the indefinite emotion of the music alone. He knew that the
classical symphony was a work of composite origin, one movement of
it--the Minuet or Scherzo,--still maintaining almost unchanged its
dance-like character, while in the others the composer aimed more and
more at emotional expression. But the musician was hampered here by
the fact that the expression of emotion could not rise above a certain
intensity without bursting the symphonic mould, and indeed prompting
in the hearer a question as to the source of that emotion. There was,
as Wagner says, "a certain fear of overstepping the bounds of musical
expression, and especially of pitching the passionate, tragic tendency
too high, for that would arouse feelings and expectations that would
awake in the hearer the disquieting question of 'Why,'--which the
musician himself could not answer satisfactorily."[387] But Wagner
would not admit that this something might be a mere programme. "Not
a programme, which rather provokes than silences the troublesome
question of 'Why,' can therefore express the meaning of the symphony,
but only the scenically-represented dramatic action itself."[388] With
the liberation of musical expression from the stereotyped images set
before it in the ordinary musical verse, and with the liberation of
musical technique effected by the breaking down of the old operatic
conventions of form, the power of music could be extended indefinitely.
The poet would discover that "melodic form is capable of endlessly
richer development than had previously been possible in the symphony
itself, and, with a presentiment of this development, he will already
project the poetical conception with perfect freedom. Thus where even
the symphonist timidly reached back to the original dance-form--never
daring, even for his expression, wholly to pass the boundaries that
kept him in communication with this form--the poet will now cry to
him: 'Throw yourself fearlessly into the full stream of the sea of
music: hand in hand with me you can never lose touch with what is most
comprehensible to all mankind; for through me you always stand on the
ground of the dramatic action, and this action, in the moment of its
representation on the stage, is the most immediately intelligible of
all poems. Stretch your melody boldly out, that it may pour through the
whole work like an endless flood: in it say what I leave unsaid, since
only you can say it, and in silence I will utter all, since it is I who
lead you by the hand."[389]

Here he is expressing only a personal bias. His own imagination
was somewhat timid; it preferred the seen to the unseen, and he was
consequently quite unable to take up the point of view of people
to whom a thing mentally conceived is as impressive as, or even
more impressive than, the same thing set bodily before their eyes.
Had he had any inkling of this, he would not have brought so many
animals upon the scene. The most striking instance of his inability
to trust to the spectator's imagination is his vacillation over the
ending of _Tannhäuser_. In the first version of the final scene, the
last attempt of Venus to win back her old lover was shown only as a
struggle in the mind of the frenzied Tannhäuser, with a red glow in the
direction of the distant Hörselberg to make the cause of the madness
clear. The death of Elisabeth was merely divined by the intuition
of Wolfram, while the sound of far-off bells and the faint light of
torches on the Wartburg gave the spectator the hint he needed for
the full comprehension of the scene. Wagner was uncomfortable until
he had made everything visible that had formerly been left to the
imagination; Venus had to appear in person to Tannhäuser, and the bier
of Elisabeth had to be carried across the stage. It would have been
better, in this and in many other cases, had he reposed more faith in
the imagination of his audience. But his theory and his practice were
often inconsistent in this as in so many other cases. We have seen him
objecting, _à propos_ of Berlioz's _Romeo and Juliet_, to music that
required an explanation outside itself to make it clear. But several
of his own orchestral pieces are unintelligible without a verbal
explanation or its equivalent. Who could make anything of the prelude
to the third Act of _Tannhäuser_, for example, in the absence of such
an explanation? It cannot even be said that the dramatic play of the
motives is clear to anyone who has listened carefully to the opera, for
the theme of Tannhäuser's pilgrimage, that is of such importance in the
prelude, does not occur till the third Act; during the prelude to that
Act the hearer who is listening to it for the first time is ignorant
not merely of its meaning but of its very existence. How, again, can
the audience be expected to know, the first time they hear it, that the
opening theme of the prelude to the third Act of the _Meistersinger_
symbolises Sachs's renunciation of Eva? The theme has appeared in the
second Act as an orchestral counterpoint during one of the stanzas of
the cobbling song. Even supposing the hearer to have any notion on that
occasion that the theme is more than an ordinary counterpoint--that
it has a psychological significance--how is he to know what this
significance is; and how is he to read this meaning into it when he
hears it at the commencement of the third Act? It all has to be made
clear to him by a prose explanation, as Wagner himself recognised
when he wrote his explanatory programme note upon the prelude. In the
light of this and other instances that could be cited, how can Wagner
consistently deny to other composers the right to call in the aid of
verbal explanations for their symphonic poems or programme symphonies?


There are as many contradictions between Wagner's theory and
practice, indeed, as between his life and his art. Without attempting
the impossible task of trying to reconcile them all, let us cast a
rapid glance over the main features of his practice, which are far
more important than his theory. From every side we are driven to the
conclusion that the dominating force in him was the instrumental
musician who was born to continue Beethoven's work in another sphere.
As his powers developed, his music becomes more symphonic,[390] and he
intuitively shapes his poems so as to allow the freest possible play
to the symphonic succession and interweaving of themes. The characters
serve to make the course of the story clear, and to give precision
to the emotions that are being expressed by the orchestra. He saw in
Beethoven's later works a colossal effort to make music free. Logic of
some kind there must be in every piece of music. This logic depends
fundamentally upon showing the inter-relation of each part of the
music by the recurrence of significant themes; and broadly speaking
there are only two ways of achieving this--by way of pattern or by way
of poetry. At bottom all form, all logic, in music, in fiction, in
drama, in architecture, in sculpture, is one in object and process;
a coherent whole has to be made out of parts, and the parts have to
justify their existence by showing themselves indispensable to the
whole. Pattern form and poetic form embrace between them every mode of
structure of which music is capable. Sometimes a piece of music leans
markedly to the one or the other; but in the vast majority of cases
the actual form is a union of the two, or a compromise between them.
It was a compromise of this kind that Wagner detected in some of the
greatest works of Beethoven; the form that had been evolved mainly with
reference to pattern was being applied, with only partial success, to
music the prime impulse of which was poetic--however vague this poetry
might be, however incapable of expression in words. But while pattern
form pure and simple tells its own story and is its own justification,
poetic form needs to be explained and justified by the poetic idea
that is at the root of it. Go beyond Beethoven, says Wagner, in the
expression of poetic emotion, and your form will become so free that
the hearer will no longer be able to see it in terms of the old pattern
logic, and the music will seem to him formless and incoherent. You
can only win the full freedom you need for the expression of definite
as distinguished from indefinite emotion by telling the hearer the
nature and the source of this emotion. As Wagner put it, poetic music
in pattern form always prompts the question "Why?" The symphonic-poem
writer answers with his programme: Wagner answered with the characters
and the action of the programme set visibly before us on a stage. There
is no such fundamental æsthetic difference between the two methods as
Wagner imagined; the differences are only in detail.[391]

The curious thing is that, for all his theories, Wagner himself
now and then wrote instrumental pieces that prompt a "Why?" as
emphatically as anything of Beethoven's. He despised what he called
the "quadrature musicians"--the composers who take refuge in phrases
cut to a regulation length and pattern and worked-out in a stereotyped
four-square form. Music meant little or nothing to him unless it spoke
directly of humanity and to humanity. No theme must be invented for
mere invention's sake, or worked-out for the mere sake of working-out;
it must spring into being as the expression of an overwhelming human
need or of some blinding vision, and must answer in all its changes
to the changing life of the man or mood it painted. It was this
inevitableness of idea and of form that he admired in Beethoven and
missed in Brahms. His inability to compromise on the matter made him
contemptuously sweep out of existence most of the music of his day. It
was precisely in this broadening of the Beethovenian spirit and design,
and the making them capable of expressing every emotion that mankind
can feel, that he opened out such enormous possibilities in music.

The ordinary "abstract" composer's mind must have been a pure puzzle
to a man like him, who could not understand how modern music could
have any _raison d'être_ apart from something definitely poetic or
pictorial to be expressed. To invent a theme for its own abstract
sake, to pare and shape it till it was "workable," and then to weave
it along with others of the same kind into a pattern of which the main
lines were predetermined for him by tradition--this was something he
could not imagine himself doing, and that he scoffed at when he found
the Conservatoire musician engaged in it. "I simply cannot compose at
all," he said once, "when nothing occurs to me."[392] He must always
have a definite subject, which was to determine the nature, of the
theme and control the whole course of the development. Looking back
through the music of the generation that has followed him, we can see
how penetrating his vision was in all questions of expression and
form. Beethoven's innovations, he points out, were mostly in the field
of rhythmic distribution, not that of harmonic modulation. Rhythmic
changes of all kinds come naturally within the scope of the ordinary
symphonic movement, which is in essence an ideal dance; but startling
melodic or harmonic changes, or attempted subtleties of form, generally
prompt that awkward question "Why?" and leave it unanswered. Take,
for example, the efforts that have been made in our own day to unify
the four-movement sonata form by the carrying over of themes from
one movement to another, as in César Franck's violin and pianoforte
sonata. Attach a poetic significance to a theme, and its recurrence
in another movement explains itself; but in a piece of ostensibly
abstract music the recurrence simply puzzles us. No satisfactory answer
can be given--except in terms of a programme--to the question why a
theme that has apparently served its purpose should be resuscitated
by the composer at a later stage, in preference to the invention of
a fresh theme. For every effect the composer makes, the logician in
us insists upon knowing the cause. Hence the soundness of Wagner's
advice to the modern composer--Do not consciously aim at harmonic
and instrumental effects, but wait till there is a sufficient cause
for them.[393] His own practice was a model of restraint: not one
modulation, not one subtilisation of the harmony, not one addition
to the orchestral weight without a thoroughly good reason, rooted in
the nature of the idea itself. "In the instrumental prelude to the
_Rhinegold_, for instance," he says, "it was impossible for me to quit
the fundamental note, for there was no reason whatever for changing it.
A great part of the not unanimated theme that follows between Alberich
and the Rhine Maidens permitted of modulation only to the most closely
related keys, since passion still expresses itself here in its most
primitive _naïveté_."[394] The rule he would enforce upon pupils is
this, "Never leave a key so long as what you have to say can still
be said in it." And only when the emotion becomes more complex must
the harmony be coloured more subtly to correspond. This, he lays it
down, constitutes the great difference between the symphonic and the
dramatic development of themes. In the former the effect is meant to be
kaleidoscopic; and a real master can work wonders in the arabesque-like
combination and transformation of simple material. But do what he
will he cannot venture upon the variety of the dramatic composer,
for if he goes beyond a certain point of audacity or singularity he
ceases to be intelligible in terms of pure music. "Neither a mere
play of counterpoint, nor the most fanciful devices of figuration
or harmonic invention, either could or should transform a theme so
characteristically and give it so many and so varied expressions--and
yet keep it always recognisable--as true dramatic art can do quite
naturally." Proof of this can be had by pursuing the simple theme of
the Rhine Maidens--


  Rhinegold! Rhinegold!

"through all the changing passions of the four-part drama, down to
Hagen's watch song in the first Act of the _Götterdämmerung_, where
it appears in a form that, to me at any rate, is simply unthinkable
as the theme of a symphonic movement, albeit it still has its _raison
d'être_ in the laws of harmony and thematism, though only in their
application to the drama. But to try to apply what is thus made
possible to the symphony itself must necessarily lead to the complete
ruin of the latter; for there it would be merely a deliberate 'effect,'
while in the other case it has a motive."[395] And he ends with the
theory that symphonic music and dramatic music are two quite different
modes of expression, and that only errors of practice and of judgment
can come from the attempt to blend them. This dictum the musicians of
a later day can accept only with reservations. We admit that he did
well to draw a line of sharp distinction between the older symphonic
moods and forms and those of musical drama. But he overlooked the fact
that the basic distinction was not between symphony and drama, but
between purely abstract music of all kinds and purely poetic music
of all kinds. There are procedures open to the latter that are still
not open to the former--virtually as many procedures, indeed, as are
open to opera itself. For the principle of the symphonic poem is at
bottom the same as that of the musical drama--to follow in music the
vicissitudes of a poetic idea; and given a knowledge on our part of
this idea, whether it be communicated to us by a stage action or by
a prose or poetic explanation, the composer is at liberty to indulge
in as many audacities of melody, of harmony, of modulation as may
be justified by the nature of his subject. Wagner, as I have tried
to show, was prevented from applying his own principles to purely
instrumental poetic music by his inability to follow the "moments" of
an action that was merely suggested to him, instead of being realised
in a theatre. But there is no reason why _we_ should fail to draw the
conclusion that is obviously implicit in Wagner's own argument as to
the relations of music and poetic suggestion. The strange thing is
that every now and then he himself made an excursion into the fields
he attempted to close to others. His _Faust Overture_, for example, is
a pure symphonic poem, the full meaning of which only becomes apparent
to us when we know the poetic subject. The opening tuba theme is of a
type that a composer would hesitate to use for the opening "subject"
of a symphony; it receives both its explanation and its justification
solely from our knowledge that it depicts the world-weary Faust. The
case of the _Siegfried Idyl_ is still more instructive. That exquisite
piece of music puzzles us once or twice by the apparent abruptness of
its transitions. We might have guessed, from our knowledge of Wagner's
precepts and practice, that he is following a quasi-poetic scheme of
his own, and that the music does not always tell a coherent story to us
because he has seen fit to keep this scheme from us. We now know for
certain, on the testimony of Glasenapp, that this is so. Here we have
another instance of flat contradiction between Wagner's theory and his
practice. But had he reflected that a knowledge of the poetic basis
of the _Siegfried Idyl_ is necessary to us if we are to see the same
coherence in the music that he saw, he would have been bound to admit
that the communication of the poetic basis of any symphonic poem will
justify the composer writing in a style that would be unsuitable to
abstract music--a style differing very little in its fundamentals from
that of the Wagnerian stage. No middle course is possible: whatever
justifies the Wagnerian music drama justifies also _Till Eulenspiegel_
and the _L'Après-midi d'un Faune_--not for Wagner perhaps, but
certainly for us.

His intransigent attitude towards programme music is all the stranger
in view of the fact that he persistently read concrete meanings or
events into the music that moved him. Everyone knows his interpretation
of certain of Beethoven's symphonies and the C sharp minor quartet. He
read quasi-pictures and even words into certain of Bach's fugues; for
the seventeenth fugue and the twenty-fourth prelude he had half a mind
to write appropriate words. He ought to have seen that if instrumental
music could thus suggest concrete associations, similar associations
could also suggest music to correspond with them, and that the logical
and inevitable outcome of this alliance between music and poetic
suggestion is programme music. It is interesting to learn, however,
that in his last days he often talked of writing a symphony. He had,
he says, no lack of ideas; his difficulty was to stop inventing. His
symphony would have been in one movement only; "the finales are the
awkward things [_Klippe_]; I will steer clear of them; I will keep to
one-movement symphonies." Nor would he base them on the old system
of theme-contrast. Beethoven had exhausted the possibilities of that
form. His own style would be that of an endless melodic web--the
principle, indeed, that we can see at work in all the operas of his
maturity. "Only," he added, "no drama"; evidently his prejudice against
story music apart from the stage persisted to the end. The projected
symphonies would apparently have been on the lines of the _Siegfried
Idyl_ and the larger pianoforte works such as the _Albumblatt for
Betty Schott_ (1875), the _Albumblatt for the Princess Metternich_
(1861), the _Album Sonata for Frau Wesendonck_ (1853), and the _Ankunft
bei den schwarzen Schwänen_ (1861). If so, we should probably be
compelled to pass the same criticism upon the symphonies as we do
upon these works--that in spite of their unquestionable beauty we are
sometimes at a loss to see the same coherence in them that they must
have had for him. In the lengthy _Album Sonata for Frau Wesendonck_,
for example, we feel that he is all the while following the outlines of
some unavowed poetic theme, slackening and tightening the expression,
lightening and darkening it, hurrying and pausing, in conformity with
the demands of that. A musical picture of this kind, that disdains
formal development of the pattern order, and simply weaves its tissue
out of moods, is much more difficult on a large scale than on a small
one. The trouble begins when a transition has to be made from one
mood to another. In his last days Wagner was capable of wonderful
quasi-symphonic meditations on a given theme; nothing could surpass
for pure beauty or for continuity of invention the long orchestral
passage that accompanies Kundry's account of Parsifal's mother (vocal
score, p. 187 ff.). We feel that Wagner could have indeed worked
marvels in this way to the end: but, as he himself once said in a
letter to Frau Wesendonck, the art of composition is really the art of
transition; and one fears that his symphonic transitions would have
failed to make their reasons clear to us. The astounding tissue of the
_Götterdämmerung_ teems with transitions of the most abrupt kind; but
they are all intelligible because the physiognomies of the leit-motives
are familiar to us, and every allusion is instantaneously clear. Their
logic is only partly in themselves, and partly in the poetic ideas of
which they are the symbols. It seems probable that his symphonies would
have been Siegfried Idyls on a larger scale, possessing every virtue
but that of inevitable continuity.

                [Illustration: RICHARD WAGNER, 1877.]


[289] He seems to be referring more particularly to the fourth movement.

[290] _Mein Leben_, p. 73.

[291] _Mein Leben_, p. 94.

[292] _G.S._, xii. 1 ff.

[293] _G.S._, xii. 5 ff.

[294] _Pasticcio_, in _G.S._, xii. 5 ff.

[295] Mr. Dannreuther, in his article on Wagner in _Grove's Dictionary
of Music_ (v. 391), thinks that the young enthusiast for Beethoven
perceived the weakness of Bellini's music clearly enough, yet the
impression Mme. Devrient made upon him was powerful and artistic. The
first statement hardly squares with all the facts as we now know them.

[296] _I.e._ as to why the poorer opera had impressed him more than the
better one.

[297] _Mein Leben_, p. 102.

[298] _Mein Leben_, p. 104.

[299] See the article on _Der dramatische Gesang_, in _G.S._, xii. 15.

[300] The German "Gesang" is perhaps best translated here and elsewhere
by this general term.

[301] _I.e._ the conventional forms of Italian opera.

[302] See the article _Bellini, ein Wort zu seiner Zeit_, in _G.S._,
xii. 19. It must be remembered that this article, which was published
anonymously, was intended to stimulate the interest of the Riga public
in Bellini's _Norma_, which opera Wagner had selected for his benefit
in December 1837. It is possible, therefore, that the impecunious
young musician may have said a trifle more than he really thought. It
is significant that Wagner omitted all these articles--_Die deutsche
Oper_, _Pasticcio_, _Der dramatische Gesang_, and _Bellini_--from the
collected edition of his works.

[303] _Mein Leben_, p. 174.

[304] _Mein Leben_, p. 175.

[305] _Mein Leben_, p. 175.

[306] _Mein Leben_, p. 175.

[307] _Mein Leben_, p. 179.

[308] He had put aside his comic opera _Die glückliche Bärenfamilie_,
as the performing of this "Musik à la Adam" would only have still
further tightened his connection with the frivolous theatrical world
about him.

[309] _Mein Leben_, pp. 210, 211.

[310] _Le Freischütz_, in _G.S._, i. 220 ff.

[311] _Eine Pilgerfahrt zu Beethoven_, _G.S._, i. 90 ff.

[312] The reader may be reminded that Wagner has been expounding the
Schopenhauerian theory of music as the idea of the world.

[313] _Beethoven_, in _G.S._, ix. 101.

[314] _G.S._, i. in. 111.

[315] This explains why he was so unapt at setting anyone's poetry but
his own.

[316] On this point see Albert Schweitzer's _J. S. Bach_ (Eng. trans.),
chap. xx.

[317] And of course the quality of the mixture of these factors may
vary in different works of the same composer.

[318] _Ein glücklicher Abend_, in _G.S._, i. 143, 144.

[319] See Mr. E. Dannreuther's article on Wagner in the new edition of
_Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians_, v. 414.

[320] Like all musicians of that time, Wagner had no suspicion of the
enormous amount of tone-painting there is in Bach.

[321] _Ein glücklicher Abend_, in _G.S._, i. 147, 148.

[322] He expresses the same idea nearly thirty years later in his essay
on Beethoven. "What is the dramatic action of the _Leonora_ opera-text
but an almost disagreeable watering down of the drama we have lived
through in the overture,--as it were a tedious explanatory commentary
by Gervinus on a scene by Shakespeare?" _Beethoven_, in _G.S._, ix. 105.

[323] This was the explanation of his dislike for much of Berlioz's
music. See his remarks on Berlioz in the article _On Liszt's Symphonic
Poems_ (_G.S._, v. 193, 194), and a similar passage in the conversation
quoted by Mr. Dannreuther (_Grove's Dictionary_, v. 414): "The middle
of Berlioz's touching _scène d'amour_ in his _Romeo and Juliet_ is
meant by him to reproduce in musical phrases the lines about the lark
and the nightingale in Shakespeare's balcony scene, but it does nothing
of the sort--it is not intelligible as music."

[324] The only other element introduced is the song of the Norwegian
sailors from the last Act, which, however good in itself, is perhaps a
superfluity in the overture,--a slight concession to that passion for
reproducing the details of the drama that Wagner reprobated in others.
The true symbolic conflict of the governing desires and principles of
the opera can and should be all suggested in the music of Senta and the

[325] _Loc. cit._, i. 204, 205.

[326] The "Report" that accompanies this programme in the Prose Works
is an extract from the (at that time) unpublished _Mein Leben_.

[327] He had gone there to produce _Rienzi_, and to try to arrange for
a performance of _Lohengrin_. _Rienzi_ was a failure.

[328] The Intendant of the Dresden Opera.

[329] Gustav Levy, _Richard Wagners Lebensgang in tabellarischer
Darstellung_, p. 32.

[330] Liszt writes thus in June or July 1849, _i.e._ a month or six
weeks after Wagner's flight from Dresden. "Forgive me if I suggest
that you should manage so that you are not of necessity brought into
enmity with things and men who bar your road to success and glory. A
truce therefore to political commonplaces, socialistic balderdash, and
personal hatreds. On the other hand, good courage, strong patience, and
plenty of fire, which will not be difficult for you with the volcanoes
you have in your brain." _Briefwechsel zwischen Wagner und Liszt_, i.

[331] _Die Königliche Kapelle betreffend_, in _G.S._, xii. 149 ff. No
notice was taken of the Report by the authorities for a year; then they
refused to act upon it.

[332] The essay--_Entwurf zur Organisation eines Deutschen
National-Theaters für das Konigreich Sachsen_, in _G.S._, ii. 233
ff.--must be read in full. "My plan," he says, "was not merely to
rescue the theatre, but at the same time to conduct it, under the
shelter and inspection of the State, to a noble significance and
efficacy." His main thesis was that "the Theatre should have no other
purpose than the ennoblement of taste and manners." See Wagner's own
account of the affair in _Mein Leben_, pp. 444 ff.

[333] See _Mein Leben_, pp. 434 ff.

[334] _G.S._, xii. 238 ff.

[335] _G.S._, xii. 243 ff.

[336] In the _Entwurf zur Organisation eines Deutschen
National-Theaters für das Konigreich Sachsen_ (_G.S._, ii. 248) he
speaks of "demanding the fullest and most active interest of the whole
nation in an artistic establishment that, conjointly with all the other
arts, has for its object the ennobling of taste and manners." He does
not develop the idea, however.

[337] See the important letter of September 1850, in the Uhlig

[338] _Mein Leben_, p. 546.

[339] _Mein Leben_, pp. 566 ff.

[340] See the passionate and almost hysterical passage commencing "Not
ye wise ones, therefore, are the inventors, but the Folk, for Need
drove the Folk to invention." _Das Kunstwerk der Zukunft_, in _G.S._,
iii. 53.

[341] _G.S._, iii. 60.

[342] Had he been a trifle less Teutonic, less given to the national
failing of imagining that a new truth has been established when all
that has happened is that a new word has been manufactured or a mystic
meaning perceived in an old one, he might have reflected that in other
languages there is no etymological connection between art and the
capacity for "canning."

[343] _Mein Leben_, pp. 691, 692.

[344] He plainly knew nothing of the sculpture of the Middle Ages, and
regarded all modern sculpture as an imitation of the antique.

[345] This was the first form of the drama that ultimately became the
_Ring_. It virtually corresponded with the present _Twilight of the
Gods_. He afterwards saw the necessity of setting visibly before the
audience a good deal that was only implied or narrated in _Siegfried's
Death_. Accordingly a prefatory drama was written and called _Young
Siegfried_. The same process was twice repeated, the _Valkyrie_ and
_Rhinegold_ being added in turn. _Young Siegfried_ was then entitled
_Siegfried_, and _Siegfried's Death_ became _The Twilight of the Gods_.

[346] Letter of 12th September 1852, in _Briefe an Röckel_, p. 10.

[347] See Wagner's further account of this article in _Mein Leben_, p.

[348] This and other statements as to the genesis of opera are not
historically correct.

[349] The most admired of libretto writers of the eighteenth century.

[350] The latest edition of the _Gesammelte Schriften_ (which contains
more than one regrettable error), has "_auf natürlichem, künstlichem
Boden gewachsen_," instead of _unnatürlichem_ as in the earlier
editions. See _G.S._, iv. 15.

[351] I borrow Mr. Edwin Evans's alliterative rendering of these three
lines,--"Life's delight is love"; "True love doth lighten loss"; "For
'tis from woe she weaves her wonders." See his translation of _Opera
and Drama_, ii. 520 ff.

[352] _I.e._, in modern phrase, the "leading-motives."

[353] _G.S._, iii. 267.

[354] _G.S._, iii. 269.

[355] _G.S._, iv. 65, 66.

[356] _G.S._, iv. 2.

[357] "But if I wish to show that plastic art, being only an artificial
art, one abstracted from real art, must cease entirely in the future;
if consequently to this plastic art--painting and sculpture--that
to-day claims to be the principal art, I utterly deny a life in the
future, you will admit that this should not and could not be done with
two strokes of the pen." (Letter of 12th January 1850; _Briefe an
Uhlig, &c._, p. 26.)

[358] Letter 14 to Uhlig (undated), in _Briefe_, p. 46. Mr. Shedlock,
in his admirable English version of these letters, translates
"art-egoistic" (künstlerisch-egoistischen) in the second sentence
as "artificial egoistic," having apparently read "künstlerisch" as

[359] _Eine Mittheilung an meine Freunde_, in _G.S._, iv. 315. He is
discussing the reasons that led him to give up the idea of a play on
the subject of Friedrich Barbarossa.

[360] "In modern speech, poetical creation is impossible; that is to
say, a poetic purpose cannot be _realised_ in it, but only suggested"
(_sondern eben nur als solche ausgesprochen werden_). _Opera and
Drama_, in _G.S._, iv. 98. There are many other passages of the same

[361] _G.S._, iii. 178 ff.

[362] _Briefwechsel zwischen Wagner und Liszt_, i. 324.

[363] _G.S._, iv. 128, 129.

[364] In the scene of the Contest of Song in the second Act of
_Tannhäuser_, he says, "my real object was, if possible, to compel
the hearer, for the first time in the history of opera, to take an
interest in a poetic idea, and to follow it up in all its necessary
developments." _Mein Leben_, p. 364.

[365] Letter of 8th September 1850; _Briefwechsel_, i. 75.

[366] Much of his laborious insistence on the proper relation between
word and tone was due to the disregard of any coincidence between
verbal and musical accents in most of the German opera texts and
translations of his time, and to the bad enunciation of so many of
the singers. He was still complaining of this latter--"the chaotic
vocal style of our singers"--in 1879. See _Über das Opern-Dichten und
Komponieren im Besonderen_, in _G.S._, x. 166.

[367] Letter 21 (beginning of February 1851), p. 80.

[368] _Eine Mittheilung an meine Freunde_, in _G.S._, iv. 316.

[369] _G.S._, iv. 318, 319.

[370] It must always be remembered that the Beethoven of whom Wagner
speaks is the Beethoven of the later symphonies, sonatas, and quartets.

[371] Letter 57 (15th February 1852) in _Briefe an Uhlig_, p. 160. It
was his complaint against Mendelssohn's conducting of the Beethoven
symphonies that it brought out "merely their purely musical side,"
not their poetical content. Not understanding the spirit of them,
Mendelssohn kept to the letter. His inability to understand the inner
meaning of the music caused him to fall into the grossest errors of
_tempo_. He took the first movement of the Ninth Symphony, for example,
so fast that "the whole thing became the direct opposite of what it
really is" (Letter 56 to Uhlig, 15th February 1852, p. 162).

[372] Letter 56 to Uhlig, 15th February 1852, p. 157.

[373] Letter 55 to Uhlig (15th February, 1852), pp. 158, 159.

[374] _Opera and Drama_, in _G.S._, iii. 278. The whole of this section
should be read carefully.

[375] _Opera and Drama_, in _G.S._, iv. 3.

[376] _Opera and Drama_, in _G.S._, iv. 173.

[377] This term, it must be remembered, is not Wagner's own. It has
come into such general use, however, and is so thoroughly expressive,
that it is better to employ it than to adopt Wagner's rather
circumlocuitous way of expressing the same thing.

[378] The reader who is unable to follow Wagner's exposition in _Opera
and Drama_ should turn to _A Communication to my Friends_, in which
practically the same ground is covered, but in a much more luminous

[379] E. T. A. Hoffmann before him had been very enthusiastic over
Beethoven, and no doubt Wagner had been stimulated by Hoffmann in
this as in so many other matters. See in particular Hoffmann's

[380] _On Franz Liszt's Symphonic Poems_, in _G.S._, v. 187.

[381] _On Franz Liszt's Symphonic Poems_, in _G.S._, v. 109.

[382] It has recently been re-published with an introduction and notes
by Dr. Eugen Schmitz. (Verlag Dr. Heinrich Lewy, Munich.)

[383] _Zukunftsmusik_, in _G.S._, vii. 97.

[384] _Zukunftsmusik_, in _G.S._, vii. 127, 128.

[385] Guido Adler, _Richard Wagner: Vorlesungen gehalten an der
Universität zu Wien_, pp. 3 ff.

[386] This is a broadly true statement of the historical facts, though
it has to be remembered that the theory that the _first_ Florentine
reformers aimed at a recitative-like delivery of a dramatic idea
is only one of the errors of the popular historian. Their earliest
attempts were more in the arioso form. See Hugo Riemann's _Handbuch der
Musikgeschichte_, ii. 2, chap. xxiii.

[387] _Zukunftsmusik_, in _G.S._, vii, 128.

[388] _Ibid._, vii, 129.

[389] _Zukunftsmusik_, in _G.S._, vii. 129.

[390] I do not mean, of course, that it has anything to do with
the symphony in the formal sense, but that the orchestra weaves a
continuous tissue of its own, instead of merely accompanying the voices
as in the earlier operas.

[391] See Appendix B.

[392] _On Operatic Poetry and Composition_, in _G.S._, x. 172.

[393] _On the Application of Music to the Drama_, in _G.S._, x. 186.

[394] _Ibid._, x. 186, 187.

[395] _On the Application of Music to the Drama_, in _G.S._, x. pp.
189, 190. The variation of the theme to which Wagner refers is as


                              CHAPTER III

                        THE ARTIST IN PRACTICE


According to Wagner's own account, he sketched tragedies in his
childhood, and worked out one that was a sort of blend of _Hamlet_ and
_King Lear_; and, inspired by Beethoven's _Egmont_, he soon desired
to adorn this grand tragedy with music of his own. A brief study of
Logier's _Method of Thorough-Bass_ did not provide him with the needed
technique, though, convinced that he was born to be a musician, he
wrote a sonata, a quartet and an aria in secret. In his sixteenth year
he placed himself under a teacher, who, however, could do nothing
with him in the excessively febrile state in which he then was. His
nervous excitement culminated in a round of the usual student excesses;
and having calmed down again he set himself to study composition in
earnest with Weinlig, the cantor of the Thomas School. Six months'
work sufficed to satisfy Weinlig that his pupil was now competent to
stand on his own legs. It is at this time (1831) that he produces the
compositions that are the earliest we now possess of his.

At present he has apparently no inclination towards opera. The raw
works of his adolescence had all been instrumental; among them was
the Overture in B flat major (1830) that was performed in the Leipzig
Theatre, and in which the drum-beat every four bars ended by moving the
audience to uncontrollable merriment. It is not till the summer of 1832
that he plans a first opera. _Die Hochzeit_; he writes the text, but
composes no more than a fragment of the music. Meanwhile he produces,
as the result of Weinlig's schooling, a number of works more or less
in the conventional style. The pianoforte sonata in B flat major
that was published by Breitkopf & Härtel as the composer's Op. 1 is
dedicated to Weinlig, under whose eye the work was written. His teacher
had evidently seen the need for curbing the exuberance of the boy's
undisciplined mind. He made him write simply, in the set forms, and
with regard to the clarities of the pure vocal style. For this first
sonata, Wagner tells us, Weinlig induced him to take an early sonata
by Pleyel as a model; the whole work was to be shaped on "strictly
harmonic and thematic lines." Wagner himself never thought much of it.
But if it is no more than an imitation of the current sonata style, it
is an unmistakably capable imitation. Weinlig was right; he had given
his pupil independence. In all these youthful works, indeed, we are
struck by the unquestioning self-confidence of the manner, and by the
boyish vigour that animates them. As a reward for his docility in the
matter of the sonata he was allowed by Weinlig to compose a pianoforte
fantasia in F sharp minor. He treated this, he says, in a more informal
style. It is really a quite powerful work for a boy of eighteen.
It defines a mood, and maintains it with singular persistence; it
expresses something truly felt; it comes from the brooding absorption
of spirit that was afterwards to produce the _Faust_ Overture. It is
liberally sown with recitative passages that suggest some knowledge of
Bach (the Chromatic Fantasia or the G minor Fantasia for the organ), or
of Beethoven (pianoforte sonata in A flat. Op. 110, &c.). The manner
and feeling of the adagio suggest the slow movement of Beethoven's
fifth symphony, the later ornamentation of the main melodic idea being
quite in the style of that movement. Altogether the Fantasia is by no
means a work to be despised; it is the one composition of Wagner's of
this period in which we catch a decided note of promise for the future.

The Polonaise in D major for four hands (1831) is more in the
conventional manner, but quite interesting, and as original as we
can expect from the average young composer of eighteen. The A major
sonata (Op. 4, 1831) flows on in the glib, confident way that is
characteristic of all his early instrumental works, and has many good
points. The weakest movement is the third--a rather amateurish fugue.
There is some expression in the slow movement, and a general freedom
of style everywhere except in the fugue. The idiom as a whole is that
of the early Beethoven, but occasionally the writing suggests a boy
who knew something of Weber and of the later Beethoven, though his
invention and his technique were as yet equal only to imitating the
simpler models.

For its day the Symphony in C major (1832) is a very capable piece of
student work; the interest slackens very considerably in the finale,
but the other movements are handled with the customary young-Wagnerian
vigour and confidence. In spite of the ease and the cleverness of it,
however, we can rarely feel that it is anything more than a piece of
competent school work, though there is undeniable thoughtfulness in the

The work of the next five years varies in quality and purpose in a most
puzzling way. In 1832 he writes the _King Enzio_ Overture, under the
influence, as he tells us in _Mein Leben_, of Beethoven. It is plainly
modelled on the dramatic overture of the _Egmont_ and _Coriolan_
type--a type that Mendelssohn, in the _Ruy Blas_ and elsewhere,
afterwards cultivated, without however adding anything to it. The young
Wagner has a thorough grasp of the form. The Overture is concise and
well balanced; all the details are clearly seen in relation to the
dominant idea. The thematic invention is good, the themes being not
only expressive in themselves but capable of bearing the weight of a
certain amount of dramatic development. Yet after writing this fine
Overture, that really may point without presumption to Beethoven as its
parent, he was capable of producing in 1836 the shapeless and frothy
_Polonia_ Overture, which is the oddest mixture of a pseudo-Polish
idiom and the cheap, assertive melody of _Rienzi_. Here and there it
gives us a foretaste of his later power of climax-building, but on
the whole it is a feeble and amorphous work. The _Rule, Britannia_
Overture (1836) is hardly any better; it is a long-winded and pointless
dissertation on our patriotic song, the original tune being by far the
best thing in it. The _Columbus_ Overture of the preceding year is
rather better. Its style is a curious blend of Beethoven, _Rienzi_, and
the Italian opera; it is oddly anticipatory of Liszt in its repetitions
and its make-believe development: but the work has a sort of strength.
It is evidently the outcome of a vision clearly seen, and translated
into as good music as Wagner's powers at that time permitted.

