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Title: A Day with Ludwig Beethoven
Author: Byron, May Clarissa Gillington
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Day with Ludwig Beethoven" ***

[Illustration: Cover art]


[Frontispiece: _Painting by N. M. Price_.]

"Joy, thou heavenly spark of Godhead!"





  _In the same Series.


At daybreak, on a summer morning, in the year 1815, a short,
thick-set, sturdily-built man entered his sitting-room, and at once
set to work to compose music.  Not that he disturbed the slumbers of
the other inhabitants by untimely noises upon the pianoforte: a
course which, at three in the morning, might be resented by even the
most enthusiastic admirer of his genius.  No: he sat down at his
table, with plenty of music paper, and addressed himself to his usual
avocation of writing assiduously till noon or thereabouts.

The untidy, uncomfortable condition of his room did not distress
Ludwig van Beethoven in the least.  True, it was scattered all over
with books and music; here the remains of last night's food, there an
empty wine bottle; on the piano, the hasty sketch of some immortal
work; on the floor, uncorrected proofs, business letters, orchestral
scores, and MSS. in a chaotic pile.

But he thoroughly enjoyed casting a glance, from time to time, at the
sunny scene without; at the vista towards the Belvedere Garden, the
Danube, and the distant Carpathians,--the view for the sake of which
he had taken up his lodgings at this house in the Sailer-stätte,
Vienna.  For if there was one thing which still could afford a unique
and cloudless pleasure to this sensitive, unhappy man, it was Nature
in all her varied forms of light and loveliness.  Nature, that "never
did betray the heart that loved her," still held out open arms of
help and solace for the healing of his afflicted soul.

Beethoven, in his various migrations from lodging to lodging--and
they were very numerous, and inspired by the most trivial
causes--always endeavoured to select an airy, sunshiny spot, where he
could at least feel the country air blowing to him, and so keep in
touch with his beloved green fields.  If the supply of sunshine
proved insufficient, that was quite a valid reason for another
removal.  But his restless, sensitive mind was apt to magnify
molehills into mountains, and the most trifling inconvenience into a
serious obstacle to work.  Work was his starting point, his course,
his goal; work was his whole _raison-d'-être_, the very meaning and
object of his existence.

It has been observed that if we would represent to ourselves a day in
the life of Beethoven, one of the Master's own wonderful compositions
would serve as the best counterpart.  Wagner instances the great
Quartet in C sharp minor as a notable instance of this allegoric
music,--designating the rather long introductory _Adagio_, "than
which, probably, nothing more melancholy has ever been expressed in
tones, as the awaking of a day

  'Which through its tardy course
  No single longing shall fulfil--not one!'

And yet the _Adagio_ is in itself a prayer, a period of conference
with God, in faith, in eternal goodness."  And it was in a state of
mind which one may term unconsciously devotional, that the great
composer now ascended into regions where few could follow
him,--where, his senses deaf and blind to earthly sights and sounds,
he could hold intercourse with a pure and celestial art.  For Music
contains, within its inexhaustible treasuries, not only all that we
conceive of best, all those highest and most ennobling emotions which
thrill us as at a touch of the Divine finger, but it also possesses
all the characteristic beauties of other arts.  The composer shares
Form and Colour with the painter--a much more elastic variety of
Form--and an incomparably wider use of Colour, in the magnificent
paintbox of the orchestra.  The composer's art, moreover, is not
stationary at one fixed point--one moment, so to speak, seized and
immortalised upon canvas: but has the fluidity and onward movement of
actual life, passing with bewildering rapidity of transition from one
phase of thought to another, even as life does.  And the composer,
while he shares with the great prose writer and the poet the power of
expressing things marvellously well,--of uttering in beautifully
poised and balanced rhythm the whole gamut of human emotion,--yet has
a greater power than theirs.  For he can put into a single phrase,
with an exquisite intimacy of intuition, a meaning which could hardly
be denoted in a hundred words: he can condense into a couple of bars
the essence of a whole chapter.

