sweetness, like a bugle's notes heard by moonlight, and
then finally poured forth in unrestrained jubilee, as if
a thousand bards had struck their harps and raised
their voices in a song of victory.
|N Seventeen Hundred Eighty-four, Niccolo
Paganini was born at Genoa. His father was
a street-porter who eked out the scanty
exchequer by playing a violin at occasional
dances or concerts. That his playing was indifferent is
evident from the fact that he was very poor his
services were not in demand.
The poverty of the family and the failure of the father
fired the ambition of the boy to do something worthy.
When he was ten years old he could play as well as his
father, and a year or so thereafter could play better.
The lad was tall, slender, delicate and dreamy-eyed.
But he had will plus, and his desire was to sound the
possibilities of the violin. And this reminds me that
Hugh Pentecost says there is no such thing as will
it is all desire : when we desire a thing strongly enough,
we have the will to secure it but no matter !
Young Niccolo Paganini practised on his father's violin
for six hours a day; and now when the customers who
used to hire his father to play came, they would say,
' We just as lief have Niccolo."
Soon after this they said, "We prefer to have Niccolo."
And a little later they said, " We must have Niccolo."
Some one has written a book to show that playing
second fiddle is just as worthy an office as playing first.
This doubtless is true, but there are so many more men
who can play second, that it behooves every player to
relieve the stress by playing first if he can.
Niccolo played first and then was called upon to play
solos. He was making twice as much money as his
father ever had, but the father took all the boy's earn-
ings, as was his legal right. The father's pride in the
success of the son, the young man always said, was
because he was proving a good financial investment. It
does not always pay to raise children this time it did.
It was finally decided to take the boy to the celebrated
musician, Rolla, for advice as to what was best to do
about his education. Rolla was sick abed at the time the
boy called and could not see him; but while waiting in
the entry the lad took up a violin and began to play.
The invalid raised himself on one elbow and pantingly
inquired who the great master was that had thus
favored him with a visit.
" It 's the lad who wants you to give him lessons,"
answered the attendant.
' Impossible! no lad could play like that I can teach
that player nothing! "
Next the musician Paer was visited, and he passed the
boy along to Giretta, who gave him three lessons a
week in harmony and counterpoint. The boy had abrupt
mannerisms and tricks of his own in bringing out expres-
sions, and these were such a puzzle to the teacher that
he soon refused to go on.
Niccolo possessed a sort of haughty self-confidence that
aggravated the master; he believed in himself and was
fond of showing that he could play in a way no one else
could. Adolescence had turned his desire to play into a
fury of passion for his art: he practised on single pas-
sages for ten or twelve hours a day, and would often
sink in a swoon from sheer exhaustion. This deep,
torpor-like sleep saved him from complete collapse, just
as it saved Mendelssohn, and he would arise to go on
with his work.
Paganini's wisdom was shown at this early age in that
he limited his work to a few compositions, and these he
made the most of, just as they say Bossuet secured his
reputation as the greatest preacher of his time by a
single sermon that he had polished to the point of per-
fection 33 53
When fifteen years old Paganini contrived to escape
from his father and went to a musical festival at Lucca.
He managed to get a hearing, was engaged at once as
a soloist, and soon after gave a concert on his own
account. In a month he had accumulated a thousand
pounds in cash.
Very naturally, such a success turned the head of this
lad who never before had had the handling of money.
He began to gamble, and became the dupe of rogues
male and female who plunged him into an abyss of
wrong. He even gambled away the " Stradivarius "
that had been presented to him, and when his money,
watch and jewels were gone, his new-found friends of
course decamped, and this gave the young man time to
ponder on the vanities of life.
When he played again it was on a borrowed " Guar-
nerius," and after the rich owner, himself a violinist,
had heard him play, he said, " No fingers but yours shall
ever play that violin again! "
Paganini accepted the gift, and this was the violin he
played for full forty years, and which, on his death, was
willed to his native city of Genoa. There it can be seen
in its sealed-up glass case.
