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Correspondence of Wagner and Liszt, Volume 1 by Francis Hueffer (translator)

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Correspondence of Wagner and Liszt, Volume 1 (1889)

By Richard Wagner; Franz Liszt; Francis Hueffer (translator)




The German musical genius Richard Wagner (1811-1883) could be
considered to be one of the ideological fathers of early 20th
century German nationalism. He was well-suited for this role.
Highly intelligent, sophisticated, complex, capable of imagining
whole systems of humanistic philosophy, and with an intense need
to communicate his ideas, he created great operas which, in
addition to their artistic merits, served the peculiar role of
promoting a jingoistic, chauvenistic kind of Germanism. There are
things in his operas that only a German can fully understand,
especially if he would like to see his country closed off to
outsiders. It is unlikely, however, that Wagner expected these
ideas to achieve any popularity. Time and again he rails against
philistines, irrational people and politicians in his letters.
With great exasperation and often depression he expressed little
hope that his country would ever emerge out of its "philistinism"
and embrace "rational" ideas such as he propagated. Add to this
the great difficulties he had in getting his works performed, and
one might assume that he felt himself to be composing, most of
the time, to audiences of bricks. Yes, his great, intensely
beloved friend Liszt believed in, fully understood, and greatly
appreciated Wagner's works, but Liszt was just one in a million,
and even he, as Wagner suggested, associated with a base coterie
incapable of assimilating Wagnerian messages. Considering the
sorry state of music and intellectualism in Wagner's time and
setting, he surely would have been surprised if his operas and
his ideas achieved any wide currency. That he continued to work
with intense energy to develop his ideas, to fix them into
musical form and to propagate them, while knowing that probably
no sizeable population would ever likely take note of them, and
while believing that his existence as an underappreciated,
rational individual in an irrational world was absurd and futile,
is a testimony to the enormous will-power of this "ubermensch."


The best introduction to this important correspondence of the two
great musicians will be found in the following extract from an
autobiographical sketch written by Wagner in 1851. It has been
frequently quoted, but cannot be quoted too often, describing, as
it does, the beginning and the development of a friendship which
is unique in the history of art.

"Again I was thoroughly disheartened from undertaking any new
artistic scheme. Only recently I had had proofs of the
impossibility of making my art intelligible to the public, and
all this deterred me from beginning new dramatic works. Indeed, I
thought everything was at an end with my artistic creativeness.
From this state of mental dejection I was raised by a friend. By
the most evident and undeniable proofs he made me feel that I was
not deserted, but, on the contrary, understood deeply by those
even who were otherwise most distant from me; in this way he gave
me back my full artistic confidence.

"This wonderful friend has been to me Franz Liszt. I must enter a
little more deeply into the character of this friendship, which,
to many, has seemed paradoxical.

"I met Liszt for the first time during my earliest stay in Paris,
and at a period when I had renounced the hope, nay, even the wish
of a Paris reputation, and, indeed, was in a state of internal
revolt against the artistic life I found there. At our meeting
Liszt appeared. to me the most perfect contrast to my own being
and situation. In this world, to which it had been my desire to
fly from my narrow circumstances, Liszt had grown up from his
earliest age, so as to be the object of general love and
admiration at a time when I was repulsed by general coldness and
want of sympathy. In consequence, I looked upon him with
suspicion. I had no opportunity of disclosing my being and
working to m, and, therefore, the reception I met with on his
part was altogether of a superficial kind, as was indeed quite
natural in a man to whom every day the most divergent impressions
claimed access. My repeated expression of this feeling was
afterwards reported to Liszt, just at the time when my "Rienzi"
at Dresden attracted general attention. He was surprised to find
himself misunderstood with such violence by a man whom he had
scarcely known, and whose acquaintance now seemed not without
value to him. I am still touched at recollecting the repeated and
eager attempts he made to change my opinion of him, even before
he knew any of my works. He acted not from any artistic sympathy,
but was led by the purely human wish of discontinuing a casual
disharmony between himself and another being; perhaps he also
felt an infinitely tender misgiving of having really hurt me
unconsciously. He who knows the terrible selfishness and
insensibility in our social life, and especially in the relations
of modern artists to each other, cannot but be struck with
wonder, nay, delight, by the treatment I experienced from this
extraordinary man.

"This happened at a time when it became more and more evident
that my dramatic works would have no outward success. But just
when the case seemed desperate Liszt succeeded by his own energy
in opening a hopeful refuge to my art. He ceased his wanderings,
settled down at the small, modest Weimar, and took up the
conductor's baton, after having been at home so long in the
splendour of the greatest cities of Europe. At Weimar I saw him
for the last time, when I rested a few days in Thuringia, not yet
certain whether the threatening prosecution would compel me to
continue my flight from Germany. The very day when my personal
danger became a certainty, I saw Liszt conduct a rehearsal of my
"Tannhauser", and was astonished at recognizing my second-self in
his achievement. What I had felt in inventing this music he felt
in performing it; what I wanted to express in writing it down he
proclaimed in making it sound. Strange to say, through the love
of this rarest friend, I gained, at the moment of becoming
homeless, the real home for my art, which I had longed for and
sought for always in the wrong place.

"At the end of my last stay in Paris, when ill, miserable, and
despairing, I sat brooding over my fate, my eye fell on the score
of my "Lohengrin", totally forgotten by me. Suddenly I felt
something like compassion that this music should never sound from
off the death-pale paper. Two words I wrote to Liszt; his answer
was the news that preparations for the performance were being
made on the largest scale the limited means of Weimar would
permit. Everything that men and circumstances could do was done
in order to make the work understood. Success was his reward, and
with this success he now approaches me, saying, 'Behold we have
come so far; now create us a new work that we may go still

Wagner's words, as above quoted, may have seemed an exaggerated
tribute of gratitude to many. After reading these letters one
comes to the conclusion that they are the expression of a plain
fact. It is a well-known French saying that in every love affair
there is one person who adores while the other allows himself to
be adored, and that saying may, with equal justice, be applied to
the many literary and artistic friendships of which, pace the
elder D'Israeli, history knows so many examples. Petrarch and
Boccaccio, Schiller and Goethe, Byron and Shelley immediately
occur to the mind in such a connection; but in none of these is
the mutual position of giver and receiver of worshipper and
worshipped so distinctly marked as in the case under discussion.

Nature itself, or, at least, external circumstances, had indeed
almost settled the matter. In the earlier stages of this
friendship the worldly position of the two men was a widely
different one. Liszt was at the time perhaps the most famous
musician alive, and although he had voluntarily abandoned an
active career, he remained the friend of kings and ecclesiastic
potentates, and the head and centre of an admiring school of

Wagner at the same period was, in familiar language--nobody. He
had lost his position at the Royal Opera at Dresden through his
participation in the revolutionary rising of 1849, and he was an
exile from his country. As an artist his antecedents were not
very glorious. He had written three operas, all of which had met
with fair success, but none of which had taken real hold of the
public, and the Court theatres of Germany were naturally not very
prone to favour the interests of an outlawed rebel. In spite of
this disparity of fortune, it is curious to see how the two men,
almost from the first, assume the mutual position already
indicated. Liszt, from the beginning, realizes, with a self-
abnegation and a freedom from vanity almost unique in history,
that he is dealing with a man infinitely greater than himself,
and to serve the artistic and personal purposes of that man he
regards as a sacred duty.

Wagner's attitude in the matter will be judged differently by
different people, according to the opinion they have of the
permanent and supreme value of his work. He simply accepts the
position as he finds it. "Here am I," he may have said to
himself, "with a brain teeming with art work of a high and
lasting kind; my resources are nil, and if the world, or at least
the friends who believe in me, wish me to do my allotted task,
they must free me from the sordid anxieties of existence." The
words, here placed in quotation marks, do not actually occur in
any of the letters, but they may be read between the lines of
many of them. The naivete with which Wagner expresses himself on
this subject is indeed almost touching, and it must be owned that
his demands for help are, according to English notions at least,
extremely modest. A pension of 300 thalers, or about,45 of our
money, which he expects from the Grand Duke of Weimar for the
performing right of his operas, is mentioned on one occasion as
the summit of his desire. Unfortunately, even this small sum was
not forthcoming, and Wagner accordingly for a long time depended
upon the kindness of his friends and the stray sums which the
royalties on his operas brought him as his sole support. He for
himself, as he more than once declares, would not have feared
poverty, and with the touch of the dramatic element in his
nature, which was peculiar to him, would perhaps have found a
certain pleasure in going through the world, an artistic
Belisarius asking the lovers of his art for their obolus. But he
had a wife (his first wife), weak in health, and anxious of mind,
and to protect her from every care is his chief desire--a desire
which has something beautiful and pathetic in it, and is the
redeeming feature of the many appeals for a loan, and sometimes
for a present, which occur in these letters.

Liszt was only too willing to give, but his means were extremely
limited. He had realized large sums during his artistic career;
but he was liberal almost to a fault, and poor artists, inundated
Hungarian peasants, and the Beethoven monument at Bonn profited a
great deal more by his successes than he did himself. What little
remained of his savings had been settled upon his aged mother and
his three children, and at the time here alluded to his only
fixed income was the salary of less than [pounds] 200, which he
derived from the Weimar Theatre. This explanation he himself
gives to Wagner, in answer to the following remarkable sentence
in one of that master's letters:--"I once more return to the
question, can you let me have the 1,000 francs as a gift, and
would it be possible for you to guarantee me the same annual sum
for the next two years?" The 1,000 francs was forthcoming soon
afterwards, but poor Liszt had to decline the additional
obligation for two other years.

