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neglected his studies and became an expert at the game of billiards. On
the return of Beethoven from Baden to Vienna in 1824, the nephew entered
the University as a student of philology; he failed in a subsequent
examination; he thought of trade; he failed in an examination for
admission into the Polytechnic school; and although in despair he pulled
the triggers of two pistols which he had applied to his head, he failed
to kill himself. He then fell into the hands of the police, was ordered
out of Vienna, and joined the Austrian army. After he was obliged to quit
Vienna, the uncle and the nephew in 1826 lived with Johann at Gneixendorf.
The surroundings were dreary; the stingy sister-in-law of Beethoven
refused him a fire; the brother found that he must charge him for board
and lodging; and the nephew was insolent. He left the house in an open
chaise and caught a cold which settled in his abdomen. The result of the
journey was a sharp attack of inflammation of the lungs and dropsy. For
the sake of his nephew Beethoven offered his manuscripts to publishers.
Schott bought the Mass in D for 1,000 florins and the Ninth Symphony for
600 florins. A young man named Holtz helped the composer in his business
calculations and gained a strange influence over him; he even induced
him to abandon occasionally his customary sobriety. And yet these days
of business and anxiety saw the composition of the last Quartets. Prince
Nicholas de Galitzin of Saint Petersburg begged three string-quartets
with dedications from him; he wrote to him in flattering terms; he named
his bankers. Beethoven fixed the price at $115 a quartet. The Prince
acknowledged the receipt of two (E-flat Op. 127 and A minor Op. 132) and
regretted his delay in answering; "I now live in the depths of Russia and
in a few days I shall go to Persia to fight." He promised again to send
the money. Beethoven never received it, and the quartets were sold to
publishers. The third, B-flat Op. 130, originally ended with a long fugue
which was afterward published separately, and the new finale was written
at the dreary house of his brother, where he also finished the quartet in


From a photograph.]

When he arrived at Vienna in December, 1826, he went immediately to bed
in his lodgings in the Schwarzspanierhaus. He had dismissed rudely two
eminent physicians who had treated him for a former illness, and they
would not now attend him. His nephew, who was charged with the errand of
finding a doctor, played billiards and forgot the condition of his uncle,
so that two days went by without medical assistance. Finally Dr. Andreas
Wawruch was told by a billiard-marker of the suffering of the sick man. He
went to him and dosed him with decoctions. In a few days the patient was
worse, in spite of the great array of empty bottles of medicine. Dropsy
declared itself. He was tapped by Dr. Seibert, and during one of the
operations he said, "I would rather see the water flow from my belly than
from my pen." Schindler and Breuning came to his bedside, and with them
young Gerhard Breuning, the son of Stephen. This lad now dwelled in the
house with Beethoven as his constant companion. Dr. Malfatti was persuaded
to forget his quarrels with the composer, and he consented to act in
consultation with Dr. Wawruch. Beethoven saw his old friend gladly; but he
would turn his back to Wawruch with the remark, "Oh, the ass!" Malfatti
administered iced punch; for a short time the patient seemed stronger, and
he talked of the 10th symphony. But in February, 1827, he was tapped for
the fourth time; his aristocratic friends were forgetful of him, and even
the Archduke Rudolph did not interest himself by cheap inquiry. In this
same month Beethoven wrote to Moscheles and Sir George Smart telling them
of his strait, and begging them to arrange for a concert for his benefit.
All this time he had the seven bank shares of one thousand florins each
that were found with the two mysterious love letters in a secret drawer of
his writing desk, the day after his death; these shares he held for his
scape-grace nephew, whom he made his sole heir, although by a codicil the
capital was placed beyond his nephew's control. The Philharmonic Society
promptly sent through Moscheles £100 on account of the future concert, and
promised more if it were necessary. Unable to compose, Beethoven tried to
read Sir Walter Scott's "Kenilworth," but he threw it aside and said, "The
man writes only for money." He saw "the divine fire" in some of Schubert's
songs. He wrote many letters, he arranged certain dedications of his
works, and he found pleasure in a lithograph of Haydn's birthplace, and in
a set of Handel's compositions in forty volumes, which had been given him.
The Rhine wine that he had asked of Schott came too late. Hummel called
on him in March and introduced his pupil Ferdinand Hiller. On the 19th of
this month Beethoven felt the end, and he said to Breuning and Schindler,
"_Plaudite, amici, comoedia finita est_." On the 23d he made with his
own hand the codicil above mentioned. Several people called, among them
Schubert, who saw him but could not speak with him. The last Sacraments
of the Roman Catholic church were administered to the dying man the 24th.
Then Beethoven wrestled with death until a quarter to six on the evening
of the 26th, when he gave up the ghost. His sufferings were atrocious; the
final agony was terrible. Just as he was delivered from his earthly ills a
tempest, a great storm of hail and snow, burst over the roofs of Vienna.
There was a dazzling flash of lightning; and the roaring thunder roused
Beethoven. He pulled himself up in his bed, shook his fist at the sky, and
fell back dead. Anselm Hüttenbrenner and the wife of Johann Beethoven were
by his side.

