Part 1 out of 4
Produced by Juliet Sutherland, Lisa Richards, Sjaani and PG Distributed
THE LOVE AFFAIRS OF GREAT MUSICIANS
By Rupert Hughes
Portions of a few of the chapters of this work appeared serially in _The
Criterion_, and the last chapter was published in _The Smart Set_.
While, so far as the author knows, this is the first book on the
subject, it is given, perhaps, especial novelty by the fact that
advantage could be taken of much new material given to the public for
the first time (with one exception) in the last few months, notably: a
revelation of the exact identity of Beethoven's "Immortal Beloved;" the
letters of Liszt to his princess; letters of Chopin long supposed to
have been burned, as well as diaries and letters gathered by an intimate
friend for a biography whose completion was prevented by death; the
publication of a vast amount of Wagneriana; the appearance of a full
life of Tschaikovski by his brother, with complete elucidation of much
that had been suppressed; the first volume of a new biography of Clara
Schumann, with a detailed account of the whole progress of her beautiful
love story, down to the day of the marriage; and numberless fugitive
paragraphs throwing new light on affairs more or less unknown or
Love it is an hatefulle pees,
A free acquitaunce without re lees.
An hevy burthen light to here,
A wikked wawe awey to were.
It is kunnyng withoute science,
Wisdome withoute sapience,
Bitter swetnesse and swete errour,
Right eville savoured good savour;
A strengthe weyked to stonde upright,
And feblenesse fulle of myght.
A laughter it is, weping ay;
Reste that traveyleth nyght and day.
Also a swete helle it is,
And a soroufulle Paradys.
Romaunt of the Rose.
I. THE OVERTURE
II. THE ANCIENTS
III. THE MEN OF FLANDERS
IV. ORLAND DI LASSUS AND HIS REGINA
V. HENRY AND FRANCES PURCELL
VI. THE STRANGE ADVENTURES OF STRADELLA
VII. GIOVANNI AND LUCREZIA PALESTRINA
VIII. BACH, THE PATRIARCH
IX. PAPA AND MAMMA HAYDN
X. THE MAGNIFICENT BACHELOR
XI. GLUCK THE DOMESTIC, ROUSSEAU THE CONFESSOR,
AND THE AMIABLE PICCINNI
XII. A FEW TUNESTERS OF FRANCE AND ITALY
--PERI, MONTEVERDE, ET AL
XIV. BEETHOVEN: THE GREAT BUMBLEBEE
XV. VON WEBER--THE RAKE REFORMED
XVI. THE FELICITIES OF MENDELSSOHN
XVII. THE NOCTURNES OF CHOPIN
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
PRINCESS LICHTENSTEIN (Frontispiece)
ORLAND DI LASSUS (Roland de Lattre)
JOHN SEBASTIAN BACH
MORNING PRAYER IN THE FAMILY OF SEBASTIAN BACH
GEORG FRIEDRICH HANDEL
CHRISTOPH WILLIBALD VON GLUCK
JEAN JACQUES ROUSSEAU
JEAN BAPTISTE DE LULLY
MOZART, AT VIENNA, PLAYING HIS OPERA "DON JUAN" FOR THE FIRST TIME
LUDWIG VON BEETHOVEN
BETTINA BRENTANO VON ARNIM
COUNTESS THERESE VON BRUNSWICK
CARL MARIA VON WEBER
THE LOVE AFFAIRS OF GREAT MUSICIANS
Musicians as lovers! The very phrase evokes and parades a pageant of
amours! The thousand heartaches; the fingers clutching hungrily at keys
that might be other fingers; the fiddler with his eyelids clenched while
he dreams that the violin, against his cheek is the satin cheek of "the
inexpressive She;" the singer with a cry in every note; the moonlit
youth with the mandolin tinkling his serenade to an ivied window; the
dead-marches; the nocturnes; the amorous waltzes; the duets; the trills
and trinkets of flirtatious scherzi; the laughing roulades; the discords
melted into concord as solitude into the arms of reunion--these are
music's very own.