Meanwhile in 1832--the same year as the _King Enzio_ Overture and
the C major symphony--he had written _Seven Compositions to Goethe's
Faust_--"The soldiers' song," the "Peasants under the linden," "The
song of the rat," "The song of the flea," Mephistopheles' song ("Was
machst du mir vor Liebchens Tür"), Margaret's song ("Meine Ruh' ist
hin"), and a "melodrama" to accompany the recitation of Margaret's
prayer to the Virgin.[396] Almost all of these have individuality, the
least notable being Mephistopheles' song. The soldiers' song is breezy,
with one or two crudities in the vocal part-writing. The "Bauern
unter der Linde" is fresh and gay; the rat and flea songs are fairly
humorous; it is rather curious that Wagner's rat song should begin with
the full scale of D major in descending motion, while that of Berlioz
commences with the same scale in ascent. Margaret's song is quite
good, though it moves a little stiffly, and has neither the ardour of
Schubert's setting nor the perfect mating of idea and expression that
we find in that masterpiece. Wagner, indeed, developed very slowly. For
a long time his genius could only move heavily: there was no swiftness
in him, either of idea or of form,--no consuming heat. The melodrama
is expressive, and the reiterated syncopations are effective. Wagner
probably chose the melodrama form, rather than a purely lyrical setting
of the words, because he felt that the former gave the dramatist in him
more scope.

In 1832-33 the dramatic impulse became very strong in him. He had
written the _Hochzeit_ fragment and _Die Feen_ by the end of 1833, and
between 1834 and 1836 he finished the _Liebesverbot_. Already he had
a technique equal to the expression of all the dramatic thinking of
which he was capable at that time. How dexterous his hand had become
is shown incidentally in the aria he added to Marschner's _Vampyr_ in
1833,--a very vigorous and finished piece of work. There is the same
skill in the "Romance of Max" that he added to the Singspiel _Marie,
Max and Michel_ (1837). There is piquancy in the scoring of the latter,
and the vocal part has a rhythmic variety that we do not often find in
_Tannhäuser_ and _Lohengrin_. Apparently the only non-dramatic work
he wrote at this time was the _New Year Cantata_, which is one of
the freshest and most pleasing works of his youth. It consists of an
overture and four other movements; the chorus takes part in the second
and fourth of these, but in the latter the vocal parts are merely
sketched in, and the words are lacking. In the slow opening section of
the overture he introduces in the violas and 'cellos, with excellent
effect, the theme of the andante of his C major symphony; it is
apparently intended to symbolise the sadness of the departing year. It
is impossible not to be captivated by the sincerity and the transparent
simplicity of this little work.

During 1838 and 1839 his time was fully taken up with his theatrical
duties at Königsberg and Riga, the composition of _Rienzi_, and the
working out of other dramatic ideas; so that from 1837 to 1840 what
may be called the occasional compositions are few in number. With the
exception of the aria for _Marie, Max and Michel_, and the _Faust_
compositions, his vocal works had so far all been settings of words
of his own. Between 1837 and 1844 the texts of almost all his songs
and choral works were by other people. At Riga, in 1837, he set a poem
by Harald von Brackel in praise of the Czar Nicholas, for soprano or
tenor solo, chorus, and orchestra. The piece is appropriately broad and
massive, and imposing enough in mere volume; but it is impossible to
believe that Wagner's heart was in a work of this kind.

Of much more interest is _Der Tannenbaum_, a setting of a poem by
Scheuerlein (end of 1838). The song is expressive, though the effect
lies more in the general colour, the harmony, and the pictorial
realisation of the scene--the brooding tree, the river, and the boy
are all differentiated--than in any particularly striking quality in
the melody. The vocal line has more flexibility than is usual with the
young Wagner. In July 1839 he entered upon his Paris adventure. For a
while he eagerly pursues his fortune among the theatrical directors;
then, as his hopes fail him and need gnaws at his heart, he produces a
number of vocal works that he trusts may appeal to the French singers
and the French public. Some of these are pot-boilers pure and simple,
the writing of which must have been gall and bitterness to the young
composer who had begun to realise the wonderful music there was in him.
The lowest depth is touched in the vaudeville chorus, _La Descente
de la Courtille_ (1840)--a frank prostitution of his genius to the
most superficial French taste of the time. Almost as bad is the song,
_Les adieux de Marie Stuart_. A bar or two here and there bears the
signature of the true Wagner--he cannot quite keep his real self out
of it; but on the whole the song is a desperate, pitiful attempt to
manufacture something in the conventional French and Italian operatic
idiom of the day. Wagner's tongue must have been in his cheek when he
penned such passages as these:

                            [Music: Ex. 1]

  Je n'ai désiré d'être reine que pour régner sur les Français,
  que pour régner sur les Français.

To the same period and the same catchpenny mood belongs the _Aria of
Orovisto_ that he wrote in the hope that Lablache would sing it in
Bellini's _Norma_. It is an amusingly absurd but skilful imitation of
all the tricks-of-the-trade of the Italian opera of the 'thirties.

Other works of this time are more sincere, and most of them have a
decided charm. The _Albumblatt_ in E major, written for his friend
Kietz, is a simple but engaging piece, with a touch or two of melodic
commonplace--the occasional insertion, for example, of a triplet
group in a duple-time phrase. The little work is curiously like the
_Lohengrin_ of seven years later in general texture, in melodic and
harmonic build, and in the peculiar white light in which it is bathed.
The songs to French words, written at Paris in 1839-40, vary greatly
in quality. The _Tout n'est qu'images fugitives_ never descends to the
depth of banality reached in the _Marie Stuart_, but the effort to
be ingratiatingly French is plainly evident. The _Dors, mon enfant_,
_Mignonne_, and _Attente_ are all charming; he thinks of the French
style and the French public no more than is necessary to lighten the
heaviness of his native German manner, and the results are sometimes
surprising, particularly in the matter of rhythm. For many years to
come, as he admits in a well-known letter to Uhlig, he was obsessed by
a vocal rhythm of this type:


--a type upon which hundreds of phrases in the _Flying Dutchman_,
_Tannhäuser_, and _Lohengrin_ are constructed. The best of these French
songs have a rhythmic freedom and flexibility that he rarely attained
in his later operas. Look, for example, at the following delightfully
elastic vocal line from _Attente_:

                            [Music: Ex. 2]

  Cicogne, aux vieilles tours fidèle,
  ô vole et monte à tire d'aile de l'église
  à la citadelle, du haut clocher, du
  haut clocher au grand donjon.

It has always been evident that the rhythmic sameness of the earlier
operas was mainly due to the monotonously regular recurrence of accents
in the German verse he wrote at that time. These French songs make it
clear--as, by the way, does the aria for _Marie, Max and Michel_--that
when a more varied metrical scheme was given him his music
spontaneously varied with it. One cannot help feeling that in some
ways it is a pity he did not meet with more success at Paris--that he
was not allowed, in fact, to write some large work with the deliberate
intention of appealing to the French taste by an exploitation of the
styles and the formulas the Parisian public loved most. Such a work
would not have represented the real Wagner, and in the end would
probably have been negligible; but it would have given a much needed
lightness and elasticity to his imagination, without harming him in any
way. He would have benefited by such an experience as emphatically as
Handel and Mozart benefited by their experiences with Italian opera. As
it was, a certain slowness and ponderousness remain characteristic of
Wagner to the end of his days. This inability to concentrate rapidly
is instructively shown in his French setting of Heine's _Les deux
Grenadiers_ (1839-40). In general expressiveness the song need not
fear comparison with Schumann's: perhaps Wagner's treatment of the
"Marseillaise" at the end is even better. But the work has nothing of
Schumann's terseness, ease, and lyric spontaneity; the whole thing
moves a little stiff-jointedly.

The Paris period is a curious one in Wagner's artistic history. He
wrote some very good songs, and one or two deplorable things like
the _Marie Stuart_ and _La Descente de la Courtille_; at the same
time he was finishing _Rienzi_ and working at the _Flying Dutchman_,
and the _Faust_ Overture assumed its first form. In April 1842 he
settled at Dresden. Between then and 1848 he composed _Tannhäuser_
and _Lohengrin_, and conceived the first idea of the _Ring_ and other
works. During this period he wrote no songs or pianoforte pieces: the
occasional compositions are all choral works, which is sufficiently
accounted for by the fact that Wagner had a good male-voice choir at
his disposal. The most considerable of these works is _The Love Feast
of the Apostles_ (1843). Towards the end it has a touch of the melodic
commonplace that Wagner found it so hard to avoid at this time; but
the earlier choral portions are impressive in their simplicity and
sincerity, and the whole thing is admirably stage-managed, so to speak.
The effect of the voices from on high, and of the first entry of the
orchestra at the descent of the Spirit, must have been very striking in
the Dresden church.

The other choral works of this period are on a smaller scale. For the
unveiling of a memorial to King Friedrich August I Wagner wrote in 1843
a _Weihegruss_ for male voices and brass orchestra, to words by Otto
Hohlfeld. The choral portion of this work was published in 1906; the
whole version is now published in Breitkopf & Härtel's _Gesamtausgabe_,
and shows how indispensable is the orchestral part--the long-held
vocal notes, for example, being helped out by trumpet, trombone, and
horn fanfares, and the whole thing gaining enormously in richness by
the discreet occasional entries of the brass. The general style of
this work, as of the _Greeting of Friedrich August the Beloved by his
Faithful Subjects_ (August 1844), is that of the _Tannhäuser-Lohengrin_
epoch; some passages in the _Greeting_, indeed, are extraordinarily
reminiscent of the "Hall of song" chorus. For the re-interment of
Weber's remains at Dresden, in December 1844, Wagner wrote a four-part
male chorus that again recalls the operatic works of this time. It is
the most expressive of Wagner's works of this class, but on the whole
a little disappointing; his heart was so thoroughly with Weber that
one would have thought the occasion would have wrung some music of the
first class out of him.

                        II--THE EARLIEST OPERAS

Wagner worked out the drama of his first opera, _Die Hochzeit_ ("The
Wedding"), in 1833, but his sister Rosalie's antipathy to the gory and
gruesome subject turned him against the work after he had written only
some thirty or forty pages of the score--an Introduction, chorus and
septet. The style has little individuality, though the chorus of female
voices is not without charm. The septet, however, is an excellent piece
of work for a boy of nineteen,--lucid, freely written, and with a
certain amount of dramatic differentiation in some of the vocal parts.

His first complete opera, _Die Feen_ (The Fairies), was written during
his stay at Würzburg in 1833. The story, which may be read in _Mein
Leben_ or any of the biographies of Wagner, has long lost any interest
it may once have possessed. In psychology and in structure alike the
drama is very primitive. The magic element in it is fit only for the
nursery, though it has to be observed that here we have for the first
time that notion of "redemption" that plays so large a part in Wagner's
thinking to the very end of his life. The construction is formal and
cumbersome: the two chief lovers have as a foil two subordinate lovers,
while set off against these is a third pair, who provide a sort of
comic interest; the whole past, present and future are explained in
recitatives; everybody of any importance has his aria or his share in
a concerted piece, and each Act ends with an imposing _ensemble_. The
stage apparatus is romantic to the last degree. The music, however, is
decidedly interesting. The third Act, in spite of a few strokes that
get home, is much inferior to the other two, for which the fact that it
was written in a month may be answerable. But the first two Acts and
the overture are full of striking things. There is no question as to
the thorough competence of Wagner's technique at this time: everything
flows with the utmost ease and clearness from his pen. The opera has
indeed a poise of manner and a unity of style that we do not find in
some of the more mature works of his first period. In the _Flying
Dutchman_, for example, there is a good deal of almost hobbledehoy
awkwardness,--a sort of cubbish clumsiness, though any discerning
observer could have seen even in those days that this was a cub of
a leonine breed, that would some day swallow up most of the other
animals in the menagerie. There is nothing of this cubbishness, this
stumbling over his own good intentions, in _The Fairies_. Such as the
ideas are,--and of course they never rise to anything like the height
of the best things in the _Flying Dutchman_--they are expressed without
effort, in an idiom and with a technique precisely congruous with them.
Aria, duet, ensemble, dramatic contrast, dramatic transition,--the
young composer is equal to whatever problem may be set him. The musical
style as a whole reminds us of Weber and Marschner, but there is
plenty of unmistakable Wagner in it. We are constantly meeting with
progressions, turns of phrase, and devices that have been made familiar
to us by the later operas. How like a score of melodies in _Tannhäuser_
and _Lohengrin_ is the following, for example--

                            [Music: No. 1.]

When he wants to work up the excitement at the entry of Arindal he
does it precisely in the way he whips up our interest in the coming
of the hero in the second Act of _Tristan and Isolde_--by a series of
breathless reiterations of the same figure--

[Music: No. 2.] When he has joy to express, he does so by means of
the same ascending, bubbling phrases that he uses in the duet between
Tannhäuser and Elisabeth (vocal score, p. 157, &c.)[397]--

                            [Music: No. 3.]

    LORA: Dahin, dahin flieht alles Leiden, und alle
    ARINDAL: So viele Not im Heimatlande, &c.
    MORALD: Dahin, dahin flieht alles Leiden,

And although the duet between Drolla and her lover Gernot is subcomic
in intention, their manner of rushing into each other's arms is
precisely that of Tristan and Isolde--

                            [Music: No. 4.]

    DROLLA: Gernot! Gernot! Gernot! Gernot! Gernot! Gernot! 'tis thou,
            'tis thou!

    GERNOT: Drolla! Drolla! Drolla! Drolla! 'tis thou, 'tis thou,
            'tis thou, 'tis thou, 'tis thou, 'tis thou, &c.

The style is frequently mature beyond the composer's actual
years,--the admirable finish to the scene between Arindal and the
others, for example (full score, p. 111), where the vocal themes are
taken up by the orchestra and played out in a beautifully managed
diminuendo; or the perfect little picture of the fairy garden at the
commencement of the first Act (I question whether so imaginatively
conceived and skilfully coloured a garden scene is to be found anywhere
in previous or contemporary opera); or the expressive scoring of Ada's
cavatina (full score, pp. 114 ff.); or the septet at the end of the
first Act; or the fine management of the chorus of beaten warriors
at the beginning of the second Act, with the reiterated calls in the
bass horn and trumpet; or the fine _Schwung_ of the trio between
Lora, Arindal and Morald (pp. 219 ff.); or the big aria of Ada in the
second Act (pp. 251 ff.); or the charming theme that is used when
the children are introduced. The born musical dramatist is seen in
the variety of expression he can command even at this age; and one
is struck by the first signs of the faculty that is so noticeable in
the later Wagner,--that of always having something in reserve when
a new and cumulative effect is needed. The larger the canvas to be
covered, as in the final _ensembles_, the more resource does he show
himself to possess. There is a good deal in _The Fairies_ that is quite
boyish,--much that is conventional, many things to provoke a smile. But
it is equally certain that there was not another young man in Europe
capable of writing such a work at that time. The overture, which was
written a few days before the last touches were put to the third Act,
is excellently handled throughout; the invention never flags, the
technique never fails; it is his best work of this order until we come
to the overture to the _Flying Dutchman_,--finer in idea, closer in
texture, and surer in touch than the _King Enzio_ Overture of 1832,
and far beyond the _Columbus_, the _Polonia_, or the _Rule Britannia_.
Altogether one imagines that, in spite of the old-fashioned quality of
the libretto of _The Fairies_, one could listen to a stage performance
of the opera with at least as much interest as to _Rienzi_. It was
given for the first time in Munich under Hermann Levi in 1888, and
between then and 1895 it ran to over fifty performances.

As we have seen, _Das Liebesverbot_ ("The Ban on Love") was a product
of the wild days of 1834-5, when he had momentarily turned against
sobriety both in life and in art. In framing his libretto he passed
over everything in Shakespeare's _Measure for Measure_ that had a touch
of moral gravity in it: he transports the action from Vienna to Sicily,
brings the strait-laced viceroy Friedrich into the same focus as the
other amorists, and makes the whole play an attack on "puritanical
hypocrisy" and a laudation of "unrestrained physicalism." In the music
he does his best to forget that "German style" in which, as he says,
_Die Feen_ had been written, and copies to the best of his ability the
more sparkling style of the lighter Italian and French opera. The work
is in two Acts,--the only opera of Wagner's in this form--and in its
structure follows the ordinary pattern of the day. Occasionally the
spoken word takes the place of recitative.

In 1866 Wagner gave the score of the opera to King Ludwig, prefacing
it with a stanza in which he spoke of it as a sin of his youth, for
which he hoped to find pardon in his protector's grace. Apparently
he always adopted this depreciatory attitude towards the work in
later life. Glasenapp tells us that Wagner liked the overture to _Das
Liebesverbot_ better than that to _Die Feen_, but thought the rest of
_Das Liebesverbot_ "horrible," except the "Salve regina cœli."[398]
A perusal of the score, however, will convince most people that he
underrated the interest and the value of it. It almost invariably fails
when it aims at expressing serious feeling; but the gay and humorous
scenes are admirable, and the youthful gusto of the whole thing is
irresistible. The general idiom may be a borrowed one, but for the most
part Wagner uses it very skilfully, making at least as good a show with
it as the ordinary French or Italian opera writer of the time. He has
every trick of the trade at his finger-tips, every recipe for froth
and foam and sparkle. He is as expert as any of them at lashing up the
interest by the device of repeating a piquant figure a score of times:
this, for example, from the overture--

                            [Music: No. 5]

It is given first of all mainly to the strings, with a little harmonic
thickening in bassoons and horns. Then, as the melody goes an octave
higher in the strings, it is doubled in the oboes and clarinets, with
added harmonic enrichment in the wood-wind and brass. At the next
repeat--an octave higher again--the melody is given out by piccolo,
flutes, oboes, clarinets and violins in octaves, while trombones are
added to the harmony. All the while the tone is growing louder and
louder, with a crescendo roll in the tympani. One has to listen,
whether one wants to or not; and it is impossible to keep the blood
from tingling under the whip. The whole overture is very effective
in this noisy, rather empty way; there is much use of castagnets,
tambourine, triangle and cymbals. The general style of the writing may
be gathered from a couple of examples--

                            [Music: No. 6.]

                            [Music: No. 7.]

either of which will serve to show the gulf that separates _Das
Liebesverbot_ from _Die Feen_.

The opening scene is very animated, the chorus of the people being full
of _entrain_; the whole manner is thoroughly Italian, the orchestra
chattering away more or less irrelevantly, and the voices interjecting
their remarks in a facile, half-melodic sort of way. How careless
Wagner was with regard to deeper musical characterisation may be
seen from the theme that accompanies the entry of Claudio,--one of
those typical Italian operatic themes of which we can never be quite
sure whether they are meant to be tragic or comic, though here it is
apparently meant to be serious--

                           [Music: No. 8.]

Nor in any other work but this would Wagner have
accompanied with so irresponsible a theme the appeal of Claudio
(sentenced to death) to his friend Luzio to seek the aid of Isabella--

                            [Music: No. 9.]

  Du kennest jenen stillen Ort, das Kloster der Elisabeth; Die &c.

The melody runs a thoroughly Italian course--

                           [Music: No. 10.]

  O eile Freund, zu ihr dahin, o eile zu ihr dahin, sprich sie für
  mich um Hülfe an, sprich sie um Hülfe für mich an.

with liberal opportunities for the tenor to poise himself on a high
note and deploy his resonance--

                           [Music: No. 11.]

  Bewege sie, dass sie verzeih', dann bau' ich ganz auf ihren Muth.
  Bewege sie, dass  sie verzeih',...
  dann bau' ich ganz auf ihren Muth.

The chorus that follows is also quite in the Italian stage style,
the excitement being worked up according to the established recipes;
and of course the purely musical stream flows on without the least
regard to dramatic sense, Luzio saying every other minute "I hasten,
friend," but without the slightest intention of hastening till the
chorus is finished. But, as almost always happens even when Wagner is
trying to be least like himself, a characteristic little touch cannot
be prevented from stealing in: after the voices have ceased, the
long-drawn theme of Claudio sings on in the 'cellos, set against the
noisy chattering of the wood-wind and brass. It makes a most effective
ending to the scene.

In the third scene appears a theme that was afterwards expanded and
put to splendid use in _Tannhäuser_. Here the nuns sing it behind the
scenes to the words "Salve regina cœli."

                            [Music No. 12.]

The florid duet between the two novices, Mariana and Isabella, is
thoroughly Italian. Again one sees, by comparison of this music with
any of that of _Die Feen_, how determined Wagner was to write down to
the comprehension of the Italian-opera public: he evidently has his
eye on the singers and the audience rather than on the psychology of
the characters or the atmosphere of the scene. But in the admirable
duologue that follows between Luzio and Isabella, the touch is again
that of the born musical dramatist. It is all irresistibly animated;
the music is psychologically characteristic, the blend of passion and
irresponsibility in Luzio being particularly well suggested; and there
are some striking pieces of orchestral colour.

The court scene,--the mock trial in which Brighella, the viceroy's
servant, poses as the judge--is carried through excellently, with an
abundance of light Italian-opera humour; the roguishly knowing theme to
which Brighella sings his passion for the pretty Dorella may be taken
as typical--

                           [Music: No. 13.]

  Dieses kleine Schelmenauge macht mich wahrlich ganz verwirrt.

There are one or two happy instances of the tentative employment of the
leading-motive system. The theme representative of Friedrich and his
law against love (No. 18 below), for example, is parodied in this way
when Brighella begins to try Pontio--

                           [Music: No. 14.]

and when Friedrich enters and asks Brighella what has been going on,
the latter replies apologetically and evasively to the accompaniment of
the previous theme of the mock court, the orchestra, quite in the later
Wagnerian manner, being more truthful than he--

                           [Music: No. 15.]

  BRIGHELLA: Verzeiht, ich wollt' Euch Müh ersparen, ich hielt Gericht,
           fand Widerstand &c.

Isabella's aria of intercession to Friedrich is rather poor, but the
subsequent excitement is cleverly worked up, and there is some dramatic
characterisation in the commanding phrases that are given to the
viceroy. The finale is excellent: it has amazing fire, is full of quick
resource, and, like the finales in _Die Feen_, shows how much reserve
Wagner had to draw upon when an extra effort was required.

In the opening scene of the second Act,--the garden of the prison in
which Claudio is awaiting death--we have another employment of the
leit-motive, the oboe giving out softly the theme to which Claudio had
previously urged Luzio to implore the help of Isabella, but now with
appropriately altered harmonies--

                           [Music: No. 16.]

The orchestral prelude to the scene is expressive, Wagner putting off
his Italian mask for the moment and speaking in his natural voice: the
sense of gloom and impending tragedy is very well conveyed--

                           [Music: No. 17.]

But the strains in which Claudio addresses Isabella are again
conventional: it was not easy at this time for Wagner to find original
accents for grief and passion. He is best all through in scenes of
humour, of comedy, of raillery. There is a charming, sunny trio later
between Luzio, Isabella and Dorella; the whole of this scene, in fact,
is one of the happiest in the opera. Friedrich's soliloquy in his room
has a good deal of strength in it, an impressive effect being made by
the frequent recurrence in the orchestra of the motive that symbolises
the sternness of the attitude he has taken up towards the people's

                           [Music: No. 18.]

When he utters the words

  "Doch als mir Isabella die Erdenliebe erschloss,
  Da schmolz das Eis in tausend Liebesthränen."

("But when Isabella revealed earthly love to me, the ice was melted
into a thousand tears of love"), the orchestra completes his thought
with a reminiscence of the theme of Isabella's enchantment of him in
the court (see No. 7, from the overture)--

                           [Music: No. 19.]

  O war Dein Herz denn stets verschlossen, drang Liebe nie in Deine

The finale to the second Act is as admirably animated as its
predecessor; Luzio's carnival song, the dance, and the chorus have a
truly southern warmth in them; and there is a lively quartet between
Isabella, Dorella, Luzio and Brighella.

Altogether _Das Liebesverbot_, like _Die Feen_, is a work upon which
Wagnerian criticism will always look with an affectionate eye. If it
contains much that Wagner did right to decline to take seriously in
later life, there is also much in it that is eloquent of the coming
dramatist in music,--a surprising quickness of apprehension, a faculty
for big picture-building, and above all an irresistible ardour. Like
all Wagner's music of this time, the score anticipates many of the
mannerisms of the later operas. It is unusually generous with the
typical Wagnerian "turn"; at one point what must be a rather comic
effect in performance is made by a series of these turns being executed
in octaves by piccolo, flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, violins and

                           [Music: No. 20.]

The later Wagnerian method of accumulating excitement, which we have
seen anticipated in _Die Feen_, is employed also in _Das Liebesverbot_,
as in the following passage, which, like the one previously quoted,
gives us a decided foretaste of the meeting of Tristan and Isolde--

                           [Music: No. 21.]

And if for nothing else _Das Liebesverbot_ would be interesting for its
use of the leit-motive. There was virtually none of it in _Die Feen_.


_Rienzi_ will always be something of a puzzle to the student. Wagner's
own accounts of it in later years show that he too was a little
uncertain as to the reasons for its obvious defects. He had tired of
his life among little theatrical people in minor provincial towns, so
he deliberately planned _Rienzi_ on an elephantine scale in order that
it might be impossible except in one of the larger opera houses. He
had "grand opera" in his mind throughout, he tells us; he intended not
merely to imitate the showiest works of this _genre_ but to surpass
them in prodigality. Yet to suppose, he adds, that this was all that
was in his mind would be to do him an injustice. He was "really
inspired" by the subject, and especially by the character of Rienzi.
First and foremost he had _Rienzi_ in view, grand opera being only
a secondary consideration; yet grand opera was "only the spectacles
through which he saw the subject." He always saw it, he goes on to
say, on its own merits, and never aimed consciously at merely musical
effects; yet he could never see the material except in terms of the
merely musical effects,--the arias, choruses, finales, processions, and
so on,--of grand opera. "Thus on the one hand I was always influenced
by my subject in working out the details of the work, while on the
other hand I governed my subject entirely in accordance with the 'grand
opera' form that was in my mind." It is pretty evident that he found it
as difficult to come to any settled conclusion with regard to _Rienzi_
as we do. There is truth in the view that many of the banalities of it
are due to his having the Paris opera and the Paris public in view. But
we have only to study the score in conjunction with those of _Die Feen_
and _Das Liebesverbot_ to see that many of these same banalities are
the logical outcome of his cast of mind and his musical attainments at
that epoch, and would certainly have appeared in his music even if the
idea of Paris had never occurred to him.

To put it familiarly, the youthful Wagner had been obviously shaping
for some years for a bad attack of musical measles; he had to get it
out of his system, and _Rienzi_ was the illness that enabled him to
do so. To me it is the least satisfactory of all his works--far less
enjoyable than _Die Feen_ or _Das Liebesverbot_. One can forgive the
eager young-mannishness of these very youthful works: but at twenty-six
or twenty-seven one expects a composer to show more indubitable signs
of originality. The commonplace of _Rienzi_ is different from that
of the preceding operas; it is almost an offensive commonplace; the
outlines of the objectionable phrases have all been thickened and the
body of them puffed out till they positively irritate us by their
grossness and fatuousness. It is astounding how few phrases there
are in all these six hundred pages[399] that really seize upon us:
we could easily count them all on the fingers of one hand. On its
harmonic side the opera gives us a strange impression of pretentious
poverty. All through _Rienzi_ Wagner's mind seems to be struggling
to fight its way through vapour and murk to the light. His dramatic
intentions are evident enough, but he can rarely realise them. It is
in vain that he exploits all the formulas for dramatic expression as
they were understood at that time--diminished sevenths for horror,
syncopations for agitation, and all the rest of it; in vain that he
languishes or threatens, warbles unctuously or declaims aggressively,
lets loose his noisy orchestra and piles up massive choral effects;
they all fail to move us because there is hardly ever any bite in the
phrases themselves. The obvious faults of the work are due not so much
to technical inexperience or limitations of vocabulary as to a sheer
failure of the imagination; with the possible exception of Rienzi
himself, not one of the characters has been seen with vividness enough
to wring a really characteristic musical symbol out of the composer.
No one lives except Rienzi; and he, as far as his music is concerned,
is little more than half alive. Any critically-minded contemporary
friend of Wagner's who happened to know all his work up to that time
might have been pardoned for thinking, on the basis of _Rienzi_, that
the composer was deteriorating, that on the whole his imagination had
hardly grown at all during the past couple of years, and that none of
the earlier defects of style had been corrected, while half a dozen
new ones had been added--an intolerable prolixity, a tendency to rely
on elephantine effects to the neglect of finely wrought detail, and
to trust to stage mechanism to eke out the weaknesses of his musical
invention. The only improvement on the earlier Wagner that the friend
would have been able to observe in _Rienzi_ would be that in spite of
all its absurdities and infelicities, its commonness and elephantiasis,
there is a new strength in the work. It is a strength clumsily used;
the youthful hobbledehoy's limbs have hardened without his acquiring
much more command over them than he had before, the boyish voice has
gained in volume without much improvement in quality: but the general
signs of muscular growth are unmistakable. Crude as the overture is, no
one can deny its rampant, horse-power vigour. But the final convincing
proof that though Wagner's voice was abnormally energetic in _Rienzi_
his imagination was virtually at a standstill is the fact that the
opera has no colour, no atmosphere of its own. Every other work of
Wagner has. In _Die Feen_, as Mr. Runciman acutely points out, there is
a strange new feeling for light; in the _Flying Dutchman_ we are always
conscious of the sea, in _Tannhäuser_ of a world of sensuous heat set
over against a world of moral coolness and rather anæmic aspiration,
in _Lohengrin_ of the gleaming river and the tenuous air of Monsalvat.
_Rienzi_ conveys no pictorial or atmospheric suggestions of any kind.

But the opera was only a _reculer pour mieux sauter_. He needed a
text that should be more purely musical in its essence than this; and
when he found it, in the _Flying Dutchman_--the idea of which came to
him shortly after he had commenced work on _Rienzi_--his genius took
its first decisive leap forward. For some years he had been strangely
undecided as to a suitable subject for an opera. He had experimented,
and was still to experiment, in several fields. In 1836 he had turned
König's novel _Die hohe Braut_ into a libretto, making quite a good
romantic opera in four acts out of it.[400] (It was afterwards set by
Joseph Kittl, in 1853, under the title of _Bianca und Giuseppe, oder
die Franzosen vor Nizza_.) In 1837 he made a comic opera out of a story
in the _Arabian Nights_, entitling it _Die glückliche Bärenfamilie,
oder Männerlist grösser als Frauenlist_ ("The Happy Bear Family, or
Woman outwitted by Man"). This is a delightfully vivacious little
libretto, which might well be set by some modern composer. Wagner wrote
some fragments of the music for it, but quickly became disgusted with
the style, and turned his back on the piece. In Paris in 1841 he made a
preliminary prose sketch for a libretto on a gloomy and rather striking
subject of Hoffmann's, _Die Bergwerke zu Falun_ ("The Mines of Falun"),
which one is sorry he did not set to music, for it has colour and a
certain individuality: he would probably have made more of it than he
did of _Rienzi_. But perhaps he felt that the sombre vein he would have
had to pursue in _Die Bergwerke zu Falun_ had been worked out to the
full extent of which he was capable in the _Flying Dutchman_. In the
same winter of 1842 he made a first sketch of _Die Sarazenin_ ("The
Saracen Woman"), expanding it in Dresden two years later.[401]

It was after all a sound instinct, no doubt, that made him concentrate
on the _Flying Dutchman_ and let the other schemes drop, for the
_Flying Dutchman_ gave him just what _Rienzi_ did not--a concentrated
dramatic theme, and one with a very individual atmosphere. Had his
dramatic and musical technique been more advanced than they were at
that time he would probably have condensed the story still further.
He saw clearly enough that the whole essence of the legend--or at any
rate the whole of the musical essence of it--lay in the Dutchman and
Senta, and that all the rest was mere scaffolding or trimming. "I
condensed the material into a single Act, being chiefly moved to do
this by the subject itself, since in this way I could compress it into
the simple dramatic interaction of the principal characters, and ignore
the musical accessories that had now become repellent to me."[402] But
his musical faculties, which developed with a strange slowness, were
still lagging a good deal behind his dramatic perceptions; and the
result is that to us to-day there seem to be a good many superfluous
"musical accessories" in the _Flying Dutchman_, owing to the fact that
Wagner has not been able to give real musical life to such characters
as Daland and Erik. He himself has described for us very lucidly in _A
Communication to My Friends_ the diverging impulses in him that gave
the _Flying Dutchman_ its present only partly satisfactory form. He was
wholly possessed by his subject, saw that it was necessary to allow it
to dictate its own musical form and method of treatment, and honestly
thought that he had let it do so; but the traditional operatic form was
more potent within him than he imagined at the time. As in _Rienzi_,
aria, duet, trio and the other established forms somehow "found their
way into" the opera without his consciously willing them.

Still the structure of the _Flying Dutchman_ is a great advance on
that of _Rienzi_: what was really happening was that the musician in
Wagner was beginning to see that the whole drama must be _musical_
drama, the poet not being allowed to insert anything that was
inconsistent with the spirit of music. He himself persisted in putting
it the other way,--that the poet in him gradually took over the
guidance of the musician. But we can see now that he misread his own
evolution. The poet in him undoubtedly outgrew, bit by bit, the musical
forms that had become stereotyped in the opera of the day; but the
poet's growth only became possible when the musician, beginning to feel
his own strength, gave the poet more and more imperative orders to
shape his "stuff" in a form that would afford the musician the freest
course. Wagner in later years insisted that after he had elaborated
Senta's ballad in the second Act, he found that he had unconsciously
hit upon the thematic kernel of the whole, and that this thematic idea
then spread itself naturally over the whole drama like a network. That
is not true if we take his words literally, for of course a good deal
of the thematic material of the _Flying Dutchman_ has no affiliation
with Senta's ballad. But in the broad sense, and with regard more to
his intentions than his achievements, we can see that he was right.
The whole drama really emanates from Senta; the Dutchman himself, as
Mr. Runciman puts it, is merely Senta's opportunity personified; the
remaining characters are only there to make the before and after of
the central episode clear. With more experience and a surer technique
he could have cut away more of the excrescences of the libretto and
concentrated the action still further, making it yet more purely
musical, as he did with _Tristan_. But for the day he did marvellously
well. With the _Flying Dutchman_ was born the modern musical drama.

There is no mistaking the intensity and certainty of his vision
now. He no longer describes his characters from the outside: they
are within him, making their own language and using him as their
unconscious instrument. The portrait painter and the pictorial artist
in him are both coming to maturity. The Dutchman and Senta are both
drawn completely in the round; we feel, for the first time with any
of Wagner's characters, that we might meet them any day and that they
would be solid to the touch. Even Daland and Erik, though not as real
as the other two--for Wagner had not yet the art of breathing life into
every one of his subordinate characters--have a certain substantiality.
And roaring and whistling and surging round them all is the sea,--not
so much the mere background of the drama as the element that has given
it birth. Stylistically and technically the new work is leagues beyond
_Rienzi_. There is still something of the old melodic mannerism--which,
indeed, he was not to lose for many years yet--but in many of the
melodies there is a new leap, a new swing, a new articulation;
harmonically the work is richer; it often attains a rhythmic freedom
beyond anything that Wagner had been capable of before; he is learning
to concentrate his expression, and to beat out pregnant little figures
that limn a character or depict a natural force once for all; there
is a new psychological as well as a musical logic, binding the whole
scheme together and working up from the beginning to the end in one
steady crescendo. Wherever the score is tested, it shows something not
to be met with hitherto either in Wagner's previous work or in that of
his contemporaries. His imagination is at last unlocked.