The above passage is quoted as an instance of many others, and
one must admire the candour of Wagner's widow, who has not
suppressed a single touch in the picture of this beautiful
friendship. But Liszt's help was not limited to material things.
What was infinitely more valuable to Wagner, and what excited his
gratitude to even more superlative utterance, was the confidence
which Liszt showed in his genius, and without which, it is no
exaggeration to say, Wagner's greatest works would probably have
remained unwritten.

The first performance of "Lohengrin" at Weimar, which was really
the starting-point of his fame, has already been alluded to.
Every further step in his career was watched and encouraged by
the loving sympathy of Liszt, and when Wagner, overpowered by the
grandeur and difficulties of his "Nibelungen" scheme, was on the
point of laying down the pen, it was Liszt who urged him to
continue in his arduous task, and to go on in spite of all

It must not, however, be thought that Wagner alone derived
benefits from this remarkable friendship. Not only did he in his
turn encourage Liszt in the career of a composer of great and
novel works, but he distinctly raised the intellectual and
artistic level of his friend. Liszt's nature was of a noble, one
may say, ideal kind, but he had lived in dangerous surroundings,
and the influence of the great world and of the glaring publicity
in which a virtuoso moves, had left its trace on his
individuality. Here, then, the uncompromising idealism, the
world-defying artistic conviction of Wagner, served as a tonic to
his character. If the reader will refer to Letter 21, or at least
to that portion of it which has been vouchsafed by Madame Wagner,
he will see how necessary the administration of such a tonic was
to a man who even at that time could think it necessary to
deprecate the "superideal" character of "Lohengrin", and to
advise in a scarcely disguised manner that the Knight of the
Grail should be brought a little more within the comprehension of
ordinary people. All the more beautiful is it to see how Liszt is
ultimately carried away by the enthusiasm of his great friend,
how he also defies the world, and adopts the device "L'art pour
l'art" as his guiding principle. Altogether the two friends might
have said to each other in the words of Juliet:--

"My bounty is as boundless as the sea, My love as deep; the more
I give to thee, The more I have, for both are infinite." A few
words should be said of the spirit in which the translator has
undertaken his extremely difficult task. There are in these pages
many things which are of comparatively little interest to the
English reader,--allusions to circumstances and persons with
which he cannot be expected to be familiar, especially as the
latter are frequently veiled by initials. There is no doubt that
judicious omissions might have made these pages more readable and
more amusing. But then such a book as this is not meant to amuse.
It is almost of a monumental character, and his deep respect for
that character has induced the translator to produce its every
feature,--a remark which applies to manner no less than to
matter. In consequence, not a line has been omitted, and the
manners and mannerisms of the writers have been preserved as far
as the difference of the two languages would allow. Such
effusions of German enthusiasm as "dearest, best, most unique of
friends," "glorious, great man," and the italics which both
Wagner and Liszt employ with a profusion of which any lady might
be proud, have been scrupulously preserved. These slight touches
give a racy flavour to the letters; and although they may
occasionally call forth a smile, they will, no doubt, be
appreciated by those who with Sterne "can see the precise and
distinguishing marks of national character more in these
nonsensical minutiae than in the most important matters of

That the task of reproducing these minutiae without doing too
much violence to the English idiom was an extremely difficult
one, the experienced reader need not be told. Liszt, it is true,
writes generally in a simple and straightforward manner, and his
letters, especially those written in French, present no very
great obstacles; but with Wagner the case is different. He also
is plain and lucid enough where the ordinary affairs of life are
concerned, but as soon as he comes upon a topic that really
interests him, be it music or Buddhism, metaphysics or the
iniquities of the Jews, his brain gets on fire, and his pen
courses over the paper with the swiftness and recklessness of a
race-horse, regardless of the obstacles of style and
construction, and sometimes of grammar. His meaning is always
deep, but to arrive at that meaning in such terrible letters, for
example, as those numbered 27, 35, 107, 255, and many others,
sometimes seems to set human ingenuity at defiance. It would of
course have been possible, by disentangling dove-tailed sentences
and by giving the approximate meaning where the literal was
impossible, to turn all this into fairly smooth English. But in
such a process all the strength and individual character of the
original would inevitably have been lost. What I have endeavoured
to do is to indicate the diction which a man of Wagner's peculiar
turn of mind would have used, if he had written in English
instead of in German.

To sum up, this translation of the correspondence is intended to
be an exact facsimile of the German original. To supply notes and
a serviceable index, to give a clue to the various persons who
are hidden under initials--all this must be left to another
occasion, provided always that the Wagner family consents to such
a course, and that the interest shown by English readers in the
work as it stands holds out sufficient inducement to so toilsome
a piece of work.





If I take the liberty to trouble you with these lines, I must in
the first instance rely solely on the great kindness with which
you received me during your last short stay in Paris in the late
autumn of last year, when Herr Schlesinger casually introduced me
to you. There is, however, still another circumstance which
encourages me to this step: My friend Heinrich Laube, the author,
wrote to me last summer from Carlsbad that he had there made the
acquaintance of one of your countrymen, who boasted of being your
friend; that he had spoken to that gentleman of me and my plans,
and engaged his interest in me to such an extent that he (the
gentleman) of his own accord promised to introduce me to YOU, as
he was on the point of starting for another watering-place, where
he would be sure to meet you.

You observe, dear sir, with what remote and uncertain
contingencies I am obliged to connect my great hope; you observe
how anxiously I cling to feeble possibilities to attain a
priceless boon. Was that promise ever fulfilled, and could it
have been? My eternally unlucky star almost forbids me to believe
it. The question, however, I owed to myself, and all I ask for at
present is the honour of a Yes or a No!

With full admiration, your most devoted


25, RUE DU HELDER, PARIS, March 24th, 1841.



At last you are within safe reach of me, and I take this long-
desired opportunity to gain you, as far as is in my power, for
our scheme of celebrating Weber's memory by a worthy monument to
be erected in Dresden. You are just on the point of crowning your
important participation in the erection of the Beethoven
monument; you are for that purpose surrounded by the most
important musicians of our time, and in consequence are in the
very element most favourable to the enterprise which of late has
been resumed chiefly through my means. As no doubt you heard at
the time, we have transferred Weber's remains to the earth of his
German home. We have had a site for the intended monument
assigned to us close to our beautiful Dresden theatre, and a
commencement towards the necessary funds has been made by the
benefit performances at the Dresden, Berlin, and Munich theatres.
These funds, however, I need scarcely mention, have to be
increased considerably if something worthy is to be achieved, and
we must work with all our strength to rouse enthusiasm wherever
something may still be done. A good deal of this care I should
like to leave to you, not, you may believe me, from idleness, but
because I feel convinced that the voice of a poor German composer
of operas, compelled to devote his lifelong labour to the
spreading of his works a little beyond the limits of his
province, is much too feeble to be counted of importance for
anything in the world. Dear Herr Liszt, take it well to heart
when I ask you to relieve me of the load which would probably be
heaped on me by the reproach that I had compromised our dear
Weber's memory, because it was none other than I, weak and
unimportant as I am, who had first mooted this celebration. Pray,
do what you can in order to be helpful to our enterprise, for
gradually, as I observe the vulgar indifference of our theatres,
which owe so much to Weber, I begin to fear that our fund might
easily remain such as it is at present, and that would be
tantamount to our having to commence with very inadequate means
the erection of a monument which doubtless would have turned out
better if a more important personality had started the idea.

I add no more words, for to you I have probably said enough. The
committee of which I am a member will apply to you with proper
formality. Would that you could let us have a gratifying answer,
and that my application might have contributed a little towards

With true esteem and devotion, I am yours,


MARIENBAD, August 5th, 1845



On and off I hear that you remember me very kindly and are intent
upon gaining friends for me; and I could have wished that, by
staying in Dresden a little longer, you had given me an
opportunity of thanking you personally and enjoying your company.
As I perceive more and more that I and my works, which as yet
have scarcely begun to spread abroad, are not likely to prosper
very much, I slowly familiarize myself with the thought of
turning to account your friendly feeling towards me a little,
and, much as I generally detest the seeking and making of
opportunities, I proceed with perfect openness to rouse you up in
my favour. There is at Vienna, where you happen to be staying, a
theatrical manager, P.; the man came to me a year ago, and
invited me to produce "Rienzi" at his theatre in the present
spring. Since then I have not been able to hear again from him,
but as our "Tichatschek" goes to his theatre in May for an
extensive starring engagement, and thereby the possibility of a
good representation of "Rienzi" would be given, the backing out
on the part of this P. begins to make me angry. I presume that
he, who is personally stupid, has been subsequently set against
my opera by his conductor, N. For this Capellmeister N. has
himself written an opera, which, because our King had heard it
and disliked it elsewhere, was not produced at Dresden, and the
wretched man probably thinks he owes me a grudge for it, although
I had no influence whatever in the matter. However trivial such
considerations may be in themselves, they and similar ones
largely furnish the real cause why works like mine occasionally
die in Germany; and as Vienna for pecuniary reasons, apart from
anything else, is of importance to me, I go straight to you, most
esteemed friend, to ask that you will set Manager P.'s head
right, in favour of an early performance of my "Rienzi" at his
theatre. Pray do not be angry with me.