The outward appearance was far from beautiful, which belied the
really lofty heart of the great composer as he sat indefatigably at
work.  His thick, dark, upstanding hair, already turning grey,
crowned a pitted, swarthy face; his looks were rugged, gloomy,
forbidding; his chin bore evidence of the most superficial shaving;
his hands were covered with thick black hair; his small, deeply set,
fiery eyes alone redeemed him from ugliness.  For the rest, he had
cotton wool in his ears, and his rough, shabby, hairy clothes gave
him a Crusoesque look, almost comic in its incongruity with his

The housekeeper brought in his breakfast: he paid no attention to
her.  He had punctiliously counted out sixty coffee-beans overnight,
and handed them to her in readiness for the morning; but now, after
he had dipped his pen in the coffee-cup instead of the ink some three
or four times, he pushed away the discoloured mixture, and absently
nibbled his crusty roll.  He was composing a _Polonaise_, to be
dedicated to the Empress of Russia, for which he was to receive fifty
ducats.  This seemed an absurdly small remuneration, but although
Beethoven was "really forced" (to quote Richard Wagner) "to support
himself from the proceeds of his musical labours," yet, as life had
no allurements for him in the ordinary sense, he had less necessity
laid on him to make much money; and "the more confident he became in
the employment of his inner wealth, so much the more confidently did
he make his demands outward; and he actually required from his
benefactors, that they should no longer pay him for his compositions,
but so provide for him that he might work altogether for himself,
unconcerned as to the rest of the world.  And it really happened--a
thing unprecedented in the lives of musicians--that a few benevolent
men of rank pledged themselves to keep Beethoven independent in the
sense demanded."

So it was not with any misgivings that he set aside the score of the
_Polonaise_, still unfinished, and turned to something which he
justly regarded as holding promise of his best vocal work; that which
is still, perhaps, the greatest love-song in the world--the
unequalled _Adélaide_.  Its words, though above the average of the
German lyrist of that period, served merely as a peg upon which to
hang the music.

  "Lonely strays thy friend in April's garden,
  Lovely fairy lights around are gleaming
  Through the tremulous boughs of rosy blossom,

  In the stream, and on the snowy mountain,
  In the dying day all gold-beclouded,
  In the starry fields, thy likeness lingers,

  Evening breezes through the leaves are lisping,
  Silver May-bells in the grasses chiming,
  Waves are rustling, nightingales are fluting--

  Soon, O wonder! on my grave a floweret,
  From the ashes of my heart upspringing,
  Shall reveal, on every purple petal--

Beethoven had qualified himself for vocal writing to a degree which
is rarely attempted by the instrumental composer.  Although his
father and grandfather had been vocalists, his own early studies had
been in other branches of music; he knew little of the capabilities
of the voice.  So he took singing lessons from the Italian composer
Salieri; and notwithstanding that his own voice was shrill and harsh,
increasingly so as his deafness grew upon him, he was thus enabled to
pour forth liquid and melodious phrases, such as those of _Adélaide_,
which seem so absolutely adapted to the requirements of a singer that
they could, so to speak, sing themselves.

"_Adélaide_," he said, "came entirely from my heart;" and therefore
its pure ardour goes straight to the heart of the hearer.  But he was
not contented with his work, upon which he had already spent much
time and thought.  A frown gathered heavily upon his overhanging
brows, as, humming the air and playing an imaginary accompaniment on
the desk, he went over it again and again in the endeavour to "gild
refined gold."

"The more one achieves in art," he grumbled, "the less contented is
one with former works."  And this, indeed, was characteristic of
Ludwig van Beethoven: never to be satisfied with what he had
accomplished, but to go on continually, as it were, from strength to
strength.  That "divine discontent which is at the root of all
improvement," perpetually impelled him towards higher things, and
made him at once haughtily conscious of his own powers, and yet the
most modest and laborious of men.

In _Adélaide_, however, lay hidden more than the fluent outcome of
his creative instinct.  It remains the lovesong for all time--the
last word of a noble and ennobling passion.  Here--to pursue the
simile of the C sharp minor quartet--a dream-image of the _Allegro_
awakened in charming reminiscence and played sweetly and sorrowfully
with itself.  For this rough, rugged, eccentric, bad-tempered
musician was capable of reaching the austerest heights of love--those
heights where renunciation sits eternally enthroned.