After this he develops steadily and rapidly until a fresh check is
given him, it being borne in upon him that neither his imagination
nor his technique is equal to the creation of the new world that he
feels stirring vaguely within him. But for a time all goes well. The
_Flying Dutchman_ had been finished in the winter of 1841. _Tannhäuser_
was fully ready by April 1845, and _Lohengrin_ by March 1848--just
after he had completed his thirty-fifth year. In these seven years he
exhausted all the possibilities of the style he had made his own; after
_Lohengrin_ he instinctively feels that he is at the end of the one
path and the beginning of a new one, though where this is to lead him
he has as yet no inkling. Both the later operas represent a gradual
clarification and intensification of the style he had tentatively used
in the _Flying Dutchman_. The breach with the older opera is even yet
not complete; disguise the conventional features of it as he will,
they are still recognisable; aria and duet and _ensemble_ are still
there, though they merge almost imperceptibly into each other. But if
_Tannhäuser_ and _Lohengrin_ are in large part still the old opera,
they are the old opera transfigured. The musical web spreads itself
more and more broadly over the whole poetic material. Recitative
virtually disappears; the text still retains a number of non-emotional
moments for which no really lyrical equivalent can be found, but what
would have been recitative naked and unashamed in _Rienzi_ is now
almost fully-clothed song--the address of the Landgrave to the Knights
in the Hall of Song scene is an excellent illustration. The choral
writing attains an unaccustomed breadth and sonority, and at the same
time the chorus becomes a more efficient psychological instrument.
The harmonic tissue becomes fuller. The melodic line becomes more and
more expressive and sensitive. The orchestration begins to give a
distinctive colour to both personages and scenes. A very ardent and
penetrating imagination, the imagination of the born dramatist, seeing
all his characters as creatures of flesh and blood, is now playing upon
the material offered to the musician by the poet. Each scene suggests
by its colouring its own indoor or outdoor setting, the hour of the
day, the time of the year; yet each opera as a whole has a different
light and is set in a different atmosphere from the others. The Wagner
of this period reaches the supreme height of his powers in _Lohengrin_;
and as one watches that diaphanous and finely-spun melodic web unfold
itself, one is almost tempted for the moment to regret that the dæmon
within him drove him on so relentlessly to another style. No one, of
course, can be anything but thankful that Wagner evolved the splendid
symphonic-operatic style of the second half of his life--the most
serviceable operatic instrument that any musician has yet hit upon.
But the more purely lyrical style of _Lohengrin_ is so exquisitely
satisfying in itself that one would have been grateful had he turned
back to it for a moment in later days, when his melodic invention was
in its fullest glory. The main burden of the expression, in the later
work, shifts more and more to the side of the orchestra. In _Lohengrin_
the voice is still the statue and the orchestra the pedestal. The
whole work is the product of that equipoise of all the faculties that
is often observable in composers at the end of their second period, a
serenity resting upon their music that it never wins again in the more
troubled after-years, when the soul is more at war with itself, and the
lips can hardly find language for the pregnant images that crowd to

But vast as the imaginative growth had been from _Rienzi_ to
_Lohengrin_, it seems almost like a mere marking time in comparison
with the subsequent development. Most instructive in this respect are
the alterations Wagner made in his earlier works in later life. The
_Flying Dutchman_ ends with the destruction of the Dutchman's ship as
Senta leaps into the sea. The stage directions in the first edition
run thus: "In the glow of the setting sun the glorified forms of the
Dutchman and Senta are seen rising above the wreck, clasped in each
other's arms, soaring heavenward"; and the final page of the opera in
its original form consisted of the "Redemption" motive followed by the
motive of the Dutchman, the opera ending with the latter. When Wagner
revised the work some years later, he was conscious of the abruptness
and inconclusiveness of this ending. His pictorial imagination saw the
transfigured forms of Senta and the Dutchman more vividly, and the
more luminous vision found expression in the great stroke of genius
with which the opera as we now have it ends. The thundering theme of
the Dutchman no longer has the last word; the fortissimo swell of the
full orchestra suddenly breaks, and in a slower _tempo_ there steals
out in the soft, pure tones of the wood-wind and harps the theme of
"Redemption" in the form it first assumes in Senta's ballad, but with
an unexpected heavenward ascent in the violins at the finish--

                           [Music: No. 22.]

The effect is precisely as if the clouds had parted, and the figures of
the Dutchman and Senta were seen soaring aloft in their purified and
transfigured form.[403]

As the first version of the _Faust_ Overture (1840) has not been
published, it is impossible to compare it with the version we now have,
which was made in 1855; but we may be certain that the comparison
would prove as interesting as that between the earlier and the later
versions of the _Flying Dutchman_ finale. But the new Venusberg music
that he wrote for the Paris production of _Tannhäuser_ (1861) shows as
emphatically as the altered _Flying Dutchman_ ending how immeasurably
greater than all his development from _Die Feen_ to _Lohengrin_ was the
development from _Lohengrin_ to _Tristan_--for it was in the _Tristan_
period that he made this wonderful addition to _Tannhäuser_, the effect
of which is to make the remainder of the score seem almost cold in
comparison, a pale moon against a fiery sun. Had Wagner died after
_Lohengrin_ he would still have been the greatest operatic composer of
his time. But the work of the later years is so stupendous in every
respect, imaginative, inventive, and technical, that even _Lohengrin_
seems hardly to be the product of the same mind.

                        IV.--THE MATURE ARTIST


The years 1848 and 1849 saw the climax of a great crisis both in
Wagner's life and his art; it had been developing for two or three
years before, and its reverberations did not wholly die away for
some years after. All his life and his work at this time were, as
I have already said, simply a violent purgation of the spirit--a
nightmare agony from which he woke with a cry of relief. He shakes off
the theatre, and faces the world on a new footing as a man. And in
silence, unknown to everybody and almost to himself, he develops into
a new musician. For the moment his mind is a jumble of art, ethics,
politics and sociology. But as usual his artistic instincts guide him
surely in the end. After many gropings in this direction and that,
he settles down to the _Ring_ drama, which he first of all plans, in
1848, in the form of a three-act opera with the title of _Siegfried's
Death_. He falters a little even then, being obsessed by two other
subjects, _Jesus of Nazareth_ and _Friedrich Barbarossa_; but finally
he rejects them both, the greater adaptability of the Siegfried drama
for music being intuitively evident to him. The next twenty-six years
are to be taken up with the working out of this gigantic theme, with
_Tristan_ and the _Meistersinger_ as a kind of diversion in the middle
of it; then comes the quiet end with _Parsifal_. I do not propose to
discuss the philosophical--or pseudo-philosophical--ideas of any of
these works. It is only as a musician that Wagner will live, and to a
musician the particular philosophy or philosophies that he preached
in the _Ring_ and _Tristan_ and _Parsifal_ are matters of very small
concern. Wagner himself was always inclined to over-estimate the
importance of his own philosophising, and his vehement garrulity has
betrayed both partisans and opponents into taking him too seriously
as a thinker. Had he not left us his voluminous prose works and
letters, indeed, we should never have suspected the hundredth part
of the portentous meanings that he and his disciples read into his
operatic libretti. To those who still see profound metaphysical
revelations in the later works it may be well to point out that Wagner
saw revelations equally inspired and inspiring in the earlier ones,
which no one takes with excessive seriousness to-day on their dramatic
side. The philosophising all smacks too much, for our taste, of the
sentimental Germany of the mid-nineteenth century. For Wagner, Senta
is "the quintessence of Woman [_das Weib überhaupt_], yet the still
to-be-sought-for, the longed-for, the dreamed-of, the infinitely
womanly Woman--let me out with it in one word: the _Woman of the
Future_."[404] Tannhäuser was "the spirit of the whole Ghibelline
race for every age, comprehended in a single, definite, infinitely
moving form; but at the same time a human being right down to our own
day, right into the heart of an artist full of life's longing."[405]
"Lohengrin sought the woman who should have faith in him; who should
not ask who he was and whence he came, but should love him as he was,
and because he was what he appeared to himself to be. He sought the
woman to whom he should not have to explain or justify himself, but
who would _love_ him unconditionally. Therefore he had to conceal
his higher nature, for only in the non-revealing of this higher--or
more correctly heightened--essence could he find surety that he was
not wondered at for this alone, or humbly worshipped as something
incomprehensible,--whereas his longing was _not_ for wonder or
adoration, but for the only thing that could redeem him from his
loneliness and still his yearning--for _Love, for being loved, for
being understood through Love_.... The character and the situation of
this Lohengrin I now recognise with the clearest conviction as the
_type of the only really tragic material, of the tragic element of
our modern life_; of the same significance, indeed, for the _Present_
as was the _Antigone_, in another relation, for the life of the Greek
state.... Elsa is the unconscious, the un-volitional, into which
Lohengrin's conscious, volitional being yearns to be redeemed; but that
yearning is itself the unconscious, un-volitional in Lohengrin, through
which he feels himself akin in being to Elsa. Through the capacity of
this 'unconscious consciousness' as I myself experienced it in common
with Lohengrin, the nature of Woman ... became more and more intimately
revealed to me ... that _true Womanhood_ that should bring to me and
all the world redemption, after man's egoism, even in its noblest form,
had voluntarily broken itself before her. Elsa, the Woman ... made
me a full-fledged revolutionary. She was the spirit of the folk, for
redemption by whom I too, as artist-man, was yearning."[406]

This seems all very remote from us now; one wonders how any one, even
Wagner himself, could ever have taken these operatic puppets with
such appalling seriousness. The _Ring_ stands a little nearer to us;
but no longer can we follow Wagner in his philosophising even there.
For Wagner Siegfried was "the human being in the most natural and
gayest fulness of his physical manifestation.... It was Elsa who had
taught me to discover this man: to me he was the male-embodied [_der
männlich-verkörperte_] spirit of the eternal and only involuntarily
creative force [_Geist der ewig und einzig zeugenden Unwillkür_],
of the doer of true deeds, of Man in the fulness of his most native
strength and his most undoubted love-worthiness."[407] We can hardly
regard Siegfried in that light to-day. As we meet with him in the
libretto he is, as Mr. Runciman says, rather an objectionable young
person; we cannot quite reconcile ourselves to his ingratitude and
his super-athletic fatuousness; he reminds us too much of Anatole
France's description of the burly, bullet-headed general in _Les Dieux
ont Soif_--the sparrow's brain in the ox's skull. As we see him on
the stage he is, under the best conditions, slightly ridiculous, a
sort of overgrown Boy Scout. It is only in his music that he is so
magnificently alive, so sure of our sympathy. Sensible musicians,
indeed, do not trouble very much in these days about the metaphysics
or the esoteric implications of the Wagnerian dramas. Wotan must stand
or fall by his own dramatic grandeur and by the quality of the music
that is given to him to sing, not by the degree of success with which
he illustrates a particular theory of the Will. _Tristan_ is none the
better for all its Schopenhauerisms, natural or acquired; we may be
thankful that it is none the worse for them.

Wagner's philosophical stock, indeed, was never a very large one. The
"problems" of his operas are generally problems of his own personality
and circumstances. His art, like his life, is all unconscious egoism.
_His_ problems are always to be the world's problems, _his_ needs the
world's needs. Women obsessed him in art as in life: they kindled
fiery passion in man, or they "redeemed" him from passion, or they
set a sorrow's crown of sorrows on his head by failing to redeem him.
Passion, redemption, renunciation--these are the three dominant motives
of Wagner's work; and wherever we look in that work we find himself.
Indulgence--revulsion; hope--frustration; passion--renunciation;
these are the antitheses that are constantly confronting us. In the
_Flying Dutchman_, Vanderdecken-Wagner is redeemed by the woman who
loves and trusts him unto death. Tannhäuser-Wagner fluctuates between
the temptress and the saint. Lohengrin-Wagner seeks in vain the woman
who shall love him unquestioningly. Wieland the Smith, the hero of
a libretto he sketched in 1849, is again Wagner, lamed by life, but
healed at last by another "redeeming" woman. Wotan-Wagner, finding the
world going another way than his, wills his own destruction and that
of the world. Tristan-Wagner finds love insatiable, and death the only
end of all our loving. Sachs-Wagner renounces love. Parsifal-Wagner
finds salvation in flight from sensual love. Always there is this
oscillation between desire and the slaying of desire, between hope for
the world and despair for the world. In 1848, in an hour of physical
and mental joy in life, he conceives a blithe and exuberant Siegfried,
the super-man of the future, striding joyously and victoriously through
life. But the revulsion comes almost in a moment. He realises his
solitariness as man and artist. "I was irresistibly driven to write
something that should communicate this grievous consciousness of mine
in an intelligible form to the life of the present. Just as with my
_Siegfried_ the strength of my yearning had borne me to the primal
fount of the eternal purely-human; so now, when I found this yearning
could never be stilled by modern life, and realised once again that
redemption was to be had only in flight from this life, in escaping
from its claims upon me by self-destruction, I came to the primal fount
of every modern rendering of this situation--to the Man _Jesus of
Nazareth_." Like Jesus, confronted with the materialism of the world,
he longs for death, and reads a similar longing into all humanity.

So the oscillation goes on to the very end of his days. There is no
need, no reason, to discuss the "philosophy" of such a mind. He is
no philosopher: he is simply a tortured human soul and a magnificent
musical instrument. All that concerns us to-day is the quality of the
music that was wrung from the instrument under the torture.


The most astounding fact in all Wagner's career was probably the
writing of _Siegfried's Death_ in 1848. That drama is practically
identical with the present _Götterdämmerung_; and we can only stand
amazed at the audacity of the conception, the imaginative power the
work displays, the artistic growth it reveals since _Lohengrin_ was
written, and the total breach it indicates with the whole of the
operatic art of his time. But _Siegfried's Death_ was impossible in the
idiom of _Lohengrin_; and Wagner must have known this intuitively. This
is no doubt the real reason for his writing no music for six years,
from the completion of _Lohengrin_ in August 1847 to the commencement
of work on the _Rhinegold_ at the end of 1853. His artistic instincts
always led him infallibly, no matter what confusion might reign in the
rest of his thinking. He conceives the idea of the _Meistersinger_, for
instance, in 1845, just after finishing _Tannhäuser_. But a wise and
kindly fate intervenes and turns him aside from the project. He was not
ripe for the _Meistersinger_, either poetically or musically, as we can
see not only by a comparison of his later musical style with that of
_Tannhäuser_, but by comparing the sketch of the drama that he wrote in
1845 with the revised drafts of 1861. It was his original intention,
again, to introduce Parsifal into the third Act of _Tristan_; but his
purely artistic instincts were too sound to permit him to adhere to
that plan. How unripe he was in 1848 for a setting of _Siegfried's
Death_ hardly needs demonstration now. The swift and infallibly
telling strokes with which he has drawn Hagen and Gutrune in the
_Götterdämmerung_, for example, were utterly beyond him then; it took
twenty years' evolution before he could attain to that luminousness
and penetration of vision, that rapidity and certainty of touch. So
much, again, of the tragic atmosphere in which the _Götterdämmerung_ is
enveloped comes from the subtle harmonic idiom that Wagner had evolved
by that time, that it is hard to imagine the extent of his probable
failure had he persisted in setting the text to music in 1848. The
lyrical style of _Lohengrin_, the leisurely spun tissue of that lovely
work, were neither drastic enough, close enough, nor elastic enough for
_Siegfried's Death_. And of this he must have had a dim consciousness.

So he puts the musical part of his task on one side for six years,
broods continually over the subject, finds it growing within him, and
at last shapes it into not one opera but four. When he begins work
upon the music of the _Rhinegold_ he is a new being. His imagination
has developed to an extent that is without a parallel in the case of
any other musician. The characters and the _milieu_ of the _Rhinegold_
are themselves evidence of the audacious sweep of his vision: he
undertakes to re-create in music gods and men and giants, creatures of
the waters and creatures of the bowels of the earth; the music has to
flood the scene now with water, now with fire, with the murky vapours
of the underworld and the serene air of the heights over against
Valhalla. Never before had any composer dreamed of an opera so rich
in all varieties of emotion, of action, of atmosphere. The practice
he had in the _Rhinegold_ developed his powers still further: in the
_Valkyrie_ the painting grows surer and surer, the imagination sweeps
on to conceptions beyond anything that any musician before him would
have thought possible: in _Siegfried_ there is an absolute exultation
of style; the music seems to dance and cry aloud out of pure joy in
its own strength and beauty. His melody has already become terser and
more suggestive in the _Rhinegold_, and has lost much of its earlier
rhythmic formality. His harmonic range, while narrow enough compared
with that of _Tristan_ and the _Götterdämmerung_, has yet developed
greatly. He dares anything in pursuit of his ideal of finding in
his music the full and perfect counterpart of the characters and
the scenes; that endless E flat chord at the commencement of the
_Rhinegold_ prelude is an innovation the audacity of which we can
hardly estimate to-day.

It has been objected that the melody of the _Rhinegold_ is on the
miniature side, and that the score has little of the grand surge and
sweep of the later operas. It may be so, but the style of the music
seems admirably suited to the broad and simple outlines of this drama
and the relatively simple psychology of the beings who take part in
it,--beings who are now taking only the first step along the path that
is to lead them all into such tragic complications. But in any case
Wagner was obeying a sound instinct when he abandoned the broader
style of _Lohengrin_ in favour of the seemingly shorter-breathed style
of the _Rhinegold_. It was the consequence of his intuition that his
new dramatic ideas demanded a new musical form; we have to remember
that everything he says on this topic in _Opera and Drama_ is the
outcome of his reflection upon _Siegfried's Death_ and the best manner
of its setting. The older forms of opera being inapplicable here, he
had to devise a new method of unifying his vast design. He found the
solution of his problem in an application to opera of the symphonic
web-weaving of Beethoven; but for this he needed short and extremely
plastic motives. That as yet he cannot weave these motives, and the
episodical matter between them, into so continuous a tissue as that of
the later works is only natural; to expect him to have done so would be
as unreasonable as to expect the texture of Beethoven's second symphony
to be as closely woven as that of his fifth. But Wagner knew he had a
wonderful new instrument in his grasp, and he did well to learn the
full use of it by cautious practice.


The leit-motive, of course, is not Wagner's invention. Other operatic
composers had tentatively handled the device before him; and in his
own day Schumann had seen the possibilities of such a method being
applied to the song. In his _Frühlingsfahrt_, for example, the joyous
major melody that accompanies the bright youths on their first setting
out in life changes to the clouded minor as the poet tells of the ruin
that came upon one of them; and everyone knows the sadly expressive
effect of the winding up of the _Woman's Life and Love_ cycle with
a reminiscence of the melody of the opening song. The device of
reminiscence in poetic or dramatic music is indeed so obviously a
natural one that we can only wonder that the pre-Wagnerian composers
did not make more use of it. But Wagner did more than employ it as a
sort of index or label; he turned it into the seminal principle of
musical form for perhaps three-fourths of the music of our time. He
made it not merely a dramatic but a symphonic-dramatic instrument.
He had experimented with the device from his youth, but until now
without perceiving its symphonic possibilities. We have seen him
carrying forward a significant theme from one scene to another in
_Das Liebesverbot_. In _Rienzi_ there is very little real use of the
leit-motive. He will adopt a characteristic orchestral figure for a
person or a situation at the commencement of a scene or "number," and
play with it all through that particular set piece; but it is very
rarely that he will remind us of a previous situation by importing
the theme that symbolises it into a later situation. He does this,
for example, with the "Oath" motive, which first accompanies Rienzi's
story of his own vow to avenge his murdered brother (vocal score, pp.
77, 78), and is afterwards employed to accompany Colonna's threat of
vengeance if Rienzi dooms him and his fellow conspirators to death (p.
266), Rienzi's rejection of Adriano's plea for mercy (p. 337), and
finally Adriano's own resolve to be avenged upon Rienzi (p. 416). In
the _Flying Dutchman_ the tissue is largely unified by typical themes,
which, however, are as a rule merely repeated without substantial
modification, though now and then a motive is melodically transformed
to suggest a psychological variation, as when the "Redemption" theme
from Senta's ballad--

                           [Music: No. 23.]

afterwards becomes the motive of "Love unto death"--

                           [Music: No. 24.]

In _Tannhäuser_ there is a good deal of recurrent material--the
Bacchanale and the Pilgrims' Chorus, for instance--but the leit-motive
can hardly be said to be used at all in the later sense. _Lohengrin_ is
strewn with leit-motives that are marvels of characterisation; but here
too they recur in their original form time after time. For the most
part they merely label the character: they do not change as he changes,
nor do they spread themselves over the score with the persistence of
the motives of the later works.


The leit-motive in the _Ring_ is quite another matter. Most of
the motives in the earlier operas were vocal in origin, and their
relatively great length--which makes them as a rule unsuitable for a
flexible symphonic treatment--is the direct consequence of the length
of Wagner's poetic lines at that time. In _Rienzi_, for example, the
motive of Rienzi's prayer, the "Sancto spirito cavaliere" motive,
the "Freedom" motive, the motive of the "Messengers of Peace," and
others, are all of this type. In the _Flying Dutchman_ the motive
of "Longing for death," the two "Redemption" motives, the "Daland"
motive, the "Festivity" motive, the "Rejoicing" motive, the "Longing
for redemption" motive, and several others, are all vocal melodies in
the first place; of the same kind are the motives of "Repentance," of
"Love's magic," of "Love's renunciation" and others in _Tannhäuser_;
and in _Lohengrin_, the "Grail" motive, the "Farewell" motive, the
"Elsa's prayer" motive, the "Knight of the Grail" motive, the "Warning"
motive, the "Doubt" motive, and others. All of these are fully
developed, self-existent melodies, not germ-figures destined for the
weaving of a quasi-symphonic web. And though some of the less important
motives in the early operas are short, they were not made so with any
intention of using them plastically. The first things that strike us in
connection with the motives of the _Ring_ are their general shortness,
their very plastic nature, and the sense they convey of not having been
conceived primarily in a vocal form. It is true that some of them _are_
vocal in origin, but that fact does not stare us so aggressively in the
face as it does in the previous works; while the lines of the _Ring_
are themselves so short that even when a phrase is modelled on one or
two of them it never spreads itself out so extensively as the typical
phrases of the _Flying Dutchman_, _Tannhäuser_ and _Lohengrin_ do.
This at first sight seems to imply that the poetic form of the _Ring_
exercised a powerful influence on the musical form. It is permissible
for us to-day to invert that proposition. Wagner, writing in 1851,
maintained that he had discarded the older form of verse, with its long
lines and its terminal rhymes, because of his conviction that this was
too conventional a garment to throw over the sturdy limbs of Siegfried,
the untutored child of nature, and that he was therefore led to adapt
the _Stabreim_ of the Folk. Consistently with the theory I have already
advanced in these pages, I prefer to believe--guided, as of course
Wagner himself could not be guided at that time, by the evidence of
the function the music performs in his later works--that the new
orchestral musician that was coming to birth within him felt the
necessity of shorter and more plastic germ-themes, and instinctively
urged the poet to cast _his_ material into a form that would place no
obstacle in the musician's way. But explain it as we will, the fact
remains that now he is coming to maturity his leit-motives are on
the whole both more concentrated and more purely instrumental than
they had been hitherto; as I have said, even when they come to us in
the first place from the mouths of the characters, they assume quite
naturally the quality of instrumental themes in the subsequent course
of the opera, whereas a purely orchestral rendering of the themes of
_Tannhäuser_ and _Lohengrin_ can never disguise their vocal origin. It
is comparatively rarely that the _Ring_ motives extend beyond two bars,
or at the most three. The "Servitude" motive is virtually only one bar
in length; so are the "Rhine Maidens' song," the "Smithing" motive, and
the "Reflection" motive; the "Waves" motive, the "Ring" motive, the
"Valhalla" motive, the "Might of youth " motive, the "Twilight" motive,
the "Norns" motive, the "Dusk of the gods" motive, are all comprised
within a couple of bars; several others run to three bars, and only one
or two run to four.

In this respect, as in some others, the _Meistersinger_ stands in
a class apart from the other works of Wagner's maturity. It is the
most purely vocal of all his later works, in the sense that while the
orchestral tissue is superbly full and unceasing in its flow, the
voice parts have an independence that is rare in the later Wagner.
The style is in a way almost a reversion to that of _Lohengrin_,
allowance being made, of course, for the more symphonic nature of
the orchestral portion, and the more continuous nature of the whole.
The _Meistersinger_ is full of "set" pieces--arias, duets, trios, a
quintet, choruses, _ensembles_, and so on. The necessity for all these
lay in the nature of the subject; and Wagner, at that time at the very
height of his powers, has so cunningly mortised all the components of
the opera that not a join is observable anywhere. A superficial glance
at a table of the _Meistersinger_ motives would be enough to convince
us, without any knowledge of the opera, that a great many of the themes
have had a vocal origin, either solo or choral. Others owe their length
to the fact that Wagner is painting masses rather than individuals;
only a fairly extended theme could depict, for instance, the sturdy,
pompous old Meistersingers and their stately processions. Where he is
not following a vocal line or painting with broad sweeps of the brush,
and is free to invent motives for purely orchestral use, he generally
throws them into the same concise form as those of the _Ring_--the
"Wooing" motive, for example--

                           [Music: No. 25.]

which, by reason of its brevity, is one of the most plastic motives
in the score. But as a whole the _Meistersinger_ lives in a different
world from the _Ring_ or _Tristan_. There is no great fateful principle
running through it, that can be symbolised in a short orchestral
figure and flashed across the picture at any desired moment, after
the manner of the "Curse" or the "Hagen" motive in the _Ring_, or
the "Death" motive in _Tristan_. The people in the _Meistersinger_
carry hardly any shadows about with them. Their natures are mostly
ingenuous, transparent, unsubtle: such as we see them on the stage
at any given moment, such are they to themselves and others in every
hour of their lives. It was natural then that they should take upon
themselves more of the burden of the drama than the characters of
the _Ring_ as a whole,--for these are only instruments in the hand
of a fate that is best symbolised by the ever-present orchestra--and
that the instrumental voices should co-operate joyously with them,
rather than dog them and lie in wait for them, as in the _Ring_, with
symbols of reminiscence and foreboding. That the whole essence of the
_Meistersinger_ lies in its simple human characterisation and simple
story-telling is shown again by Wagner's reverting in the Prelude to
the _pot-pourri_ feuilleton form of the _Tannhäuser_ overture,--a form
he never used again after 1845, except here.


As he proceeds with the _Ring_ his leit-motives in general become more
and more concentrated. Now and then he will employ a fairly extended
theme, but never without a good psychological reason. One of the
longest motives in the whole tetralogy is that of the "Volsung race."
Its length is justified by the duty it has to perform: to concentrate
the nobility and the suffering of that race into a chord or two would
be beyond the powers of any musician; none but Wagner, indeed, could
have expressed such an infinity of elevated grief within the compass
of seven or eight bars. Some of the other motives are astounding in
their brevity and eloquence. Not till after his work on the _Rhinegold_
had unsealed his imagination and perfected his technique could he have
hoped to hit off the wild, half-animal energy of the Valkyries in some
four or five notes that are merely the expansion of a single chord, or
have dared to trust to what is virtually only a series of syncopations
to symbolise Alberich's work of destruction (the _Vernichtungsarbeit_
motive). Never before could he have written anything so eloquent of
death as the "Announcement of death" motive in the _Valkyrie_. In
_Siegfried_, though the number of new motives is comparatively small,
the same process of concentration is observable. The god-like nature
and the stately gait of the Wanderer are suggested to us in three or
four notes. And in the _Götterdämmerung_ the concentration is amazing.
In that stupendous work he is, in my opinion, at the very summit of
his powers. He never wastes a note now: every new stroke he deals is
incredibly swift, direct and telling. Absolutely sure of himself,
he dispenses with a prelude--for the few bars of orchestral writing
before the voices enter can hardly be called one--and trusts to the
colour of a mere couple of chords to tune the audience's imagination to
the atmosphere of the opening scene. One short characteristic figure
suffices for the motive of Hagen, and nowhere in the whole of Wagner's
or anyone else's work is a figure of two notes used so multifariously
and with such far-reaching suggestion. It is evident that he now feels
the harmonic instrument to be the most serviceable and flexible of all;
and hundreds of his most overpowering effects in the _Götterdämmerung_
are achieved by harmonic invention or harmonic transformation. The
grisliness of the Hagen theme comes in large part--putting aside the
question of orchestral colour--from the sort of dour, irreconcilable
element it seems to introduce into certain chords,--though in
reality the harmony has nothing essentially far-fetched in it--as
in that tremendous passage near the end of the first Act of the

                           [Music: No. 26.]


The new themes, too, rely for a great deal of their poignancy upon
some subtle and fleeting taste of sweetness or some swift suggestion of
darkness and mystery in the harmony, as in the exquisite motive that is
associated with the wedding of Gutrune--

                           [Music: No. 27.]

or in the motive of "Magic deceit"--

                           [Music: No. 28.]

while others make their effect by means of the utmost concentration
of melodic meaning, like the "Blood-brotherhood" motive, or by an
epigrammatic condensation of rhythm, like the "Oath of fidelity"
motive, which only Wagner could have invented, and which no other
composer but Beethoven would have dared to use if it had been offered
to him--

                           [Music: No. 29.]

  [Illustration: RICHARD WAGNER. From the painting by H. Herkomer at

It is on harmonic alteration that he chiefly relies again, in the
latter stages of the _Ring_, to suggest the fateful gloom that is
gradually closing in upon the drama; much of the tense and tragic
atmosphere of the _Götterdämmerung_ comes from this clouding of the
simpler texture of the motives of the earlier operas. One of the most
remarkable instances of this is his treatment of the "Servitude"
motive, that is generally associated with Alberich. In the _Rhinegold_
it appears in a variety of simple forms, such as this--

                           [Music: No. 30.]

and this--

                           [Music: No. 31.]

In the _Götterdämmerung_ a sense of almost intolerable strain, of a
great tragedy sweeping to its inevitable end, is conveyed by various
subtilisations of the harmony, of which the following may stand as a

                           [Music: No. 32.]

When Siegfried appears on Brynhilde's rock, disguised as Gunther, the
theme of the latter is metamorphosed from--

                           [Music: No. 33.]


                           [Music: No. 34.]

Here everything is exquisitely calculated,--the harmonic alteration,
the orchestral colouring (the soft mysterious tones of trumpet and
trombones), the interrupted ending, and the long fateful silence that

When Alberich, in his colloquy with Hagen at the commencement of the
second Act of the _Götterdämmerung_, looks forward to the approaching
destruction of the gods, the "Valhalla" motive becomes altered from the

                           [Music: No. 35.]


                           [Music: No. 36.]

Many other illustrations might be given of this harmonic
intensification of themes.


It has to be admitted, however, that Wagner's use of the leit-motive
presents some singularities, and is at times open to criticism. He
undoubtedly introduces the motives more frequently than they are really
needed; there is no necessity, for example, for the "Siegfried's horn"
motive to be sounded at almost every appearance of Siegfried or every
mention of his name. Debussy has made merry over this superfluity of
reference, comparing it to a lunatic presenting his card to you in
person. But we can easily forgive Wagner this little excess of zeal.
He was doing something absolutely new for his time. He had a gigantic
mass of material to unify, and this incessant recurrence of significant
themes seemed to him the only way to do it. He could not foresee how
familiar the operas and their motives would be to the whole musical
world half a century later. In any case this peculiarity of his style
can be passed over with a mere mention. Of more importance is his habit
of making many of the motives so much alike that a certain amount of
confusion is set up even in the minds of those who know the operas
well. The "Servitude" motive, for example, is so like the opening
of the Rhine Maidens' song that everyone goes astray over the two
themes now and then in the first stages of his acquaintance with the
_Ring_. Still more confusing is his habit of taking a motive that at
first has only a particular meaning, and making it express a general
concept, the result being that we frequently associate it with the
wrong character. His mind was curiously like Bach's in this respect,
that having fixed upon a figure that seemed to him an adequate symbol
for an action, a person, an animal, or a material object, he would use
it for all future phenomena of the same kind. But Bach's procedure is
rather more logical, for his typical themes have as a rule a pictorial
or semi-pictorial character, and so they can be applied without
incongruity to a number of pictures of the same general order. A phrase
that symbolises waves, for example, in one work may be legitimately
employed to symbolise waves in another, for the theme itself is so
constructed as to suggest the motion of waves: at least that is the
intention. But Wagner necessarily has to find musical symbols for
all kinds of things in his operas for which it is quite impossible
to discover an unmistakable, self-explanatory musical equivalent.
The symbol has therefore to be an arbitrary one; it has no claim to
pictorial veracity, but we agree to accept it because it fulfils a
useful musical purpose. The "Fire" motive conveys a real suggestion
of fire; the _Rhinegold_ prelude has certain qualities that make us
willing to associate it with a mighty rolling river. But the "Ring"
motive does not convey the slightest suggestion of a ring, nor has the
"Gold" motive any resemblance to gold.

Wagner runs, then, a risk of being misunderstood, or not understood
at all, when he takes an arbitrary symbol which we are willing to
concede him in one case, and applies it to another. It would tax all
the ingenuity of the thorough-going Wagnerian to justify, for instance,
in the scene of the Norns in the _Götterdämmerung_, the employment of
the "Sleep" motive that is inevitably associated in our minds with
Wotan's parting from Brynhilde at the end of the _Valkyrie_. When
Brynhilde is taking leave of Siegfried, in the second scene of the
_Götterdämmerung_, and giving him Grane as a perpetual reminder of
herself, the orchestra accompanies his words with the "Love" motive
from the duet between Siegmund and Sieglinde in the first act of the
_Valkyrie_. So profound has been the impression we have received
from it there that it is impossible for us to associate it with any
other pair of lovers; and we cannot help wondering what Siegmund and
Sieglinde have to do with Siegfried and Brynhilde and Grane. When Hagen
describes the coming of Siegfried down the Rhine, it is quite right
that the orchestra should give out the typical Siegfried theme, but
quite wrong, surely, that this theme should be combined with that of
the Rhine Maidens from the _Rhinegold_. The intention presumably is
that from the Rhine Maidens we are to infer the Rhine;[408] but the
musical intelligence does not like having to diverge into deductive
reasoning of this kind. Anyone who has learnt to associate the theme
with the Rhine Maidens will naturally suppose either that they are to
appear in person or that some allusion is to be made to them, neither
of which things happens. The "Treaty" motive of the _Rhinegold_, again,
has become so firmly associated in our minds with the agreement between
Wotan and the giants that we involuntarily think of them when we hear
it again in the orchestra during the swearing of Blood-brotherhood by
Siegfried and Gunther (_Götterdämmerung_, vocal score, p. 92).

One of the most curious uses of the leit-motive is to be found in
_Siegfried_ (V. S. p. 35). Siegfried, pouring contempt on the idea that
Mime can be his father, is telling him how he once saw the reflection
of his own face in the brook:

  Unlike unto thee
  there did I seem:
  as like as a toad
  to a glittering fish.

There is excellent reason for accompanying the third line with the
"Smithing" motive that so often characterises Mime; but what reason
can there be for accompanying the fourth line with the "Waves" motive
from the prelude to the _Rhinegold_? As it is not in the Rhine but in
a brook that Siegmund has seen his reflection, the motive here can
only be taken as symbolising not the waves of a particular and already
familiar river--a procedure for which there might be some excuse--but
waves in general, which is quite illegitimate. Wagner goes too far,
as Bach used to go too far, in importing into the line a pictorial
allusion that is not already there, and that we can only put there by
an effort. For Bach also was in the habit of making his music argue,
as it were, from one external fact to another. We can permit this
within certain limits, but both Bach and Wagner sometimes go beyond all
limits. When Bach has to set to music a stanza in which the faithful
are spoken of as Christ's sheep (_Beglückte Herde, Jesu Schafe_, in the
cantata _Du Hirte Israel_) he obviously aims at creating a pastoral
atmosphere by the use of the oboes; and our imagination here is quite
willing to accept the naïf translation of the religious idea into
a pictorial image. But when Bach, possessed by the image of Jesus
calling His disciples to be fishers of men (in the cantata _Siehe,
ich will viel Fischer aussenden_), makes use of a motive of a type
that he always employs to symbolise waves, we can only say, with all
respect, that we had rather he did not ask us to deduce the necessity
of waves from the fact that there are fish. So with this passage from
_Siegfried_: we should be quite satisfied with the mere comparison
between the toad and the fish; to lay it down with such portentous
gravity that where there are fish there must necessarily be water is to
reduce pictorialism to an absurdity.

There is no lack of examples of this process of illegitimate inference
and illegitimate association. After Mime has answered the first of the
Wanderer's three questions, the latter congratulates him in this wise
(_Siegfried_, vocal score, p. 74):

  Right well the name
  of the race dost thou know:
  sly, thou rascal, thou seemest!

--to the same phrase that is often used in the _Rhinegold_ to suggest
the trickiness of Loge in particular, but also, apparently, to suggest
deceit in general. It accompanies, for example, Fafner's remark to
Fasolt, _à propos_ of the attempt of Wotan to evade the promised
payment for Valhalla--

  My trusty brother,
  seest thou, fool, his deceit?

(V. S. 89, 90); and again the words in which Wotan tries to calm the
apprehensions of Fricka--

  Where simple strength serves,
  of none ask I assistance:
  but to force the hate
  of foes to help me,
  needs such craft and deceit
  as Loge the artful employs.

(V. S. 82, 83). That is to say, a purely arbitrary musical figure is to
be taken as symbolising not merely the slyness of a particular person,
but slyness in the abstract--a length to which we must decline to go
with Wagner.

