Part 4 out of 6
considers that the time has come; those gentlemen like to appear
Farewell for today. I shall very soon write to you about other
matters, which, I hope, will be pleasanter to both of us.
January 27th, 1857.
Wretched and helpless as I am, I must once more trouble you with
something which this time will not be altogether without interest
to you. I enclose the letter of the person concerned, so that you
may be AU FAIT at once. (The enthusiasm displayed for me will, I
hope, not excite you.) B. A., according to the testimony of my
wife, is a young, very handsome, slender fellow, as, indeed, you
may have guessed by the liking of X. for him.
Arrange, therefore, that he may make his DEBUT as "Tannhauser"
and "Lohengrin" at Weimar under your direction. In that manner I
shall know that he will be under the surest guidance, and that I
shall have the best information as to the value of the young man.
Perhaps you will be kind enough to send for him previously.
I have not yet got back to the mood for writing to the kind
Princess and the good Child. I am annoyed at being always in a
state of lamentation, and must therefore wait for a favourable
hour, for I do not like absolutely to deceive you. You yourself
are used to my laments, and expect nothing else. My health, too,
is once more so bad, that for ten days, after I had finished the
sketch for the first act of "Siegfried," I was literally not able
to write a single bar without being driven away from my work by a
most alarming headache. Every morning I sit down, stare at the
paper, and am glad enough when I get as far as reading Walter
Scott. The fact is, I have once more over-taxed myself, and how
am I to recover my strength? With "Rhinegold" I got on well
enough, considering my circumstances, but the "Valkyrie" caused
me much pain. At present my nervous system resembles a pianoforte
very much out of tune, and on that instrument I am expected to
produce "Siegfried." Well, I fancy the strings will break at
last, and then there will be an end. WE cannot alter it; this is
a life fit for a dog.
I hope you are out of bed again. I wish I were a little more like
you. Can you not let me have the "Mountain Symphony?" Do not
forget to send it to me.
Adieu, my good, dear Franz. You are my only comfort.
A thousand greetings to all at Altenburg.
January 27th, 1857.
Your sympathy with me makes me hope that you are at present
employed in giving the necessary helpful turn to my affairs, and
I therefore think it advisable to describe to you, in a few
words, my situation as it has lately shaped itself, so that you
may know accurately upon what I reckon, and may take steps
W. has bought the little country house after all, and offers me a
perpetual lease of it.
As I have given up the allowance of the R.'s, it is important for
me to settle my income on an INDEPENDENT basis. It would be
foolish if I tried to arrange my future definitely at this
moment, which will probably bring my provisional position to a
close. I am certain that my amnesty will be granted in the course
of 1858 at the latest, and I hope that this will suddenly change
my situation, to the extent, at least, that it will depend upon
myself to find a solid basis for my social existence. All I can
rationally care for, considering that I have no chance of success
in any other direction, must be to secure for myself a free,
unencumbered, and not too limited income for the next few years,
until my great work is completed and produced. Nothing appears
more adapted to the achievement of this purpose than the sale of
my "Nibelungen" to Hartel, whom I have asked to settle with me
according to his own judgment. It is most important to me that
this should come to pass, and I hope, in any case, that if Hartel
accepts the offer I shall receive all that is required. I think
they ought to pay me 1,000 thalers for each score, in each case
on delivery of the manuscript--that is, for the "Rhinegold," and
perhaps for the "Valkyrie" also, now at once. "Siegfried" will be
in their hands by the end of this year. However, as I remarked
before, I must be satisfied even if they give me a little less.
In any case, it will be enough to keep me going for several
years; and if I once know what I have, I shall make arrangements
accordingly, being resolved, in any case, to leave the management
of my income in future to my wife.
I need not tell you that if you come to terms with the Hartels
other things ought to be LEFT ALONE ALTOGETHER, for I have made
up my mind henceforth to preserve my independence as much as
You now have the complete synopsis of my situation; let me
commend it to your well-tried sympathy.
I hear with great delight that you are well again. I have
finished the composition of my first act, and, as soon as I have
recovered a little strength, hope to score it before leaving my
present house. Of resuming composition proper I cannot think
here; I have suffered too much of late by the musical and
unmusical noisiness of my lodging.
Tell the dear Child that she will soon receive one of those
letters from me which she likes, but not about "Indian poetry"
(droll idea!), but about that of which my heart is full, and
which I can call by no other name, than "Orpheus." But I must
wait for a favourable mood. You may tell the Child, however, that
the "white rose" is now red and in full bloom, and that the
"slender stem of the lily" looks right robust, and inspires
confidence. The Princess is angry with me--I feel it--but I know
that I shall conciliate her. A thousand greetings to her.
Farewell, dearest, dear Orpheus!
Your R. W.
You could not possibly be forgotten, dearest friend, and the next
few days will give me an opportunity of looking after your
affairs most carefully. On the 22nd I go to Leipzig to stay there
for a whole week. On Thursday, the 26th, "Les Preludes" and
"Mazeppa" will be given at the Gewandhaus for the benefit of the
pension fund of the orchestra, and on the 28th I am to conduct a
performance of "Tannhauser" in Leipzig for the benefit of Herr
Behr (the Landgrave), the Mildes singing Elizabeth and Wolfram
respectively. In the interval I hope I shall succeed in getting a
little "Rhine copper" for the "Rhinegold" from the Hartels, and
shall write to you at once.
Frau X. is announced to sing Ortrud on the 8th of March. She is
to sing the part twice, and then appear as Antonina in
"Belisario." If she pleases her engagement is very probable.
I shall write very soon to Herr A., who sent me your letter by
way of introduction, and I have in the meantime asked Herr von
Beaulieu to let him make his debut as Lohengrin or Tannhauser.
Today, 16th February (the anniversary of the first performance of
"Tannhauser," in the year 1849), we shall have a gala performance
of Gluck's "Armida," with Frau Koster of Berlin. A new opera,
never yet performed, by a Belgian composer, M. Lassen, "Landgraf
Ludwig's Brautfahrt," will be put in rehearsal soon. As far as I
am concerned, while
[Musical Notation] He - da! He - do!
is hammering in my head I can enjoy nothing else, either old or
new, and dream only of the "Ring of the Nibelung," which God's
grace may soon vouchsafe to me.
Your F. L.
WEYMAR, February 16th, 1857.
The three last numbers of my Symphonic Poems will appear by the
end of this month, and I shall send them to you at once. A
similar thing, "Die Hunnenschlacht," I completed last week. The
Princess of Prussia has commanded "Tannhauser" for next Sunday.
Please forward the enclosed proof to Brendel, so that the good
man may get a notion of his bad editorship.
(TO BRENDEL.) ZURICH, April 15TH, 1857. DEAR FRIEND,
The somewhat tardy publication of my letter about Liszt I
recently read in your paper, and saw, to my regret, that it was
very incorrect, and even showed several omissions, disfiguring
the sense, owing to the inattention of the printer. At first I
thought of forwarding you a list of errata, but considered, on
reflection, that such corrections are never read in context with
the article, and therefore made up my mind to send a revised
version to Zellner at Vienna, asking him to print it at once in
his paper. My intention is by no means to punish you for the
neglect shown to me, but to induce those interested in the matter
to read the corrected letter once again. In case you
intentionally made such changes as "PURER form of art" into
"NEWER," etc., you have certainly misunderstood me very much, and
in that case you must look upon my correction as a demonstration
against yourself, although only in private. But I presume that
most of the mistakes were caused by the fact that instead of my
manuscript you received a copy, which you should not have
Shall I soon see you? I live in the greatest retirement, and do
as much work as my health will let me.
Best remembrances from
You have given me a delightful Easter Sunday, dearest, most
unique of friends, by your letter. By the loving "Azymen" which
you offer me with so much kindness and friendship, you have given
me strength, health, and total oblivion of all other leaven.
Receive my most cordial thanks, and let it be a joy to you to
have given me so much and such heartfelt joy. That joy shall not
be disturbed by a few misprints and omissions. The essential
thing is that you love me, and consider my honest efforts as a
musician worthy of your sympathy. This you have said in a manner
in which no one else could say it. I confess candidly that when I
brought my things to you at Zurich, I did not know how you would
receive and like them. I have had to hear and read so much about
them, that I have really no opinion on the subject, and continue
to work only from persistent inner conviction, and without any
claim to recognition or approval. Several of my intimate friends-
-for example, Joachim, and formerly Schumann and others--have
shown themselves strange, doubtful, and unfavourable towards my
musical creations. I owe them no grudge on that account, and
cannot retaliate, because I continue to take a sincere and
comprehensive interest in their works.
Imagine then, dearest Richard, the unspeakable joy which the
hours at Zurich and St. Gallen gave me when your beaming glance
penetrated my soul and lovingly encompassed it, bringing life and
In a few days I shall write to you at greater length about the
Hartel affair, which unfortunately remains in a very
unsatisfactory stage. At Altenburg things are looking very sad.
The Child has been somewhat seriously ill for the last three
weeks, and cannot leave her bed. The Princess also had to doctor
herself, and is not yet allowed to leave her room; and I, after
having been in bed for quite six weeks, am only just able to
hobble about the theatre and the castle. In spite of this, I have
better and best hopes for my dear ones and for you, who live in a
high place of my heart, and to whom I feel and confess that I
April 19th, 1857.
