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which force their way from man to his Maker.

Enough, enough! we would never have done, were we to say all that could
be said about such a mind. Dare we now really claim his creations, which
breathe the highest humanity, as specially _German_? I think this will
be granted us when we add to it the consideration that our greatest
poets and thinkers have, in like manner; struck root firmly in their
nationality, whence they have grown up - away, beyond - into those regions
from which their glance embraced but _one_ nobly striving human family.

It has been often declared that we, for long, felt and recognised our
national unity only through the works of our poets, artists, and
philosophers; but it has never been fully recognised that it was our
first tone-poets in particular, who caused the essential German
character to be appreciated by other nations. There are, perhaps, no two
German names which can rejoice in a popularity - widely diffused in the
most dissimilar nations - equal to that of Mozart and Beethoven. And
Haydn, and Weber, and Schubert, and Mendelssohn! what a propaganda have
they made for the Fatherland! That they speak a _universal_ language
does not prevent their uttering in it the best which we possess _as

Nevertheless, as men are constituted, it is not to be denied that what
enchants does not on that account overawe them; they _esteem_ the
beautiful, they _respect_ only force and strength, even should these
work destroyingly.

Well, then! Germany has now shown what she can do in this way; she will
bloom afresh, and follow out her high aims in every direction. The
consideration which we could long since have claimed as a people, will
then be freely accorded to the German state.

As a musician, I can wish for the nation nothing better than that it
should resemble a Beethoven symphony, - full of poetry and power;
indivisible, yet many-sided; rich in thought and symmetrical in form;
exalted and mighty!

And for the Beethoven symphonies I could wish directors and executants
like those of whom the world's history will speak when considering the
nineteenth century. But History, if at all true to her task, must also
preserve the name of the man who, nearly seventy years ago, created the
Eroica, - an achievement in the intellectual life which may place itself
boldly by the side of every battle which has left invigorating and
formative traces on the destiny of mankind.



[Footnote 1: This Essay also appeared in Germany in the _Salon_.]




A Memoir.



Origin of the family VAN BEETHOVEN - The Electorate of Cologne - Court
of Clemens August the Magnificent - Ludwig van Beethoven the
Elder - Johann van Beethoven - Bonn in 1770.

Towards the middle of the seventeenth century there lived in a Belgian
village near Louvain a family of the name VAN BEETHOVEN. To their
position in life we have no clue, unless it be that contained in the
name itself (_beet_, root; _hof_, garden), which after all only
indicates that the occupation of some remote progenitor was akin to that
of the "grand old gardener" from whom we all claim descent. The
question, however, is immaterial.

A member of this family left his native place, and in the year 1650
settled in Antwerp, where he married, and became the founder of a race,
one of whom was destined to render the hitherto obscure name immortal.

The grandson of this Beethoven had twelve children, the third of whom,
Ludwig, followed the example of his great-grandsire, and quitted the
paternal roof at an early age. It has been imagined that this step was
the result of family disagreements; however that may be, it is certain
that after the lapse of some years Ludwig was again in friendly
correspondence with his relations.

The youth bent his steps towards the home of his ancestors, where he
probably had connections, and succeeded in getting an appointment for
the period of three months in one of the churches of Louvain. As this
was merely to fill the place of the _Phonascus_ who was ill, young
Beethoven found himself when the three months were over again adrift.

He was but eighteen; tolerably well educated, however; a cultivated
musician, and the possessor of a good voice. With these qualities he was
pretty sure of making his way, and in the following year we hear of him
at Bonn, the seat of government of the splendour-loving Clemens August,
Elector of Cologne.

It has been thought that he received a special summons thither, but this
is, to say the least, doubtful. It is more probable that the young man,
with the love of change and the confidence in his own abilities natural
to his age, was drawn to Bonn by the dazzling reports that were spread
far and wide of the Mæcenas then on the episcopal throne.

A few words may not be out of place here as to the nature of the
independent Ecclesiastical States (and specially of Cologne), which
occupy so large a space in the history of Germany prior to the French
Revolution; since the fact of the great master having been born in one
of these communities had an influence on his career which would have
been wanting had fate placed him in a state of more importance,
politically speaking.