Love and Beethoven seem a singularly anomalous pair: yet from his
youth onward love was the very mainspring of his unsullied life.  It
began, rooted in filial affection for his mother, of whom he wrote
those touching words, "She was such a good, loving mother to me, and
my best friend.  Oh, no one could be more fortunate than I, when I
was able to speak that sweet name 'Mother', and it was heard--and to
whom shall I ever say it now?"--And it continued as a vague but
fervent longing for some sweet unknown--some "not impossible She."

"Love, and love alone, is capable of bringing lasting happiness ....
O God, let me find her--_her_--who will strengthen me in virtue and
lawfully be mine."

So he sighed: but his hopes remained unfulfilled.  "His intense
longing for a home and for female companionship was never satisfied,"
and the extraordinary number of attachments by which his career was
punctuated, and which were generally for women of superior rank to
his own, were every one of them destined to be transitory and
destitute of result.  Magdalena Willmann, Giulietta Guicciardi,
Bettine Brentano, Thérèse von Brunswick, Amalie Sebald, and many
another charming phantom, passed, fugitively brilliant, across his
horizon: and the domestic happiness for which Beethoven never ceased
to crave, was never within measurable distance of his grasp.

But now he resolutely put away _Adélaide_ and its attendant wistful
thoughts, and addressed himself to more severely intellectual work:
the great B flat Sonata (Op. 106) which, like all his latter work, is
orchestral in feeling and treatment.


[Illustration: _Painting by A. C. Michael_.]

"The Scherzo of the 'Moonlight' Sonata, wherein a troop of glimmering
fairy forms come dancing through the midnight forest."


Beethoven was primarily and permanently a composer of sonatas; for
"the great majority and most excellent of his instrumental
compositions, the fundamental form of the sonata was the veil-like
tissue through which he gazed into the realm of tones, or, also,
through which, emerging from that realm, he made himself intelligible
to us--while other forms, the mixed ones of vocal music especially,
were, after all, only transitorily touched upon by him, as if by way
of experiment."  (Wagner.)

And one has only to reflect upon the magical and matchless beauty of
his best-known work in sonata form, to be surrounded at once by a
multitude of gorgeous memories.  The opening movement of the
"Pathétique," transfused with gloomy majesty; the _Scherzo_ of the
"Moonlight" Sonata, wherein a troop of glimmering fairy forms come
dancing through the midnight forest: the magnificent verve and vigour
of the "Waldstein:" and that unapproachable _Andante_ of the
"Appassionata," which some have declared they would wish to hear in
dying, that the solemn glory of its pensive chords might companion
them into the rest of God .... These, and innumerable other
instances, each dear to the individual heart, identify Beethoven as
the true lord of the Sonata.

The reader will doubtless feel some wonder that all this while the
master was composing so rigorously at his desk, leaving the
pianoforte untouched.  But there were three very adequate reasons for
this mode of action.  First--that he was in the habit of writing
everything, as he composed it, in notebooks; mostly out of doors in
solitary rambles away from any instrument, where he would "hum to
himself, and beat the air with an accompaniment of extraordinary
vocal sounds."  Secondly--that, being a consummate master of the
science of music, and the best pianist, perhaps, of his day, he had
no occasion to put to proof in actual performance, as the amateur
does, the constructions of his fertile brain.  Thirdly--and chiefly,
and sorrowful to relate--when he had just been composing, his
deafness for a while would deepen into stone-deafness: and "because
of the inner world of harmony at work within his brain," said Bettine
Brentano, "the external world seemed all confusion to him."
Beethoven's greatest works, as years went on, were "conceived,
produced and given complete to the world ... when not one of those
wondrous succession of of phrases could by any possibility reach his
ears:" when, in a "splendid isolation" beyond the average power to
understand, he and Music dwelt alone in an inner shrine together.
"Never has an earthly art created anything so serene as the
symphonies in A, and F major, and all those works of the Master which
date from the period of his complete deafness."

