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Correspondence of Wagner and Liszt, Volume 2 (1889)
By Richard Wagner; Franz Liszt; Francis Hueffer (translator)
TABLE OF CONTENTS
BRIEF BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH
CORRESPONDENCE OF WAGNER AND LISZT, Volume 2
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BRIEF BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH
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."
CORRESPONDENCE OF WAGNER AND LISZT, VOLUME 2
Yesterday (Saturday, January 7th) first performance of
"Lohengrin" at Leipzig. The public, very numerous in spite of
double prices, displayed much sympathy and admiration for this
wonderful work. The first act went tolerably well as far as the
artists were concerned. Rietz conducted in a precise and decent
manner, and the ENSEMBLES had been carefully studied. The second
and third acts, however, suffered much from the faults and
shortcomings of both chorus and principals. Further performances
will, no doubt, show an improvement, although the Leipzig theatre
does certainly not possess the proper singers and scenic artists.
The flagging in the second act, which I previously took the
liberty of pointing out to you, was felt very much on this
occasion, and the public seemed painfully and unmistakably tired.
The tempi of the choruses seemed to me considerably too fast, and
there was more than one break-down in this scene. Altogether,
without self-conceit, I may say that the Leipzig performance is
inferior to ours, as you will probably hear from other quarters.
On the other hand the Leipzig public is in many respects superior
to ours, and I feel convinced that the external success of
yesterday's performance will prove very considerable indeed. The
grand success of this work can no longer be denied; of that we
should be glad, and the rest will follow sooner or later. The
actors, Rietz and Wirsing, were called after the first act, and
after the last the representatives of the principal parts had to
appear again. T., who had come from Paris for this performance,
was very dissatisfied with it. I toned him down, not thinking it
advisable to impair the chief thing by detailed criticism. Before
all, let it be stated that "Lohengrin" is the grandest work of
art which we possess so far, and that the Leipzig theatre by
performing it has done credit to itself.
If you have to write to Leipzig show yourself, to please me,
friendly and appreciative of their goodwill, and of the success
which cannot be denied. The only remark you might make concerns
the quick tempo of the choruses in Act II., Scene iii., and of
the "Lohengrin" passage in the third act
[Here, Liszt illustrates with a 4-bar musical score example
where the words, "Ath----mest Du nicht die su--ssen Dufte" are
as compared with YOUR METRONOMIC INDICATION. This is the more
necessary as the chorus practically broke down, and these
passages failed to produce their due effect.
On the next birthday of the Grand Duchess (April 8th) "Lohengrin" will
be given here, with Gotze (at present professor of singing at the
Leipzig Conservatoire, late first tenor of this theatre) and Frau
Fastlinger, and about the middle of May Tichatschek will sing the part
here twice. Zigesar has also asked X. to sing Ortrud, and has offered
her as well as Tichatschek very decent terms, but her answer is somewhat
vague and undecided: "Unless I have to go to England at that time," etc.
Tichatschek is again behaving splendidly on this occasion, and I
thank you for the few friendly lines you have written to him, for
he really deserves it by his warm friendship for you and your
works. He came to Leipzig together with Krebs, and during the
entr'acte we met at the buffet, when he told me that you had
written to him, which I was very glad to hear. The Hartels have
sent you three hundred thalers for the nine pieces from
Farewell, and let me soon hear from you.
January 8th, 1854.
The "Rhinegold" is done, but I also am done for. Latterly I had
intentionally dulled my feeling by means of work, and avoided
every opportunity of writing to you before its completion. Today
is the first forenoon when no pretext prevents me any longer from
letting the long-nourished and pent-up grief break forth. Let it
break forth, then. I can restrain it no longer.
In addition to your very kindly notice of the Leipzig
"Lohengrin," I also received that of the "Deutsche Allgemeine"
Zeitung, and discover in it the scornful punishment inflicted
upon me for the crime I committed against my being and my inmost
conscience when, two years ago, I became unfaithful to my
rightful determination and consented to the performance of my
operas. Alas! how pure and consistent with myself was I when I
thought only of you and Weimar, ignored all other theatres, and
entirely relinquished the hope of any further success.
Well, that is over now. I have abandoned my purpose, my pride has
vanished, and I am reduced to humbly bending my neck under the
yoke of Jews and Philistines.
But the infamous part is that by betraying the noblest thing in
my possession I have not even secured the prize which was to be
the equivalent. I remain, after all, the beggar I was before.
Dearest Franz, none of my latter years has passed without
bringing me at least once to the verge of the resolution to put
an end to my life. Everything seems so waste, so lost! Dearest
friend, art with me, after all, is a pure stop-gap, nothing else,
a stop-gap in the literal sense of the word. I have to stop the
gap by its means in order to live at all. It is therefore with
genuine despair that I always resume art; if I am to do this, if
I am to dive into the waves of artistic fancy in order to find
contentment in a world of imagination, my fancy should at least
be buoyed up, my imagination supported. I cannot live like a dog;
I cannot sleep on straw and drink bad whisky. I must be coaxed in
one way or another if my mind is to accomplish the terribly
difficult task of creating a non-existing world. Well, when I
resumed the plan of the "Nibelungen" and its actual execution,
many things had to co-operate in order to produce in me the
necessary, luxurious art-mood. I had to adopt a better style of
life than before; the success of "Tannhauser," which I had
surrendered solely in this hope, was to assist me. I made my
domestic arrangements on a new scale; I wasted (good Lord,
wasted!) money on one or the other requirement of luxury. Your
visit in the summer, your example, everything, tempted me to a
forcibly cheerful deception, or rather desire of deception, as to
my circumstances. My income seemed to me an infallible thing. But
after my return from Paris my situation again became precarious;
the expected orders for my operas, and especially for
"Lohengrin," did not come in; and as the year approaches its
close I realise that I shall want much, very much, money in order
to live in my nest a little longer. I begin to feel anxious. I
write to you about the sale of my rights to the Hartels; that
comes to nothing. I write to Berlin to my theatrical agent there.
He gives me hopes of a good purchaser, whom I refer to the first
performance of "Lohengrin" at Leipzig. Well, this has taken
place, and now my agent writes that after such a success he has
found it impossible to induce the purchaser to conclude the
bargain, willing as he had previously been.
Confess that this is something like a situation. And all this
torture, and trouble, and care about a life which I hate, which I
curse! And, in addition to this, I appear ridiculous before my
visitors, and taste the delightful sensation of having
surrendered the noblest work of my life so far to the
predetermined stupidity of our theatrical mob and to the laughter
of the Philistine.
Lord, how must I appear to myself? I wish that at least I had the
satisfaction that some one knew how I appear to myself.
Listen, my Franz; you must help me! I am in a bad, a very bad,
way. If I am to regain the faculty of holding out (this word
means much to me), something thorough must be done in the
direction of prostituting my art which I have once taken,
otherwise all is over with me. Have you thought of Berlin again?
Something must be done there if all is not to come to a stop.
Before all, I must have money. The Hartels have been very
liberal, but what is the good of hundreds where thousands are
needed? If the Berlin purchase had come to something, I might at
least have used the offer in order to prove to a man of business
here that I possessed "capital," and to induce him to lend me the
necessary sum for three years, paying back one-third every year.
But this hope also has vanished. No one will undertake such an
affair unless he has personal confidence in my future (?)
successes. Such a man, dearest Franz, you must find for me. Once
more, I want from 3,000 to 4,000 thalers in order to find perfect
rest and equipoise. That much my operas may well bring me in in
three years IN CASE something real is done for "Lohengrin," so as
to save it. I am willing to lease my rights to the lender; my
rights in "Tannhauser" and "Lohengrin" shall be secured to him in
any way he thinks desirable or necessary. If I am not worthy of
such a service, then you must own that I am in a bad way, and
all has been a mistake! Help me over this, and I will undertake
once more to hold out.
Dear friend, do not be angry. I have a claim on you as on my
creator. You are the creator of the person I am now; I live
through you: it is no exaggeration. Take care of your creation. I
call this a duty which you have towards me.
The only thing I want is money; that at least one ought to be
able to get. Love I abandon, and art!
Well, the "Rhinegold" is ready, readier than I ever thought it
would be. I went to this music with so much faith, so much joy;
and with a true fury of despair I continued, and have at last
finished it. Alas! the need of gold held me too in its net.
Believe me, no one ever has composed in this manner; my music, it
seems to me, must be terrible; it is a slough of horrors and
I shall soon make a clean copy, black on white, and that will
probably be the end of it; or shall I give permission to have
this also performed at Leipzig for twenty louis d'or? I cannot
write more to you today. You are the only person to whom I could
tell such a thing; no one else has an idea of it, least of all
the people near me.