We in England are inclined to hold somewhat in contempt the petty German
court - the "Pumpernickel" of Thackeray, - with its formality, its gossip,
its countless rules of etiquette, and its aping the doings of its
greater neighbours. And yet in this ridicule there is a touch of
ingratitude, for how greatly are we indebted to these "Serene
Transparencies," and their love of pomp and display! How many
masterpieces of art owe to their fostering care their very existence!
How many men eminent in science and literature have to thank them for
that support and encouragement without which their works, if produced at
all, must have fallen to the ground dead-born! People talk of the divine
power, the inherent energy of genius, but what a loss is it for the
world when that energy is consumed in the effort of keeping soul and
body together! The divine power will and does manifest itself at length,
but enfeebled and distorted by the struggle which might have been
averted by a little timely aid.

These prince-bishops of Cologne generally belonged to some royal house,
the office being in fact regarded as a convenient sinecure for younger
sons. They were chosen by the Chapter, subject only to the approval of
the Pope and the Emperor, as the supreme spiritual and temporal heads,
the people themselves having no voice in the matter.

They ruled over a small territory of about thirty German miles in
length, and in some places only two or three in breadth. Within this
limited area there were several wealthy and flourishing towns; among
which, strangely enough, that which gave its name to the diocese was not
included, a feud of the thirteenth century between the reigning
archbishop and the burghers of Cologne having resulted in the
recognition of the latter as a free imperial city, and the removal of
the court to Bonn, which continued to be the seat of government until
the abolition of the Electorate in 1794.

Were it not that the loss of so wealthy a town as Cologne was of no
small moment to the episcopal coffers, the change must have been
agreeable rather than otherwise, for Bonn, even in those days, fairly
bore the palm from Cologne as a place of residence. Here, then, for
about five hundred years, the little state flourished, better perhaps
than we, with our modern ideas as to the union of the temporal and
spiritual power are willing to admit, and especially in the last fifty
years of its existence, was this the case.

Debarred by the limited income at their disposal from taking any
prominent part in political life, cut off from ordinary domestic ties
and interests, the archbishops were driven to seek compensation for
these deprivations in some favourite pursuit; and to their credit be it
said, not the delights of the chase or the table alone engaged their
attention. The old genius of appreciation of art transferred its
presence from the Arno to the Rhine, and began to exert in the Electors
of Cologne an influence of great importance in the æsthetic development
of Germany.

The four last Electors especially distinguished themselves, and shed a
lustre on their court, by the number of talented men they drew around
them, and the liberal patronage they bestowed on music and the drama.
Joseph Clemens, the first of these, was himself a composer, after the
usual fashion of royal dilettanti, no doubt, but a keen discerner of
talent in others.

His successor, Clemens August, had passed his youth in Rome, where,
although modern taste was on the decline, the imperishable monuments of
art by which he was surrounded seem to have breathed something of their
own spirit into him. He did a great deal towards beautifying the town of
Bonn; built, besides churches and cloisters, an immense palace, the
present university, and greatly enlarged the villa of Poppelsdorf, now
the Natural History Museum. His household was conducted on the most
magnificent scale, grand fêtes were of common occurrence, and his court
was thronged by celebrities of every rank.

Especially did the reputation of the court music stand high. The
archbishop, like his predecessor, was a connoisseur, and selections from
the operas of Handel and the cantatas of Sebastian Bach were performed
at Bonn in a style worthy of the imperial court at Vienna.

It was to this brilliant little capital, then, that young Ludwig van
Beethoven made his way in the year 1732, with a light heart and still
lighter purse, and begged for an engagement as one of the court
musicians, which distinction, after the customary year's probation, was
formally granted him, with an annual stipend of four hundred guldens, at
that time considered a very good income for so young a man.

