Part 5 out of 6
August 6th, 1858.
GENEVA, August 20th, 1858.
Kindly make inquiries whether I might stay a short time at Venice
which does not belong to the German confederacy without being
claimed, extradited and otherwise molested. The vise of my
passport I got from the Austrian minister without any difficulty.
I daresay the Saxon minister would have given me his vise too (in
order to get hold of me).
If there is any danger, kindly let the Grand Duke intercede for
me, so that I may stay at Venice without being bothered.
I should be very thankful to him, for that quiet, interesting
city tempts me greatly. I shall delay my departure till I hear
from you; in any case I must wait till the heat is over.
Farewell, and be thanked for all your friendship.
MAISON FAZY, 30 ETAGE.
GENEVA, August, 24th, 1858.
Best thanks for your reply. It somewhat startled me, and I made
inquiries through a friend in Berne of the Austrian minister
there. I enclose his answer, from which you will see that for the
present I have nothing to fear at Venice. Whether they will allow
me to stay there for any length of time is a different question
which is of great importance to me. I feel the necessity of
living in strict seclusion for some considerable period, in order
to devote myself entirely to my work. The country will not, in
the long run, do for this, and in an indifferent town I might, at
last, be reduced to making acquaintance with commonplace people--
the worst of all evils. One of the interesting, large cities of
Italy is exactly what I want. In such surroundings one can most
easily keep to oneself, for every walk presents objects of an
important kind, and satisfies the want of men and things. But in
large towns the noise of carriages is absolutely unbearable to
me; it drives me wild. Venice is notoriously the quietest, i.e.,
most noiseless city in the world, which has decided me in its
favour. Apart from this Dr. W. and K.R. have given me the most
attractive accounts of life in Venice; the latter will spend the
winter there. Finally, Venice is more convenient for my frequent
communications with Germany than any other Italian town would be;
by way of Vienna my letters, etc., will reach the centre of
Germany in no time. In short, I am obstinately fixed on Venice,
and do not want to think of any other choice, because it is not
travelling about, but settling down as soon as possible that I
Listen, therefore. Kindly ask the Grand Duke in my name, for the
special favour of securing for me, by his intercession in Vienna,
an undisturbed sojourn in Venice. This is indispensable for my
future, for such a permission would permanently open to me Venice
and Austrian Italy generally. Let therefore the Grand Duke show
himself my well-inclined protector, and do all in his power to
comply with my wish.
It will further be necessary that your friend should graciously
take the necessary steps as soon as possible. If, in the
meantime, I should get into difficulties, I should at once claim
Therefore, please, please go to court at once! Help me and do
what I wish.
From Venice I shall write again; till then continue to love me.
VENICE, poste restante.--Depeche telegraphique.
BERNE, Le 24 Aout, Tuesday, 1858.
To RICHARD WAGNER,
Austrian minister thinks you have nothing to fear if your
passport has the Austrian vise. He can guarantee nothing, but is
morally certain that you will not be molested.
Telegraphic inquiry of the Gouverneur of Venice, he thinks
imprudent because exciting attention and necessitating inquiry at
Vienna. Answer would take too long. Dangerous refugees are
notified to the embassy to prevent vise of their passports, which
is not the case with you. Minister thinks your journey quite
safe, but cannot personally give you any further information.
Bon voyage, dear friend.
Bad news again! All the inquiries I have made agree on the point
that your stay in Venice will by no means be secure. The Grand
Duke, to whom I communicated the contents of your last letter,
has commissioned me simply to advise you against the journey, and
to recommend to you (as I have already done) Genoa or Sardinia.
From Dresden I hear that there is at present no hope of your
amnesty, and that the statements to that effect in several
newspapers have not been confirmed. Nevertheless, I hope that
some "measure" in your favour, I mean the permission of staying
for a time at one place or another in Germany, will be taken,
through means of the Grand Duke of Baden or the Grand Duke of
Weymar. The performance of "Tristan", at Carlsruhe or elsewhere,
will offer the best opportunity, and as soon as you have finished
the work, I beg of you to neglect nothing which may facilitate
your return to Germany, although at first only for a few months
for the special purpose of conducting "Tristan" in person. As far
as I know your situation, or rather your connections and
relations, I think you will have, in the first instance, to apply
to the Grand Duke of Baden; the young Prince is much in your
favour, as is also the Grand Duchess. With our Prince I have, of
course, discussed the matter frequently and at great length. I
have, it is true, not been able to get a positive promise from
him, but I think it very probable that when the time comes for
"Tristan" he will not fail to give you a proof of the interest in
you which he has frequently expressed, and, as you know, has
shown by several letters and intercessions in your favour.
I wish, dearest Richard, I could give you pleasanter and more
desirable news, but certain things cannot be changed or broken
through all at once. From Austria you cannot expect much for the
recovery of your personal liberty. It would be half a miracle if
anything of the kind should happen. Even the performance of your
operas at Vienna is an example of exceptional toleration,
considering the customs of the country. To demand more would
appear to me illusory. Your POLITICAL expectations in Austria are
as small as are your ARTISTIC expectations in Paris and Italy.
Performances of your works in the French or Italian language must
for the present be looked upon as pia desideria, or else as
I am sometimes surprised (forgive my candour) that you fail to
perceive that if a performance of "Tannhduser" were given at
Paris or Milan, it would take place in very unfavourable
circumstances. (I do not speak of London, where a good GERMAN
opera troupe might have a chance.) For several years to come the
only true soil for your works is Germany; that soil they will
occupy more and more firmly, and in advance of all other
productions. Do not allow yourself to be led away by vague
talking, and preserve your justifiable pride.................
I start to-night with the Princess and her daughter for the
Tyrolese mountains. Address your next letter, "Hotel de Baviere",
Munich, whence it will be forwarded to me. I cannot say, for the
present, where we shall make a longer stay. About September 20th
we shall once more pass through Munich, and shall be back here on
October 1st at the latest.
When you can spare a quiet hour, let me know why you did not care
to stay a few days longer at Zurich, where I intended to visit
you on the 20th inst. at the latest. Several business matters
(mostly in connection with the Grand Duke), and the University
celebration at Jena, on August 15th (where I had undertaken to
conduct some of my compositions), made it impossible for me to
leave here sooner.
However that may be, I remain invariably your faithful and loving
WEYMAR, August 26th, 1858.
VENICE, September 12th, 1858.
I have just received your letter, dated 26th ult., which had lain
at Geneva all that time. I see from it that you are very near me,
and I hope I need only tell you that I am here in order to be
able to expect your visit. Descend the Tyrolese mountains on this
side, and you are with me. I should like much to reply by word of
mouth to all you tell me, including your most curious ideas as to
my designs on Italy.
Let me see you soon. A thousand greetings from
CANAL GRANDE, PALAZZO GIUSTINIANI,
CAMPIELLO SQUILLINI, No. 3228, VENICE.
VENICE, September 27th, 1858.
CAMPIELLO SQUILLINI, 3228.
Your letter of 23rd ult. was forwarded to me from Geneva very
late, and I saw from it that you were near me,--"in the Tyrolese
mountains," you said,--and this raised the hope in me that I
should see you and speak to you soon. I must doubt, however,
whether my letter to that effect, addressed to you "Hotel de
Baviere", Munich, reached you in time, because I have neither
seen nor heard anything of you. I feel that my desire of personal
communication with you will not be realised, and I therefore
write to you as to certain points, in connection with which I owe
you an explanation.
Altogether this cannot amount to much; you had to attend to
University celebrations, etc., which, pardon me for saying so,
appeared extremely trivial to me. I did not press you any more,
but I must confess that when at last I received the news of your
intended arrival on the 20th, it did not impress me very much.
Of my desire of selecting Venice for my place of abode, I gave
you a full account in my last letter from Geneva, in which I also
informed you of the satisfactory news I had had from the Austrian
minister at Berne. I am in quest of repose and absolute
retirement, such as only a larger town can offer to me. My
attitude towards my surroundings must be an absolutely negative
one; in that manner alone can I gain leisure and the proper mood
for my work.
Your warnings and admonitions not to rely on the performance of
my operas in Italy I pass over. Whatever can have given you the
curious and mistaken notion that my journey to Italy had this
ambitious, artistic purpose, I fail to see. I have selected an
Italian town because I hate Paris, and because here in Venice I
am certain to be removed from any possible contact with artistic
publicity. This was not the case even at Zurich, which for that
reason had long since become disagreeable to me. That newspaper
writers explain my sojourn in Venice as a political manoeuvre in
order gradually to open Germany to me, is quite in accordance
with the spirit and intellect of such people. I hope you will
soon divest yourself of the idea that anything similar was in my
mind. As an Austrian city, Venice exists for me only in so far as
it does not belong to the German Confederacy, and as I may
consequently live there in security. This has proved to be true.
Unfortunately I could not prevent my landlord from trumpeting
about my stay here, which in consequence was made public sooner
than I desired. The police which, once more, asked for my
passport, has, however, returned it to me with the remark that
there is nothing against my undisturbed stay at Venice. Whether
this was the result of the intercession of the Grand Duke, for
which I had asked, I cannot tell.