The post mortem examination was made by Doctors Wagner and Rokitansky.
Wagner cut and preserved the temporal muscles and the organs of hearing.
The body was dressed and exposed in the room of the death. The lower jaw
was not sustained, and the face with its long hair and its beard of three
months' growth was savage.

The funeral was the 29th at three o'clock in the afternoon. It was
attended by an immense crowd. Dr. Breuning estimated the number of persons
on the glacis and in the neighboring streets at 20,000. The coffin was
placed on the shoulders of eight members of the Imperial Opera. Eybler,
Hummel, Kreutzer, Weigl, Gyrowetz, Seyfried, Gänsbacher and Würfel held
the streamers of the canopy. There were thirty-two torch bearers, whose
left arms were wrapped in crape ornamented by lilies and white roses.
Among these torch bearers were Czerny, Schubert and the giant Lablache. At
the head, after the crucifix, four trombone players marched, and played
alternately with the singing of a choir of sixteen men the two Equali of
the dead composer. The crowd that followed was so enormous that soldiers
were summoned to force a way. The ceremonies were held at the Church of
the Minorites, and the body was then put in a hearse which was drawn by
four horses to the Währinger cemetery. The gate was reached at the falling
of night, and the play-actor Anschütz delivered an address written by
Grillparzer. Other poems were read and distributed. Flowers and laurel
wreaths were heaped on the coffin when it was lowered to its resting place.

The 3d of April the furniture, clothes and the Graf and Broadwood
pianofortes were sold at auction. The same day Mozart's Requiem was sung
in the Hofpfarrkirche of the Augustines, and Lablache not only sang the
solo bass but paid about $80 for the cost of the singers. In November the
musical effects were sold at auction, and they brought about 1200 florins.
The total amount of money then was about $5,000.

In 1863 the Gesellschaft der Musik-Freunde opened the tombs of Beethoven
and Schubert and reburied their bodies in leaden coffins. The 21st of
June, 1888, the body of Beethoven was removed from the Währinger cemetery
and transferred to the central cemetery of Vienna at Simmering. A monument
was raised in Bonn in 1845, chiefly through the generosity and enthusiasm
of Liszt. It is by Höhnel, and it represents Beethoven standing, draped
in a mantle. A colossal statue by Zurnbusch stands in one of the public
places in Vienna, in front of the Academic Gymnasium.


From a photograph.]

When the body of Beethoven was exhumed in 1863 an impression and
a photograph of his skull were taken. The head was remarkable. The
box of bone was unusually thick; the dimensions of the forehead were
extraordinary; in height the forehead came next to that of Napoleon,
and in breadth it surpassed it. His face was strong and sombre, and
while it was not without ugliness, it was expressive. The head was built
stoutly throughout. The complexion was red and highly accented; though
Schindler tells us that it grew yellow in summer. The hair was thick and
rebellious; it was originally black, and in later years turned white.
He shaved cheeks, chin and upper lip, and he was as awkward as Lord
Macaulay with a razor. The eyes were black, not large, and they shot forth
a piercing flame when he was excited. The nose was thick; the jaw was
broad; the mouth was firm, and with protruding lips; the teeth were white,
well-shaped, and sound, and when he laughed he showed them freely; the
square chin rested on a white cravat. The greater number of pictures of
Beethoven are idealized. The most faithful likenesses are the miniature by
Hornemann, taken in 1802, and sent by Beethoven to Breuning in token of
reconciliation; the drawing by Letronne, a French artist who was in Vienna
in 1814; and the portrait by Schimon in 1819. Two plaster masks were made;
one by Klein in 1812; the other, a death-mask, by the sculptor Dannhauser,
from which Fortuny made an etching.

