Part 2 out of 6
even approximately be replaced by anything else; and I am more
than ever intent upon getting the right impression from the
first, for I greatly distrust acquaintances made by means of the
It is an absurd coincidence that just at this time I have been
taken with a desire to remodel my old "Faust" overture. I have
made an entirely new score, have rewritten the instrumentation
throughout, have made many changes, and have given more expansion
and importance to the middle portion (second motive). I shall
give it in a few days at a concert here, under the title of "A
'Faust' Overture." The motto will be--
"Der Gott, der mir im Busen wohnt, Kann tief mein Innerstes
erregen; Der uber allen meinen Kraften thront, Er kann nach
aussen nichts bewegen; Und so ist mir das Dasein eine Last, Der
Tod erwunscht, das Leben mir verhasst!"
but I shall not publish it in any case.
I was at first startled at your new year's article, but soon
perceived that here again I am indebted to your ever-increasing
sympathy. If, however, you represent my work as something
colossal, you mistake, in my opinion, the standard of
measurement; to me our artistic publicity, the spirit of our
means of representation, etc., appear to be very small and
miserable, while my work is just in accordance with ordinary
human proportions, and appears gigantic only when we try to
confine it to those unworthy conditions. When therefore we call
our plan chimaeric and eccentric, we in reality flatter the
actual worthlessness of our artistic publicity, and in a manner
mark it as the just and rational measure. We should not give that
wrong impression to people. Every one of your letters is worth to
me gold, and more, but ANSWERS in the proper sense I scarcely
ever receive from you, and you treat many of my questions as if
they had never been asked. Instead of that you always give me
something new; that is splendid, but an answer also would
sometimes be useful.
Well, let me hear something good of you soon, and in London let
me SEE you. I shall take my work with me, and hope to finish the
instrumentation of the "Valkyrie" there.
Adieu, dearest Franz.
How are you? Best remembrances from my wife and many greetings
from me to you all.
ZURICH, January 19th, 1855.
The London Philharmonic comes in very aptly, and I am delighted.
As lately as six months ago people used to shake their heads, and
some of them even hissed, at the performance of the "Tannhauser"
overture, conducted by Costa. Klindworth and Remeny were almost
the only ones who had the courage to applaud and to beard the
Philistines who had made their nests of old in the Philharmonic.
Well, it will now assume a different tone, and you will revivify
old England and the Old Philharmonic. I commend to you
Klindworth, a Wagnerian DE LA VEILLE. He is an excellent
musician, who formerly acted as conductor at Hanover, and there
gave a performance of the "Prophet" at the Tivoli Theatre, of
which the newspapers were full some years ago. He is also a
splendid pianist, who studied eighteen months with me at Weymar,
and you must allow me to send Klindworth a few lines of
introduction to you. As far as I know, there is in London no
pianist like him; but, on account of his determined and open
sympathy with the so-called "music of the future," he has placed
himself in a somewhat awkward position towards the Philistines
and handicraftsmen there.
I was present at the first performance of "Tannhauser" at Gotha.
Capellmeister Lampert had taken much trouble, as had also Beer
(Tannhauser), and the performance was, comparatively speaking,
very satisfactory. The musical part is better with us, but it is
different with the dresses and scenery, which are much more
tasteful at Gotha than at Weymar. I have spoken very strongly on
that point here; and as my prayers and admonitions in this
respect have so far been of little avail, I am determined not to
conduct "Tannhauser" and "Lohengrin" again until the necessary
improvements in the scenery have been made. This negative
measure, which I had kept in reserve, will probably be effective.
In the meantime our opera remains in a stagnant condition. Since
the last performance of "Tannhduser" (December 10th), I have not
been at my desk, neither shall I conduct the festival performance
of "Belisario" on February 16th. Nothing can be done till after
the confinement of Frau Milde.
APROPOS, what do you think of Meffert, the tenor? Would he be any
good to us, and how old is he? Write to me about this.
You accuse me in your last letter of rarely giving you an answer.
This alludes, I presume, to two things: Berlin and Dresden. Alas!
alas! I cannot report from either place what I should wish and,
in spite of all, still hope to report. With wranglings and
trifles I do not care to trouble you.
Stop; one thing I forgot to write to you: your "Tristan" is a
splendid idea; it may become a glorious work. Do not abandon it.
You were quite right in arranging a new score of your "Faust"
overture. If you have succeeded in making the middle part a
little more pliable, this work, significant as it was before,
must have gained considerably. Be kind enough to have a copy
made, and send it me AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. There will probably be
some orchestral concerts here, and I should like to give this
overture at the end of February.
Hartel is having the scores of Nos. 3 and 4 of my symphonic poems
("Les Preludes" and "Orpheus") engraved. I am as yet uncertain
whether I shall publish the nine pieces together or these two
numbers (3 and 4) in advance. In any case I shall send you the
proofs of "Les Preludes" and "Orpheus" before your departure to
London, so that my scribbling may amuse you too. I am sincerely
grateful for your friendly proposal of producing something of
mine at the Philharmonic, but I think it will be more advisable
to leave it till next season (1856). For the present you will
have your hands full enough with your own things, and during the
first year you ought to play a waiting game. The chief thing for
you is to gain firm ground in London, and first of all to impress
your conception of Beethoven, Gluck, etc., on the orchestra and
the public. At the same time, the people should learn to listen
to and understand the "Tannhauser" and "Faust" overtures, and
finally to rejoice in and be elevated by the prelude to
"Lohengrin." Your plan of conducting next year performances of
"Tannhauser," "Lohengrin," and the "Flying Dutchman" with
efficient artists is very good. We talked about this at Weymar in
the year 1849; and, in my opinion, the enterprise can be made to
succeed completely. This year must serve you as a preparation;
and when you are once accustomed to London air, it may be
expected that you will settle there comfortably. Beware of the
theatrical speculators, who will be sure to try and make the best
of you, and might be dangerous both to your purse and to your
position. Once more, good luck!
WEYMAR, January 25th, 1855.
Best remembrances to your wife. For the first year she will, I
suppose, remain at Zurich.
Do not keep me waiting too long for a letter, and send me your
"Faust." The Princess and the Child greet you cordially.
I shall send you in a few days an English translation of your
three opera poems in manuscript; it may be of use to you in
Herewith, dearest Franz, you receive my remodelled "Faust"
overture, which will appear very insignificant to you by the side
of your "Faust" symphony. To me the composition is interesting
only on account of the time from which it dates; this
reconstruction has again endeared it to me: and with regard to
the latter, I am childish enough to ask you to compare it very
carefully with the first version, because I should like you to
take cognisance of the effect of my experience and of the more
refined feeling I have gained. In my opinion, new versions of
this kind show most distinctly the spirit in which one has
learned to work and the coarsenesses which one has cast off. You
will be better pleased with the middle part. I was of course
unable to introduce a new motive, because that would have
involved a remodelling of almost the whole work; all I was able
to do was to develop the sentiment a little more broadly, in the
form of a kind of enlarged cadence. Gretchen of course could not
be introduced, only Faust himself:--
"ein unbegreiflich holder Drang, trieb mich durch Wald und Wiesen
The copying has unfortunately been done very badly, and probably
there are many mistakes in it.
If some one were to PAY ME WELL for it, I might still be inclined
to publish it. Will you try the Hartels for me? A little money
would be very welcome in London, so that I might the better be
able to save something there. Please see to this. All this,
however, is only the prelude to your "Faust" symphony, to which I
look forward with infinite pleasure. I have nothing further to
tell you, except that I have been fool enough to take more
trouble about a performance of "Tannhauser" at the local theatre
than had been my intention. It will take place tomorrow, and,
considering the miserable conditions, will turn out fairly well.
But I shall not conduct. Cordial thanks for your pieces of
advice, which have my full approval. I intend to appear in London
only as a conductor, and to be very tough about my compositions.
The score of the first act of the "Valkyrie" will soon be ready;
it is wonderfully beautiful. I have done nothing like it or
approaching it before. My complaint that you seldom ANSWER me in
the proper sense of the word you have misunderstood. It did not
refer to EXTERNAL matters, like Dresden and Berlin, but
exclusively to INTERNAL ones, for which I thought I had given you
plenty of material.
After having been in Paris together, should we not try to meet in
London also? How can we manage it? And how about the translation?
I am looking forward to it with immense pleasure, and shall use
it for learning English after all. Shall I receive it here?
I start on the 25th. If you find it necessary to write to me at
once at London, address to Ferdinand Prager, 31, Milton Street,
Dorset Square. I shall stay with him till I have found a
convenient lodging. Could you give me an introduction to the
London Erard and ask him to put a nice grand piano in my room? I
shall be glad to see Klindworth. Farewell for today. Give me
another pleasure soon, and remember me at home.
Pardon me, dearest Franz, for writing a few lines to ask you a
favour. I did not communicate with you before because I waited
for the copy of my "Faust" overture to be ready. I expect it in a
few days, and shall send it you at once, together with a proper
letter. For today only the following:--
The French ambassador is going to give me his vise [i.e. the
French term for "visa"] of my passport through France after
repeated applications in Paris, but this is subject to all manner
of chicanery, which is disgusting to me, and must be got out of
the way, so that in future I may be able to pass without
difficulty and at any time through and into France. I shall
therefore pay a visit to the Minister of the Interior in Paris,
and see whether I can succeed in putting a stop to these
vexations. It would, no doubt, be very useful if some one of the
court of Weimar (no one better than the Grand Duke himself,
perhaps through his minister in Paris) could give me an
introduction which would make me favourably known to the people
there and teach them a little reason. I am prepared to make every
necessary promise in return. Do see what you can achieve.