You will be pleased to hear that Venice has not disappointed my
expectations. The melancholy silence of the Grand Canal, on the
banks of which I live in a stately palace with large rooms, is
sympathetic to me. Amusement and an agreeable diversion of the
mind is afforded by a daily walk in the square of St. Mark, a
trip in a gondola to the islands, walks there, etc. It will be
the turn of the art treasures later on. The entirely new and
interesting character of the surroundings is very pleasant to me.
I am waiting for my grand piano, and hope to resume my work
without interruption next month. My only thought is of completing
"Tristan", nothing else.
Farewell; accept my corrections in the benevolent spirit of a
true friend. Pardon the seriousness which pervades me, and all my
opinions and judgments. Let me hear something kind from you, and,
before all, answer this letter soon.
Always and ever thine
SALZBURG, October 9th, 1858.
The news about you, contained in the papers during last month,
was so different and so contradictory that I did not know
where to write to you. At last your arrival at Vienna was
announced, and when this premature statement was contradicted,
some one wrote to me that you had gone to Florence or Paris. By
your last letter, which reached me on the day of my departure
from Munich, I see that for the present you intend to remain in
Venice, and that the Government does not object to your stay
there. I wish with my whole heart that you may find rest at
Venice, and be able to settle comfortably, and to resume and
complete your works. Fiat pax in virtute tua is a prayer in the
service of the Mass, which I repeat to you from the bottom of my
heart. The information which I received as to the security of
your stay at Venice was not of a kind to make me think your
domicile there, even for a short time, an advisable thing. Even
now I entertain some doubts, which, however, I hope will prove
futile. It is a great pity that we cannot live together, and I
long unspeakably for the day when this will be possible. Lately,
again, I spoke to the Grand Duke about your situation, and
conjured him to set everything in motion in order to open your
return to Germany. He promised that he would do so. The remarks
in my last letter in reference to the performances of your works
in the French or Italian language you seem to have misunderstood.
By several things which you had previously written to me, and by
your last journey to Paris, this possibility was suggested to me
for discussion, and my only intention was, of course, to explain
my view of the matter to you, without in the least wishing to
prejudice you. The Queen of England had told you that an Italian
performance of your works would be desirable; of Roger's
"Tannhauser" we had spoken several times, and you had also come
to an understanding with Ollivier as to the droits d'auteur. My
expectations of all this are small, and I cannot agree with
others of your friends as to the opportuneness and desirability
of performances in a foreign language; indeed I should think it
more advisable not to attach any importance to them for the
present, and to make no attempt in that direction. But you must
not charge me with having evolved the whole matter from my
imagination. In the worst case, my view would simply be an
erroneous one, but you should not misunderstand or disapprove of
my intention of saving you unnecessary trouble. You have struck
your roots entirely in German soil; you are, and remain, the
glory and splendour of German art. While theatrical affairs
abroad are in their present condition, while Meyerbeer and Verdi
reign supreme, while theatrical managers, singers, conductors,
newspapers, and the public are under their immediate influence,
there is no need for you to mix yourself up with this muddle.
Another point in your letter, dearest Richard, has almost hurt
me, although I can well understand that you think the official
impediments which prevented my journey to Zurich trivial, and
that you fail to give due importance to the University Jubilee of
Jena, and to the many considerations which I have to observe,
were it only in order to be occasionally useful to you in small
matters. In a calmer mood you will easily understand that I
cannot and dare not leave Weymar at every moment, and you will
surely feel that the delay of my journey to Zurich was caused by
no kind of TRIVIALITY. When I wrote to you that I should be with
you on August 20th, I made no doubt that even in case of your
earlier departure from Zurich you would appoint another place,
Lucerne or Geneva, for a meeting. As you failed to do so, I came
to a conclusion which I am only too happy to abandon on your
Enough of this, dearest Richard: we shall remain what we are--
inseparable, true friends, and such another pair will not be
During the first half of September I roamed about the Tyrolese
mountains with the Princess and her daughter, and we stayed a few
days quite alone in the Otz-valley. Driven away by bad weather,
we returned to Munich, quietly witnessed the festivities, and saw
our friend Kaulbach every day. Lachner told me that he had had
some correspondence with you about an early performance of
Rienzi. "Tannhauser" I heard again at Munich, but "Lohengrin" had
to be postponed owing to the sudden indisposition of Herr
Lindemann. Since I heard some passages of it from you, I know
more of it than all the performances can teach me.
In order to carry out our original plan, and assert our rights
even against the bad weather, we have come to Salzburg, and shall
be back at Weymar in about a week. Probably I shall find there
the proofs of my "Dante" symphony, which I shall send to you at
once, as the true child of my sufferings.
When shall I have the joy of reading "Tristan?" The Hartels
informed me that the pianoforte score was in print. Have you
quite settled as to where the first performance is to take place?
According to all accounts the Carlsruhe people reckon upon it for
certain. May God grant that "Tristan" will put an end to your
exile. This is my hope.
"Rienzi" with Tichatschek is to be given at Weymar in the course
of the winter. Previous to that I shall go to Dresden, where I
have promised Rietschel to pay my OLD debt to Weber, and to make
ONE exception by playing several of Weber's pianoforte
compositions at a concert for the benefit of the Weber monument,
the model of which Rietschel has executed with incomparable
mastery. On that occasion I shall ask for a performance of
"Rienzi" at the theatre, in accordance with which I shall arrange
that of Weymar, so far as our means will allow us. If I had a
little more money I should have preferred to pay the balance
which is still due on the subscription for the Weber monument in
hard cash, instead of playing to the people a few hackneyed
pieces. Weber must forgive a poor devil like me that I can do
nothing better for him. You wrote to me about this matter many
years ago, and now that the model of the monument is ready, it is
a point of honour to make an end of the matter and commence
casting it in metal. Write to me at Weymar how you like the city
of the Lagunes. I presume that C. R. is with you. Remember me to
him kindly, and tell him that I sincerely approve of his sonatas
published by Hartel.
With invariable friendship, I remain cordially and sincerely
VENICE, October 19th, 1858.
Be thanked, dear friendly friend; your beautiful friendship is
the only thing that still impresses me; you give it me purely,
As regards my fate, I look forward with patience to calm, clear,
quietly active years. My work has become dearer to me than ever.
I have resumed it lately; it flows from my spirit like a gentle
In all my relations to the suffering world one thing guides and
determines me--pity. When I give myself up to it unconditionally,
all my personal suffering ceases.
I have at last got my Erard. It stands in the large echoing hall
which serves me as a study. There "Tristan" is to be finished
this winter. The first act, dearest friend, is quite complete;
ask the Hartels to give you the proof-sheets of the full score,
which is already engraved. In the completion of the second act,
which I have only slightly sketched, I am continually interrupted
by visits. I have just begun working at it again; it will be very
beautiful, and is to be finished and printed by the end of this
year at the latest. By March the last act will follow, and if all
goes well I shall witness the first performance about Easter. You
are aware that, through Eduard Devrient's intercession, the Grand
Duke of Baden has acquired a right in this work. If he can
arrange to get me permission to go to Carlsruhe for the
performance, it will take place there. But of this hope also I do
not make a vital question; I can wait.
Venice continues to be most sympathetic to me; my choice was
guided by instinct, and has turned out well. This kind of
retirement is most pleasant to me. I see just enough to occupy my
fancy agreeably; nothing disturbs me. That, looking upon this
peaceful scene, I also was allowed to look upon you, and that you
appeared to me in so beautiful and blissful a light as you did in
your last letter, has crowned my happiness.
Be thanked my dear, noble, unique friend! Shall I say more? You
know all that these words imply.
Greet the Princess and the good Child; they are to be annoyed by
nothing in the world, and they are to love me as much as they
I hope that these lines will affect you as sympathetically as
yours have made me happy.
Farewell, and be always assured of my responsive love.
It would be a good omen if this letter were to reach you on your
VENICE, October 23rd, 1858.
After I had settled with R. on the 21st that we were to
congratulate you jointly on your birthday, he came to me on the
22nd and told me that he had just sent you a telegram. By way of
revenge I ordered a dinner with oysters and champagne in the
Square of St. Mark, to which a military band played the overture
of "Rienzi" most excellently. We drank your health and clinked
our glasses, and had a most pleasant evening.
Of this I send you documentary evidence by this letter.
VENICE, October 26th, 1858.
I have just had a letter from Munich telling me that they have
given up "Rienzi" owing to religious scruples. I want money, much
money, in order to get honestly through my difficult position,
and am looking out everywhere for a little business. I have just
offered my "Lohengrin" to the Cassel management. If you can help
me there, do so.
I should not like myself to write to Coburg, where I have been
neglected in a surprising manner. Do you know of a channel
through means of which you could bring it about that they should
buy "Lohengrin" and the "Dutchman" as well? Think of this and
help me in the old way.
A thousand greetings from your
R.'s telegram of October 21st was received with joyful
acclamation, and your letter, which arrived on the same evening,
was the most welcome birthday present on account of the calm,
conciliatory mood which I felt in it. May you soon resume your
work joyfully! I hope you are getting on with "Tristan", of which
as yet I do not know a single note. In accordance with your last
letter, I have asked the Hartels to lend me the score for a few
days when the engraver does not want it any longer.