I have ventured to send you through Meser the scores of my
"Rienzi" and "Tannhauser," and wish and hope that the latter will
please you better than the former.

Let me thank you sincerely for the great kindnesses you have
shown me. May your sentiments remain always the same towards

Your faithfully devoted


DRESDEN, March 22nd, 1846



Herr Halbert tells me you want my overture to Goethe's "Faust."
As I know of no reason to withhold it from you except that it
does not please me any longer, I send it to you, because I think
that in this matter the only important question is whether the
overture pleases you. If the latter should be the case, dispose
of my work; only I should like occasionally to have the
manuscript back again.

You will now have to go through capellmeister agonies of the
first quality; so I can imagine, and my opera is just the kind of
thing for that to one who takes a loving interest in it. Learn to
know these sufferings; they are the daily bread I eat. May God
give you strength and joy in your hard work.

From my heart yours,


DRESDEN, January 30th, 1848



You told me lately that you had closed your piano for some time,
and I presume that for the present you have turned banker. I am
in a bad state, and like lightning the thought comes to me that
you might help me. The edition of my three operas has been
undertaken by myself; the capital I have borrowed in various
quarters; I have now received notice to repay all the money, and
I cannot hold out another week, for every attempt to sell my
copyrights, even for the bare outlay, has in these difficult
times proved unsuccessful. From several other causes the matter
begins to look very alarming to me, and I ask myself secretly
what is to become of me. The sum in question is 5,000 thalers;
after deducting the proceeds that have already come in and
without claim to royalties, this is the money that has been
invested in the publication of my operas. Can you get me such a
sum? Have you got it yourself, or has some one else who would pay
it for the love of you? Would it not be interesting if you were
to become the owner of the copyright of my operas? My friend
Meser would continue the business on your account as honestly as
he has done on mine; and a lawyer could easily put the thing in
order. And do you know what would be the result? I should once
more be a HUMAN BEING, a man for whom existence would be
possible, an artist who would never again in his life ask for a
shilling, and would only do his work bravely and gladly. Dear
Liszt, with this money you will buy me out of slavery! Do you
think I am worth that sum as a serf? Let that be known soon to

Your most devoted


DRESDEN, June 23rd, 1848



Here am I fighting for death or life, and do not know what the
end will be. I have written to my lawyer to tell him of my last
hope: that by your energetic interference my affairs may possibly
be arranged. Your name will go far in the transaction, but your
person still farther; let me have the latter for a day, but very
soon. According to news which has reached me here, I shall next
Wednesday or Thursday have to undertake a journey which will keep
me away from Dresden for a fortnight. Performances of my operas I
cannot, for that and other reasons, offer you. Could you make up
your mind to come here very quickly even without the expectation
of one of my operas? If I offer you no performances, you shall,
on the other hand (that is my most ardent wish), possess all my
operas as your hereditary property. Do come! Your personality
will do much good, more than my personality will be able to do
all my life; for I cannot help myself.

Best greetings, excellent friend!

Wholly yours,


DRESDEN, July 1st, 1848



Last night I wrote to Herr von Villen and asked him to talk over
and arrange with your lawyer and Herr Meser the affair of the
scores, and then to let me have a positive and precise answer. I
cannot possibly come to Dresden for the present. May God grant
that the state of your affairs turn out to be such as to enable
me to offer you my small and much-enfeebled services, being, as I

Your sincere and devoted admirer and friend,


WEYMAR, July 4th, 1848



Cordial greetings, and best thanks for the many and manifold
troubles you have taken on my behalf.

I had promised Princess Wittgenstein news as to the performance
of my "Tannhauser;" but I cannot for the present give you any
other than that the opera will not be performed either Sunday or
Monday, as I had promised, owing chiefly to the indisposition of
Tichatschek. Even if he were well, it could not take place, as we
have first of all to satisfy a "star," Formes. Probably
"Tannhauser" will not be possible till about a week later.

In any case I hope soon to see you again, and am glad
accordingly. May I ask you to remember me to the Princess?

I am wholly yours,


DRESDEN, September 6th, 1848



Although I dare scarcely hope that you can act upon it, I hasten
to let you know that "Tannhauser" is announced for performance
here on Sunday next, September 24th.

On Friday, 22nd, there will be a jubilee concert of our orchestra
in celebration of its existence for three hundred years, and on
that occasion a piece of my latest opera, "Lohengrin," will,
amongst other things, be heard. According to a previous
arrangement, I consider it my duty to let you know this, and
should certainly be very glad to welcome you, and perhaps
Princess Wittgenstein (to whom please give my best compliments),
on these occasions, although I must fear that my news may come at
an inconvenient moment.

Yours with all my heart,


DRESDEN, September 19th, 1848



Cordial greetings, and best thanks for the kind remembrance in
which you hold me. For a long time I have felt it my duty to
write to you. Lord knows why I have never done so. May it not be
too late even today.

Will you really in this evil time undergo the nuisance of
tackling my "Tannhauser"? Have you not yet lost your courage in
this arduous labour, which only in the luckiest case can be
grateful? "In the luckiest case," I say, for only if the actors,
especially of the principal parts, are equal to their most
difficult task, if the unaccustomed nature of that task does not
frighten them and cripple their good intentions, only then the
lucky case can happen of the performance being comprehensible and
effective. If one circumstance gives me hope of success, it is
that you have undertaken the task. You can do many, many things;
of that I am persuaded.

I am very glad you are settled in Weimar, and I hope that not
only Weimar, but you, will profit by it. At least, we shall
remain near each other.

I live in a very humbled condition and without much hope. I
depend on the goodwill of certain people. Every thought of
enjoying life I have abandoned, but--let me tell you this for
your comfort--I am alive in spite of it all, and do not mean to
let any one kill me so easily.

Remember me kindly to Herr von Zigesar, who has written to me
very courteously. The points mentioned in his letter have, I
hope, been settled verbally by Herr Genast, especially that about
the honorarium, which I am willing to give up altogether. Please
remember me also to Herr Genast, and let me soon have some news
of you.

I remain in cordial devotion yours,


DRESDEN, January 14th, 1849




Accept my most hearty thanks for your kind letter, which has
given me much joy. I confess that I scarcely thought this the
time to gain sympathy for my works, less on account of the
present political commotion, than because of the absence of all
real earnestness, which has long ago disappeared from the public
interest in the theatre, giving way to the most shallow desire
for entertainment. You yourself are anxious about the reception
of my opera at the hands of the Weimar public, but as at the same
time you evince your sympathy for that work so cordially, you
will, I may hope, agree with me when I openly charge your
excellent predecessors with the responsibility for your being
obliged to suspect the public of an ill-regulated and shallow
taste. For as we educate a child, so he grows up, and a
theatrical audience is equally subject to the effects of
training. But I am unjust in accusing Weimar of a fault which
during the last generation has invaded all the theatres in the
world, the more so as I lay myself open to the suspicion of doing
so in the self-conceited interest of a work which perhaps for
different reasons, derivable from intrinsic faults, may be
exposed to the displeasure of the public. However that may be,
your care for my work is in the circumstances all the more
gratifying and meritorious, and I offer you my most cordial
thanks. The pleasure of a visit to you at Weimar I am compelled,
for reasons connected with my local affairs, to leave to another
time. That the performance of my opera would not answer my
expectations is the least thing I fear; for from firm conviction
I have the most favourable opinion of what diligence and good-
will can do, while I know, on the other hand, how little without
these two the amplest resources can achieve for true art. As I
can be certain of these chief requirements at your theatre, I
feel justified in offering to you, all others concerned, and
especially my friend Liszt, my best thanks in advance; and no
excessive anxiety shall trouble me. I sincerely wish that the
exalted lady whose birthday is to be celebrated will think the
success of your labour worthy of acknowledgment.

With much esteem, I have the honour to remain

Yours most sincerely,


DRESDEN, February 8th, 1849



Herr von Zigesar has lately written to you to say with how much
zeal and with what ever-increasing admiration and sympathy we are
studying your "Tannhauser." If you could make it possible to come
over for the last rehearsal on the 15th and attend the
performance on the 16th, we should all be truly delighted. Let me
know the day before, because of engaging a room, etc.

Cordial thanks for sending me the "Faust" overture.