Up to his thirtieth year Paganini continued his severe
work of subduing the violin. By that time he had
sounded its possibilities, and thereafter no one heard
him play except in concert. It is told that one man,
anxious to know the secrets of Paganini's power,
followed him from city to city, watching him at his
concerts, dogging him through the streets, spying upon
him at hotels. At one inn this man of curiosity had the
felicity to secure a room next to the one occupied by
Paganini; and one morning as he watched through the
keyhole, he was rewarded by seeing the master open the
case where reposed the precious " Guarnerius." Paga-
nini lifted the instrument, held it under his chin, took
up the bow and made a few passes in the air not a
sound was heard. Then he kissed the back of the violin,
muttered a prayer, and locked the instrument in its
case 5$ 53
At concert rehearsals he always played a mute instru-
ment; and Harris, his manager, records that for the
many years he was with Paganini he never heard him
play a single note except before an audience. <J I have a
full-length daguerreotype of Paganini taken when he
was forty years of age. No one ever asked this man,
" Kind sir, are you anybody in particular? "
Paganini was tall and wofully slim. His hands and feet
were large and bony, his arms long, his form bowed and
lacking in all that we call symmetry. But the long face
with its look of abject melancholy, the curved nose, the
thin lips and the sharp, protruding chin, made a combi-
nation that Fate has never duplicated. You could easily
believe that this man knew all the secrets of the Nether
World, and had tasted the joys of Paradise as well.
Women pitied and loved him, men feared him, and none
understood him. He lived in the midst of throngs and
multitudes the loneliest man known in the history of
art 33 S3
Paganini, when he had reached his height, played only
his own music ; he played divinely and incomprehensibly ;
next to his passion for music was his greed for gold.
These three facts sum up all we really know about the
master the rest fades off into mist mystery, fable
and legend. We do know, however, that he composed
several pieces of music so difficult that he could not play
them himself, and of course no one else can. Imagina-
tion can always outrun performance. Paganini had no
close friends; no confidants: he never mingled in society,
and he never married.
At times he would disappear from the public gaze for
several months, and not even his business associates
knew where he was. On one such occasion a traveler
discovered him in a monastic retreat in the Swiss
Mountains, wearing a horsehair robe and a rope girdle ;
others saw him disguised as a mendicant; and still
another tells of finding him working as a day-laborer
with obscure and ignorant peasants. Then there are
tales told of how he was taken captive by a titled lady
of great wealth and beauty, who carried him away to
her bower, where he eschewed the violin and tinkled
only the guitar the livelong day.
Everywhere the report was current that Paganini had
killed a man, and been sentenced to prison for life. The
story ran that in prison he found an old violin, three
strings of which were broken, and so he played on one
string, producing such ravishing music that the keepers
feared he was " possessed." They decided they must
get rid of him, and so contrived to have him thrown
overboard from a galley; but he swam ashore, and
although he was everywhere known, no man dared
place a hand on him.
A late writer in a London magazine, however, has given
evidence of being a psychologist and man of sense; he
says, and produces proof, that after the concert season
was over Paganini withdrew to a monastery in the
mountains of Switzerland, and there the monks who
loved him well, guarded his retreat. There he found the
rest for which his soul craved, and there he practised on
his violin hour after hour, day after day. All this is
better understood when we remember that after each
retreat, Paganini appeared with brand-new effects
which electrified his hearers " effects taught him by
Constant appearing before vast multitudes and ceaseless
travel create a depletion that demands rest. Paganini
held the balance true by fleeing to the mountains; there
he worked and prayed. That Paganini had a soft heart,
in spite of the silent, cold and melancholy mood that
usually possessed him, is shown in his treatment of his
father and mother, who lived to know the greatness of
their son. He wrote his mother kind and affectionate
letters, some of which we have, and provided lavishly
for every want of both his parents. At times he gave
concerts for charity, and on these occasions vast sums
Paganini died in Eighteen Hundred Forty, aged fifty-
six years. His will provided for legacies to various men
and women who had befriended him, and he also gave
to others with whom he had quarreled, thus proving he
was not all clay.