It is therefore open to doubt whether an affliction, which in an
ordinary man would command our pity, was so much to be deprecated in
the case of Ludwig van Beethoven as at first thoughts one might
imagine.  He was full of self-commiseration on its account: yet
assuredly the compensations which were awarded him were such as never
before fell to mortal man.  By the entire exclusion of external
sounds, and the entire concentration of his mind upon his work, which
resulted, he was enabled to enter those unexplored altitudes whither
none has followed, as none had preceded him.  "He elevated music
(which had been degraded, as regards its proper nature, to the rank
of a merely diverting art), to the height of its sublime calling."
And it must be remembered that his works were very much more
remarkable, as offsprings of the early nineteenth century; than they
now appear to us who are familiar with them,--to us, who are heirs of
the progress of composition.  For Music is the youngest of all the
arts,--as compared to all others, a mere babe in arms, whose
potentialities and possibilities are still but in the bud.  And that
Beethoven should stand where he does, on a pinnacle that none may
deny, is one more proof of that isolation of genius which makes him
twin with Shakespeare.  These columnar intellects rise like obelisks
in the midst of the ages: not to be accounted for by any rule of
circumstance, or education, or heredity: and "What Beethoven's
melodies produce, Shakespeare's spirit-shapes also project."

So absorbed was the master in the elaboration and evolution of his
"tone-poem," that he did not see, much less hear, the timid entrance
of a very shy young man.  It was one Charles Neate, an English
pianist, who had come, armed with a letter of introduction, to
beseech the great Beethoven to receive him as a pupil for the piano.

The great Beethoven was for a moment inclined to be exceedingly
bearish and inhospitable.  To come on a morning when he was busy--to
interrupt a man in the full flow of composition--these were
unpardonable crimes!  But soon his native kindliness prevailed--above
all, when he discovered that his visitor was of "the noble English
nation."  For he held England and the English to be of an
incomparable excellence: and his darling wish was to visit that
favoured land, and to win a hearing there, and if possible secure an
offer from some London publishing firm.

He, therefore, accepted the young man with unwonted graciousness and
alacrity: looked through his compositions and gave him sound advice:
and finally, thrusting away his own MSS., proposed that they two
should take a little walk, to get a breath of fresh air before
further operations.  They passed out into the sunlit fields.

Never in all his life had Neate met a man so wholly taken up with
nature, so enwrapt with the contemplation of trees, flowers, cloud,
and sward.  "Nature seemed his nourishment," Neate said afterwards.
"He seemed to live upon and by her."  The parable of the _Presto_ of
the C sharp minor Quartet, here was openly fulfilled,--the master,
rendered, from within, completely happy, cast a glance of
indescribable serenity upon the outer world.  There it once more
stands before him as in the Pastoral Symphony: everything is rendered
luminous to him by his inner happiness.

They seated themselves upon a grassy bank, and Beethoven discoursed
freely of the things dearest to his heart: his keen desire to visit
England, and his fear lest his deafness might prove a hopeless
obstacle to this.  Neate, speaking to him in slow German, close to
his left ear, managed to make himself intelligible; while the master
expressed his unbounded admiration for everything English, especially
Shakespeare, who was his favourite poet.


[Illustration: _Painting by A. C. Michael_.]

"The outer world ... once more stands before him as in the Pastoral
Symphony: everything is rendered luminous to him by his inner


Beethoven was, indeed, as has been observed, "precisely like
Shakespeare in his bearing towards the formal laws of his art, and in
his emancipation from and penetration of them."  He stood, as has
previously been shown, nearer in point of genius to Shakespeare than
to any other man: and verified the truth of Schumann's dictum that
"all arts are reducible to one," and are guided by the same
fundamental rules.

After a brief but exhilarating ramble in the open air, Beethoven
proposed that Neate should return to dinner with him, and after that
should--perhaps--receive his first lesson.  The young man was
overwhelmed at such unexpected kindness and _camaraderie_ as he was
receiving from the master, and gratefully accompanied him back to the

Before going to the Sailer-stätte, however, Beethoven turned into
Steiner's, the music publisher's, which he was in the habit of
frequenting about noon-day; where there was "nearly always a little
crowd of composers, and a brisk interchange of musical opinion."

Beethoven was to-day in a genial and expansive frame of mind.
Possibly the advent of a young Englishman had struck him as a good
omen for the fulfilment of his cherished hopes towards English fame.
He held forth at considerable length, upon all manner of subjects,
from music to philosophy.  "His criticisms were ingenuous, original,
full of curious ideas" and boundless imagination.  Finally, at the
reiterated request of those he most favoured among the younger men,
he reluctantly consented to play--to exemplify, as they cunningly put
it, the opinions which he had been urging, and the laws he had been
laying down.