Hoping to see you soon,

Your sincerely devoted


February 9th, 1849



From all I hear you have recently added to the unequalled
successes of your former life and artistic activity a new one,
which probably is not inferior to the foremost of its
predecessors, and in many respects perhaps surpasses them all. Do
you suppose I cannot judge of this from a distance? Hear if I

No theatre in the world has so far thought it advisable to
perform my opera "Tannhauser" four years after its production; it
was left to you to settle down for a time from your world-wide
travels at a small court theatre, and at once to set to work so
that your much-tried friend might at last get on a little. You
did not talk or fuss; you yourself undertook the unaccustomed
task of teaching my work to the people. Be sure that no one knows
as well as I what it means to bring such a work to light in
existing circumstances. Who the deuce does not conduct operatic
rehearsals nowadays? You were intent not only upon giving the
opera, but upon making it understood and received with applause.
That meant to throw yourself into the work body and soul, to
sacrifice body and soul, to press and exert every fibre of the
body, every faculty of the soul, towards the one aim of not only
producing your friend's work, but of producing it splendidly and
to his advantage. You had to be sure that it would succeed, for
only with a view to success had you begun the work; and therein
lies the force of your character and of your ability--you have
succeeded. If I have judged your beautiful action rightly, if I
have understood you, I hope you will understand me too when, in
words as brief and precise as was your action, I say to you,

I THANK you, dear friend!

You, however, wished not only to benefit my work, but to benefit
me as well; you know that my position is that of a somewhat
hemmed-in, forsaken, solitary man. You desired to make friends
for me, and had a sufficiently good opinion of my work to think
that the spreading of it abroad would gain friends for me. Dear
friend, by that very means you have at this moment lifted me up
as by a charm. It is not to complain, but merely to convince you
of the force of that impression, when I tell you that just now,
in the very week when you gave my "Tannhauser" at Weimar, our
manager insulted me in so gross a manner that for several days I
was discussing with myself whether I should bear any longer to be
exposed to such infamous treatment for the bite of bread that my
service here gives me to eat, and whether I should not rather
throw up art and earn my bread as a labourer, to be at least free
from the despotism of malignant ignorance. Thank God! The news
from Weimar and Tichatschek's greetings and accounts have again
strengthened me. I once more have courage to suffer.

This also I owe to you!

D.V.--I shall soon see you again, dear, worthy, helpful friend.
Last week it was impossible to ask my tormentor for a short leave
of absence; otherwise I should have liked to come, if only to
spend a few cheerful and animated hours with you and to tell you
the delight I feel in you. In the meantime be satisfied with
this. It comes from my fullest heart, and tears are in my eyes.

From Herren von Zigesar, Biedenfeld, and Genast I simultaneously
received letters of joyfullest and friendliest import; I answer
them all at once by making you my interpreter, and through you
greet those gentlemen with all my heart. Hold me dear as before.
I give to you in return what is in me, and what therefore I call
my own.

God bless you, dear Liszt.



DRESDEN, February 20th, 1849



So much do I owe to your bold and high genius, to the fiery and
magnificent pages of your "Tannhauser," that I feel quite awkward
in accepting the gratitude you are good enough to express with
regard to the two performances I had the honour and happiness to
conduct. However that may be, your letter has given me the
liveliest pleasure of friendship. I thank you with all my heart
for the thanks you proffer me. Once for all, number me in future
amongst your most zealous and devoted admirers; far or near,
count on me and dispose of me.

Herren Zigesar, Genast, and Biedenfeld have described to you in
detail the impression which your masterpiece has made on our
public. In the Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung you will find a few
lines I have sent to Brockhaus by his demand. Biedenfeld has put
the little article into shape. I shall send you by post the
article that appeared in our Gemeindeblatt, where is also printed
the prologue of Schober, who had the sense to turn "Tannhauser"
to good account. Talking of people with good sense, do you know
what I mean to do? No more nor less than to appropriate for the
piano, after my fashion, the overture of "Tannhauser and" the
whole scene "O du mein holder Abendstern" of the third act. As to
the former, I believe that it will meet with few executants
capable of mastering its technical difficulties, but the scene of
the "Abendstern" should be within easy reach of second-class

If you will propose to Meser to have it engraved, or if you will
allow me to dispose of it for the benefit of H. or Sch., I should
like to have it published soon. Perhaps, if you have no
objection, I should dispose of it in favour of an album for which
my assistance has been asked for the last two months--the album
published by the "Ladies' Society for the German Fleet." In vain
I told them that I suffered from a drought of both manuscripts
and ideas; they would not leave me alone; and I have just
received another letter from a nice lady, who gives it me nicely.

Write to me as to the destination you prefer for your
"Abendstern;" and when we meet, I shall have the impertinence to
play you with my two hands your overture, such as I have prepared
it for my particular use.

Remember me very affectionately to Tichatschek; he has been an
admirable artist and a charming comrade and friend. It will be a
true pleasure to me to see him here again in the month of May,
according to his promise. If you could on the same occasion
dispose of a few days, we should be only too happy to see you. In
the meantime, dearest friend, believe me from my heart and soul
your devoted admirer and friend,


February 26th, 1849

P.S.--A very beautiful and accomplished hand wishes to add a few
lines to this letter; if you have found if tedious to read me,
you could have no better compensation.


Allow me, dear sir, to add another voice to the chorus of
admiration which sings "Gloria" to the author of the double poem
of "Tannhauser." If others have more right than I to speak to you
of the sublime artistic expression which you have given to such
deep emotions, I yet venture to tell you how souls lost in the
crowd who chant to themselves your "Sangerkrieg" are penetrated
by your harmonies, which contain all the fine and delicate shades
of idea, sentiment, and passion.

We had hoped to see you for a moment at Weimar, and I clung to
that hope all the more as I wanted to express to you my thanks
for the kindness you showed me during my stay at Dresden. Let me
add to these the other thanks which I owe you for the wonderful
moments during which I listened to your melodies, expressive of
the fascinating charms of the sirens who dwell on the banks of
our imagination, and of those piercing cries wrung from us by the
extinction of the perfumes of their enchanted home,--for those
thoughts which elevate us in their humility, that despair which
throws us "without fear against swords, when the soul is pierced
by a very different sword of grief," those elegies which one
whispers only to the evening star, those prayers which bear away
the soul on their wings.

Grant, sir, that the thoughts which so much passion and beauty
awake in hearts knowing what strange secrets lie hidden in
passion, and adoring splendour and beauty, may reach you and tell
you how deep is the admiration which this master work will excite
at all times and everywhere in those who have once visited these
resplendent and dolorous regions of the soul.

Believe, above all, in the admiration which has been given to you
here, and which we should be so happy to express to you
personally. I am amongst those most desirous of seeing you, sir,
and of repeating from mouth to mouth the expression of the
admiring and devoted sentiments of which I ask you to be a
thousand times assured.


February 25th, 1849



A thousand thanks for your letter! We are going on nicely
together. If the world belonged to us, I believe we should do
something to give pleasure to the people living therein. I hope
we two at least shall agree with each other; let those who will
not go with us remain behind,--and thus be our alliance sealed!

What shall I do with the beautiful letter I received together
with your own? Have I really so pleased your esteemed friend with
my feeble work that she thought it worth while to give me such
great and unexpected joy in return? She indeed has fully effected
her purpose, but I can scarcely credit that my work alone should
have produced a similar impression upon the spirituelle Princess;
and I am probably right in surmising that here also my friend
Liszt has wooed for me with his wondrous fire. However that may
be, I feel too silly today to thank your esteemed friend
otherwise than through your medium, through your mouth, and
therefore I pray you with all my power to express my gratitude to
her as fervently, as joyfully, as you are able. Will you grant me
this favour?

Before I knew anything about your intention, several years ago,
when I was writing the overture, I wondered whether I should ever
hear it played by you. I should never have mentioned it to you,
for in such matters one must not be too forward, but now that I
hear you are employed in making this piece your own, after your
own fashion, I must tell you that I feel as if a wonderful dream
were realized. Is it possible? Why not? All is possible to you.
About the "Abendstern," dear friend, do exactly as you like. I
have spoken to Meser about it, and he will write to you at once
to place himself at your disposal; but if you prefer another way
of publication, do exactly as you like. In any case I feel highly
flattered by your proposal.

Today I read the account of my opera in the Deutsche Allgemeine
Zeitung of which you speak; by its tenor Herr von Biedenfeld has
once more obliged me very, very much; express to him my best
thanks, dearest friend! I must also beg to convey my great and
deeply felt gratitude to the artists who have deserved well of me
by their successful zeal. To how many and how deeply have I
reason to be grateful! I am looking forward to May, when I shall
be with you in any case; I will then speak from my full heart as
loudly as my breast will let me. Till May, then!

God bless you, dearest, best, of friends! Best remembrances to
Zigesar and Genast. I throw myself at the feet of the Princess.

For ever your most grateful


DRESDEN, March lst, 1849




It was impossible for me to write to you from Rorschach (where I
arrived only yesterday) and to return your passport. Half an hour
after the arrival of the steamer the express coach started for
Zurich; and I felt bound to take advantage of it, as I had made
up my mind to cut this journey as short as possible by avoiding
unnecessary delay. Unfortunately I got on but slowly. From Coburg
I could not start for Lichtenfels till early on Saturday, but
fortunately I got through everywhere without notice, at Lindau
only, where I arrived at midnight, they asked for my passport at
the gate. The next morning I received it back without difficulty,
but unfortunately it had on it a vise for Switzerland, adorned
with which I am compelled to return it to Dr. Widmann. I hope
that his political experience will understand this addition to
his passport.