Your hints as to the performances of "Lohengrin", "The Flying
Dutchman", and "Rienzi" in Cassel, Gotha, and other cities will
not be neglected, and I need not assure you again that I shall do
all in my power. First of all you will receive a letter
concerning "Rienzi" from my chief and friend Dingelstedt. The
opera is to be given here in January. Be kind enough to reply to
Dingelstedt's letter with some POLITENESS, and do not be annoyed
at my making this remark. I wish very much to incline Dingelstedt
a little more favourably towards the performance of your works
and to co-operate with him in perfect sympathy. That co-operation
is of importance to me not only as regards "Tristan", which will
meet with no difficulty, and, as I hope and longingly wish, will
open your return to Germany, but chiefly with a view to the
performance of the "Nibelungen," which is our ultimate goal. The
honorarium of 25 louis d'or which our theatrical exchequer can
offer you is very small, but I advise you to accept it, and take
it upon myself to get you a small douceur from the Grand Duke's
privy purse later on.
I should like to have Tichatschek for the first two performances
of "Rienzi", although that would increase the expense
considerably. But I have a great liking for him, and wish to get
him some distinction from the Grand Duke on that occasion.
Last Sunday we gave "Komala" by Sobolewski. I do not know whether
you have seen a small pamphlet "Opera, not Drama," which he
published last year as an introduction to his opera. The
following beautiful comparison occurs in it: "The words are the
hard, transparent pieces of incense, the melody is the beautiful
scent which emerges from the thick clouds of smoke, when the
incense has been lit." In many other things I cannot agree with
him, especially not as regards the marks of punctuation, by means
of which he tries to distinguish himself from you, when at the
end of the pamphlet he exclaims: "Wagner says, OPERA NOT,--DRAMA;
I say OPERA, NOT DRAMA." His "Komala" is better than his comma,
and his practice much better than his theory. There is much in it
that would please you, and has undoubtedly been originated by
"Lohengrin." Sobolewski wrote "Komala" at first in three acts,
and had it done in that form at Bremen. Afterwards, in honour of
operatic theory, and probably persuaded by the critics who thirst
for contrasts and operatic tunes, he added two acts more, in
which he introduced vocal pieces de salon, reminding one of the
Queen in the "Huguenots", and the inevitable drinking chorus. By
his desire I preserved the five acts at the first performance,
but at the second I omitted the two additional ones without any
consideration, or rather, for very good considerations, and shall
even take the liberty of altering his finale, which has been
fashioned after your finale of the second act of "Tannhauser"
("nach Rom"), and after the last act of "Iphigenia in Aulis." In
that manner the work will appear in its only true form, and may
keep its place as a fine musical cloud-and-mist picture in
perfect accord with Ossian's poem. For your private benefit I
send you a few motives from "Komala", which I copied for you.
About the middle of November we shall perform here a comic opera,
"The Barber of Baghdad," founded on a tale from the "Arabian
Nights," words and music by Cornelius. The music is full of wit
and humour, and moves with remarkable self-possession in the
aristrocratic region of art. I expect a very good result.
"Rienzi" will be taken in hand immediately afterwards.
Excuse me for having delayed writing to you so long. I am up to
the ears in all manner of business and correspondence, and have
not had a free hour since my return. Please do not retaliate, and
let me have good news of you soon.
November 5th, 1858.
Kindly give the enclosed few lines to Ritter. The additions to
the "Dante" symphony and to the Gran Mass will be ready before
Christmas, and I shall send you both together.
VENICE, November 21st, 1858.
MY DEAR FRANZ,
Many thanks for your kind letter; I had nothing particular to
tell you, or would have replied to you sooner. In addition to
this I was ill during the whole first half of November, which was
more than I had bargained for, especially as it interrupted my
work in the most unpleasant manner. Now I am well again and all
will be right. I am looking forward to the Mass and "Dante" which
you promise to send to me. Mind you keep your word. I have asked
the Hartels to send you proof sheets of the first act of
"Tristan." Perhaps you have received them by this time. The
Hartels treat me with much forbearance. At first when I thought
that the score would be finished this autumn, I prodded them on
terribly. Since then I have left them miserably in the lurch.
Before the end of December I cannot think of sending them the
second act. I cannot help this, because I must wait for the most
favourable mood to go on with the work. The "Nibelungen" question
has also been mooted again by us. I shall have these things
engraved now, and shall leave the discussion of the honorarium
till after the performance. In this matter a very droll
intermezzo has been played, or rather it has not been played out
yet, because its conclusion will probably take place in a few
days. I shall relate this adventure to you when it is finished.
My affairs are in a somewhat miserable condition. "Rienzi" is not
getting on in spite of the continued success of the Dresden
revival. The first disappointment came from Munich where I had
expected to get an honorarium of fifty louis d'or. They wrote to
me that the reading committee objected to the subject on
RELIGIOUS grounds. I pity that dear religion! It is partly your
fault that it is put to such uses now; why do you write beautiful
Masses for the parsons? From Hanover also I expected an immediate
remittance, and could not understand the delay, when I heard that
Niemann, after having heard Tichatschek in "Rienzi", did not feel
competent to sustain the part with equal voice-power. Therefore
it was given up. Breslau alone is sufficiently bold, and will
venture upon it. I wish I could find some one who would do
justice to the real character of the part, in which case he need
not be afraid of singing it even before Tichatschek. I have
hinted so much to Niemann. I am thus, once more, reduced to my
old capital, "Tannhauser" and "Lohengrin", and they are no longer
sufficient for my present difficult position.
D. wrote to me five and a half lines, inquiring as to my terms.
You probably know my reply. I wish the inhuman creature had sent
me the money at once. Good Lord, what Jacks-in-office you all
are! None of you can put himself in the place of a poor devil
like me who looks upon every source of income as a lucky draw in
a lottery. Please, tread gently upon his toe.
K. R. left me today, probably for a few weeks, in order to
congratulate his mother on her birthday at Dresden. If he finds
it possible he will pay you a visit at Weimar.
W. remains with me in his place; he arrived from Vienna with a
Russian family a month ago, in order to spend the winter here.
Fortunately, he keeps quiet and does not molest me, for being by
myself is the boon which I enjoy, and watch over with painful
care. In the Square I am literally run after by foreign princes;
one of them, D., who boasts of knowing you personally, I was
unable to avoid. He lives where I have my dinner and,
occasionally, waylays me. He is an odd and apparently good-
natured person. Today he dropped down upon me with much
enthusiasm between the soup and the cutlets, in order to tell me
that he had heard one of your symphonic poems beautifully played
on the piano, and by whom? By a Venetian music-teacher, who has
been made an enthusiast for German music by you and me. This
amused me very much. D. also has been gained for your cause. What
more can you desire? And all this happened in the Square of St.
Mark at dinner, the weather being infamously cold.
Be of good cheer then, and may God bless you. Continue to love
me. Write to me soon, and greet Altenburg a thousand times for
VENICE, November 26th, 1858.
I enclose you a beautiful autograph.
I cannot tell you how comic it appears to me that I have to
transact Weimar business with F. D. I have a good mind to tell
HIM that he had better leave my opera alone. Weimar has lost all
its charm for me since I have to meet so formal a person before I
can get at you and the Grand Duke. You are a very tedious set of
You told me two years ago that you were in possession of a score
of "Rienzi" which I had left there on my flight. If that is so, I
should be glad if you would not attach much importance to its
possession. My original score is always at your disposal in case,
as I scarcely believe, you should care much about this opus. I
have only a very few copies left. At the time I had no more than
twenty-five copies made, more than half of which I have
squandered away. If it MUST be, get a copy from Fischer in
Dresden, and submit it reverentially in my name to the great
Dingelstedt. Have you had your score altered by Fischer? In the
third act there is a long cut and a change necessitated by it
which I made for Hamburg.
Good Lord! it is miserable that one has to take all this trouble
for a little money. I am once more confined to my room, and
cannot even get up from my chair; a neglected abscess in my leg
causes me terrible pain; sometimes in the middle of my music I
call out loudly, which has a very fine effect.
Have the Hartels sent you the first act of "Tristan?" You will
have copies of the poem before long.
Farewell for today. I have to indulge in a few shrieks, which in
a letter would not sound well.
A thousand greetings--oh!
R. W. (oh!!)
Have I really to wait for the wretched twenty-five louis d'or--
oh!!--till after the PERFORMANCE? Lord only knows when that will
VENICE, December 5th, 1858.
I made haste, dearest friend, to write to D. in accordance with
your summons sent to me through our Princess.
I wrote to him that doubts had arisen in me whether I still
desired the performance of "Rienzi" at Weimar, and I ask you to
agree with me and give up the plan. If anything could have
induced me to push my "Rienzi" at this time of day it would, as
you will understand, have been the desire of deriving a good
income from it, such as would have been welcome in my poor and
uncertain condition. In itself I look upon this revival as an
anachronism which, moreover, would be quite premature. After the
recent great success of the opera at Dresden I was in hopes that
the rapid sale of this opus would supply me with sufficient means
for my present wants. That hope, however, has been deceived in
the most important points, especially with regard to Munich and
Hanover, as I recently informed you. By offering this opera
broadcast I had to humiliate my pride very much, and I have now
become very sensitive as to this matter. At Weimar, too, the
opera is, properly considered, an intruder, and is evidently
being looked upon as such. You enlightened me upon this point
last winter, when you explained to me the reason for its delay.