Beethoven was below the middle height, not more than five feet five
inches; he was broad-shouldered, sturdy, with legs like columns. He had
hairy hands, short fingers, with square ends as though they had been
chopped. His movements were without grace but they were marked by their
quickness. He was awkward in holding playing cards; he dropped everything
that he took in his hands. When he first went about in Vienna he dressed
in the fashion, with silken stockings, a peruke, long boots and a sword.
In later years he wore a blue or dark green coat with copper buttons, a
white waistcoat and a white cravat; and he carried an eyeglass. His felt
hat was on the back of his head so that it touched his coat collar, as in
the sketch of him by Lyser. His hat was often shabby and it excited the
attention of loungers as he amused himself by strolling aimlessly in the
streets, and by peering into the shop windows. The skirts of the coat were
heavy laden; there would be within them an ear-trumpet, a carpenter's
pencil, a stitched-book for use in his written conversation, a thick
blank-book in quarto form, in which he jotted down vagrant thoughts and
musical ideas. A pocket handkerchief would hang down to the calves of his
legs, and the pockets bulged until they showed the lining. He would walk
in deep meditation; talk with himself; at times make extravagant gestures.

He was simple in certain ways, easily gulled; so absent-minded that he
once forgot he was the owner of a horse. He could appreciate wit, although
he preferred rough jokes and horse play. He enjoyed pranks at the expense
of others. He threw eggs at his cook and poured the contents of dishes
over the heads of waiters. He was often brutal and rude in his speech to
unoffending friends and strangers. The reproach of his being absurdly
suspicious may be laid perhaps to his deafness. The son of a drunkard, he
was on the whole abstemious; at the tavern he would sit apart with a glass
of beer and a long pipe, and there he would brood. Of restless nature, he
shifted constantly his lodgings, often with a whimsical excuse. He was
fond of washing himself. He ate greedily badly cooked food whenever it
occurred to him that he was hungry; and his digestion suffered thereby.
He was fond of a panada with fresh eggs, macaroni sprinkled thickly with
cheese of Parma, and fish. His favorite drinks were cool and pure water,
and coffee which he prepared in a glass machine with extreme care, with
sixty beans in a cup. It is said that in later years his table manners
were beyond endurance. When he tried housekeeping for the sake of his
nephew he was in continual trouble with his servants. He had little or no
sense of order.


Taken in 1812 by Franz Klein, Beethoven being then in his forty-second
year. This mask and the bust made after it by the same artist (see page
341) are of the first importance in forming a correct judgment of the
value of all portraits of Beethoven.]

But the life of Beethoven, the man, was not merely a chronicle of
small-beer, a record of shifting of lodgings, quarrels, rude sayings and
personal discomforts. His character was a strange compound of greatness
and triviality. The influence of heredity, the early unfortunate
surroundings, the physical infirmity that was probably due to the sins
of his fathers, the natural impatience of a man whose head was in the
clouds with the petty cares of daily life: - all these unfitted him for
social intercourse with the gallant world in which he was, however, a
welcomed guest. He was afraid of elegance or he disdained it. Frankness,
that was often another name for brutality, was dear to him, and he saw no
wrong in calling men and women who talked when he played "hogs." He was
proud, and his pride was offended easily. He was sure of his own work,
he would therefore brook no contradiction; irritable, he was inclined
to quarrel. He preferred nature to man, and was never so happy as when
walking and composing in the open. In fields and woods he meditated his
great compositions. Winter and summer he rose at the breaking of day and
began to write, but in heat or cold, rain or sunshine, he would rush out
suddenly for air. Yet dear as light and air were to him, the twilight was
his favorite hour for improvising.