Luckily then I am in Switzerland. To your counsel and your active
aid, dear friends, I owe my safety. The four days' journey in a
frightful heat had, however, brought my blood to such a state of
excitement, that I found it impossible to go on without risking a
stroke of apoplexy. Moreover, I hope to employ my stay at Zurich
in obtaining a passport for France. One of my early friends has
been residing here for a long time; today I expect him back from
a pleasure trip, and I hope he will do what is necessary to save
me the long detour by Geneva.

To my wife I write at length, and my request to you to
communicate this news to my friends is therefore for the present
limited to our Liszt. Greet my preserver and sovereign liege many
thousand times, and assure him of my firm resolution to do all
that is in my power to please him. The journey has freshened and
roused my artistic courage, and I have quite made up my mind as
to what I have to accomplish in Paris. I do not think much of
fate, but I feel that my late adventures have thrown me into a
path where I must do the most important and significant things
which my nature can produce. Even four weeks ago I had no idea of
that which now I recognize to be my highest task; my deep-rooted
friendship for Liszt supplies me with strength from within and
without to perform that task; it is to be our common work. More
of this soon!

Liszt will shortly receive a parcel of scores, etc., from my
wife; let him open it. The score of "Lohengrin" I want him to try
at some leisure; it is my last and ripest work. As yet I have not
shown it to any artist, and therefore have not been able to learn
from any one what impression it produces. How curious I am to
hear Liszt about it! As soon as he has finished looking through
it, I want him to forward it at once to Paris, along with the
other scores and books of words. Perhaps some acquaintance going
to Paris will take them. The copy of the score of the "Flying
Dutchman" is meant for the Weimar theatre; this and the book of
words let Liszt therefore take from the parcel and keep back.

That wonderful man must also look after my poor wife. I am
particularly anxious to get her out of Saxony, and especially out
of that d----d Dresden. Therefore I have hit upon the idea of
finding for her and her family a modest but cheerful refuge
somewhere in the Weimar territory, perhaps on one of the grand-
ducal estates, where, with the remainder of what is saved of our
goods and chattels, she might prepare a new home for herself, and
perhaps for me also--in the future. May my friend succeed in

Thanks, cordial thanks, to you for the great kindness you have
shown to me! My memorials of it are so numerous that I cannot put
my hand in my pocket without being reminded of the thoughtfulness
and sympathy of friend Wolff. May my future be your reward!

Cordial greetings to Dr. Widmann, as whose double I have acted
for four days; I return him to himself in his integrity, which I
hope will not a little conduce to his perfect well-being. Best
thanks to him!

And thanks, thanks also, to your dear wife and mother! The
blessings of one saved are with them. Farewell, dear friend!

You will soon hear more from your


ZURICH, March 20th, 1849



To you [In this and all the subsequent letters the familiar "Du"
("Thou") instead of the formal "Sie" ("You") is adopted.-TR.] I
must turn if my heart is once more to open itself, and I am in
need of such heart-comfortings; that I cannot deny. Like a
spoiled child of my homeland, I exclaim, "Were I only home again
in a little house by the wood and might leave the devil to look
after his great world, which at the best I should not even care
to conquer, because its possession would be even more loathsome
than is its mere aspect!"

Your friendship--if you could understand what it is to me! My
only longing is to live with my wife always near you. Not Paris
nor London--you alone would be able to hammer out what good there
may be in me, for you fire me to the best efforts.

From Zurich you had news of me through Wolff. Switzerland did me
good, and there I found an old friend of my youth, to whom I
could talk much about you. It was Alexander Mueller, whom you too
know, a worthy and amiable man and artist. At Zurich also I read
your article on "Tannhauser" in the Journal des Debats. What have
you done in it? You wished to describe my opera to the people,
and instead of that you have yourself produced a true work of
art. Just as you conducted the opera, so have you written about
it: new, all new, and from your inner self. When I put the
article down, my first thoughts were these: "This wonderful man
can do or undertake nothing without producing his own self from
his inner fullness he can never be merely reproductive; no other
action than the purely productive is possible to him; all in him
tends to absolute, pure production, and yet he has never yet
concentrated his whole power of will on the production of a great
work. Is he, with all his individuality, too little of an egoist?
Is he too full of love, and does he resemble Jesus on the Cross,
Who helps every one but Himself? "

Ah, dear friend, my thoughts of you and my love of you are still
too enthusiastic; I can only exclaim and rejoice when I think of
you. Soon I hope to grow stronger, so that my selfish enthusiasm
may allow me to give utterance to my anxiety for you. May Heaven
grant me the power to do full justice to the love I have for you;
as yet I live too much on your love for me, and mine vents itself
in useless exclamations. I hope soon to gather the necessary
strength from the intercourse with those who love you as I do;
and truly you have friends!

I arrived in Paris soon after the publication of your article. We
know better than any one that this was an accident, of which you
had not in the least thought when you wrote and dispatched the
article. But this accident has at once given a distinct colour to
my position in Paris, and--our friend M. considers that colour as
black as possible. Dear Liszt, you ought to clear your mind as to
this man. But why do I talk? Should not you have found out long
ago that natures like that of M. are strictly opposed to yours
and mine? Should not you have found out long ago that the only
tie possible between you and M. was effected by magnanimity on
your side and by prudence on his? Where the two threads of this
woof met, there deception was possible for a time, but I believe
that you gave way to that magnanimous deception with amiable
intent. M. is thoroughly little, and unfortunately I do not meet
a man who has the slightest doubt about it.

Honestly speaking, I am unable to engage in a drama of intrigue a
la Verre d'Eau; if this were the only way open to me, I should
pack my bundle tomorrow and settle down in a German village; work
I will as much as I can, but to sell my ware in this market is
impossible to me. Artistic affairs here are in so vile a
condition, so rotten, so fit for decay, that only a bold
scytheman is required who understands the right cut. Dearest
friend, apart from all political speculation, I am compelled to
say openly that in the soil of the anti-Revolution no art can
grow, neither perhaps could it for the present in the soil of the
Revolution, unless care were taken--in time. To speak briefly,
tomorrow I shall begin a searching article on the theatre of the
future for some important, political journal. I promise you to
leave politics on one side as much as possible, and therefore
shall not compromise you or any one else; but as far as art and
the theatre are concerned you must, with a good grace, allow me
to be as red as possible, for a very determined colour is the
only one of use to us. This, I think, is my most prudent course
to adopt, and he who advises it for prudential reasons as the
most effective one is none other than your representative
Belloni. He tells me that here I want money as much as M. or
really more than M., or else I must make myself feared. Well,
money I have not, but a tremendous desire to practice a little
artistic terrorism. Give me your blessing, or, better still, give
me your assistance. Come here and lead the great hunt; we will
shoot, and the hares shall fall right and left.

I do not expect to reach the goal here so very soon but must
prepare myself. A libretto of Scribe or Dumas I cannot set to
music. If I ever do reach the right goal in this Parisian hunt, I
shall not compass it in the common way; I must in that case
create something new, and that I can achieve only by doing it all
myself. I am on the look-out for a young French poet sufficiently
congenial to give himself up to my idea. My subject I shall
arrange myself, and he must then write his French verses as
spontaneously as possible; to anything else I could not agree.

During these slow preparations I shall have to occupy my leisure
with London; I am ready to go there as soon as possible to do all
in my power for the performance of my works. As to this I expect
your friendly command.

I thank you from all my heart for Belloni; he is an able, honest,
and very active man; every day he calls for me to show me the
proper way to Parisian glory.

This is the cheerful part of my news; otherwise this horrible
Paris presses on me with a hundredweight. Often I bleat like a
calf for its stable and for the udder of its life-giving mother.
How lonely I am amongst these people! My poor wife! I have had no
news as yet, and I feel deathly soft and flabby at every
remembrance. Let me soon have good news of my wife! With all my
courage, I am often the most miserable coward. In spite of your
generous offers, I frequently consider with a deadly terror the
shrinking of my cash after my doubly prolonged journey to Paris.
I feel again as I did when I came here ten years ago, and when
thievish longings would often get hold of me on watching the dawn
of the hot days that were to shine on my empty stomach. Ah, how
this vulgarest of cares degrades man!

But one piece of news will rouse everything in me again,
especially if the little Weimar has remained faithful to me. One
single piece of good news, and I float once more on the top of
the ocean waves.

My dear, glorious friend, take me such as this abominableParis
has excited me today. I do not thank you; I call you blessed.
Greet the dear Princess, greet the small knot of my friends, and
tell them that you hope I shall do well. Soon you will hear more
of me. Be happy and remember me.



PARIS, June 5th, 1849

(Have you received the scores, and shall I see some of them here

I have been with your mother, and she has given me uncommon
pleasure; she is a healthy woman! I shall call on her again. She
sends you best greetings.