But I do not desire that you should force this juvenile
production upon any one in Weimar. The reasons for keeping on
good terms on such an occasion with this person or that person do
not exist for me, and my sincere wish is, that they should not
exist for you either. In this matter we two should agree. Whether
or not I perform my "Nibelungen" at some future time is at bottom
a matter of indifference to me. I shall complete it in any case,
for my enthusiasm and strength for such works I do not derive
from any hopes, for the realisation of which I should require
certain people. All that the world and my "admirers" and
"worshippers" of whom I have to hear so much can do for me, is to
look upon my whole situation in a serious and sympathetic light,
and to do all in their power to ease my heavy cares and to
preserve to me the pleasure and leisure which I require for my
work. Beyond this I want nothing. But to attain it, very
different efforts are necessary from those which have hitherto
come to my knowledge.
Enough of this. I can do without the Weimar honorarium and
douceur for "Rienzi," which, in any case, would come too late to
be of service to me. By next Easter, till which time I should
have to wait, I shall be able to help myself in other ways; in
the meantime it will be a hard struggle, but I shall manage
Even the Weimar receipts would, unfortunately, not have enabled
me to repay your 1,000 francs.
To sum up: you will, undoubtedly, save yourself much trouble and
unpleasantness by giving up "Rienzi." If you have Tichatschek in
the spring let him sing Lohengrin; that will give you much more
Imagine that for a week and a half I have not been able to move
from my chair. This illness was just what was required to finish
me up. I had just resumed my work a little, after a gastric and
nervous indisposition, when I was obliged to give in again.
However, I am getting better, and hope to be able to walk and
work again next week.
Farewell, and be pressed to my heart a thousand times.
Hartel has sent me a divine Christmas present. All the children
in the world cannot be so delighted with their trees and the
golden apples and splendid gifts suspended thereon as I, in my
own person, am with your unique "Tristan." Away with all the
cares and tribulations of every-day existence! Here one can weep
and glow again. What blissful charm, what undivined wealth of
beauty in this fiery love-potion! What must you have felt while
you created and formed this wondrous work? What can I tell you
about it beyond saying that I feel with you in my heart of
However, in my capacity of practical friend, I must speak to you
of commonplace things. Your negative answer to D., much as it
grieved me in many respects, came at the RIGHT MOMENT. I
proposed, as you know, "Rienzi" for performance eighteen months
ago, and your small opinion of my small influence on our affairs
is, unfortunately, too correct. Without troubling you with the
details of local matters, I only tell you that I quite approve of
your conduct, reserving to myself, however, the right of asking
for your "Rienzi" if a favourable moment for the performance of
this opera, long desired by me, should arrive. In the first
instance, the "Prophet" and Auber's "Bal Masque" are to be given,
and I, for my part, have declared that I shall not enter the
orchestra for some time to come. By next spring I hope your
personal affairs will have taken a more favourable turn, to which
I may, perhaps, be able to contribute something. When "Tristan"
is completed, and you have sent the dedication copy to the Grand
Duchess of Baden, you must write to me at length as to what
remains to be done.
With K. R., who delighted me with a visit of several days, I
discussed a good many things which he will shortly communicate to
you. I flatter myself that he has taken a good impression away
with him, and that some old friendly associations will be even
more firmly established in years to come. His musical gift
appears very considerable to me, and I have advised him to
concentrate himself on an operatic subject, which he had better
arrange for himself. You should encourage him in this; by your
advice and influence he will no doubt achieve something
excellent, and a musico-dramatic work will help him to proper
recognition in the quickest and best way.
I wanted to send you the "Dante" symphony for the new year, but
the corrections have taken me longer than I expected, and the
publication will not take place before January. I shall send you
a respectable parcel, for the Gran Mass will also be included in
it. I wish I could bring you these things personally, stay with
you, accompany you in "Tristan." Let us hope that the new year
will put an end to our separation, and chain us to each other in
the body, as we are already in spirit and heart.
December 26th, 1858.
You may expect a dedication from the composer of the opera D. v.
S.; accept it in a friendly spirit, although you will find
yourself in the strange company of Meyerbeer. The composer is
well inclined towards you, of which I recently had a very
convincing proof. Do not mention this until the dedication
actually reaches you. Later on you will probably have to write a
few lines in reply.
Cordial thanks for your New Year's greeting, dearest Richard. I
expect to see the explanation of the last words of your telegram
in your next letter, for I have no knowledge of the event which
you describe as "wonderfully miserable." In certain quarters,
however, the MISERABLE appears no longer WONDERFUL to me. I hope
the new year will bring some things to a better issue, and have
many good things in store for you. Enclosed I send you this
week's repertoire of the Weymar theatre, in which you will see
the announcement of "Lohengrin" for next Sunday. For the first
time I shall not conduct this work to which I am attached with my
whole soul. "Tannhauser" also I have left to my colleague, and
when I come to explain to you the circumstances which determine
me to this negative attitude, I feel sure that you will see in it
no neglect of my artistic conviction, much less of my duty as a
friend to you.
If your operas have elsewhere been given for the purpose of
getting money, the responsibility lies with those concerned; but
here, where these works have been guarded and watched with so
much love, I cannot make myself an accomplice of the brutal
mercantile spirit in which they are now regarded, especially not
after we two have been treated with such total want of
consideration in this "Rienzi" affair, which has been allowed to
drag on for more than eighteen months.
As I said in my last letter, I fully approve of your resolution
not to sell "Rienzi" to the management here. If you should be
applied to by letter I ADVISE YOU TO MAKE NO CONCESSION. If the
time for relenting should come I shall send you word; you know
how deeply your interests concern me.
In the first instance, the "Prophet," "Bal Masque," "Don
Pasquale," and "Antigone", have to be studied and performed,
which will leave no time or goodwill for "Rienzi." As regards
goodwill, C. R. can relate to you the circumstances of the first
performance of Cornelius's opera, when my passive attitude during
this season will be explained to you. Really I often require the
patience beseeming a confrater of the Franciscan order to bear so
many intolerable things.
January 1st, 1859.
VENICE, January 2nd, 1859.
MY DEAR FRANZ,
The time has come when I must once more speak with calmness and
in a decisive manner of the subject which has been so rich a
source of my life's troubles, and which last New Year's Eve
caused the storm I let loose upon you, no doubt to your sorrow.
Such storms must not occur again, that I feel deeply. Even this
last attack was caused only by a moment of the most violent
excitement. I must, in fact, undergo an absolute change in order
to gain a position more worthy of myself. It is for this reason
that I apply to you, for the last time, and perhaps it would be
better if I did not trouble you in the matter, even for this last
time. But if I omitted to do so at the moment when I am about to
take a decisive step, I might perhaps have to reproach myself
with having neglected my nearest, most helpful, and most
influential friend in an unaccountable manner.
Let me come to the point.
After living in exile for ten years, my amnesty has become of
less importance to me than the guarantee of an existence free
from care and secure from discomfort for the rest of my life. Do
not be surprised. The return to Germany is of relative value to
me. The only positive gain would be my seeing you often and
living together with you. The possible performances of my operas
under my direction, would certainly bring me less enjoyment than
exertion, care, trouble, and annoyance. I never had much pleasure
in the performance of one of my operas, and shall have much less
in future. My ideal demands have increased, compared with former
times, and my sensitiveness has become much more acute during the
last ten years while I lived in absolute separation from artistic
public life. I fear that even you do not quite understand me in
this respect, and you should believe my word all the more
implicitly. Your nature and position in life and in the world are
so entirely different from mine that you can scarcely realise my
sensitiveness in this respect from your own consciousness.