At the beginning of next season Dingelstedt will take the place
of Herr von Beaulieu as our theatrical manager. He has been here
for the last fortnight, and his position, although not yet
officially announced, has been secured by the necessary
By your recommendation Frau X. will sing Ortrud next Sunday. Herr
A., whom you introduced to me, has also been staying at Weymar
for the last month, but I doubt whether I shall be able to serve
him in any particular way. His vocal talent is said to be very
small as yet. Otherwise he impresses me favourably, and I shall
hear him before long.
Once more, my best, best thanks for today, when I did not want to
write to you about anything else.
Your "Lohengrin" has once more pervaded my whole soul, and in
spite of my absurd indisposition, which compelled me to go to bed
immediately after the performance, I am brimful of the sublime
and tender charm of the incomparable work. I wish I could sing in
F and E major "A wonder!" just as you wrote it.
The performance was the best which we have had so far, and the
artists were most enthusiastic. Next Saturday there will be a
repetition, for which I shall get up again. With Frau Milde you
would be pleased; her singing and acting are full of magnetism.
Caspari also gave some passages beautifully, and Milde is always
noble and artistically efficient, although he does not quite
possess the great volume of voice required for Telramund. Frau X.
did not come up to the mark, and Frau Knopp, our former Ortrud,
was much more equal to the part. Frau X. had studied it
conscientiously, but neither her voice nor her enunciation are
particularly adapted to the style. The middle register decidedly
lacks strength and fulness, and the declamation moves in prosaic
theatrical grooves, without individual and deeper pathos. This is
between ourselves, for I do not want to injure a good woman and
conscientious artist; but I cannot advise her engagement at the
theatre here, and prefer to keep the place open which she would
have to fill. I believe I told you already that Dingelstedt will
assume his office of general intendant at Weymar on October 1st.
Perhaps we shall find, in the course of next season, an Ortrud
whom I should like a little younger than Frau X.
From Hanover I have been asked to get the original score of the
"Flying Dutchman" for Capellmeister Fischer there, who is
recommended to me on good authority as a sincere and energetic
admirer of your works. Fischer has the scores of "Tannhauser" and
"Lohengrin" in HIS library, and is very desirous not to be
without the "Flying Dutchman" any longer. I have been informed by
my correspondent that he is in the habit of conducting from HIS
OWN scores, and has taken much trouble to get that of the "Flying
Dutchman," but so far without success. He would of course prefer
the original to a copy, which he could take at any time. Perhaps
you will be able to find an original copy for him, for which he
would have to send you the price agreed upon. Although I do not
like to meddle with similar matters, I thought that one might
show special attention to Fischer, who has prepared your three
operas at Hanover with every care. Write to me soon what I am to
tell him. I do not know him personally.
After many verbal and written discussions of the "Nibelungen"
question with Hartel (in which I throughout stuck to the chief
point of Hartel's FIRST OFFER, without allowing him to swerve from
it on the vague chance of some other and lower proposal), the
matter has about reached this point, that I may assume that he will
not give a negative answer to a letter from you, in which, making
reference to his conversation with me, you should simply and a
little politely ask him to carry out his former proposal. On this
first proposal, I think, the resumption of the transaction must
necessarily be based, and I must tell you candidly that Hartel did
not appear very ready to act upon it now, because the turn given by
you to the matter in your second letter has almost offended him.
Consider, therefore, whether you will write him to this effect,
which I should advise you to do, for it cannot easily be
anticipated that a better proposal will be made to you from
another quarter, and yet it appears important to me that your
work should be published.
Concerning the performance itself, I am still in hopes that the
Grand Duke will supply the means to me, or rather to you, for in
that case I should only act as your assistant.
Go on with your gigantic work bravely and cheerfully. The rest
will be arranged, and I shall be in it.
WEYMAR, April 28th, 1857.
ZURICH, May 8th. 1857.
At last I sit down to write to you, dearest Franz. I have had a
bad time, which now, it is true, appears to give place to a very
pleasant state of things.
Ten days ago we took possession of the little country house next
to W.'s villa, which I owe to the great sympathy of that friendly
family. At first I had to go through various troubles, for the
furnishing of the little house, which has turned out very neat,
and, according to my taste, took much time, and we had to move
out before there was any possibility of moving in. In addition to
this my wife was taken ill, and I had to keep her from all
exertion, so that the whole trouble of moving fell upon me alone.
For ten days we lived at the hotel, and at last we moved in here
in very cold and terrible weather. Only the thought that the
change would be definite was able to keep me in a good temper.
At last we have got through it all; everything is permanently
housed and arranged according to wish and want; everything is in
the place where it is to remain. My study has been arranged with
the pedantry and elegant comfort known to you. My writing-table
stands at the large window, with a splendid view of the lake and
the Alps; rest and quiet surround me. A pretty and well-stocked
garden offers little walks and resting-places to me, and will
enable my wife to occupy herself pleasantly, and to keep herself
free from troubling thoughts about me; in particular a large
kitchen garden claims her tenderest care. You will see that a
very pretty place for my retirement has been gained, and if I
consider how long I have been wishing for this, and how difficult
it was even to bring it into view, I feel compelled to look upon
the excellent W. as one of my greatest benefactors. At the
beginning of July the W.'s hope to move into their villa, and
their neighbourhood promises many friendly and pleasant things to
me. Well, so much has been achieved.
Very soon I hope to resume my long-interrupted work, and I shall
certainly not leave my charming refuge even for the shortest trip
before Siegfried has settled everything with Brynhild. So far I
have only finished the first act, but then it is quite ready, and
has turned out stronger and more beautiful than anything. I am
astonished myself at having achieved this, for at our last
meeting I again appeared to myself a terribly blundering
musician. Gradually, however, I gained self-confidence. With a
local prima-donna, whom you heard in "La Juive", I studied the
great final scene of the "Valkyrie." Kirchner accompanied; I hit
the notes famously, and this scene, which gave you so much
trouble, realised all my expectations. We performed it three
times at my house, and now I am quite satisfied. The fact is,
that everything in this scene is so subtle, so deep, so subdued,
that the most intellectual, the most tender, the most perfect
execution in every direction is necessary to make it understood;
if this, however, is achieved, the impression is beyond a doubt.
But of course a thing of this kind is always on the verge of
being quite misunderstood, unless all concerned approach it in
the most perfect, most elevated, most intelligent mood; merely to
play it through as we tried, in a hurried way, is impossible. I,
at least, lose on such occasions instinctively all power and
intelligence; I become perfectly stupid. But now I am quite
satisfied, and if you hear the melting and hammering songs of
"Siegfried" you will have a new experience of me. The abominable
part of it is that I cannot have a thing of this kind played for
my own benefit. Even to our next meeting I attach no real hope; I
always feel as if we were in a hurry, and that is most
detrimental to me. I can be what I am only in a state of perfect
concentration; all disturbance is my death.
I am deeply touched to hear that my letter has given you so much
pleasure; I am sure you have taken the good will for the deed,
for what I wrote cannot mean MUCH to the many, just because it
was so difficult to write MUCH that might have been more useful
and important to the multitude. A description of your single
poems I had to refrain from altogether, for the reason which I
candidly state in the letter itself. I cannot and will not
attempt such insufficient things again. I had, therefore, to
confine myself to showing to INTELLIGENT persons the road which I
had discovered for myself. Those who cannot follow in this road
and afterwards help themselves further along, I cannot help along
either; that is my sincere opinion. Concerning the misprints, I
shall send you one of these days a corrected copy, just for the
sake of the joke. You will then understand that I might well be
annoyed, but the fault seems to lie less with Brendel than with
the copyist of my manuscript, who has performed his task in a
very perfunctory manner. I do not speak of the intentional
omissions, which were your doing, and to which you were fully
entitled, but of simple abominations. However, that has been set
right now, and will not happen again.
Many thanks also for LOHENGRIN. It must remain a shadow to me, I
really have forgotten it; I do not know it. You do all this
amongst yourselves, and seem scarcely to think that I too might
wish to be present. But I honour the mysterious silence which is
so conscientiously preserved on the awkward question of my
return by my high and highest patrons. Joking apart, the Emperor
of Brazil has invited me to come to him at Rio Janeiro, where I
am to have plenty of everything. Therefore if not at Weymar, then
Why do I hear so much about Frau X.? I did not specially
recommend her for Ortrud. In my introduction I only spoke of an
experienced singer of second parts, who, for want of a better,
and, if she were taken in hand properly, might perhaps do for
Ortrud. In saying this I specially had regard to her agreeable,
although perhaps slightly enfeebled, voice, and her well-known
industry. But that this unfortunate person should have been
engaged specially for the part of Ortrud, which she had never
studied, and that she should have been considered as my chosen
representative of that part, was a little hard on her and on me.
Please do not turn me into the "father" of this DEBUTANTE, whose
interest I should have considered better if I had arranged her
first appearance in some piece by Verdi or Donizetti, or indeed
anything but LOHENGRIN. But enough of such stuff, although I am
grieved to see Herr A., the tenor of the future (if well
prepared), dwindle into thin air also. May heaven grant that
Caspari will keep on, or that a decent tenor may come to you from
some other place.
APROPOS, I must ask you to inform the Royal Capellmeister Fischer
in Hanover, that he must make a copy of the DUTCHMAN score do for
the present. The few autographed copies which were made at the
time, not by myself, but by a copyist, have been reduced to so
few that I cannot possibly spare another. The first twenty-five
copies I scattered about recklessly, before any cock crowed for
this opera, and the very few remaining ones are naturally of
value to me. Excuse me, therefore, and refer him to the time when
the sale of my works will have become so lucrative that the full
scores can be engraved. I am, however, very grateful to him for
his sympathy. Hanover has become a perfect repository of my
Many thanks also for your hints regarding the Hartel affair.
