Beethoven: the Man and the Artist, as Revealed in his own Words
Ludwig van Beethoven, edited by Friedrich Kerst
Part 2 out of 2
(About 1803, to Christine Gerardi, because without his knowledge a
portrait of him had been made somewhere--in a cafe, probably.)
161. "Pity that I do not understand the art of war as well as I do
the art of music; I should yet conquer Napoleon!"
(To Krumpholz, the violinist, when he informed Beethoven of the
victory of Napoleon at Jena.)
162. "If I were a general and knew as much about strategy as I, a
composer, know about counterpoint, I'd give you fellows something
(Called out behind the back of a French officer, his fist doubled,
on May 12, 1809, when the French had occupied Vienna. Reported by
a witness, W. Rust.)
163. "Camillus, if I am not mistaken, was the name of the Roman
who drove the wicked Gauls from Rome. At such a cost I would also
take the name if I could drive them wherever I found them to where
(To Pleyel, publisher, in Paris, April, 1807.)
164. "I love most the realm of mind which, to me, is the highest
of all spiritual and temporal monarchies."
(To Advocate Kauka in the summer of 1814. He had been speaking
about the monarchs represented in the Congress of Vienna.)
165. "I shall not come in person, since that would be a sort of
farewell, and farewells I have always avoided."
(January 24, 1818, to Giannatasio del Rio, on taking his nephew
Karl out of the latter institute.)
166. "I hope still to bring a few large works into the world, and
then, like an old child, to end my earthly career somewhere among
(October 6, 1802, to Wegeler.)
167. "O ye men, who think or declare me to be hostile, morose or
misanthropical, what injustice ye do me. Ye know not the secret
cause of what thus appears to you. My heart and mind were from
childhood disposed for the tender feelings of benevolence; I was
always wishing to accomplish great deeds."
(October 6, 1802, in the so-called Heiligenstadt Will.)
168. "Divinity, thou lookest into my heart, thou knowest it, thou
knowest that love for mankind and a desire to do good have their
abode there. O ye men, when one day ye read this think that ye
have wronged me, and may the unfortunate console himself with the
thought that he has found one of his kind who, despite all the
obstacles which nature put in his path, yet did all in his power
to be accepted in the ranks of worthy artists and men!"
(From the Heiligenstadt Will.)
169. "I spend all my mornings with the muses;--and they bless me
also in my walks."
(October 12, 1835, to his nephew Karl.)
170. "Concerning myself nothing,--that is, from nothing nothing."
(October 19, 1815, to Countess Erdody.)
[A possible allusion to the line, "Nothing can come of nothing."
from Shakespeare's "King Lear," Act 1, scene 1]
171. "Beethoven can write, thank God; but do nothing else on
(December 22, 1822, to Ferdinand Ries, in London.)
172. "Mentally I often frame an answer, but when I come to write
it down I generally throw the pen aside, since I am not able to
write what I feel."
(October 7, 1826, to his friend Wegeler, in Coblenz. "The better
sort of people, I think, know me anyhow." He is excusing his
laziness in letter-writing.)
173. "I have the gift to conceal my sensitiveness touching a
multitude of things; but when I am provoked at a moment when I am
more sensitive than usual to anger, I burst out more violently
than anybody else."
(July 24, 1804, to Ries, in reporting to him a quarrel with
Stephan von Breuning.)
174. "X. is completely changed since I threw half a dozen books at
her head. Perhaps something of their contents accidentally got
into her head or her wicked heart."
(To Mme. Streicher, who often had to put Beethoven's house in
175. "I can have no intercourse, and do not want to have any, with
persons who are not willing to believe in me because I have not
yet made a wide reputation."
(To Prince Lobkowitz, about 1798. A cavalier had failed to show
him proper respect in the Prince's salon.)
176. "Many a vigorous and unconsidered word drops from my mouth,
for which reason I am considered mad."
(In the summer of 1880, to Dr. Muller, of Bremen, who was paying
him a visit.)
177. "I will grapple with Fate; it shall not quite bear me down.
O, it is lovely to live life a thousand times!"
(November 16, 1800, or 1801, to Wegeler.)
178. "Morality is the strength of men who distinguish themselves
over others, and it is mine."
(In a communication to his friend, Baron Zmeskall.)
179. "I, too, am a king!"
(Said to Holz, when the latter begged him not to sell the ring
which King Frederick William III, of Prussia, had sent to him
instead of money or an order in return for the dedication of the
ninth symphony. "Master, keep the ring," Holz had said, "it is
from a king." Beethoven made his remark "with indescribable
dignity and self-consciousness.")
[On his deathbed he said to little Gerhard von Breuning: "Know
that I am an artist."]
[At the height of the popular infatuation for Rossini (1822) he
said to his friends: "Well, they will not be able to rob me of my
place in the history of art."]
180. "Prince, what you are you are by accident of birth; what I
am, I am through my own efforts. There have been thousands of
princes and will be thousands more; there is only one Beethoven!"
(According to tradition, from a letter which he wrote to Prince
Lichnowsky when the latter attempted to persuade him to play for
some French officers on his estate in Silesia. Beethoven went at
night to Troppau, carrying the manuscript of the (so-called)
"Appassionata" sonata, which suffered from the rain.)
181. "My nobility is here, and here (pointing to his heart and
(Reported by Schindler. In the lawsuit against his sister-in-law
(the mother of nephew Karl) Beethoven had been called on to prove
that the "van" in his name was a badge of nobility.)
182. "You write that somebody has said that I am the natural son
of the late King of Prussia. The same thing was said to me long
ago, but I have made it a rule never to write anything about
myself or answer anything that is said about me."
(October 7, 1826, to Wegeler.)
["I leave it to you to give the world an account of myself and
especially my mother." The statement had appeared in Brockhaus's
183. "To me the highest thing, after God, is my honor."
(July 26, 1822, to the publisher Peters, in Leipzig.)
184. "I have never thought of writing for reputation and honor.