Do not think that the news of Leipzig has made me suddenly
desperate. I anticipated this, and knew everything beforehand. I
can also imagine that the Leipzig failure may still be repaired,
that "it is not as bad as we think," and much more to the same
effect. It may be, but let me see evidence. I have no faith, and
only one hope: sleep, sleep, so profound, so profound, that all
sensation of the pain of living ceases. That sleep at least is
within my reach; it is not so difficult to get.
Good heavens, I give you bad blood as well! Why did you ever come
The present of the Princess caused me a smile,--a smile over
which I could shed tears. I shall write to her when I have lived
through a few more days; then I shall also send you my portrait,
with a motto, which might make you feel awkward after all. How
are you? Burn this letter: it is godless; but I too am godless.
Be you God's saint, for in you alone I still have faith. Yea!
yea! and once more yea!
January 15th, 1854
Something must be done in London; I will even go to America to
satisfy my future creditor; this too I offer, so that I may
finish my "Nibelungen."
My dearest Franz,
I write once more to try whether I can ease my heart a little.
Dearest friend, this continual suffering is becoming at last
intolerable. Always to submit to things, never, even at the risk
of one's own perdition, to give a turn to the wheel of suffering
and to determine its direction--that must at last rouse the
meekest of men to revolt. I must now act, do something. Again and
again the thought comes to me of retiring to some distant corner
of the world, although I know full well that this would mean only
FLIGHT, not the conquest of a new life, for I am too LONELY. But
I must at least begin something that will make my life, such as
it is, sufficiently tolerable to enable me to devote myself to
the execution and completion of my work, which alone can divert
my thoughts and give me comfort. While here I chew a beggar's
crust, I hear from Boston that "Wagner nights" are given there.
Every one persuades me to come over; they are occupying
themselves with me with increasing interest; I might make much
money there by concert performances, etc. "Make much MONEY!"
Heavens! I don't want to make money if I can go the way shown to
me by my longing. But if I really were to undertake something of
this kind, I should even then not know how to get with decency
out of my new arrangements here in order to go where I could make
money. And how should I feel there?
Alas! this is so impossible that the impossibility is equalled
only by the ridiculous position into which I sink when I commence
brooding over the possibility of the plan. My work, my
"Nibelungen," would then of course be out of the question.
This WORK is truly the only thing which still ties me to the
desire of life. When I think of sacrifices and demand sacrifices,
it is for this work; in it alone I discover an object of my life.
For its sake I must hold out, and hold out here, where I have got
a foothold, and have settled down to work. If I consider it
rightly, all my intended action can only have the object of
enabling me to hold out till the completion of my work. But for
that very reason I can DO nothing; all must be done by OTHERS. On
that account I latterly again felt the liveliest desire to obtain
my amnesty, and thus to gain free access to Germany. In that case
I might at least be active in helping on the performances of my
operas. I might at last produce "Lohengrin" myself, while as it
is I torture myself for the sake of it. The most necessary thing
for the moment seems to me to repair the Leipzig disaster; I was
on the point of venturing there without passport and of
endangering my personal liberty (good God! "liberty!" What
irony!). In calmer moments I intended to write to the King of
Saxony, till this also appeared quite useless and even
dishonourable to me. Then again, as lately as last night, I
thought of writing to the Grand Duke to explain my new situation
to him and to ask him for his energetic intercession at Dresden.
But this morning early I came to think that this also would be in
vain, and probably you agree with me. Where can ENERGY and real
WILL be found? Everything has to be done by halves, quarters, or
even tenths or twelfths, a la X.
So I sit down again, cross my arms, and surrender myself to pure,
unalloyed SUFFERING. I can do nothing, except create my
"Nibelungen"; and even that I am unable to do without great and
My dearest, my only friend, listen. I CAN do nothing unless
others do it for me. The sale of the rights of my operas must be
brought about, unless I am to free myself from my situation by
violent means. In the way of pure business this has become
impossible by the Leipzig performance, which, if my wish and my
conditions had been observed, would not have taken place; it must
be simply a work of friendship. To no one but you can I explain
myself accurately, because you are the only one who can
understand at its true estimate, and without a shake of the head,
my position, such as it has been brought about by my moods,
inclinations, whims, and wants. How can I expect a Philistine to
comprehend the transcendent part of my nature, which in the
conditions of my life impelled me to satisfy an immense inner
desire by such external means as must to him appear dangerous,
and certainly unsympathetic? No one knows the needs of people
like us; I am my self frequently surprised at considering so many
"useless" things indispensable. To YOU alone can I explain how
painfully I am placed, and how necessary immediate help is to me.
This is the first and most indispensable thing to preserve me for
my whole future. Owing to my extreme sensitiveness in this
matter, I shall otherwise be compelled--because for such a
frivolous reason I do not want to take my own life--to start at
once and fly to America.
I am in a pitiful condition, and I know that to such a friend as
you pity comes from love. Give me up if you can; that will settle
all. With my terrible care my violent nervous disorder has also
returned. During my work I frequently felt quite well; the
thunder-clouds seemed to have cleared away. I often felt
beautifully elevated, gently supported; generally I was silent,
but it was from inner joy; even hope wound itself softly round my
heart; the children of fable came to the weeping elf, saying,
"Weep not; thou too mayst still be happy." But the word resounded
from farther and farther distance, till at last I could hear it
no longer. Silence! now the old night holds me again; let it
devour me altogether!
Pardon me. I CANNOT help it.
Farewell, my Franz; farewell; farewell.
You were going to send me your "Kunstler." Why does it not
How about the "Faust" symphony? I am writing the "Rhinegold" at
once in full score. I did not see my way to jotting down clearly
the introduction (the depth of the Rhine) as a sketch; so I hit
upon the full score. This is a slower way of proceeding, and my
head is still a little confused.
The Princess has done well; greet her and thank her warmly from
me. Who knows how it will turn out? I do not care to know.
This is a sign of life to which you must respond sympathetically.
Zurich, February 7th, 1854
It is a sad fate that we have to live apart from each other. I
can tell you nothing but that I think of you constantly and love
you from my heart of hearts.
Latterly my time has been painfully occupied by all manner of
business, visits, work, etc. I have written to nobody, as you may
well imagine, because you did not receive a letter from me.
Together with this I send you the score of my "Kunstler" chorus,
and between this and the autumn I intend to publish half-a-dozen
orchestral pieces, also in full score. By October the "Faust"
symphony will be finished, which also will be published soon
Let us leave these trifles alone and speak of your "Rhinegold."
Have you really finished it? That has been wonderfully quick work
indeed. You know how delighted I should be if you would let me
see the score. Send it to me as soon as you can do without it.
In the meantime I have not neglected your pecuniary affairs, and
hope that my intentions will not be frustrated. CANDIDLY answer
me two questions:--
1. Have you pressing debts, and what sum do you absolutely
require to meet them?
2. Can you manage to live this year on your present income?
There is a probability that Berlin may come off next autumn, and
in that case I shall let you know the little result of my effort
in good time. For the present DO NOT SPEAK ABOUT IT. Dorn was
here, and conducted the second performance of his "Nibelungen."
The work is to be given at Berlin in six weeks.
Brendel wrote several things to me about the "Lohengrin" affair
in Leipzig. In my opinion, nothing further can be done for the
moment, and you have every reason to be calm and SATISFIED.
Lohengrin's barque is drawn by a swan; the cackling of geese and
the barking of dogs are of no avail.
Berlioz is coming to Hanover at the end of March, and goes from
there to Dresden, where he will conduct a few concerts at the
theatre. Fischer wrote to me recently about an intended
performance of "Cellini" at Dresden. This is as yet a secret,
which I, for my part, should like to see made public very soon.
The opera is Berlioz's freshest and roundest work, and its
failure in Paris and London must be attributed to low villainy
and misapprehension. It would be a fine thing if Dresden were to
offer him a brilliant REVANCHE, such as he deserves.
Brendel will publish his book within a few days. When you have
read it, tell me your candid opinion. Raff also has finished a
stout volume on the "Wagner Question" (!). He refuses to show me
ANYTHING of it, although he has read parts to several other
persons. Fortunately you are no longer to yourself nor to me a
[Here, Liszt illustrates with a 3 1/2 bar musical score example
where the words "Ath - mest Du nicht die hol den Duf - te--" are
Live in your "Rhinegold," and think lovingly of
WEYMAR, February 21st, 1854.
Many thanks for your "Kunstler." You had in me a somewhat adverse
judge of this composition--I mean, I was not in the mood for it.
I have got so unaccustomed to judging in an objective sense that
in everything I go entirely by inclination. I take up only what
attracts my sympathy, and enjoy it, without in the least
analysing that enjoyment in a critical manner. Imagine then the
contradictions which the very choice of the poem necessarily
roused within me. It is more or less a didactic poem. In it
speaks to us a philosopher who has finally returned to art, and
does so with the greatest possible emphasis of resolution;--in
brief Schiller to the life! Besides this, a chorus for a concert!