And as with his waves and his moral qualities, so with his animals;
they too are both particular and universal. When Alberich, at the
urging of Loge, turns himself into a serpent (_Rhinegold_, p. 182), it
is to the accompaniment of a motive that is itself admirably pictorial.
But in _Siegfried_, (p. 7, etc.), and the _Götterdämmerung_ (p. 34,
etc.), the same motive is always used to characterise Fafner, after
he has turned himself into a dragon. One need not enlarge upon the
confusion this is bound to create.

We are willing again, to accept the "Swan" motive in _Lohengrin_ as a
purely conventional symbol; but the same motive strikes rather oddly on
our ears when it is used to particularise the swan in _Parsifal_. If
in _Lohengrin_ it typifies that particular swan, it is obviously not
right to employ it for a totally different bird in another opera; for
there is nothing in the outline of the theme that can be said to bear
the remotest resemblance to a swan in the way that an arpeggio theme
may be said to resemble waves, or a crepitating theme to suggest fire.
Again, Wagner only confuses us when he uses the motive that accompanies
Kundry's ride in the first scene of _Parsifal_ to accompany Parsifal's
description of the horsemen he had once seen in the wood:

  And once upon the fringe of the wood,
  on glorious creatures mounted,
  men all glittering went by me;
  fain had I been like them:
  with laughter they swept on their way.
  And then I ran,
  but never again I saw them;
  through deserts wide I wandered,
  o'er hill and dale;
  oft fell the night,
  then followed day: etc.

(vocal score, p. 54); afterwards to accompany Kundry's account of the
death of Herzeleide:

  As I rode by I saw her dying,
  and, Fool, she sent thee her greeting;

(V. S. p. 57); after that, again, to accompany Kundry as she hastens
to the spring in the wood to get water for the fainting Parsifal (V.
S. p. 58); after that to describe the rush of Klingsor's warriors to
the ramparts (V. S. p. 120); after that to accompany the thronging of
the Flower Maidens to the scene (V. S. p. 156); again to give point to
Parsifal's words:

  And I, the fool, the coward,
  to deeds of boyish wildness hither fled--

(V. S. p. 203); and to accompany--for what reason it is difficult to
say--Kundry's threat that she will call the spear against Parsifal
if he continues to repulse her (V. S. p. 222); and finally, as an
accompaniment to her last words to Parsifal:

  For fleddest thou from here,
  and foundest all the ways of the world,
  the one that thou seek'st,
  that path thy foot shall find never;

(V. S. p. 225). No ingenuity can justify the employment of the same
motive for so many different purposes. As a matter of fact, after we
have once become conscious of it as accompanying Kundry's ride in the
first scene of the opera, it is inevitable that we should associate it
with her at each subsequent recurrence of it.

Another peculiarity of Wagner's use of the leit-motive may be noted;
once or twice he gives a meaning to a theme in the later stages of
the _Ring_ that we cannot be sure of it possessing at first. The most
striking instance of this is the "Reflection" motive. In _Siegfried_ it
is exclusively employed in connection with Mime, and the manner of its
employment leaves no room for doubt that the commentators are right in
giving it this title. The prelude to _Siegfried_ commences with it; it
is used there to suggest to us Mime pondering over the problem of the
forging of the sword. It frequently recurs with the same significance
in the scene that follows. It is used again all through the scene
of questions and answers between the Wanderer and Mime, to suggest
the dwarf putting his considering cap on after or during each of the
Wanderer's posers. Yet on its first appearance in the _Rhinegold_
(vocal score, p. 151) there is nothing whatever to indicate that the
theme is to be taken as symbolical of reflection. It accompanies Mime's
plaint to Wotan and Loge--

  What help for me?
  I must obey
  the commands of my brother,
  who holds me bondsman to him.

         *       *       *       *       *

  By evil craft fashioned Alberich
  from the ravished Rhinegold a yellow ring: etc.

(Vocal score, p. 151.) From the words one would be _a priori_ inclined
to associate the music with Alberich rather than with Mime; and as it
is not employed again in the _Rhinegold_, the meaning we are suddenly
asked to attach to it at the opening of _Siegfried_ seems a little


Wagner was not long in realising that however thrilling the timbre of
the human voice may be, and useful as it is for making clear the course
of the action and the sentiments of the characters, the orchestra is
the most powerful and most resourceful of all the instruments at the
disposal of the operatic composer. More and more the main current of
his thinking goes into this. In the _Rhinegold_ the orchestral texture
is by no means continuous; frequently it merely punctuates or supports
the vocal declamation by means of a detached chord or two, much in
the way that it used to sustain the older recitative. As the _Ring_
proceeds, pages of this kind become rarer: the orchestra thrusts itself
more and more to the centre of the picture. It would be impossible to
make the tissue of the _Rhinegold_ intelligible without the voices: but
the orchestral part of the _Götterdämmerung_ would flow on with hardly
a break if the vocal part were omitted; so also would large sections
of _Tristan_ and the _Meistersinger_. It was inevitable that under
these circumstances the vocal writing should occasionally become a
little perfunctory. It is frequently said that the balance between the
vocal and orchestral parts is most perfectly maintained in _Tristan_;
but the most cursory examination of the score shows that even there
Wagner could not always find, or would not take the trouble to find,
a vocal line of equal melodic interest with that of the orchestra, in
the opening scene, for instance, it is transparently clear that the
really expressive voice is the orchestra, and that the vocal parts have
been inserted, sometimes rather carelessly and unskilfully, after the
orchestral tissue has been completed. The vocal writing in _Tristan_
falls into four main categories. The first is that to which I have
already referred; wholly absorbed in the orchestral working out of a
theme, Wagner seems to pay the minimum of attention to the vocal line,
which sometimes has as little real relevance to the music as a whole
as if it had been added by another person. As a specimen of this kind
of writing we may cite the music to the words of Brangaene at the
commencement of the opera--

  Bluish strips
  are stretching along the west;
  swiftly the ship
  sails to the shore:
  if restful the sea by eve
  we shall readily set foot on land.

(Vocal score, pp. 7, 8.)

To the second category belong passages in which the voice is frankly
in the forefront of the picture and the orchestra is merely a
background--as in the colloquy between Tristan and Brangaene (vocal
score, pp. 18 ff.), or in the music to Isolde's words shortly after the
beginning of the second Act--

  BRANGAENE. I still hear the sound of horns.
  ISOLDE.    No sound of horns
             were so sweet;
             yon fountain's soft
             murmuring current
             moves so quietly hence;
             if horns yet brayed
             how could I hear that?

(Vocal score, pp. 90, 91.)

To the third category belong the passages in which the voice simply
sings the same melody as the orchestra, as on p. 177 of the vocal score
("Thy kingdom thou art showing," etc.); and to the fourth, those in
which it sings a real counterpoint to the orchestra--not a mere piece
of padding like the passage I have cited from pp. 7, 8 of the score,
but a vocal line of genuine melodic interest--as in a good deal of the
scene of the third Act through which there runs the melancholy cor
anglais melody.

_Tristan_, in fact, in spite of the splendour of its orchestral
polyphony, by no means exhibits Wagner's symphonic powers in their
full evolution. The most wonderful of his works in this respect is
the _Götterdämmerung_, the stupendous strength of which is beyond
words and almost beyond belief. The world had not seen a musical brain
working at such tremendous and long-sustained pressure since the days
when the B minor Mass and the "Matthew Passion" were written; and
even those masterpieces have not the continuity of texture of the
_Götterdämmerung_, nor do they show so giant a hand at its work of
unification. Turn almost where you will, the course of the drama is
told with absolute clearness in the orchestra itself. Yet in spite of
his concentrating so largely on the orchestra, the vocal parts have an
extraordinary aptness; it would be hard to find a passage in the score
as perfunctory as some that might be quoted from _Tristan_. The voice,
it is true, is often used simply as another counterpoint among those
of the orchestra; but as a counterpoint it generally has a dramatic
appositeness and a melodic beauty of its own.

In _Parsifal_ this tendency to make the orchestra the principal
dramatic speaker goes so far that very frequently the vocal writing
is thoroughly bad. Some writers have attributed this to a decline
of mental power in Wagner's old age. I do not think that this is
the correct explanation. I can see no general decadence of musical
invention in the music of _Parsifal_: I am willing to believe that the
peculiar emotional and intellectual world of the opera makes no appeal
to many people; but the style as a whole is as admirably suited to
that world as the styles of _Tristan_ and the _Meistersinger_ are to
their respective subjects, and I for one see no failure of inspiration
except in some of the choral writing in the first Act, where there is
occasionally an undeniable touch of commonplace. Part of the admitted
colourlessness of some of the vocal passages is to be accounted for,
I think, by the utterly unmusical quality of the words. The defect is
not in Wagner the musician but in Wagner the poet, who has forgotten
for the moment several of the principles he had laid down in his prose
works and put into successful practice in the six great operas of
his prime. The text of _Parsifal_ contains a large amount of quite
unmusical matter, especially at the commencement. Many of the lines
have evidently not roused the slightest interest in the composer. He
knew that the orchestral part was alive, and always developing the
emotional possibilities of the situation; and when he comes to an
obviously impossible verbal patch,--necessary for the telling of the
story, but containing no stimulus for the musician--he simply refuses
to waste time or trouble upon it. Take as an example one of the very
worst passages for the voice in the whole opera--the words of Parsifal
just before the beginning of the transformation music in the first Act--

                           [Music: No. 37.]


  I hardly stir, and yet I move apace.

Granting that the words are unfit for music, it is incredible that
Wagner could not have found a more interesting musical outline for
them than this, if it had occurred to him to try. But I take it that
he would not try, or saw no necessity for trying; his mind was wholly
bent on working out his orchestral picture, which, after all, is
the only thing that really matters here as in so many other places.
In other passages, such as the long recital of Kundry to Parsifal
commencing "I saw the babe upon its mother's breast" (vocal score,
p. 187), the orchestral part is a sort of small symphonic movement
in itself, in which the voice mostly sings the same melody as the
orchestra. Where it does not do this in the symphonic passages the
vocal writing again becomes a trifle careless, as in the Good Friday
music. The self-contained completeness of the orchestral part here is
conclusively shown by its perfect adaptation to the concert room; and
I take it that, feeling that virtually all he had to say had been said
by the orchestra, Wagner worked out the mood of the scene with complete
satisfaction to himself in that medium, and then added the vocal part
as best he could--sometimes quite well, sometimes by no means well.
He had largely given up, indeed, thinking simultaneously in terms
of both voice and orchestra, as in the best parts of _Tristan_, the
_Meistersinger_ and the _Götterdämmerung_. Those who will may put this
down to a decline of his musical powers. To me it seems more probable
that as a musician he came to rely more and more on his most eloquent
instrument, the orchestra. It may even be that his carelessness with
regard to the text of _Parsifal_, his inclusion of a number of episodes
that he must have known were essentially foreign to his own ideal of
music, can be accounted for by his belief that he could rely on the
expressiveness and the continuity of the orchestral web to see him
through all the inevitable difficulties. As one looks at the score of
_Parsifal_ one can readily understand his desire to try his hand at a
symphony in the last years of his life.


It is open to doubt, indeed, whether Wagner ever attained the
homogeneity of form that was his ideal. His most homogeneous work is
probably _Lohengrin_; after his developing imagination and technique
had made him dissatisfied with the style of that opera, and pointed
him on to more difficult achievements, he does indeed paint pictures
of magnificent scope and exquisite fineness of detail, but he hardly
attains the perfect balance of all the factors and the perfect
consistency of style that make _Lohengrin_ flow so smoothly. The
reason, I think, is that while he was urged on to this reform and
that by the logical quality of his mind, he was never quite logical
enough--which is only another way of saying that even the greatest
minds cannot create a new form of their own in art. All they can do
is to add something to the structure they have inherited from their
predecessors, and pass the transformed product on to their successors
as something to be transformed still further. An ideal like that of
Wagner--to create an art form that should be musical through and
through, a continuous, endlessly varied web of melody,--is realisable
in instrumental music pure and simple, but hardly in connection with
the stage. Concentrate the dramatic action as he would, so as to
provide the musician with a framework that should be musical in every
fibre, the poet was still compelled to retain a certain amount of
non-musical matter in order to tell his story clearly to the audience.
The concision of _Tristan_ is wonderful; but even in the first Act of
_Tristan_ there are verse-passages the pedestrian quality of which
the composer has not been able to disguise. The style of all his
later works fluctuates in character because he is divided between
a desire to keep the actors in the forefront and the necessity for
relegating them to the background in order to give the orchestra an
absolutely free course. We feel with Wagner, as we do with certain
others of the most fertile minds in art--with Goethe, with Leonardo,
with Hokusai--that one human life-time was too pitifully short for
the realisation of everything of which the great brain was capable;
that the body broke down while the mind was still capable of adding
to its store of knowledge and feeling. All Wagner's greatest works,
regarded from the standpoint of the twentieth century, are hardly
more than magnificent attempts to find a compromise between drama
and music. At times the compromise worked admirably; at others there
is perceptible friction. His dilemma was the one that has confronted
every composer of opera since the day when opera was invented. Poetry
and music are not the loving sisters that the fancy of the literary
man would make them out to be; they are rival goddesses, very jealous
and intolerant of each other. The poet, in proportion as his work is
genuine, faultless poetry, has no need of the musician. Music is cruel,
ravenous, selfish, overbearing with poetry; it deprives it, for its own
ends, of almost everything that makes it poetry, altering its verbal
values, disregarding its rhymes, substituting another rhythm for that
of the poet. It has no need of anything but the poetic idea, and to get
at that kernel it ruthlessly tears away all the delicacies of tissue
that enclose it. Wagner himself, however much he might theorise about
poetry, was never a poet; he was simply a versifier who wrote words
for music, sometimes admirably adapted for this purpose, sometimes
exceedingly ill adapted. In _Tristan_, which he himself regarded as the
one of all his poems that was best suited for music, what he writes is
generally not poetry at all. Who would give that title to lines that
scorn all grace of rhythm, all variety of cadence, all the magic that
comes of the perfect fusion of speech and expression: lines like those
of the final page, for example:

  Heller schallend
  mich umwallend,
  sind es Wellen
  sanfter Lüfte?
  Sind es Wogen
  wonniger Düfte?
  Wie sie schwellen
  mich umrauschen,
  soll ich atmen,
  soll ich lauschen?
  Soll ich schlürfen,
  Süss in Düften
  mich verhauchen?
  In dem wogenden Schwall,
  in dem tönenden Schall,
  in des Welt-Atems
  wehendem All,--
  höchste Lust!

or those at the meeting of Tristan and Isolde in the second Act--

  TRISTAN. Isolde! Geliebte!
  ISOLDE.  Tristan! Geliebter!
           Bist du mein?
  TRISTAN. Hab' ich dich wieder?
  ISOLDE.  Darf ich dich fassen?
  TRISTAN. Kann ich mir trauen?
  ISOLDE.  Endlich! Endlich!
  TRISTAN. An meine Brust!
  ISOLDE.  Fühl' ich dich wirklich?
  TRISTAN. Seh' ich dich selber?
  ISOLDE.  Dies deine Augen?
  TRISTAN. Dies dein Mund?
  ISOLDE.  Hier deine Hand?
  TRISTAN. Hier dein Herz?
  ISOLDE.  Bin ich's? Bist du's?
                    Halt' ich dich fest?
  TRISTAN. Bin ich's? Bist du's?
                    Ist es kein Trug?
  BOTH.    Ist es kein Traum?
           O Wonne der Seele,
           o süsse, hehrste,
           kühnste, schönste,
           seligste Lust!
  TRISTAN. Ohne Gleiche!
  ISOLDE.  Überreiche!
  TRISTAN. Überselig!
  ISOLDE.  Ewig!

If this telegraphic style, as Emil Ludwig calls it, is poetry, then we
shall have to give that word a meaning it has never yet had.

But if the _Tristan_ order of verse is not poetry, it is magnificently
adapted to the needs of the symphonic musician. It is unobtrusive;
it is pliant; it serves to _préciser_ the musical emotion without
fettering the orchestral composer either melodically or rhythmically.
Compare now with the previous extracts one or two from _Parsifal_--

  Denn ihm, da wilder Feinde List und Macht
    des reinen Glaubens Reich bedrohten,
  ihm neigten sich in heilig ernster Nacht
    dereinst des Heilands sel'ge Boten:

  (To him, when 'gainst the savage foeman's might
    this realm of faith he had defended,
  oh wonder rare! in solemn, holy night
    from heaven the Saviour's messengers descended)

  Des eig'nen sündigen Blutes Gewell'
    in wahnsinniger Flucht
    muss mir zurück dann fliessen,
    in die Welt der Sündensucht
    mit wilder Scheu sich ergiessen:
    von neuem sprengt es das Tor,
    daraus es nun strömt hervor,
  hier durch die Wunde, der seinen gleich,
  geschlagen von desselben Speeres Streich,
  der dort dem Erlöser die Wunde stach,
    aus der mit blut'gen Tränen
  der Göttliche weint' ob der Menschheit Schmach
    in Mitleid's heiligem Sehnen,--
  und aus der nun mir, an heiligster Stelle,
    dem Pfleger göttlichster Güter,
    des Erlösungsbalsams Hüter,
  das heisse Sündenblut entquillt,
  ewig erneut aus des Sehnens Quelle,
  das, ach! keine Büssung je mir stillt!

  (In maddest tumult, by sin defiled,
    my blood back on itself
    doth turn and rage within me;
    to the world where sin is lord
    in frenzied fear is it surging;
    again it forces the door,
    in torrents it poureth forth,
  here through the spear-wound, alike to His,
  and dealt me by the self-same deadly spear
  that once the Redeemer pierced with pain,
    and, tears of blood outpouring,
  the Holy One wept for the shame of man,
    in pity's god-like yearning,--
  and from this my wound, the Grail's own chosen,
    the holy relics' guardian,
    of redemption's balm the warder,
  the sinful fiery flood wells forth,
  ever renewed from the fount of longing
  that, ah! never penance more may still!)

    So hofft sein sündenreu'ger Hüter,
      da er nicht sterben kann,
      wann je er ihn erschaut,
      sein Ende zu erzwingen,
  und mit dem Leben seine Qual zu enden.

    (Thus hopes its sin-repentant guardian,
      since he can perish not
      while on it he doth gaze,
      by force to draw death to him,
  and with his life to end his cruel torment.)

How incredibly careless is the construction here--the long, involved
sentences, the parentheses, the separation of substantive and verb by
several lines! It is this absence of poetic concentration that makes
_Parsifal_ a trifle _langweilig_ at times; for no matter how expressive
Wagner may make the orchestral music, he cannot quite reconcile us to
the frequent flatness of the vocal writing and the difficulty we often
have in getting the sense, or even the grammatical construction, of
the words. That Wagner at the end of his life could put together a
text like _Parsifal_ after having made the poems of _Tristan_ and the
_Ring_ is not in the least a proof of mental collapse, but only of
the almost insuperable difficulties in the way of finding a perfect
compromise between music and dramatic poetry. He was fortunate enough,
in the case of _Tristan_, to hit upon a subject that was comparatively
easy to concentrate. Two duties, it must be remembered, an operatic
poem has to perform: it has to provide the composer with opportunities
for emotional expression, and it has to make a story clear to the
spectator. The ideal text would be that in which the action was
implicit in the emotion, that is to say, one in which there was no need
for any explanation, through the mouth of this or that actor, of events
that were happening off the stage or that had occurred before the drama
began. It is when the composer has to interrupt his purely emotional
outpouring in order to allow the poet to become explanatory that he
realises the difficulty of making his opera musical throughout. Even
in _Tristan_ Wagner could not wholly dispense with a certain amount of
explanation, in the first act, of the events in Ireland and Cornwall
that have led up to the situation in which Tristan and Isolde now find
themselves. The music in consequence halts decidedly at times; all the
art of the composer cannot disguise the fact that he is momentarily
being held up by the exigencies of the stage poet. In the _Ring_, as
it was first drafted, Wagner was faced with the same problem, but he
solved it in another way. _Siegfried's Death_ was to be merely the
climax of a long sequence of tragic events. Without some knowledge of
these events, however, the spectator would be unable to understand
the final tragedy. So Wagner resorted to the device of making the
characters themselves recapitulate the earlier stages of the story, in
much the same way that Isolde, in the first act of _Tristan_, tells
Brangaene--for the benefit of the audience, of course--all about the
coming of Tristan to Ireland, his slaying of Morold, her nursing of
the wounded Cornish hero, his wooing her as bride for King Marke,
and so on. In the opening scene of _Siegfried's Death_ the Norns
tell each other--again for the benefit of the audience--how Alberich
ravished the gold from the Rhine, made a ring from it, and enslaved the
Nibelung race; how the ring was stolen, and Alberich himself became a
thrall; how the giants built Valhalla for the gods, and, denied their
promised reward, got possession of the ring that the gods had stolen
from Alberich; how there was born a free hero, destined to redeem the
gods from _their_ bondage; how Siegfried slew the dragon and wakened
Brynhilde from her sleep. Having made all this clear in an introductory
scene, Wagner raises the curtain upon Siegfried and Brynhilde. Later,
Hagen tells Gunther,--all for the sake of the audience--how Wotan begot
the Volsung race; how the twin-born Volsung pair Siegmund and Sieglinde
had for son the mighty hero, Siegfried, who "closed the ravenous maw"
of the dragon with his "conquering sword." In the next scene Siegfried
explains to the audience--_viâ_ Hagen and Gunther--how he came into
possession of the tarnhelm and the ring, whereupon Hagen describes the
virtues of the former. In the third scene the Valkyries[409] fly to
the solitary Brynhilde and learn of her awakening by Siegfried, and of
the intervention of Wotan in the combat between Siegmund and Hunding.
In the first scene of the second Act Alberich tells Hagen how he won
the gold and forged the ring, and compelled Mime to make the tarnhelm
for him; how the ring was ravished from him by the gods and given to
the giants; how one of the latter guarded it in the form of a dragon;
how Siegfried slew the latter and Mime. In the second scene of the
third Act Siegfried tells the Gibichungs--the audience overhearing--how
Mime tended the dying Sieglinde in the wood, saved her child, and
brought him up to his own craft of smith; how he (Siegfried) forged his
father's sword anew and did the dragon to death; how the bird warned
him of Mime's plot against his life, told him of the powers of the ring
and tarnhelm, and sent him to rouse Brynhilde from her sleep on the
fire-girt rock.

Wagner must have felt the clumsiness of this method of constant
explanation, and anticipated that it would impede the free flow of
his music; while in any case the audience would probably still not
be quite clear as to certain points. So, as all the world knows, he
first of all prefixed to _Siegfried's Death_ another drama--_The Young
Siegfried_--designed to put the bearing of all the stages of the action
beyond the possibility of misunderstanding. But again the fear haunts
him that there may still be some things insufficiently accounted
for; so even _The Young Siegfried_ has to have a certain number of
pages of explanation. The fact of Siegfried being there at all has to
be explained by Mime, as well as the further facts of the death of
Siegmund in battle and the perishing of Sieglinde in giving birth to
Siegfried. In the next scene, almost the whole story of what afterwards
became the _Rhinegold_ and the _Valkyrie_ is told afresh in the
competition of questions and answers between the Wanderer and Mime. In
the first scene of the third Act, we have the completion of the story
of the _Valkyrie_ given to the audience in the dialogue between the
Wanderer and Erda--how the earth-goddess bore a daughter, Brynhilde, to
Wotan, how she flouted the god's will, and for punishment was doomed to
sleep on the fiery fell. Not content with all this, Wagner afterwards
stages, in a third opera, the _Valkyrie_, the whole of the action that
has been told and told again in _Siegfried_ and the _Götterdämmerung_,
from the love of Siegmund and Sieglinde down to the punishment of
Brynhilde. Even here he has to find room for explanations; in the first
scene of the second Act Wotan tells the audience--_viâ_ Brynhilde--the
whole story of the rape of the gold by Alberich and all the events
that followed from it. Finally Wagner comes to the conclusion that
the whole action, from its beginning in the depths of the Rhine, had
better be put visibly upon the stage; and so the _Rhinegold_, the story
of which has been already told more than once, is prefixed to the
_Valkyrie_. But in spite of his having shown everything so completely
that nothing remains to be explained by word of mouth, he still retains
all the explanations he had inserted in the three other dramas of the
tetralogy. No doubt he was aware of their superfluity, but shrank,
as he might well do, from the enormous task of reconstructing the
whole work yet again. He may have argued, too, that as each of the
operas would have to stand by itself on the particular occasion of its
performance, it would be no disadvantage to have the events of the
preceding evening fully explained, even at the cost of some otherwise
needless repetition.

I have not gone over this long familiar ground merely to tell again
a thrice-told tale, but to bring into higher relief the fundamental
difficulty of the musical dramatist who is working along the Wagnerian
lines--the difficulty of taking up the whole of the poet's work into
the being of music, when the poet, in order to leave no room for
misunderstanding on the part of the audience of the reason for the
visible actions and the audible sentiments of the actors, has to pad
out his poem with a certain amount of matter that is explanatory of
the past rather than emotional in the present. So desperate a device
as the visible representation in three or four evenings of every
stage of a dramatic action was obviously not to be resorted to again.
It was equally impossible to reduce the story of _Parsifal_ to the
highly concentrated form into which he had managed to cast _Tristan_.
So he had to do what it had been his first impulse to do in the
_Ring_--elucidate the visible action of the moment by a narrative of
all that had happened before the action, or that particular stage of
the action, began, and trust to the orchestra to maintain the musical
interest by means of the interplay of leit-motives. Hence the lumbering
stage technique of the first Act of _Parsifal_, and the _raison d'être_
for the endless garrulity of Gurnemanz. That venerable worthy is not
a character; he is merely a walking and talking guide book; he stands
outside the real drama, somewhat in the style of the _compère_ in a
revue; and the proof of his almost complete nullity is that Wagner
has been utterly unable to characterise him musically. Every other
character in his operas--even the minor personages, such as Kurvenal
and David and Gutrune--exists for us as a definite personality,
someone drawn in the round in music as effectively as a painter or
sculptor could have shown him forth. But even Wagner has been unable to
invent a single phrase that shall be characteristic of Gurnemanz and
Gurnemanz alone. He is the one Wagnerian character who simply does not
exist for musicians. As far as his music is concerned he has neither
mental characteristics nor bodily form; we remember him solely for his
interminable talk.


If Wagner failed in his struggle with the musical-dramatic form,
it was the failure of a Titan in a struggle that only a Titan would
have ventured upon. Form and the perfection of form are simple enough
matters for the smaller musical intelligences, for whom form means
merely a symmetrical mould to be filled. It is for the greater minds
that the problem of form is always a torture, for their ideas are
perpetually outgrowing the mould. In sheer fertility of idea Wagner was
probably the greatest musician the world has ever seen. It was of the
very essence of his work that there should be no repetition either of
mood or of procedure. Without, indeed, making the necessarily futile
attempt to decide which is _per se_ the finer order of musical mind,
the dramatic or the symphonic, it may be confidently said that to a
dramatist--or at all events a dramatist like Wagner--there is permitted
no such easy returning upon his own tracks, no half-mechanical
manipulation of the same order of ideas time after time, as is possible
to the worker in the stereotyped instrumental forms. Great as is the
inventive power of a Bach, a Beethoven or a Brahms, it cannot be
denied that much of their work is simply a varied exploitation of a
relatively small number of formulas,--that a very small amount of
thematic invention can be made to go a very long way under the guidance
of an established pattern. Nor, broadly speaking, is the same intensity
of imagination, or the same scope of imagination, required to invent
a hundred ordinary fugal or symphonic themes as to find a hundred
themes that are the veritable musical counterparts of as many human
beings. The family resemblance between "subjects" that is permitted to
a Bach or a Beethoven is not permitted to a Wagner: the dramatist's
work must be a perpetual re-creation--and a definite, unmistakable
re-creation--of the life around him in all its multiformity. In this
sense Wagner is without an equal among composers; never has there
been a brain so apt at limning character and suggesting the _milieu_
in music. We can speak of the Wagnerian imagination as we can speak
of the Shakespearean imagination; Wagner's is the only imagination in
music that can be compared with Shakespeare's in dramatic fertility
and comprehensiveness. It pours itself over the whole surface of a
work, into every nook and cranny of it. It is a vast mind, infinite
in its sympathies, protean in its creative power. For sheer drastic
incisiveness of theme he has not his equal in all music; each vision
instinctively, without an effort, finds its own inevitable utterance.
In the works of his great period every motive has a physiognomy as
distinct from all others as the face of any human being is distinct
from all other faces. The motives are unforgettable once we have heard
them. They depict their subject once for all: who to-day, enormously as
the apparatus of musical expression has developed since Wagner's time,
would dare to try to find better symbols than those he has invented for
the tarnhelm, the fire, the Rhine, the sword, the dragon, the potion
that brings oblivion to Siegfried; or for any of the men and women of
the operas--for Wotan, for Siegfried, for Mime, for the "reine Thor,"
for Herzeleide, for Hagen, for Gutrune, for Brynhilde, and for a dozen
others? To hear any of these themes to-day, after a generation or more
of daily familiarity with them, is like looking at a medallion of a
hundred years ago in which not a point of the outline or a single
plane of the relief has been blurred, nor a single grain of its first
sharp milling been lost. They are what they are because they combine
in the fullest measure and in impeccable proportion the two great
preservatives of all artistic work,--a luminous personal vision and
consummate style.


In the operas of his prime, every one of his characters is musically
alive, down to the smallest. Tristan is not more real to us than
Kurvenal, nor Walther more real than David, nor Brynhilde than Gutrune.
His fiery imagination saw over the whole field of the drama with
the same intensity. In this respect, as in so many others, not one
of his successors can compare with him. Strauss, for instance, has
always failed to give reality to any but the leading characters of his
operas. His Faninal in the _Rosenkavalier_ is decidedly not alive,
nor is his Chrysothemis in _Elektra_. There is not a single truly
characteristic phrase by which the musician can recall the former to
his memory in the way that he can recall David or Kurvenal or Mime;
the only piece of music by which he can recall Chrysothemis is an
atrocious rag-time waltz that he would prefer to forget. Strauss's
minor characters are known to us through the poem rather than the
music; while Wagner's minor characters are clear-cut personalities to
thousands of opera-goers who have never read the poem. And like the
true dramatist, Wagner has no moral prejudices; for the time being he
puts himself into the skin of each of his characters and looks at the
world solely through his eyes. Nowhere is the author to be detected in
the work, just as Shakespeare is nowhere to be detected in his; each
of the characters sees the world from his own standpoint, and while he
is talking we are for the moment bound to see the world precisely as
he sees it. In any one else's hands Alberich would have been a mere
conventional villain of melodrama. As Wagner draws him he is as real
as Iago,--an enemy of the light and all that live in the light, but
their enemy by reason of the very nature of his being, following his
own instincts with perfect naturalness and perfect consistency. So it
comes about that we invariably believe in Alberich and the justice of
his cause when he is speaking for himself; nowhere is he a mere foil
or relief to characters with whom we may have more moral sympathy. No
one can fail to be moved, for instance, by his appeal to Hagen in the
second Act of the _Götterdämmerung_--the genuine heart-hunger of this,
repulsive gnome, lusting for power with all the passion and all the
sincerity of his narrow soul. How vast and terrible a force of evil,
again, is Hagen, but at the same time how natural, how inevitable. Even
Mime is always right from Mime's point of view: the spectator can for
the moment no more turn against him than against Alberich.

It is one of the mysteries of human psychology, indeed, how the mind
that could be so incurably egoistic in the ordinary affairs of life,
so incapable of seeing people as they really were, and not merely as
they were in relation to the gratification or frustration of his own
desires, should be capable of such universal sympathy in his artistic
creation. The crowning wonder of Wagner's artistic psychology is his
treatment of Beckmesser. We have seen what a deadly and unreasoning
hatred he had for Hanslick, and that it was Hanslick he had in view in
the later poetical drafts of the character. Yet in the opera, though
Beckmesser is made appropriately ridiculous, he is handled almost
throughout without a touch of the malice one might have expected when
one knows that the character is meant as a satire upon a detested
enemy. I say "almost throughout," for it has always seemed to me that
there is just a shade of unnecessary harshness in Sachs's words after
Beckmesser has left the house with the manuscript of Walther's song in
his pocket:

  A heart more base I never have known,
    Ere long he'll be paid for his spite:
  Though men cast reason down from its throne
    They cannot deny it quite:
  Some day the net is spread before them:
  In it they fall, and we triumph o'er them.

Beckmesser, for all his wiles, has not hitherto struck us as being
base (_boshaft_). We laugh at him, but we love him, as we love all the
fools and rogues of pure comedy. I fancy I can detect in this passage
the last angry flash of the eye and the snap of the jaw as Wagner
thought of Hanslick. But apart from this little lapse it is wonderful
with what detachment the composer has been able to see his personal
enemy. The artist in him was too strong, too infallible, to permit of
his fouling the ideal world of his art with any breath from the bitter,
muddy world of real life. Mr. Bernard Shaw is of the opinion that
Strauss, in _Ein Heldenleben_, gives "an orchestral caricature of his
enemies which comes much closer home than Wagner's mediævally disguised
Beckmesser." I hardly think the musical world as a whole will agree
with Mr. Shaw. The "Adversaries" section of _Ein Heldenleben_ always
strikes me as a mere outburst of rather stupid bad temper: the humour
is as ill-conditioned as the psychology is crude and the expression
commonplace. We have long since ceased to bestow on it the compliment
of even as much thin laughter as we gave it when it was quite new. It
is bad art for this reason if for no other,--that the petty, snappy
hero shown in this section is inconsistent with the sort of super-man
who figures in the rest of the work; who can believe that the hero of
the noble ending, set high above earth and all its littlenesses, is the
same individual as the small bundle of wounded vanity and irritated
nerves whose reply to his critics takes the form of putting out his
tongue and "talking back" like a street urchin? Wagner's caricature is
at once deeper, truer, kindlier, more universal and more enduring. He
could be little enough in his life: in his art the gods took care that
he should never be anything but magnanimity itself.

And if there has never been a brain in music that saw so deeply into
the springs of character, there has never been a musical brain with
such a grasp of a drama as a whole. It was the mighty, tireless
synthetic engine that we meet with only some score of times, perhaps,
in the whole history of human thought,--in two or three great military
commanders, a few great architects, and half-a-dozen philosophers. It
is becoming more and more evident each year that since his death there
has been no single composer of anything like his bigness, no single
composer capable of work at once so new and so coherently wrought.
His was the last truly great mind to find expression in music. That
statement is not at all inconsistent with the admission that modern
composers have said many hundreds of things that Wagner could never
have thought of: I simply mean that the brains of Strauss and Debussy
or any two others put together would not equal Wagner's in range, in
depth, in staying power. There has not been a musician since his time
who can "think in continents" as he did. The more we study him, indeed,
the more wonderful do this sweep of vision and tenacity of hold become
to us. There is nothing in all other men's music comparable to Wagner's
feat of keeping the vast scheme of the _Ring_ in his head for more
than a quarter of a century, and actually laying it aside completely
for eleven years during that time, without relaxing his grip for a
moment upon the smallest limb of the great drama. It is in virtue of
this fiery and unceasing play of the imagination and this stupendous
synthetic power that he takes his place among the half-dozen most
comprehensive minds that have ever worked in art.

In music there are only two brains--those of Bach and Beethoven--to
compare with his in breadth of span. Say what we will about the
repetitions and the _longueurs_ of the _Ring_, there is nothing in all
music, and very little else in any other art, to compare with that
wonderful work for combined scope and concentration of design. Wagner
had in abundance the rarest of all artistic gifts,--the faculty, as a
great critic has put it, of seeing the last line in the first, of never
losing sight of the whole through all the tangle of detail. One might
almost say that no other modern brain except Napoleon's and Herbert
Spencer's has been able to keep all the minutiæ of a gigantic problem
so unfailingly within the one sphere of vision. Wagner forgot nothing
in his work: at any stage of it he could summon up at a moment's notice
not only any figure he wanted, in all its natural warmth of life, but
the very atmosphere that surrounded it, the very mood it induced in
others. To me one of the most marvellous instances of this has always
been the passage in Waltraute's recital in the third scene of the
_Götterdämmerung_, in which, in the midst of that extraordinary picture
of the frustrated Wotan brooding among the joyless gods in Valhalla,
she speaks of the god remembering his favourite and banished child:

  Then soft grew his look:
  He remembered, Brynhilde, thee!