Now, listeners on either side of a door--in or out--were, as it has
been said, Beethoven's chief aversion.  Pianoforte virtuoso as he
was, fine performer on the organ, violin, and viola--anything that
savoured of professional display was nauseous to him.  "Music the art
was for him the breath of life: music the profession, as generally
understood," he relegated to the depths of distaste.

He sat down with a shrug of his square shoulders, and, crooking his
fingers to such a degree that his hands almost hid them, continued
for a moment his tirade against the prevalent methods of playing.

"How did the old composers who were pianists, play?" he asked of his
audience.  "They did not run up and down the keyboard with their
carefully-practised passages--_putsch, putsch, putsch_!"--and he
worked the runs in a caricatured passage on the pianoforte.

"When true virtuosi played, it was comprehensive, complete....  Good,
thorough work one could look into and examine....  But I pronounce
judgment on no one," he added hastily, and forthwith burst into the
full splendour of the _Waldstein_ sonata.

His passion, his prodigious strength, amazed the Viennese, accustomed
as they were to hear him, no less than the young Englishman, to whom
he appeared a very prodigy of execution, as his broad, hairy,
spatulate fingers, so unlike those of the typical pianist, flung
themselves hither and thither upon the keys.  He produced tones and
effects which were hitherto undreamed of in the philosophy of the
pianists of that period; and it was evident that this was no mere
display of virtuosity, but that Beethoven had lost consciousness of
all around him, and was simply giving vent to his own inspiration, as
one possessed might do.  And among the impressionable hearers, moved
beyond self-control, soon not a dry eye was to be seen.  Many broke
into sobs; but when they would have crowded round the master, with
the ultimate chord, to express in vehement gestures their boundless
admiration, he rose with an almost shamefaced air, as though he had
debased himself by this semi-poetic performance, and shuffled away,
beckoning Neate to follow him.

The two dined alone in Beethoven's apartment in the Sailer-stätte, at
his wonted time of two o'clock.  The composer was not superior to
creature comforts, and was very particular to have certain dishes on
certain days.  On Thursdays he invariably indulged in his favourite
bread-soup, made with ten eggs.  On Fridays he had a large haddock,
with potatoes.  A little Hungarian wine, or a glass of beer, sufficed
him; but his favourite beverage was plenty of cold water.  Water, in
fact, was a necessity to him, and he rejoiced ecstatically in
bathing, washing, splashing about in water; in pouring it recklessly
over his hands and arms; water, internally or externally, may be said
to have been his chief necessity of life.

Upon this especial occasion, the table--still littered with MSS.--was
graced by Beethoven's favourite dish of macaroni and cheese, and a
small dish of fish.  Somewhat Spartan fare this for an Englishman;
but Charles Neate was much too excited to care what he was eating.

Beethoven never composed in the afternoon, and very seldom in the
evening.  He had hardly sat still after dinner, smoking his long clay
pipe, when--"Let us go out into the country," said he, suddenly
springing up.  Neate's possible piano lesson had vanished from his
mind.  He stuffed one or two extra note-books into his capacious
pockets, and they started off--this time in a different direction.

This habit of suddenly rushing out into the open air he practised at
all seasons, as the fancy took him: cold or heat, rain or sunshine,
made no difference to him whatever.  He had found that only among the
silent solitudes of the hills and valleys could he fully release that
throng of insurgent ideas which for ever clamoured in his brain for
an outlet.  Melodies, subjects, suggestions for their development and
execution, flocked continuously through his mind; and to set them
down in feverish haste--to imprison their "first fine careless
rapture" in his note-book, for subsequent improvement and
enlargement, was the occupation of all these country walks.  But,
consciously or unconsciously, his restless mind was soothed, and his
sensitive nerves strengthened by the tranquil influences of the winds
and skies.