Believe me implicitly when I tell you that the only reason for my
continuing to live is the irresistible impulse of creating a
number of works of art which have their vital force in me. I
recognise beyond all doubt that this act of creating and
completing alone satisfies me and fills me with a desire of life,
which otherwise I should not understand. I can, on the other
hand, do quite well without any chance of a performance. I see
clearly that before the completion of "Tristan" my amnesty would
absolutely place me in an awkward position; no expectation, not
even that of producing "Lohengrin", could induce me to leave my
present place of abode before I had finished my work. From this
you may guess at other things. Any offer of a secured and
comfortable existence would be of no value to me if it were
coupled with the condition of my accepting the amnesty, and of
doing certain services made possible thereby. I cannot and shall
not accept an appointment or anything resembling it. What I
demand, on the other hand, is the settlement upon me of an
honourable and large pension, solely for the purpose of creating
my works of art undisturbed and without regard for external
Being without property or subvention of any kind, I have to rely
for my income upon my operas. He who has real knowledge of the
nature of my works, and who feels and esteems their peculiar and
differentiating qualities, must see that I, in my position
towards such an institution as our theatre, ought to be entirely
relieved from the necessity of making commercial articles of my
works. Any just-minded man must perceive that it would be quite
unworthy of me to relinquish my freedom by giving my operas to
managers without stipulating for their artistic interest, without
choice, without preference for any particular theatre, or even by
being compelled to offer them to such managers. This necessity
has already filled me with much painful bitterness, and the worst
of it is that even if I suppress my sense of honour to that
extent, the receipts accruing to me are of such a nature that
they place me, pecuniarily speaking, in a painful and alarming
position. At times those receipts come in plentifully and
unexpectedly, and in consequence bring with them all of a sudden
perfect security and a certain tempting plenty. At other times
they fall off for a long period and again quite unexpectedly; and
this falling off, just because it could not be foreseen, is
followed by want, care, and tribulation. If this is to be mended
I must be relieved from the necessity of counting upon these
receipts, and be placed in a position which will enable me to
look upon them as an accidental increase of resources, which I
can employ in adding certain comforts to my existence, and which
I am able to dispense with without interfering with my sufficient
and settled income, as soon as I find it desirable to withhold my
operas from those theatres, the strength or the direction of
which does not enable me to credit them with honest zeal for my
work. In this manner, and by the position towards our abominable
theatrical institutions thus attained, I should be protected by
my contemporaries, and enabled to continue my creations in
accordance with my earnest desire and with the peculiarity of my
artistic nature. An ample and fully secured pension can alone do
this for me, and only a combination of several German princes
whom I have inspired with sympathy can accomplish the desired
On such a combination I should have to insist, for the reason,
more especially, that this pension, if it is to fulfil its object
and to satisfy my somewhat refined and not altogether ordinary
wants, must amount to at least 2,000 or 3,000 thalers. I do not
blush in naming such a sum. My experience of what I want in
accordance with my nature, and, perhaps I should add, the nature
of my works, teaches me that I cannot well do with less; and on
the other hand, it is well known that artists like Mendelssohn
(although he was rich), have received equally large honorary
salaries from one single quarter.
I ask you therefore, definitely and finally, whether you will
take the initiative in this matter? At the same time I would draw
your attention to the fact that, after mature consideration, I
must abide by the character of my demand. An appointment at
Weimar, although it might leave me at perfect liberty and even be
equal to yours, I could not accept, because the salary would not
be sufficient for my purpose. It would not help me radically, and
would therefore imply all the dangers of a palliative measure.
Once more, I require an absolute settlement of my external
circumstances, which will provide for and exercise a decided
influence on my future artistic creativeness. I shall be forty-
six next birthday, and therefore speak of about ten years at the
If you have reasons for not entering into my request, or for
declining to concern yourself with it personally, let me know
plainly and definitely. I could explain those reasons from your
peculiar position, and they would not in the least interfere with
our friendship. Let me know in that case whether you advise me to
apply MYSELF to the Grand Duke of Weimar, in order to induce him
to place himself at the head of the aforesaid combination of
princes. If you do not think this advisable, I am determined to
ask D. whether he will intercede for me with another prince. If
he also refuses, my last resource will be to apply to that prince
myself. On the success of this step will depend my further
relations to Germany, as to which in such circumstances I have
quite made up my mind.
My request, whether it be addressed to you, or D., or one of the
princes, will be accompanied by a clear and convincing exposition
of my circumstances, my position towards the artistic world, and
my individual qualities, and wants. At the same time I shall
state precisely what I promise to do in return for such a
pension. In the first instance, and whether my return to Germany
will be granted or not, I shall undertake to continue the
creation of new works. All my works, present and future, will be
given to the various court theatres gratis. Finally, as soon as I
am allowed to return to Germany I will, by special desire,
undertake to superintend in person the study and production of my
operas, and, if it should be wished, of other works, the
representation of which would be for the benefit and honour of
This letter, dear Franz, is the first I have written in this
fateful new year 1859. It is addressed to you, and deals with a
subject which will be of decisive influence on my future life.
May Heaven and our friendship reward it with success!
Answer me soon definitely and decisively, for I repeat that I do
not want my request to be in any way connected with the amnesty.
A thousand cordial greetings to the ladies, to whom I shall soon
write a pleasant letter.
Have you NOTHING AT ALL to say to me? What is to become of me, if
EVERY ONE ignores me?
MY DEAR FRANZ,
On reading my letter again, you will probably have discovered
what was the meaning of my jocular complaint--"You answer me much
too pathetically and seriously." You must have seen by the exact
terms of my letter, somewhat loosely worded though it was, that
by your answer I meant the manner in which you speak of my
conduct towards D. with regard to "Rienzi." As this part of my
letter has remained obscure to you, I add the following words of
explanation. My letter about the withdrawal of "Rienzi" was
written with a view to being shown, because I had referred D. to
you. I thought, however, you would see that I was annoyed by the
difficulties he made about the honorarium, and by the remote date
for which payment was promised. I was in hopes that my letter
discussing the withdrawal of the opera would help me quickly to
the honorarium, and perhaps increase the amount a little. I had
unfortunately reckoned upon this income before the new year, and
relied upon it all the more because I had on a former occasion
explained my difficult position to your sympathetic heart. When I
forwarded D.'s last letter to you my intention was to complain of
his pedantic statement: "The honorarium will be paid to you after
the first performance,"--a statement to which I am no longer
accustomed at any other theatre. I further hoped to induce you--
as indeed I clearly indicated--to effect at least the immediate
payment of the honorarium. As my letter about the withdrawal of
"Rienzi" was written with a view to being shown, it may very
likely have puzzled you; but I know that it was intended only to
frighten D., and to supply you with a weapon for forcing him into
a decent and business-like attitude. In consequence, I hoped that
the success of this little manoeuvre would secure me the receipt
of the wretched twenty-five louis d'or before the new year. Upon
this sum I looked as my only certainty, because you were there to
get it for me, while the moneys which I expected from other
quarters represented only so many hopes which might be delusive.
At last New Year's Eve came. My money was all gone; my watch, the
snuff-box of the Grand Duke, and the bonbonniere of the Princess,
the only valuables I possess, had been pawned; and of the money I
had got for them only one and a half napoleons remained. When, on
New Year's Eve, on entering my lonely room, I found your letter,
I confess I was weak enough to hope that it would announce to me
the imminent arrival of the twenty-five louis d'or, in
consequence of the successful demonstration against D. which I
thought I had made. Instead of this, I found, in reference to
this matter, a serious explanation of your relations with D.,
which, as I see from this letter, have already become matter of
bitter and troublesome experience to you. I had foreseen this,
and made you silent reproaches when D. was called to Weimar
through your means. I quite understood that, owing to prolonged
irritation, you were, on receipt of my last letter, in a mood
which misled you as to the character of my threat to withdraw
"Rienzi." You recognized in me also the sympathetic annoyance at
all the unworthy things we meet with, and you overlooked the fact
that a poor devil like me cannot afford to be serious. Therefore
you entered seriously and bitterly into my withdrawal of
"Rienzi," which, after the insults you had received, was welcome
to you, and I, for my part, had to witness on that wretched New
Year's Eve the destruction of my last secret, but none the less
certain, hope of receiving money. The great disappointment of
that moment would, at any other time, have probably made me
reticent and silent, but the long-expected and ardently-longed-
for boon of your sympathy for "Tristan" evoked in me a kind of
convulsive excitement. Once more, your joy at my first act had
brought you so near to my innermost heart that I thought I might,
at such a moment, make the most outrageous demand on you. That
feeling I expressed, if I remember rightly, in the words, "For my
paroxysm of joyous excitement your delight at 'Tristan' is
responsible." Dearest friend, at that moment I could not even
think of the possibility of a misunderstanding. Everything being
so certain and infallible between us, I went to the opposite
extreme of reproaching you because you had left me in the
lurch with regard to money matters, and because you had taken my
diplomatic demonstration against D. in a much too earnest and
pathetic sense, my only interest in him being comprised in a
little money. I further indicated that the various
considerations, which to you, being on the spot, and holding an
official position, might appear serious and of great moment, did
not exist for me at all, the only connection between myself and
the theatres, and their public art, being solely that of money.
THAT OF MONEY! Yes, so it is; and with that you reproach me. You
should rather pity me. Do you not think that I should prefer your
position in regard to the performance of your own works because
money is no object to you? My first letter of this year will have
shown you that I also am capable of considering the matter in a
serious and literally pathetic, i.e., suffering mood.
Enough of this. Your letter, received today, has affected me
deeply, as you will easily understand. Yet I am calm and full of
hope. Your curious misunderstanding in applying my reproach, that
you answer me in "too earnest and pathetic a style," to your
delight at "Tristan", must by this time have become clear to
yourself. I feel quite confident that any unprejudiced friend, to
whom you may show our last letters, will persuade you, in spite
of your prejudice, that my humorous and playfully extravagant
reproach referred only to your idea of my intended withdrawal of
"Rienzi," and, generally speaking, to the expectation I had of D.
and the whole slough of our German operatic theatres. You now
know the position which excited me to this kind of desperate
humour, and I hope it will be a long time before I again have to
change my last napoleon at the telegraph office.
It is you, dear friend, who are suffering and needing comfort;
for the extraordinary letter which you found it possible to send
me can only have sprung from a terrible mental irritation. I hope
in the meantime that this lengthy explanation and disclosure of
the misunderstanding into which you had succeeded in falling will
be some comfort to you. I have none other to offer. If your
irritation concerned me alone, this letter should dispel it
altogether. Let me further assure you that you have hurt me in no
way, for your arrows did not hit me; their barbs stuck in your
own heart. This letter, I hope, will free you of them.