It is a far cry at this stage from the parting of the god and his
daughter in the _Valkyrie_; but at the mere mention of it there wells
up in Wagner, after twelve years or more, all the emotion of the
wonderful union between them, and the gloomy, careworn music melts for
a bar or two into a tear-compelling tenderness. Another magnificent
illustration of this gift of his of looking before and after may be
had in the third Act of the _Meistersinger_, just after the greeting
of Sachs by the populace of Nuremberg. That reception is surely the
most overwhelming thing of its kind the earth has ever seen or heard;
it has always been a mystery to me how any merely human singer can
find a voice in which to respond to it. But it is precisely here
that we realise the subtlety of Wagner's conception of Sachs, the
profoundly imaginative way in which he saw him, and his ever-present
sense of the fundamentals of the character through apparently the most
distracting vicissitudes. Any other operatic librettist and composer,
after that million-throated outburst, would have set a strutting Sachs
on his feet, smilingly and condescendingly accepting the homage of
the multitude. Wagner makes _his_ Sachs realise nothing but his own
unworthiness and the sense of something hollow and fleeting in all this
vociferation; and there is hardly an effect in all music to compare
for subtlety, for poetry, for the profundity of its humanity, with the
instantaneous melting of the crimson and purple strains of the folk
into the quiet grey theme of Sachs' sorrow in the strings. It was the
only possible outlet from what any other sincere composer would have
instinctively felt to be an emotional impasse; and it was only Wagner
who could have found the outlet. He is great in many ways, but in no
way greater than in this faculty of keeping the burning vision of the
moment always in touch with those that have passed and those that are
to come; in all contemporary music there is not to be found a brain
with a third of his power in this respect. In the latest operas of
Strauss, strewn with fine things as they are, there is no such unity of
style, no such ardour of conception, no such unrelaxing hold upon every
character in every phase of it; and of course no purely orchestral work
can compare with even a single opera of Wagner's for combined sweep of
design and closeness of texture.


The clarity and unity of Wagner's vision are evident again in the
pictorial element that plays so large a part in his works. He was often
pictorial without intending it, and was himself probably unconscious
of many of the effects of light, colour, and atmosphere that delight
us in his music. Mr. Runciman has done well to insist upon the gift,
exhibited as early as _Die Feen_, for not only visualising a scene
or a character for us but giving it us in its natural tints. We have
happily got past the day when old-fashioned theorists used to lay it
down that "pure" music was "concerned with nothing but itself," and
that whoever made it concern itself with appearances of the visible
world was at the best no more than half a musician. As I have argued
in an earlier chapter of this book, we cannot parcel off the human
consciousness into psychology-tight bulkheads in this way. The various
faculties are always crossing over into each other's territories for a
moment, and coming back with spoils that they refuse to surrender for
the rest of their days. The theorists have always been telling us that
music cannot "paint." The composers, knowing much more about the matter
than the theorists, have always gone on painting to their heart's
content,--Bach, for example, being incorrigibly realistic. The three
minds with the most pronounced bias towards tone-painting were probably
those of Bach, Schubert (in his songs), and Wagner. But between the
musician-painters there are as many differences of vision and of manner
as there are between "pure" musicians or "pure" painters; and Wagner,
in this regard as in every other, brought certain new elements into
music, and still stands in a class by himself.

The curious thing about him is that while no other man's music gives
us such an impression of being bound up at almost every point with the
visible world in which we live and move, actual realism of the ordinary
kind is comparatively rare with him, and it is certainly the least
important factor in this impression. Now and again, of course, he does
"paint" the concrete in the realistic way made familiar to us by the
modern symphonic poem-writers. But this way is not at all a new way.
The music of Schubert and that of Bach, as has been said, is full of
realism of this order,--Schubert's spinning-wheel and Bach's serpents,
to give merely two well-known instances. To this category belong
Wagner's Rhine, and his fire music, and the whinnying of the Valkyries'
horses. But there is really not much realism of that sort in Wagner's
music. He objected to it in Berlioz and others unless there was a very
good reason for it, and never employed it himself except where it
complied with the dual condition of being thoroughly justified by the
scene and unquestionably within the scope of musical expression. Wagner
does comparatively little tone-painting of the purely realistic kind,
but of course he does it always with superb certainty, profiting by a
hundred years of evolution of technique since Bach, and by the gorgeous
instrument that the modern orchestra places at his disposal.

A subtler sort of pictorialism,--subtler because it is unpremeditated
and unconscious,--is that to which Mr. Runciman has drawn attention.
No one except Hugo Wolf has ever approached Wagner in the capacity for
bathing each scene, each character, in a light and an atmosphere of
its own. (Wolf's achievements in this line were of course on a much
smaller scale than Wagner's, but some of them are hardly less wonderful
if we take into consideration the limitations of the black-and-white
medium in which he worked.) This is surely one of the most baffling
mysteries in music,--how the same few dozen tones and colours can
be made to suggest such differently coloured aspects of the visible
world, a world, we must remember, from which music is utterly cut off
by the very nature of its medium. But whatever the explanation, the
fact is indubitable; though it is a comparatively new thing in music,
and indeed would not be possible without our modern developments of
harmony, colour and technique. It is virtually unknown in pre-Wagnerian
music. I do not mean that no previous composer ever gave a specially
appropriate tint to a particular scene. That was frequently done; but
it was done more or less by a convention, by the use of instruments
having a particular association in the minds of the audience, as when
the oboe or the cor anglais would be used for suggesting a pastoral
scene, or the horns,--as in the beautiful passage at the commencement
of the _Freischütz_ overture--for suggesting a wood. The Wagnerian and
Wolfian method to which I am now referring is something quite different
from this. The term "method," indeed, is inappropriate, for it is
impossible to reduce it to any rules or to trace the secret of its
effect, as we can in the two other general instances I have cited. It
is possible to say that the cold, bare effect of Wolf's _Das verlassene
Mägdlein_ comes from the peculiar harmonies he uses, and the pitch at
which they are used,--just as the pastoral effect of the "Scène aux
champs" in Berlioz's _Symphonie fantastique_ comes from the use of the
cor anglais. But the difference is this,--that you can standardise, as
it were, the pastoral effects of the oboe or the cor anglais, whereas
you cannot standardise the effects of _Das verlassene Mägdlein_. Even
in the hands of a fifth-rate composer the oboe may be made to suggest a
shepherd: but give Wolf's harmonies to a second-rate musician and tell
him to "paint" with them as Wolf has done, and he will soon realise
that the "painting" is really not separable from _the music as a
whole_, even though we may be able to say analytically that it is due
to one factor more than another. The truth is that the scene has been
perceived with such intensity of vision by the composer that, unknown
to him, and without any volition on his part, the vision has made its
own idiom for itself, incarnated itself in lines and colours that are
expressive of it and it alone.

It is this subtle faculty that is always unconsciously operative in
Wagner. It first comes to light in _Die Feen_. It gave parts of the
_Flying Dutchman_ their strange salt tang. It makes the peculiar white
light of _Lohengrin_. And after that opera, when Wagner had attained
full command of his powers, it did astounding things for him. There
is a different light, a different air, in each of the four dramas of
the _Ring_; and this broad difference between any two of the four is
maintained in spite of there being minor differences of colour between
the various scenes of each of them. How mysterious and infallible this
faculty is in its workings is best seen from the fact that when Wagner
took up the second half of _Siegfried_, in 1869, after having suspended
work upon it in 1857, he did what no other musician before him or since
could have done--spontaneously, unconsciously reverted to the idiom
of twelve years before. Between those two dates he had travelled an
incredibly long path as a musician; he had written _Tristan_ and the
_Meistersinger_, two works with as many differences of idiom between
themselves as there are between either of them and the _Ring_. Yet the
wonderful brain could sweep itself clear of all the new impressions
that had fed it during those twelve years, and, though the new
acquisitions of technique of course remained, he thinks himself back in
a flash to the very centre of the souls of the _Ring_ characters and
the very colour and temperature of the scenes he had parted from so
long ago.

This is the pictorial instinct of Wagner seen in its totality. In its
detail it is equally marvellous. Each scene is so bathed in its own
appropriate light and colour, and strewn with its own peculiar shadows,
that the music itself, apart from the scenic setting, is eloquent of
the place and the hour of the action. In Wagner's music, as in Wolf's,
one is conscious not only of the locality and the person and the race:
one can almost tell the time of day. Music like that at the awakening
of Brynhilde would go with nothing but a mountain height in blinding
sunlight. Hunding is not physically darker to the eye than he is to
the ear in that marvellous tuba motive that accompanies his first
entry in the _Valkyrie_. The gait of Siegfried's music is as rapid as
Mime's; but the differing stature of the two men is unmistakable from
the music alone. One might multiply instances by the hundred of effects
of realistic differentiation obtained not merely by orchestral colour,
but by something subtly inter wrought into the very texture of the
music. (The Hunding theme, for example, is "black" and sinister even
on the pianoforte.) It is just this faculty of seeing everything with
the most precise of painter's eyes, and then finding the infallibly
right musical correlative of it, that enables Wagner to achieve such
variety among pictures that are in essence the same. How many and
how different woodlands there are in his music, how many degrees of
sunlight, how many shades and qualities of darkness! The storm that
maddens Mime after the exit of Siegfried is a very different storm from
the one through which Siegmund rushes to the house of Hunding. What
other man could have written _two_ Rhine-Maidens' trios like those in
the _Rhinegold_ and the _Götterdämmerung_, each so liquid, so mobile,
so sweet with the primal innocence of the world, and therefore so alike
in many respects, yet so absolutely different?

So it comes about that without any tone-painting in the ordinary
acceptation of the word, Wagner succeeds in bringing the visible
universe before our eyes in a way and to an extent that no other
musician has done. Of tone-painting pure and simple there is
practically none in _Tristan_. Wagner is here concerned solely with
a man and woman; yet how actual he makes every scene in which they
move, and this without a single realistic stroke. In the garden
scene he uses none of the conventional musical recipes--there is no
obvious rustling of leaves, no sighing of the breeze, no purling of
the brooks,--yet how the magic of the garden and of the hour steals
through us and intoxicates us! How hot and dry the air has become in
the third Act,--as dry to us as to the parched tongue of the wounded
man alone on the castle walls, with the mid-day sun turning the blue
sea beyond to a vibrating, blinding haze. And--to me the most wonderful
of all--how sinister is the atmosphere he creates through virtually the
whole of the _Götterdämmerung_; how, though indeed it is mostly set in
the daylight, one feels that here among these Gibichungs, with gaunt,
grim Hagen for weaver of the web of fate, the very earth has lost the
radiant smile it had in Siegfried's forest and on Brynhilde's mountain
top. The sun no longer warms, the Rhine no longer laughs and glints
and gladdens. And finally, how exquisitely adapted is the melodic and
harmonic idiom of _Parsifal_,--so smoothly flowing, so full of melting
and caressing tenderness,--to that static world from which, with the
purging from it of so much human passion, so much even of the ordinary
physical energy of humanity too has gone. For this, as for everything
else, he found the right, the only musical equivalent, without seeking
for it. His visions painted themselves.


Even the best of Wagnerians to-day become a little impatient at the
occasional _longueurs_ in his operas. Not merely does he plan them on
a scale that makes it almost impossible to give some of them in their
entirety under ordinary conditions, but he sometimes lapses into a
prolixity that is regrettable or maddening according to the frame of
mind we happen to be in at the moment. Most of his prolixity is to
be accounted for by that bad text-construction to which I have drawn
attention. Music, let it be said again and again, is primarily an
emotional art, and the less it has to do with mere dramatic explanation
the better. We can never tire of Wotan pouring out his heart in loving
farewell to his child; but we can hear Wotan tell the long story of
his financial and matrimonial troubles once too often. We could listen
as often to Kundry's story of Herzeleide as to the slow movement of
the Ninth Symphony or the "Kleine Nacht-Musik" of Mozart; but wild
horses would not drag us to the theatre to listen to old Gurnemanz's
too-often-told tale of Amfortas and Klingsor, and how the sacred spear
was lost. Yet though the poet Wagner is generally answerable for the
occasional tedious quarters-of-an-hour in the operas, the musician
Wagner is not wholly free from blame. He never managed to get quite rid
of the slow-footedness that was characteristic of his music from the
first; to the very end he sometimes takes rather longer to drive his
points home than is absolutely necessary; and in these more rapid and
impatient days that goes against him sorely. He is often reproached
with rhythmical monotony. There is some truth in the charge, which as
a whole he himself would probably not have taken the trouble to repel.
There is a passage in one of his letters in which he recognises that
his music is not so rhythmical as it might be, but he holds that some
lack of rhythmical variety is inseparable from an ideal of dramatic
music such as his. As I have attempted to show, he relied much more on
harmonic effect than on rhythm, the latter being more peculiarly the
instrument of the symphonic composer, while harmonic change is more
suited to depict the varying aspects of a dramatic action. But against
the comparative regularity of his rhythms is to be set his sense of
style. He had an intuitive knowledge of how and when to break up a
melodic line that was in danger of becoming too uniform. One of the
simplest illustrations of this may be seen in the _Parsifal_ Prelude
(vocal score, p. 5, lines 1 and 2); just at the moment when we are
beginning to suspect that the theme of "Faith" has been repeated quite
often enough and to dread the further repetition that has already got
under weigh, he alters the signature from 6/4 to 9/4, and gives a new
rhetorical turn to the familiar melody. In Wotan's _Abschied_, again,
we are unconscious of the uniformity of the rhythm in phrase after
phrase, so consummate is the art with which the interest is always
being transferred from one part of the combined vocal and orchestral
tissue to another, and so beautifully planned is not only each section
in itself but what may be called the exposition and development and
cadence of the whole scene. Wagner could afford to dispense with the
smaller rhythmical manœuvring of individual musical phrases; he had the
much greater faculty of endowing long scenes and even whole operas with
a vast dramatic rhythm of their own. Hundreds of smaller composers can
give this page or that of their music a rhythmic piquancy that Wagner
could never have attained on the same small scale; but not one of them
could achieve such a rhythm as that of the second Act of _Tristan_,
with its slow, steady, imperceptible transition from night and its
rapture to daylight and its cruel disillusioning glare.

Wagner's prolixity, again, is not the flabby dulness of a mind
that is merely maundering on and on from sheer incompetence to get
to grips with the essentials of an emotion, but the over-copiousness
of an inexhaustibly rich brain. And if this quality of his has its
occasional bad side, we do well to remember that it is accountable
also for some of his most gigantic achievements in expression. Were
it not for the endless inventive power and the never-failing sense of
beauty in it, a work like _Tristan_, that never pauses till the last
drop of bitter-sweet juice has been squeezed out of the theme, would
be hardly bearable. Like Bach, Wagner could never conceive any emotion
without intensifying it to the utmost. The barest hint of joy in one
of Bach's texts will set him carolling like a lark; the barest hint of
mortality will bedim his music with all the tears of all the universe
for its dead. Wagner has the same insatiable hunger for expression.
In _Tristan_ in particular every emotion is developed to its furthest
limit of poignancy. The passion of love becomes almost delirium; when
Tristan, in the third Act, sings of the thirst caused by his wound, our
very mouths, our very bones, seem dried as if by some burning sirocco
blowing from the desert; when the sick man praises Kurvenal for his
devotion it is a cosmic pæan to friendship that he sings. In hundreds
of other cases it is not by elaboration of speech that he makes his
overwhelming effect, but by a sort of volcanic concentration. Mingled
rage and grief and despair have never found such colossal expression
anywhere, in any art, as in those few bars given to the frustrated and
maddened Wotan after Fricka has foiled his plan for the protection of
Siegmund in the fight (the _Valkyrie_, vocal score, pp. 118, 119).
Pathos will never find more touching accents than those of Brynhilde
in her last great scene with Wotan (_Valkyrie_, pp. 292, 293); few
things in all music convey such a sense of tears as the strange salt
tones of the oboe and cor anglais here. For concentrated fury there
is nothing to compare with the outburst of the bound and impotent
Alberich as he dismisses the Nibelungs who have witnessed his shame
(the _Rhinegold_, pp. 199-201); technically this is one of the most
effective crescendi in all Wagner's works. His imagination always takes
fire at a single touch, a single suggestion, and there is no staying
it until the fire has burnt itself completely out. In the _Siegfried
Idyl_ he has only to think of the child whose coming meant so much to
him, and all the fountains of human tenderness are unsealed; this is
not an individual father musing over his child's cradle, but all nature
crooning a song of love for its little ones. It is this intensification
of every emotion he has to express that makes each of his characters,
like Shakespeare's, seem the epitome of that particular phase of human
nature. Tristan and Isolde are the world's most passionate and most
tragic lovers: the opera is the very quintessence of the egoism of
sexual love. So with a score of other characters. The last word--for
our own day at any rate--in god-like majesty has been uttered in Wotan;
the last word of womanly gentleness and sweetness in Eva and Gutrune;
the last word of tragic womanhood in Sieglinde; the last word of superb
womanhood in Brynhilde; the last word of mellow and kindly middle
age in Hans Sachs; the last word of scheming feebleness in Mime; the
last word of elemental savagery in the Valkyries; the last word of
youthful irresponsibility in the _Meistersinger_ apprentices; the last
word of human grimness in Hagen; the last word of dog-like devotion
in Kurvenal. The character-drawing is endless in its variety and
infallible in its touch.


_Parsifal_ stands in a class apart from all the other works of
Wagner. Its characterisation is not individual but symbolic; Amfortas
and Parsifal and Kundry and Klingsor are not men and women whom we
might meet any day in the flesh, but simply types of human aspiration
or failure. We have outgrown the mental world of the work; the
religious symbolism of it, _quâ_ religious symbolism, leaves many of
us unimpressed; yet the basic emotional stuff of it all is enduring,
and we must not allow ourselves to be set against the opera because
the forms in which Wagner has embodied a durable philosophy are
themselves of a time instead of all time. Evidently the symphonist
in him was at this stage overpowering the dramatist. The symphonist
can safely deal with types or abstractions; the dramatist can only
deal with individuals. Wagner has made the blunder of trying to
translate the most delicate, the most esoteric perceptions into the
language of the theatre, of setting symbols upon the stage. The
force of a poetic symbol lies wholly in the imagination: as soon as
a dramatist or a painter tries to set it visibly before us, the free
flight of the imagination is curbed by the physical obviousness, the
physical limitations, of the figure that is put before the eye; the
universal cannot be perceived for the particular. Wagner's root idea
in _Parsifal_ was to show us, in Kundry, a living symbol of the dual
nature of woman, half-angel and half-beast, in turns sensual and
repentant, the destroyer and the saviour of man. But it is precisely
symbols of this kind, cutting down to the obscurest depths of human
psychology, that cannot retain their vast suggestiveness after they
have been narrowed down to the personality of a single actor. We no
longer see the eternal and infernal womanly; it is only a German
prima-donna, stout of build and heavy of movement, that we see upon
the stage. So with Parsifal himself. Mr. Huneker has called him "that
formidable imbecile." So might we style St. Francis of Assisi, or
the Buddha, or any other of the simple wise ones of the world, if we
persist in looking at them through unsympathetic and unimaginative
eyes. The conception of Parsifal is fine enough in itself--an unstained
soul made divinely wise by its very simplicity, its love, its pity.
But a character of this kind should be left to the imagination, or to
music to suggest to the imagination: it is impossible to realise it
behind the footlights in the person of an actor. A Parsifal is a figure
for the quiet of one's chamber, not for a crowded theatre lying the
other side of the box office. Hundreds of people must have felt, as
I have done for twenty years, that a good deal of _Parsifal_ affects
us more deeply at home than it ever does in the theatre, the loss
of the orchestral colour being more than made up for by the gain in
imaginative intensity. And the difficulty of making such a character
vital and credible upon the stage is increased when he is made the
centre of a quasi-religious ritual that has long ceased to have a
meaning for many people.

But in spite of it all, _Parsifal_ is a masterpiece. The story
of it seems to arouse a violent antipathy in some people, who
apparently regard it as an immoral work. The pleasant little game of
_Parsifal_-baiting began with Nietzsche, who said that he despised
everyone who did not regard the opera as an outrage on morals.

Like most philosophers, Nietzsche had the charming failing of
imagining that the only right way for the world to go was his way.
He was singularly taken with that notion of his of the super-man--a
mythical and unidentifiable mammal about which we have never been able
to get any definite information, either from Nietzsche or from any of
his disciples. Now Nietzsche found this ideal of his in Siegfried,
and he loathed _Parsifal_ because it preached the negation of life,
the denial of the Will to Power. Later writers, like Mr. Runciman and
Mr. Huneker, who are not, I think, Nietzscheans, agree with him in
seeing something peculiarly weak in the philosophy--to call it by that
name--of _Parsifal_. They see in the opera not merely moral weakness
but moral nastiness. I remember one of the simpler adherents of this
theory telling me, in awe-stricken tones, that this "sexless" opera was
the resort of a set of men who were mixed up in a German scandal of a
few years ago that sent its unwholesome odour through the civilised
world: and he obviously thought that this discredited Wagner's
_Parsifal_, whereas it struck me as being very like asking us to give
up having breakfast because Dr. Crippen and Charles Peace liked bacon
and eggs.

Nor can any moral flabbiness, I think, be discovered in _Parsifal_
except by people who make the mistake of thinking that the
"philosophy" of any musical work matters very much. Mr. Runciman
detests Parsifal and calls him a perfect idiot--that epithet being Mr.
Runciman's playful intensification of Wagner's "pure [i.e. stainless]
fool"--"fool" being unfortunately the only monosyllable we have in
English for the translation of "Thor." But even supposing Parsifal
were an idiot--which I dispute--would it greatly matter? Mr. Runciman
has launched his full battery against the Siegfried of Wagner's
poem--a swaggering, quarrelsome, ungrateful young noodle; but, as Mr.
Runciman's own eloquent description of the opera shows, the Siegfried
of Wagner's music is a vastly more interesting and sympathetic person
than the Siegfried of Wagner's verse. Similarly, even if I could think,
when reading the libretto, that Parsifal is an idiot, I could never
think so when listening to the music. The truth is that a good many
of Wagner's characters and dramatic motives seem rather foolish to us
nowadays. For my part I do not know or care whether or how Parsifal is
to "redeem" the world. The word redemption has no meaning for me in the
sense in which Wagner and the theologians use it. I can believe that
redemption is a concrete reality in the pawnbroking business; but if
any one tells me that men's souls are to be bought and sold, or lost
and found again, without any volition of their own, I can only say
that all this conveys about as much to my intelligence as talk about a
quadrilateral triangle would do. But to appreciate a work of art it is
not in the least necessary to subscribe to its author's philosophical
or religious opinions; a rationalist can be as deeply thrilled by the
_Matthew Passion_ as any Christian can be. The "thesis" of a work of
art is the one thing in it that does not concern us as artists. Who
is to decide between rival philosophies or sociologies? Personally I
believe that one philosophy is just as good as another, and worse,
as the Irishman would say; but if an artist chooses to set forward
a character as the embodiment of some philosophy that possesses him
at the moment, I am willing to listen to him so long as he can talk
interestingly about it, without my wishing either to subscribe to
the philosophy or to dissent from it. Mr. Runciman thinks there is
something frightful in the thesis--let us call it that--of _Parsifal_.
I do not see anything frightful in it. I do not believe in it as the
only rule of life; but then I do not believe--in _that_ sense--in
Senta's "redemption" of the Dutchman, or Elisabeth's "redemption"
of Tannhäuser, or that Lohengrin was right in withholding his name
from Elsa and then going off in a huff when she asked for it. But all
these fantastic motives, in which I have no belief, no more affect
my appreciation of the operas than my disbelief in ghosts affects my
appreciation of _Hamlet_. I do not want any of my friends to be like
Parsifal, Amfortas, or Klingsor--especially Klingsor: but neither do I
want any of them to be like Lohengrin or Elsa or Senta or the Flying
Dutchman. A real world run on the lines of _Parsifal_ would probably
drive normal men mad in a month: but then who could live in a world
in which Senta-sentimental maidens insisted on jumping into the sea
to "redeem" master mariners, taking no account of the able seamen and
the stokers and the stewards, who, from anything I can gather to the
contrary in the text of the _Flying Dutchman_, all go to Davy Jones's
locker in a state of pure damnation what time the captain and the girl
ascend to glory? No, we had better leave alone the question of what
the world would be like if we were to try to model it on _Parsifal_.
We know very well that nothing of the sort will ever happen, just as
we know that Little Red Riding Hood's wolf will not gobble up little
Phyllis on her way to the High School next week, or the door of the
safe fly open when the burglar says "Sesame." These be but fairy tales.
We can still sleep in our beds o' nights: and we can still go to
_Parsifal_ without either having our morals corrupted or feeling that
we are encouraging race suicide.

I listen to _Parsifal_, then--and I imagine most other people do the
same--as I would to any other outpouring of a great man's spirit on
a world of ideas that fascinated him for the moment, and without any
more impulse to translate it all into terms of reality than when I am
listening to the _Flying Dutchman_ or _Lohengrin_. The opera is in
no sense the work of an exhausted old man. It has been alleged that
the plot is "the work of Wagner's tired-out old age." But _Parsifal_
was sketched as early as 1857, worked out in detail in 1864 (when
Wagner was only fifty-one), and turned into verse in 1877. Further,
the central ideas of the drama are to be found both in the sketches
of _Jesus of Nazareth_ (1848) and _The Victors_ (1856); while in 1855
it was Wagner's intention to bring Parsifal on the stage in the final
scene of _Tristan_, opposing him, as a symbol of renunciation, to
Tristan as a symbol of passion. At almost any time of Wagner's life,
indeed, he might have written a _Parsifal_. All his life through he
fluctuated between intense eroticism and an equally intense revulsion
from the erotic. One may say, in truth, that such a man _had_ to write
a _Parsifal_ before he died. "Il est à remarquer, mon fils," says the
excellent Abbé Coignard in Anatole France's _La Rôtisserie de la Reine
Pédauque_, "que les plus grands saints sont des pénitents, et, comme
le repentir se proportionne à la faute, c'est dans les plus grands
pêcheurs que se trouve l'étoffe des plus grands saints. La matière
première de la sainteté est la concupiscence, l'incontinence, toutes
les impuretés de la chair et de l'esprit. Il importe seulement, après
avoir amassé cette matière, de la travailler selon l'art théologique
et de la modeler, pour ainsi dire, en figure de pénitence, ce qui est
l'affaire de quelques années, de quelques jours et parfois d'un seul
instant, comme il se voit dans le cas de la contrition parfaite."

In the great book of sex there are many chapters, and _Parsifal_ is
simply the last of them for some people. For others it is a chapter
that they turn to again and again in moments of revulsion from the
illusions of passion. Wagner's insight was clear enough: the Parsifals
are no more denials of the Life-Force than the Tristans are; they are
simply another phase of the Life-Force. When we disengage the central
idea of _Parsifal_ from its rather unskilful operatic setting, the work
is simply an artist's dream of an ideally innocent world, purged of the
lust, the hatred, the cruelty that deface the world we live and groan
in. This is the world the _music_ paints for us--

  "Summers of the snakeless meadow, unlaborious earth and oarless sea";

and the cumbrous, old-fashioned stage framework upon which the drama
is constructed means no more to me than a clumsily-drafted programme to
a great symphonic poem,--it detracts no more from my musical enjoyment
than that would do. The music itself, apart from a few commonplaces
in the first Act, is marvellous. It is indeed an old man's music,
but only in the sense that it opens windows for us upon regions of
the soul to which only the old and emotionally wise have access.
Swinburne somewhere speaks of Blake's face having the look of being
lit up from the inside. I see a similar luminous transfiguration in
the later portraits of Wagner[410]--they have the look of a man who
has penetrated to the great underlying simplicities of things; and I
find in the music of _Parsifal_ the same subtle, searching simplicity,
the same almost unearthly illumination. Nowhere does the great master
seem to me more truly powerful than in these quiet strains, whose
suggestiveness, as is the case with the last Italian songs of Hugo
Wolf, is inexplicably out of proportion to the quiet economy of their
tissue. To the last the wonderful brain kept  growing. He makes a
new musical idiom, a new texture, for _Parsifal_ as he had done for
every other of his works; above all a harmonic language of incomparable
subtlety, a gliding, melting chromaticism that searches us through and
through. It is from this novel chromaticism--a very different one from
that of _Tristan_--that the harmony of César Franck has come, and all
the modern harmony that builds upon Franck.

             [Illustration: WAGNER: THE LAST PHOTOGRAPH.]


Wagner saw his own work as a transmutation and amplification of the
speech of Beethoven--infinitely changeful, but controlled in every bar
by a never-sleeping sense of the organic unity of the whole; but it is
clear to us now that many features in his work derive from Bach, or
are a re-discovery of certain principles of form that Bach affected.
It is from Bach, rather than from Beethoven, that such things as the
_Tristan_ Prelude come, with their incessant evolution of new life out
of a single thematic germ, and their adoption of a conical form of
slow ascent to a climax and descent from it, in place of the square
symphonic form of return and re-start. In Bach, again, will be found
the basis both of Wagner's realism and of the Wagnerian system of
allusive "motives." The towering greatness of Wagner is nowhere more
strikingly shown than in the failure of all his successors to handle
his form--or, indeed, any other--with anything like the same power,
freedom and consistency; both the opera and symphonic music are waiting
for someone big enough to build afresh upon the foundations Wagner has
laid, and with the materials he has left. At present the most that any
of his successors can do is to fit a few of the more manageable of the
stones together, with a deplorable quantity of waste and confusion all
around and in between. _Salome_ and the _Rosenkavalier_ may be taken as
instructive examples. There is not a living man big enough to occupy
more than a room or two at a time of the vast house that Wagner reared
about him. It is true that in certain details--in the furnishing and
decoration of one or two of the rooms, let us say--modern music has
gone beyond him. Strauss's orchestration has an eloquence--not merely
a colour, but a soul and a voice--of which Wagner probably never
suspected the possibility. Strauss, Wolf, and others have shaken off
the rhythmic fetters that sometimes hampered the movement both of
Wagner's poetry and of his music. Wolf and Strauss have shown us the
possibilities of what may be called a prose style in music--a more
continuous and less formal style than that of verse, with the rhythmic
joints and pivots more skilfully concealed. Superb examples of it are
to be found in the later scene between Octavian and the Princess in
the first Act of the _Rosenkavalier_, and in the great trio in the
third Act. Wagner, it is safe to say, would have flatly pronounced it
impossible to make rhythmic music of a piece of frank prose like the
latter, in which there is not a suspicion of a pretext for any of the
staple rhythmic formulas.

But though the Wagnerian apparatus has been improved upon at these
and other points--Strauss, for example, has subtilised the employment
of the leit-motive--no one has been great enough to manipulate the
apparatus as a whole with anything like Wagner's power, scope and
freedom, and opera is still waiting for its new redeemer. Even an
anti-Wagnerian work like _Pelleas and Melisande_ is, in a sense, a
tribute to the Titan: the very sharpness and thoroughness of its
recoil from everything that hints at Wagner is an admission of the
impossibility of continuing his work on its own lines. And after all,
_Pelleas and Melisande_ is only a beautiful and wonderful _tour de
force_--a sort of glorified musical mule, without pride of ancestry
or hope of posterity. Its idiom is too small for the expression of
great things; we might as well try to build a city out of nothing but
mother-of-pearl and opals.

Like Bach and like Beethoven, Wagner closes a period, and exhausts a
form. And as with Bach and Beethoven to-day, it is indirectly rather
than directly that his best influence is being exerted; there is no
room for imitation of him, but his speech and his vision are eternal
stimuli to our imaginations. It is inevitable that in some quarters a
reaction should have set in against his music and his influence. He has
been too overpowering a force. His music has been performed with such
fatal frequency that the merest amateur can hardly remain unconscious
of the weak points in it; and for a whole generation he made all but
the very strongest minds among composers a mere shadow and echo of
himself. Music, as was only to be expected, has now gone beyond him in
certain respects, and the erstwhile anarch is now one of the greatest
of the forces that conservatism claims for its own. The French and some
of the Russians have revolted against what is less a Wagnerian than a
German domination of all European music. A number of our very newest
young men are delightfully contemptuous of him: every puny whipster now
raises his little hand to deal the reeling colossus another blow. But
the colossus will easily right himself. There are moments when one is
tempted to say that he and Bach and Beethoven have expressed between
them almost all that is essentially original and great in the music of
the last two centuries. When a composer is so mighty of body as this,
he can well afford to lose a drop or two of blood on his pilgrimage
through the ages.

"In music, as in nature," says Vincent d'Indy, "there are mountains
and valleys; there are artists of genius who raise their art to such
heights that the herd of second-rank creators, unable to breathe in
these altitudes, is forced to descend again to more temperate levels
(which, however, are often sown with charming flowers), until the
eruption of a new genius heaves up a new mountain peak.

"Such were Bach, Haydn, Beethoven and César Franck in the symphonic
order; and in the dramatic order, Palestrina, Monteverdi, Rameau, Gluck
and Wagner. At the present moment we are descending the slope created
by the Wagnerian upheaval, and we are hastening gently towards the
hopeful presage of a new summit. But all our drama--even that of the
composers who most energetically deny the imputation--comes from the
spring which rises at the feet of the titanic Wagner.

"Richard Wagner still casts his great shadow over all our
musico-dramatic production. But it is certain that the latent work that
is going on in the souls of creative artists is to favour the ascent
towards a distant height, of which we cannot yet foresee either the
glaciers or the precipices."

His work, in truth, will flower afresh some day in some great
composer who will sum up in himself, as Wagner did, all the finest
impulses of the music of his day,--who will have absorbed the
essential, durable part of the spirit of his predecessors, and who will
have at his command an idiom, a vocabulary and a technique competent
to express every variety of human emotion. But we may hazard the
conjecture that the new flowering will be in instrumental music rather
than in the opera. It seems to be a law of musical evolution that at
the end of a period of crisis the seminal force that has exhausted
itself in one _genre_ passes over to, and finds a new life in, a
wholly different _genre_. Beethoven left no real successors in the
classical symphony,--for great as Schumann and Brahms are, they are in
this field no more than epigones of Beethoven. It is in the Wagnerian
opera that the new expressive, half-poetic power of Beethoven's music
finds its further logical development. All the opera writers that have
followed in Wagner's tracks--Strauss included--are to Wagner simply
what Brahms was to Beethoven. As Beethoven fertilised not the symphony
but the music-drama, so Wagner has fertilised not the music-drama
but poetic instrumental music,--the innumerable symphonic poems and
programme symphonies of the last fifty years. The idea of the new form
may have been Liszt's as much as Wagner's, or even more; but Liszt's
music was not rich enough to do the full work of fertilisation. Now,
apparently, we are nearing the end of a period of transition. Already
there are signs that the formal programme was little more than a crutch
for poetic music in the days of its hesitating growth. Composers
are beginning to master the art of suggesting the dramatic inner
conflicts of the soul without needing to rely on any outer apparatus
of suggestion. We are probably developing towards a form of symphonic
music that shall be to the art of its own day what the Beethoven
symphony of the middle period was to the art of his time,--a musical
drama-without-words, and perfectly lucid without words. When the new
instrumental music has assimilated all the finest spirit and mastered
the full harmonic and rhythmic vocabulary and the best technique of the
new day, some future Wagner will perhaps turn the mighty stream into a
fresh dramatic channel, the nature of which it is almost impossible to
anticipate. So the great series of cross-cycles will no doubt go on and
on, into a day when dramatic music shall no more resemble Wagner's than
Wagner's music resembles that of Palestrina. In that distant day he may
be no more to mankind than Monteverdi is to us; but music will still
be something different from what it would have been had he never been
born; and of only some half-dozen composers in the whole history of the
art can that be said.


[396] Three years before this Berlioz had written _Eight Scenes from
Goethe's Faust_--the germ of his _Damnation of Faust_.

[397] All references to the operas are to the new editions of Breitkopf
and Härtel.

[398] Glasenapp, vi. 187.

[399] The opera should be studied in Breitkopf and Härtel's new
edition. Former editions have been printed from the curtailed score
that was generally used for performances. The Breitkopf edition
reproduces the original manuscript.

[400] In _Mein Leben_ he speaks of it being in five acts, but in the
form in which we have it, it has only four.

[401] Accounts of most of these experiments will be found in _Mein
Leben_ and elsewhere. The libretti and sketches are printed in the new
eleventh volume of the _G.S._

[402] _Mein Leben_, p. 220. Wagner always intended that the _Flying
Dutchman_ should be given in one Act. It was played in this way for the
first time at Bayreuth in 1901. The necessary skips in the ordinary
three-act score are indicated in Breitkopf's edition, pp. 76 and 180.