What I have in my heart must out; that is the reason why I
(Remark to Karl Czerny, reported in his autobiography.)
185. "I do not desire that you shall esteem me greater as an
artist, but better and more perfect as a man; when the condition
of our country is somewhat better, then my art shall be devoted
to the welfare of the poor."
(Vienna, June 29, 1800, to Wegeler, in Bonn, writing of his return
to his native land.)
186. "Perhaps the only thing that looks like genius about me is
that my affairs are not always in the best of order, and that in
this respect nobody can be of help but myself."
(April 22, 1801, to Hofmeister, in Leipzig excusing himself for
dilatoriness in sending him these compositions: the Pianoforte
sonata op. 22, the symphony op. 21, the septet op. 20 and the
concerto op. 19.)
187. "I am free from all small vanities. Only in the divine art is
the lever which gives me power to sacrifice the best part of my
life to the celestial muses."
(September 9, 1824, to George Nigeli, in Zurich.)
188. "Inasmuch as the purpose of the undersigned throughout his
career has not been selfish but the promotion of the interests of
art, the elevation of popular taste and the flight of his own
genius toward loftier ideals and perfection, it was inevitable
that he should frequently sacrifice his own advantages and profit
to the muse."
(December, 1804, to the Director of the Court Theatre, applying
for an engagement which was never effected.)
189. "From my earliest childhood my zeal to serve suffering
humanity with my art was never content with any kind of a
subterfuge; and no other reward is needed than the internal
satisfaction which always accompanies such a deed."
(To Procurator Varenna, who had asked him for compositions to be
played at a charity concert in Graz.)
190. "There is no greater pleasure for me than to practice and
exhibit my art."
(November 16, 1800, or 1801, to Wegeler.)
191. "I recognize no other accomplishments or advantages than
those which place one amongst the better class of men; where I
find them, there is my home."
(Teplitz, July 17, 1812, to his little admirer, Emile M., in H.)
192. "From childhood I learned to love virtue, and everything
beautiful and good."
(About 1808, to Frau Marie Bigot.)
193. "It is one of my foremost principles never to occupy any
other relations than those of friendship with the wife of another
man. I should never want to fill my heart with distrust towards
those who may chance some day to share my fate with me, and thus
destroy the loveliest and purest life for myself."
(About 1808, to Frau Marie Bigot, after she had declined his
invitation to drive with him.)
194. "In my solitude here I miss my roommate, at least at evening
and noon, when the human animal is obliged to assimilate that
which is necessary to the production of the intellectual, and
which I prefer to do in company with another."
(Teplitz, September 6, 1811, to Tiedge.)
195. "It was not intentional and premeditated malice which led me
to act toward you as I did; it was my unpardonable carelessness."
196. "I am not bad; hot blood is my wickedness, my crime is
youthfulness. I am not bad, really not bad; even though wild
surges often accuse my heart, it still is good. To do good
wherever we can, to love liberty above all things, and never to
deny truth though it be at the throne itself.--Think
occasionally of the friend who honors you."
(Written in the autograph album of a Herr Bocke.)
197. "It is a singular sensation to see and hear one's self
praised, and then to be conscious of one's own imperfections as I
am. I always regard such occasions as admonitions to get nearer
the unattainable goal set for us by art and nature, hard as it
(To Mdlle. de Girardi, who had sung his praises in a poem.)
198. "It is my sincere desire that whatever shall be said of me
hereafter shall adhere strictly to the truth in every respect
regardless of who may be hurt thereby, me not excepted."
(Reported by Schindler, who also relates that when Beethoven
handed him documents to be used in the biography a week before his
death, he said to him and Breuning: "But in all things
severely the truth; for that I hold you to a strict
199. "Now you can help me to find a wife. If you find a beautiful
woman in F. who, mayhap, endows my music with a sigh,--but she
must be no Elise Burger--make a provisional engagement. But she
must be beautiful, for I can love only the beautiful; otherwise I
might love myself."
(In 1809, to Baron von Gleichenstein. As for the personal
reference it seems likely that Beethoven referred to Elise
Burger, second wife of the poet G. August Burger, with whom he
had got acquainted after she had been divorced and become an
200. "Am I not a true friend? Why do you conceal your necessities
from me? No friend of mine must suffer so long as I have
(To Ferdinand Ries, in 1801. Ries's father had been kind to
Beethoven on the death of his mother in 1787.)
201. "I would rather forget what I owe to myself than what I owe
(To Frau Streicher, in the summer of 1817.)
202. "I never practice revenge. When I must antagonize others I do
no more than is necessary to protect myself against them, or
prevent them from doing further evil."
(To Frau Streicher, in reference to the troubles which his
servants gave him, many of which, no doubt, were due to faults of
his own, excusable in a man in his condition of health.)
203. "Be convinced that mankind, even in your case, will always be
sacred to me."
(To Czapka, Magisterial Councillor, August, 1826, in the matter of
his nephew's attempt at suicide.)
204. "H. is, and always will be, too weak for friendship, and I
look upon him and Y. as mere instruments upon which I play when I
feel like it; but they can never be witnesses of my internal and
external activities, and just as little real participants. I
value them according as they do me service."
(Summer of 1800, to the friend of his youth, Pastor Amenda. H. was
probably the faithful Baron Zmeskall von Domanovecz.)
205. "If it amuses them to talk and write about me in that manner,
let them go on."
(Reported by Schindler as referring to critics who had declared
him ripe for the madhouse.)
206. "To your gentlemen critics I recommend a little more
foresight and shrewdness, particularly in respect of the products
of younger authors, as many a one, who might otherwise make
progress, may be frightened off. So far as I am concerned I am
far from thinking myself so perfect as not to be able to endure
faulting; yet at the beginning the clamor of your critic was so
debasing that I could scarcely discuss the matter when I compared
myself with others, but had to remain quiet and think: they do
not understand. I was the more able to remain quiet when I
recalled how men were praised who signify little among those who
know, and who have almost disappeared despite their good points.