So capable of love and its expression is music, indeed, that you almost
wonder if any but musicians have ever truly loved, or loving have
expressed. And yet--! Round every corner there lurks an "and yet." And
if you only continue your march, or your reading, you always reach that
Your first thought would be, that a good musician must be a good lover;
that a broken heart alone can add the Master's degree to the usual
conservatory diploma of Bachelor of Music; that all musicians must be
sentimental, if musicians at all; and finally that only musicians can
know how to announce and embellish that primeval theme to which all
existence is but variations, more or less brilliant, more or less in
But go a little further, and closer study will prove that some of the
world's greatest virtuosos in love could neither make nor carry a tune;
and that, by corollary, some of the greatest tunesters in the world were
tyros, ignoramuses, or heretics in that old lovers' arithmetic which
begins: 1 plus 1 equals 1.
If you care to watch the cohort of musicians, good, bad, and worse, that
I shall have to deploy before you, you shall see almost every sort and
condition of love and lover that humanity can include. And
incidentally--to tuck in here a preface that would otherwise be
skipped--let me explain that in the following affairs I have preferred
to give you the people as accurately as I can make them out.
In place of the easy trick of stringing together a number of gorgeous
fairy stories founded on fact, I have preferred the long labour of
hunting down the truth and telling only what I have found and believe to
be true. Fact and not fancy; presentation and not fiction; have been the
aim throughout. Where the facts are sparse, I have not hesitated to say
so; have not stooped to pad out gaps, with graceful and romantic
imaginings; and have indeed never hazarded a guess or an inference
without frankly branding it as such.
Furthermore, as far as space permits and documents exist, the musicians
tell their own stories in their own words.
For the making of this little book, I have not been able to include all
the men who ever wrote one note after or above another; nor to read all
the books ever published in all the world's languages: and yet, that I
have been decently thorough will appear, I think, in the list of books
at the back. This does not claim to be a complete bibliography of the
subject, but, omitting hundreds of books I have ransacked in vain, it
catalogues only such works as I have consulted with profit, and the
reader could consult with pleasure.
It may be well to say that, with the exception of the occasional
necessity or seeming-necessity for taking one side or the other in a
matter of dispute, I have avoided the facility of bandying highly moral
verdicts and labelling these victors or victims of life with tags
marking their destinations in the next world. He who gets into another's
heart with understanding, will find it impossible to indulge in
wholesale blame--"_tout comprendre, c'est tout pardonner_." So, without
pretending to have comprehended any of these human hearts altogether, I
have learned enough to lean almost always a little toward the defence,
and still more nearly always toward the praise of the woman in the case.
And yet, the whole effort and viewpoint of the work will be found, I
think, to be based upon a deep belief that one love is better than two,
and that earnestness and honesty and altruism are more blessed and
blissful, even with poverty and suffering, than any wealth of money, or
of fame, or of amorous experience.
As a last chapter to this series of "true stories," I have ventured to
sum up the conclusions, to which the study of all these affairs has
compelled me, and to state a general opinion as to the effect of music
on character. It might have been more exciting to some readers, if I
had started out with a hard and fast theory, and then discarded or
warped everything contradictory to it, but it would have been a
dishonest procedure for one who believes that musicians are neither
saints of exaltation nor fiends of lawless ecstasy; but only ordinary
clay ovens of fire and ashes like the rest of us. He who generalises is
lost, and yet I make bold to believe that the conclusion of this book is
true and reasonable and in accordance with such evidence as could be
And now after this before-the-curtain lecture, it is high time, as
Artemus would say, to "rise the curting."
The very origins and traditions of the trade of music seem to enforce a
certain versatility of emotion and experience. Apollo, the particular
god of music, was not much of a lover, and what few affairs he had were
hardly happy; his suit was either declined with thanks, or, if accepted,
ended in the death of the lady; as for himself--being a god, he was
denied the comfortable convenience of suicide. Daphne, as every one
knows, took to a tree to escape his attentions; and Coronis, as so many
another woman, was soon blase of divine courtship, and, for variety,
turned her eyes elsewhere. She was punished with death indeed; but her
son was Aesculapius. Which explains the medicinal value music has always
Old Boetius--who had affection enough for both a first and a second
wife--tells, in his treatise on music, many anecdotes of the art's
influence, not only upon sickness but upon wrathful mobs bent on
mischief. He quotes Plato's statement that "the greatest caution is to
be taken not to suffer any change in well-moraled music, there being no
corruption of manners in a republic so great as that which follows a
gradual declination from a prudent and modest music; for whatever
corruptions are made in music, the minds of the hearers will immediately
suffer the same, it being certain that there is no way to the affections
more open than that of hearing."