Candidly speaking, the settlement of it is so important to me,
that I immediately followed your advice, and wrote to the Hartels
in such a manner that they will probably accept my offer,
provided that they have been properly informed of the object by
you. This, of course, I assume, and thank you cordially for it.
Well, we shall see.
I am being continually and painfully interrupted in these
sufficiently frivolous lines by the invasions of workmen,
especially of a Saxon locksmith. So I had better come to a close,
although to my sorrow, for I regret our ill-sustained
correspondence, in which at bottom we never express ourselves
thoroughly, but, barring a few violent lucubrations, touch each
other in a very superficial manner. I do not say anything today
on the important point of your failing health. I wrote very
seriously about it to the Princess some time ago, and am longing
for a conclusive answer. I now hear through you that our
magnanimous friend has herself been ill for a long time, and my
fears are thus sadly confirmed. So I must ask you, after all, to
let me know at least what steps you are going to take for the
thorough recovery of your health. Have you really settled to
persevere in the musical festival of Aix-la-Chapelle, or have you
found a doctor with sufficient courage to prohibit your incessant
efforts and sacrifices absolutely, and to withdraw you for a time
from the world which spoils you more and more, in order to secure
your perfect recovery? Really, dearest Franz, you will cause me
the deepest anxiety unless you satisfy me on this point, and
every rational person will see that this can be done only by a
long and careful cure, together with absolute rest and abstention
from every effort and excitement. To speak plainly, you dear
people cannot long go on as you do now. Others would be ruined
very soon by this kind of thing, which, at last, must become
detrimental to you also. Listen, my Franz, come to me. No one
shall know of your presence; we will live quite by ourselves, and
you must submit to our taking the necessary care of your "cure."
You will think this very stupid, and will perhaps scarcely
believe that it is absolute despair which inspires this advice;
but SOMETHING must be done, and if things appear black to me, the
reality of the news which you send me surely does not justify a
rosier view. For Heaven's sake, calm my fear, and believe me that
no triumphs, not even those gained by yourself for yourself, will
give me the least pleasure as long as I know how dearly you pay
for them. Well, I must wait for your reply, but please let it not
be a superficial, futile one.
Heaven only knows what I have written here; it must be nice
Finally, I want to thank you for the last three scores received
by me; they came to me like old friends. I shall take them in
hand thoroughly; they are to consecrate me a musician once
more, and fit me for the beginning of my second act, which I
shall precede by my study of them.
As I said before, I do not thank you for the sacrifice you have
made for me by your last beautiful performance of LOHENGRIN. If
you had written to me instead, "I have put LOHENGRIN, you,
myself, and everything else on the shelf, in order to get
thoroughly well again," I should have thanked you with heartfelt
tears. Let me soon know something of the kind, or else I shall
never write to you again, and burn YOUNG SIEGFRIED with all his
songs of the smithy.
Adieu, you good, wicked Franz. Greet your dear women from the
bottom of my soul; they are to love me, and to get well, the
dear, wicked women.
Adieu, my good dear Franz.
May 19th, 1857.
I received today the enclosed letter from the Hartels. In it they
refer to a letter addressed to you, and in case this latter
contains any indications as to how the business might be settled,
I should like you to send it to me. Otherwise it would be of no
use to me.
It is a sad thing that, in order to have a CERTAIN income for the
next few years, I am compelled to offer my work for sale in this
manner, and in different circumstances I should calmly bide my
time in the firm hope that people would come to me. As it is, I
am compelled to try everything, so as to tempt the Hartels to
this purchase. Above all, I perceive that your time and
occupations will not allow you to acquaint those gentlemen
thoroughly with my music. I have, therefore, invited them to come
here this summer, and to meet Klindworth, who has announced his
visit to me. With his aid I shall give them a piece of my
"Nibelungen," which will give them some notion of it.
Be good enough, therefore, to return to me for some time the
pianoforte score of "Rhinegold," which we shall want for that
Delight me soon with satisfactory news of you; you know what I
mean by this.
Farewell, and be greeted a thousand times.
(I want Hartels' letter back again.)
[Here, Wagner illustrates with a 4-bar musical score example.]
[Musical score example continued] You wicked friend! Let me know,
at least, by some sign, how you are, and whether you forgive me
for my anxiety about you.
May 3Oth, early in the morning, after a good night.
WEYMAR, June 9th, 1857.
I returned from Aix-la-Chapelle yesterday, and (barring a little
pain in both my feet, which requires some care) I feel so well
that I can cheerfully go to my work and various occupations. You
must forgive me for not having satisfied your friendly anxiety
about my health before this; the fact is, I must endure what is
destined to me for your sake and my sake. God be thanked, I do
not lack either strength or a certain tough equanimity.
H. wrote to you about the Aix Musical Festival, which, upon the
whole, was satisfactory, both in arrangement and execution,
although OUR FRIEND Hiller may demonstrate in the COLOGNE GAZETTE
that I have no talent either as a conductor or a composer. The
TANNHAUSER overture went splendidly, and your autogragh "ich lieg
und besitze,--lasst mich schlafen" has given me a happy moment.
Owing to the severe illness of the Princess, my frame of mind has
been sad and anxious for more than nine weeks. At my return I
found her on the way to recovery, but several months may still
pass before she is quite well again. At present she can scarcely
sit up for half an hour every day.
Forgive me for not having written to you sooner, but I had
nothing but sad news to tell you, and the poor Princess caused me
so much anxiety that I scarcely knew how to bear it.
At last you have found a comfortable habitation which has been
prepared for you by tender friendship, and must be all the more
pleasant and beneficial to you on that account. I cordially
participate in this essential improvement of your life at Zurich,
and am glad that you can give yourself up to your genius, and
complete the gigantic mental mountain range of your NIBELUNGEN,
without disturbance from neighbouring smiths and pianists. Have
the W.'s moved into their villa yet? Convey my humble compliments
to the amiable lady, and greet W. most cordially. I hope I shall
be able to visit you in the autumn, after the Jubilee of Grand
Duke Carl August. It will be celebrated here on September 3rd,
4th, and 5th, on which occasion I shall perform my FAUST symphony
and a new symphonic poem THE IDEALS.
In reference to the Hartel affair I enclose his two letters of
March 4th and 5th. At the end of February I had a long
conversation about the matter at Leipzig with Dr. Hartel, and
tried to persuade him to renew his first proposal to you, because
that seemed to me the most advantageous thing for you. After a
few days' consideration he sent me the letter, dated March 4th,
and I replied in the sense of my conversation with him. I tried
to show him as clearly as possible that this matter ought to be
looked upon as a grand ENTERPRISE rather than as a common
COMMERCIAL SPECULATION, and that the firm of Breitkopf and
Hartel, which already possessed LOHENGRIN and the three operatic
poems, would, in my opinion, be the most eligible for that
purpose. I have not kept a copy of my letter, but can assure you
that you need not disavow a single word of it. Hartal's letter of
March 16th is identical with that addressed to you. As matters
stand, I am very doubtful whether the Hartels will make you a new
offer of honorarium unless, of course, the immediate impression
of your rendering of the work on them should be so powerful as to
overcome their commercial timidity. On your part I should not
think it advisable to make them a new offer, and you have, no
doubt, hit upon the best idea in inviting them to Zurich, so that
you may be able to give them at least some previous idea of your
work. This, I think, will be your most favourable chance in the
circumstances. The intention of the Hartels for the present is,
of course, to offer you nothing but an eventual honorarium AFTER
the publication of the work, and after the expenses of that
publication have been covered. You seem to think that I have not
had sufficient time and opportunity for determining the Hartels
to a different and better proposal, BUT THERE YOU ARE VERY MUCH
MISTAKEN; and you may be quite certain that I should willingly
have remained at Leipzig for a month or longer, and should have
played and sung the RHINEGOLD to the Hartels several times if I
had had the slightest hope that our purpose would in that manner
be advanced by a hair's breadth. What I laid particular stress on
with Hartel, apart from the intrinsic importance of the whole
quality and essence of your work, was the possibility and the all
but absolute certainty of its performance, which of course is
denied on all sides.
At last I told him: "This I will guarantee, by word and deed,
that between the completion of the "NIBELUNGEN", which may be
expected by the end of the next year, and its performance,
scarcely a year will elapse, and that the friends of Wagner, and
I foremost amongst them, will do all that is possible to bring
that performance about. In this firm conviction I think it
desirable that the work should appear in print, so that the
necessary standpoint for its judgment may be supplied," etc.,
I am sorry to bore you with all this stuff, and only ask you NOT
TO GIVE WAY TO IRRITATION, and not to say or to write a single
rash word, because the matter is of decided importance, and a
trustworthy publisher is not easily found. The publication of the
"NIBELUNGEN" in full score and pianoforte arrangement will
require an outlay of at least ten thousand thalers, for which few
firms will be prepared. For the present I should advise you to
keep quite quiet, and to invite the Hartels simply, and if need
be repeatedly, to visit you, leaving all further discussion as to
the terms of publication till you have given them more accurate
insight into the matter; that is, till your meeting at Zurich.
What is your present address?
Richard Pohl has asked me to inquire of you whether you will be
at Zurich in July, and whether he may pay you a visit there?
ZURICH, May 8th, 1857.