Well, pax vobiscum, peace to them and me,--I would never have
mentioned a syllable had you not begun."
(April 22, 1801, to Breitkopf and Hartel, publishers of the
"Allgemeine Musik Zeitung.")
207. "Who was happier than I when I could still pronounce the
sweet word 'mother' and have it heard? To whom can I speak it
(September 15, 1787, from Bonn to Dr. Schade, of Augsburg, who had
aided him in his return journey from Vienna to Bonn. His mother
had died on July 17, 1787.)
208. "I seldom go anywhere since it was always impossible for me
to associate with people where there was not a certain exchange
(February 15, 1817, to Brentano of Frankfurt.)
209. "Not a word about rest! I know of none except in sleep, and
sorry enough am I that I am obliged to yield up more to it than
(November 16, 1801, or 1802, to Wegeler. In Homer's "Odyssey"
Beethoven thickly underscored the words: "Too much sleep is
injurious." XV, 393.)
210. "Rest assured that you are dealing with a true artist who
likes to be paid decently, it is true, but who loves his own
reputation and also the fame of his art; who is never satisfied
with himself and who strives continually to make even greater
progress in his art."
(November 23, 1809, to George Thomson, of Edinburgh, for whom
Beethoven arranged the Scotch songs.)
211. "My motto is always: nulla die sine linea; and if I permit
the muse to go to sleep it is only that she may awake
(October 7, 1826, to Wegeler.)
212. "There is no treatise likely to be too learned for me.
Without laying claim to real learning it is yet true that since
my childhood I have striven to learn the minds of the best and
wisest of every period of time. It is a disgrace for every artist
who does not try to do as much."
(November 2, 1809, to Breitkopf and Hartel, of Leipzig.)
213. "Without wishing in the least to set myself up as an exemplar
I assure you that I lived in a small and insignificant place, and
made out of myself nearly all that I was there and am here;--this
to your comfort in case you feel the need of making progress in
(Baden, July 6, 1804, to Herr Wiedebein, of Brunswick, who had
asked if it was advisable for a music teacher and student to make
his home in Vienna.)
214. "There is much on earth to be done,--do it soon! I must not
continue my present everyday life,--art asks this sacrifice also.
Take rest in diversion in order to work more energetically."
215. "The daily grind exhausts me."
(Baden, August 23, 1823, to his nephew Karl.)
216. "Compelled to be a philosopher as early as my 28th year;--it
is not an easy matter,--more difficult for the artist than any
(October 6, 1802; the Heiligenstadt Will.)
217. "Compelled to contemplate a lasting malady, born with an
ardent and lively temperament, susceptible to the diversions of
society, I was obliged at an early date to isolate myself and
live a life of solitude."
(From the same.)
218. "It was impossible for me to say to others: speak louder;
shout! for I am deaf. Ah! was it possible for me to proclaim a
deficiency in that one sense which in my case ought to have been
more perfect than in all others, which I had once possessed in
greatest perfection, to a degree of perfection, indeed, which few
of my profession have ever enjoyed?"
(From the same.)
219. "For me there can be no recreation in human society, refined
conversation, mutual exchange of thoughts and feelings; only so
far as necessity compels may I give myself to society,--I must
live like an exile."
(From the same.)
220. "How great was the humiliation when one who stood beside me
heard the distant sound of a shepherd's pipe, and I heard
nothing; or heard the shepherd singing, and I heard nothing. Such
experiences brought me to the verge of despair;--but little more
and I should have put an end to my life. Art, art alone deterred
(From the same.)
221. "I may say that I live a wretched existence. For almost two
years I have avoided all social gatherings because it is
impossible for me to tell the people I am deaf. If my vocation
were anything else it might be more endurable, but under the
circumstances the condition is terrible; besides what would my
enemies say,--they are not few in number! To give you an idea of
this singular deafness let me tell you that in the theatre I must
lean over close to the orchestra in order to understand the
actor; if I am a little remote from them I do not hear the high
tones of instruments and voices; it is remarkable that there are
persons who have not observed it, but because I am generally
absent-minded my conduct is ascribed to that."
(Vienna, June 29, 1800, to Wegeler. "To you only do I confide this
as a secret." Concerning his deafness see Appendix.)
222. "My defective hearing appeared everywhere before me like a
ghost; I fled from the presence of men, was obliged to appear to
be a misanthrope although I am so little such."
(November 16, 1801, or 1800, to Wegeler, in writing to him about
his happy love. "Unfortunately, she is not of my station in
223. "Truly, a hard lot has befallen me! Yet I accept the decree
of Fate, and continually pray to God to grant that as long as I
must endure this death in life, I may be preserved from want."
(March 14, 1827, to Moscheles, after Beethoven had undergone the
fourth operation for dropsy and was confronting the fifth. He
died on March 26, 1827.)
224. "Live alone in your art! Restricted though you be by your
defective sense, this is still the only existence for you."
225. "Dissatisfied with many things, more susceptible than any
other person and tormented by my deafness, I often find only
suffering in the association with others."
(In 1815, to Brauchle, tutor in the house of Countess Erdody.)
226. "I have emptied a cup of bitter suffering and already won
martyrdom in art through the kindness of art's disciples and my
(In the summer of 1814, to Advocate Kauka. "Socrates and Jesus
were my exemplars," he remarks in a conversation-book of 1819.)
227. "Perfect the ear trumpets as far as possible, and then
travel; this you owe to yourself, to mankind and to the Almighty!
Only thus can you develop all that is still locked within you;--
and a little court,--a little chapel,--writing the music and
having it performed to the glory of the Almighty, the Eternal,
(Diary, 1815. Beethoven was hoping to receive an appointment as
chapelmaster from his former pupil, Archduke Rudolph, Archbishop
228. "God help me. Thou seest me deserted by all mankind. I do
not want to do wrong,--hear my prayer to be with my Karl in the
future for which there seems to be no possibility now. O, harsh
Fate, cruel destiny. No, my unhappy condition will never end.