The bulk of his fortune, equal to half a million dollars,
was bequeathed to his son, Baron Achille Paganini.
And as if mystery should still enshroud his memory and
this, true to his nature, should be carried out in his last
will, there are those who maintain that Achille Paganini
was not his son at all only a waif he had adopted. Yet
Achilla always stoutly maintained the distinction but
what boots it, since he could not play his father's
violin? 3$ 3$
Yet this we know Paganini, the man of mystery and
moods, once lived and produced music that, Orpheus-
like, transfixed the world. We are better for his having
been and this world is a nobler place in that he lived and
played, for listen closely and you can hear, even now,
the sweet, sad echoes of those vibrant strings, touched
by the hand of him who loved them well.
And when we remember the prodigious amount of
practise that Paganini schooled himself to in youth ; and
join this to the recently discovered record of his long
monastic retreats, when for months he worked and
played and prayed, we can guess the secret of his power.
If you wish me to present you a recipe for doing a
deathless performance, I would give you this: Work,
travel, solitude, prayer, and yet again work.
Nature does not design like art, however realistic she
may be. She has caprices, inconsequences, probably not
real, but very mysterious. Art only rectifies these
inconsequences, because it is too limited to reproduce
them. Chopin was a resume of these inconsequences
which God alone can allow Himself to create, and which
have their particular logic. He was modest on principle,
gentle by habit, but he was imperious by instinct and
full of a legitimate pride which was unconscious of
itself. Hence arose sufferings which he did not reason
and which did not fix themselves on a determined object.
George Sand in " The Story of My Life"
AYBE I am all wrong about it, yet I
can not help believing that the
spirit of man will live again some-
where in a better world than ours.
Fenelon says, " Justice demands
another life in order to make good
the inequalities of this." Astron-
omers prophesy the existence of
stars long before they can see them. They know where
they ought to be, and training their telescopes in that
direction they wait, knowing they will find.
Materially, no one can imagine anything more beautiful
than this earth, for the simple reason that we can not
imagine anything we have not seen ; we may make new
combinations, but the whole is all made up of parts of
things with which we are familiar. This great green
earth out of which we have sprung, of which we are a
part, that supports our bodies, and to which our bodies
must return to repay the loan, is very, very beautiful.
<I But the spirit of man is not fully at home here; as we
grow in soul and intellect, we hear, and hear again, a
voice which says, "Arise and get thee hence, for this is
not thy rest." And the greater and nobler and more
sublime the spirit, the more constant the discontent.
Discontent may come from various causes, so it will not
do to assume that the discontented are always the pure
in heart, but it is a fact that the wise and excellent have
all known the meaning of world-weariness. The more
you study and appreciate this life, the more sure you are
that this is not all. You pillow your head upon Mother
Earth, listen to her heart-throb, and even as your spirit
is filled with the love of her, your gladness is half-pain
and there comes to you a joy that hurts.
To look upon the most exalted forms of beauty, such as a
sunset at sea, the coming of a storm on the prairie, the
shadowy silence of the desert, or the sublime majesty
of the mountains, begets a sense of sadness, an increas-
It is not enough to say that man encroaches on man
so that we are really deprived of our freedom, that
civilization is caused by a bacillus, and that from a
natural condition we have gotten into a hurly-burly
where rivalry is rife all this may be true, but beyond
and outside of all this there is no physical environment
in way of plenty which earth can supply, that will give
the tired soul peace. They are the happiest who have
the least; and the fable of the stricken king and
the shirtless beggar contains the germ of truth. The
wise hold all earthly ties very lightly they are stripping
World-weariness is only a desire for a better spirit-
ual condition. There is more to be written on this
subject of world-pain to exhaust the theme would
require a book. And certain it is that I have no wish to
say the final word on any topic. The gentle reader has
certain rights, and among these is the privilege of
summing up the case. But the fact holds that world-pain
is a form of desire. All desires are just, proper and
right; and their gratification is the means by which
Nature supplies us that which we need. Desire not only
causes us to seek that which we need, but is a form of
attraction by which the good is brought to us, just as
the ameba creates a swirl in the waters that brings its
food within reach. Every desire in Nature has a
fixed, definite purpose in the Divine Economy, and
every desire has its proper gratification. If we desire the
friendship of a certain person, it is because that person
has certain soul-qualities that we do not possess, and
which complement our own. Through desire do we come
into possession of our own ; by submitting to its beckon-
ings we add cubits to our stature ; and we also give out
to others our own attributes, without becoming poorer,
for soul is not limited.