The musician proverbially both plays upon and is a lyre. This
instrument, as is well known, was first made out of a vacant
turtle-shell, by Mercury, the god of gymnastic exercises and of theft,
that is to say, of technic, and of plagiarism. Mercury was nimble with
his affections also; among his progeny was the great god Pan, who is
frequently reported, and commonly believed, to be dead. Pan was so far
from beautiful that even his nurse could not find a compliment for him,
and in fact dropped him and ran. Considering what one usually expects of
a new-born infant, Pan must have been really unattractive. His lack of
personal charm was the origin of the invention of Pan's pipes or syrinx.
Miss Syrinx of the Naiad family--one of the first families of
Arcadia--was so horrified when Pan proposed to her, that she fled. He
pursued and she begged aid of certain nymphs who lived in a houseboat
on the river Ladon. When Pan thought to seize her, he found his arms
filled with reeds. How many a lover has pursued thus ardently some
charmer, only to find that when he has her, he has but a broken reed!
But Pan, noting that the wind was sighing musically about the reeds, cut
seven of them with a knife and bound them together as a pastoral pipe. A
wise fellow he, and could profit even from a jilt.
The eminent musician Arion, the inventor of glee clubs--a fact which
should not be cherished against him--seems to have loved no one except
himself, and therein to have had no rivals. The famous fish story to the
effect that when he was compelled to leap into the sea, by certain
mariners, he was carried to shore on the back of a dolphin, is only
Jonah's adventure turned inside out.
Another early soloist was Orpheus, the beautiful love story of whose
life is common property. He was torn to pieces by frantic women, a fate
that seems always to threaten some of our prominent pianists and
violinists at the hands of the matinee Bacchantes.
The patron saint of Christian music, Saint Cecilia, had a remarkable
married life, including a platonic affair with an angel; which caused
her pagan husband a certain amount of natural anxiety. Geoffrey Chaucer
can tell you the legend of her martyrdom with the crystal charm of all
The early Christian Church with its elaborate vocal worship accomplished
much for the cause of music, but also, with its vast encouragement to
the monastic life and to celibacy, coerced a great number of musicians
to be monks. This banishes them from a place here--not by any means
because their being monks prevented their having love affairs, but
because it greatly prevented a record of most of them--though happily
not all. Abelard, for instance, was a monk, and his Heloise became a
nun, and their love letters are among the most precious possessions in
literature. Liszt, that Hungarian rhapsodist in amours, was he not also
an abbe? There was a priest-musician, George de la Hele, who about 1585
gave up a lucrative benefice to marry a woman dowered with the name
Madalena Guabaelaraoen. But most of them kept their benefices and their
sweethearts both, though we find it noted as worthy of mention in the
epitaph of the composer and canon, Pierre de la Rue, in the 16th
century, that as an "adorateur diligent du Tres-Haut, ministre du
Christ, il sut garder la chastete et se preserver du contact de l'amour
sensuel." But because you see it in an epitaph, it is not always
Sir John Hawkins, in his delightsome though ponderous history of music,
tells of the disastrous infatuation of Angelus Politianus, who
flourished in 1460 as a canon of the Church, and the teacher of the
children of Lorenzo dei Medici.
"Ange Politien," he says, "a native of Florence, who passed for the
finest wit of his time in Italy, met with a fate which punished his
criminal love. Being professor of eloquence at Florence, he unhappily
became enamoured of one of his young scholars who was of an illustrious
family, but whom he could neither corrupt by his great presents, nor by
the force of his eloquence. The vexation he conceived at this
disappointment was so great as to throw him into a burning fever; and in
the violence of the fit he made two couplets of a song upon the object
with which he was transported. He had no sooner done this than he raised
himself from his bed, took his lute, and accompanied it with his voice
in an air so tender and affecting that he expired in singing the second
Which reminds one of the actor Artemus Ward describes as having played
Hamlet in a Western theatre, where, there being no orchestra, he was
compelled to furnish his own slow music and to play on a flute as he
THE MEN OF FLANDERS
The Belgian historian, Van der Straeten, has illuminated the crowded
shelves of his big work, "La Musique aux Pays-Bas avant Le XIXe Siecle,"
with various little instances of romance that occurred to the numberless
minstrels and weavers of tangled counterpoint in the Netherlands of the
old time. Some of these instances are simply hints, upon which the
fervid imagination will spin imaginary love yarns in endless gossamer.