'This I feel and recognize clearly: Life is not the greatest of
blessings; but the greatest of evils is guilt.' (From Schiller's
"Braut von Messina"). There is no salvation for you except to
hasten away from here; only by this means can you lift yourself
again to the heights of your art whereas you are here sinking to
the commonplace,--and a symphony--and then away,--away,--
meanwhile fund the salaries which can be done for years. Work
during the summer preparatory to travel; only thus can you do the
great work for your poor nephew; later travel through Italy,
Sicily, with a few other artists."
(Diary, spring of 1817. The salaries were the annuities paid him
for several years by Archduke Rudolph, Prince Rinsky and Prince
Lobkowitz. Seume's "Spaziergang nach Syrakus" was a favorite
book of Beethoven's and inspired him in a desire to make a
similar tour, but nothing came of it.)
229. "You must not be a man like other men: not for yourself, only
for others; for you there is no more happiness except in
yourself, in your art.--O God, give me strength to overcome
myself, nothing must hold me to this life."
(Beginning of the Diary, 1812-18.)
230. "Leave operas and all else alone, write only for your orphan,
and then a cowl to close this unhappy life."
231. "I have often cursed my existence; Plutarch taught me
resignation. I shall, if possible, defy Fate, though there will
be hours in my life when I shall be the most miserable of God's
creatures. Resignation! What a wretched resort; yet it is the
only one left me!"
(Vienna, June 29, 1800, to Wegeler.)
232. "Patience, they tell me, I must now choose for a guide. I
have done so. It shall be my resolve, lastingly, I hope, to
endure until it pleases the implacable Parca: to break the
thread. There may be improvement,--perhaps not,--I am prepared."
(From the Heiligenstadt Will.)
233. "Let all that is called life be offered to the sublime and
become a sanctuary of art. Let me live, even through artificial
means, so they can be found."
(Diary, 1814, when Beethoven was being celebrated extraordinarily
by the royalties and dignitaries gathered at the Congress of
234. "Ah! it seemed impossible for me to leave the world until I
had produced all that I felt called upon to produce; and so I
prolonged this wretched existence."
(From the Heiligenstadt Will.)
235. "With joy shall I hasten forward to meet death; if he comes
before I shall have had an opportunity to develop all my artistic
capabilities, he will come too early in spite of my harsh fate,
and I shall probably wish him to come at a later date. But even
then I shall be content, for will he not release me from endless
suffering? Come when you please, I shall meet you bravely."
(From the Heiligenstadt Will.)
236. "Apollo and the muses will not yet permit me to be delivered
over to the grim skeleton, for I owe them so much, and I must, on
any departure for the Elysian Fields, leave behind me all that
the spirit has inspired and commanded to be finished."
(September 17, 1824, to Schott, music publisher in Mayence.)
237. "Had I not read somewhere that it is not pending man to part
voluntarily from his life so long as there is a good deed which
he can perform, I should long since have been no more, and by my
own hand. O, how beautiful life is, but in my case it is
(May 2, 1810, to his friend Wegeler, to whom he is lamenting over
"the demon that has set up his habitat in my ears.")
238. "I must abandon wholly the fond hope, which I brought hither,
to be cured at least in a degree. As the fallen autumn leaves have
withered, so arc now my hopes blighted. I depart in almost the
same condition in which I came; even the lofty courage which often
animated me in the beautiful days of summer has disappeared."
(From the Will. Beethoven had tried the cure at Heiligenstadt.)
239. "All week long I had to suffer and endure like a saint. Away
with this rabble! What a reproach to our civilization that we
need what we despise and must always know it near!"
(In 1825, complaining of the misery caused by his domestics.)
240. "The best thing to do not to think of your malady is to keep
241. "It is no comfort for men of the better sort to say to them
that others also suffer; but, alas! comparisons must always be
made, though they only teach that we all suffer, that is err,
only in different ways."
(In 1816, to Countess Erdody, on the death of her son.)
242. "The portraits of Handel, Bach, Gluck, Mozart and Haydn in
my room,--they may help me to make claim on toleration."
243. "God, who knows my innermost soul, and knows how sacredly I
have fulfilled all the duties but upon me as man by humanity, God
and nature will surely some day relieve me from these
(July 18, 1821, to Archduke Rudolph, from Unterubling.)
244. "Friendship and similar sentiments bring only wounds to me.
Well, so be it; for you, poor Beethoven, there is no outward
happiness; you must create it within you,--only in the world of
ideality shall you find friends."
(About 1808, to Baron von Gleichenstein, by whom he thought
245. "You are living on a quiet sea, or already in the safe
harbor; you do not feel the distress of a friend out in the
raging storm,--or you must not feel it."
(In 1811, to his friend Gleichenstein, when Beethoven was in love
with the Baron's sister-in-law, Therese Malfatti.)
246. "I must have a confidant at my side lest life become a
(July 4, 1812, to Count Brunswick, whom he is urging to make a
tour with him, probably to Teplitz.)
247. "Your love makes me at once the happiest and the unhappiest
of men. At my age I need a certain uniformity and equableness of
life; can such exist in our relationship?"
(June 7, 1800 (?), to the "Immortal Beloved.")
248. "O Providence! vouchsafe me one day of pure joy! Long has the
echo of perfect felicity been absent from my heart. When O, when,
O Thou Divine One, shall I feel it again in nature's temple and
man's? Never? Ah! that would be too hard!"
(Conclusion of the Heiligenstadt Will.)
249. "Freedom,--progress, is purpose in the art-world as in
universal creation, and if we moderns have not the hardihood of
our ancestors, refinement of manners has surely accomplished
(Middling, July 29, 1819, to Archduke Rudolph.)
250. "The boundaries are not yet fixed which shall call out to
talent and industry: thus far and no further!"
(Reported by Schindler.)