I start in a fortnight; therefore no delay, please.
You will hear in a few days from
February 9th, 1855.
The Grand Duke has been in bed for several weeks, and I shall
probably not be able to see him for a fortnight. Apart from this,
it will not be quite so easy to settle offhand the matter you
have entrusted to me, but I promise that I shall not fail to take
the proper steps, and I hope to send you satisfactory news within
twelve days or a fortnight. Berlioz has been here since Sunday,
and is busily engaged conducting rehearsals for the performance
of his "Trilogie Sacree" ("L'Enfance du Christ") and his
"Symphonic Phantastique," including the second part thereof,
which he calls a monodrame lyrique. I send you programme and
He tells me that he is not going to London till May, and will
conduct only two concerts of the New Philharmonic. As a kind of
prelude to the Paris "Exposition Universelle", he will perform
his Te Deum on the 1st of May in the Church of St. Eustache.
During this week of the year we are generally in a state of great
confusion. Six years ago, on the 16th of February, "Tannhauser"
was performed for the first time, and on the same date two years
ago the "Flying Dutchman;" for today "Belisario" is announced,
which at any rate I prefer to the silly "Le Macon," which has
been the delight of Dresden and Weymar during the winter. Even
some of our friends were simple enough to call this rotten
musique de portieres charming and a model of its kind.
The Cologne people have done better than this: they have bravely
swallowed "Lohengrin" without choking over it. This has delighted
me. From Hamburg also I hear that the public are gradually being
educated up to it.
How far have you got with the "Valkyrie?"
Difficult as I find it to part with your "Rhinegold," I promise
to send the score to Fischer in a few days. He can send me the
pianoforte arrangement later on.
My best remembrances to your wife. I shall soon write again, and
also hope to hear from you.
Most thine own, F. LISZT.
WEYMAR, February 16th, 1855.
These lines, most incomparable friend, are intended to introduce
to you Carl Klindworth, about whom I have spoken and written to
you several times. You will find him an excellent musician and
pianist, who is cordially devoted to you, and has not in vain
lived several years with me at Weymar. Since last year he has
been settled in London, where I cordially commend him to your
WEYMAR, February 16th, 1855.
DEAREST, DEAREST LISZT,
Pray let me have the LETTER TO ERARD for which I asked you
concerning the piano.
More after the concert.
You have entirely forgotten to let me have your address; and
although your fame has reached the point of immortality, it is
just possible that the London postmen might have heard nothing of
"Tannhauser" and "Lohengrin." Be kind enough therefore to tell me
in your next letter the street and the number of the house.
These lines you receive through Klindworth. Enclosed is the
letter to the maison Erard, which is represented in London by M.
Bruzot. If Erard himself should be there, pay him a visit at
once, but I doubt whether he is sufficiently recovered to occupy
himself with pianoforte and harp matters. A few months ago my
children wrote to me from Paris that Erard was very ill, and,
after fruitless trials of baths and medicines, had been taken to
a private hospital.
I have not neglected your passport affair, and have induced the
Grand Duke and another important person to recommend you
specially in Paris. I hope these transactions will not be without
The changes you have made in the "Faust" overture are excellent,
and the work has decidedly gained by them. I have sent the score
to the Hartels. If you are satisfied with an honorarium of twenty
louis d'or, write to me simply, "Yes," and the full score and
parts will soon be published. To a larger honorarium the Hartels
would not agree, but they will make the edition better and
handsomer than would any one else, and I should therefore advise
you to answer me in the affirmative.
I shall have to work hard for several months to come. The
Cardinal Primate of Hungary has set me the task of composing a
grand mass for the inauguration of the cathedral of Gran. The
ceremony will take place in August at the latest. The Emperor
will be present, and I have undertaken to conduct the mass, etc.,
for which purpose I have to be in Gran (three hours' distance
from Pesth) a month before.
This task gives me much pleasure, and I hope to produce an
Farewell, dearest Richard, and write soon to
March 12th, 1855.
The letter to Bruzot is meant for the FIRM of Erard; if he should
be absent, give it to the representative of that firm.
Your letter to B. has been forwarded.
Good gracious! here comes your and M.'s dear, dear letter! In my
terrible mood, it has quite upset me. You will have heard of my
letter containing my disgraceful decision regarding "Tannhauser"
in Berlin. In this matter I feel in turns trivial, sublime, and
contemptible. The latter mood you have just revived in me, and I
am inclined to repent that I have been trivial. But it is almost
too late now. By giving up "Tannhauser," and at last even
"Lohengrin," to the theatres without reserve, I made such
humiliating concessions to the reality of our miserable artistic
circumstances that I can scarcely sink much lower. ONCE AGAIN I
say, How proud and free was I when I reserved these works to YOU
for Weimar; now I am a slave and absolutely powerless. One
inconsistency involves another, and I can dull my unpleasant
feeling only by being still more proud and contemptuous, in the
sense that I look upon "Tannhauser" and "Lohengrin" as altogether
done with and no longer belonging to me, and that I keep my NEW
CREATIONS all the more sacred for myself and my true friends.
This is my only comfort. What I am creating at present shall
never see the light except in perfectly congenial surroundings;
on this I will in future concentrate all my strength, my pride,
and my RESIGNATION. If I die before having produced these works,
I shall leave them to you; and if you die without having been
able to produce them in a dignified manner, you must burn them:
let that be SETTLED.
Klindworth has probably not yet had time to write to you about my
first appearance, but he is going to do so.
After the first rehearsal the directors of the "Philharmonic"
were so delighted and full of hope that they insisted upon my
performing some of my compositions at the very next concert. I
had to yield, and chose the pieces from "Lohengrin." As for that
purpose they granted me two rehearsals, I also fixed upon the
"Ninth Symphony", at which I am pleased, for I should not have
given it with one rehearsal. The orchestra, which has taken a
great liking to me, is very efficient, and possesses great skill
and fairly quick intelligence, but it is quite spoilt as regards
expression; there is no PIANO, no NUANCE. It was astonished and
delighted at my way of doing things. With two further rehearsals
I hope to put it tolerably in order. But then this hope and my
intercourse with the orchestra are all that attracts me here;
beyond this all, all is indifferent and disgusting to me. The
public, however, have distinguished me very much, both in
receiving me and even more at the close. Curious to me was the
confession of some Mendelssohnians that they had never heard and
understood the overture to the "Hebrides" as well as under my
Enough of this.
Many thanks for your introduction to Bruzot; I long for a piano
and for my work. To the Grand Duke also I am much indebted.
Let the Hartels have my "Faust" overture by all means. If they
could turn the twenty louis d'or into twenty pounds, I should be
glad. In any case they ought to send the money here as soon as
possible. I do not like to dun the "Philharmonic" for my fee, and
therefore want money. The proofs of the score they must also send
to me for correction.
The publication of this overture is, no doubt, a weakness on my
part, of which you will soon make me thoroughly ashamed by your
"FAUST" symphony. When shall I hear something of that? I am
afraid my chances of seeing you here have declined, since you
write about this "Hungarian" commission. I can imagine how the
invitation has pleased you; and I too am pleased and most curious
to see your work. But when shall I see something of all this, you
reticent person? Do you not feel how I must long for such
cordials amongst the trivial surroundings in which I always live?
I must confess, however, that I always prefer becoming acquainted
with your creations through yourself. In that manner everything
is disclosed to me at once that otherwise I have to disclose to
myself painfully. This happened to me in the case of your
"KUNSTLER", while all that you gave me yourself at the piano at
once penetrated me by dint of unconditional and perfect artistic
When shall we see each other, you most amiable and noblest of
Most stupidly I was unable at "Paris" to remember the address of
your children, nor could I think of "Belloni's" address. By
taxing my memory I went half mad. Now, stupid fool that I am, it
occurs to me that I need only have gone to "Erard's." In this
manner I deprived myself of the pleasure of seeing them once
more, which grieves me very much. Please let me have the address
for my return journey.
A thousand thanks to dear M. for her beautiful and kind lines.
You all appear to me like a family of saints. Ah, we are all holy
martyrs; perhaps I shall one day be a real one, but in that case
all will be over for me with art--that beautiful delusion, the
last and the most sublime, to hide from us the misery of the
Farewell, dear, glorious friend.
Remember me cordially at home, and continue to love me.
22, PORTLAND TERRACE, REGENT'S PARK, LONDON.
22, PORTLAND TERRACE, REGENT'S PARK, LONDON.