Thus of Marc Houtermann (1537--1577) "Prince of musicians" at Brussels.
All we know of his wife is from her epitaph. She died the same year he
died--so we fancy it was of a broken heart she died; and she was only
twenty-six at the time--so we can imagine how young and lithely
beautiful she must have been. Her name, too, was Joanna Gavadia--a sweet
name, surely never wasted on an ungraceful woman; and on her tombstone
she is called "pudicissima et musicis scientissima." So she was good
and she was skilful in music, like Bach's second wife; and doubtless,
like her, of infinite help and delight to her husband.
Van der Straeten's book is cluttered up with documents of musty
interest. Among them are a number that gain a pathetic interest by the
frequence of the appeals of musicians or their widows for a pittance of
charity from the hand of some royal or ducal patron. If there be in
these democratic days any musician who feels humiliated by the struggle
for existence with its necessities for wire-pulling and log-rolling and
sly advertisement, and by the difficulty of stemming the tide of public
ignorance and indifference, let him remember that at least he is a free
man, and need lick nobody's boots; and let him cast an eye upon the
chronicles of shameful humiliation, childish deference, grovelling
servility, and whimsical reward or punishment, favour, or neglect, that
marked the "golden age" when musicians found patrons from whose conceit
or ennui they might wheedle a most uncertain living.
Among the most pathetic of such instances is that of Josse Boutmy
(1680--1779), court organist at Brussels, and famous in his day,--which
was a long day. When he was at the age of eighty and the father of
twelve children, he had to stoop to appeals for charity; again at
ninety-seven he appeals. At ninety-eight he pleads to be retired with a
pension; at ninety-nine he dies. Three days after his death his son is
asking a pension for the mother of that dozen children. She also writes
a pitiful letter still preserved.
"My husband, Judocus Boutmy, had the happiness of serving, for
thirty-five years, as first organist of the chapel of Your Highness.
Infirmities, the result of old age, and twelve children raised at great
cost, to enable them to earn their bread, have left me at his death in
indigence the greater since my son Laurent Boutmy, who for many years
gave with approbation assistance to his father, in the hope of
succeeding to his post, has been deprived of this boon by others.
"The hope of finding subsistence in the heritage of my ancestors made me
go back to Germany, where unhappily the death of my brothers, my
absence, the disorder of war, of law, and a faithless administration,
have prevented, at least during my lifetime, all that I could hope. Save
for the tenderness of a daughter, who is herself hardly in easy
circumstances, having a family, I should lack the necessaries of life.
The infirmities, resulting on an age of seventy, passed in adversity and
work, prevent me from gaining my own living."
Van der Straeten says that her name was Katrina, that she came from
Westphalia. Save a few titles of his works and a few accounts of this
pathetic struggle, this is all we know of poor Josse Boutmy and his old
wife. Then there is Jacques Buus, who makes various appeals for aid for
his increasing family. A refreshing novelty in these annals of sordid
poverty is given us of H.J. De Croes, court-organist at Brussels in the
eighteenth century, who was forced to make an appeal for charity
because the son whom he had sent abroad to study did not return to
support his father, but decided to marry a woman he met at Ratisbon; it
is pleasant to add that the appeal was granted.
Adrian Couwenhoven, who died in Spain in 1592, left there a widow, Ana
Wickerslot, who implored the king to grant her money to go back home to
Flanders with her children.