Taken by Dannhauser, March 28, 1827, two days after Beethoven's death.]

He used to read the Augsburg newspaper, and he was fond of talking of
politics. It was a time of political unrest. Beethoven revered the heroes
of Plutarch; the leaders in the American revolution; Napoleon Bonaparte
as long as he was First Consul. A bronze statue of Brutus was on his
work-table. It is not necessary, then, to add that he was a republican by
sentiment. He dreamed of a future when all men should be brothers, and the
finale of the Ninth Symphony is the musical expression of the dream and
the wish. We have seen his fondness for women. There is no proof however
that he was ever under the spell of an unworthy passion. A wife was to
him a sacred being; and in an age when unlimited gallantry was regarded
as an indispensable characteristic of a polished gentleman, Beethoven was
pure in speech and in life. He was even prudish in his desire to find an
untainted libretto for his music, and he could not understand how Mozart
was willing to accept the text of "Don Giovanni." He was born in the Roman
Catholic faith, and just before his death he took the Sacrament; but in
his life he was rather a speculative deist. His prayer book was "Thoughts
on the works of God in Nature," by Sturm. It was difficult for him to
separate God from Nature. Many passages in his letters show his sense of
religious duty to man and God, and his trust and his humility. He copied
out and kept constantly on his work-table these lines found by Champollion
Figeac on an Egyptian temple:

I am that which is,
I am all that is, that has been, and that shall be; no mortal
hand has lifted my veil.
He is by himself and it is to him that everything owes existence.

Although his education had been neglected sadly in his youth, he was not
without literary culture. He could not write a legible hand; - indeed, he
himself described his chirography as "this cursed writing that I cannot
alter"; his letters are often awkwardly expressed and incorrect; but they
also abound in blunt directness, in personal revelation, and in a rude
and overpowering eloquence. In his reading he was first enthusiastic
over Klopstock; he soon wearied of the constant longing of that poet
for death and abandoned him for Goethe. He was familiar with Schiller
and the German poets that were his own contemporaries. His literary
idols were Homer, Plutarch, and Shakespeare. He read the latter in the
translation by Eschenburg, which he preferred to that by Schlegel; this
translation was in his library, and it was thumbed by incessant reading.
Schindler says that Plato's "Republic" was "transfused into his flesh
and blood." He was an insatiable reader of histories. At the house of
Mrs. Von Breuning in Bonn he was guided in a measure by the brother of
his hostess. He knew Milton, Swift and other English writers in the
translations, and he was kindly disposed thereby toward England and
Englishmen. It is not so easy to discover his opinions concerning music
from the few works found in his library, nor would it be wise to argue
from the chance collection. There was a volume of pieces taken from the
compositions of Palestrina, Vittoria, Nanini and other Italians. He had
but little of Sebastian Bach, who was then known chiefly as the author
of "The Well-tempered Clavichord." He owned a portion of the score of
"Don Giovanni" and a few of Mozart's pianoforte sonatas; he preferred,
however, the sonatas of Clementi, which he praised extravagantly. He
was not ashamed to call himself the pupil of Salieri. He held Gyrowetz
and Weigl in sincere esteem. Prejudiced at first against Weber, who had
written violent critical articles against him, he changed his opinion
after a more careful examination of "Der Freischütz," in which he found
"the claw of the devil" side by side with "singular things." "I see what
he intends, but in reading certain pages, such as the infernal chase, I
cannot help smiling. After all, the effect may be right; it is necessary
to hear it; but alas, I can no longer hear!" He was undoubtedly jealous
of Rossini; "Fortune gave him a pretty talent and the gift of inventing
agreeable melodies"; but he thought him no better than a scene-painter
and accused him of a want of learning. Of all composers he appears to
have most admired Handel dead and Cherubini, his contemporary. In a letter
that was written by him to that great Italian-French composer, who is too
much neglected in these restless days, Beethoven assured him that he put
his operas above all other works for the stage; that he took a more lively
interest in one of his new compositions than in his own; that he honored
and loved him; that if it were not for his deafness, he would go to Paris
that he might see him; and he begged him to consider him as worthy of
ranking in the number of true artists. Of Handel he said, and shortly
before his death, "This is the incomparable master, the master of masters.
Go to him, and learn how to produce, with few means, effects that are like
a thunder-clap."