At last, dearest Franz, I am able to give you an answer by
First of all, receive my heartiest congratulations on the good
state of your health. Your letter has joyfully surprised me, and,
to my greatest delight, has made me feel ashamed of my intrusive
anxiety about you. Your organisation is a perfect riddle to me,
and I hope that you will always solve that riddle in as
satisfactory a manner as this time, when I looked on with real
anxiety. Heaven grant that your profession of good health may not
be that of a Spartan!
All the more sorry do I feel that you have not been able to
dispel my anxiety as to the Princess also. At our last meeting at
Zurich my impression of your (to me) strange and very exciting
mode of life frightened me so much that I am really less
astonished at the Princess being on a sick bed than at your being
up again. My very eager anxiety about both of you is perhaps in
bad taste; for you are accustomed to taking care of yourselves,
and acknowledge probably no special right on my part to trouble
about you. Heaven grant that patience and good advice may restore
our magnanimous friend as soon as possible; when she is once well
again I shall be quite willing to plead guilty to the charge of
impertinence. You say nothing of the health of her daughter, who
was also severely indisposed. May your good star guide you; in
one important point I shall always remain a stranger to you all.
I shall have no further trouble with the Hartels, as I have
determined finally to give up my headstrong design of completing
the "Nibelungen." I have led my young Siegfried to a beautiful
forest solitude, and there have left him under a linden tree, and
taken leave of him with heartfelt tears. He will be better off
there than elsewhere. If I were ever to resume the work some one
would have to make it very easy for me, or else I should have to
be in a position to present it to the world as a GIFT, in the
full sense of the word. These long explanations with the Hartels-
-my first contact with that world which would have to make the
realisation of my enterprise possible--were quite enough to bring
me to my senses, and to make me recognize the chimeric nature of
this undertaking. You were the only person of importance, besides
myself, who believed in its possibility, but probably for the
reason that you also had not sufficiently realised its
difficulties. But the Hartels, who are to advance solid coin,
have looked into the matter more closely, and are, no doubt,
quite right in believing the performance of the work impossible,
as the author did not even see his way to its completion without
As regards myself, there was a time when I conceived, commenced,
and half finished the work without the expectation of its being
performed during my lifetime. Even last winter your confident
tone, as you took leave of me, and your hope of releasing me soon
from my mute and soundless exile, gave me the courage (which by
that time had become a difficult matter) to continue. Such
encouragement was indeed required, for, after having been without
any stimulus, such as a good performance of one of my works might
have given me, my position was, at last, becoming unbearable. Our
trials at the piano further contributed towards my becoming
thoroughly conscious of the misery of such musical makeshifts;
indeed, I felt that a good many things would be explained to
myself only by a good performance. Since then my last hope has
vanished again, and a terrible bitterness has come over me, so
that I can no longer have any faith in mere chance. You, my
rarest friend, do everything in your power to rouse me again in
one way or other, and to sustain my freshness and love of work,
but I know that all you say is only for this particular purpose.
So I have at last decided to help myself. I have determined to
finish at once "Tristan and Isolde" on a moderate scale, which
will make its performance easier, and to produce it next year at
Strassburg with Niemann and Madame Meyer. There is a beautiful
theatre there, and the orchestra and the other not very important
characters I hope to get from a neighbouring German Court-
theatre. In that manner I must try (D.V.) to produce something
myself and in my own way which will once more restore freshness
and artistic conscientiousness to me. Apart from this, such an
undertaking offers me the only possible chance of sustaining my
position. It was only by a somewhat frivolous proceeding--the
sale of "Tannhauser" to the Josephstadt Theatre at Vienna--that I
succeeded in preserving my equilibrium, and this will soon again
be threatened, or, at least, is so absolutely insecure, that I
had to think of something which would free me from care. For so
much I may assume that a thoroughly practicable work, such as
"Tristan" is to be, will quickly bring me a good income, and keep
me afloat for a time. In addition to this, I have a curious idea.
I am thinking of having a good Italian translation made of this
work in order to produce it as an Italian opera at the theatre of
Rio Janeiro, which will probably give my "Tannhauser" first. I
mean to dedicate it to the Emperor of Brazil, who will soon receive
copies of my last three operas, and all this will, I trust, realise
enough to keep me out of harm's way for a time. Whether, after
that, my "Nibelungen" will appeal to me again I cannot foresee; it
depends upon moods over which I have no control. For once I have
used violence against myself. Just as I was in the most favourable
mood I have torn Siegfried from my heart, and placed him under lock
and key as one buried alive. There I shall keep him, and no one
shall see anything of him, as I had to shut him out from myself.
Well, perhaps this sleep will do him good; as to his awaking I
decide nothing. I had to fight a hard and painful battle before I
got to this point. Well, it is settled so far.
Your three last Symphonic Poems have once more filled me with
painful joy. While reading them I was forced again to think of my
miserable condition, which makes such things mute to me, to me
who knows so little how to help himself. God knows the greatest
delight, such as your "Mountain Symphony," is thus turned to
sorrow for me. But I have made these complaints a thousand times,
and there is no help for it.
Some unfortunate person has again sent me a whole heap of
ridiculous nonsense about my "Nibelungen," and probably expects
an approving answer in return. With such puppets have I to deal
when I look for human beings. These are the kind of people who
continually trouble themselves about me with astounding
faithfulness and constancy. Good Lord! it is very well for you to
I shall receive R. Pohl with all the respect due to the Weimar
art historiographer. I shall stay in my "refuge," and shall be
pleased to see him. To speak at last of something hopeful, let me
express my greatest joy at your giving me hope of a visit from
you in September. Let me pray you earnestly not to treat this
matter lightly, but to turn my hope into confidence. Try to
imagine that you have undertaken to conduct a musical festival
here, and then I am sure your passionate conscientiousness will
not allow you to stay away. Really, dearest Franz, such a meeting
is a necessity to me this time. I shall enjoy it like a true
gourmet. Let me soon hear something definite, and greet Altenburg
and all its precious contents from the bottom of my heart. REMAIN
well, for you say that you are well, and once more, love me.
As regards my address, the very blind know my footsteps at
Zurich. About "Tristan" ABSOLUTE SILENCE.
ZURICH, July 9th, 1857.
My DEAR FRANZ,
I forgot to ask you something. At Zurich I told you that that
poor devil Rockel was longing to see one of my new scores.
Recently he has again reminded me of it, therefore I repeat my
request to you to lend him your score of "Rhinegold" for six or
eight weeks. His wife, who lives at Weimar, will, no doubt,
gladly undertake to send him the score. He is a clever fellow,
and I should like to count him amongst those who occupy
themselves with my recent works. It will cheer him up
considerably, and I see from his last letter that he is gradually
becoming low-spirited. You would, no doubt, increase his delight
if you were to add copies of all, or some of your symphonic
poems. I have drawn his attention to them, and he is very curious
to know something of them. You might let him have them just as a
loan. Do not be angry with me for troubling you with this.
How are you, and have you any comforting news of the Princess for
The Grand Duke of Baden recently wrote me a surprisingly amiable
and friendly letter, which is of real value to me, as the first
sign of a breach in the timid or courtly etiquette hitherto
observed towards me. The occasion was a little attention which I
showed to the young Grand Duchess, and for which he thanks me in
a moved and moving manner in her name and his own.
Eduard Dervient stayed with me for three days last week, and
inaugurated my little guest-chamber. To him I also spoke of my
"Tristan" scheme; he highly approved of it, but was against
Strassburg, and undertook, although generally a careful and timid
man, to arrange about its first performance at Carlsruhe under my
direction. The Grand Duke also seems to have got wind of
something of the kind, probably through Devrient, for in one
passage of his letter he pointedly alludes to his confident hope
of seeing me soon at Carlsruhe.
Well, as God wills. This much I see, that I must, once more,
perform a little miracle to make people believe in me.
About my work I am, as you may imagine, in a state of great and
Let it be settled that I have you in September; that is the chief
A thousand cordial greetings to your dear home.
At your recommendation I am reading the Correspondence between
Schiller and Goethe. Your last letter found me at this passage:
"It is one of the greatest happinesses of my existence that I
live to see the completion of these works, that they fall into
the period of my activity, and that I am enabled to drink at this
pure fountain. The beautiful relation existing between us
constitutes a kind of religious duty on my part to make your
cause my own, to develop every reality in my being to the purest
mirror of the spirit which lives in this body, and to deserve by
that means the name of your friend in a higher sense of the word"
(p. 163, vol. i.).
I must weep when I think of the interruption of your
"Nibelungen." Cannot the great "Ring" free you of all the little
chains which surround you? You have certainly many reasons for
being bitter, and if I generally observe silence on the point I
feel it none the less sadly. In many quarters I am, for the
present, unable to achieve anything more, but it would be foolish
to abandon all hope. A more favourable hour will come, and must
be waited for, and in the meantime I can only ask you not to be
unjust to your friend, and to practise the virtue of the mule, as
Byron calls patience. "Tristan" appears to me a very happy idea.
You will, no doubt, create a splendid work, and then go back
refreshed to your "Nibelungen." We shall all come to Strassburg
and form a garde d'honneur for you. I hope to see you at the
beginning of this autumn, although I am not yet able to settle on
a definite plan. The Princess is still confined to her bed, and
her recovery is, as yet, in a bad way.