The Brebos family were famous organ-builders in the fifteenth century;
they were famous marriers, too,--but one of them met his match, Jean,
called to Spain, married there a widow, Marianna Hita, with one son. The
widow outlived the husband and her son succeeded him in business. Gilles
Brebos, the best organ-builder in Europe, according to his son, who
ought to have known, married in Spain a woman who was also Flemish. When
he died she was a widow raised to the third degree, and she was
compelled to appeal to the king for charity. In her quaint appeal she
naively points with pride to the fact that in thirty years she had
married with three of his Majesty's servants. (_Casada con tres criados
de V.M._) These three were a royal mathematician, a captain in the royal
navy, killed in the Flanders rebellions, and finally a royal
organ-builder. We are not told what further royal alliances she
Among the most famous of early Flemish musicians is Adrian Willaert
(1480?-1562), who was born in Bruges, and was counted the founder of the
Venetian school. He was a pupil of that "Prince of Music" Josquin
Despres (of whom too little is known save that the Church got him),
Willaert was the teacher of Zarlino, and of Ciprien de Rore (who from
his epitaph seems to have left a son, though nothing is known of his
We know nothing of Willaert's life-romance, but he must have been
happily married, for he made six wills before he died, and they are all
preserved. In every one of them he mentions his wife Susana, though he
never gives her family name. In each of his wills he leaves her the bulk
of his fortune; in the fourth will he says the last word in devotion by
bequeathing his widow his fortune to enjoy whether she remarries or not.
As Van der Straeten says, "it appears that the affection the old man
vows for his wife grows greater and greater the nearer the fatal day
approaches. The most minute dispositions are made in her regard."
Strangely enough Willaert never mentions either his compositions or his
daughter Catharine, who was a composer, too. Perhaps this gifted
daughter had a little romance of her own and found herself
One of the darkest of the royal English tragedies concerns a musician,
one David Ricci or Rizzio, who was born at Turin, the son of a poor
music-teacher, and who, when grown, managed to join the train of the
Count de Moretto, then going as ambassador to Scotland. There, thrown
upon his own resources in a far cold country, this forlorn Italian
managed to ingratiate himself among the musicians of Mary, the unhappy
Queen of Scots. She eventually noticed him and engaged him as a singer.
He gradually rose higher in her political and personal favour till he
became secretary for French affairs, and conducted himself with such
odious pride and grew so rich and so powerful that at last he was
dragged from the very presence of the queen and slain. And this was in
the year 1566.
ORLAND DI LASSUS AND HIS REGINA
A contemporary of the Rizzio, so humble as a musician and so soaring in
his intrigues, was the great Roland de Lattre, better known as Orland di
Lassus or Orlandus Lassus, the "Belgian Orpheus," "_le Prince des
Musiciens_." There is as much dispute over the date of his birth as over
the early conditions of his life. But he was born in either 1520 or 1530
at Mons in Hainault, and, according to the old Annales du Hainault, he
changed his name from Roland de Lattre to Orland di Lassus because his
father had been convicted of making spurious coin and, as a "false
moneyer," had to wear a string of his evil utterances round his neck.
Rarely in history has a composer held a more lofty position than that of
this son of a criminal, and even to-day he rivals Palestrina in the
esteem of historians as one of the pillars of his art.
He was in the service of the Duke of Bavaria, who gave him as much
honour as the later King of Bavaria gave Wagner; he stood so high at
court that a year later he won the hand of a maid of honour, Regina
Weckinger. She bore him two daughters and four sons. One of the
daughters was named after her, Regina, and when she grew up married a
court painter. Two of the sons became prominent composers. The mother
was probably beautiful, since an old biographer, Van Ouickelberg,
described her children as _elegantissimi_.
There is every reason to believe that the wedded life of these two was
thoroughly happy, save that Lassus was an indefatigable fiend of work.
As his biographer Delmotte says, "His life indeed had been the most
toilsome that one could think of, and his fecund imagination, always
alert, had _enfante_ a multitude of compositions so great that their
very number astounds us (they exceeded two thousand), and forbids us
almost to believe them the work of one man. This incessant tension of
soul made imperious demands for the distraction of repose; far from
this, he redoubled his work till nature, worn out, refused to Lassus the
aid she had lavished. His mental powers abandoned him abruptly.
"Regina, one day when she returned, found him in a very precarious
state; he had lost his mind and knew her no more. In her terror, she
sent word at once to the Princess Maximilienne, sister of the Duke
William, who sent at once to the invalid her own physician, the doctor
Mermann. Thanks to his care, the health of Orland improved, but his
reason did not return. From that moment he became sad, dreamy, absorbed
in melancholy. 'He is no longer,' said Regina, 'what he was before, gay
and content; but is become sombre, and speaks always of death.'"