It is nearly four weeks since my wife left me, and I have not yet
had the least news of her. My grief and depression are great. I
must gain another home and hearth; otherwise all is over with me.
My heart is greater than my sense. With Belloni I have been in
close consultation, and we have formed the following opinion and
the resolution derived therefrom:--

In Paris I can do no good at present; my business is to write an
opera for Paris; for anything else I am unfit. This object cannot
be attained by storm; in the most favourable case I shall achieve
the poem in half a year, and the performance in a year and a
half. In Paris without a home, or--which is the same--peace of
heart, I can do no work; I must find a new place where I am at
home and can make up my mind to remain at home. For such a place
I have selected Zurich. I have written to my wife to come there
with her youngest sister, with the remnants of our household
goods, so as once more to be united to me. I have a friend there,
Alexander Mueller, who will assist me in furnishing as cheap a
home as is to be had. As soon as I can, I shall go there from
this place. When I have my wife again, I shall forthwith and
gladly set to work. The sketch of a subject for Paris I shall
send from there to Belloni, who will arrange about a French
version by Gustave Vaez. In October he may have finished his
work, and then I shall for a short time leave my wife for Paris,
and shall try every possible means to obtain a commission for the
setting of the said subject. I may perhaps on the same occasion
perform some of my music, and after that shall return to Zurich
to set about the composition. Meanwhile I shall employ my time in
setting to music my latest German drama, "The Death of
Siegfried." Within half a year I shall send you the opera

I must commence some genuine work, or else perish; but in order
to work I want quiet and a home. With my wife and in pleasant
Zurich I shall find both. I have one thing in view, and one thing
I shall always do with joy and pleasure--work, i.e., write
operas. For anything else I am unfit; play a part or occupy a
position I cannot, and I should deceive those whom I promised to
undertake any other task.

You friends must get me some small yearly allowance, just
sufficient to secure for me and my wife a quiet existence in
Zurich, as for the present I am not allowed to be near you in
Germany. I talked to you in Weimar of a salary of three hundred
thalers which I should wish to ask of the Grand Duchess for my
operas, alterations of the same, and the like. If perhaps the
Duke of Coburg and possibly even the Princess of Prussia were to
add something, I would willingly surrender my whole artistic
activity to these three protectors as a kind of equivalent, and
they would have the satisfaction of having kept me free and ready
for my art. I cannot ask for myself nor find the proper form for
the necessary agreement, but you can, and you and your
intercession will succeed. Possible revenues from the opera I
shall write for Paris I might then entirely devote to the payment
of the debts I left in Dresden.

Dear Liszt, have I spoken plainly enough?

With the confidence of one entirely helpless, I further ask, Make
it possible to let me have some money soon, so that I may leave
here, go to Zurich, and exist there till I receive the desired
salary. You are the best judge as to what I want for this.
Whether my wife when, in accordance with my ardent prayer, she
thinks of starting for Zurich, will be able to raise the
necessary funds, I unfortunately cannot tell. Would you kindly
ask her soon whether she wants anything? Write to her care of
Eduard Avenarius, Marienstrasse, Leipzig.

Goodness, how I always try not to weep! My poor wife!

The best I can bring forth, I will bring forth,--all, all! But to
battle about in this great world is impossible for me. Let me
once more be at home somewhere!

I was unable to write more today; do not be angry on that
account. But I know your kindness, and trust in it implicitly.

Take a thousand greetings from your


(The scores my wife could bring to me at Zurich, could she not?)

(I had hoped to get some money from Berlin through Tichatschek;
unfortunately nothing has arrived, and I cannot in any way
relieve you, although I do not know where you are to get the



Excuse me for applying to you again so soon. At last I received a
letter from my wife, and many pangs of conscience were again
roused by it. More than all, it lies heavy on my heart today that
I have asked you to intercede with several royal personages for a
salary for me. I had forgotten--to say nothing of my immediate
past--that my sufficiently public participation in the Dresden
rising has placed me towards those royal personages in a position
which must make them think of me as one opposed to them on
principle, and this perhaps will make it appear strange that now,
when the collapse of that rising has reduced me to poverty, I
turn for help to them of all others. My position is all the more
painful because I can take no steps to free myself from the
suspicion of such sentiments without incurring the worse
suspicion of meanness and cowardice. You personally I may assure
that the feeling manifested by my undisguised sympathy with the
Dresden rising was very far from the ridiculously fanatical
notion that every prince is an object of active hatred. If I
concurred in this strange fanaticism, I should naturally have had
scruples in approaching the Grand Duchess at Weimar with perfect
openness. Before you, I trust, I need not defend myself; you know
the bitter source of my discontent, which sprang from the
condition of my beloved art, which I nourished with passion, and
which finally I transferred to every other field, the connection
of which with the ground of my deep dissatisfaction I had to
acknowledge. From this feeling came the violent longing which
finds its expression in the words, "There must be a change; thus
it cannot remain." That now, taught by the experience of my
participation in that rising, I could never again mix myself up
with a political catastrophe, I need not say; every reasonable
person must know it. What rejoices me, and what I may safely
affirm, is that in all my aims I have once more become entirely
an artist. But this I cannot possibly tell the princes at the
moment when I am about to claim their assistance. What would they
think of me! A general and public declaration also would bring me
nothing but disgrace. It would have to appear as an apology, and
an apology in the only correct sense time and my life alone can
tender, not a public declaration, which in the present
threatening circumstances and in my helplessness must needs
appear cowardly and low.

I am sure you will agree with my view of the matter, and I
surmise that already you have found yourself in a very awkward
position towards the Grand Duchess on my account. My wife, who
still thinks it necessary to live on amongst the dregs of Dresden
vulgarity, tells me a thousand unpleasant things which in the
eyes of miserable creatures make me appear much more compromised
by the revolution than I really am. This feeling towards me is
probably spread far and wide, and therefore may have affected the
Weimar court. I can well imagine that you think it at present
inadvisable to raise your voice for me at a court which, with a
natural prejudice, at first sight recognizes in me only the
political revolutionary, and forgets the artistic revolutionary
whom at bottom it has learnt to love.

How far you will think it good to comply with my application of
yesterday in such circumstances you will best decide for
yourself. Is it possible that our princes nowadays should be
magnanimous enough to exercise a beautiful, old privilege,
unmoved by the currents of the time and without weighing
conditions? Think this over; perhaps you have more confidence
than I.

My wife suffers, and is embittered; for her I hope everything
from time. I asked you yesterday to inquire of her as to the
pecuniary aid she may need; I ask you today not to do so-not now.
If you will do me a kindness, send me a little money, so that I
can get away,--anywhere, perhaps after all to Zurich, to my old
friend Mueller. I should like to be at rest, so as to write the
scenario for Paris; I don't feel up to much just now. What should
I do in London? I am good for nothing, except perhaps writing
operas, and that I cannot do in London.

Best greetings to any one who will accept them from me; there
will not be many. Farewell, dear, much-troubled friend. Could I
but make you returns!

Your most faithful


REUIL, June 19th, 1849



With the contents of your letter No. 2 I agree more than with No.
1. For the present it would not be very diplomatic to knock at
battered doors. Later on, when you stand revealed as a made
fellow, even as you are a created one, protectors will easily be
found; and if I can serve you then as a connecting and convenient
instrument, I shall be quite at your disposal with my whole heart
and with a certain slight savoir-faire. But a period of
transition you cannot avoid, and Paris is for everything and
before everything a necessity to you. Try to make it possible
that your "Rienzi" (with a few modifications intended for the
Paris public) is performed in the course of next winter. Pay a
little court to Roger and Madame Viardot. Roger is an amiably
intelligent man, who will probably fall in love with the part. I
think, however, that in any case you will have to spare him a
little more than Tichatschek, and will have to ease his task by
some abbreviations. Also do not neglect Janin, who, I feel sure,
will give you a helping hand, and whose influence in the press
can secure the early performance of the opera.

In a word, very dear and very great friend, make yourself
possible in possible conditions, and success will assuredly not
fail you. Vaez and A. Royer will be of great assistance to you
both for the translation and rearrangement of "Rienzi" and for
the design of your new work. Associate and concur with them
strictly for the realization of that plan from which you must not

1. To give "Rienzi" during the winter of 1850 at the Paris Opera,
whence it will take its flight to all the theatres of Germany,
and perhaps of Italy. For Europe wants an opera which for our new
revolutionary epoch will be what "La Muette de Portici" was for
the July revolution, and "Rienzi" is conceived and written for
those conditions. If you succeed in introducing into it a slight
element of relief, were it only by means of stage machinery or of
the ballet, success is certain.

2. To write a new work for the winter of '51 in collaboration
with Vaez and A. Royer, who know all the mysteries of success. In
the interval you cannot do better than take a good position in
the musical press. Forgive me for this suggestion, and manage so
that you are not of necessity placed in a hostile position
towards things and people likely to bar your road to success and
fame. A truce to political commonplaces, socialistic stuff, and
personal hatreds! On the other hand, good courage, strong
patience, and flaming fire, which latter it will not be difficult
for you to provide, with the volcanoes you have in your brain!
Your idea of retiring to Zurich for some time in order to work
more at ease seems good, and I have charged Belloni to remit to
you three hundred francs for traveling expenses. I hope that
Madame Wagner will be able to join you, and before the autumn I
shall let you have a small sum which will keep you afloat.

Kindly let me know whether I shall send your works to Madame
Wagner, and at what address.

The admirable score of "Lohengrin" has interested me profoundly;
nevertheless I fear at the performance the superideal colour
which you have maintained throughout. Perhaps you will think me
an awful Philistine, dear friend, but I cannot help it, and my
sincere friendship for you may authorize me to tell you. . . .
[The letter breaks off here in the original edition.-TR.]