I, for my part, shall be compelled after all, and in spite of
obstinate resistance, to use the baths of Aix-la-Chapelle, which
is very unpleasant to me. Next week I shall go to Berlin for a
few days, and from there I proceed straight to Aix, where I
intend to go through the cure from July 22nd till August 10th. On
August 14th I shall be back in order to receive the commands of
the Grand Duke with regard to the festivities in September. The
excavations which have been made for the monument of Schiller and
Goethe will, it is feared, cause a dangerous settlement of the
soil near the theatre, and the two "fellows" may possibly not be
able to find a secure position in Weymar. A telegram has been
sent to Rietschel in order to decide in what manner the danger
can be prevented. Perhaps they will order me to make no more
"Music of the Future," so as not to ruin the city from the
bottom. In that case I should have to fly to Zurich in order to
produce the "Faust" symphony and my last symphonic poem,
Schiller's "Ideals," at your villa. The former has been increased
by a final chorus of male voices singing the last eight lines of
the second part, the Eternal Feminine.
It is still very doubtful whether the Princess will be fit for
travelling this year, and the Child will, in any case, not leave
her mother. If both are able this autumn to perform the Swiss
journey, which they missed last year, I shall of course stay with
them at the Hotel Baur. Your wife, in that case, must not refuse
me the boon of getting me excellent coffee and a practicable
coffee machine, for the abominable beverage which is served at
the hotel as coffee is as disgusting to me as a piece de salon by
Kucken, etc., and embitters my morning hours.
By what manner of means have you got at H.M. the Emperor of
Brazil? You must tell me this. He ought by rights to send you the
Rose Order set in brilliants, although you do not care about
flowers or orders.
Rosa Milde is going to give a few performances at Dresden, and
has asked for Elizabeth as her first part. If the voice of Frau
Meyer does not improve I advise you to choose Frau Milde as
Isolde. I believe you will be satisfied with her, although our
FRIEND Hiller praised her so much.
WEYMAR, July 10th, 1857.
You have not come, after all, dearest Franz; without a word of
explanation, simply remaining silent, you have not come. In two
letters you had given me hope of your visit, and I wrote to M.
that I had thought of a way of receiving you under my roof. Has
my message been given to you? Perhaps not. M. was kind enough to
write to me some time ago, but my last invitation was not
mentioned with a single word. You wrote to me a few lines, but
not a word as to whether you were coming or not. My dearest
Franz, whatever there may have been in my conduct to make you
angry with me, you must, I pray you, forgive me for the sake of
our friendship, while I, on my part, am quite willing to forgive
the person who may have set you against me.
B. will bring you a copy of the poem of "Tistan," which I wrote
during his absence. While I was at work, and had a visitor, I
found it impossible to make a copy and send it to M. Kindly
Farewell, dearest Franz, and let me hear soon that you still
think of me in a friendly way. The successful performance of your
"Faust" has pleased me immensely. I wish I could have heard it.
Your R. W.
HOTEL DE SAXE, No. 17, November 3rd, 1857.
How could I think of you otherwise than with constant love and
sincerest devotion in this city, in this room where we first came
near to each other, when your genius shone before me? "Rienzi"
resounds to me from every wall, and when I enter the theatre I
cannot help bowing to you before every one, as you stand at your
desk. With Tichatschek, Fischer, Heine, and others of your
friends in the orchestra here I talk of you every day. These
gentlemen appear well inclined towards me, and take a warm
interest in the rehearsals of the "Prometheus" and "Dante"
symphonies, which are to be given next Saturday at a concert for
the benefit of the Pension Fund of the chorus of the Court
theatre. The Princess and her daughter will arrive this evening.
The Child is mad about your "Tristan," but, by all the gods, how
can you turn it into an opera for ITALIAN SINGERS, as, according
to B., you intend to do? Well, the incredible and impossible are
your elements, and perhaps you will manage to do even this. The
subject is splendid, and your conception wonderful. I have some
slight hesitation as to the part of Brangane, which appears to me
spun out a little, because I cannot bear confidantes at all in a
drama. Pardon this absurd remark, and take no further notice of
it. When the work is finished my objection will, no doubt, cease.
For February 16th, the birthday of the Grand Duchess, I have
proposed "Rienzi," and I hope Tichatschek will sing in our first
two performances. The third act will necessarily have to be
shortened very much. Fischer and some others even thought that we
might omit it altogether. The Weymar theatre, like the Weymar
state, is little adapted to military revolutions; let me know on
occasion what I am to do. The rehearsals will begin in January.
My daughter Blandine has married at Florence, on October 22nd,
Emile Ollivier, avocat au barreau de Paris, and democratic deputy
for the city of Paris. I am longing to get back to my work soon,
but unfortunately, the inevitable interruptions caused by my
innumerable social relations and obligations, give me little hope
for this winter. I wish I could live with you on the Lake of
Zurich, and go on writing quietly.
God be with you.
F. LISZT. MY DEAR, DEAR FRANZ,
I want you to receive these lines just as you are going to the
first performance of your "Dante." Can I help feeling grieved to
the very depth of my existence, when I am compelled to be far
from you on such an evening, and cannot follow the impulse of my
heart, which, were I but free, would take me to you in all
circumstances, and from a distance of hundreds of miles in order
to unite myself with you and your soul on such a wedding-day? I
shall be with you, at least in the spirit, and if your work
succeeds as it must succeed, do honour to my presence by taking
notice of nothing that surrounds you, neither of the crowd, which
must always remain strange to us, even if it takes us in for a
moment, nor of the connoisseur, nor of the brother artist, for we
have none. Only look in my eye just as if you would do if you
were playing to me, and be assured that it will return your
glance blissfully, brightly, and gladly, with that intimate
understanding which is our only reward.
Take my hand and take my kiss. It is such a kiss as you gave me
when you accompanied me home one evening last year--you remember,
after I told you my sad tale. Many things may lose their
impression upon me. The wonderful sympathy which was in your
words during that homeward walk, the celestial essence of your
nature, will follow me everywhere as my most beautiful
remembrance. Only one thing I can place by the side of it, I mean
that which you tell me in your works, and especially in your
"Dante." If you tell the same thing to others today, remember
that you can do so in the sense alone in which we display our
body, our face, our existence to the world. We wear ourselves out
thereby, and do not expect to receive love and comprehension in
return. Be mine today, wholly mine, and feel assured that by that
means you will be all that you are and can be.
Good luck on your way through hell and purgatory! In the supernal
glow with which you have surrounded me, and in which the world
has disappeared from my eyes, we will clasp hands.
January 1st, 1858.
I want to consecrate my pen for the new year, and cannot do so
better than by a greeting to you, my dear Franz. Above all other
wishes is my wish of seeing you and enjoying you to my heart's
content. The worst loss of the past year has been that of the
visit you had promised me. If I were to try to imagine the
greatest delight that could be vouchsafed to me, it would be to
see you suddenly in my room. Are you inclined at all for such a
stroke of genius? If I were only free you would experience such a
surprise from me, but I must no longer hope for miracles;
everything comes to me in a laborious and gradual way, and, after
all, I have to share it with a host of Zurich professors. You
perceive I am not very many-sided. My ideas move in a somewhat
narrow circle, which, fortunately, through the objects it
comprises, becomes as large as the world to me (I do not count
the Zurich professors amongst those objects). If I have a grudge
against your eternal and manifold obligations and engagements,
you will understand my very special reason, viz., that they take
you away from ME so much. Candidly speaking, my being together
with you is everything to me; it is my fountain, all the rest is
but overflow. When I sit down to write to you I do not know what
to say. Nothing occurs to me but what I cannot write. To speak to
you of "business" is altogether an abomination to me, for when I
deal with you my heart grows large, while business narrows it in
the most deplorable manner. It is bad enough when, as formerly
was too often the case, I am compelled to trouble you with my
private sorrows. Especially today these must be far from me, for
the first stroke of my pen in the new year is to convey nothing
but a pure, sonorous greeting to you. I want to tell you,
however, that yesterday, at last, I finished the first act of
"Tristan." I shall work at "Tristan" assiduously; at the
beginning of the next winter season I want to produce it
My reading is, at present, confined to Calderon, who will at last
induce me to learn a little Spanish. Heaven forbid that in that
case I should remind you of H. Nageli. The necessary cache-nez I
possess. My wife has given me one, together with a splendid
carpet with swans on it, a la Lohengrin. I heard recently of your
Dresden life with Gutzkow, Auerbach, etc., etc. Oh, you
tremendous fellow! You can do anything. Perhaps you, too, will
appear to me in a Spanish light, when I shall have a good laugh
at you. I have struck up a friendship with the X.'s for the sole
purpose of not being again left out of their invitation when the
time comes. But I begin already to regret having done so, and any
amount of enthusiasm cannot make me appreciate this abominable
race of professors. But you will see by my having made the
attempt that I wish to get rid of my roughness, in order to be
quite amiable at your next visit. Did I recently write something
stupid to the dear Child? I cannot remember exactly, but God must
forgive me all my sins, just as I forgive Him many things in His
world, and where God forgives, the Child should not be sulky. You
ought to be angry least of all, for you must know that I love no
one as I love you, and that it was you who taught me to love. If
the Princess is angry with me I want her to give a good scolding
one of these days to Professor M., or Professor V., etc., for it
is in reality the fault of this type of men if I make any one
I am delighted above everything at your being well again,
although I find it difficult to believe that there are men who
can go through what you go through. I am in fairly good health,
and still have to thank Vaillant for it. I wish I could reward
Let me hear from you soon, and do not mind my nonsense. Greet the
Altenburg with a will, and tell the dear ladies that they are to
hold me in kind remembrance.
The blessings of a world on you, my Franz. Farewell.
Your R. W.