One more thing let me ask you today. Do not answer my letter of
January 2nd. Look upon it as if it had not been written, or, at
least, not received. I am fully aware that you are not able to
put yourself in my place with such goodwill and understanding as
would enable you to do justice to my letter. Please forget it
altogether; in that case, I will on my part pardon your
reproaches, you curious, dear, dear friend.
Farewell for today.
I am sure I have not lost you.
VENICE, January 7th, 1859.
In order to set your mind at rest, I inform you that, by a
curious and lucky accident, some money, which I had long expected
and already despaired of, arrived here from Vienna in the first
week of the new year. My three valuables (let a kind world
forgive me this luxury!) are out of pawn. For the present I am
provided for, and do not apprehend any new stoppage of my
resources just yet.
May the friendly remembrance of me be revived in you.
Your greeting, dearest Richard, has brought me the enchanting
forgetfulness of all that should ever be far from us. Receive my
thanks, and let us continue to suffer patiently together.
Before you had written to ask me not to mention your proposal, I
had communicated it at some length in the proper quarter. As I
might have expected, after numerous similar conversations (which
I never mention to you) there were several reasons for not
accepting it. Perhaps I shall be able to broach the subject again
later on, and obtain a more favourable result; to the extent, I
mean, that a small sum will be sent to you. Anything more cannot
be hoped for.
I must ask you to believe that I am extremely grieved always to
have to tell you things of this kind.
In your letter to Princess M. you speak of a change of abode, and
of your desire to settle in a large town. In case, against my
sincere hope, the permission to return to Germany should be
permanently refused to you, and you prefer to live in a large
town, I still think that Paris would be the most comfortable, the
most convenient, and even the cheapest place for you. I know your
dislike of this city pleine de boue et de fumee; but I think that
if you were to live there for any length of time you would feel
more at home, apart from which we should be tolerably near each
other, so that I might visit you frequently.
Have you had any further news from Carlsruhe? The newspapers
continue to announce a performance of "Tristan" in September, and
I do not relinquish the hope that at that time a favourable turn
in your affairs will take place. Anyhow, this summer must not
pass without our seeing each other.
Once more, thanks for your greeting; the song is indescribably
Most cordially your
WEYMAR, February 17th, 1859.
From Vienna you will soon receive through my cousin a small
collection of NOTES.
All that is kind to C. R.
VENICE, February 22nd, 1859.
I have just received your letter; as I am expecting R. and W.,
who may come in at any moment, I must defer answering you at
length until tomorrow. But I will not go to bed today without
thanking you most sincerely for the great benefit you have
conferred upon me by your letter. I am often in a state of
convulsive excitement, and must then look very ugly. But that
state has now disappeared entirely; you took it away today.
I shall say more about this tomorrow, and you will find me in a
willing frame of mind for confessing my sins.
One word more. If I have understood your short hint rightly, let
me ask you, for Heaven's sake, not to send me any money now. I
could not bear it. Send me your "Ideals," and, when it is ready,
your "Dante;" those I am looking for longingly.
The boys have just come in; the well-brought-up K. thanks you a
thousand times for your remembrance of him.
More tomorrow, God willing.
My blessings on you!
VENICE, February 23rd, 1859.
To my hurried lines of yesterday I add a more comprehensive
letter today. I have many things to tell you.
Lately I felt the urgent desire of sending you a word of comfort
and sympathy. I thought that you were in need of such. For I had
heard, to my horror, how great your annoyance must be, and B.'s
account confirmed my impression that you were deeply annoyed and
grieved by ingratitude, faithlessness, and even treachery.
Suddenly, however, I felt quite stupid, and all I intended to say
to you appeared to me trivial and superfluous. I could think of
nothing better than to copy out for you a few fragments of my
last work. They are not the really important things, for those
can be understood only in their larger context, and I am all the
more obliged to you for your kind reception of my good
intentions, which count for little in art, but for a great deal
I must almost thank you for the alarming New Year's greeting
which you sent to me. I believe it has been beneficial to me; I
am aware that I have too little control over myself, and rely
upon the patience of others to an undue extent. An occasional
lesson, therefore, does me good. Although I remain firmly
convinced that you have misunderstood me in one essential point
(as, indeed, well you might), I feel, nevertheless, that I must
have cut a very ugly figure. That was proved to me by the effect
I had upon you, for we know little of our appearance until we see
ourselves in a looking-glass, and in your irritation I recognized
my ugliness. These attacks of my violence ought surely to have
calmed down by this time; indeed, I long for that unruffled calm
which I esteem so highly and recognize to be the finest quality
in man. It appears to me that I have arrived at the turning point
of my life, and I deeply long for a state of quiescence. I am
aware that that quiescence must, at last, come from the inner
man, and our position towards the outer world must become one of
apathy, if nothing from there contributes to the contentment of
our mind. Let us see then.
I am intent at present upon gaining a clear and definite view of
my fate. My mental disposition you know from my letter to M. As
regards external matters, after mature consideration, I am taking
every step to place my future relations with Germany on the
necessary definite basis. I heard from Dresden that the king
would on no account swerve from his decision to reserve the
amnesty for those who had submitted to the investigation and
judgment of the law-courts. I was advised to submit to that
condition, but after mature consideration, and after weighing all
the chances, I am firmly resolved never to fulfil that condition.
In order to do all that was possible, I lately wrote to the
Minister of Justice, asking him to discuss the matter with the
King once more. This measure was suggested to me by my latest
experience in this place. I ought to tell you and the Grand Duke
for your satisfaction that, by desire of the Saxon Government, I
was to be banished from here. I was advised to submit
unconditionally, but to send a medical certificate to the
Governor-General, praying that I might be allowed to stay for a
few months longer for urgent reasons of health. For the moment
this has answered, and I am allowed to stay. If I refuse to be
examined or perhaps to be locked up a few months in Saxony, I
base that refusal towards the Government entirely upon my state
of health, which I need only exaggerate a little in order to show
good and sufficient cause for my refusal. In other respects I
submit most humbly to the decree pronounced against me, recognize
my guilt and the justice of the proceedings without reserve--and
only ask H.M. to remit the conditions of my amnesty by an
exceptional act of grace on account of my health, which has
become so weak that the doctor has strongly advised me not to
undergo that strain. In that manner I think I have taken the only
step which may lead me straight to the goal of certain knowledge
as to my fate. If the King refuses to grant me this request it is
clear that I shall have to give up all hope from that quarter for
ever. But even in that case I am resolved to make one more last
trial. I shall apply direct to the Grand Duke of Baden, placing
the case before him, and asking him for his permission to
approach the Emperor of Austria, the Prince of Prussia, the Grand
Duke of Weimar, the Duke of Coburg, and perhaps one other
friendly Prince with the prayer to grant me an exceptional
privilege of residence in their respective states, either by
agreement amongst themselves, or by a decree of the National
Diet. Avoiding anything of the nature of a complaint against the
King of Saxony, I shall base this request solely upon the same
circumstance, viz., the very serious state of my health and my
nervous irritation, which do not permit me to undergo the risk of
a criminal investigation at Dresden, although I fully recognize
the justice of that investigation, and do not expect the King to
alter his decree in my favour. I shall further ask the Princes in
question to suspend the treaty of extradition in my favour after
due consultation with the Saxon Government, the object being to
secure my personal efforts for the advancement of German art. It
will depend upon the consent of the Grand Duke of Baden whether I
take further steps in that direction. I do not venture to say
that I expect a successful issue, but one thing I shall gain in
any case, and that the most necessary of all, viz., certainty as
to my position. I must no longer delay gaining that certainty,
because my whole future life depends upon it. Before telling you
what further steps I have in view in order to gain certainty in
another direction also, I must answer your question as to
Devrient wrote to me that in case "Tristan" were finished by that
time, September 6th, being the birthday of the Grand Duke, would
be the best day for the performance; and he added that the Grand
Duke counted with certainty upon my personal attendance. As to
this last point, which of course I had made the chief condition
from the first, I have recently received further information. The
Grand Duke intends to invite me for the time in question to
Carlsruhe on his own responsibility. Nothing is to be known
beforehand, and my presence is to be simply an accomplished fact,
for which the Grand Duke takes the personal responsibility. This
seems a princely way of doing things, and the young sovereign
inspires me with confidence. But I must assist him by denying any
intention of a journey to Carlsruhe altogether. You will
therefore oblige me, dearest Franz, by ostensibly assisting me in
this matter. You might cause some paragraphs to be inserted in
the newspapers, contradicting that rumour which, unfortunately,
has been spread about a good deal, and stating that nothing was
settled, and that my personal attendance at Carlsruhe was quite
out of the question, as, as yet, there was not the slightest
chance of my amnesty.
Concerning your own recent steps in my favour, I must charge you
in all friendliness with having acted too delicately towards me
by not letting me know the motives of the refusal you have met
with. Even now you do not state those motives plainly, for the
reason apparently that you fear to wound me unnecessarily by
their communication. On the other hand, I ask you to consider
that it would be better if I saw quite clearly in this matter.