I am in the absurd position of having to demand of you a friendly
service of a peculiar kind. I CANNOT delay the Berlin
"Tannhauser" affair any longer; my pecuniary position is so
unfortunate that I cannot afford to forego the hope of Berlin
receipts. Hulsen has applied to me once more, through Alwine
Frommann, and, as he says, for the last time. He promises all
manner of things; the opera is to be given in the autumn, and the
preparations are to begin as early as the spring. I must adopt
the "trivial" view of this matter, the same view which
unfortunately I am compelled to take of the entire fate of my
operas. In spite of D. conducting, "Tannhauser" will probably
have the same kind of effect in Berlin which it has had every
where else; to connect higher hopes with it seems vain. Let the
matter therefore take the only course which apparently is open to
it, but I regret very much that you have wasted so much trouble
and submitted to so many stupid things in endeavouring to
accomplish the condition made by me. We are, as we now see,
The fate which we must expect is, after all, the COMMON LOT. Our
best efforts always appear before the world in a truncated and
distorted form. I am going to write to Alwine Frommann that she
is to accept Hulsen's offer without further conditions and to
tell him that this has been your advice. The truth is that in
this manner you will avoid a struggle which, in my opinion, would
Klindworth, for whom I am grateful to you, will probably write to
you about my doings in London; I can only say that I do not
exactly see what I am here for. The only interesting thing to me
is the orchestra, which has taken a great liking to me, and
believes in me with enthusiasm. By that means I shall at least be
able to have a few good performances, to which the people are
quite unaccustomed. All other things, especially public, press,
etc., are very indifferent to me. The directors insisted upon my
performing some pieces from "Lohengrin" and the Ninth Symphony as
early as the second concert, and granted me TWO rehearsals for
I am still without a piano. I long to resume my work. WHERE and
WHEN shall I see you again?
Taken all in all, I am VERY, very depressed. I am disgusted with
Adieu. Remember me to all at Altenburg; and if you can, continue
to love me. 181
It would have been difficult to make Hartel consent to the change
of louis d'or into pounds, and after considering the matter I
simply wrote to him that you had left the "Faust" overture to me,
and that in your name I accepted the honorarium of twenty louis
d'or, asking him at the same time to send you that little sum to
We will not let our hair turn grey over the "Tannhauser" affair
at Berlin. I anticipated this all along, although, for my part, I
could not and did not wish to bring it about. I do not grudge
your Berlin friends the satisfaction which this issue of the
affair will give them, and hope that many other occasions will
turn up on which I shall not be superfluous or inconvenient to
The day before yesterday I sent the score of the "Rhinegold"
(beautifully bound) to W. Fischer at Dresden.
Has B. finished the pianoforte arrangement? In that case I would
ask him to let me have it later on, and at my next visit you will
sing and represent the whole to me.
I am hard at work at my Mass, of which the Kyrie and Gloria are
Apart from this, I have to conduct many rehearsals.
Schumann's "Genoveva" will be performed on April 9th, and will
give me another opportunity of studying and conducting an opera,
which I have not done for the last four months.
Next Sunday (April 1st) the oratorio "Die Verklarung des Herrn",
by Kuhnsted, professor at Eisenach and organist of Wartburg in
spe, will be given at the theatre; and on April 2Oth Raff is
going to give a concert, at which half a dozen of his larger
compositions--amongst others, an orchestral suite, the hundred
and twenty-first Psalm, a violin concerto, etc.--will make up
the entire programme.
This is the musical news of Weymar, which probably will be of
less interest to you than to me. Of my life, my hope, my
endurance, I have nothing to say that is cheerful....
Whether the great political event, the death of the Emperor, will
have a softening influence on my personal fate, remains
questionable. In a few weeks I shall have direct news. Whatever
it may turn out to be, I cannot waver or hesitate. To you,
dearest Richard, remains cordially and invariably attached
I am constantly being asked for introductions to you. Generally I
refuse them, but in a few cases I have to yield.
Tell Klindworth he is to write to me about your Philharmonic
concerts. His cousin, a very amiable lady, will shortly bring you
news of Weymar, where she has been staying several months.
182. DEAR, GREAT MAN,
For a long time I have been wishing to write to you, but had not
the courage to do so. Alas! how can I speak to you from my heart?
Today a sheet of paper with a red border comes under my hand; so
many symbols are comprised in that colour! It is devoted to love,
it is the purple of kings, and the image of human blood. It is
therefore suited to both of us: to you as the emblem of your
sovereign genius, to me as that of an ardent attachment, the
flames of which are my happiness and my glory; to both of us as
the sign of the wounds which destiny has inflicted on us without
touching our souls. Need I tell you how much I should like to see
you again, and how sincerely I desire that your sojourn in London
will be agreeable to you in one way or another? I can do nothing,
nothing, except the best thing of all: to love, to bless, to
Your affection is very dear to us; continue in it; it is the sun
of our starless sky.
May God be with you. Our hearts are always yours.
March 27th, 1855.
You have punished me in your amiable manner. I reproached myself
very much about this Berlin affair; in any case I was too rash,
and settled the matter too quickly after my fashion. I ought to
have asked you, as you were my plenipotentiary, to cede the opera
finally to Hulsen; that would have been better, and you would, no
doubt, have undertaken this last transaction to please me. But
the whole matter had long ago become so disgusting to me that I
lost all energy in connection with it, and felt inclined to
finish it as abruptly as possible, so as to hear no more of it.
Do not believe that I was brought to this resolution through my
"Berlin friends," but exclusively through my pecuniary position,
which is accurately known to you, and which has tied my hands as
to this point. I was COMPELLED to think of raising money. I have
therefore asked for an advance of a hundred louis d'or on account
of royalties, and as to the rest have ceded the opera without any
conditions. To tell you the truth, everything else in connection
with my operas has become a matter of perfect indifference to me.
Looking at it carefully, it seems to me that my wish that you
should be called to Berlin for the performance of "Tannhauser"
has by no means been frustrated thereby. The decision of this
matter was never really within the power of the intendant of the
theatre. The King alone can suspend the usual order, and HIS
decision is quite independent of what the intendant can do on his
own authority. It appears to me therefore that our condition was
made to an authority which could not have granted it. My giving
or not giving the opera to the management was a thing apart; and
as regards the invitation to you, this remains a matter which we
ought to work with the King direct. Unfortunately it seems that
you have little hope of this. What could be done to get some
thing out of the King after all? Should I have the impudence to
write to him and to try in my own way what seems impossible in
any other? The thought of accomplishing my wish after all is the
only thing which suddenly places this Berlin affair once more in
an interesting light. What do you think of it?
For your news and for the beautiful lines of the dear Princess I
am cordially grateful.
Unfortunately I have nothing reasonable to tell you in return. My
whole existence here is a perfect anomaly. I am in a strange
element and in a thoroughly false position. If at Zurich I
conduct symphonies now and then, it is done for the sake of
amusement and to please a few friends; to make a vocation of it,
in the sense that I am to be judged as an artist by a wholly
unsympathetic public and press on these grounds, is simply an
absurdity. I sincerely regret that I am here, and shall never in
my life come again. Pecuniary success is out of the question; and
even if they were to offer me a larger fee for next year, I
should probably feel bound to decline it: the misery I have to
undergo is too great. This is not MY BUSINESS, and if at my
present age, and in the unsettled condition of my health, I
cannot at least abide by my business, I would rather not abide at
all; I have quite enough to bear without that.
Perfect performances, which in the long run could alone console
me, I cannot achieve. The rehearsals are too few, and everything
is done in too businesslike a manner. Although the pieces from
"Lohengrin" were favourably received, I am sorry that I have
given them. My annoyance at being compelled to produce such
trifling specimens of my work and to have my whole being judged
thereby is too great. I also hate like poison to have to take a
single step in order to gain the favour of that wretched pack of
journalists. They continue abusing me to their heart's delight,
and the only thing that surprises me is that the public have not
so far allowed themselves to be misled. In short, I would have
nothing to do with these contemptible matters even if I happened
to please the people.
Let me finish my "Nibelungen;" that is all I desire. If my noble
contemporaries will not help me to that, they may go to the
devil, with all their honour and glory. Through London I have got
into awful arrears with my work; only yesterday was I able to
finish the instrumentation of the first act of the "Valkyie."
Body and soul are weighed down as by a load of lead. My chief
wish for this year--to begin "Young Siegfried" at once after my
return at Seelisberg--I shall have to give up, for it is very
unlikely that I shall get beyond the second act of the "Valkyrie"
here. Such as I am, I want a soft, clinging element around me, in
order to feel gladly inclined for work. This eternal need of
self-condensation for the purpose of self-defence supplies me
with obstinacy and contempt, but not with the love of expansion
Klindworth has probably written to you; at least he was startled
when I recently conveyed your reminder to him. He was ill, and is
not doing well here, but how am I to help him? Blackguardism,
obstinacy, and religiously nursed stupidity are here protected
with iron walls; only a blackguard and a Jew can succeed here.
Upon the whole, you were right in retiring to Weimar; as much
solitude as possible, that alone can save us.
The Hartels sent me the bill of exchange yesterday; many thanks.
Cannot B. do the pianoforte arrangement?
He had only just begun the "Rhinegold," when I took the score
away from him to send it to you. As soon as the copy at Dresden
has been finished, he is to have it for the completion of the
pianoforte arrangement; and after that, if you wish it, it is to
be sent to you. Shall we see each other this year, perhaps on
your return from Hungary? That would be something like it!
Perhaps at that time I should have recovered my voice, which here
has disappeared entirely.
Farewell, dearest friend. Patience--that is all that remains to
us. Remember me to all at Altenburg. Much luck to your mass!
Farewell, dear, dear Franz.
Klindworth has just played your great sonata to me.
We passed the day alone together; he dined with me, and after
dinner I made him play. Dearest Franz, you were with me; the
sonata is beautiful beyond anything, grand and sweet, deep and
noble, sublime as you are yourself. It moved me most deeply, and
the London misery was forgotten all at once. More I cannot say,
not just after having heard it, but of what I say I am as full as
man can be. Once more, you were with me! Ah, could you soon be
with me wholly and bodily, then we might support life
Klindworth astonished me by his playing; no lesser man could have
ventured to play your work to me for the first time. He is worthy
of you. Surely, surely, it was beautiful.