His career seems to have been uniformly successful and honourable.
Existing documents speak of him as successively simple _Musicus_, then
_Dominus van Beethoven_, next as _Musicus Anticus_, and finally in the
year 1761 as _Herr Kapellmeister_, when his name also figures third in a
list of twenty-eight _Hommes de chambre Honoraires_ in the "Court
Calendar." This success is the more remarkable when we reflect that
Ludwig van Beethoven the elder was no composer, and in those days the
musical director in the service of a prince was expected to produce
offhand, at an hour's notice, appropriate music for every family
occurrence, festival or funeral; so that his appointment as
kapellmeister must have created no little jealousy, especially as there
were several eminent composers at court. But in truth it would have been
impossible for him to find much time for composition amid the
multifarious duties that devolved upon him. In addition to the general
responsibility over all pertaining to musical matters, including the
oversight of the numerous singers, choristers, and instrumentalists in
the Elector's service, he was expected to conduct in church, in the
theatre, on private occasions at court, to examine the candidates for
vacancies in the choir and orchestra, and also to take the bass part in
several operas and cantatas. Truly the Herr Kapellmeister held no
sinecure, if his royal master did!

Notwithstanding, he seems to have led a quiet, even-going life, able,
unlike the most of his colleagues, to lay by a little sum of money,
happy in the exercise of his art (alas, poor man! domestic bliss was
denied him), respected and beloved by all.

Such was the grandfather of the great Beethoven. He died when the boy
was but three years of age; nevertheless the old man in the scarlet robe
usually worn at that time by elderly people, with his dark complexion
and flashing eye, seems to have made no ordinary impression on
Beethoven's childish mind. He always spoke with reverence of his
grandfather, whom he doubtless regarded as the founder of the family,
and the only relic that he cared to have when settled in Vienna was a
portrait of the old man, which he begs his friend Wegeler in a letter to
send him from Bonn.

We have hinted that Ludwig van Beethoven was not happy in his home. If
every one is haunted by some skeleton, his was grim enough. Not many
years after their marriage his wife Josepha had become addicted to
drinking, and in fact her habits were such that it was found necessary
to place her in the restraint of a convent at Cologne. Thayer attributes
this failing to grief for the loss of her children, only one of whom
lived to manhood; but this trait in her character was unfortunately
reproduced in her son Johann.[2]

The latter appears to have been a man of vacillating, inert temperament,
gifted with a good voice and artistic sensibility, but not capable of
any sustained effort. At the age of twenty-four we find him filling the
post of Tenor in the Electoral Chapel with the miserable stipend of one
hundred thalers, and not distinguished in any way, unless we except his
ingenuity in spelling or misspelling his own name in the petitions which
he from time to time addressed to the Elector for an increase of salary.
In these he calls himself _Bethoven_, _Betthoven_, _Bethof_,
_Biethoffen_; but this instance does not warrant us in concluding that
he was a man of no education whatever, for the orthography even of those
who considered themselves scholars was at that time very erratic.

At the age of twenty-seven, on an income not much larger than that just
mentioned, Johann van Beethoven took unto himself a wife. The entry in
the register of the parish of St. Remigius runs thus: -

"Copulavi - "Nov. 12, 1767.



MARIAM MAGDALENAM KEFERICH, viduam LEYM, ex Ehrenbreitstein, filiam

The object of his choice was a young widow, Maria Magdalena, daughter of
the head cook at the castle of Ehrenbreitstein. Her first husband,
Johann Leym, one of the _valets de chambre_ to the Elector of Treves,
had left her a widow at the age of nineteen. The fruit of this plebeian
union between the tenor singer of the Electoral Chapel and the daughter
of the head cook to his Grace the Archbishop of Treves was the great

What a downfall must the discovery of this fact have been to the
numerous Viennese admirers of Beethoven, who for long persisted in
attributing to him a noble origin, confounding the Flemish particle
_van_ with the aristocratic _von_! It was impossible, they thought, that
Beethoven's undoubted aristocratic leanings could be compatible with so
humble a parentage. Hence the absurd fable, promulgated by Fayolle and
Choron, which represented him as a natural son of Frederic II., King of
Prussia, which was indignantly repudiated by Beethoven himself.