This would finally and for ever free me from all the illusions
into which my strong desire tempts me while things are in this
uncertain state, and an unpleasant feature of our mutual
relations would disappear altogether.
All my transactions with the Hartels as to the edition of the
scores, etc., of the "Nibelungen" to be prepared at once, have
again been abandoned recently. The only thing they were willing
to grant was the immediate commencement of the engraving
(provided always that a performance was guaranteed), without
payment of an honorarium, and with the undertaking only on their
part to share the profits of the edition with me. How loath I am
to agree to this latter proposal I need not explain. The profits
to be derived from such a work increase as the years go on, and
will probably become lucrative only after my death. In any case,
those profits would accrue to me at a time of life to provide for
which at present would be folly, considering how urgently I
require immediate assistance and freedom from care. Heirs I have
Your advice to settle in Paris in case Germany remains closed to
me quite coincides with my own plans. The dear Child has
communicated to you what my immediate views of life are. I cannot
bear this state of inactivity any longer; my health is ruined for
want of life and action. Paris is the place, appointed to me by
fate. I quite agree with you in thinking that I shall get
accustomed to living there as time goes on. Apart from any plans,
I shall there have at least the occasional use of a fine
orchestra which I have missed for so long. Without considering
for the present any possible performances at French theatres, I
should there also have the best chance of witnessing a
performance of my own works. A well-managed scheme of German
opera would be all that would be required. But it is impossible
for me and my wife to lead, once more, a half-starving life in
Paris. Some comfort and freedom of action must be secured to me,
otherwise I cannot think of it. I shall probably leave my
furniture, etc., at Zurich. The pretty little house will be kept
for me, and I hope to inhabit it again later on in the summer,
which would be an agreeable change.
The hope you give me of receiving frequent visits from you in
Paris is the real bright point in the picture of the future.
Believe me, dear Franz, when I consider the advantages which my
desired amnesty would offer to me, there is only one which
appears to me worth a real sacrifice, I mean that of being
together with you more frequently and for longer periods. What
else is there that could very strongly and decisively attract me?
Performances of my operas I should, in most instances, carefully
avoid, although I might in rare and particular cases take part in
first performances of my works, which would of course be very
desirable. The question, whether in that case encouragement and
new strength, or grief, annoyance, and overexcitement would be
the lasting effect upon me, I fear I must decide in favour of the
latter alternative, and no external success, no applause, could
make up for this. If I was sensitive before, I am so now to the
verge of excessive irritation, and I dread every contact with
theatrical matters, singers, conductors, etc., to such a degree
that I feel almost inclined to bless the fate which keeps me
apart from them. But we, we two, want to cultivate our friendship
by personal intercourse; we are to each other the only enjoyment
which the world can offer us. Only think how painfully we have
always been kept separated, during how few weeks of the long and
beautiful years of our friendship we have looked into each
other's eyes. This fountain of generation of inner strength and
fire is fully appreciated by me, and I feel it to be the direst
deprivation that I can approach it so rarely. If you promise me
this boon for Paris, you may look upon my determination to go
there as certain and immutable.
Let me have a full account of yourself, dear friend; of all your
troubles I hear from others, sometimes even through the
newspapers. That is not right; neither should you be too brief in
your statements; it looks like want of confidence. I want to gain
a closer view so as to know how to stretch out my hand, which
would comfort you with a friendly touch. It is natural that you
are too great, too noble, too beautiful, for our dear, gossipy
Germany, and that you appear to the people like a god, whose
splendour they are not accustomed and not inclined to bear. It
was left to you to illustrate this phenomenon, for so bright, so
warm a being as yourself had never before appeared in Germany.
But I should like to know to what degree this miserable conduct
touches your heart, annoys you, embitters you. I have grown so
indifferent to similar impressions, that I often find it very
difficult to discover the exact point where the impression is
If, on the other hand, I consider what happiness is in your
possession, what crowns of life and of eternity are on your
forehead, if I think of your sympathetic and nobly refined home,
free as it is from the serious cares of common life, if I finally
observe how your personality and your ever-ready art enchant and
delight all around you, I find it difficult to understand what
your sufferings really are. And yet you suffer, and suffer
deeply; that I feel. Sink your pride for once, and write to me as
plainly and as comprehensively as I too frequently do to you,
much to your annoyance. I must conclude, in order not to begin
the fourth sheet, and will only tell you in the margin that I
thank you cordially for your love, and shall always remain
faithfully and lovingly
MILAN, March 25th, 1859.
I am once more on my travels without having told you anything
about them; tired out as I am by the Brera, the "Cena", the
Cathedral, etc., I do not want to go to bed before sending you
two words of news.
In order not to interrupt the composition of my third act, I came
to the conclusion that I ought to begin it in a place where I
might finish it. I have selected Lucerne for the purpose; you
know how dearly I love the Lake of Lucerne; the Righi, Pilatus,
etc., are indispensable remedies to me and my blood. I shall live
there in solitude, and at this time of the year shall easily find
a most desirable lodging. There I mean to work splendidly. My
Erard has already preceded me.
My health gives me still much trouble, otherwise I am fairly well
off, but with your friendly cousin in Vienna, who thinks so
little of your advantage, I have still a bone to pick. About that
next time. I should, no doubt, have had news from you if, in my
last letter, I had not again given you such a dose of gravy. I
should have been only too happy to receive a sign of life from
you, even if that matter had not been mentioned with a word. I
hoped for it from day to day, and in that idle hope neglected
advising you of my intended change of abode.
As soon as I am settled again I shall write better and more,
without waiting for you to ask me. For today these preliminary
lines must suffice. A thousand cordial greetings.
LUCERNE, poste restante.
Be heartily welcomed on the Lake of Lucerne, my dear, great
friend. "Tristan" will once again enjoy and derive strength from
Alpine air before he leaves you for ever to shine on others. At
Carlsruhe they are afraid that he will not arrive punctually at
the appointed time. Devrient, whom I saw here and at Jena, told
me so lately. The first performance is wavering between September
and December--the birthday of the Grand Duke or that of the
Grand Duchess, and I have already announced myself as the
Your dose of gravy, as you put it, was not particularly
palatable. At our next meeting I shall have to say much about it,
unfortunately of the negative kind. Nevertheless, I hope to be
able at the same time to propose to you a different arrangement
(if that is the name) with which, no doubt, you will agree. First
of all, however, "Tristan" must be finished, engraved, and
performed, and after that we will, without delay, take the
"Nibelungen" affair seriously in hand, and set it right to your
The Princess and her daughter are going to Munich next week
(Kaulbach is painting the portrait of Princess M.). I stay here
till Easter, and then go on a visit to Prince Hohenzollern at
Lowenberg, Silesia. From the middle of May to the beginning of
June I shall pitch my tent at Leipzig, where all manner of things
will happen. Later on, for Whitsuntide, grand Schiller
festivities are announced here. Whether they will take place is
very questionable, but in any case I shall have to get the music
for the festival-play by Holm (VOR HUNDERT JAHRERI) ready, which
will be something of an effort.
My health, fortunately, gives me no trouble, and I have no lack
of patience. The rest may come and will come.
Farewell and persevere. Such is the wish of
WEYMAR, April 6th, 1859.
LUCERNE, April 19th, 1859.
Tell me, dearest Franz, how would you feel if you were in my
position? I have repeatedly asked you to send me your new works
as they appear. The "Ideals" has appeared, but you are silent on
the subject. Now I read the publisher's announcement of the
appearance of "Dante." How would you feel if this happened to
you? Do you still harbour your strange illusions about me? That
surely is impossible.
The weather is bad; I am absolutely alone, and seldom in the
right mood for work. So I drag on amidst mists and thoughts.
Let me hear, let me see.
DEDICATION OF THE "DANTE" SYMPHONY.
As Virgil guided Dante, so have you guided me through the
mysterious regions of life-tone imbued worlds. From the bottom of
his heart calls to you:--
"Tu se lo mio maestro, el mio autore!"
and dedicates this work to you with invariably faithful love
WEYMAR, Easter 1859.
LUCERNE, May 8th, 1859.
I should prefer not to write to you today, dearest Franz, because
I am not in the proper mood for it, but as I must not think of
working, I make at least this attempt at some sort of activity,
without knowing exactly what the result will be. If you suddenly
were to enter my solitude,--that would be a chance of the
possibility of a possibility. But you seem to have disposed of
your summer,--Lowenberg and Leipzig, while the third L. (Lucerne)
has been totally forgotten. Well, I stick to Lucerne, and,
carefully considered, it is the only place in the world which is
at present possible to me. You know, or might imagine, that I do
not live a life in the proper sense of the word; the only thing
that could help me--art, art to the verge of drowning and world-
forgetfulness, of that I have still less than of life, and this
state of things has lasted for a period which I soon shall count
by decades. Excepting the servants, I see and speak to no one;
just imagine how I must feel. My good people, I fear you leave me
too much alone, and the meaning of "too late" will one day be
brought home to you in connection with me. It is very well to
say: "Get "Tristan" ready, and then we shall see." But how if I
did not get "Tristan" ready because I could not get it ready? I
feel as if I should break down pantingly in sight of the goal.