Good-night. Many thanks for this pleasure vouchsafed to me at
LONDON, April 5th, 8:30 evening.
I had nothing to tell you that was pleasant or important, and
therefore did not write to you for a long time. During these last
weeks I have spun myself into my mass, and yesterday at last I got
it done. I do not know how it will sound, but may say that I have
PRAYED it rather than COMPOSED it. On my return from Hungary in
September, I shall bring you the mass and my symphonic bubbles and
troubles, half of which will by that time be in print. If my scores
should bore you, that will not prevent me from deriving sweetest
enjoyment from your creations, and you must not refuse me the
favour of singing the whole "Rhinegold" and "Valkyrie" to me. In
the meanwhile all other musical things appear to me "stupid stuff."
How do you feel in London?
Troublesome though it may be, one must try to bear the inevitable
and immutable; to take pleasure in it would be a lie.
The English edition of Philistinism is not a whit pleasanter than
the German, and the chasm between the public and ourselves is
equally wide everywhere.
How, in our wretched conditions, could enthusiasm, love, and art
have their true effect?
"Patience and resignation" is our device, and to it we sing
[Here, Liszt illustrates with a music score excerpt]
Pardon me for being your hollow echo, and let us endure what
cannot be cured.
I am very grateful to you for being so kind to Klindworth. In a
few days his cousin will come to London and bring you news of me,
as she has spent the whole winter at Weymar. Your letter about
the sonata has highly delighted me, and you must excuse me for
not having thanked you at once. You are often so near to me that
I almost forget writing to you, and I am seldom at the right
temperature for correspondence. Well, in September I shall be
with you; and (D.V.) we will have some bright, comforting days
WEYMAR, May 2nd, 1855.
DEAR POET, DEAR FRIEND,
Our hearts are with you, and suffer with you; that you know, and
cannot be ignorant of.
Let us hear from you soon, and forgive me if, in the midst of the
preoccupations of your heart and of your grief, I ask you for a
trifle; but it will cost you so little to grant it me, and you
will give such great, such very great, pleasure by it. It is the
fate of poets and women sometimes to give what they have not
themselves--I mean happiness. Take a piece of paper and write on
it the following verses, which, as you know, appear to me written
with the purest blood of my veins:-
"Nicht Gut, nicht Gold, noch gottliche Pracht; nicht Haus, nicht
Hof, nicht herrischer Prunk, nicht truber Vertrage trugender
Bund, noch heuchelnder Sitte hartes Gesetz: selig in Lust und
Leid lasst--die Liebe nur sein!--" Sign this with your name, your
great name, enclose it in an envelope, address it to me, and put
it in the post. Forgive me for asking you this small thing--small
in its material aspect, but great as the world in its
I press your two hands with mine, dear, dear, great man.
May 7th, 1855.
Cordial thanks, dearest Franz, for your kind note, which I had
been expecting a long time. The hope which you open to me of
seeing you in September is my only light in the night of this sad
year. I live here like one of the lost souls in hell. I never
thought that I could sink again so low. The misery I feel in
having to live in these disgusting surroundings is beyond
description, and I now realise that it was a sin, a crime, to
accept this invitation to London, which in the luckiest case must
have led me far away from my real path. I need not expatiate to
you upon my actual situation. It is the consistent outgrowth of
the greatest inconsistency I ever committed. I am compelled to
conduct an English concert programme right down to the end; that
says everything. I have got into the middle of a slough of
conventionalities and customs, in which I stick up to the ears,
without being able to lead into it the least drop of pure water
for my recreation. "Sir, we are not accustomed to this"--that is
the eternal echo I hear. Neither can the orchestra recompense me.
It consists almost exclusively of Englishmen, that is clever
machines which cannot be got into the right swing; handicraft and
business kill everything. Then there is the public, which, I am
assured, is very favourably inclined towards me, but can never be
got out of itself, which accepts the most emotional and the most
tedious things without ever showing that it has received a real
impression. And, in addition to this, the ridiculous Mendelssohn
And even if all this were better than it is, what business have I
with such concerts? I am not fit for them. It is quite a
different thing if I conduct one of Beethoven's symphonies before
a few friends, but to be a regular concert conductor, before whom
they place the scores of concert pieces, etc., so that he may
beat the time to them--that, I feel, is the deepest disgrace.
This thoroughly inappropriate character of my position led me to
the resolution of sending in my resignation after the fourth
concert. But of course I was talked out of it, and especially my
regard for my wife, who would have heard of this sudden
resignation and of all that would have been written about it with
great grief, determined me to hold out till the last concert. The
infernal torture this is to me I cannot express. All my pleasure
in my work is disappearing more and more. I had made up my mind
to finish the score of the "Valkyrie" during the four months
here, but that is out of the question. I shall not even finish
the second act, in so terribly dispiriting a manner does this
false position act upon me. In July I wanted to begin "Young
Siegfried" at Seelisberg, on the lake of Lucerne, but now I think
of delaying that beginning till next spring. This dislike of work
is the worst feature of all. I feel as if with it eternal night
were closing around me, for what have I still to do in this world
if I cannot do my work?
Through this hell my study of Dante, to which I could not settle
down before, has accompanied me. I have passed through his
Inferno, and am now at the gate of Purgatory. Really I am in need
of this purgatory; for if I consider it rightly, I was brought to
London by a really sinful degree of thoughtlessness, which now I
have to repent with fervour. I must, I must be resigned; my
experience long ago convinced me of the necessity of resignation
in the widest sense of the word, and I must now subdue altogether
this terrible, wild desire of life, which again and again dims my
vision and throws me into a chaos of contradictions. I must hope
that I may at some future time rise from purgatory to paradise;
the fresh air of my Seelisberg will perhaps help me to this. I do
not deny that I should like to meet Beatrice there.
In all other respects things are going badly and crookedly. Poor
Klindworth has been ill all along, and the fact that I could
undertake nothing with him has deprived me of a great pleasure.
He is better now, but not yet allowed to take a walk with me.
Besides him, my intercourse is limited to Sainton, the leader of
the orchestra, who caused my ill-fated appointment here, and a
certain Luders, who lives with him. Both are ardently devoted to
me, and do all in their power to make my stay here pleasant.
Apart from this, I frequently go to Prager. Quite recently a Mr.
Ellerton, a rich amateur, approached me very cordially. He has
heard my operas in Germany, and my portrait has been hanging in
his room for two years. He is the first Englishman I have seen
who does not care particularly for Mendelssohn. A fine, amiable
Klindworth has made the pianoforte arrangement of the first act
of the "Valkyrie," which he plays beautifully. Unfortunately I
have lost my voice entirely, and can sing very little, so that I
am afraid I shall not be able to be of much service to you in
You will have to do all the work next September. You owe me a
great debt, you reticent man. If I look forward to anything in
the future as pure happiness, it is my becoming acquainted
through your means with your new compositions. Do not forget to
bring me every one of them. I congratulate you on your mass from
the bottom of my heart. Let us hope that you will derive much
pleasure from it at Gran.
And how is the Princess? Joyful and sorrowful? Does she still
preserve her bright enthusiasm? And Beatrice--I mean the Child?
Greet her for me a thousand times.
Farewell, dearest, most unique of friends. Believe me that the
thought of you is an ever-new delight to my heart. Be thanked for
LONDON, May 16th, 1855.
22, PORTLAND TERRACE, REGENT'S PARK, LONDON,
May 26th, 1855.
Once more, dearest Franz, I must make a complaint about the
"Faust" overture. The Hartels have sent me an abominable
arrangement for four hands, of which I cannot possibly approve.
Did not you tell them that B., who, I believe, had already made a
be ginning, would best be able to make this arrangement?
Klindworth also would be prepared for it. In any case it should
be a pianist of that type. The actual arrangement, which I
yesterday returned to the Hartels through a music-seller, must
However, some wrong notes in this arrangement have drawn my
attention to the fact that very probably there are many errors in
the score as well. You will remember that it was a copy which I
sent to you for your own use, asking you to correct such errors
as might occur in your mind, or else to have them corrected,
because it would be tedious for me to revise the copy. For the
same reason I urgently requested the Hartels, if they printed the
score, to send me a proof. You are in frequent communication with
the Hartels, and the edition of this overture is really your
doing. Be not angry therefore if I ask you to set the matter
completely right when convenient. For heaven's sake, forgive me
for troubling you with this trifle. The day after tomorrow I have
my sixth concert, and a month afterwards I start for home.
Shall I hear from you soon?
A thousand greetings.
Your R. W.
189. DEAREST RICHARD,
I returned here yesterday from the Dusseldorf Musical Festival,
tired and dull. Hiller, who conducted the whole, had invited me,
and it interested me to go through the whole thing for once, to
hear "Paradise and the Peri," and to applaud Jenny Lind. I need
not tell YOU anything about it, and I am not much the wiser
myself. Although the whole festival may be called a great
success, it wanted something which, indeed, could not have been
expected from it. In the art world there are very different kinds
of laurels and thistles, but you need care very little about
such. "The eagle flies to the sun."
Then you are reading Dante? He is excellent company for you. I,
on my part, shall furnish a kind of commentary to his work. For a
long time I had in my head a Dante symphony, and in the course of
this year it is to be finished. There are to be three movements,
HELL, PURGATORY, and PARADISE, the two first purely instrumental,
the last with chorus. When I visit you in autumn, I shall
probably be able to bring it with me; and if you do not dislike
it, you must allow me to inscribe it with your name.