I have no longer any feeling for that kind of thing, and could
not produce it at any price. I should not know where to take my
inspiration. One other thing: my musical position towards verse
and metre has undergone an enormous change. I could not at any
price write a melody to Schiller's verses, which are entirely
intended for reading. These verses must be treated musically in a
certain arbitrary manner, and that arbitrary manner, as it does
not bring about a real flow of melody, leads us to harmonic
excesses and violent efforts to produce artificial wavelets in
the unmelodic fountain. I have experienced all this myself, and
in my present state of development have arrived at an entirely
different form of treatment. Consider, for instance, that the
ENTIRE instrumental introduction to the "Rhinegold" is based upon
the common chord of E flat. Imagine then how sensitive I am in
these matters and how startled I was when, on opening your
"Kunstler," I hit upon the exact contrary of my PRESENT system. I
do not deny that I shook my head while going on, and that
stupidly I observed in the first instance only the things which
startled me--I mean details, always details. At the same time,
there was something in these details which seemed to strike me in
spite of my unsympathetic mood. At the close I reflected and
arrived at the reasonable idea of letting the WHOLE pass by me in
full swing. In fact, I imbibed it in a manner with the most
fortunate results. I saw you suddenly at your desk, saw you,
heard you, and understood you. In this way I received another
proof of the experience that it is our own fault if we cannot
receive what is magnanimously offered. This your address to the
artists is a grand, beautiful, splendid trait of your own
artistic life. I was deeply moved by the force of your intention.
You give utterance to it, body and soul, at a time, in
circumstances, and before people who would be well advised in
trying to understand you. You have done well in drawing
Schiller's lines out of their literary existence and in
proclaiming them loudly and clearly to the world with trumpet
sound. You have, as I say, done well. How to do it was your own
affair. YOU knew HOW these lines should be proclaimed to the
world, for to none but you had occurred the necessity of that
proclamation. I at least know nobody who could do something of
this kind with such force. WHAT an artist intends to do shows to
him HOW he should do it, and by this HOW we recognize the WHAT.
What you intended to do here you could not have expressed
otherwise than by this tremendous display of eloquence, of
emotion, of overpowering strength. This is my criticism. I have
no other. But who will be able to sing this to your liking? Mercy
on me when I think of our tail-coated concert singers! During the
performance at Carlsruhe you had, probably from your own
inspiration, worked yourself into such a state of excitement,
that you thought you heard them sing as they should have sung. I
suspect, however, that the public heard correctly what was sung,
and therefore could of course not understand the matter at all.
Dear friend, you require singers such as I want for my Wotan,
etc. Consider this! I have become so abominably practical that
the moment of actual representation is always before my eyes, and
this is another source of my joyful despair.
Thanks then for your "Kunstler." I feel as if it were meant for a
present to myself only, and as if no one else were to know what
you have really given to the world.
I am hard at work. Can you tell me of any one who would be able
to compile a score from my wild pencil sketches? I worked this
time quite differently from what I did before, but this having to
make a clean copy kills me. I lose time over it which I might
employ to better purpose; and apart from this, the continual
writing tires me to such an extent that I feel quite ill and lose
the inclination for real work. Without a clever man of this kind
I am lost; WITH HIM the WHOLE will be finished in two years. For
that time I should require the man. If there were a pause in the
scoring, he might copy parts in the meantime. Look out for one.
There is no one here. It is true that it may seem absurd that I
am going to keep a secretary, who can scarcely keep myself.
If you can help me, you will be doing God's work. Am I not worth
a few thousand thalers for half a year to some German enthusiast?
I will give him full security on the royalties due to me in the
On Monday I expect Gustav Schmidt, of Frankfort. I have summoned
him in order to go through "Lohengrin" with him, and perhaps he
will bring his tenor. I am glad to see him so full of zeal.
As to the rest, I shut my ears against all the world. I do not
want to know how low I have sunk.
Shall I hear from you soon? If you think of me at all, think of
me always as of one hard at work and profoundly melancholy.
Farewell, best and dearest friend. The "Kunstler" is splendid.
Greet all at home.
ZURICH, MARCH 4TH, 1854.
I am frequently sad on your account; and on my own account I have
not much reason to rejoice. My chief object and task is taking a
very serious and painful turn. I had no right to expect much else
in that direction, and was prepared, but these long entanglements
which I have to submit to have caused me much trouble and have
jeopardised my pecuniary position, so that at present I am unable
to assist a friend. This I feel very much, and prefer to say
nothing further about it. You will understand me and not
misinterpret my silence. When the time comes, I shall explain my
affairs to you by word of mouth; they are not rose-coloured, and
another man might have perished, which other men might not have
disliked to see.
Today I only want to tell you that on the day of the performance
of the opera by the Duke of Gotha I met Herr von Hulsen at
dinner. He led the conversation to the performance of your works
at Berlin, and told me that he was only waiting till you had sold
your rights to Messrs. Bote and Bock in order to produce them. I
made bold to say that I had reason to doubt very much whether
this would be done, and that even if B. and B. bought the scores
of "Tannhauser" and "Lohengrin" I did not think for a moment that
you would abandon your previous demand of my being invited to
Berlin in order to secure an adequate rendering of your works.
Write to me how this matter stands. I do not want to advise you,
but I think that the Berlin performance is an important point for
you, and that you would gain nothing by altering your previous
position--I mean that the performance should not take place
except through my medium and according to my directions.
I was told that the Konigsberg troupe intended to perform
"Tannhauser" at Berlin this summer. I tell you this because I
think that you will not approve of the plan, and will refuse your
consent if asked for it.
I am very weary and tired, but spring will give us new strength.
Write soon to your affectionate and truly devoted
GOTHA, APRIL 4TH, 1854.
P.S.--This afternoon I return to Weymar. R. Pohl and his wife are
there, and I have asked him to give you an account of the
impending performances of "Tannhauser" and "Lohengrin."
MY DEAR FRANZ,
Heaven knows how anxiously I waited this time for your letter! I
reply at once in order to explain the "business" part.
I knew nothing about Messrs. Bote and Bock, but have now come to
the conclusion that they must be the purchasers of my operas whom
my Berlin agent had in his eye when necessity compelled me last
winter to apply to him. I declare that at present I should not
sell my operas to Bote and Bock or anybody else, for reasons
which I need scarcely tell you. I find it difficult to understand
how Herr von Hulsen can be naive enough to think that I should
consent to the performance of "Tannhauser" at Berlin by the
Konigsberg troupe. I shall write to Konigsberg about it this very
day, and I ask you also to write to Hulsen at once and to
announce my VETO to him. You may do this in MY NAME, and mention
at the same time that I have ONCE FOR ALL placed everything
concerning my operas at Berlin in YOUR HANDS, being firmly
resolved to treat with Berlin only through you and according to
your opinion, but never again personally. You may further say
that if Herr von Hulsen intended to give an opera by me, and was
waiting till he had no longer to treat with me, but with a third
person (Bote and Bock, as he thought), because he had fallen out
with me personally, he would now have a splendid opportunity of
settling everything without coming in personal contact with me,
because he would have to deal with you alone; that, as my
plenipotentiary, you were compelled to protest against the
performance by the Konigsberg troupe, but that in the same
capacity you were prepared to arrange the matter with him in some
other way. I think this would be a good opportunity of bringing
the Berlin affair to a satisfactory conclusion. There is much
need for it, I can assure you. Heaven only knows how I am to pull
through; and although I do not wish to torture you any more, I
may tell you that in my present position you can do me a great
and very valuable service by your intercession in another
quarter. Listen! They have performed "Tannhauser" at Augsburg,
badly enough, it is true, but it has paved the way for Munich.
Dingelstedt has written me an amiable and encouraging letter, and
I have sent him the opera which is to be given there in the
summer. As regards honorarium, I have entreated him to procure me
the best possible terms, as these operas are my only capital, and
I must mainly rely upon the great court theatres. I have,
however, made no definite demand, having full confidence in him.
You know Dingelstedt intimately, and you would oblige me by
asking him to get me something substantial, royalties in
preference. Before all, I should wish to have some money BEFORE
THE END OF THIS MONTH, either as an advance on these royalties
or, if that is impossible, as the final purchase money, in which
case I think I might ask a hundred louis d'or. (Dresden always
used to pay me sixty louis d'or; but as "Tannhauser" has
everywhere proved a great draw, I think I might expect the lump
sum of a hundred louis d'or from so great a court theatre as
Munich.) He is probably on his travels now, but if you address to
the care of W. Schmidt, inspector of the Court Theatre, the
letter will, I think, be forwarded to him. Do not be angry with
It is only a friend like you whom one can ask to be of active
help to others while he himself is in such a painful position as
you, poor man, seem to be. Although I have a general idea of your
situation, I am very desirous to know precisely how your affairs
and those of your dear ones really stand. I feel aggrieved
because you touch upon them always in a very cursory manner. From
all I can make out, I must fear that the Princess has been cut
off from her estate permanently and completely, and I must own
that such losses are well adapted to upset one's equanimity. I
also understand that you look into the future with a heavy heart,
as the fate of a most lovable, youthful being is equally
involved. If you had to inform me that you three dear ones were
now quite poor and solitary, even then I could not be very sorry-
-so stupid am I--especially if I saw that you had kept up your
courage. My dearest, dearest, unique Franz, give me the heart,
the spirit, the mind of a woman in which I could wholly sink
myself, which could quite comprehend me. How little should I then
ask of this world. How indifferent would be to me this empty
glitter, which, in my despair, I have latterly again been tempted
to gather round me as a diversion of my fancy. If I could live
with you in beautiful retirement, or, which would be the same
thing, if we could live here wholly for each other instead of
frittering our beings away with so many insipid and indifferent
people, how happy I should be. And "off and on" we should be sure
to undertake something to give vent to our energies in the outer
But I am talking wildly. Correct me if I deserve it; I shall
never be anything but a fantastic good-for-nothing.