[403] The overture has been altered to correspond with the altered
ending of the opera. Our concert audiences need to remember that the
electrifying effect of this wood-wind entry in the overture is an
after-thought on Wagner's part. At some time or other he added to the
score the following stage directions at the point in the final scene
where the passage just quoted enters: "A dazzling glory illumines the
group in the background; Senta raises the Dutchman, presses him to her
breast, and points him towards heaven with hand and glance." This note
is given in the Fürstner score, but not in that of Breitkopf and Härtel.

[404] _Eine Mittheilung an meine Freunde_, in _G.S._, iv. 266.

[405] _Ibid._, iv. 272.

[406] _Eine Mittheilung an meine Freunde_, in _G.S._, iv. 295, 297,
298, 301, 302.

[407] _Ibid._, iv. 328.

[408] It is possible, of course, for any Wagnerian commentator to give
another reason for the introduction of the motive here; but the mere
fact that more than one explanation can be given is itself a proof that
Wagner has miscalculated.

[409] In the _Götterdämmerung_ Wagner sends only one Valkyrie,

[410] The anti-Wagnerians take a malicious delight in pointing to the
old-age portrait of Wagner by Renoir (it is reproduced in Emil Ludwig's
recent diatribe _Wagner, oder die Entzauberten_). This shows us a
rather flabby and senile face, with a pronounced relaxation of the
mouth. But Renoir was an impressionist, and inclined to take the usual
impressionist's liberty with his subject. Moreover, the portrait is
the product of no more than half-an-hour's sitting, given much against
Wagner's will one afternoon after he had tired himself with talking
to this new visitor, who saw him on that occasion for the first and,
I think, the last time in his life. To ask us to believe that this
slap-dash thing is the only veracious portrait of Wagner is making too
great a demand on our credulity.

                              APPENDIX A

                      THE RACIAL ORIGIN OF WAGNER

Wagner's Autobiography has thrown a good deal of light on certain
obscure episodes in his career, but it has signally failed to satisfy
the world's curiosity on perhaps the most interesting point of all--the
question as to who was Wagner's father. Was it the Leipzig police
actuary, Karl Friedrich Wilhelm Wagner, or the actor, painter, poet,
singer, dramatist and what not, Ludwig Heinrich Christian Geyer, who
married Frau Wagner some nine months after the decease of her first
husband? Under normal circumstances the question would have little or
no interest except for the sort of people who dearly love a scandal,
even if it be a century and a quarter old. What gives the question
its piquancy to-day is the fact that Geyer was a Jew--or at least has
always been held to have been one. Now Wagner hated Jews all his life
with an insensate hatred, and to have it proved that the composer
himself was a Jew on his father's side would give a malicious pleasure
to many people to whom Wagner's whole character is a trifle repugnant.
Moreover Wagner was always insisting on the specially German quality
of his life's work; and again it would be amusing if it should turn
out that the greatest "national" art-work of modern Germany was the
creation of a Jew. As might be expected, those who have a bone to pick
with Wagner on any subject under the sun are delighted to point at this
supposed bar-sinister in his escutcheon. Wagner did not like Brahms,
and so he accused poor Johannes of being a Jew. It was therefore
natural that the out-and-out Brahms partisans should hail with glee
any opportunity of making a retort in kind upon Wagner. This is
attempted by Sir Charles Stanford in a preface to a volume of Brahms's
compositions recently issued by Messrs. T. C. & E. C. Jack. He affirms
afresh--what we all knew quite well--that Brahms was of the purest
Teutonic blood; and, in his opinion, "the humour of the situation
reaches its climax when it is discovered that the very man who attacked
any music or musician of Jewish connection was himself tarred with the
brush with which he had been endeavouring to orientalise his blue-eyed,
fair-haired, and high-instepped German contemporary." So confident,
it will be seen, is this statement of the Hebraic origin of Wagner
that any plain man, unversed in these matters, who happens to read
Sir Charles Stanford's preface, will naturally assume that Wagner's
Hebraism is as universally admitted as the death of Queen Anne. Yet Sir
Charles offers no evidence as to Wagner being a Jew; he simply tells us
that the fact has been "discovered."

                    [Illustration: LUDWIG GEYER.]

Where and when, we may ask, was this "discovery" made? We know that
there has long been tittle-tattle current to the effect that Wagner's
real father was not the police official whose name he bears, but the
brilliant actor, musician, painter and dramatist, who came to the
rescue of Wagner's mother in the early days of her widowhood, and
married her some nine months afterwards. For the last generation or
two a certain number of people have been going about the world shaking
their heads mysteriously and darkly hinting at what they could tell
if their lips were not sealed. The root of the legend is a notorious
remark of Nietzsche's. That philosopher had seen one of the privately
printed copies of the Autobiography about 1870, and his query in the
postscript to _Der Fall Wagner_, "was Wagner a German at all?" and his
point-blank statement that "his father was an actor of the name of
Geyer," were supposed to have their justification in the Autobiography.
It was confidently asserted that when _that_ appeared the truth would
be made known to all the world in Wagner's own confession. Well, the
Autobiography _has_ appeared, and what Wagner says there is that
Friedrich Wagner was his father. There is not the shadow of a hint in
the book that Geyer was anything more than a friend of the family.
(Mr. James Huneker, who discusses the subject in an essay in his
book _The Pathos of Distance_ (1913) thinks he sees such a hint, and
a pretty broad one, in one passage that he quotes; but the wish, I
imagine, is father to the thought: few people would care to put the
construction upon it that he does.) Mr. Huneker as good as asserts
that the commencement of the Autobiography has been tampered with. The
reputation of Villa Wahnfried in editorial matters is certainly not
of the best; but after the express assurance that has been given the
world that the Autobiography has been printed just as Wagner left it,
something more than mere suspicion is required to bolster up a charge
of such atrocious bad faith. Mr. Huneker tells us that "the late Felix
Mottl [the conductor], in the presence of several well-known musical
critics of New York City, declared in 1904 that he had read the above
statement" (_i.e._ "I am the son of Ludwig Geyer"). That is a little
staggering: but again one prefers to think that Mottl or someone else
was mistaken, rather than that Cosima and Siegfried Wagner have been
guilty of an incredible piece of literary dishonesty. As for Mr.
Huneker's further "fact"--that there are portraits of Wagner's mother
and of Geyer at Wahnfried, and none of Friedrich Wagner--that is easily
accounted for; no portrait of the latter has ever been traced, with
the exception of a small pastel, while Geyer was an artist and fond of
painting himself.

Sir Charles Stanford attempts to support his very dubious thesis
by some show of musical argument. He alleges that the most marked
characteristic in such little Jewish music as still exists is the
continual repetition of short phrases--a method, he says, which
Mendelssohn "uses to the verge of monotony" in his later works, and
which is visible again in Wagner's employment of leading motives.
Note, to begin with, the restriction of the use of this method to
Mendelssohn's _later_ works. Being a Jew, Mendelssohn surely would
have betrayed this characteristic in the work of his whole life, if
it really be a characteristic rooted in the Hebrew nature. It looks
as though the ingenuous argument were that there is no Jew like an
old Jew. But it is of even less applicability to Wagner than to
Mendelssohn. It is true that in the _Ring_ Wagner worked to a great
extent upon short leading motives; but the employment of these was
due to the special problems of structure which he was then engaged in
working out. Sir Charles Stanford, with his extensive knowledge of
Wagner's music, must know that the short phrase is not a characteristic
of Wagner's style as a whole. The phrases in _Rienzi_, the _Flying
Dutchman_, _Tannhäuser_, _Lohengrin_, the youthful Symphony, the _Faust
Overture_, and half-a-dozen other works, are as long-breathed as any of
Brahms's. Moreover Sir Charles Stanford admits that in at least half of
his work Wagner was a typical Teuton. He speaks of Brahms's melodies
as being "long, developed, diatonic, and replete with a quality which
may, for lack of a better term, be called 'swing.'" We get precisely
the same qualities in the _Meistersinger_. Sir Charles Stanford can
hardly be serious when he lays it down that Wagner was a typical Teuton
when he wrote the _Meistersinger_, and a typical Jew when he wrote the
_Ring_. But further, _is_ the short thematic phrase a characteristic
of the Hebrew composer? Will Sir Charles be good enough to illustrate
this point for us from the work of Jewish composers like Mabler and Max
Bruch? If, indeed, we are to attribute Hebraic ancestry to a composer
on the strength merely or mainly of a certain shortness of melodic
breath, there are dozens of composers who would have difficulty in
repelling the imputation. Was there ever a composer who habitually
worked upon such short phrases as Grieg, for example? Is there anything
to equal for brevity some of the themes with which Beethoven worked
such wonders? And what precisely _is_ a short phrase? Will some one
provide us with a sort of inch-rule and table of measurements, by the
application of which we shall be able to say precisely where musical
Judaism ends and Gentilism begins?

These are surely very flimsy foundations on which to erect a theory
that Wagner was a Jew. It is, of course, not impossible: nothing is
impossible in this world. One of the rumours afloat is that Wagner
himself, in private, spoke of Geyer as being his father. Again proof
or disproof is impossible; though Mrs. Burrell gives a facsimile
of a letter from Wagner of the 23rd October 1872 (sending Feustel
a certificate of baptism), in which he goes out of his way to call
himself "Polizei-Amts-Actuarius-Sohn" (Police-actuary's son).

Another branch of the argument is that Wagner was typically Jewish
in appearance. I question whether that theory would ever have gained
currency except for the back-stairs gossip with regard to his supposed
paternity. It has long been a puzzle to the present writer to discover
what there is particularly Jewish in Wagner's face. It is true that
his nose was large and to some extent aquiline; but it is certainly
not the nose that we are accustomed to regard as typically Jewish.
The portraits of Geyer that we possess do not show a physiognomy that
anybody would call peculiarly Hebraic. On the other hand, Wagner's
mother had a nose not only very prominent and curved like Wagner's, but
suggesting a Jewish origin far more than either his or Geyer's. For
the rest there is nothing whatever in Wagner's face that could lead
anyone to think he was a Jew. Let us take Sir Charles Stanford's own
test. He remarks that "no one who had known Brahms, especially in his
later years, when the Jewish type, if it exists in the blood, is most
accentuated, could fail to see that in face, in complexion, in hair and
in gait he was a pure Teuton, without a trace of Eastern relationship
or characteristics." Let us admit, for the sake of argument, that it
is in a man's later years that Jewish characteristics in the blood
show themselves most markedly in the face. Now Wagner, so far from
looking more Jewish in his maturity and old age, looked decidedly less
Jewish. In some of the later full-faced portraits, indeed, the face
bears an extraordinary resemblance to that of Mr. Asquith. Some people
would call it a very English face. And what of the other members of
the Wagner family? We have portraits of his uncle Adolf (1774-1835)
and his brother Albert (the latter was born fourteen years before
Wagner, and long before Geyer comes into the story). But these faces
are unmistakably of the same general cast as Wagner's: that of Albert,
indeed, is almost exactly the face of Wagner, but without the genius.
The bust of Adolf Wagner shows a nose, forehead, and other features
very like those of Richard. The chin is not so pronounced, but the two
faces are incontestably of the same type. According to Frau Rose, the
daughter of Carl Friedrich Wagner's friend, Gustav Zocher, Wagner's
father "was small and slightly crooked, but had a fine face." "I
have often thought," says Mrs. Burrell, to whom Frau Rose made this
communication, "in looking at Wagner, that he had a narrow escape of
deformity; he was not in the least deformed, yet the immense head was
poised on the shoulders at the angle peculiar to hunchbacks." The
mother also was tiny and eccentric, with "an electric disposition." No
judge and jury would say on this evidence that there was any reason
whatever to doubt the German paternity of Wagner and assume the Jewish.

There are one or two facts, however, that must be taken into
consideration on the other side. Why should Geyer, a struggling artist,
be so willing to assume the burden of the widow Wagner and her seven
young children? A man of the highest character and the warmest heart
he certainly was: are these sufficient explanation of his chivalrous
conduct? We have letters of his to Frau Wagner during the weeks that
immediately followed the husband's death. The tone of them is warm, but
friendly and sympathetic rather than loving. He generally addresses
her simply as "Friend," or "Dear Friend." His goodness of heart is
shown by such remarks as that _à propos_ of the recovery of the little
Albert from illness: "I have indeed felt sincerely with you in your
terrible experience, for if Albert were my own son he could not be
nearer to my heart." There is not a line in the letters that shows
any more affection for Richard than for Albert; the latter, indeed,
is mentioned the more frequently. Yet some suspicion clusters round a
fact that cannot be discovered from the ordinary biographies of Wagner.
The date of the marriage of Johanna Wagner and Geyer is not generally
known; it cannot be found, for example, in Glasenapp's big official
life of Wagner; while in other biographies the date is variously given
as from one month to two or three years after Carl Friedrich's death.
The marriage is now known to have taken place in August 1814--on
the 14th according to Otto Bournot, on the 28th according to Mrs.
Burrell;[411] and a daughter, Cäcilie, was born to them on the 26th
February 1815,--_i.e._ six months later. This fact must necessarily
count somewhat in our estimate of the nature of the earlier relations
between Geyer and Frau Wagner.

On the whole the weight of external evidence is against the theory
that Geyer was Wagner's father: the facial resemblances between
Richard, his brother Albert, his sister Ottilie (born 14th March 1811),
and his uncle Adolf, and Frau Rose's testimony as to the size and
appearance of the police actuary, Carl Friedrich, make it more than
probable that the last was the composer's father. But the explicit
statements of Nietzsche and Mottl cannot be disregarded. The question
of their veracity, however, could very easily be settled. There must
be more than a dozen of the early copies of _Mein Leben_ in existence.
Mrs. Burrell, who seems to have spent a life-time and a fortune in
accumulating Wagner letters and documents,[412] actually managed to
buy a copy of this privately printed edition. One gathers that she
knew Wagner and Cosima, and had evidently small liking for the latter.
She appears to have been horrified by the picture Wagner gives of
himself and his friends, and at the many evasions, suppressions and
distortions of the truth in the work. "This unmentionable book," she
calls it in one place. She doubts whether Wagner wrote it, and hints
that it has really been pieced together--presumably by Cosima: "To
the well-informed and candid mind the book cannot fail to give the
impression of being written up after conversations; the exact words are
not remembered, and the writer unconsciously imparts another stamp to
the language; it is not the German of a German," which is an obvious
side-blow at the Franco-Hungarian-Jewish Cosima. "The easily proved
inaccuracies are legion...." "The unmistakable purpose of the book is
to ruin the reputation of everyone connected with Wagner.... I maintain
that Wagner consented under pressure to the book being put together,
that he yielded to the temptation of allowing everyone else's character
to be blackened in order to make his own great fault [apparently
his conduct towards von Bülow] pale before the iniquities, real or
invented, of others.... The poet who wrote the pure and impassioned
poems of which Senta and Elsa are the heroines could never have
conceived so flat and prosaic a plan of revenge upon everyone that had
ever annoyed or thwarted him, yes, and worse still, upon many who had
benefited and befriended him." She concludes that "Richard Wagner is
not responsible for the book."

These remarks are interesting as showing the disgust felt by one
who knew something of Wagner at the many basenesses perpetrated in
_Mein Leben_--a disgust that thousands of readers have felt since the
publication of the book. There may be something in Mrs. Burrell's
theory as to how the work was put together; but Wagner undoubtedly
assumed full responsibility for it, as is shown by the letter of his to
the printer, Bonfantini, Basel (1st July 1870), of which Mrs. Burrell
gives a facsimile: he is having fifteen copies printed "dans le seul
but d'éviter la perte possible du seul manuscrit, et de les remettre
entre les mains d'amis fidèles et [conscientieux?] qui les doivent
garder pour un avenir lointain" ("with the object simply of guarding
against the possible loss of the sole manuscript, and of placing
the copies in the hands of faithful and [conscientious?] friends,
who should keep them for a distant future"). But Mrs. Burrell is
generally right in her facts, and there may be something more than mere
conjecture in her hint that the book, so far as its actual composition
is concerned, is Cosima's work at least as much as Wagner's. This would
account, among other things, for the tone of enmity or contempt towards
almost everyone who had come into his life before herself. But the
point with which we are most closely concerned here is not how _Mein
Leben_ came to be written, but what it contains on the first page. The
copies that Nietzsche and Mottl saw belonged to the same imprint as
Mrs. Burrell's copy. This last must still be in existence somewhere.
If the possessor would allow an inspection of it, it could be settled
once for all whether the first page opens with the words "I am the son
of Ludwig Geyer," or "My father, Friedrich Wagner...." If Mottl was
speaking the truth, there is an end of the matter--except that our
last remaining shred of respect for the editorial probity of Wahnfried
will be gone. If Mottl was deceiving himself and others, we can only
fall back on a balance of the evidence I have tried to marshal in the
preceding pages.

A touch of unconscious humour has been given to the situation by a
recent book of Otto Bournot, _Ludwig Heinrich Christian_ [strange name
this for a Jew!] _Geyer, der Stiefvater Richard Wagners_. Bournot has
delved with Teutonic thoroughness into the records of the Geyer family,
has traced it back to 1700, in which year one Benjamin Geyer was a
"town musician" in Eisleben, and has established the piquant facts that
all the Geyers were of the evangelical faith, that most of them were
Protestant church organists, and that all of them married maidens of
unimpeachable German extraction. It makes one smile to find how many
of these alleged Jews had "Christian" as one of their forenames, as
Wagner's putative father had. Even, therefore, if it should be proved
at some time or other that Geyer was Richard Wagner's real father, this
can only bring with it the admission that the amount of Jewish blood in
the composer's veins must have been negligibly small. At the worst he
was much more of a German than, say, a semi-Dutchman like Beethoven;
much more German than the present English royal family is English; and
Bournot is therefore justified in holding that in the last resort the
question of Wagner's paternity cannot affect the "national" quality of
the work of Bayreuth.


[411] Mrs. Burrell tells us that the Saxon law forbade a woman to marry
again until ten months after the death of her husband. This apparently
means "in the tenth month" for only nine full months had elapsed
between 22nd November 1813 and the 28th August 1814.

[412] She compiled a biography of him covering the years 1813-1834,
which was published in sumptuous form in 1898, after her death. Only
one hundred copies were printed, or rather engraved. The book may be
seen in the British Museum.

                              APPENDIX B

                        WAGNER AND SUPER-WAGNER

[This appendix is a slight expansion of an article that originally
appeared in the _Musical Times_ for February 1913. One or two points
in it have already been dwelt upon in the foregoing pages, but I have
ventured to reprint the article here, even at the cost of a little
repetition, because in this form it presents concisely and compactly
the argument as to the possibility of a further development from
Wagner's own principles.]


It would be very interesting if some enterprising interviewer in the
shades could procure for us Wagner's opinion upon the course of events
in music in general and the opera in particular during the thirty years
that have elapsed since his death. He would probably cling with his
characteristic tenacity to the views he held in his life-time; but
if he were candid he would have to admit that the old problems have
latterly taken on a new aspect. The theories he expounded so eagerly
in his prose works and illustrated so eloquently in his music-dramas
have not passed through the fire of thirty years' criticism without
suffering some loss of vitality. Supposing a brain as comprehensive,
as variously gifted, and as forceful as his were now to take up the
problem of opera, seeing it all afresh as Wagner did, and combining,
like him, all the potencies of the best instrumental and operatic
music of his day into one vast synthesis, what would be the new form
he would strike out--for that a new form is now a necessity is evident
on _a priori_ and _a posteriori_ grounds. Music could no more stand
still after Wagner than after Bach or Beethoven; a new humanity must
find a new expression for its own reading of life. And a survey of
the opera since Wagner's death leaves no room for doubt that the
emotions and aspirations of the new humanity have not yet found the
form most appropriate to them. Wagner has no more succeeded in making
his special type of musical drama the norm for latter generations than
Bach succeeded in imposing the forms of _his_ music upon the art of the
epochs that have followed him. In each case the spirit endures, but not
the form. Some elements of the Wagnerian form have of course become, as
far as we can judge, permanent factors in opera in general,--the use of
leading themes, for example, and the system of entrusting a melodious,
flowing, quasi-symphonic development to the orchestra. But not even
these elements are recognised as indispensable constituents of opera
everywhere: Debussy, for instance, discards both of them in the greater
part of his _Pelleas and Melisande_. For the rest, the departures
from Wagner's precepts are noticeable enough, especially as regards
the poetic basis of opera. Putting aside the negligible work of his
second-rate imitators, it would be hard to point to a single opera by
a man of original genius that follows Wagner in his reliance upon the
primitive myth as the clearest and most fundamental expression of the
"purely human," or in his planning of the subject so as to reduce to a
minimum the less musical matter in the text, and make the whole opera,
as far as may be, a pure expression of nothing but "soul-states."


Wagner's famous formula was that hitherto the means in opera (the
music) had been taken for the end, and the end (the drama) for the
means. His own avowed object was to restore to the drama the right of
pre-eminence in opera. His claim to have done so is only valid if we
define music and drama in the rather limited senses he had in view when
framing his theory. His proposition is correct enough if we take it to
mean that music must not, as in the Italian opera, occupy the ear to
the exclusion of all worth in the story and all psychological interest
in the characters. In the sense that he made opera acceptable to men's
heads and hearts as well as their ears, Wagner certainly did make the
drama the end, and music the means. But viewed more broadly, his work
was really the greatest glorification of music that the theatre had
ever seen: for while he enormously increased the expressive scope of
the music, he cut out of drama more than half the elements that give
that word a meaning apart from music. Drama, with him, meant in the
last analysis little more than the best possible text for theatre
music. He would have denied this interpretation of his theories and
practice, but all the same that is the upshot of them. "Word-speech,"
he argues, is merely the organ of the intellect, and has therefore the
right of entry into music--the emotional art _par excellence_--only so
far as it is necessary to give coherence to the rich but indeterminate
flood of feeling that music pours out; and music can, and ought, only
to ally herself with words that have themselves an emotional content.
It was for this reason that he rejected historical and political
subjects, and found the ideal "stuff" for opera in the "purely human"
legends of the folk; and in _A Communication to my Friends_ he traces
in close detail the gradual growth of his perceptions in this respect.
What was hidden from him, what, indeed, he persistently denies, is now
evident to everyone else,--that the change in his theories and practice
was due to the musician in him slowly asserting himself with greater
and greater urgency, and finally demanding imperatively a form of text
that would allow his gift of musical expression the utmost possible
freedom. It must always be borne in mind that Wagner's theory of a
unification of all the arts in the one art-work was the product of a
brain that had comparatively little sympathy with, or understanding of,
any art but music. This may seem a hard saying, but the proof of it is
to be found in many declarations in his prose works, his letters, and
_Mein Leben_. He could never see in painting, in the prose drama, in
poetry, and in sculpture, precisely what painters, dramatists, poets,
and sculptors saw there. He seriously thought that "the spoken form of
play" (_die Schauspielform_) must "necessarily vanish in the future";
and that painters would give up their "egoistic" decorating of little
canvases and be content to devote their powers to contributing, along
with the poet, the musician, and the rest of the theatrical forces, to
the "united art-work of the future." Clearly it was Wagner the musician
who dominated all the other Wagners, and determined both the choice of
subject for his operas and the manner of their treatment. "What I saw,"
he says in _A Communication to My Friends_, "I now looked at solely
with the eyes of music." He is careful to add, not of the formal,
cramping style of music, but of the kind that came straight from the
heart and which he could pour out like a speech in a mother-tongue.
That is the whole secret; the "music" he wishes to see made subordinate
to "drama" is merely the music that claims to pursue an egoistic
existence, bound by its own arbitrary laws alone; but though _his_
music must be natural and unfettered by conventional formulas, and must
aim at giving heightened emotional expression to the feeling suggested
by the verse and the action, it is still the predominant partner in
the union, and only so much of the stuff of the verbal drama will be
permitted in the art-work as will give point to the vague musical
emotion without hindering its full expression. Like a true musician, he
saw drama from a purely musical angle.


But granting the premisses implicit in Wagner's theory,--that music is
an art of intensely emotional expression, that it can only ally itself
with poetry and drama on the condition that these allow themselves to
be bent to its will, and that the ideal "stuff" for an opera is that
which contains the minimum of matter that music cannot take up into
itself and endow with its own loftier and warmer life,--it surely
becomes evident that the theory cannot be allowed to end there. In a
long article on programme music in my _Musical Studies_ (1905), I have
argued that the strictly logical conclusion of Wagner's own theory is
not the music-drama but the symphonic poem. He himself admitted that
the more we can refine away from the music-drama all the non-musical
matter,--the matter that is required merely to make the nature of the
characters and the thread of the story intelligible to an audience
sitting on the other side of the footlights--the nearer we shall
approach the ideal. It was for this reason that he was dissatisfied
with his earlier works, and so proud--justifiably proud--of _Tristan_,
where, as he said, he "immersed himself in the depths of soul-events
pure and simple, and from out this innermost centre of the world
fearlessly fashioned its outward form. A glance at the volumen of this
poem will show you at once that the copious detail which an historical
poet has to employ in order to make the outer connections of his plot
evident, to the detriment of a clear exposition of its inner motives,
I now trusted myself to apply to these latter alone. Life and death,
the whole significance and existence of the external world, here turn
on nothing but the inner movements of the soul." There is a touch of
exaggeration in the claim, but in the main it holds good; _Tristan_
comes nearer to being _all music and nothing else but music_ than any
other work of Wagner. I suggested that in the symphonic poem, rightly
planned and rightly worked out, we had the nearest possible approach
to this ideal, and I availed myself of a simile Browning uses in _The
Ring and the Book_--that of the jeweller who finds it advantageous to
mix a certain amount of alloy with the gold while he is working at
the ring, but afterwards burns it out with a spirt of acid, leaving
simply the circlet of pure gold. The practice of the composer of the
symphonic poem seems to me to be analogous to this: he uses the poetic
alloy in the conceptual stage of his work to give coherence to the
tissue of it, but leaves none of the alloy visible in the completed
work itself; to vary the simile, he uses poetry as his scaffolding,
but as his scaffolding only. The trouble with opera--viewed from
an ideal standpoint--is that it too often shows the scaffolding
projecting at a score of points through the finished building. Even
in _Tristan_--especially the earlier scenes--we are too conscious at
times of verbal matter that all the genius of the musician has not been
able to fuse into music. We accept it, but we are not convinced of the
absolute necessity of it.


Apart from theory, we have only to look at a few concrete instances
of both types of art to see that the ideal symphonic poem is the
unalloyed quintessence of opera, and that the average opera is merely
a symphonic poem puffed out to three Acts, and made rather loose of
tissue in the process. What could be easier than to make a three-act
opera of _Ein Heldenleben_,--and what more futile? Apart from the
Adversaries, there are only two characters in _Ein Heldenleben_, and
we cannot fill up a whole theatrical evening with two characters
alone. To have made an opera of it Strauss would have had to get a
librettist to surround the only two persons who really matter with
a number of minor persons who do not matter in the least; and after
spending three or four hours in the theatre we should come away with
precisely the same fundamental impression as _Ein Heldenleben_ gives
us in the concert-room in about forty minutes,--that a hero has passed
through sundry spiritual crises and developments, and at last, after
much battling and much error, attained to a super-earthly resignation.
This is the ring; everything else we should see and hear in the theatre
would only be so much alloy, pleasurable or tiresome. Who does not
feel, again, that all the essential emotions of the story of Francesca
da Rimini are given us in Tchaikovski's tone-poem? Who wants to see the
merely historical and topographical details that would be inevitable in
an opera on the subject? Who wants to see the furniture of the house
of Malatesta, and the ladies and gentlemen moving about among it? Who
wants to see and hear Giovanni? He interests us only as a fragment of
the force of fate that drives Paolo and Francesca to love and death;
surely we are content to accept his existence as assumed in the great
central tragedy, without having him put before us in the flesh to sing
a lot of words that do not matter? Who does not feel that Strauss has
given us the quintessence of _Macbeth_ in his symphonic poem, and
that no opera on that subject could hope to express the spiritual
tragedy of Macbeth so swiftly and so drastically? Or, to look at the
matter from the other side, take the case of Strauss's _Salome_. Does
anything really count there but the train of moods in Salome's soul,
and is not all this expressed fully and incomparably in the great
final scene,--with perhaps a little assistance from the music of the
impassioned monologue of Salome to Jochanaan in the earlier part? What
is all the rest of the opera but a mere recital or representation of a
story the details of which everyone in the theatre already knows quite
well? How Herod was married to Herodias, the mother of Salome, how
Herod gave a banquet and became enamoured of his step-daughter, how one
Jochanaan, a Jewish prophet, had been imprisoned by order of Herod, how
Salome conceived an unholy passion for Jochanaan, how she danced for
Herod and won as her reward the head of Jochanaan on a charger--who
needs to go to the theatre to be told all this: who takes more than
the most languid interest in the telling of it? Music has next to no
concern with most of it, because it is of a quality that prevents music
attaining to its full emotional incandescence; and it is only when
it is playing with ease and ardour round a subject fit to call out
the best there is in it that music is really worth writing. If anyone
doubts that it is only the final scene and the monologue of _Salome_
that count for anything in the opera, let him ask himself how many
people would stay away from the theatre or the concert-room because
_only_ these portions were being given, and how many people would go to
the theatre if it were known that these portions were to be omitted.
Or again, does the whole opera of _Tannhäuser_ tell us very much that
is not already told us in the Overture? I am not alleging, of course,
that there is not a great deal of very interesting music in the opera.
The question is whether the essence of the struggle in Tannhäuser's
soul between spiritual and physical love is not fully given us in the
Overture, and whether, had this alone been written, we should have felt
any more need for an opera upon the subject than we do for an opera
on the subject of _Ein Heldenleben_. What is the opera of _Fidelio_,
Wagner himself asked, but a mere lengthy watering down of the dramatic
motives that have been painted so finely for us in the great _Leonora
No. 3_ Overture? May we not say as much of _Tannhäuser_? Is not a great
deal of this also a mere padding-out of the subject to comply with the
exigencies of a whole evening in the theatre?


It is true that Wagner tried to demonstrate that the symphonic poem
was a less perfect art-form than the music-drama, inasmuch as it left
it to the imagination to supply the characters, the events, or the
pictures upon which the music is founded, whereas these really ought to
be shown to the eye upon the stage. But a two-fold answer can be given
to Wagner. In the first place, there are dozens of passages in his own
works that depend for their effect upon precisely that visualising
power of the imagination the legitimacy of which he denied in the case
of the symphonic poem. Is Siegfried's Rhine Journey, for example,
intelligible on any other supposition than that with each change of
theme in the music the hearer's imagination visualises a fresh episode
in the hero's course? How do we listen to the _Meistersinger_ Overture
except just in the way we listen to a symphonic poem--the imagination
calling up before it the bodily presence of each of the characters in
turn? In the second place, the evidence is overwhelming that Wagner's
own imagination was much more restricted in this respect than that of
other people; and it was precisely this inability to trust very much
to the visualising power of the imagination that made him fall into so
many crude errors of realism. All his life through he was unable to see
that the imagination has a much wider scope than the eye, because, not
being tied down to the mere spatial dimensions of an object, it can add
enormously to it out of its own store of memory and vision. Vastness is
a quality inseparable from any concept of a god; but can the grandest
creation of sculpture or the most heroic of stage figures ever hope to
give us such a sense of the illimitable power and beauty of godhead
as the imagination can supply? Whose god comes nearest to filling the
earth with his presence--the invisible one of Milton or Spinoza, or
the visible Wotan of Wagner? Does not the least analytical spectator
of a Wagnerian opera often feel that it would have been better if the
composer had insisted less on material facts upon the stage and left
our imagination a freer wing? How much of the exquisite poetry of the
idea of the _Waldweben_--the natural, untainted boy at home in nature's
heart, dowered by his native innocence with the gift of understanding
the song of birds--is spoiled for us by the grossly unideal presence
of the average actor, by the reduction of the wayward breath and
infinite soul of nature to a few yards of painted pasteboard, and by
the narrowing down of all our ideas of the lyric freedom of bird-life
to one poor piece of stuffed mechanism jerked at the end of a wire,
and a tremulous soprano somewhere up in the wings? Who would exchange
the imagination's vision of the glorious Valkyrie-flight through the
storm and the cloud-wrack for the actual visible Grane, with his
evident air of having been borrowed from the mews round the corner?
Who that is moved by the Grail music in _Parsifal_ has not felt his
heart sink within him at the sight of the slow mechanical evolutions
of the Knights in the Grail scene at Bayreuth? Who has not felt at the
sight of the "property" swan that the rarefied atmosphere of Monsalvat
has gone, and with it most of the remoteness, the shining whiteness,
of Lohengrin? Or, not to multiply instances of this kind from the
Wagnerian operas themselves, who can doubt the general proposition that
the more the subject approaches the sublime the more it demands purely
poetic or musical treatment, and the more lamentably it suffers by
being narrowed down to a canvas or a stage? What painter could hope to
suggest, even in the largest picture, the vision of the vast evil form
of Lucifer, the mighty sweep of his fall, and the horror of the fiery
underworld, that Milton can give us in a line or two;[413] and who, in
spite of all the splendour of the music of the _Ring_, does not feel
that the actual _spectacle_ of gods and heroes that has been put before
our eyes on the stage cannot compare in true sublimity with the picture
given us in the great opening lines of Morris's _Sigurd the Volsung_:

  "There was a dwelling of kings ere the world was waxen old; Dukes were
  the door-wards there, and the roofs were thatched with gold; Earls
  were the wrights that wrought it, and silver nailed its doors; Earls'
  wives were the weaving-women, queens' daughters strewed its floors,
  And the masters of its song-craft were the mightiest men that cast
  The sails of the storm of battle adown the bickering blast. There
  dwelt men merry-hearted, and in hope exceeding great Met the good
  days and the evil as they went the way of fate: There the gods were
  unforgotten, yea whiles they walked with men, Though e'en in that
  world's beginning rose a murmur now and then Of the midward time and
  the fading and the last of the latter days, And the entering in of the
  terror, and the death of the People's Praise."

How the imagination fills out the ample spaces here left to it to play
among--how great and god-like and noble and beautiful a world of men
and women it is that the poet evokes for us!


The elimination from an opera-text of everything that is not suited
to musical expression is perhaps an unattainable ideal. It is only
the titanic _musical_ genius of Wagner that makes us more or less
tolerant of what we may call the baser metal in the structure of his
music-dramas. Since his day the problem has proved so baffling a one
that composers have frankly given it up in despair. Wagner was right:
the simpler the story or legend on which we found an opera,--the more
it can be trusted to make its own motives and development clear,--the
less non-musical matter shall we be burdened with, and the more
chance we shall have of being able to keep the musical tissue on a
consistently high level. The proof of this is to be found not only
in Wagner's own work but in that of his successors. It is hardly
possible to recall a modern opera in which, at some point or other,
the composer has not tried to delude us into the belief that the music
means something when it really means nothing. Take, for example, the
opening scene of _Elektra_. The scene is _dramatically_ necessary
because it informs the spectator of the relations between Elektra and
her mother, and explains the miserable servitude of the maiden in the
house of her murdered father. But no man that ever lived could set such
words as these to good music; and all that Strauss can do is to make a
mere pretence of writing music, let the orchestra play almost anything
and the voices shriek almost anything, and trust to the audience
being carried blindly along, partly by the excitement of the noise,
partly by the bustling stage-movement. Wagner's superior artistic
sense would have seen from the outset that this part of the libretto
was outside the sphere of music, and, being his own librettist, he
would, in obedience to the prompting of the musician in him, have so
re-shaped the opera that there would have been no need to communicate
that particular piece of information to us in this particular form. The
procedure of Strauss and Hofmannsthal is hardly less absurd than that
of the old composers who used to set to music not only the actual words
of the Bible but "Here beginneth the ... chapter of the ... book of...."