Beethoven pursued his usual course on the present occasion, pulling
out his note-book every few minutes, his lips moving rapidly, his
eyes riveted on some mysterious distance.  But he made an obvious
effort at entertaining his young companion; and presently, Neate,
encouraged by an unwonted stretch of conversation, or rather
monologue, ventured to remark upon the master's great power in
creating tone-pictures, and of the landscape-drawing, so to speak, of
the Pastoral Symphony, wherein the green fields of Paradise seem to
expand before earth's weary eyes, and there is

  On spirits that had long been dead,
  Spirits dried up and closely furled,
  The freshness of the early world."


[Illustration: _Painting by A. C. Michael_.]

  "Know'st thou the house, its roof on columns white? ....
  O there, O there, might I with thee, Beloved, go!"


Beethoven testified that, when composing, he always had a vision of
natural beauty before his eyes, and that it enabled him to work.  He
had never been out of his native land: the lovely Austrian villages
which he frequented, Hetzendorf, Dobling, or Heiligenstadt, sufficed
him for beauty and for healthiness.  But now and then, he allowed, he
had a momentary longing for other scenes: the ice-blue mysteries of
the Alps, or the warm and fragrant air of Italy.  And he
quoted--singing in a harsh, crude voice--those words of Goethe's
which he had linked with such enchanting music,--the words of Mignon,
yearning towards the homeland of her heart.

  "Know'st thou the land, where sweet the citron blows,
  Where deep in shade the golden orange glows?
  A tender breeze from bluest heav'n doth stray
  O'er myrtle bough and lofty laurel spray.
    Know'st thou it well? that land dost know?
  O there, O there, might I with thee, Beloved, go!

  Know'st thou the house, its roof on columns white?
  Fair gleams the hall, the hearth is glimmering bright;
  And marble statues ask, with glances mild,
  'What have they done to thee?  O say, poor child!'
    Know'st thou it well? that house dost know?
  O there, O there, might I with thee, Beloved, go!

  Know'st thou the crag, and all its cloudy grey,
  Where scarce the muleteer may grope the way?
  In caverns lurk the dragon's ancient brood,
  Sheer falls the rock, and over it the flood.
    Know'st thou it well? the way we know--
  O there, O there, my father, let us go!"
                              Göethe--_Wilhelm Meister_.

The composer at last turned homeward once more, and on arrival at his
rooms, without a word of preparation, took young Neate by the
shoulders and placed him upon the three-legged chair before the
pianoforte.  The chair promptly broke; but, nothing disconcerted, the
master replaced it with another almost equally crippled, and bade the
young man play.

It may be imagined with what diffidence, what nervousness, and what
sinking of heart, the Englishman essayed the _Sonata Pathétique_.  He
paused, breathless, at the conclusion, and awaited the verdict with

"My son," said Beethoven, clapping him on the shoulder, "you will
have to play a very long time before you discover that you know
nothing.  But cheer up! for the young there are infinities of hope."
And he proceeded, with inconceivably kind care and patience, to give
the youth such teaching as he had never imagined possible.  That
'bitter, sarcastic' tongue of which folk complained, that irritable
temper which often alarmed the master's young lady pupils--were now
conspicuously absent.  For he had a peculiar sympathy with young
people at the outset of their career; and no trouble was too great
for him to take on their behalf.

When at length, with cordial words of encouragement, he dismissed the
Englishman, Beethoven for a moment was tempted to look back upon his
own early days; when, always working very hard, either as a performer
or a teacher, surrounded by unloving relations and uncongenial
circumstances, he struggled upward, ever upward, impelled by some
irresistible wind of destiny.  Then he dwelt, involuntarily, upon the
gathering clouds of his manhood--the secret dread of his encroaching
deafness--the hidden sorrows of unrequited love.

"Such things," he thought, "have often brought me to the border of
despair, and I have come very near to putting an end to my own
life.... Yet it seemed impossible to quit this world for ever before
I had done all that I felt I was destined to accomplish ... and how
much of that is still before me!  Ah! hard struggle to accomplish all
which remains to be done, from the daily drudgery of necessity-work
to the farthest journey, the highest flight! ... All this must be
hewn out of thyself ... for thyself there is no further happiness
than that which thou findest in thyself--thy art!" (_Beethoven's

But now, with the coming of the evening hours, the composer might
relax the tension of his thoughts, and find pleasure, so far as his
infirmity allowed, in the society of his friends, and in talking over
the newspapers.  He was a well-read man, and took an eager interest
in all the passing events of the day; moreover, when not in his
'serious working humour', he was a humorous, cheerful companion, full
of fun and not averse from practical joking; a very different man
from that 'savage personality, at loggerheads with mankind,' which he
had appeared to the unsympathetic Goethe.  For 'friends,' however, we
had better substitute 'acquaintances'; because Beethoven declared: "I
have only found two friends in the world with whom I have never had a
misunderstanding.  One is dead; the other still lives.  Although we
have heard nothing of each other for six years, I know that I still
hold the place in his affections that he holds in mine."