I intend to go to Paris in order to look after my interests
there. If it is too far for you, or if you do not like to come to
Paris, we might as well meet at Strassburg, I should like to
consult you about my whole position, in order to have the consent
of my only friend to my new undertakings. For the present you
will see, at least, that I am not acting hastily. I wait for some
money coming in. Everything leaves me in the lurch. I have had to
send a power of attorney to Haslinger in Vienna, in order to
compel the manager there to pay me some considerable sums which
he owes me, but I cannot with any certainty reckon upon success
within a month. At Berlin they have given "Tannhauser" exactly
once during last quarter, and for the first time I received very
little money, while formerly I used to draw considerable sums
from there during the winter. The Hartels, to whom I made some
days ago the offer of "Tristan" on certain conditions, I cannot
ask for an advance of money, even in the favourable case of their
accepting my offer, because I should not be able to send them the
manuscript before the end of February. The housekeeping money of
my wife is in the last stage of consumption, and she longingly
expects funds from me to meet the new year's bills. In such
circumstances, and being absolutely without resources, I am in
the painful position of having to delay my necessary journey,
which I could not undertake, even if I had only the actual
travelling money, because I must not leave my wife without means
for ever so short a time. I shall therefore require at least one
thousand francs in order to get away. By Easter at the latest,
and perhaps sooner, I shall ask Hartel for a considerable sum on
account of the first act, and promise faithfully to return the
money then. Please consider from whom, and how, you can get the
money for me. Send me the money, and let me know at the same time
where you can meet me, at Strassburg or in Paris.
Farewell! Au revoir very soon.
At Weymar I cannot raise ten thalers just at present, but I have
written at once to Vienna, and in a week's time the sum of a
thousand francs, named by you, will be handed to you by my son-
in-law, M. Emile Ollivier (avocat au barreau et depute de la
ville de Paris). Call on him at the end of next week. He lives
rue St. Guillaume, No. 29, Faubourg St. Germain.
If it is of use to you to have some conversation with me, I will
come to Strassburg for one day, although I find it difficult to
leave Weymar at the present moment.
The Princess has had an excellent idea, of which you will hear
more before long. She will write to you as soon as she has had an
answer with regard to it.
God be with you!
FRIDAY, January 15th, 1858.
Your telegram, arrived a day before your letter which I received
last night. Let me have your address; poste restante is not safe.
Tired to death and worn out, I write only to tell you that I have
arrived at Paris, and that my address is Grand Hotel du Louvre
In a modest room on the third floor, overlooking the inner
courts, I found at last the quiet position which is necessary to
I expect help from you. My difficulty is great. In a few days I
shall write more calmly.
GRAND HOTEL DU LOUVRE, No. 364, PARIS.
You dear, splendid man! How can I be unhappy, when I have
attained the supreme happiness of possessing such a friend, of
participating in such love? Oh, my Franz! could we but live
always together! Or is the song to be right after all: "Es ist
bestimmt in Gottes Rath, dass von dem liebsten was man hat, muss
Farewell; tomorrow I shall write about other things. A thousand
Yet another friend, dearest Franz, has a kind fate vouchsafed to
me. I was permitted to feel the delight of becoming acquainted
with such a poet as Calderon in my mature stage of life. He has
accompanied me here and I have just finished reading "Apollo and
Klymene," with its continuation "Phaeton." Has Calderon ever been
near to you? I can unfortunately approach him through a
translation only on account of my great want of gift for
languages (as for music). However, Schlegel, Gries, who has
translated the more important pieces, Malsburg, and Martin (in
the Brockhaus edition) have done much towards disclosing the
spirit and even the indescribable subtlety of the poet to us. I
am almost inclined to place Calderon on a solitary height.
Through him I have discovered the significance of the Spanish
character--an unheard of incomparable blossom, developed with
such rapidity, that it soon had to arrive at the destruction of
matter, and the negation of the world. The fine and deeply
passionate spirit of the nation finds expression in the term
"honour," which contains all the noblest and at the same time
most terrible elements of a second religion; the most frightful
selfishness and the noblest sacrifice simultaneously find their
embodiment in it. The essence of the "world" proper could never
have been expressed more pointedly, more brilliantly, more
powerfully and at the same time more destructively, more
terribly. The most striking imaginings of the poet have the
conflict between this "honour" and a profoundly human pity for
their subject. This "honour" determines the actions which are
acknowledged and praised by the world, while wounded pity takes
refuge in a scarcely expressed, but all the more deeply moving,
sublime melancholy, in which we recognise the essence of the
world to be terror and nothingness. It is the Catholic religion
which tries to bridge over this deep chasm, and nowhere else did
it gain such profound significance as here, where the contrast
between the world and pity was developed in a more pregnant, more
precise, more plastic form than in any other nation. It is very
significant for that reason that almost all the great Spanish
poets took refuge in priesthood in the second half of their
lives. It is a unique phenomenon that from this refuge, and after
conquering life by ideal means, these poets were able to describe
the same life with greater certainty, purity, warmth, and
precision than they had been capable of while they still were in
the midst of life. Yea, the most graceful, most humorous
creations were given to the light from that ghostly refuge. By
the side of this marvellously significant phenomenon, all other
national literatures appear to me without importance. If nature
produced such an individual as Shakespeare amongst the English,
we can easily see that he was unique of his kind; and the fact
that the splendid English nation is still in full blossom,
carrying on the commerce of the world, while the Spanish nation
has perished, moves me so deeply, because it enlightens me as to
what is really important in this world.
And now, dear friend, I must tell you that I am very satisfied
with myself. This curious and unexpected fact is particularly
useful to me for my stay in Paris. Formerly Paris used to fill me
with fears of boding evil; in one sense it excited my desire,
while on the other it repelled me terribly, so that I continually
felt the sufferings of Tantalus. At present only the repulsive
quality remains, while every charm has lost its power. The nature
of that repulsiveness I now fully understand, and it appears to
me as if my eyes had always possessed an unconscious faculty
which has at last become conscious to me. On a journey, in
carriages, etc., my gaze always tried involuntarily to read in
the eyes of fellow-travellers whether they were capable of, or
destined for salvation, that is, negation of the world. A closer
acquaintance with them often deceived me as to this point; my
involuntary wish frequently transferred my divine ideal to the
soul of another person, and the further course of our acquaintance
generally led to an increase of painful disappointment, until,
at last, I abandoned and violently cut short that acquaintance.
FIRST sight is less fallible, and as long as my intercourse with
the world is of a passing kind, my feeling with regard to it is
free from any doubt, resembling, as it does, that perfect
consciousness which comes to us on better acquaintance with
people, after we have thrown off prolonged and laboriously
sustained illusions. Even the passing sight of individuals, in
whose features I see nothing but the most terrible error of
life,--a restless, either active or passive, desire,--affects me
painfully; how much more then must I be terrified and repelled by
a mass of people whose reason for existence appears to be the
most shallow volition. These finely and very clearly cut
physiognomies of the French, with their strong feeling for
charming and sensuously attractive things, show me the qualities
which I see in other nations in a washed-out, undeveloped state,
with such precision as to make illusion even for a moment
impossible. I feel more distinctly than elsewhere in the world
that these things are quite strange to me, just because they are
so precise, so charming, so refined, so infallible in form and
expression. Let me confess to you that I have scarcely been
able to look at the marvellous new buildings erected here; all
this is so strange to me that, although I may gaze at it, it
leaves no impression on the mind. As no delusive hope, that might
be excited here, has the slightest attraction for me, I gain by
my absolutely unimpassioned position towards these surroundings a
calmness which--let me say it with a certain ironic humour--will
probably be of advantage to me in gaining that for which I strove
here in my early days, and which now, as it has become
indifferent to me, I shall probably attain.
What this possible "attainment" may be I can only briefly
indicate to you. The object of my journey has been the securing
of the rights of property in my operas, and beyond this I can
look for nothing except what is freely offered to me, and the
only person who seems inclined to make a definite offer is the
manager of the "Theatre Lyrique." I saw his theatre; it pleased
me fairly well, and a new acquisition he had made, a tenor,
pleased me very much. In case he is prepared for more than
ordinary efforts, as to which of course I must have every
security, I might give him "Rienzi," provided that I succeeded
(perhaps through intercession of the Grand Duke of Baden with the
Emperor of the French) in obtaining the exceptional privilege of
having my opera performed at this theatre WITHOUT SPOKEN
"Ollivier," whom I did not meet till yesterday, and with whom I
am going to dine en garcon today, received me with such amiable
kindness that I imagined I had arrived at "Altenburg." He made me
an unlimited offer of his services with the manager of the
Theatre Lyrique, a personal friend of his, amongst other people.
Well, we must see what will come of it; in any case, I should
surrender, without much scruple of conscience, "Rienzi," to gain
me an entry, but of course only on the supposition that
considerable pecuniary advantages would accrue to me.
I had got so far when Berlioz called on me. After that I had to
go out, and found soon that I was not well, the cause probably
being a cold, which pulls me down more than usually, because as I
remember only now, my food has lately been very bad, I being
feeble and very thin in consequence. I had to make my excuses to
Ollivier and stop at home in bed. In consequence of this prudent
measure I feel a little better, and am expecting Ollivier, who
will call for me at two to take me to the concert of the
Coservatroire; so I will go on talking to you a little about
It was a real shame that I was once more compelled to take money
from you, but this time it is quite certain to be a loan, which I
shall repay to you in any circumstances. From the letter of the
Princess, I see that you have to use all manner of stealth to get
"Rienzi" accepted at the Weimar theatre. This grieves me very
much, and I am afraid that a serious conflict between myself and
the management will be the result. If this should be the case,
the repayment of the thousand francs would become more difficult,
but by no means impossible, and in any case I count upon
returning the money to you by "Easter." As to the employment of
what you sent to me, and for which also I thank you cordially,
you must please set the mind of the good Princess at rest. I am
sorry that this also should trouble her.