How much of the merest putty, again, is left visible in the libretti
of Puccini, Charpentier, and others--passages that are essential if
the story is to be made clear to the spectator, but absolutely defying
musical treatment. There is scarcely a single opera of which the music
gives one the impression of pure necessity from first to last; every
now and then our teeth are set on edge by some pieces of grit left by
the bad cooks in an otherwise good dish. The handling of passages of
this kind has become the most stereotyped of formulæ; the characters
talk rather than sing, while the orchestra keeps the ear interested
by playing pretty tunes on its own account, much as a nurse tells a
child fairy tales to keep it quiet during the misery of the bath. Only
the easy-going attitude towards all questions of form that is bred
in us by theatrical art could possibly blind us for a moment to the
helplessness and ineptitude of a method of this kind. Debussy evades
the difficulty in another way. He starts with a text that is already a
complete, self-sufficing work of art, capable, without the assistance
of music, of holding an audience interested in it by virtue of its
own dramatic life and its fine literary quality. He is thus, to begin
with, in a far stronger position than that of nineteen opera composers
out of twenty, whose texts have no artistic quality of their own, and
have to receive the whole breath of their life from the music. Having
the good fortune to be working upon a libretto that is itself moving
and beautiful, Debussy can frequently afford to leave it to speak for
itself, his own contribution to it being sometimes no more than a
momentary heightening of the force of the words by means of a poignant
harmony or a suggestive touch of colour. I hope I shall not be held
to be insensitive to the peculiar charm of Debussy's _Pelleas and
Melisande_, or to the rare musical invention of the more continuous
portions of it, if I say that a good deal of the opera could have been
written by a much less gifted man. Now that the novelty of it has
passed off, it is seen to be not at all a difficult matter to subtilise
a stage effect by the addition of a poignant chord here and there.
_Pelleas and Melisande_ is an extremely beautiful work, but it will
probably have no posterity,--because, while the more musical portions
of it depend less for their effect on any essential novelty of form
than upon the very individual quality of Debussy's imagination, the
style of the other--the merely atmospheric--portions is so easy to
imitate that it is within the scope of dozens of composers with only a
quarter of Debussy's genius. Debussy, then, has not, any more than his
contemporaries, solved the problem of weaving the combined vocal and
orchestral tissue of the opera into a continuous and homogeneous whole;
for a great part of the time he simply evades the problem. _Pelleas and
Melisande_ is a _tour de force_ that will probably never be repeated;
it depended for its success on the concurrence of a number of factors
that are hardly likely to be met with in combination again.


To recapitulate, then, for a moment: Wagner's theory of the ideal
music-drama is sound enough, but neither he nor any of his successors
has been able to realise the theory in practice. In every combination
of music with the other arts it must of necessity play the leading
rôle, because of the greater expansiveness and superior warmth of
its expression.[414] As Wagner saw, it will tolerate no text but one
that is thoroughly musical in essence--that is to say, one that is so
purely emotional throughout that at no time can we feel that in order
to associate with it music has had to descend from its ideal sphere.
It is in the process of making the action clear to the spectator that
opera generally has to admit certain elements that drag music down from
its high estate. We have therefore at present two chief forms of the
association of poetry and music--the opera, in which actual characters,
using actual words, are shown to us in the actuality of the stage,
and the symphonic poem, in which we are given not the characters but
the emotions of the characters, and not the scene but an imaginative
suggestion of the scene, while the general nature of the subject is
communicated to us by means of a printed explanation or a title. This
necessity of putting the hearer _en rapport_ with the story by a device
that stands outside the music seems to many people an ineradicable
flaw in the symphonic poem; a work of art, they say, should be
self-contained, and opera, with all its admitted faults, has the virtue
of being its own explanation. I do not think, however, that this matter
is so simple as it looks.

Closer analysis will show first of all that many apparently
self-contained musical works are as greatly in need of verbal
expression as a symphonic poem, and secondly, that in the full sense
of the term hardly any opera or drama can be said to be wholly
self-explanatory, inasmuch as, at every hearing of it except the
first, we witness the unfolding of the earlier stages of the action
with a knowledge of the later stages, and are thus as effectually
adding something from an outside source to the visual and auditory
impressions of the moment as when we follow a symphonic poem with
the story in our minds that we have just read in the programme book.
What real difference, for example, is there between the frame of mind
in which we listen to the _Tannhäuser_ Overture and that in which we
listen to _Ein Heldenleben_? In each case we are conscious that the
music is not self-existent and self-explanatory, but depends for its
full intelligibility on our knowledge of the characters and incidents
upon which it is based. We get this knowledge in the case of _Ein
Heldenleben_ from a book; in the case of the _Tannhäuser_ Overture
we get it from our experience of the opera on the stage.[415] What
essential difference is there between the two cases? In each of them
we have to rely upon experience outside the work itself in order to
grasp the full meaning of it. The _Tannhäuser_ Overture and other
works of that class are, in fact, artistic solecisms. No one, surely,
will contend that at the _first_ performance of _Tannhäuser_ the
Overture conveyed its poetic meaning to the audience any more clearly
than a performance of _Ein Heldenleben_ would do without a literary
explanation of its contents. The Overture does not explain the opera,
but is explained by it, and it is consequently absurd to play it first.
It only happens to come first because the old practice of having an
orchestral introduction to an opera was unthinkingly retained long
after the character of the introduction had so altered that there
was no longer any sense in its use. The purpose of the Overture
originally was simply to play the audience into their seats. We see it
performing this function in an overture like that to the _Messiah_: the
music has nothing to do with the oratorio, and any one of a hundred
other orchestral introductions would do just as well. But when opera
composers began to make the overture a summary of the opera itself,
they entered upon a course that ultimately made it an absurdity. In so
far as the overture sums up the opera, and therefore depends for its
intelligibility on a knowledge of the opera, it ought logically to be
played not at the commencement of the evening, but at the end. Modern
composers have instinctively recognised the truth of all this, and
the operatic overture is now virtually abolished; there is none, for
instance, to _Salome_, _Elektra_, or _Pelleas and Melisande_.

All the overtures, then, that epitomise the opera with which they
are connected are in the same category as the symphonic poem; for
an understanding of the literary basis of them we have to go to a
source outside themselves. The theory that a piece of music is bad
music unless it is "self-sufficing" and "self-explanatory" is a mere
nightmare of the arm-chair æsthetician. There are thousands of pages
in Bach that only yield up their full secret to us when we get some
outside light upon the sequence of poetic ideas in his mind at the
time of writing. This is the case with many of the chorale preludes,
for example. But Bach's music is often rich in a kind of allusive
symbolism greatly resembling Wagner's use of the leading motive,
though it is bolder than that, inasmuch as the musical symbol has not
been made familiar to us by a previous definite use of it in the same
work of art. In the _Christmas Oratorio_ Bach sets the words of a
chorale addressed to the infant Jesus to the music of another chorale
that was already associated in the minds of the congregation with the
Passion--thus in a flash bringing the death of the Saviour into the
same mental picture as the birth.[416] The chorale fantasia which the
blind old man dictated to his pupil Altnikol a few days before his
death united the music of the hymn "In our hour of direst need," with
the words of "I come before thy throne." And who can forget the effect,
comparable to some of the most thrilling of those that Wagner makes
with his leading motives, of the trumpet pealing out with the melody
of "Great God, what do I see and hear! The end of things created" in
the midst of the bass recitative describing the terrors of the Day of
Judgment (in the cantata _Wachet, betet_). Bach anticipated, as he did
most things in modern music, the Wagnerian use of the leading motive,
the function of which is to suggest to the hearer's imagination another
idea simultaneously with the one the music is explicitly expressing.
I think Bach would have smiled at anyone who chose to object that his
chorale in the _Christmas Oratorio_ was not self-sufficing, inasmuch as
it depended for its affecting double meaning upon knowledge that the
hearer had gathered elsewhere. He would probably have been satisfied
with the unshakable fact that the hearer _had_ this knowledge, and that
it was therefore quite safe to rely on his making use of it. Surely
the composer of the symphonic poem and allied forms is also justified
in trusting occasionally to his auditors' outside knowledge of the
subject of his work. Is there anything less legitimate in Strauss's
trusting to our imagination to summon up at performance the scenes and
the figures of _Don Quixote_, than there is in Wagner's trusting to it,
during the _Tannhäuser_ or _Meistersinger_ Overture, to summon up the
scenes and figures of the opera? I have already pointed out that in his
music-dramas Wagner is continually asking us, by means of recurrent
leading motives, to visualise more than is actually set before us on
the stage--thus flying in the face of his own theoretical arguments.
It only needs to be added that he also relied, at times, as much as
the writer of symphonic poems does, upon the hearer's or spectator's
knowing more about the course of the drama than has been revealed to
him in the drama itself. How do we know, for example, that the "Sword"
motive in the final scene of the _Rhinegold_ is a "Sword" motive at
all? How do we know the train of thought running through Wotan's mind
at this point as he looks into the future? Simply by antedating the
information we have gained from the later dramas of the _Ring_. At
the time the "Sword" motive is first heard there has never been the
slightest suggestion of the sword that is to help to lift the curse
from the gods; not only Siegfried but Siegfried's parents are as yet
unborn. Again, the phrase that _Tannhäuser_ sings to the words "Ha,
jetzt erkenne ich sie wieder, die schöne Welt der ich entrückt" in
the first Act of the opera is explained only by the association of it
with Elisabeth and the Hall of Song in the second Act. Anyone with a
knowledge of the Wagnerian operas can multiply these instances for

Does not everything, in fact, point to the impossibility of our
listening to any performance of a drama or opera, _except the first
one_, with a mind that is absolutely a clean slate? Are we not always
drawing consciously or unconsciously upon our store of acquired
knowledge of the work, and blending this with the visual or auditory
impressions of the moment? Do we not all know, long before it happens,
that the screen will fall down at a certain climactic point in the
_School for Scandal_ and show us Lady Teazle hiding behind it? Is not
our appreciation of all the dialogue of this scene whetted by our
knowledge--gained from "outside" sources--of what is going to happen
at the end of it? The instructed spectator or reader invariably keeps
looking ahead, his interest or delight in what is occurring at the
moment being intensified by what may be called anticipatory memory. It
is only at the first time of reading _Tom Jones_ that we can be in the
slightest doubt as to who is the hero's mother. The ever-present clue
to the solution of the mystery does not spoil our pleasure, however,
in the second and subsequent readings; nay, it rather adds to it, for
it makes us conscious of a number of cunning strokes of construction
that we had not noticed at the first reading. At the second and every
subsequent performance of Mr. John Galsworthy's _The Pigeon_ a thrill
of horror goes through us at the exit of Mrs. Megan in the second Act,
for we know--what we did not know at the first performance--that she
means to throw herself into the river; and for this reason the second
performance necessarily makes a profounder effect on us than the first.
I take it, then, that an exaggerated importance can be attached to the
principle of art being "self-sufficing" and "self-explanatory" at the
first time of hearing or seeing; the subject is a far more complex one
than the amateur æstheticians have imagined. They had only to turn to
the Greek drama to see a form of art in which deliberate advantage was
taken by every author of the fact that the audience had an "outside"
knowledge of the characters and events of the play. The Greek drama,
broadly speaking, did not rely, as ours does, on the effect of a slow
unfolding of a complicated plot--the main art of which consists in
first of all giving the audience something to hunt for and then finding
it for them. The Greek drama was based on a myth or a legend every
detail of which was known to every member of the audience. _At a first
performance_, therefore, the audience would be in precisely the same
position as a modern audience is when it reads in its programme-book
the analysis of a new symphonic poem that is about to be performed. And
this knowledge, so far from diminishing the audience's enjoyment of the
drama, actually intensified it, and permitted to the author an amount
of subtle psychological allusion that can only be compared with the
effects of the leading motive in modern opera. When Clytemnestra, for
instance, in Æschylus's drama, greets Agamemnon with falsely-fawning
words, the thrill that ran through the Athenian audience came not
from any feeling of foreboding inspired by the visible situation or
the actual words, but from its _outside_ knowledge that all this was
feigning, and that the hounds of death were already hot on the track of
the unsuspecting king. Wagner would have flashed the same light upon
Clytemnestra's words by means of an orchestral motive. An Athenian,
again, at the first performance of the _Œdipus Rex_, must have known
the whole of the story from the beginning. There could be for him none
of the cumulative surprise at the slow unravelling of the web that we
feel at a first reading of the tragedy; rather did he accompany the
first blind steps of Œdipus with a pity born of the knowledge--the
_outside_ knowledge--of the doom the gods had woven for him.


If, then, there is no æsthetic falsity involved in assuming some
previous knowledge of the action or the motive on the part of the
spectator, or in communicating this knowledge by other means than a
stage presentation, why should we not boldly recognise that the time is
ripe for a new form of art that shall carry the potency of music a step
further than it was carried by Wagner? After all, it is the music that
counts for ninety-five per cent, of our enjoyment of a Wagner opera.
The "philosophy" of the _Ring_ may be something to write or read about
in the study, but in the theatre it really goes for very little. It is
interesting to talk about the Schopenhauerian or Hindoo significance of
the discourse of the lovers, in the second Act of _Tristan_, upon Love
and Death, and Night and Day; but again--for how much does this count
in the theatre? Has there ever been a single spectator, since _Tristan_
was first given, who could make out from the performance alone what
philosophy it was the lovers were talking, or whether they were talking
philosophy at all? And how many people who _do_ know the text at this
point--because they have read it--feel in the theatre that very much
of the essential emotion of the work would be lost if the characters
sang Chinese words, or Choctaw words, or no words at all, so long as
the music was left to tell its own tale? I must guard against possible
misunderstanding here. I am not for a moment urging that speech should
henceforth be banished from opera as a mere superfluity.[417] There are
many subjects in which it will always be a necessity; the world of the
_Meistersinger_, for instance, could have been made real to us in no
other medium than that of music with words. But I do contend that there
are many poetic subjects in which virtually the whole of the expression
could be entrusted with perfect safety to music alone,--not necessarily
in the form of a symphonic poem, but in a sort of drama without
actors--if the paradox may be permitted--or with speechless actors.
And could we not in this way approach a step nearer to the ideal
musical art-work, in which all the needful suggestiveness of poetry
was retained without any admixture of the cruder non-musical elements
that at present merely go to make plot and persons intelligible to the


Maeterlinck and others have of late familiarised us with the idea
of a "static" as distinguished from the older "dynamic" drama. It is
highly probable that in the future men will go to the theatre craving
the satisfaction of rather different desires from those they seek to
satisfy there now. That "drama" is capable of more than one meaning is
proved by the existence of dramatic forms so varied as those of the
Greek drama, the Shakespearean drama, the Maeterlinckian drama, the
_Atalanta in Calydon_ of Swinburne, _The Dynasts_ of Mr. Thomas Hardy,
and the _Getting Married_ of Mr. Bernard Shaw. It is quite reasonable
to suppose, therefore, that a new generation may read another new
meaning into the word. Among the finer minds of the present day there
is a decided movement away from what seems to them the crudity of the
old-style "well-constructed" drama of action. Maeterlinck, in one or
two of his essays, has given eloquent expression to the feelings that
inspire this movement of revolt. Many of the time-honoured dramatic
"motives" are already sadly discredited. The dagger and the poison-bowl
no longer play the part in tragedy that they used to play. Humanity has
come to see that things of this kind are the mere excrescences of a
dramatic action,--the mere crude outward and visible signs of desires
and passions working in secret in the souls of men,--and their gaze
is being turned more and more on the psychological springs of action
rather than on the visible actions themselves. Drama, in the hands of
thoughtful poetical writers, is becoming more and more an affair of
the inner rather than the outer man; and it is probable that, as time
goes on, still less reliance will be placed on the crude stage effect
of violent action. It need hardly be said that as drama dispenses with
piece after piece of action and explanation, and comes deeper down
to the essence of tragedy as a war of impulses in a man's soul or of
the fates about his path, it approaches more nearly to the mood of
music. We may look in the future to a yet further purging of poetic
drama of many of the tedious conventional devices on which it is still
dependent so long as it has to play off a number of characters against
each other like chessmen on a few square yards of board in a theatre.
I think I can foresee the time when most of what now passes for "plot
interest"--the pretence on the author's part of hiding something merely
in order that it may in due time be triumphantly found again--will
be regarded as something almost childish in the naïve quality of its
appeal, and will be relegated to forms of art as much below the general
intellectual level of the literature of the day as the detective story
is below the intellectual level of our own better novels and dramas.
The more artistic the race becomes, the less will it crave for mere
facts and events in drama, and the more for an imaginative reading of
the soul on which the facts and events have written their record. Again
let me interpolate a word of warning against a misunderstanding of my
thesis. I am not supposing that a time will ever come when the drama as
we have it now will have disappeared from the stage. I fully recognise
that there are certain dramatic concepts that can never be adequately
expressed except by means of clashing and marching and counter-marching
characters, and action more or less violent or clockworklike. But I
fancy that in the not distant future the more poetic side of man will
demand a form of art in which very little happens or is told, but in
which the soul of the spectator is flooded by emotions of pity and
sorrow and love that are all the more penetrating because they do
not come to us through the relatively cold medium of words and the
childish, creaking clockwork of exits and entrances and surprises and


It is this attitude of the artistic mind of the future towards drama
that will, I think, find utterance in a form of quasi-dramatic music
in which we shall be rid of all or most of the mere scaffolding of
narration or action that serves at present simply to give intellectual
support to the music of opera. Even in Wagner are we not painfully
conscious at times of the fact that the music, which matters a great
deal, is being diluted and made turbid by a quantity of baser matter
the only function of which is to make it clear to us why these
particular people are there at that particular moment, and what it
is that they are doing? It cannot be reiterated too often that it is
only the music that can keep alive any form of art into which music
enters. The mere facts in an art-work lose their force with repetition;
it is only artistic emotion that can be born anew again and again and
yet again. Who feels anything but a glow of rapturous anticipation
when the first notes of the _Liebestod_ or of Wotan's _Abschied_ are
sounded? He may have heard it all a hundred times before, and know
every note of it by heart; but it will all be as new and wonderful and
inevitable to him at the hundredth hearing as at the first. But who
does not involuntarily emit a groan from the very depths of his being
when Wagner's first care at the moment is not to kindle us with great
music but to tell us through Wotan's lips at great length, and for the
hundredth time, certain mere facts that have long lost their absorbing
interest for us. And even in his most compact work, _Tristan_, is there
not a great deal that is, from the highest point of view, superfluous?
We can bear to hear the same glorious music time without number; but
we will not bear being told time without number who Tristan and Isolde
and Marke and Morold are, and how Tristan slew Morold, and how Isolde
nursed Tristan back to health, and all the rest of it. I can imagine a
_Tristan_ in which things of this kind would be assumed to be matters
of common knowledge on the part of the audience, as the characters
and motives of Tchaikovski's _Romeo and Juliet_ or _Francesca da
Rimini_ are assumed to be common knowledge, or those of Strauss's
_Macbeth_ or _Till Eulenspiegel_, or those of Beethoven's _Coriolan_
and _Egmont_ Overtures or the _Leonora No. 3_, or those of Dukas's
_L'Apprenti Sorcier_. Then the whole of the composer's time and the
audience's attention could be devoted to that full musical exposition
of nothing else but the protagonists' "soul-states" and "soul-events"
which Wagner avowed as the ideal of music-drama, but which is virtually
an impossible ideal so long as opera is compelled to utilise so many
actors on so much and no more of a stage, and to occupy precisely so
many hours of an evening.

As it happens, we already have in the Greek drama,--especially that
of the older type,--a form of poetic art strongly resembling that
which I am here suggesting might be now produced in music. Not only
did the old Greek dramatist, as we have seen, largely rely on the
audience's knowledge of the characters and events of his play, and so
save himself the necessity of much action or much scene-shifting, but
he cast the drama into a concentrated form that enabled him to appeal
rather to the spectator's sense of poetry than to the mere delight
in external catastrophe and the unravelling of plot; while in the
chorus he had under his hand an instrument capable of extraordinary
emotional expression. The Greek drama, in fact, was singularly akin to
the music-drama of Wagner. As Wagner saw, the true modern equivalent
of the Greek chorus is the orchestra; it is at once part of the action
and aloof from it, an ideal spectator, sympathising, commenting,
correcting. The Greek drama resembles ideal opera, again, in that the
ultimate sentiment disengaged from it is one not of facts shown, or of
interest held by the mere interplay of intrigue, but of a high poetic
spirit, purifying and transfiguring the common life of things.

Is not this form capable of further development? Is it not possible
to construct an art-form in which the mere facts that it is necessary
for us to know are either assumed as known or set before us in the
briefest possible way, so that music can take upon itself the whole
burden of expression, and the whole work of art be nothing but an
outpouring of lofty, quintessential emotion? Can we not imagine
something like the second Act of _Tristan_ with silent and only dimly
visible actors, the music, helped by their gestures, telling us all
that is in their souls, while they are too remote from us for the crude
personality of the actors and the theatrical artificiality of the
stage-setting to jar upon us as they do at present? Cannot some story
be taken as so well known to everyone that only the shadowiest hints of
the course of it need be given to the spectator, the real drama being
in the music? Or, to go a step further, cannot we dispense altogether
with the stage and the visible actor, such external coherence as the
music needs being afforded by impersonal voices floating through a
darkened auditorium?[418] The effect of disembodied voices can be
made extraordinarily moving; in all my experience of concert-going
I can remember no sensations comparable to those I felt during the
Grail scene from _Parsifal_ at one of the Three Choirs Festivals;
the exquisite beauty of the boys' voices floating down from one knew
not where was something almost too much for mortal senses to endure.
Here, in the concealed, impersonal choir, is an instrument, I think,
the full emotional power of which is not yet suspected by composers.
It lends itself admirably to just that desire for the exploration of
the mysteries around us that music is always endeavouring to satisfy.
As the cruder kind of action goes out of drama, the hovering Fates
will come in. Mr. Hardy, in _The Dynasts_, has given us a hint of
what may be done by a partial reversion to the Greek type of drama,
the purblind, struggling human protagonists being surrounded by an
invisible chorus of Fates that see to the hidden roots of things.
A poetic scheme of this kind could be made extremely impressive by
music,--say a series of orchestral pictures of human desires and
passions, having a simple intellectual co-ordination of their own, with
an invisible chorus commenting upon it all now and then in the style of
the Fates of Mr. Hardy or the chorus of Æschylus. There are, I think,
several possible new art-forms open to us when we shall have learned
to dispense, for certain purposes, with the actor and his speech, to
rely upon the audience's previous knowledge of some story of universal
interest and significance, and to leave it to music alone to express
the whole of the dramatic or poetic implications of the story. But
it is perhaps vain to try to forecast these future developments by
means of reason. They will certainly come, but not by theorists taking
thought of them; they will have to be born, as the Wagnerian drama was,
out of the burning need of some great soul.


[413] See _Paradise Lost_, Book I, lines 44 ff. Compare the passage in
which Lessing (_Laokoön_, Chap. XII) is discussing the felling of Mars
by Minerva by means of a huge stone. The overthrown god, according to
Homer, "covered seven acres." "It is impossible," says Lessing, "that
the painter could give this extraordinary size to the god; but if he
does not give it him, then Mars does not lie upon the ground like the
Homeric Mars, but like a common warrior."

[414] This is the explanation of the fact that good music often floats
a poor poem, while the best of poems has never been able to float poor

[415] We may, of course, get it from a programme note, but this in turn
must have been derived from some experience of the opera, either on the
stage or in the printed score.

[416] A correspondent of the _Musical Times_ objected to this
statement, alleging that the so-called Passion chorale is really the
tune of the Communion chorale _Herzlich tut mich verlangen_, which is
used for a variety of other hymns, including the _O Haupt voll Blut und
Wunden_. "The result is," he said, "that to the German mind it conveys
no particular association, just because it is so frequently used and
at the most varied occasions." As a matter of fact, it is precisely
to "the German mind" that it _does_ convey the Passion association
I suggested, as is shown by the remarks of such writers as Spitta
(_Life of Bach_, Eng. trans., ii. 579), Schweitzer (_J. S. Bach, le
musicien-poète_, p. 281), Arnold Schering (_Bachs Textbehandlung_, p.
19), and Wolfrum (_Johann Sebastian Bach_, ii. 14, 15).

[417] Nor, I should think I scarcely need add, do I imagine that opera
will die out in the near future, though some critics of the original
article naïvely attributed this view to me!

[418] Mr. Rutland Boughton has already made a very suggestive beginning
on this line.

                           AND SYNCHRONOUS EVENTS

 YEAR.    LIFE.              MUSICAL WORKS.            PROSE AND         SYNCHRONOUS
                                                     POETICAL WORKS.       EVENTS.

 1813   22nd May. Born at                                                Verdi born.
        22nd Nov. His father                                            _Tancredi_.

 1814   14th Aug. His
        mother marries
        Ludwig Geyer.

        August. The family
        removes to Dresden.

 1815                                                                    Weber called
                                                                         to Dresden
                                                                         to found a
                                                                         German Opera.

 1818                                                                    Spohr's _Faust_.

 1819                                                                    Schopenhauer's
                                                                        _Die Welt als
                                                                         Wille und

 1821  30th Sept.                                                        Weber's
       Death of Geyer.                                                  _Der Freischütz_.

 1822                                                                    César Franck

 1823                                                                    Weber's


 1824                                                                    Beethoven's
                                                                         Ninth Symphony.

                                                                         Bruckner born.

 1826                                                                    Weber's

                                                                         Death of

 1827  The family                                                        Death of
       removes to Leipzig.                                               Beethoven

 1828                                          "Leubald und Adelaide"    Death of
                                               (unpublished).            Schubert.

                                                                        _Der Vampyr_.

 1829                      1st Sonata in                                 Auber's
                           D minor.                                     _Masaniello_.

                           Quartet in D major.                           Rossini's
                                                                        _William Tell_.

 1830                      Arrangement of                                Berlioz'
                           Beethoven's                                  _Symphonie
                           9th Symphony                                  Fantastique_.
                           for two hands.
                           Overture in C major                          _Fra Diavolo_.
                           (6/8 time).
                           Overture in  B flat                          _Romeo and
                           (performed at Leipzig                         Juliet_
                           under H. Dorn
                           on Christmas Day).

 1831  Feb. Studies        Pianoforte Sonata in                          Meyerbeer's
       music with          B flat major (Op. 1).                        _Robert the Devil_.
                           Polonaise in D major                          Bellini's
                           for four hands                               _La Somnambula_.
                           (Op. 2). (Both
                           published by                                  Hérold's _Zampa_.
                           Breitkopf & Härtel,

                           Pianoforte Fantasia
                           in F sharp minor
                           (not published in
                           life-time; first
                           issued by Kahnt,
                           Leipzig, 1905).

                           Overture to
                           Raupach's _König
                           Enzio_ (finished
                           3rd Feb. 1832.
                           Performed in
                           Leipzig Theatre, as
                           prelude to the play,
                           16th March 1832.
                           Published by
                           Breitkopf & Härtel,

                           Concert Overture in
                           D minor (never
                           performed at a
                           "Euterpe" Concert,
                           Leipzig, Christmas
                           1831, and at a
                           Gewandhaus Concert,
                           23rd Feb. 1832).

                           Concert Overture
                           in C with fugue
                           (never published;
                           performed at a
                           "Euterpe" concert,
                           Leipzig, winter
                           1831-2, and at a
                           Gewandhaus Concert,
                           30th April 1832).

 1832                      Symphony in C major                           Bellini's
                           (performed at Prague                         _Norma_.
                           Conservatoire under
                           Dionys Weber,                                 Death of
                           summer 1832,                                  Goethe.
                           also at Leipzig,
                           Christmas 1832
                           and 10th Jan. 1833).

                          _Die Hochzeit_ begun.
                           Text completed, but
                           music never

                           Setting of
                           "Glockentöne" (poem
                           by T. Apel).

                           Seven compositions
                           for Goethe's
                          _Faust_ (Op. 5).
                           (Not published till

 1833  Jan. At Würzburg.
       Returns to Leipzig
       at Christmas.

       6th Aug. Finishes   Sept. Allegro for                             Marschner's
       Act I of _Die       Aubry's Aria in                              _Hans Heiling_.
       Feen_.              Marschner's _Der
                           Vampyr_; text and                             Brahms born.
       1st Dec. Finishes   music by Wagner
       Act II of _Die      (not published
       Feen_.              till 1914).

 1834  1st Jan. Finishes   2nd Symphony in     Article on "The German    Donizetti's
       Act III of _Die     E major             Opera,"  published       _Lucrezia
       Feen_.              (unfinished).       anonymously in the        Borgia_.
                                              _Zeitung für die elegante
       6th Jan. Finishes                       Welt_ of 10th June 1834.  First number
       Overture to _Die                                                  of the
       Feen_. (Opera first                     Article "Pasticcio,"     _Neue Zeitschrift
       performed 29th June                     published in the _Neue    für Musik_
       1888  at Munich.)                       Zeitschrift für Musik_,   published
                                               6-10th Nov. 1834 (signed
       Jan. Returns to                         "Canto Spianato").
       Leipzig. Writes
       text of _Das

       July. Conductor
       at Magdeburg.

 1835                     _Columbus Overture_                            Halévy's
                           (performed at Kahnt,                         _La Juive_.
                           1835, in Riga,
                           19th March 1838,                              Donizetti's
                           and at  Paris, 4th                           _Lucia di
                           Feb. 1841;                                    Lammermoor_.
                           published by
                           Breitkopf & Härtel                            Grimm's "German
                           in 1907).                                     Mythology"
                           Jan. New Year
                           Cantata, "Beim
                           Antritt des
                           neuen Jahres"
                           (published 1914).

 1836  March. Finished    _Das Liebesverbot_   Text of "Männerlist       Meyerbeer's
       music of _Das       (_The Novice of     grösser als Frauenlist"  _Les Huguenots_.
       Liebesverbot_.      Palermo_),          (music never written).
                           performed in
       August. Settles     Magdeburg,          Article, "Aus Magdeburg"
       at Königsberg.      under Wagner,       (published anonymously
                           29th March.         in the _Neue Zeitschrift
       24th Nov. Marries                       für Musik_ for 19th
       Minna Planer.      _"Rule, Britannia"_  April 1836).
                           (published by
                           Breitkopf &
                           in 1907).

                          _"Polonia" Overture_
                           (begun in 1832;
                           published by
                           Breitkopf & Härtel
                           in 1907).

 1837  May. Leaves         Romance in          "Die hohe Braut"(Opera    Lortzing's
       Königsberg.         G major,            text, sketched in 1836   _Zar und
                           "Sanfte Wehmut      and sent to Scribe in     Zimmermann_.
       August. Settles     will sich regen,"   1837. Offered to
       in Riga.            (for insertion in   Reissiger in 1842.
                           Blum's Singspiel    Versified by Wagner
                           "Marie, Max         in 1847, and composed by
                           und Michel").       Johann Kittl under the
                                               title of "Bianca und
                                               Giuseppa, oder die
                                               Franzosen vor Nizza").

                                               Articles "Der dramatische
                                               Gesang," and "Die _Norma_
                                               von Bellini" (the latter

                                               Article, "Bellini, Ein
                                               Wort zu seiner Zeit,"
                                               published in the _Rigaer
                                               Zuschauer_, 7-19th
                                               Dec. 1837.

 1838  July. Begins        "Der Tannenbaum"    "Die glückliche           Berlioz's
      _Rienzi_.            (song).             Bärenfamilie" (comic     _Benvenuto
                                               opera in 2 Acts.          Cellini_.
       Conceives idea of                       Text only).
      _Flying Dutchman_.

 1839  May. Completes      A _Faust Overture_
       first two Acts of  (finished Feb. 1840,
      _Rienzi_.            rehearsed by
                           Habeneck at Paris,
       July. Leaves Riga.  but not performed).

       At Paris.           Songs:--
                           "Dors, mon Enfant."
                           "Les deux

 1840  September.                                                        Schumann's
       Finishes _Rienzi_.                                               _Myrthen,_
                                                                        _Frauenliebe_ and
       Sketches _Flying                                                 _Dichterliebe_.
       Meets Liszt for                                                  _Favorita_.
       first time.
       Oct. Writes                                                       born.
      _Rienzi_ Overture.

       Nov. Finishes
       scoring of

 1840-42                                       Articles written in
                                               Paris: "The Nature of
                                               German Music" (_Gazette
                                               Musicale_, Nos. 44-6,

                                               "Pergolesi's Stabat Mater"
                                               (_G. M._, No. 57. 1840).

                                               "The Virtuoso and The
                                               Artist" (_G. M._, No. 58.

                                               "A Pilgrimage to
                                               Beethoven" (_G. M._,
                                               Nos. 65, 66, 68, 69.
                                               1840). "The Overture"
                                               (_G. M._, Nos. 3-5. 1841).

                                               "An End in Paris" (_G. M._,
                                               Nos. 9, 11, 12. 1841).
                                               "Report" for the
                                              _Dresdener Abendzeitung_,
                                               (23rd Feb. 1841).

                                               "The Artist and Publicity"
                                               (_G. M._, No. 26. 1841).

                                               "Parisian Amusements"
                                               (_Europa_, April, 1841).

                                               "Report" for the
                                              _Dresdener Abendzeitung_,
                                               6th April, 1841.

                                               "Report" for the
                                              _Dresdener Abendzeitung_,
                                               5th May, 1841.

                                               "Parisian Fatalities for
                                               Germans" (_Europa_, May

                                               "Der Freischütz" (_G. M._,
                                               Nos. 34-5. 1841).

                                               "Le Freischütz"
                                               (_Dresdener Abendzeitung_,
                                               20th June 1841).

                                               "Report" for the
                                              _Dresdener Abendzeitung_,
                                               6th July 1841.

                                               "Report" for the
                                              _Dresdener Abendzeitung_
                                               ("Impressions of a
                                               Parisian Sunday,"
                                               1st Aug. 1841).

                                               "Report" for the
                                              _Dresdener Abendzeitung_,
                                               8th Sept. 1841.

                                               "A Happy Evening" (_G. M._,
                                               Nos. 56-8. 1841).

                                               "Report" for the
                                              _Dresdener Abendzeitung_,
                                               5th Nov. 1841.

                                               "Report" for the
                                              _Dresdener Abendzeitung_,
                                               1st Dec. 1841.

                                               "Rossini's Stabat Mater"
                                               (_Neue Zeitschrift für
                                               15th Dec. 1841).

                                               "Report" for the
                                              _Dresdener Abendzeitung_
                                              (Halévy's "La Reine de
                                               Chypre"), 23rd Dec. 1841.

                                               "Report" for the
                                              _Dresdener Abendzeitung_
                                               ("On a New Paris Opera"),
                                               31st Dec. 1841.

                                               "Halévy et La Reine de
                                               Chypre" (_G. M._, Nos. 9,
                                               11, 17, 18. 1842).

 1841  Engaged on the                                                    Feuerbach's _Wesen
      _Flying Dutchman_,                                                 des Christenthums_.
       music written
       in July and Aug.

 1842  April. At           20th Oct. First    _Die Bergwerke zu Falun_;  Death of Cherubini.
       Dresden. Plans      performance of      opera in three Acts.
      _Tannhäuser_        _Rienzi_ at          (Sketch only).
       ("Der Venusberg").  Dresden,
                           under Reissiger.   _Die Sarazenin_; Opera in
                                               five Acts (sketched in
                                               Paris in 1841; text
                                               finished in Dresden
                                               in 1843; music never

                                               Nov. "Autobiographical

 1843  Feb. Becomes a      2nd Jan. First                                Schumann's _Paradise
       Court Kapellmeister performance of _The                           and the Peri_.
       at Dresden.         Flying Dutchman_
                           at Dresden, under                             Robert Franz's
       May completes       Wagner.                                       first set of songs.
      _Tannhäuser poem_.
                           May and June. _The                            Grieg born.
       July. Begins        Love Feast of the
       composition of      Apostles_.
      _Tannhäuser_.        (Performed
                           6th July.)

                           "Festgesang" for
                           male chorus
                           (published 1914).

 1844  Oct. Finishes       Aug. "Gruss         Account of the bringing   Verdi's _Ernani_.
       Acts I and II       seiner Treuen an    home of Weber's remains
       of _Tannhäuser_.    Friedrich den       from London to Dresden.
                           Geliebten" for
                           male chorus.

                           Arrangement of the
                           Triumphal March
                           from Spontini's
                           "La Vestale."

                           Dec. Funeral music
                           at Weber's grave
                          (published 1914).

 1845  13th April.         19th Oct. First
       Completes           performance of
       scoring of         _Tannhäuser_ at
      _Tannhäuser_.        Dresden under
       July. Sketches
       poem of

       July. Idea of
       and _Parsifal_
       conceived  but
       put aside.

       Nov. Poem of

 1846  Palm Sunday                             Various articles on       Berlioz's _Faust_.
       (5th April).                            Beethoven's 9th Symphony,
       Produces the                           _à propos_ of his own      Lortzing's
       Ninth Symphony                          performance of the work  _Waffenschmied_.
       at Dresden.                             on 5th April.
       Sept. 1846 to                           "Concerning the Royal    _Elijah_.
       March 1847.                             Kapelle."
       Writes 3rd Act
       of _Lohengrin_.                         "Artist and Critic, with
                                               respect to a particular
                                               case" (in _Dresdener
 1847  May to June.        Arrangement of                                Death of
       Writes 1st Act      Gluck's _Iphigenia                            Mendelssohn.
       of _Lohengrin_.     in Aulis_.