Thanks to your intercession, I have been able to fly to the
friendly place from which I write to you today. I should trouble
you unnecessarily were I to tell you all that latterly has passed
through my heart; perhaps you will guess it. Belloni has taken
care of me with the greatest kindness and consideration; there
are, however, things in which no friend in the world can be of
assistance. One thing more by way of explanation: during my
journey through Switzerland and on my arrival in Paris, I met
with some Saxon refugees in a position which induced me to assist
them in your name. I shall not be tempted again.

I hope to find some rest and collectedness for the completion of
my intended Paris work in the intimate intercourse with a dear
friend who is also a friend of yours--Alexander Mueller. About
"Rienzi" and the plans which you have commended to us regarding
that opera, Belloni will give you details in so far as the purely
practical part of the matter is concerned. He thinks it
impossible, especially at first, to place it at the Grand Opera.
I, as an artist and man, have not the heart for the
reconstruction of that to my taste superannuated work, which, in
consequence of its immoderate dimensions, I have had to remodel
more than once. I have no longer the heart for it, and desire
from all my soul soon to do something new instead. Besides, the
erection of an operatic theatre in Paris is imminent where only
foreign works are to be produced; that would be the place for
Rienzi, especially if some one else would occupy himself with it.
I want you to decide about this as soon as you have heard our
reasons. I have settled everything with Gustave Vaez as regards
the external part of our common enterprise. The work, which I
shall now take in hand at once, will, I hope, soon open to him
and to you my inner view of the matter. Heaven grant that in this
also we may understand each other or at least come to an
understanding. Only from the one deep conviction which is the
essence of my mental being can I draw inspiration and courage for
my art, for only through this conviction can I love it; if this
conviction were to separate me from my friends, I should bid
farewell to art--and probably turn clodhopper.

By all accounts I am in fine repute with you! The other day, I
hear, I was accused, together with another person, of having set
fire to the old Dresden opera house. All right. My dear wife
lives in the midst of this slough of civic excellence and
magnanimity. One thing grieves me deeply; it wounds me to the
very bone: I mean the reproach frequently made to me that I have
been ungrateful to the King of Saxony. I am wholly made of
sentiment, and could never understand, in the face of such a
reproach, why I felt no pangs of conscience at this supposed
ingratitude. I have at last asked myself whether the King of
Saxony has committed a punishable wrong by conferring upon me
undeserved favours, in which case I should certainly have owed
him gratitude for his infringement of justice. Fortunately my
consciousness acquits him of any such guilt. The payment of 1,500
thalers for my conducting, at his intendant's command, a certain
number of bad operas every year, was indeed excessive; but this
was to me no reason for gratitude, but rather for dissatisfaction
with my appointment. That he paid me nothing for the best I could
do does not oblige me to gratitude; that when he had an
opportunity of helping me thoroughly he could not or dared not
help me, but calmly discussed my dismissal with his intendant,
quieted me as to the dependence of my position on any act of
grace. Finally, I am conscious that, even if there had been cause
for any particular gratitude towards the King of Saxony, I have
not knowingly done anything ungrateful towards him; proof of this
I should be able to furnish. Pardon, dear friend, this unpleasant
deviation; unfortunately I am not yet again in that stage of
creating which shuts out anything but the present and the future
from my cognizance. My spirit still writhes too violently under
the impression of a past which, alas! continues wholly to occupy
my present. I am still bent on justification, and that I wish to
address to no one but you.

As soon as I have anything ready I shall send it to you. For the
present I must urgently ask you to forward me here at once the
scores and other literary tools which my wife has sent to you. I
want to get into some kind of swing again so that the bell may
ring. Be good enough to give the parcel to a carrier to be
forwarded here by express conveyance (care of Alexander Muller,

Muller greets you most cordially. He will write to you soon to
inform you of the success of Herr Eck, the instrument-maker,
whose company is doing very well.

Dear Liszt, do not cease to be my friend; have patience with me,
and take me as I am. A thousand compliments to the Princess, and
thank her in my name for the kind memory she has preserved of me;
she may find it difficult to remain my friend.

Be healthy and happy, and let me soon hear some of your works,
even as I promise you on my part. Farewell, and take my cordial
thanks for your constancy and friendship.



ZURICH, July 9th, 1849



Are you in a good temper? Probably not, as you are just opening a
letter from your plaguing spirit. And yet it is all the world to
me that you should be in a good temper just today, at this
moment! Fancy yourself at the most beautiful moment of your life,
and thence look upon me cheerfully and benevolently, for I have
to proffer an ardent prayer. I receive today a letter from my
wife, unfortunately much delayed in the post. It touches me more
than anything in the world; she wants to come to me, and stay
with me, and suffer with me once more all the ills of life. Of a
return to Germany, as you know well yourself, I must not for the
present think; therefore our reunion must take place abroad. I
had already told her that the hoped-for assistance from Weimar
would come to nothing; this she will easily understand and bear.
But in order to carry out her idea to come to me, she and I lack
no less than all. To get away from Dresden in the most difficult
circumstances she wants money; quite lately she told me she had
to pay sixty-two thalers without knowing where to get it. She
will now have to pack and send to me the few things we have
saved; she must leave something for the immediate wants of her
parents, whom formerly I kept entirely. She then has to travel to
Zurich with her sister, and I must at least be able to offer her
the bare necessaries of life for the beginning. At this moment I
can offer her nothing in the world. I live at present only on the
remainder of the money which I received from you through Belloni
before my departure from Paris. But, dear friend, I take care not
to be a burden to you alone, and this care is partly the reason
why I have not yet thoroughly set to work, although the anxiety
about my wife is chiefly to blame. I have again tried hard to get
paying work and assistance, so that I might ease your burden, and
in the worst case need only ask you to assist me again for my
journey to Paris in the autumn. But now in this moment of the
most painful joy at the imminent return of my wife--now I know of
no one but you to whom to apply with the firm hope of seeing my
wishes speedily accomplished. You therefore I implore by all that
is dear to you to raise and collect as much as you possibly can,
and to send it, not to me, but to my wife, so that she may have
enough to get away and to join me with the assurance of being
able to live with me free from care for some time at least.
Dearest friend, you care for my welfare, my soul, my art. Once
more restore me to my art! I do not cling to a home, but I cling
to this poor, good, faithful woman, to whom as yet I have caused
almost nothing but grief, who is of a careful, serious
disposition, without enthusiasm, and who feels herself chained
for ever to such a reckless devil as myself. Restore her to me;
by doing so you will give me all you can wish for me, and,
believe me, for that I shall be grateful to you, yea grateful!

You will see how quickly I shall turn out things. My preparations
for Paris, the pamphlet, and even two sketches for subjects will
be ready and on their way next month. Where I cannot agree with
you I shall win you over to me; that I promise, so that we may
always go hand in hand and never separate. I will obey you, but
give me my poor wife; arrange it so that she may come cheerfully,
with some confidence, soon and quickly. Alas! this, in the
language of our dear nineteenth century, means, Send her as much
money as you can possibly get. Yes, such is my nature; I can beg,
I could steal, to cheer up my wife, were it only for a little
while. Dear, good Liszt, see what you can do! Help me, help me,
dear Liszt. Farewell, and--help me!

Your grateful


Write straight to my wife: Minna Wagner, Friedrich-strasse No.
20, Dresden.



In answer to your letter, I have remitted one hundred thalers to
your wife at Dresden. This sum has been handed to me by an
admirer of "Tannhauser", whom you do not know, and who has
specially asked me not to name him to you.

With Y. B., who paid me a visit yesterday, I talked over your
position at length. I hope his family will take an active
interest in your affairs.

All the scores (excepting the overture to "Faust") I sent to
Zurich last week. The separation from your "Lohengrin" was
difficult to me. The more I enter into its conception and
masterly execution, the higher rises my enthusiasm for this
extraordinary work. Forgive my wretched pusillanimity if I still
have some doubt as to the wholly satisfactory result of the

Permit me one question: Do you not think it advisable to add to
"Tannhauser" a dedication (post scriptum) to the Lord of
Wartburg, H.R.H. Carl Alexander, Hereditary Grand Duke of Saxe-

If you agree to this, have a very simple plate to that effect
engraved, and send me in advance, together with your next letter,
a few lines to the Hereditary Grand Duke, which I shall hand to
him at once. For the present you must expect no special donation
in return, but the sympathy of the prince for your masterpiece
fully justifies this attention.

Friendly greetings to Alexander Muller, to whom I am still very
grateful for his friendly reception at Zurich. If you should see
J. E., assure him of my sincere interest in his further welfare.
He is an honest, able, excellent man.

Hold me in kind remembrance, even as I am cordially devoted to


WEYMAR, July 29th, 1849

P.S.--Be careful in your articles in the newspapers to omit all
political allusions to Germany, and leave royal princes alone. In
case there should be an opportunity of paying Weymar a modest
compliment en passant, give free vent to your reminiscences with
the necessary kid gloves.