Has Eugene sent you my medallion? It is not bad, only a little
I shall soon have to write again; I have more materials than I
can deal with today.
The instrumentation of the "Rhinegold" is going on apace. At
present I am with the orchestra down in "Nibelheim." In May the
whole will be ready, but not the clean copy, only single sheets
with illegible pencil sketches on them. It will be some time
before you can see anything of it. In June I have to begin the
"Valkyrie." When are you coming? You say nothing about it, and
yet you talk of "verbal communications." Schindelmeisser wrote to
me yesterday, asking me to come to Darmstadt on the sly on Easter
Monday, because "Lohengrin" would be splendid. That I shall leave
Adieu, dearest, dearest Franz. I have so many things to write to
you, that I must close for today.
Convey my best regards.
ZURICH, April 9th, 1854.
What do you think, dear friend? Would it be of any use if I sent
you a letter to the King of Saxony, which the Grand Duke of
Weimar might forward to him through a confidential person
(perhaps his ambassador)? I admit that the Prime Minister of
Saxony would be more important than the King, but to such a
person I cannot possibly apply. Would the Grand Duke do this?
Something must be done; I must be able to fly from my ordinary
condition at least "off and on," otherwise--
How are YOU? Do write!
For five days, dearest Richard, I have been in bed suffering from
catarrh and intermittent fever, and shall probably have to be
very careful till next week.
I wrote to Dingelstedt long ago, and asked him to reply to you
direct and make the contents of his letter as weighty as
possible. Dingelstedt is a gentleman, and will no doubt behave in
such a manner as will satisfy you.
"Lohengrin" and "Tannhauser" were given here last week. On the
first occasion the house was illuminated, because the Grand
Duchess visited the theatre for the first time since her
confinement. Gotze (at present professor at the Leipzig
Conservatoire, previously for fifteen or twenty years tenor at
our theatre) sang "Lohengrin," and gave the lyrical portions of
the part with much greater effect than had previously been the
case. He had studied the part thoroughly at numerous
performances, both here and at Leipzig, and therefore sang the
music with absolute certainty. "Tannhauser" drew, as usual, a
full house; at the "Lohengrin" performance many strangers who had
only arrived in the afternoon had to be refused admission.
Pohl's wife played the harp part very well, and I asked him to
write to you about the performance. Pohl is a zealous and warm
adherent of yours.
The newspapers announce that you are going to conduct the
impending Musical Festival in Canton Valais. Is there any truth
in it? What part will Methfessel take in the direction? Let me
know about this, as I have been asked several times.
I had got so far in my letter when yours was brought to me.
That is once more a dark, hopeless complaint! To help or to look
on calmly--the one is almost as impossible to me as the other.
After the experiences I have had, and of which I told you only
the smaller part, I can scarcely believe that the King of Saxony
will perform the act of grace desired by us. However, I will try
again. Send me your letter to his Majesty. I hope it will be
placed before him soon and in the best possible way. Our Grand
Duke is for the moment absent, and I shall not be able to see him
before next week. Write to me at once, and concoct your letter
for Dresden, which you must send to me open.
I have looked out for the copyist you require for your
"Nibelungen." It is difficult to find the proper individual who
could undertake such a task. I know several young men who would
willingly try, but they are not sufficiently skilful and
competent. I have sent a message to one of my former friends at
Berlin asking him whether he could place himself at your
disposal. With him you would be quite satisfied. In case my
inquiry leads to a favourable result, I will let you know. You
ask me how I am ...
"When need is highest, God is highest."
Do not be anxious about my indisposition; it will soon be over,
and my legs have to carry me a good way further still.
DEAR, DEAR FRANZ,
I can never complain to you again. I go on worrying you with my
confidences in a sinful manner, while you keep your own grief to
yourself. My troublesome candour knows no bounds; every drop of
the fount of my sorrow I pour out before you, and--I must hope
that that is the very reason why you are so silent as to your own
circumstances. But I begin to feel that the best remedy for our
sufferings is sympathy with those of others. My only sorrow today
is that you hide your grief from my sympathy. Are you really too
proud to let me know, or do you refrain from giving me back the
painful impression I made on you with my complaints, because you
were unable to assist me? Be it so, dear friend; if you do not
feel the want of making a clean breast of it all, be silent! But
if you do feel such a want, then esteem me worthy of listening to
your grief. Do not think me as weak as I may appear to be. My
difficulty lies in the abominable meanness of my situation; but
of that I can take a larger view if some strong sympathy induces
me to break with my habit of thought. I think I have said enough.
If more were needed, even this would have been too much.
Assume henceforth that all is right with me; that I have no other
care but that which your troubles give me.
The letter to the King of Saxony I shall leave alone; I should
not know how to utter any truth in it that he would comprehend,
and to tell lies I do not care; it is the only sin I know. I
shall finish my "Nibelungen;" after that there will be time to
take a look round the world. For "Lohengrin" I am sorry; it will
probably go to the d-- in the meanwhile. Well, let it go; I have
other things in my bag. Well then, I have once more needlessly
Dingelstedt has not replied to me yet; he will have difficulties;
it is not the custom to pay decently for dramatic work. Neither
do I know how to oust X. from "Tannhauser." He is said to be a
complete ass and a blackguard to boot. Hartinger, the tenor, is
very good and full of his task; but it was just he who told me
that he did not see how X., even with the best intentions, could
execute such music. You of course I cannot expect to venture into
this wasp's nest of Philistines.
The Konigsberg manager has replied to me, saying that he has no
idea of producing "Tannhauser" at Berlin. What nonsense Herr H.
has been talking to you! Do you care to write to him about it?
Do not misunderstand me if now and then I leave something
concerning myself unmentioned to you. The cause generally is that
I attach no importance to it. The truth about the Valais Musical
Festival is as follows. The committee asked me some time ago to
conduct that festival, which I flatly declined, declaring,
however, my willingness to undertake a symphony by Beethoven
(that in A) if they would appoint for the festival proper another
conductor who would agree to that arrangement. This they readily
accepted, and engaged Methfessel, of Berne, who is quite devoted
to me. In their announcements they think it useful to put the
matter in such a way as to make it appear that I have undertaken
the direction of "the Musical Festival" conjointly with M.
Perhaps it was this that surprised you. Altogether not much that
is "musical" can be expected from this gathering. People frighten
me about the orchestra they are likely to bring together, but
there are even greater doubts as to the collection of a decent
chorus. As, moreover, they are going to have only ONE rehearsal,
you will easily understand why I did not want to have much to do
with the affair, and especially had no thought of making
propaganda. Latterly, it is true, they have asked me to produce
something of my own, and I have given up to them the "Tannhauser"
overture, but with the condition that I must see myself whether
they can manage it; after the rehearsal I shall be at liberty to
withdraw it. The whole thing attracts me only because it gives me
an opportunity for an Alpine trip (by the Bernese Oberland to
Valais). In the same sense I have sent out invitations right and
left, especially to Joachim, who had already promised me his
visit for the summer, and whom I have asked to arrange so as to
be here about that time; he might in that case do a little in the
"festivalling" line in Valais. B. I also invited, but to YOU I
had so many other things to write at the time that I forgot about
this invitation, and the same might easily have occurred again
today. However, how do matters stand? You are sure to come to me,
are you not? And will you follow me across the Alps? It is to be
at the beginning of July.
If Joachim would like on the same occasion to let me hear
something, I could easily get him a regular engagement for the
To Brendel I have been owing a letter some time for his book; I
don't know what to write to him. All that is very well, and those
who cannot do anything better should do what these people do, but
I have no inclination that way any longer.
By your activity, however, I am delighted. What a lot of things
you do! Do not think I am indifferent because I keep silence; no,
I am really glad! May you succeed in all you do! About this
The clean copy of my scores I shall, after all, have to make
myself. It would be difficult to compile it to my liking,
especially as the sketches are frightfully confused, so that no
one but myself could make head or tail of them. It will take more
time; that is all. Many thanks for your trouble in this matter
also. We may perhaps talk about it; and if it tires me too much,
I may still make use of your Berlin friend.