       June to August.
       Writes 2nd Act
       of _Lohengrin_
       and Prelude.

 1848  9th Jan. His mother                                               Feb. Revolution
       dies.                                                             in Paris.

       March. Finishes                                                   March. Risings in
       scoring of                                                        Vienna and Berlin.

       14th June.
       Makes political
       speech to the

       Nov. Writes poem    Arrangement of     (Summer.) "The             Schumann's
       of _Siegfried's     Palestrina's        Wibelungen:              _Faust_.
       Death_.             "Stabat Mater."     World-history from the
                                               Saga" (not published      Schumann's
       Plans "Friedrich                        till 1850).              _Manfred_.
                                               (Autumn.) "The
                                               Nibelungen Myth as
                                               sketch of a Drama."

                                               Speech at the 300th
                                               Anniversary of the
                                               Foundation of the Royal
                                               Musical Chapel in

                                              (December.) "Jesus von

                                               "What is the relation
                                               of Republican efforts to
                                               the Monarchy?"

 1849   16th Feb. Liszt                        "Theatrical Reform."      May. Risings in
        produces                                                         Dresden.
       _Tannhäuser_ in                         "A Project for the
        Weimar.                                Organisation of a German  Meyerbeer's
                                               National Theatre for     _Le Prophète_.
        May. Wagner flees                      the Kingdom of Saxony"
        from Dresden to                        (presented to the         Death of Chopin.
        Weimar and thence                      Ministry 16th May 1848).
        to Zürich. Later
        to Paris; then                         "Art and Revolution."
        returns to Zürich.
                                               (Jan.) "Edouard
                                               Devrient's Geschichte
                                               der deutschen

                                               (April.) "Man and
                                               Existing Society."

                                               (April.) "The Revolution."

 1850  Jan. Goes to Paris, 26th Aug. First     "The Art-Work of the      Schumann's
       hoping to get an    performance of      Future" (written Nov.    _Genoveva_.
       opera produced.    _Lohengrin_ at       and Dec. 1849).
                           Weimar under Liszt.
       Returns to                             "Wieland the Smith"
       Switzerland.                            (sketched as a drama end
                                               of 1849 or beginning of
                                               1850; worked out more
                                               elaborately in 1850 in

                                               "Art and Climate."
                                               "Judaism and Music" (a
                                               pseudonymous article in
                                               the _Neue Zeitschrift
                                               für Musik_; expanded and
                                               re-published under his
                                               own name in 1869).

 1851 May-June. Writes                         "Opera and Drama"         Schopenhauer's
      poem of _Young                           (written in winter       _Parerga und
      Siegfried_.                              1850-51).                 Paralipomena_.

                                               "A Communication to my    Verdi's
                                               Friends."                _Rigoletto_.

                                               "On the Goethe            Death of
                                               Foundation."              Spontini.

                                               "A Letter to Franz

                                               "A Theatre in Zürich."

                                               "Recollections of

                                               "Explanatory Programme
                                               to Beethoven's 'Eroica'

 1852  Meets the

       Writes poems of                         "On Musical Criticism."
      _Valkyrie_ and
      _Rheingold_.                             Explanatory Programmes
                                               to the "Coriolan"
       Recasts _Young                          Overture; "Flying
       Siegfried_ and                          Dutchman" Overture; and
      _Siegfried's Death_,                     "Tannhäuser" Overture.
       calling the former
      _Siegfried_ and the                      "On the performing of
       latter _Die                            _Tannhäuser_."

       The text was
       privately printed
       as _Der Ring des
       Nibelungen_ in

 1853  Oct. Working at     Album Sonata in     "Remarks on performing    3rd Jan. Death
       music of the        E flat major (for   the _Flying Dutchman_."   of Uhlig.
      _Rheingold_.         Frau Wesendonck).
                                               Explanatory programme to  Verdi's
                           "Züricher           the _Lohengrin_ Prelude. _Il Trovatore_.
                           (Waltz in E flat                              Verdi's
                           major).                                      _Traviata_.

 1854  Jan. Finishes                           "Gluck's Overture to      Hanslick's _Vom
      _Rheingold_ music.                      _Iphigenia in Aulis_."     Musikalisch-Schönen_.

       May. Finishes the                       "A Letter to the Editor
       scoring.                                of _Neue Zeitschrift für
       June to Dec.
       Writes music of
       the _Valkyrie_.

       Autumn. Conceives
       idea of _Tristan_.


 1855  In London and       "A Faust Overture"
       Zürich.             (second version).

       Scoring the

 1856  April. Finishes                         May. _Die Sieger_         Death of
       scoring the                             (sketch for a             Schumann.
      _Valkyrie_.                              Buddhistic drama).

       Autumn. Working at
       music of

 1857  March. Receives                                                   Elgar born.
       request for an
       opera for Rio de

       April. Settles in
       the "Asyl" by
       Wesendonck's house.

       July. Finishes 1st                      "On Franz Liszt's
       and part of 2nd Act                     Symphonic Poems."
       of _Siegfried_.

       August. Makes prose
       sketch of _Tristan_.

       18th Sept. Finishes
       poem of _Tristan_.

       Idea of _Parsifal_

       31st Dec. Completes
       music of 1st Act
       of _Tristan_,
       also Prelude.

 1857-58                   Five Songs:

                           1. The Angel.
                           2. Be still.
                           3. In the Hothouse.
                           4. Grief.
                           5. Dreams.

 1858  In Paris and                                                      Cornelius's _Barber
       Switzerland.                                                      of Bagdad_.

       April. Scores 1st                                                 Puccini born.
       Act of _Tristan_.

       Summer. Writes 2nd
       Act of _Tristan_.

 1859  9th April to 16th                       "Homage to Spohr and      Gounod's _Faust_.
       July. Writes 3rd                        Fischer."
       Act of _Tristan_.                                                 Death of Spohr.

       8th Aug. Scoring of
      _Tristan_ finished.

       15th Sept. In Paris.

 1860  At Brussels and                         "Letter to Hector         Hugo Wolf born.
       Paris.                                  Berlioz."

       Makes Paris version                     "Zukunftsmusik."
       of _Tannhäuser_.

       August. Amnestied,
       except in Saxony.

 1861 13th, 18th, and 24th Albumblatt in       "Account of the Production
      March, _Tannhäuser_  A flat major.       of Tannhäuser in Paris."
      given in Paris.
                           "Ankunft bei den    Article "On Rota's _Gräfin
      May. Hears           schwarze Schwänen." Egmont_," written for the
     _Lohengrin_ for the   (An Albumblatt for _Vienna Oesterreichische
      first time, in       Countess            Zeitung_, and signed
      Vienna.              Pourtalès), based   "P. C." (Peter Cornelius).
                           on Elisabeth's
      10th July. Minna     aria in Act 2 of
      leaves him finally,  Tannhäuser.
      except for a  visit
      to him in Biebrich   Albumblatt in
      in 1862.              C major (for
      Dec. 1861 to         Metternich).
      Jan. 1862. Writes
     _Meistersinger_ poem.

 1862  Feb. At Biebrich.                                                 Liszt's
       Commences                                                        _St. Elisabeth_.
       composition of
      _Meistersinger_.                                                   Debussy born.

       March. Amnestied in

       2nd June.
       Overture given in

       Nov. In Vienna.

 1863  At St. Petersburg,                      "The Vienna Court Opera
       Moscow, &c., trying                     House."
       to raise money by
       concerts.                               "Nibelungen" Poem
                                               published with a preface.
       May. In Penzing

 1864  10th March.         Huldigungsmarsch.   Poem: "To the Kingly      Death of
       Ludwig II ascends                       Friend."                  Meyerbeer.
       the Bavarian throne.

       23rd March. Wagner                      "State and Religion"      Richard Strauss
       flies from his                          (not printed for public   born.
       creditors to                            circulation till 1873).

       3rd May. Ludwig
       sends for him:
       Wagner settles at
       Starnberg. (In
       Munich Oct.)

 1865  10th April. Isolde, 10th June,          "What is German?" (not
       daughter of Wagner  1st performance     published as a whole till
       and  Cosima von     of _Tristan_ at     1878).
       Bülow, born in      Munich, under
       Munich.             Von Bülow.

       July. Resumes                           "Report to His Majesty
       composition  of                         King Ludwig II of Bavaria
      _Siegfried_.                             upon a German Music-School
                                               to be founded in Munich."
       27-30 Aug. Sketches
      _Parsifal_ for King

       Dec. Leaves Munich;
       settles for a while
       in Switzerland.

 1866  25th Jan. Death of

       April. Settles at
       Tribschen (Lucerne).

       May. Cosima von
       Bülow leaves her
       husband and goes to
       live with Wagner
       at Tribschen.

       June. Composition
       of 1st Act of

       Oct. Hans Richter
       sent to Wagner by

       2nd Act of

 1867  18th Feb. Eva,                          "Critiques"--             Gounod's
       daughter of Wagner                      1. W. H. Riehl.          _Romeo and Juliet._
       and Cosima von                          2. Ferdinand Hiller.
       Bülow, born in
       Tribschen.                              "German Art and German
                                               Policy" (reprinted in
       20th Oct. Finishes                      book form in 1868).

 1868  Nov. Makes          21st June. 1st      "Recollections of Ludwig  Death of Rossini.
       Nietzsche's         performance of      Schnorr von Carolsfeld."
       acquaintance.      _Meistersinger_                                Brahms's _German
                           at Munich, under    "Critiques":--            Requiem_.
                           Von Bülow.          3. Recollections of
                                               Rossini.                  Boïto's
                                               4. Edward Devrient.      _Mefistofele_.
                                               5. Appendix to "Judaism
                                               in Music" (accompanying
                                               book-form edition).

 1869 Feb. Finishes 2nd    22nd Sept. First    "On Conducting."          Death of Berlioz
      Act of _Siegfried_.  performance of
                          _Rheingold_ at
      6th June. Siegfried  Munich, under
      Wagner born.         Wüllner.

      Sept. Finishes 3rd
      Act of _Siegfried_.

      Oct. Begins music of

 1870 11th Jan. Finishes
      1st Act of

      5th July. Finishes   26 June. First      3 poems: "Rheingold"
      2nd Act of           performance of      (1868); "On the
     _Götterdämmerung_.   _Valkyrie_ at        completion of Siegfried"
                           Munich, under       (1869); "25 Aug. 1870."
      18 July. Cosima      Wüllner.
      divorced by                              "Beethoven."
      Von Bülow.          _Siegfried Idyll_
                           (given at
      25 Aug. Wagner       Tribschen,
      marries Cosima       25 Dec.).
      Von Bülow

                                               "Open Letter to Dr. F.

                                               "Mein Leben" (privately

 1871  Feb. Finishes       Kaisermarsch.       Poem: "To the German      Death of Auber.
       scoring of                              Army before Paris."
      _Siegfried_.                                                       Verdi's _Aida_.
                                               "A Capitulation" (not
       May. Begins                             published until 1873).    Death of Tausig.
       publication of
       his Collected                           "Recollections of Auber."
                                               "On the Destiny of
       June. Emil Heckel                       Opera."
       forms first Wagner
       Society at                              "Letter to an Italian
       Mannheim.                               Friend on the production
                                               of _Lohengrin_ at

                                               "On the production of the
                                               Stage-Festival-Drama _The
                                               Ring of the Nibelung_."

                                               Preface to the Collected
                                               Edition of his Prose and
                                               Poetical Works.

                                               "Report to the German

 1872 Feb. Finishes 3rd
      Act of

      April. Settles in                        "Actors and Singers."     Nietzsche's _Geburt
      Bayreuth.                                                          der Tragödie aus
                                               "To the Burgomaster of    dem Geiste der Musik._
      22 May. Foundation                        Bologna."
      stone of the
      Bayreuth Theatre                         "To Friedrich Nietzsche."
                                               "On the name Music Drama."

                                               "Letter to an Actor."

                                               "Epilogue to the Ring."

 1873  Completes                               "A Glance at the German
       re-publication of                       Operatic Stage of to-day."
       nine volumes of
       works.                                  "The rendering of
                                               Beethoven's 9th Symphony."
       22 May. Begins
       building of                             "Prologue to a reading of
       "Wahnfried."                            the _Götterdämmerung_
                                               before a select audience
       May. Begins scoring                     at Berlin."
                                               "Bayreuth"--Final Report,
       2 Aug. The Bayreuth                     &c.
       theatre finished in
       the rough.                              "The Festival Playhouse
                                               at Bayreuth."

 1874  May. Enters into                        "On Spohr's _Jessonda_."  Death of Peter
       residence at                                                      Cornelius.
       "Wahnfried."                            "On an Operatic
                                               Performance in Leipzig."
 1875                      Albumblatt in E                               Bizet's _Carmen_.
                           flat major.
                                                                        _Queen of Sheba_.

 1876                      American Centennial                           Brahms's
                           March.                                        1st Symphony.

                           Aug. 13-17. First
                           performance of the
                          _Ring_ at Bayreuth,
                           under Richter.

 1877  Jan.-April. Writes                      "To the Committee of     Saint-Saëns'
       poem of _Parsifal_.                     the Wagnervereine."     _Samson and Dalila_.

       Dec. Poem published.                    "Sketch for a School     Massenet's _Le Roi
                                               for Style."              de Lahore_.
       Autumn. Begins the

       7-29 May. Conducts
       eight concerts in
       Albert Hall, London.

 1878  Jan. First number of                    "What is German?"
       "Bayreuther Blätter"
       issued.                                 "Modern."

       20 April. 1st Act of                    "Public and Popularity."
      _Parsifal_ finished.
                                               "The Public in Time and
       Oct. 2nd Act of                         Space."
      _Parsifal_ finished.
                                               "Retrospect of the Stage
       Dec. Begins scoring                     Festivals of 1876."
       of _Parsifal_.
                                               "Introduction to the
       28 April. Angelo                        'Bayreuther Blätter.'"
       Neumann gives (in
       Leipzig) first
       performance of Ring
       after Bayreuth.

 1879  Jan.-April. Writes                      "Shall we Hope?"
       3rd Act of
      _Parsifal_.                              "Open Letter to Herr E.
                                               von Weber."

                                               "On Poetry and

                                               "On Operatic Poetry and

                                               "On the Application of
                                               Music to the Drama."

                                               "The Work and Mission of
                                               my Life."

                                               "Introductory Word" (to
                                               Hans von Wolzogen's
                                               "Über Errettung der
                                               deutschen Sprache.")

 1880  In Italy.                               "Religion and Art."

                                               "What boots this

                                               "Introduction to the
                                               year 1880." ("Bayreuther

                                               "Communication to the
                                               Patrons of the Stage

 1881  Jan. Angelo                             "Introduction to a work of
       Neumann begins                          of Count Gobineau."
       (in Berlin) his
       European tour                           "Know Thyself."
       with the _Ring_.
                                               "Hero-dom and

 1882  13 Jan. Finishes    26 July. First      "_Parsifal_ at Bayreuth."
       scoring of          performance of
      _Parsifal_.         _Parsifal_ at        "On the Production of a
                           Bayreuth            youthful Symphony."
       Sept. Goes to       under Levi.
       Venice.                                 "Letter to Hans von
       Dec. Conducts his
       youthful Symphony                       "Open Letter to Friedrich
       in C major in                           Schon."

 1883  13 Feb. Dies at                         "On the Human Womanly"    Saint-Saëns'
       Venice.                                 (posthumous fragment).   _Henry the Eighth_.

       18 Feb. Buried at                       "Letter to Herr von       Dvorak's
       Bayreuth.                               Stein."                  _Stabat Mater_.


  Adam, 153, 154 _n._

  Adler, Guido, 227

  Æschylus, 176, 351, 357

  Agoult, Comtesse d', 130 _n._, 131

  Alexander, 3

  Altnikol, 349

  Ander, 19

  Anna (Wagner's servant), 113

  Apel, Theodor, 25 ff., 62 ff., 69, 70

  Aristotle, 194

  Arnold, 206

  Asquith, Mr., 330

  Auber, 151

  Avenarius, Cäcilie. _See_ Cäcilie Wagner

  Bach, 83, 128, 147, 158 ff., 162 _n._, 212 ff., 218, 236, 239,
      284, 301,  305, 307, 314, 321 ff., 335 ff., 348 ff.

  Baden, Grand Duke of, 128

  Bakunin, 47

  Baumgartner, 8, 133

  Beethoven, 29, 57 _n._, 146, 150, 155 ff., 160 ff., 164 ff., 172,
      182, 189 ff., 200, 212 ff., 220 ff., 225 ff., 230 ff., 236,
      238 ff., 272, 278, 301, 305, 321 ff., 329, 334 ff., 356

  Bellini, 147, 149, 150, 152, 153, 243

  Berlioz, 5 _n._, 33 _n._, 159, 166 _n._, 190, 230, 241, 308 ff.

  Bertha (milliner), 122 ff., 125

  Bissing, Henriette von, 116, 117, 124

  Blake, 159, 320

  Bonfantini, 333

  Bournot, Otto, 331, 334

  Boughton, Rutland, 357 _n._

  Brahms, 159, 213, 221, 232, 301, 323, 326 ff.

  Brockhaus, Luise. _See_ Luise Wagner

  Browning, 159, 339

  Bruch, Max, 329

  Buddha, The, 316

  Busoni, 214

  Bülow, Cosima von. _See_ Cosima Wagner

  Bülow, Hans von, 4, 24, 31, 38 _n._, 75, 114 ff., 126, 129, 130 _n._,
      133, 139 ff., 332

  Burrell, Mrs., 329 ff.

  Calderon, 90

  Calvin, 3

  Carroll, 185

  Cavalli, 227

  Chamberlain, H. S., 45 _n._, 173

  Charpentier, 345

  Cherubini, 165, 188

  Chorley, H. F., 33

  Clough, 206

  Columbus, 217

  Cornelius, 4, 24, 66, 106, 110, 117 _n._, 119, 124, 128, 133,
      134 ff., 140

  Dannreuther, E., 149 _n._, 162 _n._

  Davison, Henry, 33 _n._

  -- J. W., 32, 33

  Debussy, 172, 305, 322, 336, 345 ff.

  Dietrich, 67, 68, 71

  Dingelstedt, 13 ff.

  Dorn, Heinrich, 153

  Draeseke, 144

  Dukas, 356

  Dustmann, Frau, 20, 109 ff.

  Ellis, W. A., 2 _n._, 12 _n._, 13 _n._, 32, 34. 36, 38 ff.,
      42 _n._, 52, 83 _n._, 85, 86 _n._, 87 _n._, 92 _n._,
      93 _n._, 99 _n._, 112, 114 _n._

  Erlanger, 10

  Evans, Edwin, 200 _n._

  Fétis, 5

  Feuerbach, 82, 121, 176

  Feustel, 329

  Fips (dog), 38 ff.

  Fischer, W., 17, 18

  France, Anatole, 268, 319

  Francis, St., 316

  Franck, César, 233, 321, 323

  Franz (Wagner's servant), 113

  Frays, von, 15, 18

  Frederick the Great, 82

  Frommann, Alwine, 31, 45

  Gaillard, 32

  Galsworthy, John, 351

  Gautier, Judith, 3 _n._

  Geyer, Benjamin, 334

  -- Ludwig, 326 ff.

  Gladstone, 3

  Glasenapp, 15 _n._, 37 _n._, 45 _n._, 56 _n._, 87 _n._, 110 _n._,
      127, 133, 138, 236, 249, 331

  Gluck, 149, 164 ff., 188, 191, 193, 198, 220, 222, 224, 225, 323

  Goethe, 194, 199, 293

  Gounod, 35

  Greek Drama, 176 ff., 192 ff., 219, 351 ff.

  Grieg, 329

  Guiata, von, 110

  Habeneck, 155

  Hafiz, 121

  Halévy, 12

  Handel, 244

  Hanslick, 19 ff., 54, 71 _n._, 112, 140, 143, 303, 304

  Hardy, Thomas, 353, 357

  Härtinger, 14

  Haydn, 221, 323

  Heine, 59, 244

  Heinse, 59, 149

  Herwegh, 133

  -- Frau, 95, 97

  Heubner, 47

  Heyse, Paul, 7

  Hofmannsthal, Hugo von, 345

  Hoffmann, E. T. A., 146, 221 _n._

  Hokusai, 293

  Holtei, 153

  Hornstein, Ferdinand von, 6, 12

  -- Robert von, 6 ff., 23, 35, 54, 67 _n._, 82, 85

  Hueffer, F., 123 _n._

  Hugo, Victor, 23

  Huneker, J. G., 316 ff., 327 ff.

  Indy, Vincent d', 323

  Julius Cæsar, 3

  Kalergis, Mme., 81

  Kapp, Julius, 12 _n._, 54 _n._, 62 _n._, 89, 91, 106, 109, 111, 113,
      116, 118

  Keats, 207

  Kellermann, 129, 138

  Kietz, 51, 53, 243

  Kittl, 260

  Köhler, 136

  König, 260

  Küstner, 12

  Lablache, 243

  Lachner, 12 ff., 54

  Laube, H., 20, 33, 34, 149, 156, 172

  Laussot, Eugène, 45 ff., 75

  -- Jessie, 5, 31, 37, 44 ff., 58, 76 _n._, 84, 107, 133

  Lear, 185

  Leonardo, 293

  Lessing, 192, 343 _n._

  Levi, Hermann, 121 _n._, 249

  Levy, Gustav, 173

  Lichtenberger, H., 122 _n._

  Lingg, Hermann, 7

  Liszt, 3, 13, 18 _n._, 24, 50, 51, 73, 85 _n._, 86 _n._, 89, 90, 106,
      120, 123, 129 ff., 133, 134, 140 ff., 174 _n._, 207, 208, 240, 324

  Logier, 238

  Ludwig, Emil, 122 _n._, 295, 320 _n._

  -- King, 18 _n._, 19, 81, 110, 116 ff., 124, 133 ff., 144, 249

  Lüttichau, 173

  Maeterlinck, 353

  Mahler, 329

  Maier, Mathilde, 109, 111, 112, 117

  Marie (Wagner's servant), 115 _n._, 116

  Marschner, 241, 247

  Mauro, Seraphine, 106, 134, 135

  Méhul, 154, 188

  _Mein Leben_, Untrustworthiness of, 4 ff., 39 ff., 50, 54, 62,
      63 _n._, 88

  Meissner, 33 ff.

  Mendelssohn, 33, 186, 199, 214, 216 _n._, 240, 328

  Meredith, G., 80

  Metastasio, 187

  Metternich, Princess, 10

  Meyer, Friederike, 109 ff., 116, 117

  Meyerbeer, 5 _n._, 23, 31, 33 _n._, 36, 173, 190, 191, 203

  Milton, 159, 342, 343

  Minnaphobia, Wagnerian, 36 ff., 42, 56

  Monnaie, Ed., 12 _n._

  Monteverdi, 213, 227, 323, 325

  Morny, 10

  Morris, Wm., 343

  Mosel, 224

  Mottl, 328, 332 ff.

  Mozart, 147, 149, 152, 160, 162, 164 ff., 186, 188, 189, 191, 214,
      220, 221, 225, 244, 312

  Napoleon I, 3, 82, 162, 163, 195, 306

  -- III, 10, 76 _n._

  Nietzsche, 23, 27, 30, 36, 47, 67 _n._, 128, 141, 316 ff., 327 ff.

  Ollivier, Blandine, 106, 116

  Osenbrück, 34

  Pachta, Count, 30, 34

  Palestrina, 323, 325

  Papo (parrot), 41

  Payn, James, 208

  Pecht, 26 _n._, 34

  Peps (dog), 41

  Peri, 227

  Pforten, von der, 14

  Phidias, 182

  Planer, Minna. _See_ Minna Wagner

  -- Natalie, 64 _n._, 111

  Pleyel, 239

  Pohlenz, 146, 155

  Pope, 159

  Porges, Fritz, 124, 135

  -- Heinrich, 135, 136

  Praeger, F., 56 _n._, 85

  Puccini, 345

  Pusinelli, 97 _n._, 104 _n._, 105, 109

  _Putzmacherin, Die._ _See_ Bertha

  Racine, 192

  Rameau, 323

  Renoir, 320 _n._

  Ritter, Frau, 7 _n._, 31, 46, 49, 51 _n._

  -- Karl, 8, 10 _n._, 31, 45, 53 ff., 99, 102, 133

  Roeckel, August, 3, 47, 175, 186

  Röckl, Sebastian, 14 ff.

  Rose, Frau, 330, 332

  Rossini, 122, 189, 190

  Runciman, J. F., 259, 262, 268, 307, 308, 316 ff.

  St. Georges, 12, 13

  Schiller, 33, 158, 194, 200

  Schlesinger, 12 _n._

  Schmidt, G., 15

  Schmitt, W., 14

  Schmitz, Eugen, 224 _n._

  Schnorr von Carolsfeld, 4, 139

  Schönaich, G., 124

  Schopenhauer, 7, 121, 122, 158 _n._, 352

  Schott, 6, 137 _n._, 146

  Schröder-Devrient, 149, 150, 152, 155, 208, 226

  Schubert, 159, 218, 241, 307

  Schumann, Clara, 214

  -- Robert, 159, 214, 244, 245, 272, 323

  Schuré, E., 138 ff.

  Schwabe, 63, 65

  Scribe, 13, 34, 191

  Shakespeare, 58, 151, 159, 182, 192 ff., 203, 205, 249, 301, 303, 315

  Shaw, G. B., 97 _n._, 304, 353

  Sophocles, 176

  Spencer, Herbert, 306

  Spinoza, 342

  Spitzer, D., 122

  Spohr, 147

  Spontini, 165, 186, 189

  _Stabreim_, 197, 199, 200, 209, 210, 275

  Standhartner, Dr., 20, 21 _n._, 106 ff., 136, 137 _n._

  Stanford, Sir Charles, 326 ff.

  Strauss, D. F., 82

  -- Richard, 159, 172, 302 ff., 321 ff., 340 ff., 356

  Strindberg, 133

  Sulzer, 178

  Swinburne, 159, 320, 353

  Tappert, W., 20 _n._

  Tausig, 4, 24, 127 ff., 135

  Taylor, Mrs., 45, 51 _n._, 54, 55

  Tchaikovski, 340, 356

  Thespis, 182

  Tieck, 193

  Uhlig, 3, 31, 83 _n._, 179, 204, 209, 215, 244

  Verdi, 227

  Voltaire, 202

  Wagner, Adolf, 330 ff.

  -- Albert, 330 ff.

  -- Cäcilie, 81 _n._, 331

  -- Clara, 84, 85, 92, 94, 109

  -- Cosima, 37, 38, 45, 81, 84, 109, 112, 114 ff., 125 _n._, 129,
      130 _n._, 328, 332, 333

  -- Eva, 37 _n._, 118

  -- Franziska, 83

  -- Isolde, 37 _n._, 118

  -- Johanna, 326 ff.

  -- Karl Friedrich Wilhelm, 326 ff.

  -- Luise, 82, 110, 112

  Wagner, Minna, 5, 6, 13, 22, 24, 30, 36 ff., 42 ff., 57 ff., 106 ff.,
            110 _n._, 111, 118, 133, 174

  -- Richard:
              _Personal Characteristics_

    Belief in himself, 2, 22, 24, 75, 77, 121 ff.
    Borrowing, habits of, 8 ff., 25, 26 ff., 65
    Charm of personality, 3, 4, 28
    Complexity of character, 1, 28 ff., 36, 43 ff., 99 ff., 116,
            120 ff., 128 ff., 141 ff.
    Egoism, 2, 3, 4, 22, 66, 75, 94, 95, 97, 118, 128, 140
    Epistolary skill, 22, 87, 104
    Exacting with friends, 4, 128 ff.
    Excessive sensibility, 127, 133 ff.
    Extremes of nature, 138 ff.
    Extravagance, 106, 124 ff.
    Hatred of critics, 30 ff.
    -- of Jews, 32, 121
    Indelicacy of soul, 23, 24, 29, 65 ff., 89
    Ingratitude, 76
    Irritability, 7 _n._, 28 ff., 33 ff., 61, 67, 97 _n._
    Love of luxury, 122 ff.
    Passion for reading to friends, 137 ff.
    -- -- dominance, 3, 4, 21, 128, 143
    -- -- self-justification, 23
    Purity as an artist, 2, 72, 76
    Unconscious actor, 23, 68, 94 ff.
    Vitality of temperament, 26
    Women, susceptibility to, 43, 45, 58, 83 ff., 111, 112 ff., 269
    Youthful wildness, 25 ff., 57 ff, 72

                                 MUSICAL WORKS

      _Die Hochzeit_, 238, 241, 246
      _Die Feen_, 26, 59, 147, 241, 246 ff., 249, 250, 251, 253, 254,
            256 ff., 265, 307, 310
      _Das Liebesverbot_, 26, 58, 59,  63, 151, 241, 249 ff., 258, 273
      _Rienzi_, 17, 18, 102, 154, 155, 163, 173 _n._, 211, 212, 240,
           242, 245, 249, 257 ff., 260, 273 ff., 329
      _The Flying Dutchman_, 18, 32, 45, 71 n., 163, 168, 171, 174, 211,
           212, 244, 245, 247, 249, 259, 260, 261 ff., 269 ff., 310, 319, 329
      _Tannhäuser_, 5 _n._, 8, 9 _n._, 13, 14 ff., 18 _n._, 32, 35, 39 _n._,
           76 _n._, 106, 119, 122, 169, 70 ff., 208 _n._, 229, 230, 241, 244,
           245, 247, 253, 259, 263 ff., 270, 329, 341, 347, 348, 350
      _Lohengrin_, 15, 18 _n._, 19, 50, 69, 79 _n._, 119, 122, 145, 168,
           171 ff., 241, 243 ff., 247, 259, 263 ff., 270 ff., 292,
           310, 319, 329
      _The Ring of the Nibelung_, 77, 79 _n._, 122 _n._, 137, 186 _n._,
           209, 212, 220, 245, 266 ff., 297 ff., 328, 352

           (a) _The Rhinegold_, 74, 137, 171, 218, 233, 270 ff.
           (b) _The Valkyrie_, 35, 74, 85, 137, 171, 210, 271 ff.
           (c) _Siegfried_, 120, 138, 210, 269 ff.
           (d) _The Twilight of the Gods_, 120, 138, 234, 237, 270 ff.

      _Tristan and Isolde_, 11, 17, 20, 35, 85, 88, 91, 94, 101, 106,
           107, 109, 111, 125, 126, 139, 145, 171, 209, 220, 247, 257,
           262, 266, 269 ff., 288 ff., 300, 310 ff., 321, 339 ff.,
           352, 355 ff.
      _Die Meistersinger_, 20, 21, 22, 107, 109, 111, 135, 137, 145,
           169, 171, 209, 220, 230, 266, 270 ff., 288 ff., 310 ff.,
           329,  342, 350, 353
      _Parsifal_, 107, 121 n., 171, 209, 266, 290 ff., 300, 312 ff.,
           315 ff., 343, 357

                 PIANOFORTE WORKS

      Albumblatt for Betty Schott, 236
      -- -- Princess Metternich, 237
      -- in E major (for Kietz), 243
      Album Sonata for Frau Wesendonck, 237
      Ankunft bei den schwarzen Schwänen, 237
      Fantasia in F sharp minor, 238
      Polonaise in D major, 239
      Sonata in A major, 239
      -- in B flat major, 238

                ORCHESTRAL WORKS

      _Columbus_ Overture, 240, 249
      _Faust_ Overture, 235, 239, 245, 265, 329
      _King Enzio_ Overture, 146, 240, 249
      _Polonia_ Overture, 240, 249
      _Rule, Britannia_ Overture, 240, 249
      Overture in D minor, 146
      -- in B flat minor, 238
      _Siegfried Idyl_, 235, 236, 237, 314
      Symphony in C major, 146, 240, 329

                 CHORAL WORKS

      _Greeting to Friedrich August the Beloved_, 245
      _Hymn to the Czar Nicholas_, 242
      _La Descente de la Courtille_, 242, 245
      _Love-Feast of the Apostles, The_, 245
      _New Year Cantata_, 241
      _Re-Interment of Weber's Remains_, 245
      _Weihegruss to King Friedrich August_, 245

               SONGS AND ARIAS

      Aria of Orovisto, 243
      _Attente_, 243, 244
      _Der Tannenbaum_, 242
      _Dors, mon enfant_, 243
      _Les Adieux de Marie Stuart_, 243, 245
      _Les deux Grenadiers_, 244
      _Mignonne_, 243
      Romance of Max, 241, 242, 244
      _Seven Compositions to Goethe's Faust_, 240, 242
      _Tout n'est qu'images fugitives_, 243
      _Vampyr_ Aria, 241


      _Bianca und Giuseppe_, 260
      _Die Bergwerke zu Falun_, 260
      _Die Sarazenin_, 260
      _Die glückliche Bärenfamilie_, 154 _n._, 260
      _Friedrich Barbarossa_, 173, 205 _n._, 266
      _Jesus of Nazareth_, 173, 266, 270, 319
      _Siegfried's Tod_, 46, 173, 185, 266,  270 ff., 297 ff.
      _Young Siegfried_, 299
      _The Victors_, 319
      _Wieland der Schmied_, 46, 207, 269

                PROSE WORKS

      _Account of the Bringing Home of Weber's Remains_, 172
      _Application of Music to the Drama, The_, 234
      _Art and Revolution_, 176 ff., 185
      _Art-Work of the Future, The_, 176, 180 ff., 185
      _Autobiographical Sketch_, 156, 172
      _Beethoven_, 158, 165 _n._
      _Bellini_, 153
      _Communication to my Friends, A_, 204, 211, 220 n., 261, 337, 338
      _Dramatic Song_, 151
      _End of a Musician in Paris, The_, 138
      _Franz Liszt's Symphonic Poems, On_, 162, 166 _n._
      _German Music, On_, 156
      _German Opera, The_, 147
      _Happy Evening, A_, 160, 162
      _Man and Existing Society_, 175
      _Opera and Drama_, 122, 137, 138, 181, 185 ff., 208, 209, 211, 215,
             220 n., 272
      _Operatic Poetry and Composition_, 209
      _Overture, The_, 163 ff.
      _Pasticcio_, 148
      _Pilgrimage to Beethoven, A_, 138, 156, 158
      _Project for the Organisation of a German National Theatre_, 173,
            175, 177 _n._
      _Report upon a proposed German School of Music for Munich_, 152
      _Revolution, The_, 175
      _Royal Kapelle, The_, 174
      _Speech at Weber's Grave_, 172
      _Vaterlandsverein Speech_, 175
      _Wibelungen, The_, 173

  Wagner, Ottilie, 79, 332

  -- Rosalie, 25, 154, 246

  Wagner, Siegfried, 37, 118, 120, 133, 328

  Wahnfried, editorial ways of, 36, 50, 86 _n._, 87 _n._, 90 _n._,
      106 _n._, 131 _n._, 328, 333

  Weber, 147, 150, 165, 168, 189, 220, 240, 245, 246, 247

  Weingartner, 80 _n._

  Weinlig, 238 ff.

  Weissheimer, 126, 133, 140, 144

  Weitzmann, 115

  Werder, 45

  Wesendonck, Mathilde, 2 _n._, 5, 6, 13, 16, 35, 37 ff., 43, 54, 56,
      57, 69, 83 ff., 107, 108, 112, 114 ff., 120, 129, 131, 133, 237

  Wesendonck, Otto, 24, 32, 33 _n._, 35, 39 _n._, 44, 47 _n._, 75, 81,
      85 ff., 105, 107, 108, 133

  Wilde, Oscar, 71, 208

  Wille, Eliza, 81, 82, 99, 110, 116, 117

  -- François, 24, 47 n., 82, 133

  Winter, 154

  Wittgenstein, Princess, 106 _n._, 129, 140, 207

  Wolf, Hugo, 159, 308 ff., 310, 320 ff.

  Wolfram, Clara. _See_ Clara Wagner

  Wolzogen, Hans von, 42 _n._, 138

  Zocher, Gustav, 330

                                THE END

                 Printed by BALLANTYNE, HANSON & CO.
                       at Paul's Work, Edinburgh

                    *       *       *       *       *

                         TRANSCRIBER'S NOTES:

Italic text is denoted by _underscores_.

A number of words in this book have both hyphenated and non-hyphenated
variants. For the words with both variants present the one more used
has been kept.

Obvious punctuation and other printing errors have been corrected.

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