Apart from you and Calderon, a glance at the first act of
"Tristan," which I have brought with me, has roused me
wonderfully. It is a remarkable piece of music. I feel a strong
desire to communicate some of it to some one, and I fear I shall
be tempted to play some of it to Berlioz one of these days,
although my beautiful performance will probably terrify and
disgust him. Could I only be with you! That, you know, is the
burden of my song.
Something more about business. The Hartels have replied to my
offer of "Tristan." It was quite amusing. Whatever I may do, the
Philistine will think more or less impossible; to that I am
accustomed, and must comfort myself with the success achieved so
far by my impossible creations. To sum up, the Hartels accept, in
spite of their great doubts, the publication of the work, with a
reduction, however, of my demands. Even so they think they are
offering a great sacrifice to me, but they say that they are
prepared to have the full score engraved at once, and I think
that I cannot do better than accept their offer.
I am always loth to write to you about business, and have done so
only when I expected you to help me, which unfortunately was the
case often enough. This time, however, I want to give you a short
synopsis of the state of my Paris expedition. At the beginning of
the winter a M. Leopold Amat, Chef or Directeur des Fetes
Musicales de Wiesbaden, wrote to me from Paris, and set forth the
results of his voluntary exertions for "Tannhauser" (at Wiesbaden
with Tichatschek and in the French press). He asked me to
authorise him to take the necessary steps for the performance of
"Tannhauser" at the Grand Opera. I informed him that my only and
indispensable CONDITION would be that an exact translation of the
opera, without omission or alteration, should be given. Soon
afterwards a M. de Charnal, a young litterateur without
reputation, applied to me, asking me for permission to publish a
good translation in verse of the poem of "Tannhauser," in one of
the first Revues de Paris. That permission I granted him, on
condition that the publication in the review should not imply any
further copyright. I am now expecting the pianoforte arrangements
of my operas, in order to secure my rights, which will be of
importance, whether I want my operas to be performed or whether I
want to prevent their performance. The management of the Grand
Opera has made no move, but M. Carvalho, of the Theatre Lyrique,
seems to be lying in wait for me. In case I should do anything
with him, I am determined, as I said before, to leave "Rienzi" to
his tender mercies, first because that work causes no anxiety to
my heart, and may be transmogrified a little for all I care;
second, because the subject and the music are certainly less
strange to the Paris public than are my other works. What do you
think of it? To me the whole thing would be purely an affair
d'argent, and as such it would no doubt turn out well.
Here you have plenty of business, but I must add one thing more.
I have lately laid your poor Vienna cousin under contribution. As
my manager at Vienna sent me no money, I asked Haslinger, on the
strength of your friendship, to enforce my demands, and as he
(being prevented by illness, as I afterwards heard) did not
reply, I hunted up the address of your cousin (from 1856), and
again invoking your sacred name, asked him to prod on Haslinger.
That had the desired effect, and to both I owe it that my manager
will probably discharge his debt before long. You see, it is
always "Franz Liszt," even if he knows nothing about it.
Here you have a very long letter from me. Next time the good
Child shall have one equally long; I am deeply in her debt. The
practical Princess also shall have a regular professor's letter
from me. For today I send a thousand thanks and greetings to you
all from the bottom of my heart. Be assured of my most faithful
Long live Altenburg!
Farewell, you dear unique one.
HOTEL DU LOUVRE, No. 364.
January 30th, 1858.
You have struck up a regular friendship with Calderon in Paris,
dearest Richard; a la bonne heure, he is one of the right sort in
whose society one may forget many blackguards and blackguardisms.
Unfortunately I know him only very superficially, and have not
yet succeeded in making him part of myself. Grillparzer used to
tell me wonderful things about him, and if you remain much longer
in this element I shall have to read some of his things after
you. Let me know on occasion which are the pieces I ought to
begin with. His two chief elements, CATHOLICISM and HONOUR, are
both dear to my heart. Do you think something musical might be
made of this? I once read the translation by Cardinal Diepenbrock
of a wonderful sacred drama, in which heaven, and air, and earth,
with all their powers, are set in motion. I forget the title at
this moment, but shall find out.
Perhaps you may tell me, some day, how to mould and handle this
subject-matter for musical purposes.
I shall have to postpone "Rienzi" till May. We shall invite
Tichatschek for it. All that IS POSSIBLE will be done, but I am
annoyed that the result will again be very small. Fischer of
Dresden writes me a very sad letter about the frustration of his
hope of producing "Reinzi" there in the course of the winter. He
and Tichatschek and many others are cordially devoted to you, and
we shall certainly not fail to do our duty as far as in us lies.
"Lohengrin" will be given here very shortly; I have already had a
few rehearsals, because Ortrud, the Herald, and the King will be
in new hands. I cannot tell you how deeply the work moves me
every time. The last time we performed it I felt proud of my
century, because it possessed such a man as you show yourself to
be in this work. With "Lohengrin," the old opera world comes to a
close; the spirit moves upon the face of the waters, and there is
As to your chances in Paris I have not much to say. It is true
that "Rienzi" is amongst your works the most congenial to the
Parisians. But whether they will take you up in earnest, and
whether in that case you will be able to count upon the sympathy
of the manager, the artists, and the press, appears very
questionable to me. Nevertheless you have done well to go to
Paris yourself. Go on reading Calderon industriously; it will
help you to bear the state of things there, which are in glaring
contradiction with your genius and your nature.
Keep me au courant of your Paris adventures, and if I can be of
any service to you, I need hardly say that you may freely dispose
257. DEAREST FRANZ,
People take care to give me plenty of diversion. From the
enclosed letter, which please seal before you forward it to the
person in question, you will see that in addition to other
troubles I have been robbed. The thief is near you at Jena, where
he has had to go for a short time on military duty. You will, I
hope, find no difficulty in finding a person attached or semi-
attached to the police, who could deal with E. W., late waiter at
the hotel here, in the manner indicated by the letter. I think it
will be best to frighten the fellow into restoring the money. If
we were simply to put him in prison he would deny the charge in
order to save himself, and it is always difficult to prove a
money robbery in legal form.
Show me your practical wisdom as a police agent. But it must be
done very quickly, as the fellow will stay at Jena or Weimar for
a little time only. As I start the day after tomorrow, and shall
therefore not be in Paris when he comes back, it would be
difficult to lay hold of him here. So much for today. I hope I
shall find time to write you a rational letter from Paris. A
thousand thanks for your faithful love.
The money, if recovered, should be sent to Zurich.
If it were given to me, dearest friend, to give you comfort and
strength, I should joyfully make any sacrifice. From Dresden
nothing much can be expected as yet, but I shall make another
attempt soon. At Carlsruhe they are well inclined towards you,
and the day before yesterday I had a long conversation about your
sad position with the Grand Duchess of Baden, who, like the Grand
Duke, seems to take a lively interest in you. Do not neglect your
"Tristan." For the first performance I should advise you to
choose either Carlsruhe or Prague. Weymar would of course follow
at once; for the moment, however, I think it more advisable that
another stage should take the initiative, and have spoken in that
sense to Thome in Prague. In any case I shall not fail to attend
the first performance, and you will oblige me by sending me the
score as soon as you have finished it. I intend to lay the work
before the Grand Duke, and to ask him earnestly that he may get
you from Dresden the permission of conducting the opera here. May
God grant that this step will, at last, lead to a favourable
"Rienzi" cannot be given here this season. Frau von Milde is
expecting her confinement, and has not been singing these two
months, besides which, we are at present unable to fill some
other parts properly, and must wait till the end of the year,
when several new engagements come into force. I had, as you know,
proposed "Rienzi" as gala opera for February 16th; but a light
opera was preferred, and, as such, your tribune of the people
would scarcely pass.
You are probably in direct correspondence with Eckert concerning
the performance of "Lohengrin" at Vienna. He informed me that the
work would be given this autumn. The principal parts will be
splendidly cast: Ander (Lohengrin), Meyer (Elsa), and Csillagh
(Ortrud), and if Eckert throws his heart into the thing, a great
success is beyond all doubt.
Of my performances at Prague, Vienna, and Pesth, you have
probably heard from others. Although I have no reason to
complain, I am very glad that they are over, and that I may stop
at home again; for I must candidly confess that the wear and tear
connected with similar occasions is very unpleasant to me, and
becomes almost unbearable if it lasts more than a few weeks.
Do not desert "Tristan"; he is to lead you back soon, and
VICTORIOUSLY, to Siegfried.
May 7th, 1858.
I send you today a WONDERFUL FELLOW, dearest Richard; receive him
Tausig is to work your Erard thoroughly, and to play all manner
of things to you. Introduce him to our mutual friends at Zurich--
Herwegh, Wille, Semper, Moleschott, Kochly--and take good care of
WEYMAR, May 18th, 1858.
ZURICH, July 2nd, 1858.
At last, dearest Franz, I have once more got so far as to be able
to carry out my long-delayed intention of writing to you.
I have to thank you very much for your last letter, to which I
thought, upon the whole, silence was the best answer. I hope you
understood me rightly. I am generally too talkative, and chat
about many things which it would be better to keep to myself.