With the Hartels little can be done. If the arrangement for four
hands of the Faust overture has already been made, I do not
advise you to propose some one else. The only thing that can be
done with the four-hand arrangement is to ask Klindworth to make
some corrections in accordance with your instructions, and to
have some of the plates newly engraved without mentioning
Klindworth's name on the title-page. Another time it would be a
practical thing to send in the four-hand arrangement together
with the score, and to come to terms with the publisher about it.
The attitude of the Hartels towards us is naturally always a
little reserved. I, for my part, cannot complain of them, and
they have always treated me in a decent and gentlemanly manner.
But I should not rely upon them for many things, because their
intimate friends are decidedly adverse to us; and for the present
we shall not be able to arrive at more than a peaceful, expectant
footing with them. Although this may sometimes be inconvenient, I
think it best to let it continue.
I am surprised that you found so many mistakes in the proofs of
the "Faust" score, for, amongst other advantages which they
possess as publishers, one is bound in justice to admit that the
Hartels have excellent readers (Dorffel, Schellenberg, etc.).
Therefore use time and patience in correcting, and where
necessary let the plates be engraved over again.
When shall you be back in Zurich? At Dusseldorf they were saying
that you had already left London, and jealous Philistia received
the news with a joy which I was not sorry to spoil. Whatever may
happen, and however it may happen, I implore you to
"Hold out and persevere."
In your capacity of poeta sovrano, you must, as Dante says of
Homer, pass on your way quietly and undisturbedly, si come sire.
All this dirt does not touch you. Write your "Nibelungen," and be
content to live on as an immortal!
Later on I shall ask Klindworth to let me see the pianoforte
arrangement of the first act of the "Valkyrie." How about that of
the "Rhinegold?" Has H. kept it? Write to me about it, so that I
may know how to get at it.
I have advised H. to settle in Berlin, where his position at the
music school will be very useful to him. There is not much to be
got by travelling about in our days. Later on he may go to Paris
and London, but for the next few years Berlin will be a good
field for his activity.
I shall stay here during the summer, until I start for Gran at
the end of August. The musical task which occupies me is a new
and considerably altered score of my choruses to "Prometheus,"
which I want to publish next winter. As soon as it is finished I
shall return to my Dante symphony, which has partly been
Farewell, dearest, most unique of friends, and write soon to your
serf, body and soul,
WEYMAR, June 2nd, 1855.
The Princess and the Child send cordial greetings.
Let me express to you, best of men, my astonishment at your
ENORMOUS PRODUCTIVENESS. You have a Dante symphony in your head,
have you? And it is to be finished in the autumn? Do not be
annoyed by my astonishment at this miracle. When I look back upon
your activity in these last years, you appear superhuman to me;
there is something very strange about this. However, it is very
natural that creating is our only joy, and alone makes life
bearable to us. We are what we are only while we create; all the
other functions of life have no meaning for us, and are at bottom
concessions to the vulgarity of ordinary human existence, which
can give us no satisfaction. All that I still desire in this
world is a favourable mood and disposition for work, and I find
it difficult enough to protect these from the attack of
vulgarity. It is the same thing with you. But what astonishes me
and appears worthy of envy is that you can create so much.
A "Divina Commedia" it is to be? That is a splendid idea, and I
enjoy the music in anticipation. But I must have a little talk
with you about it. That "Hell" and "Purgatory" will succeed I do
not call into question for a moment, but as to "Paradise" I have
some doubts, which you confirm by saying that your plan includes
choruses. In the Ninth Symphony the last choral movement is
decidedly the weakest part, although it is historically
important, because it discloses to us in a very naive manner the
difficulties of a real musician who does not know how (after hell
and purgatory) he is to represent paradise. About this paradise,
dearest Franz, there is in reality a considerable difficulty, and
he who confirms this opinion is, curiously enough, Dante himself,
the singer of Paradise, which in his "Divine Comedy" also is
decidedly the weakest part. I have followed Dante with deepest
sympathy through the "Inferno" and the "Purgatorio;" and when I
emerged from the infernal slough, I washed myself, as does the
poet, with the water of the sea at the foot of the Mountain of
Purgatory. I enjoyed the divine morning, the pure air. I rose
step by step, deadened one passion after the other, battled with
the wild instinct of life, till at last, arrived at the fire, I
relinquished all desire of life, and threw myself into the glow
in order to sink my personality in the contemplation of Beatrice.
But from this final liberation I was rudely awakened to be again,
after all, what I had been before, and this was done in order to
confirm the Catholic doctrine of a God Who, for His own
glorification, had created this hell of my existence, by the most
elaborate sophisms and most childish inventions, quite unworthy
of a great mind. This problematic proof I rejected from the
bottom of my soul, and remained dissatisfied accordingly. In
order to be just to Dante I had, as in the case of Beethoven, to
occupy the historic standpoint; I had to place myself in Dante's
time and consider the real object of his poem, which, no doubt,
was intended to advocate a certain thing with his contemporaries-
-I mean the reform of the Church. I had to confess that in this
sense he understood marvellously well his advantage of expressing
himself in an infallible manner through means of popular and
generally accepted ideas. Before all, I cordially agreed with him
in his praise of the saints who had chosen poverty of their own
free-will. I had further to admire even in those sophisms his
high poetic imagination and power of representation, just as I
admire Beethoven's musical art in the last movement of his "Ninth
Sympthony." I had further to acknowledge, with deepest and most
sublime emotion, the wonderful inspiration through means of which
the beloved of his youth, Beatrice, takes the form in which he
conceives the Divine doctrine; and in so far as that doctrine
teaches the purification of personal egoism through love, I
joyfully acknowledge the doctrine of Beatrice. But the fact that
Beatrice stands, as it were, on the chariot of the Church, that,
instead of pure, simple doctrine, she preaches keen-witted
ecclesiastic scholasticism, made her appear to me in a colder
light, although the poet assures us that she shines and glows for
ever. At last she became indifferent to me; and although as a
mere reader I acknowledge that Dante has acted appropriately, in
accordance with his time and his purpose, I should as a
sympathetic co-poet have wished to lose my personal
consciousness, and indeed all consciousness, in that fire. In
that manner I should, no doubt, have fared better than even in
the company of the Catholic Deity, although Dante represents it
with the same art with which you, no doubt, will endeavour to
celebrate it in your choruses. I faithfully record to you the
impression which the "Divine Comedy" has made upon me, and which
in the "Paradise" becomes to my mind a "divine comedy" in the
literal sense of the word, in which I do not care to take part,
either as a comedian or as a spectator. The misleading problem in
these questions is always How to introduce into this terrible
world, with an empty nothing beyond it, a God Who converts the
enormous sufferings of existence into something fictitious, so
that the hoped-for salvation remains the only real and
consciously enjoyable thing. This will do very well for the
Philistine, especially the English Philistine. He makes very good
terms with his God, entering into a contract by which, after
having carried out certain points agreed upon, he is finally
admitted to eternal bliss as a compensation for various failures
in this world. But what have we in common with these notions of
You once expressed your view of human nature to the effect that
man is "une intelligence, servie par des organes." If that were
so, it would be a bad thing for the large majority of men, who
have only "organs," but as good as no "intelligence," at least in
your sense. To me the matter appears in a different light, viz.,-
Man, like every other animal, embodies the "will of life," for
which he fashions his organs according to his wants; and amongst
these organs he also develops intellect, i.e., the organ of
conceiving external things for the purpose of satisfying the
desire of life to the best of his power. A NORMAL man is
therefore he who possesses this organ, communicating with the
external world (whose function is perception, just as that of the
stomach is digestion) in a degree exactly sufficient for the
satisfaction of the vital instinct by external means. That vital
instinct in NORMAL man consists in exactly the same as does the
vital instinct of the lowest animal, namely, in the desire of
nourishment and of propagation. For this "will of life," this
metaphysical first cause of all existence, desires nothing but to
live--that is, to nourish and eternally reproduce itself--and
this tendency can be seen identically in the coarse stone, in the
tenderer plant, and so forth up to the human animal. Only the
organs are different, of which the will must avail itself in the
higher stages of its objective existence, in order to satisfy its
more complicated, and therefore more disputed and less easily
obtainable, wants. By gaining this insight, which is confirmed by
the enormous progress of modern science, we understand at once
the characteristic feature of the life of the vast majority of
men, and are no longer astonished because they appear to us
simply as animals; for this is the NORMAL essence of man. A very
large portion of mankind remains BELOW this NORMAL stage, for in
them the complicated organ of perception is not developed even up
to the capability of satisfying normal wants; but, on the other
hand, although of course very rarely, there are ABNORMAL natures
in which the ordinary measure of the organ of perception--that
is, the brain--is exceeded, just as nature frequently forms
monstrosities in which ONE ORGAN is developed at the expense of
the others. Such a monstrosity, if it reaches the highest degree,
is called GENIUS, which at bottom is caused only by an abnormally
rich and powerful brain. This organ of perception, which
originally and in normal cases looks outward for the purpose of
satisfying the wants of the will of life, receives in the case of
an abnormal development such vivid and such striking impressions
from outside that for a time it emancipates itself from the
service of the will, which originally had fashioned it for its
own ends. It thus attains to a "will-less"--i.e., aesthetic--
contemplation of the world; and these external objects,
contemplated APART FROM THE WILL, are exactly the ideal images
which the ARTIST in a manner fixes and reproduces. The sympathy
with the external world which is inherent in this contemplation