All Nature is a symbol of spirit, so I believe that some-
where there must be a proper gratification for this mys-
terious nostalgia of the soul. The Eternal Unities require
a condition where men and women will live to love, and
not to sorrow; where the tyranny of things hated shall
not ever prevail, nor that for which the heart yearns
turn to ashes at our touch.
BELIEVE Stevie is not quite at home here
he '11 not remain so very long," said a woman
to me in Eighteen Hundred Ninety-five.
Five years have gone by, and recently the
cable flashed the news that Stephen Crane was dead 3&
Dead at twenty-nine, with ten books to his credit, two
of them good, which is two good books more than most
of us scribblers will ever write. Yes, Stephen Crane
wrote two things that are immortal. " The Red Badge
of Courage " is the strongest, most vivid work of
imagination ever fished from an ink-pot by an American.
*3f " Men who write from the imagination are helpless
when in presence of the fact," said James Russell Lowell.
In answer to which I '11 point you "The Open Boat,"
the sternest, creepiest bit of realism ever penned, and
Stevie was in the boat.
American critics honored Stephen Crane with more
ridicule, abuse and unkind comment than was bestowed
on any other writer of his time. Possibly the vagueness,
and the loose, unsleeked quality of his work invited the
gibes, jeers, and the loud laughter that tokens the vacant
mind; yet as half -apology for the critics we might say
that scathing criticism never killed good work ; and this
is true, but it sometimes has killed the man.
Stephen Crane never answered back, nor made explana-
tion, but that he was stung by the continued efforts of
the press to laugh him down, I am very sure.
The lack of appreciation at home caused him to shake
the dust of America from his feet and take up his abode
across the sea, where his genius was being recognized,
and where strong men stretched out sinewy hands of
welcome, and words of appreciation were heard, instead
of silly, insulting parody. In passing, it is well to note
that the five strongest writers of America had their
passports to greatness viseed in England before they
were granted recognition at home. I refer to Walt Whit-
man, Thoreau, Emerson, Poe and Stephen Crane.
Stevie did not know he cared for approbation, but his
constant refusal to read what the newspapers said about
him was proof that he did. He boycotted the tribe of
Romeike, because he knew that nine clippings out of
every ten would be unkind, and his sensitive soul
shrank from the pin-pricks.
Contemporary estimates are usually wrong, and Crane
is only another of the long list of men of genius to whom
Fame brings a wreath and finds her poet dead.
Stephen Crane was a reincarnation of Frederic Chopin.
Both were small in stature, slight, fair-haired, and of
that sensitive, acute, receptive temperament capable
of highest joy and keyed for exquisite pain. Haunted
with the prophetic vision of quick-coming death, and
with the hectic desire to get their work done, they often
toiled the night away and were surprised by the rays of
the rising sun. Both were shrinking yet proud, shy but
bold, with a tenderness and a feminine longing for love
that earth could not requite. At times mad gaiety, that
ill-masked a breaking heart, took the reins, and the spirits
of children just out of school seemed to hold the road.
At other times and this was the prevailing mood the
manner was one of placid, patient, calm and smooth,
unruffled hope; but back and behind all was a dynamo
of energy, a brooding melancholy of unrest, and the
crouching world-sorrow that would not down.
Chopin reached sublimity through sweet sounds ; Crane
attained the same heights through the sense of sight
and words that symboled color, shapes and scenes. In
each the distinguishing feature is the intense imagina-
tion and active sympathy. Knowledge consists in a
sense of values of distinguishing this from that, for
truth lies in the mass. The delicate nuances of Chopin's
music have never been equaled by another composer;
every note is cryptic, every sound a symbol. And yet
it is dance-music, too, but still it tells its story of
baffled hope and stifled desire the tragedy of Poland
in sweet sounds.