As he appeared on the streets of Vienna; drawn by J.P. Lyser, probably
about 1820-25.]

[Illustration: An ancient Egyptian inscription found in a temple at Saïs,
dedicated to the Goddess Neith, which impressed Beethoven so much that he
copied it, as above, and kept it framed under glass on his desk.]

But no collection of Beethoviana, no affidavits to the truth of anecdotes
and conversations, no photographic, no phonographic record of his daily
life can give a just idea of the character of this extraordinary man. Its
grandeur, titanic in its aspirations, is best seen or felt in the music
that was to him the true organ of speech. To comprehend, to appreciate
Beethoven, the full knowledge of his compositions is necessary; and to the
temperament of the composer must be added the corresponding temperament
of a fit hearer. The Beethoven that has voiced the longings, the joys and
the sorrows of humanity was not merely the man who walked in the streets
of Vienna, not even the being to whom each tree sang the trisagion.
The petty failings and the personal virtues of the individual assume
in his music gigantic, supernatural proportions. In his life passion,
tenderness, pride, arrogance, despair, tumultuous joy, fancy that was at
times grotesque, gayety that often was clowning were strangely mingled;
just as in "King Lear" the broken-hearted old man and the faithful fool
defy together the raging of the elements. To the easy-going, amour-hunting
citizen of Vienna Beethoven no doubt appeared, as to Rochlitz, "a very
able man, reared on a desert island and suddenly brought fresh into the
world," But to the faithful student of his life and works he seems one of
the great high-priests of humanity. To the Beethoven of later years, shut
off from the world, lonely and full of sorrow, the conceiver of unearthly
music such as was never heard before, the sonorous hymn of the Opium Eater
over the mystery known among men as Shakespeare might well be chanted:

"O mighty poet! Thy works are not as those of other men, simply and merely
great works of art, but are also like the phenomena of nature, like the
sun and the sea, the stars and the flowers, like frost and snow, rain and
dew, hailstorm and thunder, which are to be studied with entire submission
of our own faculties, and in the perfect faith that in them there can be
no too much or too little, nothing useless or inert, but that, the farther
we press in our discoveries, the more we shall see proofs of design and
self-supporting arrangement where the careless eye had seen nothing but

[Illustration: Signature: Philip Hale]


"TO MY BROTHERS CARL AND ––––. _To be read and acted upon after my death._"


"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 thoughts of great deeds to be achieved in
the future. But only remember that for six years I have been the victim
of a terrible calamity aggravated by incompetent doctors; led on from
year to year by hopes of cure, and at last brought face to face with the
prospect of a lingering malady, the cure of which may last for years, or
may be altogether impossible. Born with an ardent, lively temperament,
fond of social pleasures, I was early compelled to withdraw myself, and
lead 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! And yet it was impossible for
me to say to people, 'Speak louder; shout, for I am deaf.' Ah, how was
it possible I could acknowledge weakness in the very sense which ought
to be more acute in my case than in that of others - a sense which at one
time I possessed in a perfection to which few others in my profession
have attained, or are likely to attain. Oh, this I can never do! 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 live. Whenever I approach strangers I am overcome
by a feverish dread of betraying my condition. Thus has it been with me
throughout the past six months I have just passed in the country. The
injunction of my intelligent physician, that I should spare my sense of
hearing as much as possible, well accorded with my actual state of mind;
although my longing for society has often tempted me into it. But how
humbled have I felt when some one near me has heard the distant sounds of
a flute, and I have heard _nothing_; when some one has heard a shepherd
singing, and again I have heard _nothing!_ Such occurrences brought me
to the border of despair, and I came very near to putting an end to my
own life. Art alone restrained me! Ah! it seemed impossible for me to
quit this world forever before I had done all I felt I was destined to
accomplish. And so I clave to this distressful life; a life so truly

Online LibraryVariousFamous Composers and their Works, Vol. 2 → online text (page 11 of 32)