is developed in powerful natures to a permanent forgetfulness of
the original personal will, that is to a SYMPATHY with external
things for their own sake, and no longer in connection with any
The question then arises what we see in this abnormal state,
and whether our sympathy takes the form of COMMON JOY or COMMON
SORROW. This question the true MEN OF GENIUS and the true SAINTS
of all times have answered in the sense that they have seen
nothing but SORROW and felt nothing but COMMON SORROW. For they
recognized the NORMAL state of all living things and the
terrible, always self-contradictory, always self-devouring and
blindly egotistic, nature of the "will of life" which is common
to all living things. The horrible cruelty of this will, which in
sexual love aims only at its own reproduction, appeared in them
for the first time reflected in the organ of perception, which in
its normal state had felt its subjection to the Will to which it
owed its existence. In this manner the organ of perception was
placed in an abnormal sympathetic condition. It endeavoured to
free itself permanently and finally from its disgraceful serfdom,
and this it at last achieved in the perfect negation of the "will
This act of the "negation of will" is the true characteristic of
the saint, which finds its last completion in the absolute
cessation of personal consciousness; and all consciousness must
be personal and individual. But the saints of Christianity,
simple-minded and enveloped in the Jewish dogma as they were,
could not see this, and their limited imagination looked upon
that much-desired stage as the eternal continuation of a life,
freed from nature. Our judgment of the moral import of their
resignation must not be influenced by this circumstance, for in
reality they also longed for the cessation of their individual
personality, i.e., of their existence. But this deep longing is
expressed more purely and more significantly in the most sacred
and oldest religion of the human race, the doctrine of the
Brahmins, and especially in its final transfiguration and highest
perfection, Buddhism. This also expounds the myth of a creation
of the world by God, but it does not celebrate this act as a
boon, but calls it a sin of Brahma which he, AFTER HAVING
EMBODIED HIMSELF IN THIS WORLD, must atone for by the infinite
sufferings of this very world. He finds his salvation in the
saints who, by perfect negation of the "will of life," by the
sympathy with all suffering which alone fills their heart, enter
the state of Nirwana, i.e., "the land of being no longer." Such a
saint was Buddha. According to his doctrine of the migration of
souls every man is born again in the form of that creature on
which he had inflicted pain, however pure his life might
otherwise have been. He himself must now know this pain, and his
sorrowful migration does not cease, until during an entire course
of his new-born life he has inflicted pain on no creature, but
has denied his own will of life in the sympathy with other
beings. How sublime, how satisfying is this doctrine compared
with the Judaeo-Christian doctrine, according to which a man
(for, of course, the suffering ANIMAL exists for the benefit of
man alone) has only to be obedient to the Church during this
short life to be made comfortable for all eternity, while he who
has been disobedient in this short life will be tortured for
ever. Let us admit that Christianity is to us this contradictory
phenomenon, because we know it only in its mixture with, and
distortion by, narrow-hearted Judaism, while modern research has
succeeded in showing that pure and un-alloyed Christianity was
nothing but a branch of that venerable Buddhism which, after
Alexander's Indian expedition, spread to the shores of the
Mediterranean. In early Christianity we still see distinct traces
of the perfect negation of the "will of life," of the longing for
the destruction of the world, i.e., the cessation of all
existence. The pity is that this deeper insight into the essence
of things can be gained alone by the abnormally organised men
previously referred to, and that they only can fully grasp it. In
order to communicate this insight to others, the sublime founders
of religion have therefore to speak in images, such as are
accessible to the common normal perception. In this process much
must be disfigured, although Buddha's doctrine of the migration
of souls expresses the truth with almost perfect precision. The
normal vulgarity of man and the license of general egoism further
distort the image until it becomes a caricature. And I pity the
poet who undertakes to restore the original image from this
caricature. It seems to me that Dante, especially in the
"Paradise," has not succeeded in this; and in his explanation of
the Divine natures he appears, to me at least, frequently like a
childish Jesuit. But perhaps you, dear friend, will succeed
better, and as you are going to paint a TONE picture I might
almost predict your success, for music is essentially the
artistic, original image of the world. For the initiated no error
is here possible. Only about the "Paradise," and especially about
the choruses, I feel some friendly anxiety. You will not expect
me to add less important things to this important matter.
I shall soon write again; on the 26th I leave here, and shall
therefore have endured to the end. Farewell dear, dear Franz.
LONDON, June 7th, 1855.
ZURICH, July 5th, 1855.
Your late servant Hermann called on me today and told me that I
should have a letter from you one of these days, that you and the
Princess would come to Switzerland SOON (?), and a thousand other
I am longing for direct news from you. I have been back in Zurich
since June 3Oth, after having conducted my last London concert on
the 25th. You have probably heard how charmingly Queen Victoria
behaved to me. She attended the seventh concert with Prince
Albert, and as they wanted to hear something of mine I had the
"Tannhauser" overture repeated, which helped me to a little
external amende. I really seem to have pleased the Queen. In a
conversation I had with her, by her desire, after the first part
of the concert, she was so kind that I was really quite touched.
These two were the first people in England who dared to speak in
my favour openly and undisguisedly, and if you consider that they
had to deal with a political outlaw, charged with high treason
and "wanted" by the police, you will think it natural that I am
sincerely grateful to both.
At the last concert the public and the orchestra roused
themselves to a demonstration against the London critics. I had
always been told that my audiences were very much in my favour,
and of the orchestra I could see that it was always most willing
to follow my intentions, as far as bad habits and want of time
would allow. But I soon saw that the public received impressions
slowly and with difficulty, and was unable to distinguish the
genuine from the spurious, trivial pedantry from sterling worth,
while the orchestra--out of regard for its real master and despot
Costa, who can dismiss and appoint the musicians according to his
will--always limited its applause to the smallest and least
compromising measure. This time, at the leavetaking, it broke
through all restraint. The musicians rose solemnly, and together
with the whole thickly packed hall, began a storm of applause so
continuous that I really felt awkward. After that the band
crowded round me to shake hands, and even some ladies and
gentlemen of the public held out their hands to me, which I had
to press warmly. In this manner my absurd London expedition
finally took the character of a triumph for me, and I was pleased
at least to observe the independence of the public which this
time it showed towards the critics. A triumph in MY SENSE was, of
course, out of the question. In the best possible case I cannot
really be known in the concert room, and that best possible case-
-I mean performances fully realising my intentions--could not be
achieved, owing principally to want of time. In consequence, I
always retained a bitter feeling of degradation, increased by the
fact that I was compelled to conduct whole programmes of
monstrous length, and put together in the most tasteless and
senseless manner. That I did conduct these concerts to the end
was done entirely out of regard for my wife and a few friends,
who would have been grieved very much by the consequences of my
sudden departure from London. I am glad that the matter has been
carried through, at least with favourable appearances; with the
Queen I was really pleased, and to individual friends I have
given great pleasure; that must suffice. The New Philharmonic
would like to have me next year; what more can I desire?
One real gain I bring back from England--the cordial and genuine
friendship which I feel for Berlioz, and which we have mutually
concluded. I heard a concert of the New Philharmonic under his
direction, and was, it is true, little edified by his performance
of Mozart's "G. Minor Symphony," while the very imperfect
execution of his "Romeo and Juliet" symphony made me pity him. A
few days afterwards we two were the only guests at Sainton's
table; he was lively, and the progress in French which I have
made in London, permitted me to discuss with him for five hours
all the problems of art, philosophy, and life in a most
fascinating conversation. In that manner I gained a deep sympathy
for my new friend; he appeared to me quite different from what he
had done before. We discovered suddenly that we were in reality
fellow-sufferers, and I thought, upon the whole, I was happier
than Berlioz. After my last concert he and the other few friends
I have in London called on me; his wife also came. We remained
together till three o'clock in the morning, and took leave with
the warmest embraces. I told him that you were going to visit me
in September, and asked him to meet you at my house. The money
question seemed to be his chief difficulty, and I am sure he
would like to come. Let him know exactly when you will be here.
Klindworth was to play a concerto by Henselt yesterday at the
last New Philharmonic concert, conducted by Berlioz. I made the
acquaintance of Dr. Wylde, a good man, and was able to be of some
use to Klindworth in that small matter. I sincerely pity him. He
is much too much of an artist and a high-minded man, not to be
and always remain very unhappy in London. He should try something
On once more touching the Continent I felt a little better. The
air here suits me, and I hope soon to be again at my work, which
at last I gave up in London altogether. Of the "Valkyrie" you
will find little ready.
But when are you coming? If I may not expect you before
September, I shall go to Seelisberg till then, starting next
Monday, but if, as Hermann led me to hope, I receive a letter
before then, announcing your immediate arrival, I shall of course
be very happy to remain at Zurich.
Therefore let me soon hear from you. You have kept me waiting
long, which indeed I might have expected after my last letter
from London, for to communications of this kind your reply has
always been silence. But now you must relieve me of my
uncertainty as to your visit, which may at last be expected
shortly once more. I need scarcely tell you that I am looking
forward to it with great pleasure, and that our meeting will be
to me the only joy after long trouble.
I am expecting a letter from you with great impatience. Cordial
greetings in advance from your
Welcome in Zurich, dearest Richard, where I hope to see you at
the end of September or October.