Once at least every day I look at my book with a right good will,
but my head is waste, my heart empty, and I stare at the mists
and the rain-clouds, which, ever since I have been here, have
debarred me even from the chance of shaking up my stagnant blood
by pleasant excursions. People say: "Go to work, then all will be
right." Very well in its way, but I, poor devil, lack routine,
and if ideas do not come to me of themselves, I cannot make them
A pleasant state of things this! and what is worse, there is no
chance of helping myself in any other way. All is shut and locked
against me. Work alone is to help me, but who is to help me to
the possibility of work? I have evidently too little of what you
have too much.
I am full of enthusiasm for the German Confederacy of the
Teutonic nations. For heaven's sake do not let the villain L.
Napoleon touch my dear German Confederacy! I should be too deeply
grieved if any change were made. I am curious, however, what will
become of my intended migration to Paris. It is surely most
unpatriotic to look for a comfortable existence at the head-
quarters of the enemy of the Teutonic nation. The good Teutons
should really do something to save the most Teutonic of all
Teutonic opera-composers this terrible trial. Moreover, in Paris
I shall be pretty well cut off from all my German resources, and
yet I shall be obliged to apply in a very high quarter in order
to get permission for permanent settlement in Paris, for my Swiss
settlement is coming to a close. Germany is evidently intent upon
driving me forcibly to the enemy. Very well! There is a
possibility of my going in the autumn for six months to America,
where offers have been made to me which, considering the friendly
sympathy of the German Confederacy, I cannot very well neglect.
This will be decided before long. What makes me hesitate is that
the "Tristan" scheme at Carlsruhe would be crossed thereby in
such a manner that I should have to give it up for the present,
and should probably not resume it at any future time. The last
act of this child of sorrow is now on the verge of the "to be or
not to be;" a slight pressure of some spring of the vulgar fate,
at whose mercy I am, might kill this child at the very moment of
its birth. Everything with me depends now upon the turning of a
hand; there may be a way and there may be a complete stoppage,
for I, my Franz, am in a bad way.
I have heard nothing for a long time of any of my friends; they
probably think that I am very happy in my dear Switzerland, in
this splendid solitude, in the joy of composing, forgetful of all
the world. I am not angry with them because they make themselves
such illusions. If they only knew that I had to threaten violence
in order to get out of you the "Dante" symphony dedicated to me,
they might draw further conclusions from this fact. What do you
say to that? I have, after all, arrived at "Dante", of which I
did not wish to speak today, because I love it too much to
involve it in my present mood. Let me tell you, however, that we
had better keep the dedication, written in my copy, to ourselves.
I at least shall not mention it to a soul. Your words have
positively made me blush, you may believe me. I cannot tell you
too often how miserably weak I feel as a musician. I know, in the
depth of my heart, that I am an absolute blunderer. You ought to
watch me when I am at it; now thinking "it must do after all,"
then going to the piano to puzzle out some wretched rubbish, and
giving it up again in a state of idiocy. Oh, how I feel then! how
thoroughly persuaded of my musical wretchedness! And then come
you, whose pores are running over as with streams, fountains,
cataracts, and tell me such words as those which you have said to
me. I find it difficult to think that this is not the purest
irony, and I must recall your friendship in order to believe that
you have not been cutting a joke at my expense after all. This is
a peculiar story, dearest friend; believe me, I am not up to
much. I really begin to think that Reissiger must have helped me
with "Tannhauser" and "Lohengrin." With my new works you have
most certainly helped me, and now that you leave me in the lurch,
I can do nothing more.
About "Dante" only so much today that I was specially pleased to
see how perfectly well I remembered it from your playing it to
me. As I come to study it more closely I perceive that no feature
of any importance had escaped me, even the smallest and finest
details were perfectly familiar to me from that time. This at
least is good evidence of my receptive faculties; but I believe
that the credit is really due to the peculiar grandeur and
quality of your work.
Generally speaking, if you wish to know, I am again in exactly
the same condition as when I wrote the letter about you to M.
Concerning that letter I recently had a brand-new experience. K.
R. had not read it, when I found it accidentally amongst my
papers at Venice, and gave it to him. After that he came to me,
and told me that people who were near to you had told him in
connection with this letter that I expressed myself in it in an
evasive manner, and was evidently intent upon saying nothing
definite about you. He himself had been made anxious by this, and
now, having read it, was truly delighted at perceiving the
ENORMOUS significance I had attributed to you. Astonished at the
possibility of an ill-natured misunderstanding, I read the letter
once more, and was compelled to chime in with K. R.'s impetuous
declamations at the incredible dulness, superficiality, and
triviality of people who could have misunderstood the meaning of
this letter. I have taken a solemn oath not to publish ANOTHER
WORD. What we are to each other we know and tell one another at
intervals for the sake of encouragement and comfort. But what we
are to the world I will be d--d if I--!
It is TOO incredible.
Good Lord! I cannot get out of my trivial mood in this letter,
and therefore must not discuss anything noble, least of all the
"Ideals." If you want to be sure of hearing something rational
from me, come to me and play all your things to me, especially
the Crusaders' chorus (splendid!!); then at least YOU will know
once more accurately what is in me.
For the present I spend all the good humour I can dispose of on
my wife. I flatter her and take care of her as if she were a
bride in her honeymoon. My reward is that I see her thrive; her
bad illness is visibly getting better. She is recovering, and
will, I hope, become a little rational in her old age. Just after
I had received your "Dante", I wrote to her that we had now got
out of Hell; I hope Purgatory will agree with her, in which case
we may perhaps, after all, enjoy a little Paradise. The whole
thing is splendid. Remember me to the Prince of Lowenberg, or
whatever his name may be, and tell him that if the German
Confederacy does not recall me soon I shall go to Paris and
betray the length and breadth of Germany.
God be with you. I hope you will pardon this absurd letter. Ever
What a terrible storm is your letter, dearest Richard! How
desperately it lashes and knocks down everything. What can be
heard in the midst of this roaring thunder? Where shall I find,
and what is the good of, words, words, words?
And yet my confidence in you is unshaken. Hamlet's dilemma does
not apply to you, for YOU ARE and cannot help being. Even your
mad injustice towards yourself in calling yourself a "miserable
musician and blunderer" (!!) is a sign of your greatness. In the
same sense Pascal says, "La vraie eloquence se moque de l'
eloquence." It is true that your greatness brings you little
comfort and happiness, but where is happiness, in the narrow
monotonous sense which is absurdly given to the word? Resignation
and patience alone sustain us in this world. Let us bear our
cross together in Christ--"the God whom one approaches without
pride, before whom one bends the knee without despair." But I
must not be betrayed into needless Franciscan sermons.
Candidly speaking, I do not think much of your American project,
and fear that New York would appear even more uncanny to you than
London. Nevertheless, write to me some particulars about the
offer which has been made to you, without the slightest fear of
alarming the German Confederacy. As I frequently said, Carlsruhe
is, for the present, your best chance, and I am persuaded that
the Grand Duke of Baden, who is very well inclined towards you,
will not fail to give you practical proof of his kindness.
Devrient does not expect to give "Tristan" before December, on
the birthday of the Grand Duchess. You need, therefore, be in no
particular hurry to finish the work. In any case, I shall visit
you before that at Lucerne, or wherever you like, and will play
to you a lot of my stuff if, as you tell me, it amuses you. The
noblest reward of my work would be if it were to bring home to
you the truth that you are and remain an IMMENSE MUSICIAN, and if
by that means you were incited to renewed industry.
In spite of all the war troubles the meeting of musicians will
take place at the beginning of June, as announced, and I have to
take up my quarters at Leipzig for that purpose as early as next
week. Do not laugh at me too much because I continue to take an
interest in similar things; they are not without influence on
your tentiemes, and from that point of view I may ask for your
toleration. I hope the weather will soon be finer on the lake,
and a milder spirit will illumine your soul.
WEYMAR, May 14th, 1859.
I told you at the time how deeply your letter to M. about the
Symphonic Poems had rejoiced me. The twaddle which dulness,
triviality, and spite have talked about it is not worth notice.
LUCERNE, May 15th, 1859.
Thiele, of Berne, the, trombone player, has just called on me,
and told me that he recently visited you at Weimar, not knowing
at that time that the place of trombone player would be vacant
there. He asked me to recommend him to you, because, as a native
of Weimar, he would like much to be employed there. I am
cordially pleased to recommend him to you most warmly, not only
for the sake of Thiele, but for that of your orchestra. He took
part in 1853 in my famous May concerts at Zurich, and on that
occasion gained, I may say, my whole heart by his enthusiasm. He
had two very weak players with him, but managed to carry them
along with him by his energy to such an extent, that in the
[Musical score excerpt]
one might have thought that one was listening to a whole host of
trombones. Thiele, in short, is excellent, and known all through
Switzerland as a trombone genius. I congratulate you on his
acquisition. Do not let him escape you.
Farewell for today, dearest friend. What state I am in you may
unfortunately see from the fact that a few days ago I felt bound
in conscience and duty to ask Devrient not to rely on "Tristan"
or me any longer. This was bound to happen, and there is an end
for the present.
Much luck to the Leipzig festival.
Farewell, and accept the best wishes of