A decided irascibility and uncertainty of temper, common to all deaf
people, was apt to create rifts and coolnesses between Beethoven and
those with whom he might be closely intimate.  His whole warmth and
abundance of affection was squandered upon his nephew Carl, the
worthless son of a worthless father; an affection by no means
reciprocated, which was fated only to cause fresh pangs to his
much-enduring heart.

But, be that as it may, the Viennese were proud of their
Beethoven--proud to be numbered among his associates.  They bore him
a species of personal attachment.  He was part and parcel of
themselves; though he moved in their midst, doubly remote from them,
alike by his affliction and by his open distaste for 'the
dissipations of a great and voluptuous city.'   He would sit apart at
a table, brooding over a long pipe and a glass of lager, his eyes
half-closed; but if anyone spoke to him, or rather attempted to do
so, he would always reply with ready courtesy and kindness.  For, as
he had written from the very depths of his heart:--

"O ye who think or say that I am rancorous, obstinate or
misanthropical, what an injustice you do me!  You little know the
hidden cause of my appearing so.  From childhood my heart and mind
have been devoted to benevolent feelings, and to the thoughts of
great deeds to be achieved in the future....  Born with an ardent,
lively temperament, fond of social pleasures, I was early compelled
to withdraw myself, and live a life of isolation from all men.  At
times, when I made an effort to overcome the difficulty, oh, how
cruelly was I frustrated by the doubly painful experience of my
defective hearing! ... Forgive me, then, if you see me turn away when
I would gladly mix with you.  Doubly painful is my misfortune, seeing
that it is the cause of my being misunderstood.  For me there can be
no recreation in human intercourse, no conversation, no exchange of
thoughts with my fellow-men.  In solitary exile I am compelled to

Sometimes, however, his naturally vivacious spirits prevailed, and he
became witty, satirical, 'a fellow of infinite jest.'  Anything in
the way of bad music was apt to send him into shouts of laughter; but
"of Handel, Bach and Mozart he always spoke with the greatest
reverence, and, although he would not allow his own great works to be
depreciated, he himself made fun of his lesser productions.  If
greatly roused, he would let loose a perfect flood of hard-hitting
witticisms, droll paradoxes and ideas."  (_Rochlitz._)

Still, albeit generous to a fault, and ready to give away his last
thaler even to an enemy, his dislikes were so violent that he would
actually take to his heels at the sight of some special object of

With particularly favoured friends, in the privacy of their own
homes, Beethoven was less reticent than usual.  He would discuss with
them his two great regrets--that he had never visited England and had
never married; which were his favourite topics of conversation.  It
is true that at forty-five--his present age--these regrets might
still have time to be obliterated.  But he felt himself the very
Simeon Stylites of music, set apart to suffer in ascetic endurance
upon a pillar of aloofness and despair.

And it was in this melancholy frame of mind--a reaction from the
transient mirth of the evening--that the master buttoned his old grey
coat about him and trudged gloomily homeward as the evening star
first lighted itself.  "O God, Thou lookest downward on my inward
soul!" he murmured, "Thou knowest, Thou seest that love for my
fellow-men, and all kindly feelings have their abode there! ... But I
have no real friends; I must live alone.  But I know that God is
nearer to me than to many others in my art, and I commune with Him

Drawing a scrap of paper towards him, he scrawled a few heartfelt
words upon it by the last rays of twilight:--

"I must praise Thy goodness that Thou hast left nothing undone to
draw me to Thyself.  It pleased Thee, early, to make me feel the
heavy hand of Thy wrath, and by many chastisements to bring my proud
heart low.  Sickness and other misfortunes hast Thou caused to hang
over me, to bring my straying from Thee to my remembrance....  But
one thing I ask of Thee, my God--not to cease Thy work in my
improvement ... Let me tend towards Thee, no matter by what
means--and be fruitful in good works...."