251. "You know that the sensitive spirit must not be bound to
(In the summer of 1814, to Johann Kauka, the advocate who
represented him in the prosecution of his claims against the
heirs of Prince Kinsky.)
252. "Art, the persecuted one, always finds an asylum. Did not
Daedalus, shut up in the labyrinth, invent the wings which
carried him out into the open air? O, I shall find them, too,
(February 19, 1812, to Zmeskall, when, in 1811, by decree of the
Treasury, the value of the Austrian currency was depreciated one-
fifth, and the annuity which Beethoven received from Archduke
Rudolph and the Princes Lobkowitz and Kinsky reduced to 800
253. "Show me the course where at the goal there stands the palm
of victory! Lend sublimity to my loftiest thoughts, bring to them
truths that shall live forever!"
(Diary, 1814, while working on "Fidelio.")
254. "Every day is lost in which we do not learn something useful.
Man has no nobler or more valuable possession than time;
therefore never put off till tomorrow what you can do today."
(From the notes in Archduke Rudolph's instruction book.)
255. "This is the mark of distinction of a truly admirable man:
steadfastness in times of trouble."
256. "Courage, so it be righteous, will gain all things."
(April, 1815, to Countess Erdody.)
257. "Force, which is a unit, will always prevail against the
majority which is divided."
258. "Kings and Princes can create professors and councillors, and
confer orders and decorations; but they can not create great men,
spirits that rise above the earthly rabble; these they can not
create, and therefore they are to be respected."
(August 15, 1812, to Bettina von Arnim.)
259. "Man, help yourself!"
(Written under the words: "Fine, with the help of God," which
Moscheles had written at the end of a pianoforte arrangement of
a portion of "Fidelio.")
260. "If I could give as definite expression to my thoughts about
my illness as to my thoughts in music, I would soon help myself."
(September, 1812, to Amalie Sebald, a patient at the cure in
261. "Follow the advice of others only in the rarest cases."
262. "The moral law in us, and the starry sky above us."--Kant.
(Conversation-book, February, 1820.)
[Literally the passage in Kant's "Critique of Practical Reason"
reads as follows: "Two things fill the soul with ever new and
increasing wonder and reverence the oftener the mind dwells upon
them:--the starry sky above me and the moral law in me."]
263. "Blessed is he who has overcome all passions and then
proceeds energetically to perform his duties under all
circumstances careless of success! Let the motive lie in the
deed, not in the outcome. Be not one of those whose spring of
action is the hope of reward. Do not let your life pass in
inactivity. Be industrious, do your duty, banish all thoughts as
to the results, be they good or evil; for such equanimity is
attention to intellectual things. Seek an asylum only in Wisdom;
for he who is wretched and unhappy is so only in consequence of
things. The truly wise man does not concern himself with the good
and evil of this world. Therefore endeavor diligently to preserve
this use of your reason--for in the affairs of this world, such
a use is a precious art."
(Diary. Though essentially in the language of Beethoven there is
evidence that the passage was inspired by something that he had
264. "The just man must be able also to suffer injustice without
deviating in the least from the right course."
(To the Viennese magistrate in the matter of Karl's education.)
265. "Man's humility towards man pains me; and yet when I consider
myself in connection with the universe, what am I and what is he
whom we call the greatest? And yet here, again, lies the divine
element in man."
(To the "Immortal Beloved," July 6 (1800?).)
266. "Only the praise of one who has enjoyed praise can give
267. "Nothing is more intolerable than to be compelled to accuse
one's self of one's own errors."
(Teplitz, September 6, 1811, to Tiedge. Beethoven regrets that
through his own fault he had not made Tiedge's acquaintance on an
268. "What greater gift can man receive than fame, praise and
(Diary, 1816-17. After Pliny, Epist. III.)
269. "Frequently it seems as if I should almost go mad over my
undeserved fame; fortune seeks me out and I almost fear new
misfortune on that account."
(July, 1810, to his friend Zmeskall. "Every day there come new
inquiries from strangers, new acquaintances new relationships.")
270. "The world must give one recognition,--it is not always
unjust. I care nothing for it because I have a higher goal."
(August 15, 1812, to Bettina von Arnim.)
271. "I have the more turned my gaze upwards; but for our own
sakes and for others we are obliged to turn our attention
sometimes to lower things; this, too, is a part of human destiny."
(February 8, 1823, to Zelter, with whom he is negotiating the sale
of a copy of the Mass in D.)
272. "Why so many dishes? Man is certainly very little higher than
the other animals if his chief delights are those of the table."
(Reported by J. A. Stumpff, in the "Harmonicon" of 1824. He dined
with Beethoven in Baden.)
273. "Whoever tells a lie is not pure of heart, and such a person
can not cook a clean soup."
(To Mme. Streicher, in 1817, or 1818, after having dismissed an
otherwise good housekeeper because she had told a falsehood to
spare his feelings.)
274. "Vice walks through paths full of present lusts and persuades
many to follow it. Virtue pursues a steep path and is less
seductive to mankind, especially if at another place there are
persons who call them to a gently declining road."
275. "Sensual enjoyment without a union of soul is bestial and
will always remain bestial."
276. "Men are not only together when they are with each other;
even the distant and the dead live with us."
(To Therese Malfatti, later Baroness von Drossdick, to whom in the
country he sent Goethe's "Wilhelm Meister" and Schlegel's
translation of Shakespeare.)
277. "There is no goodness except the possession of a good soul,
which may be seen in all things, from which one need not seek to
(August 15, 1812, to Bettina von Arnim.)
278. "The foundation of friendship demands the greatest likeness
of human souls and hearts."
(Baden, July 24, 1804, to Ries, describing his quarrel with
279. "True friendship can rest only on the union of like natures."
280. "The people say nothing; they are merely people. As a rule
they only see themselves in others, and what they see is nothing;
away with them! The good and the beautiful needs no people,--it
exists without outward help, and this seems to be the reason of
our enduring friendship."
(September 16, 1812, to Amalie Sebald, in Teplitz, who had
playfully called him a tyrant.)