This would be more advantageous to others also, for he who
refuses to understand a silent friend will find a talking one
Cordial thanks also to the good Princess for her letter.
Of "Tristan" I have sketched the second act; whether I have
succeeded I shall see when I come to work it out. It was amusing
to me to see you treat this peculiar affair as a matter of
literary business in your letter. I explained to the Princess
some time ago that the belief of the Prague manager, that I was
writing this opera for a first performance at his theatre, was a
pure misunderstanding. I could not help smiling at your believing
in the assertion of this odd man sufficiently to speak to me
seriously of the matter, and to offer me your amiable assistance.
You must, of course, have been puzzled at my having the score
engraved in this early stage of the proceedings. But there is a
very simple reason for it. I had, as you know, no money, and, as
"Rienzi" came to nothing, I saw no other way except "doing
business" with the Hartels. For that purpose I chose "Tristan",
then scarcely begun, because I had nothing else. They offered to
pay me half the honorarium of 200 louis d'or, i.e., 100 louis
d'or on receipt of the score of the first act, so I hurried to
get it done head over heels. This was the reason of my business-
like haste in finishing this poor work. Altogether, the fate of
my works, including "Tristan", has become a matter of great
indifference to me; as to how, where, and when, I care little, as
long as I may be present.
The Grand Duke has probably given you my greetings, for which he
asked me in a very amiable manner. I did not think it proper to
charge him with such a message. H. R. H. wanted to know whether,
in case I were permitted to return to Germany, I should go to
Weimar, or whether I should prefer another "engagement," and I
explained to him that the only advantage I expected from my
amnesty was, to be able to visit Germany periodically, and that
for that purpose I had chosen your house, because it was your
house, as my pied-a-terre. That house, fortunately, being at
Weimar, the only danger would be that you might refuse to receive
me, and his wish of having me at Weimar would entirely depend
upon your friendship, which, therefore, he should try to
perpetuate. With that he was quite satisfied.
You have given me great pleasure with little Tausig. When he came
into my room, one fine morning, bringing your letter, I shook you
cordially by the hand. He is a terrible youth. I am astonished,
alternately, by his highly developed intellect and his wild ways.
He will become something extraordinary, if he becomes anything at
all. When I see him smoking frightfully strong cigars, and
drinking no end of tea, while as yet there is not the slightest
hope of a beard, I am frightened like the hen, when she sees the
young ducklings, whom she has hatched by mistake, take to the
water. What will become of him I cannot foresee, but whisky and
rum he will not get from me. I should, without hesitation, have
taken him into my house, if we had not mutually molested each
other by pianoforte playing. So I have found him a room in a
little hole close to me, where he is to sleep and work, doing his
other daily business at my house. He does, however, no credit to
my table, which, in spite of my grasswidowerhood, is fairly well
provided. He sits down to table every day stating that he has no
appetite at all, which pleases me all the less, because, the
reason is, the cheese and the sweets he has eaten. In this manner
he tortures me continually, and devours my biscuits, which my
wife doles out grudgingly even to me. He hates walking, and yet
declares that he would like to come with me when I propose to
leave him at home. After the first half hour he lags behind, as
if he had walked four hours. My childless marriage is thus
suddenly blessed with an interesting phenomenon, and I take in,
in rapid doses, the quintessence of paternal cares and troubles.
All this has done me a great deal of good; it was a splendid
diversion, for which, as I said before, I have to thank you. You
knew what I wanted. Of course the youth pleases me immensely in
other ways, and, although he acts like a naughty boy, he talks
like an old man of pronounced character. Whatever subject I may
broach with him, he is sure to follow me with clearness of mind
and remarkable receptivity. At the same time it touches and moves
me, when this boy shows such deep, tender feeling, such large
sympathy, that he captivates me irresistibly. As a musician he is
enormously gifted, and his furious pianoforte playing makes me
tremble. I must always think of you and of the strange influence
which you exercise over so many, and often considerably gifted,
young men. I cannot but call you happy, and genuinely admire your
harmonious being and existence.
My wife will return in a fortnight, after having finished her
cure, which will have lasted three months. My anxiety about her
was terrible, and for two months I had to expect the news of her
death from day to day. Her health was ruined, especially by the
immoderate use of opium, taken nominally as a remedy for
sleeplessness. Latterly the cure she uses has proved highly
beneficial; the great weakness and want of appetite have
disappeared, and the recovery of the chief functions (she used to
perspire continually), and a certain abatement of her incessant
excitement, have become noticeable. The great enlargement of her
heart will be bearable to her only if she keeps perfectly calm
and avoids all excitement to her dying day. A thing of this kind
can never be got rid of entirely. Thus I have to undertake new
duties, over which I must try to forget my own sufferings. Well,
and how about you? Will you come to my assistance again this
year? Your kind heart promises me to do so every year, but,
during the nine years of my exile, I have succeeded only twice in
tearing you away from your great dense world. Although you have
promised me your visit for this year, you will find it natural if
I am not too certain of seeing my wish fulfilled. I must add
several marks of interrogation and of prayer.
Cordial thanks to the dear, heavenly Child for her last letter; I
hope my silence was eloquent.
A thousand greetings and cordial responses to you three dear
ones! I also wish to be remembered to F. Muller, who sent me a
beautiful letter of congratulation on my birthday. I shall write
to him soon, without fail.
Farewell, dear Franz. You can imagine how often I am with you,
especially when Tausig is sitting at the piano. Between us, all
is one. Farewell, and continue to love me.
When I saw the Grand Duke last night for the first time after his
return, he told me much about the visit you paid him at Lucerne.
I do not know what impression your acquaintance with him has left
on you, as we have had no news from you for such a long time, but
from what I have heard, and what has already happened, I conclude
with tolerable certainty that we shall see you here for the first
performance of "Tristan", AT THE LATEST. May God grant that it
will be sooner; and I need not tell you that nothing I can do
will be left undone.
Dingelstedt will shortly write to you about "Rienzi", which is to
be performed next season, in December or January. Last winter we
were unable to get on with the work for reasons which, as they
exist no longer, are not sufficiently important to be discussed.
Let me soon hear from you.
July 3rd, 1858.
I enclose a letter to Tausig, which you will be kind enough to
hand to him.
How is he getting on at Zurich, and what do you think of him?
ZURICH, July 8th, 1858.
This affair of T. and X., dearest Franz, has become very
significant to me. It has shown me most clearly and definitely
that even amongst the best of friends a certain mode of action
may be perverted beyond recognition into its very opposite; and I
look with horror upon the cares of this world, where everything
is ruled by confusion and error to the verge of madness. It was
absolutely terrible to me to read your charges against T. What I
felt is difficult to describe; it was like a longing for death.
About this young T. I recently wrote to you in a very
unconventional manner. Two things make me overlook all his
shortcomings, and attach me to him to such a degree that I feel
inclined to place much confidence in him. One of them is his
boundless love for you, the absolute abandonment of his
impertinence as soon as you are mentioned, his most tender and
deep reverence for you; the other, the beautiful warmth and
genuine friendship which he shows at every moment for X. In the
present case also he defended the latter in a really touching
manner, and speaks of him always with enthusiastic praise of his
heart and his intellect. Were it not for these two traits I
should not know what to think of this young man, who speaks of
God and the world in the most ruthless manner. Curiously enough,
your reproach hit him in this particular point, and when he
showed me your letter there was a peculiar desperate question in
his glance. With such experiences the boy will become quickly,
almost too quickly, mature.
My words will show you how deeply this matter has affected me; it
is one of the thousand things which, when they occur to me,
estrange me more and more from this world.
Farewell, and write to me again soon.
Always cordially your
I cannot understand in what manner I have caused YOU grief, but I
feel the painful rebound of your wounded heart. My admonition to
T. proceeded from a pure cause. X. himself knew nothing of it,
and T. would have done well if he had kept silence towards you.
"Insinuations" and "diplomacy" are surely out of the question. I
greatly dislike mixing myself up with other people's affairs, and
if I have done so this time, it was certainly not because I was
led to it by others (I give you my word, that not a word has been
said or written about the whole matter), but merely because it
had been imposed upon me as a kind of duty to act as guardian to
T., and it appeared only too probable that his conduct had not
been very correct. The young Titan sometimes gives way to an
absence of mind and a state of overexcitement, against which
those who wish him well should warn him. His exceptional talent
and his genial and prepossessing manner generally incline me
towards being overindulgent with him, and I do not deny my
genuine love and partiality for this remarkable specimen of a
"Liszt of the future," as T. has been called at Vienna. But for
that very reason I expect him to be a good and steady fellow in
Be thanked for the kindly friendship and care you bestow upon
him. I hope he will not only profit by them, but honour them. The
rare happiness of living near you, and of being distinguished by
you, should form and mature him as an artist and as a man.
July 18th, 1858.
Before the 18th inst. I cannot get away from here; the centenary
celebration of Jena University will take place on the 15th, 16th,
and 17th, and I have promised to take part in it. Apart from
this, I expect in a few days a visit, which is of importance to
It was my intention to see you at the beginning of September, but
I will gladly undertake the journey a few weeks sooner. You on
your part must delay your journey by a fortnight, and write to me
by return whether I shall find you at Zurich on the 20th instant.
I should, of course, not make this journey unless I could be
certain of being a few days with you. Trips of pleasure or
recreation are not my affair any longer, and I could not consent
to one. On the other hand, I shall be genuinely pleased to see