God bless you, dear Franz; you must soon let me hear MUCH, ALL!
Have confidence in your devoted
ZURICH, MAY 2ND, 1854.
While I am composing and scoring, I think only of YOU, how this
and the other will please you; I am ALWAYS dealing with you.
(FROM HERR VON HULSEN.)
In reference to our conversation when I had the honour of seeing
you at Gotha, I beg to ask,--
If I should wish to produce "Tannhauser" at the beginning of next
winter, what would be the conditions?
Be kind enough, dear sir, to let me have your answer as soon as
With the greatest esteem,
Your obedient servant,
BERLIN, May 17th, 1854.
I have the honour to return the following answer to your question
as to the "conditions" of the performance of Wagner's operas in
It need not be explained at length that the performances of
"Tannhauser" and "Lohengrin" which have so far been given by
theatres of the second and third rank, satisfactory and
creditable for them though many of them have been, cannot be
accepted as a standard for the performances contemplated at
Berlin. For the very reason that Wagner attributes special
importance to the Berlin stage, he has asked and commissioned me
to assist him in this matter as a friend and an artist, and has
given me unlimited power to act for him. The conditions are
really none other than a dignified and adequate representation,
which would guarantee a more than ordinary success for these
works. The latter result is not doubtful to me provided that the
representation is worthy of the Berlin stage, and I venture to
think that you, dear sir, would share this opinion after the
final rehearsals. But in order to arrive at rehearsals at all, I
consider it necessary that a conclusive and brief conversation
should without delay take place between you and me to settle the
A. The cast.
B. The arrangement of the rehearsals, at some of which I must be
If you desire it, I am prepared to come to Berlin at the end of
the theatrical season here (June 24th), in order to arrive at an
understanding with you about the whole matter, which cannot be
As to the honorarium claimed by Wagner, I can assure you in
advance that he will make no unreasonable demands, and I shall
let you know his decision after communicating once more with him.
As a minor point, concerning my humble self, I may add that
although my personal participation in the performance of a work
by Wagner would involve a stay in Berlin of about a month, and
the sacrifice of time would therefore be considerable, I should
be so delighted at the anticipated success of this matter, that I
should not like to mix it up with an estimate of my own expenses.
One other point I must mention: I have heard lately that Wagner
makes my direction of his operas an absolute condition for
Berlin. Highly flattered as I must be by Wagner's confidence, I
take the liberty, in accordance with my unlimited power, of
considering the question of my direction as a QUESTION RESERVEE,
which I shall decide later on, ACCORDING TO CIRCUMSTANCES. I hope
some means will be found of preserving my responsibility towards
Wagner and his works without leading to an intrusion of myself on
the Berlin artists. Accept, etc., etc.
Your obedient servant,
WEYMAR, MAY 20TH, 1854.
N.B.--Be good enough to send me your final instructions as to
this point, whether you want a lump sum down, or royalties, or
both. Write to me at once as to this, and leave it to me to get a
PLUS or a MINUS, according to circumstances.
As soon as Hulsen takes another step in the matter, you will hear
of it at once, dearest friend. Write to me about the money point,
and let me know your other wishes as to the Berlin performance.
In the meantime keep the above two letters TO YOURSELF, as too
much has already been said about the Berlin affair.
The arrangement with Dingelstedt has not as yet been settled, but
he is coming to Weymar at the end of June. Probably he intends to
wait till the Munich Exhibition is over and to produce
"Tannhauser" in the autumn. He writes that he is sorry not to be
able to comply with all your wishes as to the honorarium. If you
have made any special demands, let me know.
I am rather unwell and weary. This letter-writing, bargaining,
and transacting are intolerable to me; by way of relaxation, I am
writing a longish article about the "Flying Dutchman"; I hope it
will amuse you. Brendel will publish it completely before the
middle of June; in the meantime it is appearing as a FEUILLETON
in the "Weymar Official Gazette."
Eugene Wittgenstein has sent me your medallion, which has given
me great pleasure. It is the most faithful likeness of all your
In five or six days I shall visit Joachim at Hanover; he was here
all last week, and showed me a very remarkable overture. Joachim
is making a considerable step in advance as a composer; and if he
goes on like this for a few years, he will do something out of
God bless you, dearest friend, in joy and sorrow!
Write soon to
MAY 20TH, 1854.
In a very few days I shall write to you at length, and at the
same time explain to you why this letter is so short. For the
present only this, because it must not be delayed: ROYALTIES,
nothing else. If these royalties are to be lucrative--I.E., if my
operas are to be given FREQUENTLY--the manager must be well and
sincerely inclined to the cause. Therefore we will treat him
nobly. You have written MOST EXCELLENTLY.
In a few days more from your
MAY 26TH, 1854. 156.
HIGHLY ESTEEMED HERR INTENDANT,
By your courteous letter of May 29th, I must perceive that you
are not inclined to agree with Wagner's artistic views which
cause and account for my interference in the performance of his
works at Berlin. I sincerely regret that the deplorable
circumstances which prevent Wagner from living in Germany are
still in existence, and that many things occur thereby which
impede the natural progress of the performances of "Tannhauser"
and "Lohengrin." You, sir, are too well versed and experienced in
matters of art to ignore how much the success of important
dramatic works depends upon the manner of their performance. The
masterpieces of Gluck, cited in your letter, surely owe, in spite
of their great beauties, their permanent effect largely to the
particular interest taken in them by Spontini and to his personal
influence at Berlin. In the same manner, the exceptional
successes of Spontini's and Meyerbeer's own operas were enhanced
by the special activity of their composers. It would lead me too
far to discuss further facts which have been proved so often, and
I confine myself to telling you candidly that if the management
intends to do no more than give TANNHAUSER or LOHENGRIN just like
any other work, it would be almost more advisable to give any
other work and to leave those of Wagner alone.
With Capellmeister Dorn I had several conversations about the
whole matter some months ago, and I am convinced that he will not
consider Wagner's condition of my undisguised participation in
the performance of his works at Berlin to be an unfair demand. It
is of course natural that you, sir, are "not inclined to accept
any obligation which would reflect on the dignity and the
capability of the institution as well as on the authority of the
intendant." Such an intention is, indeed, very far from my mind.
You add, sir, "I expect the confidence of the composer in myself
and the Royal Theatre." This point also has been settled, and is
wholly beyond question or discussion; but as Wagner has
commissioned me to be his substitute at Berlin and has advised
you of his resolution, I must, in the interest of the cause and
of my position, decline to be reduced gradually to the part of
the fifth whist-player, who, according to the proverb, occupies
a very inconvenient position "under the table." In consequence I
am obliged to ask you, sir, either to agree to the arrangement
contained in my last letter, and, in your capacity of intendant
of the Royal Theatre, to approve of my participation in the
rehearsals and performance of Wagner's works at Berlin, according
to his clearly expressed wish, or else to leave the whole matter
in its actual STATUS QUO.
With the highest esteem, I am, sir,
Your obedient servant,
WEYMAR, JUNE 3RD, 1854.
P.S.--In his last letter Wagner writes that he leaves the
pecuniary conditions with regard to Berlin wholly to my decision,
and that "Tannhauser" will satisfy him.
DEAREST FRIEND,--Return Hulsen's letter to me, as I have not
taken a copy, and should not like it to fall into other hands. I
hope you will approve of my answer. The enclosed rough draft you
I was four days at Hanover. What will become of me this summer I
cannot determine. As soon as I know, you shall hear.
Have you a copy of the pianoforte score of "Tannhauser" to spare?
Roger, who is here, would like to study the part, and has written
and asked for a copy, but hitherto in vain. I told him that I
would let you know, and that I was convinced you would send me a
copy for him if possible. It is said that the edition of Meser in
Dresden is sold out, or else I might order one from there. You
might in your next letter write a few lines which, or a copy of
which, I could show to Roger. He is fairly musical, and might
make a good effect in the part of Tannhauser.
When will the Musical Festival in Canton Valais take place, and
how long shall you stay there?
Again only a few lines in reply, dear Franz. You of course will
not doubt for a moment that I feel sincerely grateful to you for
the energy with which you take care of my interest with Hulsen.
Let us "save the soul;" then the body also will fare best. I
return Hulsen's letter to you. But I am grieved to give you all
this trouble. Let us expect nothing. My opinion is that you
should not answer him any more.
About the pianoforte score of "Tannhauser" I am writing to
Dresden; they must get one somehow and send it to you for Roger.