I herewith send you my last finished work; it is a new version of
the original article which I sent to Paris last week to have it
translated for the feuilleton of the National. Whether you will
be pleased with it I do not know, but I feel certain that your
nature is at one with me. I hope you will find in it nothing of
the political commonplaces, socialistic balderdash, or personal
animosities, against which you warned me; but that, in the
deepest depth of things, I see what I see, is entirely owing to
the circumstance that my own artistic nature and the sufferings
it has to go through have opened my eyes in such a manner that
death alone can close them again. I look forward either to an
entirely useless existence, or to an activity which responds to
my inmost being, even if I have to exercise it afar from all
external splendour. In the former case I should have to think of
abbreviating that existence.

Please address and send the manuscript, together with the
enclosed letter, to the publisher Otto Wigand in Leipzig. Perhaps
I shall succeed in drawing from my inferior literary faculty some
small support for my existence. Since my last letter, which I
posted at the same time with my stormy petition to you, I have
had no news from my wife, and am slightly tortured accordingly.

From a letter written by Baron Schober to Eck at Zurich, I see
with great pleasure that your prospects are cheerful, and that
you are resolved to settle in Weimar. I presume that the
excellent Princess is also happy and well. Heaven be thanked!
Whether you ought to show her my manuscript I am not quite
certain; in it I am so much of a Greek that I have not been able
quite to convert myself to Christianity. But what nonsense I
talk! As if you were not the right people! Pardon me.

Farewell, dear, unique friend! Remember me in kindness.



ZURICH, August 4th, 1849

Have you been good enough to see about the forwarding to me of my
scores and writings? I am anxious at not having seen anything of



A thousand thanks for your letter, and for kindly taking care of
my wife. The unknown donor is wrong in wishing to be hidden from
me. Thank him in my name.

The day before yesterday I sent you a long article; probably you
have read it. I am glad that I can agree to your wish to dedicate
"Tannhauser" to the Grand Duke without the slightest abnegation
of my principles, for I hope you will see that I care for
something else than the stupid political questions of the day.

It would be best if you could have the dedication page and the
special copy done through Meser, in which case you might also, if
necessary, promise to bear the trifling expense, for of that
copyright not a single note is mine. I hope you like the verses.
Will you put the letter to the Grand Duke in an addressed

Oh, my friends, if you would only give me the wages of a middling
mechanic, you would have pleasure in my undisturbed work, which
should all be yours.

Thanks for sending the scores. "Lohengrin" will be especially
useful to me, for I hope to pawn the score here for some hundreds
of florins, so as to have money for myself and my wife for the
next few months.

Your doubts as to a satisfactory effect of the performance of the
opera have frequently occurred to me. I think, however, that if
the performance is quite according to my colour, the work--
including even the end--will be all right. One must dare.

Muller and Eck were delighted by your greetings, and return them
with enthusiasm.

Dear, good Liszt, I also thank you most cordially for all the
care you take of me. Consider that I can give you nothing better
in return than the best I can accomplish. Give me perfect peace,
and you shall be satisfied. I hope my wife will be here soon;
then you shall soon have good news of me.

Farewell, and continue to be my friend.



ZURICH, August 7th, 1849



After a silence of several months, I cannot address you without
first of all thanking you once more with all my heart for the
friendly assistance which enabled me to have my poor wife back
again. By this assistance my wife made it possible to preserve
and bring with her some favourite trifles of our former household
and, before all, my grand piano. We are settled here as well as
possible; and after a long interruption, full of pain and unrest,
I am once more able to think of the execution of my great
artistic plans for the future.

After this final reunion with my much-tried wife, nothing could
have given me greater pleasure than to learn about the produce of
your artistic activity. The pieces written by you for the
centenary of Goethe's birth I have now seen in the pianoforte
score, and have occupied myself with them attentively. With all
my heart I bid you welcome, and am glad--especially also in
sympathy with your friend--that you behave so valiantly in this
field of honour, selected by you with glorious consistency. What
I felt most vividly, after my acquaintance with these
compositions, was the desire to know that you were writing an
opera or finishing one already begun. The aphoristic nature of
such tasks as those set you by this Goethe celebration must
involuntarily be transferred to the artistic production, which
therefore cannot attain to perfect warmth. Creative power in
music appears to me like a bell, which the larger it is is the
less able to give forth its full tone, unless an adequate power
has set it in motion. This power is internal, and where it does
not exist internally it does not exist at all. The purely
internal, however, cannot operate unless it is stimulated by
something external, related to it and yet different. Creative
power in music surely requires this stimulus no less than does
any other great artistic power; a great incitement alone can make
it effective. As I have every reason to deem your power great, I
desire for it the corresponding great incitement; for nothing
here can be arbitrarily substituted or added: genuine strength
can only create from necessity. Wherever in the series of your
pieces Goethe himself incites your strength, the bell resounds
with its natural full tone, and the clapper beats in it as the
heart does in the body. If you had been able to ring the whole
"Faust"-bell (I know this was impossible), if the detached pieces
had had reference to a great whole, then that great whole would
have thrown on the single pieces a reflex which is exactly the
certain something that may be gained from the great whole, but
not from the single piece. In single, aphoristic things we never
attain repose; only in a great whole is great power self-
contained, strong, and therefore, in spite of all excitement,
reposeful. Unrest in what we do is a proof that our activity is
not perfectly self-contained, that not our whole power, but only
a detached particle of that power, is in action. This unrest I
have found in your compositions, even as you must have found it
too often in mine without better cause. With this unrest I was,
however, better pleased than if comfortable self-contentment had
been their prominent feature. I compare it to the claw by which I
recognize the lion; but now I call out to you, Show us the
complete lion: in other words, write or finish soon an opera.

Dear friend, look upon me with an earnest but kind glance! All
the ills that have happened to me were the natural and necessary
consequences of the discord of my own being. The power which is
mine is quite unyielding and indivisible. By its nature it takes
violent revenge when I try to turn or divide it by external
force. To be wholly what I can be, and therefore, no doubt,
should be, is only possible for me if I renounce all those
external things which I could gain by dint of the aforesaid
external force. That force would always make me fritter away my
genuine power, would always conjure up the same evils. In all I
do and think I am only artist, nothing but artist. If I am to
throw myself into our modern publicity, I cannot conquer it as an
artist, and God preserve me from dealing with it as a politician.
Poor and without means for bare life, without goods or heritage,
as I am, I should be compelled to think only of acquisition; but
I have learnt nothing but my art, and that I cannot possibly use
for the purpose of acquiring nowadays; I cannot seek publicity,
and my artistic salvation could be brought about one day only by
publicity seeking me. The publicity for which alone I can work is
a small nucleus of individuals who constitute my whole publicity
at present. To these individuals, therefore, I must turn, and put
the question to them whether they love me and my art-work
sufficiently to make it possible for me, as far as in them lies,
to be myself, and to develop my activity without disturbance.
These individuals are not many, and they live far from each
other, but the character of their sympathy is an energetic one.
Dear friend, the question with me is bare life. You have opened
Paris to me, and I most certainly do not refuse it; but what I
have to choose and to design for that place cannot be chosen and
designed in a moment; I must there be some one else and yet
necessarily remain the same. All my numerous sketches are adapted
only to treatment by myself, and in the German language. Subjects
which I should have been prepared to execute for Paris (such as
"Jesus of Nazareth") turn out to be impossible for manifold
reasons when I come to consider closely the practical bearings of
the thing, and I must therefore have time and leisure to wait for
inspiration, which I can expect only from some remote region of
my nature. On the other hand, the poem of my "Siegfried" lies
before me. After not having composed a note for two years, my
whole artistic man is impelled towards writing the music for it.
What I could possibly hope for from a Paris success would not
even be able to keep me alive; for, without being thoroughly
dishonest, I should have to hand it over to my creditors.

The question, then, is, How and whence shall I get enough to
live? Is my finished work "Lohengrin" worth nothing? Is the opera
which I am longing to complete worth nothing? It is true that to
the present generation and to publicity as it is these must
appear as a useless luxury. But how about the few who love these
works? Should not they be allowed to offer to the poor suffering
creator--not a remuneration, but the bare possibility of
continuing to create?

To the tradesmen I cannot apply, nor to the existing nobility--
not to human princes, but to princely men. To work my best, my
inmost salvation, I am not in a position to rely on merit, but on
grace. If we few in this villainous trading age are not gracious
towards each other, how can we live in the name and for the
honour of art?

Dear friend, you, I believe, are the only one on whom I can
implicitly rely. Do not be frightened! I have tried to relieve
you of the burden of this exclusive reliance; I have turned
elsewhere, but in vain. From H. B., about whom you wrote to me, I
have heard nothing, and am glad from my heart that I have not.
Dear Liszt, let us leave the TRADESMEN alone once for all. They
are human and even love art, but only as far as BUSINESS will

Tell me; advise me! Hitherto my wife and I have kept ourselves
alive by the help of a friend here. By the end of this month of
October our last florins will be gone, and a wide, beautiful
world lies before me, in which I have nothing to eat, nothing to
warm myself with. Think of what you can do for me, dear, princely
man! Let some one buy my "Lohengrin," skin and bones; let some
one commission my "Siegfried." I will do it cheaply! Leaving our
old plan of a confederation of princes out of the question, can
you not find some other individuals who would join together to
help me, if YOU were to ask them in the proper manner? Shall I
put in the newspaper "I have nothing to live on; let him who
loves me give me something"? I cannot do it because of my wife;
she would die of shame. Oh the trouble it is to find a place in

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