« PreviousContinue »
“ This youth will be yet much spoken of in the world.” Here Beethoven spent the rest of his life, and here his reputation quickly gathered around him friends and admirers in crowds, and princes and nobles vied in entertaining him. Prince Karl von Lichnowsky, a pupil of Mozart's, patron of music, met him with warm friendship. In his palace, Beethoven found a home.
"Prince Lichnowsky was for the youth a fatherly friend, the Princess a second mother. The Prince gave him an annuity of six hundred gulden, which he was to draw so long as he had no decided income, and this was no insignificant sum. The united love of these two princely personages pursued him, as it were, and never lessened, though the often obstinate adopted son’ had elsewhere surely forfeited it, and deserved earnest reproof. It was the Princess, especially, who considered all the doings and undoings of the often capricious and self-concentrated youth as beautiful, artistic, original, even lovely, and who wished to exculpate him in everything to the more severe prince. Beethoven himself afterwards made upon such a system of education the striking observation : • With grandmotherly love would they have brought me up, which went so far, that there wanted but little that the Princess did not have a glass bell made to put over me, lest
any wretch should touch me or breathe upon me!'"* Surrounded with flattery, his reputation rising to the highest, every caprice yielded to, every freak of humor admired, his friends at the time, as well as his biographers since, found his position unfavorable for Beethoven. He was himself insensible to courtly favor and flattery; he called himself always a scholar of Plato, a believer in the true Republic; for this reason it pleased him to show his indifference to rank and title. He wearied often of his palace home, of all the stately homes open to him, in town and country, often forsaking all for solitude in obscure inns, escaping from all conventionalities to be alone with himself. Yet, as Schindler says,
“This was a noble age of art, perhaps never to recur, and, in special connection with Beethoven, a golden age; and under such circumstances, surrounded and loved by men of such tender feelings, he must have been completely happy, and had surely been so, had not already, in the latter years of this first period of his life, a difficulty
* Schindler, pp. 27, 28.
of hearing at times fallen upon him, that disturbed his serenity, - that later increased to so fearful a misfortune, and made him inexpressibly unhappy."
A heavy misfortune, growing heavier and more heavy, to darken all the remainder of his life! Shut out from all sound, already distrustful of mankind, imprisoned in himself, could there be a greater calamity for Beethoven !
Different writers have pictured this period in different ways. The author of “Charles Auchester," in her later novel of “Rumour," written apparently in ill health, and wanting sadly the charm and inspiration of her earlier books, has presented some of the peculiarities of Beethoven in one of her characters, Rodomant. Living in the castle of a prince, he is allowed all freedom but in one thing, that the large organ must not be sounded, as the breaking its silence would bring a doom upon the house. But Rodomant one day lets out all its grandeur of sound; its volume fills the house; the servants flee. He closes his ears with his hands, crying, “ Have mercy ! I have lost my hearing, and it is forever!”
Heribert Rau, our author, introduces this sudden consciousness of his loss of hearing in a different way, and this is founded upon fact.
“ The afternoon in its earlier hours was not inferior in beauty to the morning, and all the old serenity returned, till finally, with the increasing heat, fatigue interrupted the wanderers, so that, in a beautiful spot, Beethoven threw himself upon the grass at length. Ries seated himself, still pleased, at his feet. An oak, over whose proud crest surely a hundred years had passed, stretched its knotted arms, like a shielding, protecting roof, over both, and from the flowers and plants around there rose a delicate perfume. The sun blazed powerfully, and the air, till now moving but gently, thickened into a heavy sultriness, while on the far horizon a heavy black cloud, like a dark gray sea, stretched itself, and the distant grumbling of thunder was heard from time to time.
“ Beethoven loved always the grand appearance of nature in a storm, and nothing would he rather watch than the towering up of clouds, their sudden powerful approach, and the appearance that accompanied their breaking forth. .....
“ But, singularly, to-day the distant black mass of clouds touched him displeasingly. As he looked upon them, a shadow fell over the
beautiful day, and over the serenity of his soul. At the same time, the silence of his youthful companion, that he the whole day had not observed, oppressed him. He turned to him, and said, leaning his head on his arm, 'You are so quiet, dear Ries!'
"I am silent because I am listening,' said the young man. " • And what do you hear?' asked Beethoven, astonished.
“I am listening to the shepherd, who sits by his flock on the edge of the wood, and who plays so prettily on the flute he has cut from an elder-bush.
" Beethoven was silent, and listened. “I hear no sound,' he said, at last ; 'you must be deceived.'
6 . Not now?' exclaimed Ries, in turn astonished ; "the sound is so clear! Do you not see the shepherd ? '
6• I see him, indeed,' answered Beethoven, who had now raised himself, and looked toward that part of the wood; “I see, too, that he holds a flute to his mouth. Be silent ; let me listen once more!'
“ Another pause followed. But suddenly a deadly paleness came over Beethoven's face, and Ries, too, grew pale. The young man, who knew that his teacher for a long time had suffered from a slight weakness in hearing, suspected what a terrible discovery his great master was now making. He was dizzy with terror, and said, anxiously, with throbbing voice, although he still heard the shepherd's flute plainly, • It appears, indeed, as though our flutist were struck dumb.'