My Hungarian journey is still somewhat uncertain, as, according
to the latest news, the cathedral will probably not be quite
finished this year. But in any case I shall come to you this
autumn, and shall let you know my arrival in Zurich a few weeks
in advance. The satisfactory close of your stay in London has
pleased me very much, and, as I know London, I think it would be
well if you were to go there again next season. About this and
some other business I shall tell you more when I see you.
In the meantime I am delighted at your friendly relations with
Berlioz. Of all contemporary composers he is the one with whom
you can converse in the simplest, openest, and most interesting
manner. Take him for all in all, he is an honest, splendid,
tremendous fellow; and, together with your letter, I received one
from Berlioz, in which he says amongst other things: "Wagner
will, no doubt, tell you all about his stay in London, and what
he has had to suffer from predetermined hostility. He is splendid
in his ardour and warmth of heart, and I confess that even his
violence delights me. It seems there is a fate against my hearing
his last compositions. The day when, at the demand of Prince
Albert, he conducted his 'Tannhauser' overture at the Hanover
Square Rooms, I was compelled at the same hour to attend a
horrible choral rehearsal for the New Philharmonic concert which
I had to conduct two days afterwards," etc.
And lower down: "Wagner has something singularly attractive to
me, and if we both have asperities, those asperities dovetail
into each other:"
(Berlioz's drawing is more brilliant than mine.)
Many thanks for your Dante letter. By way of answer, I hope to
show you the first half of my work at Zurich, together with some
other things which will illustrate my aims to you more distinctly
than anything I could tell you.
During the next few weeks I shall have to work at my "Prometheus"
choruses, which I want to publish soon, and for that purpose I
must write an entirely new score. For in the year 1850, when I
composed this work, I had too little time (scarcely a month), and
was too much occupied by the "Lohengrin" rehearsals to give it
the necessary finish. I have now kept in view the means of
performance more than before, and although the design and the
conception remain essentially unchanged, the whole thing will
have a better appearance. It is a similar process as in
sculpture, when the artist works in marble. Before the
performance a symphonic, and still more, a dramatic work exists,
so to speak, only in CLAY. I could easily illustrate this
comparison by the new score of your "Faust" overture, and by some
of the changes you have made in the "Flying Dutchman." Wait a
little, dearest Richard, and you will see what a lot of stuff,
and how much material for conversation I shall bring with me. The
end of last week I spent in Dresden, where I called upon our
friends, the Ritters. Sascha Ritter, our Weymar Court musician,
has been blessed with a little daughter, whose god-father I
shall have the honour to be. His mother-in-law has been staying
here for some weeks, and Johanna Wagner is expected in September.
Our theatrical affairs are in a critical condition. The
Intendant, Herr von Beaulieu, is going to leave, and the artistic
director, Marr, is also said to have sent in his resignation. I
do not trouble myself about these matters, and look forward with
perfect peace of mind to the solution of these somewhat
Gutzkow's call to Weymar, which the papers announced several
times, is not in itself unlikely, but will probably be delayed a
little, as nothing definite has, as yet, been done.
Farewell, and set to work at your "Valkyrie." Go up your
mountains, and bring the very skies down to your music. In
September, or at the latest, in October, we shall meet.
Your kindness and friendship for Klindworth have obliged me
particularly, and I ask you to continue them.
WEYMAR, July 11th, 1855.
P.S.--I shall remain here all the summer.
SEELISBERG, CANTON URI, July 22nd, 1855.
I think of nothing now but our meeting and being together. I am
glad you did not come sooner, because at present I should be able
to show you very little of the "Valkyrie," and I am pleased
therefore to have a good deal of time for the completion of the
score. By November I shall have finished, at least, the first two
acts, even the clean copy of them.
Consider this, and bear in mind that it will be a CLIMAX OF OUR
LIVES, for the sake of which all common things must be got over
and brought into order. I count upon your magnanimity.
Farewell for today. I send you many greetings from a longing
Your R. W.
You are my court business agent, once for all. Be kind enough to
forward, through the Weimar minister at Hanover, the enclosed
letter to the king as soon as possible. My theatrical agent,
Michaelson, has exceeded his legal rights by selling "Lohengrin"
to the Hanover theatre without asking me, and for a much smaller
sum than they had previously paid me for "Tannhauser" on my
direct application. The Intendant will not hear of my cancelling
the sale, and all that remains to me is to apply to the king
himself. You will take care of this, will you not?
Why did you not answer my last question?
One million greetings from
In spite of many attempts and inquiries backwards and forwards, I
have not found a sure way of obtaining a hearing from his
Majesty, the King of Hanover. It appears to me that the best
thing you can do in this matter is to write a few lines to
Joachim or, in case he should be absent on his travels, to
Capellmeister Wehner at Hanover, and to enclose your letter to
the king. I, for my part, cannot undertake this commission, as I
have no relations with Hanover just now, and should not like to
be responsible for a failure. Wehner (I am not quite certain as
to the spelling of his name) is on very good terms with the king,
and will be glad to be of service to you. It will be necessary,
however, that you should write to him a few lines direct, in
which please mention me. I herewith return your letter to the
king. Kindly excuse this delay; I was absent for several days,
and some other measures, which I thought had been taken for the
purpose, have come to nothing.
In November you will see me, and I agree to everything that is
agreeable to you. By then several of my scores will be in print,
which will make it easier for us to read them. During these last
months I have been occupied so much by visits, correspondence,
and business matters that I could scarcely devote a few hours to
my work. I am sometimes angry and wild at the ridiculous troubles
I have to go through, and long for our days at the Zeltweg.
Write to me later on when my visit will be most convenient to
you, in November or at Christmas?
The Princess and her daughter stayed several weeks at Berlin, and
for the last week they have been in Paris. I do not expect them
back here till the middle of September. In the meantime my son
Daniel--who at this year's concours at the "Lycee Bonaparte," as
well as in the "Concours General," again distinguished himself
and carried off several prizes--has arrived at the Altenburg.
One of these days you will receive from Bussenius, with whom you
were in correspondence before, your biography. It has been
written with the best intentions, and will probably be read far
and wide. Under the pseudonym of W. Neumann, Bussenius has edited
a biographical collection, "Die Componisten der neueren Zeit,"
for E. Balde of Cassel, and the success has been such that a
second edition of some of the volumes will soon be published. I
have asked Bussenius to send you the little book.
My friendly greetings to your wife. Do not forget your
MY DEAR FRANZ,
Your silence makes me very anxious. Whenever I look around me and
into my future, I see nothing that can rouse me, elate me,
comfort me, and give me strength and arms for the new troubles of
life except our meeting, and the few weeks you are going to
devote to me. If as to the exact time of that period of salvation
I expressed a wish to you, it was done with the care with which
one likes to realise beforehand a supreme blessing, well knowing
that it must be bought with long sadness, both before and after.
But perhaps you misunderstood me after all, and thought that,
apart from the happiness of seeing you again, I was looking for
something else, quite independent thereof, and this perhaps may
have made you angry. Let me know, in a few words, how things are,
and when you are coming. I should certainly like to show you as
much as possible of my "Valkyrie," and principally for that
reason I did not object to this delay of your much-desired visit.
In my present condition, however, I have little hope of gaining
much work by this gain of time. My mental disharmony is
indescribable; sometimes I stare at my paper for days together,
without remembrance or thought or liking for my work. Where is
that liking to spring from? All the motive power which, for a
time, I derived from my dreary solitude is gradually losing its
force. When I commenced and quickly finished the "Rhinegold," I
was still full of the intercourse with you and yours. For the
last two years all around me has grown silent, and my occasional
contact with the outer world is inharmonious and dispiriting.
Believe me, this cannot go on much longer. If my external fate
does not soon take a different turn, if I find no possibility of
seeing you more frequently, and of hearing or producing some of
my works now and then, my fountain will dry up, and the end be
near. It is impossible for me to go on like this.
You may imagine, then, how I look forward to your coming, and
what I must feel when suddenly I see myself forsaken by you.
Comfort me soon. After much trouble the first half of the
"Valkyrie," including a clean copy, has got finished. I should
like to show you the two acts complete, but am still waiting for
the real love of work. For the last week indisposition has
prevented me from doing anything, and if this goes on I almost
doubt whether I shall be able to finish this work from the
Your article about the "Harold" symphony was very beautiful, and
has warmed my heart. I shall write to Berlioz tomorrow; he must
send me his scores. HE will never know ME thoroughly; his
ignorance of German prevents this; he will always see me in vague
and deceptive outline. But I will honestly use my advantage over
him, and bring him nearer to me.
How are matters with you? I hear about you now and then, but you
Adieu! Imagine a very long sigh here.
I enclose a letter from T. Hagen, of New York, where he has been
settled for about a year, and does good work as a musician and
musical author. The letters in the "Leipzig Signale," signed
"Butterbrod," are his, and some time ago he published a volume
about music in its relation to social interests, the exact title
of which I cannot remember. He is a friend of Klindworth's, and
associates with your admirers and partisans. With Mason Brothers
I have some connection through William Mason, one of my pupils,
who lived eighteen months in Weymar. As far as I know, the firm
is SOLID and respectable.
Although I do not suppose that you will accept the offer of
conducting concerts in America during next winter, I ask you to
let me have an answer (addressed to me) soon, because I shall
wait for your letter concerning this matter, in order to forward
it to Hagen. A Beethoven musical festival in connection with the
inauguration of the Beethoven statue at Boston would not be
amiss, and the pecuniary result might be very favourable.
Johanna Wagner arrived here the day before yesterday, and she and
her parents will stay a week in Weymar with her sister, Frau
Ritter. I spent several hours with her last night.