And Ludwig van Beethoven had a means of "communing fearlessly" with
his Creator, which, for him, was perhaps, as direct a road as prayer,
if _laborare est orare_.  For music, "although in its glorious
fulness and power at that time unknown, was associated intimately by
the early Christian writers with Christianity--with immortality."  As
Wagner has declared, music is of the "essential nature of things, and
its kingdom is not of this world...  Its spirit, like that of
Christianity, is love."  And by this medium, and in this divine
language, the man whose outward senses were being darkened, now held,
in the rapture of the "inward light," his intercourse with celestial

Baulked and baffled by circumstances--dragged at the chariot-wheels
of relentless Fate--shut up and shut off from all sweet human
amenities, the tone-artist sat down at his piano, and "after
preluding softly with one hand ... poured out his soul in a very
flood of harmony."  At first the strains were mournful, sombre,
disconnected, his own sad thoughts bearing a perpetual burden to him.

"O Providence," so he prayed, "let one more day of pure joy be
vouchsafed to me!  The echo of true happiness has so long been a
stranger to my heart!  When, when, O God! shall I again be able to
feel it in the temple of nature and of man?  Never?  No!  O, that
were too hard!"

But presently he became buried in a deeper abstraction; a sphinx-like
calm settled on, and smoothed out, his harsh, rough features.  With
the ease and firmness of a brilliant executant--with the intense
feeling of an inspired artist, he continued to improvise the most
glorious music which had issued that day from either his brain or his
fingers.  It was, like the _Allegro Finale_ of the C sharp minor
Quartet, "the dance of the world itself: wild delight, the
lamentation of anguish, ecstasy of love, highest rapture, misery,
rage, voluptuousness and sorrow."  This great gift of extemporising,
(which was only paralleled by his equal skill in sight-reading) was
at once the solace and the snare of Beethoven.  Hours upon hours
could thus be dreamed away; yet who shall say that they were wasted?
For gradually, out of the shifting panorama of rhythm and sound, a
supreme and marvellous melody evolved itself.


[Illustration: _Painting by E. B. Lintott_.]

"The _Allegro Finale_ of the C-sharp-minor Quartet ... wild delight,
the lamentation of anguish, ecstasy of love, highest rapture, misery,
rage, voluptuousness and sorrow."


For a long time--months, if not years--he had been pursuing, as it
were, some beautiful, elusive phantom--the idea contained in
Schiller's stirring lines commencing:--"_Freude, schöner
Götterfunken_," ("_Joy, thou heavenly spark of Godhead_").  He was
consumed with the desire to give these lines a worthy setting; he had
filled a multitude of note-books with rough sketches; but the
authentic, the indubitable melody which should be recognised at first
hearing as the only one, had still evaded him until now--now, when he
filled the twilight with a cry of success.

"I have it!  I have it!" he exclaimed, as those magnificent phrases
which were to be the crown and consummation of the great Ninth
Symphony, at last were crystallised into shape upon his brain.  And
at that moment he entered, as it were, upon a new world of light, "in
the soil of which bloomed before his sight the long-sought,
divinely-sweet, innocently pure melody of humanity."

"_Joy, thou heavenly spark of Godhead!_"  Was it the irony of Fate
that made this thought the highest pinnacle of Beethoven's marvellous
achievements?  Was it not rather one of those divine compensations by
which Heaven bestows, with both hands lavishly, "above all that we
can desire or deserve?"

Scintillations of that "heavenly spark," multiplied a million-fold,
flashed across the mental vision of the inspired composer; incessant
majesties of sound piled themselves in splendid strata upon his
intellectual ear; until, "blinded with excess of light," and
outwearied with the exuberance of a joy beyond all that earth could
yield, Ludwig van Beethoven sought his meagre straw mattress and thin
quilt, and--while the clocks struck ten in the city--fell asleep as
softly as a child.

  Printed by The Bushey Colour Press (André & Sleigh, Ltd.),
  Bushey, Herts.

*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Day with Ludwig Beethoven" ***

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