281. "Look, my dear Ries; these are the great connoisseurs who
affect to be able to judge of any piece of music so correctly and
keenly. Give them but the name of their favorite,--they need no
(To his pupil Ries, who had, as a joke, played a mediocre march at
a gathering at Count Browne's and announced it to be a composition
by Beethoven. When the march was praised beyond measure Beethoven
broke out into a grim laugh.)
282. "Do not let all men see the contempt which they deserve; we
do not know when we may need them."
(Note in the Diary of 1814, after having had an unpleasant
experience with his "friend" Bertolini. "Henceforth never step
inside his house; shame on you to ask anything from such an one.")
283. "Our Time stands in need of powerful minds who will scourge
these petty, malicious and miserable scoundrels,--much as my
heart resents doing injury to a fellow man."
(In 1825, to his nephew, in reference to the publication of a
satirical canon on the Viennese publisher, Haslinger, by Schott,
284. "Today is Sunday. Shall I read something for you from the
Gospels? 'Love ye one another!'"
(To Frau Streicher.)
285. "Hate reacts on those who nourish it."
286. "When friends get into a quarrel it is always best not to
call in an intermediary, but to have friend turn to friend
(Vienna, November 2, 1793, to Eleonore von Breuning, of Bonn.)
287. "There are reasons for the conduct of men which one is not
always willing to explain, but which, nevertheless, are based on
(In 1815, to Brauchle.)
288. "I was formerly inconsiderate and hasty in the expression of
my opinions, and thereby I made enemies. Now I pass judgment on
no one, and, indeed, for the reason that I do not wish to do any
one harm. Moreover, in the last instance I always think: if it is
something decent it will maintain itself in spite of all attack
and envy; if there is nothing good and sound at the bottom of it,
it will fall to pieces of itself, bolster it up as one may."
(In a conversation with Tomaschek, in October, 1814.)
289. "Even the most sacred friendship may harbor secrets, but you
ought not to misinterpret the secret of a friend because you can
not guess it."
(About 1808, to Frau Marie Bigot.)
290. "You are happy; it is my wish that you remain so, for every
man is best placed in his sphere."
(Bonn, July 13, 1825, to his brother Johann, landowner in
291. "One must not measure the cost of the useful."
(To his nephew Karl in a discussion touching the purchase of an
292. "It is not my custom to prattle away my purposes, since
every intention once betrayed is no longer one's own."
(To Frau Streicher.)
293. "How stupidity and wretchedness always go in pairs!"
[Beethoven was greatly vexed by his servants.]
294. "Hope nourishes me; it nourishes half the world, and has been
my neighbor all my life, else what had become of me!"
(August 11, 1810, to Bettina von Arnim.)
295. "Fortune is round like a globe, hence, naturally, does not
always fall on the noblest and best."
(Vienna, July 29, 1800, to Wegeler.)
296. "Show your power, Fate! We are not our own masters; what is
decided must be,--and so be it!"
297. "Eternal Providence omnisciently directs the good and evil
fortunes of mortal men."
298. "With tranquility, O God, will I submit myself to changes,
and place all my trust in Thy unalterable mercy and goodness."
299. "All misfortune is mysterious and greatest when viewed alone;
discussed with others it seems more endurable because one becomes
entirely familiar with the things one dreads, and feels as if one
had overcome it."
300. "One must not flee for protection to poverty against the loss
of riches, nor to a lack of friendship against the loss of
friends, nor by abstention from procreation against the death of
children, but to reason against everything."
301. "I share deeply with you the righteous sorrow over the death
of your wife. It seems to me that such a parting, which confronts
nearly every married man, ought to keep one in the ranks of the
(May 20, 1811, to Gottfried Hartel, of Leipzig.)
302. "He who is afflicted with a malady which he can not alter,
but which gradually brings him nearer and nearer to death,
without which he would have lived longer, ought to reflect that
murder or another cause might have killed him even more quickly."
303. "We finite ones with infinite souls are born only for sorrows
and joy and it might almost be said that the best of us receive
joy through sorrow."
(October 19, 1815, to Countess Erdody.)
304. "He is a base man who does not know how to die; I knew it as
a boy of fifteen."
(In the spring of 1816, to Miss Fanny Giannatasio del Rio, when
Beethoven felt ill and spoke of dying. It is not known that he
was ever near death in his youth.)
305. "A second and third generation recompenses me three and
fourfold for the ill-will which I had to endure from my former
(Copied into his Diary from Goethe's "West-ostlicher Divan.")
306. "My hour at last is come;
Yet not ingloriously or passively
I die, but first will do some valiant deed,
Of which mankind shall hear in after
("The Iliad" [Bryant's translation], Book XXII, 375-378.)
(Copied into his Diary, 1815.)
307. "Fate gave man the courage of endurance."
308. "Portia--How far that little candle throws his beams!
So shines a good deed in a naughty world."
(Marked in his copy of Shakespeare's "Merchant of Venice.")
309. "And on the day that one becomes a
The Thunderer, Jove, takes half his
("The Odyssey" [Bryant's translation], Book XVII, 392-393.
Marked by Beethoven.)
310. "Short is the life of man, and whoso
A cruel heart, devising cruel things,
On him men call down evil from the
While living, and pursue him, when he
With scoffs. But whoso is of generous
And harbors generous aims, his guests
His praises far and wide to all
And numberless are they who call him
("The Odyssey" [Bryant's translation], Book XIX, 408-415. Copied
into his diary, 1818.)
Beethoven was through and through a religious man, though not in
the confessional sense. Reared in the Catholic faith he early
attained to an independent opinion on religious things. It must
be borne in mind that his youth fell in the period of
enlightenment and rationalism. When at a later date he composed
the grand Mass in honor of his esteemed pupil Archduke Rudolph,--
he hoped to obtain from him a chapelmastership when the Archduke
became Archbishop of Olmutz, but in vain,--he gave it forms and
dimensions which deviated from the ritual.