Stephen Crane was an artist in his ability to convey the
feeling by just the right word, or a word misplaced, like
a lady's dress in disarray, or a hat askew. This daring
quality marks everything he wrote. The recognition
that language is fluid, and at best only an expedient,
flavors all his work. He makes no fetish of a grammar
if grammar gets in the way, so much the worse for the
grammar. All is packed with color, and charged with
feeling, yet the work is usually quiet in quality and
modest in manner, fl Art is born of heart, not head ; and
so it seems to me that the work of these men whose
names I have somewhat arbitrarily linked, will live.
Each sowed in sorrow and reaped in grief. They were
tender, kind, gentle, with a capacity for love that passes
the love of woman. They were each indifferent to the
proprieties, very much as children are. They lived in
cloister-like retirement, hidden from the public gaze,
or wandered unnoticed and unknown. They founded
no schools, delivered no public addresses, and in their
own day made small impress on the times. Both were
sublimely indifferent to what had been said and done
the term precedent not being found within the covers
of their bright lexicon of words. In the nature of each
was a goodly trace of peroxide of iron that often mani-
fested itself in the man's work,
The faults in each spring from an intense personality,
uncolored by the surroundings, and such faults in such
men are virtues.
They belong to that elect few who have built for the
centuries. The influence of Chopin, beyond that of other
composers, is alive today, and moves unconsciously, but
profoundly, every music-maker; the seemingly careless
style of Crane is really lapidaric, and is helping to file
the fetters from every writer who has ideas plus, and
thoughts that burn.
Mother Nature in giving out energy gives each man
about an equal portion. But that ability to throw the
weight with the blow, to concentrate the soul in a
sonnet, to focus force in a single effort, is the possession
of God's Chosen Few. Chopin put his affection, his
patriotism, his wrath, his hope, and his heroism into his
music as if the song of all the forest birds could be
secured, sealed and saved for us!
HE father of Chopin was a Frenchman who
went up to Poland seeking gain and adven-
ture. He became a soldier under Kosciusko
and arose to rank of Captain. He found such
favor with the nobility by his gracious ways that he
became a teacher of French in the family of Count
Frederic Skarbek. In the family group was a fair
young dependent of nervous temperament slight,
active, gentle and intelligent. She was descendent from
a line of aristocrats, but in a country where revolutions
have been known to begin and end before breakfast,
titles stand for little.
Nicholas Chopin, ex-soldier, teacher of French and
Deportment, married this fine young girl, and they
lived in one of Count Skarbek's straw-thatched cottages
at the little village of Zelazowa-Wola, twenty-nine miles
from Warsaw. Here it was that Frederic Chopin was
born, in Eighteen Hundred Nine that memorable
year when Destiny sent a flight of great souls to the
The country was bleak and battle-scarred; it had been
drained of its men and treasure, and served as a dueling-
ground and the place of skulls for kings and such riffraff
who have polluted this fair world with their boastings
of a divine power.
The struggle of Poland to free herself from the grip of
the imperial succubi has generated an atmosphere of
ultramarine, so we view the little land of patriots (and
fanatics) through a mist of melancholy. The history of
Poland is written in blood and tears.
Go ask John Sobieski, who saw his father hanged by
order of Ferdinand Maximilian, and child though he
was, realized that banishment was the fate of himself
and mother; and then ten years after, himself, stood
death-guard over this same Maximilian in Mexico, and
told that tyrant the story of his life, and shook hands
with him, calling it quits, ere the bandage was tied over
the eyes of the ex-dictator and the sunlight shut out
forever 33 33
Go ask John Sobieski !
The woes of Poland have produced strange men. Under
such rule as she has known relentless hate springs up in
otherwise gracious hearts from the scattered dragons'
teeth; and in other natures, where there is not quite so
much of the motive temperament, a deep strain of
sorrow and religious melancholy finds expression. The