"Tannhauser" is to be produced at Berlin in December.
How far have you got with the "Valkyrie?" I am looking forward to
our meeting in November.
The Princess and the Child are still in Paris. They study
carefully the exhibition of pictures, and see a good deal of
Scheffer, Delacroix, and other artistic notabilities, which suits
them exactly. About the 25th of this month I expect them here,
where, in the meantime, I am terribly bored by the load of
tedious things which are imposed upon me, and with the relation
of which I will not trouble you. On the 16th the theatre will be
opened with Nicolai's "Merry Wives." After that we shall have
"The Huguenots," "Cellini," and Verdi's "I Due Foscari."
"Lohengrin" will not be given just yet because Ortrud (Frau
Knopp) has left us, and the new prima donna, Fraulein
Woltendorff, will at least require three or four months to learn
the part. But as "Tannhauser" and the "Flying Dutchman" have
proved "draws," they will be sure to be thrashed out thoroughly.
I, for my part, am sick of the whole theatrical business, but I
am compelled, to stick to it in a half-and-half sort of way,
because, without me, things would probably be still worse.
Return Hagen's letter to me.
ZURICH, September 13th, 1855.
Your last but one letter, dear Franz, was the best answer to my
last, the two having crossed on the way. As to our final meeting
I use all the arts of an experienced voluptuary in order to get
the most out of it. As it has been delayed so long, I should
almost like to finish the whole "Valkyrie" previously. The
completion of this work, the most TRAGIC which I have ever
conceived, will cost me much, and I must think of recovering what
I have put into it by the most cheering impressions, and those
YOU ONLY can supply. The thought of being able to go with you
through this work also is my only hope of reward. I am quite
unable to deal with it on the piano to my own satisfaction. You
must introduce it to me. For that reason I am thinking of
delaying our meeting till I can go through THE WHOLE with you.
Thus my highest need has made an egoist of me. The first two acts
I hope to have finished and copied out at the end of October, the
whole by Christmas. You said in your last letter it would suit
you equally well to come either in November or at Christmas. This
induced me to curb my impatience to see you again till then, so
as to make it possible, by the most incessant industry, to place
the whole, completed and fairly copied, before you, including the
last act, which is so important to me. Must I then ASK you to
delay your visit till Christmas? It sounds absurd enough, but you
will understand my pedantry. If you agree, and if no further
delay will become necessary on that account, I shall send you the
first two acts for inspection at the end of October, and you can
bring them back with you.
What shall I say to you of this New York offer? I was told in
London that they intended to invite me. It is a blessing that
they do not offer me very much money. The hope of being able to
earn a large sum, say ten thousand dollars, in a short time,
would, in the great helplessness of my pecuniary position, compel
me, as a matter of course, to undertake this American expedition,
although even in that case it would perhaps be absurd to
sacrifice my best vital powers to so miserable a purpose, and, as
it were, in an indirect manner. But as a man like me has no
chance of a really lucrative speculation, I am glad that I am not
exposed to any serious temptation, and therefore ask you to thank
the gentlemen of New York very kindly, in my name, for the
unmerited attention they have shown me, and to tell them that,
"for the present," I am unable to accept their invitation. I
puzzle my head about the cause of the journey which the Princess
and the Child have taken to Paris; is it for amusement and
nothing else? Greet them both most cordially for me when they
return; could they not come with you to a poor devil in
Switzerland just as well as go to Paris? If you would let me
cater for you I could arrange matters very cheaply. At the "Hotel
(Pension) Baur au lac," where you stayed before, one can, during
the WINTER, have brilliant, large, and comfortable rooms for VERY
LITTLE. A family of my acquaintance occupied a whole floor there
last winter, and lived very well at a fabulously cheap rate. The
Wesendoncks are also staying there, and you might set up a
splendid, half-common MENAGE, which would be a great joke. Well,
the chief thing will be to have a good piano for our two selves,
and of that I will take care, although I cannot provide so
splendid an instrument as that which Erard sent me in London, and
for which I forgot to thank you. I believe if I had such an
instrument I should still learn to play the piano.
I am much annoyed about Hanover. I know of no way to address a
reclamation to the King. I have no faith in Wehner's
intercession. As a subordinate of Count P.'s, he can risk no step
which might compromise him with that official. But these are
disgusting things to write about. You also complain of troubles.
Tell me, why do not we live together? Must it be Weimar of all
places? Another time more about this. For today farewell, and let
me thank you for being in existence.
Over America I had forgotten Hanover, and must not omit once more
to point out Wehner to you as the best advocate of your claims
there. If the matter of the honorarium can be arranged according,
to your wish, he will be the most likely man to do it. From
Joachim I have heard nothing since the Dusseldorf festival.
Wehner lives at Hanover, and is in particular favour with His
Majesty, and he will be most eager to do you a little service if
you will ask him in a friendly manner.
At the end of December, about Christmas, I shall be with you.
Then we will feed like the gods on your "Rhinegold" and
"Valkyrie," and I, too, shall contribute some hors d'oeuvre.
WEYMAR, September 23rd, 1855.
Write to me, at the first opportunity, whether ten thousand or
twelve thousand dollars, with proper guarantee, would be a
sufficient honorarium if you were to act as conductor in America
for six months.
October 3rd, 1855.
Today, dearest Franz, I send you the two first acts of the
"Valkyrie" finished. It is a great satisfaction to me to place
them at once in your hands, because I know that no one
sympathises with my work as you do. I am anxious for the very
weighty second act; it contains two catastrophes, so important
and so powerful, that there would be sufficient matter for
two acts; but then they are so interdependent, and the one
implies the other so immediately, that it was impossible to
separate them. If it is represented exactly as I intend, and if
my intentions are perfectly understood, the effect must be beyond
anything that has hitherto been in existence. Of course, it is
written only for people who can stand something (perhaps in
reality for nobody). That incapable and weak persons will
complain, cannot in any way move me. You must decide whether
everything has succeeded according to my own intentions. I cannot
do it otherwise. At times, when I was timid and sobered down, I
was chiefly anxious about the great scene of Wotan, especially
when he discloses the decrees of fate to Brynhild, and in London
I was once on the point of rejecting the whole scene. In order to
come to a decision, I took up the sketch, and recited the scene
with proper expression, when, fortunately, I discovered that my
spleen was unjustified, and that, if properly represented, the
scene would have a grand effect even in a purely musical sense.
The manner of expression I have in places indicated very
accurately, but it still remains, and will indeed be my principal
task, to introduce a gifted singer and actor to the very core of
my intentions by means of personal communication. You, I firmly
hope, will find out the right thing at once. For the development
of the great tetralogy, this is the most important scene of all,
and, as such, it will probably meet with the necessary sympathy
If you should like nothing at all in my score, you will, at
least, be pleased once more with my neat hand-writing, and
will think the precaution of red lines ingenious. This
representation on paper will probably be the only one which my
work will achieve, for which reason I linger over the copying
I hope, more firmly than ever, to finish the last act by
Christmas. That you allow yourself to be ordered about by me is
too kind of you, and touches me deeply. In return, I promise to
behave very reasonably when you come. In the meantime I shall
nurse the feeble remnants of my voice in every way, and during
the last weeks before your arrival I shall try a few solfeggi, in
order to restore the overstrained and badly treated instrument to
a tolerable condition. Must I assure you once more, that I look
forward to our meeting with a sacred awe!
As far as we require society, it will not be unpleasant this
time. You probably know that Semper has been appointed here. I
take great pleasure in him--an artist through and through, and of
his nature more amiable than before, though still fiery. Carl
Ritter also will settle here. He pleases me better than ever. His
intellect is vast, and I do not know another young man like him.
He loves you sincerely, and understands you well.
Berlioz replied lately to a letter of mine, in which I had asked
him, amongst other things, to make me a present of all his
scores, if he could get them gratis. That he cannot do, because
his earlier publishers will give him no more free copies. I
confess that it would interest me very much to study his
symphonies carefully in full score. Do you possess them, and will
you lend them to me, or will you go so far as to give them to me?
I should accept them gratefully, but should like to have them
The Hanover business has been settled satisfactorily, the
Intendant having apparently seen the error of his ways. I thank
you for your well-intended advice with regard to Wehner, and
regret to have troubled you with this trumpery business.
America is a terrible nightmare. If the New York people should
ever make up their minds to offer me a considerable sum, I should
be in the most awful dilemma. If I refused I should have to
conceal it from all men, for every one would charge me in my
position with recklessness. Ten years ago I might have undertaken
such a thing, but to have to walk in such by-ways now in order to
live would be too hard,--now, when I am fit only to do, and to
devote myself to, that which is strictly my business. I should
never finish the "Nibelungen" in my life. Good gracious! such
sums as I might EARN in America, people ought to GIVE me, without
asking anything in return beyond what I am actually doing, and
which is the best that I can do. Besides this, I am much better
adapted to spend 60,000 francs in six months than to "earn" it.
The latter I cannot do at all, for it is not my business to "earn
money," but it is the business of my admirers to give me as much
money as I want, to do my work in a cheerful mood. Well, it is a
good thing, and I will take courage from the thought that the
Americans will make me no such offer. Do not you instigate it
either, for in the "luckiest" case it would be a great trouble to
me. Of your dear ones I never have any real news; I am frequently
asked, and do not know what to say. But you must greet them all
the more cordially for me, and, if you can, love me with all your
heart. Will you not? Adieu.
Your R. W.