In all things liberty was the fundamental principle of
Beethoven's life. His favorite book was Sturm's "Observations
Concerning God's Works in Nature" (Betrachtungen uber die Werke
Gottes in der Natur), which he recommended to the priests for
wide distribution among the people. He saw the hand of God in
even the most insignificant natural phenomenon. God was to him
the Supreme Being whom he had jubilantly hymned in the choral
portion of the Ninth Symphony in the words of Schiller:
"Brothers, beyond you starry canopy there must dwell a loving
Father!" Beethoven's relationship to God was that of a child
toward his loving father to whom he confides all his joys as well
It is said that once he narrowly escaped excommunication for
having said that Jesus was only a poor human being and a Jew.
Haydn, ingenuously pious, is reported to have called Beethoven
He consented to the calling in of a priest on his death-bed. Eye-
witnesses testify that the customary function was performed most
impressively and edifyingly and that Beethoven expressed his
thanks to the officiating priest with heartiness. After he had
left the room Beethoven said to his friends: "Plaudite, amici,
comoedia finita est," the phrase with which antique dramas were
concluded. From this fact the statement has been made that
Beethoven wished to characterize the sacrament of extreme unction
as a comedy. This is contradicted, however, by his conduct during
its administration. It is more probable that he wished to
designate his life as a drama; in this sense, at any rate, the
words were accepted by his friends. Schindler says emphatically:
"The last days were in all respects remarkable, and he looked
forward to death with truly Socratic wisdom and peace of mind."
[I append a description of the death scene as I found it in the
notebooks of A. W. Thayer which were placed in my hands for
examination after the death of Beethoven's greatest biographer in
"June 5, 1860, I was in Graz and saw Huttenbrenner (Anselm) who
gave me the following particulars:...In the winter of 1826-27
his friends wrote him from Vienna, that if he wished to see
Beethoven again alive he must hurry thither from Graz. He hastened
to Vienna, arriving a few days before Beethoven's death. Early in
the afternoon of March 26, Huttenbrenner went into the dying
man's room. He mentioned as persons whom he saw there, Stephen v.
Breuning and Gerhard, Schindler, Telscher and Carl's mother (this
seems to be a mistake, i.e. if Mrs. v. Beethoven is right).
Beethoven had then long been senseless. Telscher began drawing the
dying face of Beethoven. This grated on Breuning's feelings, and
he remonstrated with him, and he put up his papers and left (?).
Then Breuning and Schindler left to go out to Wohring to select a
grave. (Just after the five--I got this from Breuning himself--
when it grew dark with the sudden storm Gerhard, who had been
standing at the window, ran home to his teacher.)
Afterward Gerhard v. B. went home, and there remained in the room
only Huttenbrenner and Mrs. van Beethoven. The storm passed over,
covering the Glacis with snow and sleet. As it passed away a flash
of lightning lighted up everything. This was followed by an awful
clap of thunder. Huttenbrenner had been sitting on the side of the
bed sustaining Beethoven's head--holding it up with his right arm
His breathing was already very much impeded, and he had been for
hours dying. At this startling, awful peal of thunder, the dying
man suddenly raised his head from Huttenbrenner's arm, stretched
out his own right arm majestically--like a general giving orders
to an army. This was but for an instant; the arm sunk back; he
fell back. Beethoven was dead.
"Another talk with Huttenbrenner. It seems that Beethoven was at
his last gasp, one eye already closed. At the stroke of lightning
and the thunder peal he raised his arm with a doubled-up fist; the
expression of his eyes and face was that of one defying death,--a
look of defiance and power of resistance.
"He must have had his arm under the pillow. I must ask him.
"I did ask him; he had his arm around B.'s neck." H. E. K.]
311. "I am that which is. I am all that was, that is, and that
shall be. No mortal man has ever lifted the veil of me. He is
solely of himself, and to this Only One all things owe their
(Beethoven's creed. He had found it in Champollion's "The
Paintings of Egypt," where it is set down as an inscription on a
temple to the goddess Neith. Beethoven had his copy framed and
kept it constantly before him on his writing desk. "The relic was
a great treasure in his eyes"--Schindler.)
312. "Wrapped in the shadows of eternal solitude, in the
impenetrable darkness of the thicket, impenetrable, immeasurable,
unapproachable, formlessly extended. Before spirit was breathed
(into things) his spirit was, and his only. As mortal eyes (to
compare finite and infinite things) look into a shining mirror."
(Copied, evidently, from an unidentified work, by Beethoven;
though possibly original with him.)
313. "It was not the fortuitous meeting of the chordal atoms that
made the world; if order and beauty are reflected in the
constitution of the universe, then there is a God."
314. "He who is above,--O, He is, and without Him there is
315. "Go to the devil with your 'gracious Sir!' There is only one
who can be called gracious, and that is God."
(About 1824 or 1825, to Rampel, a copyist, who, apparently, had
been a little too obsequious in his address to Beethoven. [As is
customary among the Viennese to this day. H. E. K.])
316. "What is all this compared with the great Tonemaster above!
above! above! and righteously the Most High, whereas here below
all is mockery,--dwarfs,--and yet Most High!!"
(To Schott, publisher in Mayence, in 1822--the same year in which
Beethoven copied the Egyptian inscription.)
317. "There is no loftier mission than to approach the Divinity
nearer than other men, and to disseminate the divine rays among
(August, 1823, to Archduke Rudolph.)
318. "Heaven rules over the destiny of men and monsters
(literally, human and inhuman beings), and so it will guide me,
too, to the better things of life."
(September 11, 1811, to the poet Elsie von der Recke.)
319. "It's the same with humanity; here, too (in suffering), he
must show his strength, i.e. endure without knowing or feeling his
nullity, and reach his perfection again for which the Most High
wishes to make us worthy."
(May 13, 1816, to Countess Erdody, who was suffering from
320. "Religion and thorough-bass are settled things concerning
which there should be no disputing."