While Lassus was in this sad condition he grew petulant over his
imagined ill-treatment at the hands of the new duke, and wrote a letter
bitterly complaining that he had not carried out his father's promises.
In fact, Orland in his condition of semi-insanity threatened to resign,
and when the insulted Duke Maximilian showed signs of accepting the
resignation, it was the wife that saved the family from disgrace and
poverty. Regina made a fervent appeal (quoted in Mathieu's poem on
Lassus) that "his _Altesse Serenissime_ be pleased not to heap on the
poor family of Orland the wrongs that the unhappy father may have
deserved through his _fantaisies bizarres_, the result of too much
thought for his art and too incessant zeal; but that the duke deign to
continue his former treatment; for to put him out of the service of the
court chapel would be to kill him."
He was left undisturbed in his post, but, before long, death forced the
acceptance of his resignation. Over his grave was placed a tomb on which
besides the effigy of himself, are shown also his devoted wife and some
of their children.
Regina two years later founded a perpetual annual funeral service for
him. By a later intercession, she secured for her son, Ferdinand, the
succession to his father's dignities at the court of Bavaria. She died
June 5, 1600, and on her tomb she is named, "la noble et vertueuse dame
Regina de Lassin, veuve de feu Orland de Lassus." She had been a good
wife to a good husband. The sadness of her latter years with her beloved
and demented husband reminds one of the pathetic fate of Robert Schumann
and his wife.
HENRY AND FRANCES PURCELL
If Lassus deserved the name of the Netherlandish Orpheus, Henry Purcell
deserved the name his "loveing wife Frances Purcell" gave him when she
published after his death a collection of his songs under the name of
"Orpheus Britannicus." The analogy holds good also in the devotion of
these married couples, for Henry willed to Frances the whole of his
Yet the legend of the cause of his death would verify the old theory
about the joltiness of the course of true love. For Sir John Hawkins
passes along the gossip that Purcell met his death by "a cold which he
caught in the night waiting for admittance into his own house. It is
said that he used to keep late hours, and that his wife had given orders
to his servants not to let him in after midnight; unfortunately he came
home heated with wine from the tavern at an hour later than that
prescribed him, and, through the inclemency of the weather, contracted
a disorder of which he died. If this be true, it reflects but little
honour on Madam Purcell, for so she is styled in the advertisements of
his works; and but ill agrees with those expressions of grief for her
dear lamented husband which she makes use of to Lady Elizabeth Howard in
the dedication of the "Orpheus Britannicus". It seems probable that the
disease of which he died was rather a lingering than an acute one,
perhaps a consumption; and that, for some time at least, it had no way
affected the powers of his mind, since one of the most celebrated of his
compositions, the song 'From Rosy Bowers,' is in the printed book said
to have been the last of his works, and to have been set during that
sickness which put a period to his days."
Hawkins guesses that Purcell was married young, because at the age of
twenty-five he was advertising the sale of his first sonatas at his own
house; also that, musician-like, he left his family dependent upon the
favour of his benefactors, particularly upon the graciousness of his
pupil and patroness, Lady Elizabeth Howard, who placed on his tomb in
Westminster Abbey the famous inscription often credited to Dryden: "Here
lyes Henry Purcell, Esq.; who left this life, and is gone to that
blessed place, where only his harmony can be exceeded."
We now know that Purcell's marriage was either in 1680 or 1681, when he
was twenty-two or twenty-three years old. August 2d, 1682, Purcell's
father, a venerable and distinguished musician and a friend of Pepys,
the diarist, was buried in Westminster Abbey, where later his more
distinguished son was laid. A few days after the elder Purcell's burial,
Henry and his wife came to Westminster Abbey again, for the baptism of a
son new-born. He died in a few months and a third time they came to the
sad old abbey to lay their child in the cloisters there.
The next year, 1683, a second son died, and in 1687 a third boy two
months old was buried in the cloisters of the abbey. This monotonous
return of the hand of death must have embittered the life of these two,
who seem to have remained lovers always. But in May, 1688, a daughter
was born, named Frances after her mother; and she outlived both parents.