· Beethoven answered not a word. He was pale as death. Thick drops of cold sweat came out upon his brow. His eyes opened wide, as with terror; his features put on the stillness of marble. But in his soul he cried out, in terrible agony, “The cloud ! the black cloud ! Beethoven! Beethoven, man of music! thou hearest no longer ! thou hearest no longer! Righteous God! Thou art deaf !' And, as though the lightning had shivered over his head, he sprang up, gave Ries a sign, and sadly took the way home. No sound came from his lips, but in his soul there was something that struggled and combated like desperation itself; it was the thought, Beethoven, master of tone, thou art deaf!'”. Vol. III. pp. 118-121.
But neither of these representations equals the agony that expresses itself in the “ testament” that he himself wrote at this time, (“For my brother Carl and —," signed “ Beethoven,") from which we take a few sad strains :
“ O you men who are hostile toward me, who fancy me or hold me as froward or misanthropic, how unjust you are to me! You know not the secret cause of what appears thus to you. My heart and my VOL. LXXIII. — 5TH S. VOL. XI. NO. II.
mind were, from childhood on, fitted for the tender feeling of kindliness. To perform great deeds was I always disposed. But think that for many years a dreadful calamity has come upon me, tormented by ignorant physicians, betrayed from year to year into the hope of becoming better, finally constrained to the view of an enduring evil, whose cure will linger for years, or is wholly impossible. Born with an ardent, active temperament, sensible to the distractions of society, I must early separate myself, and pass my life in solitude. .....
“O, how were it possible that I should make known the weakness of a sense which ought to be present to me in a more complete degree than to others, a sense which I possessed once in great completeness ! 0, I cannot bear it! therefore pardon me, if you see me withdraw myself when I would gladly mix with you. What humiliation, if any one stood near me, and from afar heard a flute, and I heard nothing ; or any one should hear the shepherds sing, and I heard nothing! Such events brought me near to desperation; I came near ending my life itself. Art alone, that held me back! Ah, I thought it impossible to leave the world, before I had brought forth all for which I felt myself fitted. Patience, so she is called, -I must choose her now for a guide; I have done so. I hope — it shall now be my resolve — to hold on, enduring, till it pleases the pitiless Parcæ to cut the threads. Perhaps a better lot may come, perhaps not. I am composed. Now too young to become a philosopher !
more difficult for the artist than for any one. O God, thou seest into my soul. Thou knowest it, thou knowest that love of man and desire for kindly deeds have a home there. O men, when you read this, then think that you have done me injustice, and let him who suffers console himself at finding his fellow, who, spite of all the hindrances of nature, has yet done all that is in his power to place himself in the rank of artists and of men.” – Vol. III. pp. 197–199.
It is not easy,
His melancholy and distrust of mankind were heightened at this time by the arrival of his brother Carl in Vienna, the “evil principle” of his life. He began a strict rule over Beethoven, striving always to raise jealousies between him and his true friends, literally robbing him of all the riches that his reputation was winning for him. Another disappointment at this period imbittered the current of his life. Napoleon Bonaparte had been the hero upon whom he had placed liis hopes for republicanizing France, for restoring freedom to the world. In 1803, he was busy with the symphony known now
as the “ Heroic Symphony," which he dedicated to the “ Conqueror of Marengo.” When the news reached him of Bonaparte’s allowing himself to be proclaimed as Emperor, he tore the title-page from this symphony, and flung the work to the ground, " where it ought to lie.” It was long before Beethoven could look upon it again, when it was brought forward under the name Sinfonia Eroica, with the motto, “ Per festeggiare il sovvenire d'un gran uomo”; and he sarcastically said, when he heard of his hero's death at St. Helena, that for this very catastrophe he had seventeen years before composed the music of the Funeral March in that symphony, - without then having that event in view!
We should be glad to give our author's description of the glowing festival at the Congress of Vienna, of all the “ crowned heads” that were present at the culmination of Beethoven's fame, when he brought out a cantata, known afterwards as Preis der Tonkunst, with the symphony in A dur, and the Schlacht von Vittoria, etc., - Beethoven leading the orchestra with the assistance of another, Umlauf, as he himself could not hear, but must be guided only by the sense of sight, - and, finally, of the glorious applause that followed, which, alas ! he could not hear, more than the music that had called it forth!
This was at the height of the honors showered upon Beethoven.
“ How was it,” says Schindler, sadly, and with simple sarcasm, " how was it ten years later with such tokens of honor? It was like a new world in which we lived ten years after, when one name alone had worth, and that was Rossini's !”
In these ten years the life of Beethoven grew sadder and sadder. His brother Carl had died, and left him his son in ward. Beethoven was obliged to submit to one or two painful lawsuits to gain the guardianship of the child, whose mother, an unworthy woman, he did not think fit to have the care of her son. The boy, passed from one to the other, always secretly influenced by his mother, ill repaid the devotion of his uncle, who was kept in almost constant poverty by the extravagances of his ward.