(Reported by Schindler.)
331. "All things flowed clear and pure out of God. Though often
darkly led to evil by passion, I returned, through penance and
purification to the pure fountain,--to God,--and to your art. In
this I was never impelled by selfishness; may it always be so.
The trees bend low under the weight of fruit, the clouds descend
when they are filled with salutary rains, and the benefactors of
humanity are not puffed up by their wealth."
(Diary, 1815. The first portion seems to be a quotation, but
Beethoven continues after the dash most characteristically in
his own words and a change of person.)
322. "God is immaterial, and for this reason transcends every
conception. Since He is invisible He can have no form. But from
what we observe in His work we may conclude that He is eternal,
omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent."
(Copied, with the remark: "From Indian literature" from an
unidentified work, into the Diary of 1816.)
323. "In praise of Thy goodness I must confess that Thou didst try
with all Thy means to draw me to Thee. Sometimes it pleased Thee
to let me feel the heavy hand of Thy displeasure and to humiliate
my proud heart by manifold castigations. Sickness and misfortune
didst Thou send upon me to turn my thoughts to my errantries.--One
thing, only, O Father, do I ask: cease not to labor for my
betterment. In whatsoever manner it be, let me turn to Thee and
become fruitful in good works."
(Copied into the Diary from Sturm's book, "Observations Concerning
the Works of God in Nature.")
Some observations may finally be acceptable touching Beethoven's
general culture to which the thoughts of the reader must naturally
have been directed by the excerpts from his writings set forth in
the preceding pages. His own words betray the fact that he was not
privileged to enjoy a thorough school-training and was thus
compelled to the end of his days to make good the deficiencies in
his learning. As a lad at Bonn he had attended the so-called
Tirocinium, a sort of preparatory school for the Gymnasium, and
acquired a small knowledge of Latin. Later he made great efforts
to acquire French, a language essential to intercourse in the
upper circles of society. He never established intimate relations
with the rules of German. He used small initials for substantives,
or capitalized verbs and adjectives according as they appeared
important to him. His punctuation was arbitrary; generally he drew
a perpendicular line between his words, letting it suffice for a
comma or period as the case might be (a proceeding which adds not
a little to the embarrassments of him who seeks to translate his
sometimes mystical utterances).
It is said that a man's bookcase bears evidence of his education
and intellectual interests. Beethoven also had books,--not many,
but a characteristic collection. From his faithful friend and
voluntary servant Schindler we have a report on this subject. Of
the books of which he was possessed at the time of his death there
have been preserved four volumes of translations of Shakespeare's
works, Homer's "Odyssey" in the translation of J. H. Voss, Sturm's
"Observations" (several times referred to in the preceding pages),
and Goethe's "West-ostlicher Divan." These books are frequently
marked and annotated in lead pencil, thus bearing witness to the
subjects which interested Beethoven. From them, and volumes which
he had borrowed, many passages were copied by him into his daily
journal. Besides these books Schindler mentions Homer's "Iliad,"
Goethe's poems, "Wilhelm Melster" and "Faust," Schiller's dramas
and poems, Tiedge's "Urania," volumes of poems by Matthisson and
Seume, and Nina d'Aubigny's "Letters to Natalia on Singing,"--a
book to which Beethoven attached great value. These books have
disappeared, as well as others which Beethoven valued. We do not
know what became of the volumes of Plato, Aristotle, Plutarch and
Xenophon, or the writings of Pliny, Euripides, Quintilian, Ovid,
Horace, Ossian, Milton and Thomson, traces of which are found in
The catalogue made for the auction sale of his posthumous effects
on September 7, 1827, included forty-four works of which the
censorship seized five as prohibited writings, namely, Seume's
"Foot Journey to Syracuse," the Apocrypha, Kotzebue's "On the
Nobility," W.E. Muller's "Paris in its Zenith" (1816), and "Views
on Religion and Ecclesiasticism." Burney's "General History of
Music" was also in his library, the gift, probably of an English
In his later years Beethoven was obliged to use the oft-quoted
"conversation-books" in his intercourse with friends and
strangers alike who wrote down their questions. Of these little
books Schindler preserved no less than 134, which are now in the
Royal Library in Berlin. Naturally Beethoven answered the written
questions orally as a rule. An idea of Beethoven's opinions can
occasionally be gathered from the context of the questions, but
frequently we are left in the dark.
Beethoven's own characterization of his deafness as "singular" is
significant. Often, even in his later years, he was able to hear a
little and for a time. One might almost speak of a periodical
visitation of the "demon." In his biography Marx gives the
following description of the malady: "As early as 1816 it is found
that he is incapable of conducting his own works; in 1824 he could
not hear the storm of applause from a great audience; but in 1822
he still improvises marvelously in social circles; in 1826 he
studies their parts in the Ninth Symphony and Solemn Mass with
Sontag and Ungher, and in 1825 he listens critically to a
performance of the quartet in A-minor, op. 132."
It is to be assumed that in such urgent cases his willpower
temporarily gave new tension to the gradually atrophying aural
nerves (it is said that he was still able to hear single or a few
voices with his left ear but could not apprehend masses), but
this was not the case in less important moments, as the
conversation-books prove. In these books a few answers are also
written down, naturally enough in cases not intended for the
ears of strangers. At various times Beethoven kept a diary in
which he entered his most intimate thoughts, especially those
designed for his own encouragement. Many of these appear in the
preceding pages. In these instances more than in any others his
expressions are obscure, detached and, through indifference,
faulty in construction. For the greater part they are remarks
thrown upon the paper in great haste.
END OF THIS EDITION
INFO ABOUT THIS E-TEXT EDITION
This edition of "Beethoven: the Man and the Artist, as Revealed in
his own Words," was translated into English and published in 1905
by B.W. Hubsch. It was also republished unabridged by Dover
Publications, Inc., in a 1964 edition, ISBN 0-486-21261-0.
This electronic text was prepared by John Mamoun with help from
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