In general careless of his own reputation, he could not bear that the
slightest breath of slander should touch his mother; and in a letter
addressed to Wegeler begged him to "make known to the world the honour
of his parents, particularly of his mother." Her memory was always
regarded by him with the deepest tenderness, and he was wont to speak
lovingly of the "great patience she had with his waywardness."

We cannot conclude this short sketch better than by presenting the
reader with Thayer's picturesque description of Bonn, as it must have
appeared in the eyes of the young Beethoven.

The old town itself wore an aspect very similar to that of the present
day. There were the same churches and cloisters, the same quaint flying
bridge, the same ruins of Drachenfels and Godesberg towering above the
same orchard-embedded villages. The Seven Hills looked quietly down on
the same classic Rhine, not as yet desecrated by puffing tourist-laden
steamboat or shrieking locomotive.

Gently and evenly flowed the life-current in the Elector's capital, no
foreboding of nineteenth century bustle and excitement causing even a
ripple on the calm surface.

"Let our imagination paint for us a fine Easter or Whitsun morning in
those times, and show us the little town in its holiday adornment and

"The bells are ringing from castle tower and church steeple; the country
people, in coarse but comfortable garments (the women overladen with gay
colours), come in from the neighbouring villages, fill the
market-places, and throng into the churches to early mass.

"The nobles and principal citizens, in ample low-hanging coats, wide
vests, and knee-breeches (the whole suit composed of some
bright-coloured stuffsilk, satin, or velvet), with great white
fluttering cravats, ruffles over the hands; buckles of silver, or even
of gold, below the knee and on the shoes; high frizzed and powdered
perruques on the head, covered with a cocked hat, if the latter be not
tucked underneath the arm; a sword by the side, and generally a
gold-headed cane; and, if the morning be cold, a scarlet mantle thrown
over the shoulders.

"Thus attired they decorously direct their steps to the castle to kiss
the hand of his Serene Highness, or drive in at the gates in ponderous
equipages, surmounted by white-powdered, cocked-hatted coachman and

"Their wives wear long narrow bodices with immense flowing skirts. Their
shoes with very high heels, and the towering rolls over which their hair
is dressed, give them an appearance of greater height than they in
reality possess. They wear short sleeves, but long silk gloves cover
their arms.

"The clergy of different orders and dress are attired as at the present
day, with the exception of the streaming wigs. The Electoral Guard has
turned out, and from time to time the thunder of the firing from the
walls reaches the ear.

"On all sides strong and bright contrasts meet the eye; velvet and silk,
'purple and fine linen,' gold and silver. Such was the taste of the
period; expensive and incommodious in form, but imposing, magnificent,
and indicative of the distinction between the different grades of

Such was the Bonn of 1770.


[Footnote 2: We are told on good authority that the elder Beethoven had
invested his money in "two cellars of wine," which he bought from the
growers of the district, and sold into the Netherlands. An unlucky
speculation! Johann, we learn, was early an adept at
"wine-tasting." - THAYER, Vol. i. App., p. 328.]




Birth - Early Influences and Training - Neefe - First Attempts at
Composition - The Boy Organist - Max Friedrich's National
Theatre - Mozart and Beethoven - Disappointment.

On the 17th of December, 1770, in the old house in the Bonngasse, Ludwig
van Beethoven first saw the light. He was not the eldest child, Johann
having about eighteen months previously lost a son who had also been
christened Ludwig.

Beethoven's infant years flew by happily, the grandfather being still
alive, and able to make good any deficiency in his son's miserable
income; but in the year 1773 the old man was gathered to his fathers,
and the little household left to face that struggle with poverty which
embittered Beethoven's youth.

The father, however, was not yet the hardened, reckless man he
afterwards became, and could still take pleasure in the manifest joy
exhibited by his little son whenever he sat at the pianoforte and
played or sang. The sound of his father's voice was sufficient to draw
the child from any game, and great was his delight when Johann placed
his little fingers among the keys and taught him to follow the melody of
the song.