As you know, I have had Roger in my eye for a long time. If,--as
I hope he will through you,--he really learns his task carefully
and goes to it with love, I have no doubt that he will be the
FIRST Tannhauser to satisfy my intentions entirely. Greet him
Your question about the Musical Festival has given me hopes that
you might accompany me there. Really, dear Franz, that would be a
joy in this sad year. If you could induce the Princess and the
Child to make an expedition to Valais by way of the Oberland and
the Gemmi, oh, then, then all would be well. Only from the stupid
festival itself you must expect nothing. All my compositions I
have withdrawn, and shall only produce the A major symphony;
there will be many people, but not much music. If you were there,
and perhaps J. and B. as well, we might extemporise something
purely for our own diversion. May Heaven grant that you may be
sufficiently recovered to do a foolish thing and tempt others to
it as well.
The festival will be on July 10th, 11th, and 12th. In the first
days of the same month we should have to begin our exodus VIA the
Oberland. I have been trying for some time to vegetate; the
copying of the score of "Rhinegold" will have to wait. I must
first of all have a go at the "Valkyrie."
Farewell, dearest, unique Franz. Give me some hope of seeing you
ZURICH, JUNE 7TH, 1854.
Herewith, dearest Richard, I send you X.'s babble, together with
the sketch of my very simple answer. Probably the cart will stick
in the mud for some time, and then the transactions will begin
again. Well, I have learned to understand people, although the
real kernel of their phrases has not been, and cannot be, clearly
expressed. I have seen too much of this to be deceived. The
difficulty lies neither with Hulsen nor with other people whose
names have been mentioned, but with THOSE whom we will not name,
although we know them a little.
My symphonic poems I will bring you as soon as I find it possible
to get away from here for a fortnight. I am very glad you take an
interest in them.
Let us be PATIENT, and remain in evil days faithful to eternity.
June 8th, 1854.
Here you have the "babble" back again, the possession of which I
do not envy you. Let us put this disgusting nonsense on one side;
on hearing the jargon, devoid of honesty or character, which
these stupid souls call "prudence," one feels as if a hundred
thousand fools were gathered together. Our fortune lies at bottom
in the fact that we do not yield to such people, and our
perseverance in this is sufficient gain. To "get" something by it
is of course more than we can expect. Thus in this instance I am
quite satisfied to know that we shall not do what X. wants; this
is alone sufficient to put me in a good temper; what happens
otherwise is a matter of indifference to us. Berlin to us has
been the occasion of celebrating a feast of friendship. What else
have we to do with or to care about Berlin?
A thousand thanks for all you are doing and the way in which you
As regards "success" in X.'s practical sense, I shall probably
never have it. It would indeed be a kind of satire on my
situation and my being. On the other hand, I should at any moment
be prepared to die gladly and with a smile on my face if only a
really fine opportunity would offer itself. What more can one
desire? As regards my personal future, I sincerely wish for
nothing more than a beautiful death, for life is somehow out of
joint. I often feel sorry that things around me do not seem to
tend in that direction. Every one seems to care chiefly for a
"long life," however narrow, thin, and poor it may be. This is
Of all this we will talk when you come, for that you will come is
certain, Lord be thanked. Bring your symphonic poems with you;
that will strengthen my thread of life a little.
Do not look out for a copyist. Madame Wesendonck has given me a
gold pen of indestructible power, which has once more turned me
into a caligraphic pedant. The scores will be my most perfect
masterpiece of caligraphy. One cannot fly from his destiny.
Meyerbeer years ago admired nothing so much in my scores as the
neat writing. This act of admiration has been my curse; I must
write neat scores as long as I live in this world.
You will not be allowed to see the "Rhinegold" till it has been
completed in this worthy fashion, and that can only be done in
certain idle hours of the long winter evenings. At present I have
no time for it. I must begin the composition of the "Valkyrie,"
which I feel joyfully in every limb.
Greet the Princess and the Child with the full power of greeting.
For today I must be satisfied with this request; I can write no
more, not even with my gold pen. I might say a good deal more if
I were not taken with a fit of weeping, as once on the railway. I
have just been called out; an eagle was flying over our house. A
"Long live the eagle;" he flew splendidly. The swallows were very
Farewell in the sign of the eagle.
Let me tell you that tears prevent me from reading on.
Oh, you are unique of your kind!
It has struck me like a thunderbolt. Heavens, what have you
written to me there?
You alone know it!
A thousand thanks, dearest Franz. You have helped me out of a
terrible difficulty after I had exhausted all other resources. By
the autumn, I think, my affairs will be in better order.
When are you coming? I am going to Canton Valais in a few days,
but intend to be back soon. I have no money for roaming about,
and while I am enjoying my work nothing else attracts me.
The "Valkyrie" has been begun, and now I shall go at it in good
How curious these contrasts are--I mean, between the first love
scene of the "Valkyrie" and that of the "Rhinegold."
Brendel must have surprised you. (Bosh!) God bless you.
You are just the person whom I wanted to be in Leipzig at this
moment, and I look upon your passage through that town as a hint
of fate that there may be help for me AFTER ALL. In my great
trouble I wrote to Brendel some time ago, asking him whether he
could get me amongst my Leipzig "admirers" 1,000 thalers on a
bill at four or five months' date. Answer: "No, but perhaps A.
might manage it through one person or another." As A. had
recently paid me a visit, I wrote to him also. Answer: "No." In
the course of the next three months I expect this year's receipts
from my operas, and to all appearance they will be good and help
me once for all out of this last difficulty. The very least I may
expect is this sum of 1,000 thalers. I may therefore, with a good
conscience, give a bill payable after three months (end of
October) to any one who will lend it to me. Hartel must do it. If
he should prefer to advance me 1,000 thalers on account of my
receipts, it will suit me equally well. He can control those
receipts, and I will give orders that all payments of honorarium
are to be made to X. till the money has been returned. Whichever
way he likes will suit me, only let me get out of this miserable
condition, which makes me feel like a galley-slave.
A. wrote to me about certain possibilities of Germany being
opened to me for the special purpose of a short journey. I do not
believe it, and at this moment do not care much about it; I
certainly will not take the least trouble in the matter.
Concerning the Berlin affair, be assured that I am only too glad
to leave it entirely in your hands. I should be a nice fool if I
withdrew it from them as long as you are not tired of it
yourself. X. will take good care not to apply to me. All this is
From the Musical Festival at Sitten I ran away. It appeared to me
like a great village fair, and I did not care to take part in the
music-making. I simply bolted. No "musical festivals" of any kind
for me! I feel quite jealous because you have gone to Rotterdam.
I hope you will find time for Zurich as well. Come if you can in
the latter half of August, for then I think the Wesendoncks will
Good Lord, my head is a waste. Yesterday early I left the lake of
Geneva. Last night I spent in the stage-coach from Berne to
Lucerne. At present I am afloat on the lake of Lucerne, from the
shore of which I shall fetch my wife, who is going through a cure
of curds and whey. After that I return to Zurich, which I DARE do
only in the hope that your attack on the Hartels has succeeded.
No one can help me here; I exhausted everything to secure my
existence from last winter till now. If all goes well, I shall
continue the composition of the "Valkyrie" after August 1st.
Work, THIS work, is the ONLY thing that makes life bearable. With
the copying of the "Rhinegold" I go on in the intervals; in the
late autumn you will, I hope, have the score.
Pardon me for this confused stuff in reply to your beautiful,
cheerful letter from the Rhine. Perhaps I shall write in a better
spirit soon. I am on the point of landing at Brunnen, where you
are still remembered as "double Peps." How cheerful you were at
On board the "Stadt Zurich," on the lake of Lucerne, en vue de
Remember JULY 31ST.
DEAR, GREAT MAN,
A thousand thanks for the autograph, which will give much joy.
This Fraulein Soest is a good, excellent girl, who was sent by
her parents to England, and was there taken with home-sickness
for the "Weymar school," "the music of the future," and the
"Wagnerian opera." She managed to escape, and is now settled at
Erfurt, where she gives pianoforte lessons, and from where she
comes to Weymar to hear your poems.
Ten and a hundred thousand thanks for many other things besides.
Liszt was delighted to hear that his articles in the Weymar paper
had pleased you. It is a fine thing of you to have understood
them so well. They are to go on for some time, and the "Flying
Dutchman" will conclude this series. It is truly a wreath of
mourning which he binds there; your dark, noble hero lives, and
will live. Sleep and solitude are not death; and his vital
strength is such, that for a long time to come he will make the
round of Europe at certain intervals. Beethoven's "Fidelio" is
only just becoming acclimatised in London.
I am quite happy that the symphonic poems interest you. When he
is ABLE to visit you, he will bring the scores with him. At the
present moment they are, I believe, being partly copied out and
partly revised for engraving, etc., etc. But you, dear, great
genius, will be the first to read them. They have been for the
greater part performed here. The music is most beautiful, very
noble, very elevated.
Your letters give us the same joy which a poor man used only to
kicks and coarse copper coin would feel at receiving an alms of
gold. Give us that alms frequently, because you are none the
poorer for it. Allow Liszt to manage Hulsen, and leave Berlin to
him wholly and entirely. It may go slowly, but it will go WELL
and, before all, DECENTLY. How good, how prudent, how delicate
and patient, HE is--that I know. Another man would during these
six years have sunk and been drowned eighteen times in the storms
which have our poor little barque for a plaything. He alone keeps
us still on the surface.