On the title-page of the three Sonatas dedicated to the Elector
Maximilian Friedrich, Beethoven says, "From my fourth year music has
been my favourite pursuit;" and such would seem to have been really the

The readiness with which the child learned was, however, unfortunate for
him. No long interval had elapsed since the extraordinary performances
of the young Mozarts had astonished the whole musical world, and the
evil genius of Johann van Beethoven now prompted him to turn his son's
talents to the same account. He resolved to make of Ludwig a prodigy,
and foresaw in his precocious efforts a mine of wealth which would do
away with any necessity for exertion on his part, and allow him to give
full scope to what was fast becoming his dominant passion.

With this end in view he undertook the musical education of his boy, and
the little amusing lessons, at first given in play, now became sad and
serious earnest. Ludwig was kept at the pianoforte morning, noon, and
night, till the child began positively to hate what he had formerly

Still the father was relentless: Handel, Bach, Mozart, all had been
great as child-musicians; and if the boy (only a baby of five years)
showed signs of obstinacy or sulkiness, he must be forced into
submission by cruel threats and still more cruel punishments. Many a
time was the little Ludwig seen in tears, standing on a raised bench
before his pianoforte, thus early serving his apprenticeship to grief.

In short, Johann was fast doing all he could to ruin the genius of his
son, when, fortunately for the world, it soon became evident that if
Ludwig were to do wonders as a prodigy, he would require a better
teacher than his father, and the boy was accordingly handed over to one
Pfeiffer, an oboist in the theatre, and probably a lodger in Johann's

This man seems to have been of a genial, kindly nature, though only too
willing to second his landlord's views with regard to the boy; for we
learn that when the two came home from the tavern far on in the night
(as was too often the case) the little Ludwig would be dragged from his
bed and kept at the pianoforte till daybreak! Beethoven seems, however,
to have had a great regard for Pfeiffer, who was an excellent pianist,
and from whom he declared he had learned more than from any one else.

On hearing many years after that he was broken down and in poverty, he
sent him, through Simrock the music publisher, a sum of money.

This ruthless conduct on the part of Johann, though unjustifiable and
inhuman, probably layed the foundation of the technical skill and power
over the pianoforte which so greatly distinguished Beethoven. It is not
positively certain that the father gained his end, and made money by
exhibiting the child, though we have the testimony of the widow Karth
(who as a child inhabited the same house as the Beethovens) that on one
occasion the mother made a journey to Holland and Belgium - probably to
some relations in Louvain, - where she received several considerable
presents from noble personages before whom the wonder-child had
performed. This, however, is a mere childish reminiscence, not to be
depended on, though it certainly coincides with all we know of Johann's

The boy was also forced to learn the violin, and this he disliked
infinitely more than the piano, a fact which puts to flight the pretty
anecdote narrated in the "Arachnologie" of Quatremère Disjonval, who
gravely states that whenever the boy began to practise - in an old ruined
garret filled with broken furniture and dilapidated music-books - a
spider was in the habit of leaving its hiding-place, and perching itself
upon his violin till he had finished. When his mother discovered her
son's little companion she killed it, whereupon this second Orpheus,
filled with indignation, smashed his instrument! Beethoven himself
remembered nothing about this, and used to laugh heartily at the story,
saying it was far more probable that his discordant growls frightened
away every living thing - down to flies and spiders.

When he was nine years old, Pfeiffer left Bonn to act as bandmaster in a
Bavarian regiment, and the boy was placed under the care of Van den
Eeden, the court organist. At his death, which took place not long
after, Ludwig was transferred to his successor, Christian Gottlob
Neefe, whose pupil he remained for several years.

This Neefe, long since forgotten, was one of the best musicians of the
time, and thought worthy to be named in the same breath with Bach and
Graun. He was a ready composer, and the favourite pupil of Johann Adam
Hiller, Bach's successor as Cantor in the Thomasschule at Leipzig. He
appears, moreover, to have been an amiable, conscientious man, and so
high did his artistic reputation stand that he, although a Protestant,
was tolerated as organist in the archbishop's private chapel.

How comes it, then, that with all these qualifications Beethoven would

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