Liszt has written to Berlin to find some one who will copy your
"Rhinegold," the beautiful "Rhinegold," for which our ears are
sighing. He whom he thought would answer your purpose is not free
for the present. What is needed to make you begin the "Valkyrie?"
And oh! that wonderful scene between Wotan and Brynhild--the
divine Brynhild, who saves Sieglinde! Write at great length; it
will do good to our three hearts, which are united and
inseparable. The whole atmosphere of the Altenburg is gently
illumed when a letter from you has arrived.
Heaven grant that we may say, "Au revoir! soon," and that we soon
may see your "Rhinegold," were it but a sketch. If you only knew
how Liszt sings your poems! We adored "Lohengrin" long before
Beck had studied it, and still listen and weep when he sings it.
Do finish your "Valkyrie" as soon as possible. What a work!
Write to us soon. You say that H. does not know what the matter
is. Who does when the matter is something beautiful and grand?
When a sculptor wants to make a beautiful statue, he takes
granite or marble and wearies his strength in cutting it, but
granite and marble are less hard than the heart of man. The
sculptor, unless he dies, finishes his statue; when a noble thing
has to be done, men are less pliable than granite and marble.
Liszt is indefatigable. He is wholly devoted to your courage and
hope. I cannot tell you sufficiently how your dear letter has
X.'s strong box resists a siege even more obstinately than does
Silistria; storming it will do no good, and I have consequently
nothing satisfactory to tell you. Returning here, I find a letter
from Hulsen, definitely declining the performance of "Tannhauser"
at Berlin, and winding up with the following flourish: "It is
obvious that, after two vain attempts to produce this work at the
Royal Theatre, the management will not undertake a third as long
as I have the honour of being at the head of it. I am sorry for
From another source I hear, however, that the matter is not to
remain in this negative stage, and that in the very highest
quarters there is a wish to call me to Berlin. The event must
show; for the present I have only written a few lines in reply to
What is all this story about the Musical Festival? Why did you
bolt? Let me know when you happen to be in the mood.
After the Rotterdam festival I stayed a few days at Brussels to
meet my two daughters.
As soon as my large arrears of correspondence are disposed of, I
shall settle down to my "Faust," which is to be ready by the new
year. The other things (symphonic poems) will also be in print by
I still feel very much fatigued after my hurried journey, and my
personal regret at not being able to serve you makes me curtail
these lines still further. Ah! good heavens! what can I say to
La vergogna dura
and while there is no means of removing that vergogna?
July 28th, 1854.
Did you really think for a moment that I had conceived the idea
of giving concerts in order to make propaganda for myself, or to
make music, or what not? Did you not see at once that this plan
was purely the result of despair at my miserable pecuniary
situation, and that the only question that required an answer was
whether or not I could make money by it, money in return for an
unheard-of sacrifice, an act of self-abnegation, which probably I
should not have been able to go through with after all? How badly
I must have expressed myself! Excuse me for having given rise to
such a misunderstanding, and be thanked all the more for the
trouble you took nevertheless.
My dear, worthy friend, how proud and happy was I not three years
ago, before I had done anything out of keeping with the full
consciousness of my antagonistic position towards our artistic
publicity. When at that time you, with your friendly anxiety,
were intent upon getting "public recognition" for me and a wider
field for my works, I used to smile and guard myself against
every temptation. But the demon took hold of me; in my terribly
bare life, my inclination began to grow again towards some of the
amenities of existence; I yielded to temptation, surrendered my
scores, was surprised at their success, and--hoped. I now curse
this hope. I feel humiliated before myself, because I seek in
vain release from this grief of self-reproach.
Hulsen has told X. that the whole thing in connection with me was
DONE. Fortunately I was able to comfort X. with the thought that
HE had not done it; but Hulsen is right: the thing is "done for."
What finally could enlighten me better as to the truth and
genuineness of my successes than the fact that in the very places
where they had been gained, and with every conceivable trouble,
the loan of--I must speak plainly--1,000 thalers could not be
raised amongst my "admirers?" This very trivial matter speaks
volumes to me.
Pray, dearest Franz, do not talk to me of my fame, my honours, my
position, or whatever the name may be. I am positively certain
that all my "successes" are based on BAD, very BAD, performances
of my works, that they therefore rest on misunderstandings, and
that my public reputation is not worth an empty nutshell. Let us
give up all diplomatic contrivances, this dealing with means
which we despise for ends which, closely considered, can never be
achieved, least of all by those means. Let us leave alone this
COTERIE, this connection with idiots who in a body have no notion
of what we really aim at. I ask you, What satisfaction, what
pleasure, can we derive from the assistance of all these silly
people, whatever their names may be? I sometimes cannot
understand your ironical enjoyment of life, which gets over your
disgust at these people by making fun of them. Away with all this
stuff, this "glory," this nonsense! We live at a time when glory
can bring neither joy nor honour.
Listen to me: "Tannhauser" and "Lohengrin" I have thrown to the
winds; I do not want to know any more of them. When I gave them
over to theatrical jobbery, I cast them out, I condemned them to
the task of begging for me, of getting me money, NOTHING BUT
MONEY. Even for that purpose I should not like to employ them if
I were not compelled to do so. After the insight which I have
gained this summer, I should willingly submit to the penance of
selling all my goods and chattels, and go, naked as I am, into
the wide world, where--I swear it to you--no illusion should
tempt me any more. But my wife could not bear such a violent step
again; I know it would kill her. Well then, FOR HER SAKE I am
resolved to go on. "Tannhauser" and "Lohengrin" must go to the
Jews. But I am unable to wait and see how much more they might
bring me in in certain patiently looked-for contingencies than
now, when I am compelled to get rid of them at any price, and the
sooner the better. Tell me, dearest friend, how do matters stand
at Berlin? Did you merely rely upon making our condition
plausible to Herr von Hulsen, or had you prepared other means of
securing your honourable invitation to Berlin? I am almost
inclined to believe the latter, and to hope in consequence that
you will soon be able to announce our triumph. The want of Berlin
for my operas involves the delay of the rest of the business, and
I assure you that the spreading of my operas is entirely a matter
of BUSINESS to me. This is the only real point; all the rest is,
and remains, fictitious. Let us not attempt to look upon the
matter in any serious light except as regards money. I should
despise myself if I paid any attention to anything beyond this.
For me the song of the "world" was sung to an end long ago.
And do you know what has confirmed me in this sentiment,
inspiring me with new pride? It is YOUR WORK ABOUT THE "FLYING
DUTCHMAN." In this series of articles I have once more clearly
recognized myself, and have come to the conclusion that we have
nothing in common with this world. WHO DID EVER UNDERSTAND ME?
You, and no one else. Who understands YOU? I, and no one else. Be
sure of it. You, for the first and only time, have disclosed to
me the joy of being wholly understood. My being has passed into
yours; not a fibre, not the gentlest tremor of my heart, remains
that you have not felt with me. But I also see that THIS ALONE
means being really understood, while all else is misunderstanding
and barren error. What do I want more after having experienced
this? What do you want of me after having experienced this with
me? Let the tear of a beloved woman mingle with this joy, and
what else can we desire? Do not let us desecrate our own selves.
Let us look upon the world through the medium of contempt alone.
It is worth nothing else; to found any hope on it would be
deceiving our own hearts; it is BAD, BAD, THOROUGHLY BAD: only
the heart of a FRIEND, the tears of a woman, can dispel its
curse. We do not respect the world. Its honour, its glory, or by
whatever name its shams may be called, are nothing to us. It
belongs to Alberich, to no one else. Let it perish! I have said
enough; you now know my sentiment, which is not a momentary
emotion, but as firm and solid as adamant. That sentiment alone
gives me strength to drag on the burden of life. But I must
henceforth cling to it inexorably. I have a deadly hatred of all
APPEARANCE, of all hope, for it is self-deception. But I will
work; you shall have my scores; they will belong to us, to no one
else. That is enough. You have the "Rhinegold," have you not? I
have got to the second act of the "Valkyrie": Wotan and Fricka. I
shall succeed, you will see.
Are you going to write to my wife?
My cordial remembrances!
(What the other people write I cannot bear to read any longer. I
only read your "Dutchman" article; that is the reward, the pride,
of my life.)
Zurich, September 16th, 1854
Do you know how I can manage to arrange some concerts at Brussels
and perhaps two Dutch towns, such as I gave last year at Zurich,
and do you think that by such an undertaking I might make 10,000
francs in cash? Can you make arrangements so that my offer may be
readily met, and that my programme may be translated into French
and Dutch? If you can answer these questions satisfactorily,
kindly take the matter in hand as soon as possible. I must earn
money at once. No theatre has asked for my operas; nothing is
stirring; I seem to be quite forgotten. If I could bring back
money from Belgium and Holland, I might probably resume my work.
For the present all music has been laid aside.
Your medallion is very beautiful. Many thanks. I care for nothing
else, and for good reasons.
Always your faithful
My wife is going to Germany, in the first instance on a visit to
her parents. At present she is with Alwine Frommann, Berlin (10,
Linden). In a week's time at the latest she will be in Leipzig
(at A.'s, Windmuhlengasse). From there she will return via
Frankfort. If she could hear one of my operas--"Lohengrin" of
course in preference--at Weimar, she would like to stop a day
there. If you can manage this, kindly write to her at Berlin or
Leipzig, or, in case you can let me know BY RETURN, write to ME
at Zurich, so that I can advise her in time.
From H. you will have in a few days the score of "Rhinegold",
which I sent to him in separate pieces for the purpose of having
a copy made at Dresden. But as I have recently finished a clean
copy myself, I cannot bear the thought that the work should not
yet be in YOUR HANDS. I did not want to let you have the
fragments, for I consider it an important and significant event
to place the WHOLE in your hands. Keep it for a month, to have a
look at it occasionally; after that I shall ask you to return it
for a time, so as to get the complete copy done.
My best love to Daniel, the foolish boy.
I write nothing else, either about myself or about your article.
If I once began about these two things, I should not know where
to stop. It is a great pity that I did not see you this year.
Altogether I feel so boundlessly miserable that I begin to
despise myself for bearing this misery. Enough. Farewell.
The worker in plaster-of-Paris has not yet returned your
medallion; the margin was a little damaged. Why do you keep the
"Indian fairy tale" to yourself? I have plenty of prosaic things
around me, and could find a place for it.
My best remembrances to the Princess.
ZURICH, September 29th, 1854.
I begin to find out more and more that you are in reality a great
philosopher, while I appear to myself a hare-brained fellow.
Apart from slowly progressing with my music, I have of late
occupied myself exclusively with a man who has come like a gift
from heaven, although only a literary one, into my solitude. This
is Arthur Schopenhauer, the greatest philosopher since Kant,
whose thoughts, as he himself expresses it, he has thought out to
the end. The German professors ignored him very prudently for
forty years; but recently, to the disgrace of Germany, he has
been discovered by an English critic. All the Hegels, etc., are
charlatans by the side of him. His chief idea, the final negation
of the desire of life, is terribly serious, but it shows the only
salvation possible. To me of course that thought was not new, and
it can indeed be conceived by no one in whom it did not pre-
exist, but this philosopher was the first to place it clearly
before me. If I think of the storm of my heart, the terrible
tenacity with which, against my desire, it used to cling to the
hope of life, and if even now I feel this hurricane within me, I
have at least found a quietus which in wakeful nights helps me to
sleep. This is the genuine, ardent longing for death, for
absolute unconsciousness, total non-existence; freedom from all
dreams is our only final salvation.
In this I have discovered a curious coincidence with your
thoughts; and although you express them differently, being
religious, I know that you mean exactly the same thing. How
profound you are! In your article about the "Dutchman" you have
struck me with the force of lightning. While I read Schopenhauer
I was with you, only you did not know it. In this manner I ripen
more and more. I only play with art to pass the time. In what
manner I try to amuse myself you will see from the enclosed
For the sake of that most beautiful of my life-dreams "Young
Siegfried," I shall have to finish the "Nibelungen" pieces after
all; the "Valkyrie" has taken so much out of me that I must
indulge in this pleasure; I have got as far as the second half of
the last act. The whole will not be finished till 1856; and in
1858, the tenth year of my Hegira, the performance may take
place, if at all. As I have never in life felt the real bliss of
love, I must erect a monument to the most beautiful of all my
dreams, in which, from beginning to end, that love shall be
thoroughly satiated. I have in my head "Tristan and Isolde," the
simplest but most full-blooded musical conception; with the
"black flag" which floats at the end of it I shall cover myself
When you have had enough of "Rhinegold," send it to Chorusmaster
Fischer at Dresden, instructing him in my name to give it to the
copyist Wolfel, so that he may finish the copy which he has
begun. Your cheering words about the "Rhinegold" were splendid,
and it has really turned out well. I hope there will be enough
counterpoint in it to please Raff. My anxiety as to this troubles
me very much.
Is M. ill? How can I do anything to help her? She should come in
the summer to Seelisberg, on the lake of Lucerne. It is the
dearest discovery I have made in Switzerland; up there all is so
joyful, so beautiful, that I long to return--to die there.
There we must meet next summer; I mean to write "Young Siegfried"
there, and you must assist me. Perhaps I shall assist you too.
How full my heart is when I think of it! Many thanks to the
Princess; at her desire, I send the enclosed autograph. Nothing
about business! What do we care about such miserable things? When
shall I see your symphonic poems, your "Faust?"
Farewell, my Franz.
Brynhild sleeps; I am, alas! still awake.
Today I was asked, on the part of the Philharmonic Society of
London, whether I should be inclined to conduct its concerts this
year. I asked in return, (1) Have they got a second conductor for
the commonplace things? and (2) Will the orchestra have as many
rehearsals as I may consider necessary? If they satisfy me as to
all this, shall I accept then? If I could make a little money
without disgrace, I should be pleased enough. Write to me at once
what you think of this.
How are you otherwise? 170
First of all, dearest friend, my best wishes for the new year
1855! May it turn out luckier for us than its predecessors have
I have permitted myself a little indiscretion in Brendel's paper,
and have written for the specimen number of the journal (which is
going to have a new publisher), as well as for the first number
of the new year, a few columns about your "Rhinegold." I hope you
will not be angry with me. My intention was good, and it will do
no harm to draw a little public attention to the matter. The
score I shall one of these days send to Fischer at Dresden,
according to your instructions.
The offer of the Philharmonic Society is very acceptable, and
your friends will be pleased with it. You do not say whether it
is the Old Philharmonic Society or the New Philharmonic Society
which has invited you. The latter Berlioz conducted for one or
two seasons, in conjunction with Dr. Wylde, a protege of one of
the chief shareholders of that Society, whose name I forget. In
both Societies you will find a numerous orchestra and ample
materials. You will know how to bring life into them and to do
something extraordinary. If I can possibly get away from here, I
shall perhaps visit you in London during the season. In the
meantime let me know something more about this Philharmonic
business, which will probably turn out to your satisfaction. I
recommend you, by your leave, some caution, and the tedious but
useful method of waiting.
I have heard nothing from Berlin, and shall write to Alwine
Frommann before long. Our theatre will not be able to perform
your works for several months to come. Frau von Milde is in
interesting circumstances, and cannot appear before the middle of
April, and our public would tolerate no other Elizabeth, Elsa, or
Senta. Besides this, our first tenor has lost his voice, and will
be replaced next month by C., who sang "Tannhauser" here in
November on trial.
I expect Berlioz about the middle of February. Do you know the
score of his "Damnation de Faust?"
My "Faust" symphony is finished. There are three movements:
"Faust," "Gretchen," and "Mephistopheles." I shall bring it to
you at Zurich next summer.
Remember me to your wife, and continue to love
January 1st, 1855.
The Princess sends her thanks and congratulations.
I am able today to send you particulars about London. Mr.
Anderson, treasurer of the Philharmonic Society and conductor of
the Queen's band, came specially to Zurich to arrange the matter
with me. I did not like the idea much, for it is not my vocation
to go to London and conduct Philharmonic concerts, not even for
the purpose of producing some of my compositions, as is their
wish. I have written nothing for concerts. On the other hand, I
felt distinctly that it was necessary for me to turn my back once
for all upon every hope and every desire of taking an active part
in our own artistic life, and for that reason I accepted the hand
held out to me.
London is the only place in the world where I can make it
possible to produce "Lohengrin" myself while the kings and
princes of Germany have something else to do than grant me my
amnesty. It would please me very much if I could induce the
English people next year to get up a splendid German opera with
my works, patronised by the court. I admit that my best
introduction for that purpose will be my appointment as conductor
of the Philharmonic (THE OLD), and so I consented at last to the
sale of myself, although I fetched a very low price: 200 pounds
for four months. I shall be in London at the beginning of March
to conduct eight concerts, the first of which takes place March
12th, and the last June 25th. At the beginning of July I shall be
at Seelisberg. It would be splendid if you could visit me in
London; in any case I must produce something of yours there.
Do not forget Joachim; when I am once in London, I can easily
arrange the matter.
It is splendid that you have finished "Faust," and you may
imagine that I am most anxious to see it; on the other hand, it
is a pity that you will not show it me sooner. At the same time,
I shall be glad to go through it WITH YOU at the piano, and to
make its acquaintance in that way, seeing that my attendance at a
good performance under your direction is for the present out of
the question. The vivid idea which you know how to convey cannot