She married a poet, when she and her lover were each nineteen, and named
a child Frances after the grandmother. On Sept. 6th, 1689, Henry
Purcell's son Edward was baptised, and he also lived to attain some
distinction as an organist. In 1693 a daughter, Mary Peters, was born.
Two years later, on May 21st, 1695, the young father died--on the eve of
St. Cecilia's Day. At his bedside were his old mother, his young wife,
and the two little children. Purcell was buried under the organ of
Westminster Abbey and the anthems he had composed for the funeral of
Queen Mary were sung at his own. And there he rests near his fellow
musician, Pelham Humphries, who lies, as Runciman says, "by the side of
his younger wife in the Thames-sodden vaults of Westminster Abbey."
Purcell's will, made the very day of his death, was as follows:
"In the name of God, Amen. I, Henry Purcell, of the Citty of Manchester,
gent., being dangerously ill as to the constitution of my body, but in
good and perfect mind and memory (thanks be to God), doe by these
presents publish and declare this to be my last Will and Testament.
"And I do hereby give and bequeath unto my loving Wife, Frances Purcell,
all my Estate both reall and personall of what nature and kind soever,
to her and to her assigns for ever. And I doe hereby constitute and
appoint my said loveing Wife my sole Executrix of this my last Will and
Testament, revokeing all my former Will or Wills. Witnesse my hand and
scale this twentieth first day of November, Annoq. Dni. One thousand six
hundred ninety-five, and in the seventh yeare of the Raigne of King
William the Third, &c.
As to Hawkins's theory that Purcell left his wife in needy
circumstances, Cummings, his biographer, believes the thought refuted by
the will left by the widow herself, who outlived her husband by eleven
years, and on St. Valentine's Day, 1706, was buried at his side. In her
will she says that: "According to her husband's desire she had given
her deare son (Edward) a good education, and she alsoe did give him all
the Bookes of Musicke in generall, the Organ, the double spinett, the
single spinett, a silver tankard, a silver watch, two pair of gold
buttons, a hair ring, a mourning ring of Dr. Busby's, a Larum clock, Mr.
Edward Purcell's picture, handsome furniture for a room, and he was to
be maintained until provided for. All the residue of her property she
gave to her said daughter Frances."
Cummings also assails Hawkins's story that Purcell was dissipated and
caught his death from being locked out. But Runciman objects that if
Purcell had not been dissipated in those days, he would have been called
a Puritan, and says: "I picture him as a sturdy, beef-eating Englishman,
a puissant, masterful, as well as lovable personality, a born king of
men, ambitious of greatness, determined, as Tudway says, to excel every
one of his time."
The love Frances Purcell bore her husband was kept green by her anxiety
for his fame. She was, in her littler way, a Cosima Wagner. In 1696 she
published a collection of harpsichord lessons by her husband; three
editions being sold quickly. The next year she issued ten sonatas and a
"Collection of Ayres." In 1698 she issued (or reissued) the "Orpheus
Britannicus." In all of these she wrote dedications breathing devotion
to her husband. In an ode printed in the second volume of the "Orpheus,"
in 1704, Purcell's personality is thus limned:
"Nor were his Beauties to his Art confin'd
So justly were his Soul and Body join'd
You'd think his Form the Product of his Mind.
A conquering sweetness in his Visage dwelt,
His Eyes would warm, his Wit like lightning melt.
But those must no more be seen, and that no more be felt.
Pride was the sole aversion of his Eye,
Himself as Humble as his Art was High."
Purcell died at the age of thirty-seven--being granted only two years
more of life than Mozart and only six years more than Schubert. He is
the moon of English music and his melodies are as exquisite and as
silvery and as full of enamoured radiance as the tintinnabulations of
the moonbeams themselves. But unfortunately for English music this
beautiful moon, who is the most nearly great of all the composers
England has furnished the world, was speedily obscured in the blinding
glare of the sun of English music which came shouldering up from the
east, and which has not yet sunk far enough in the west to cease from
dazzling the eyes of English music-makers. But of Haendel as a lover, we
must postpone the gossip till we have mouthed one of the most delicious
morsels in musical scandal, a choice romance that is said to have
affected Purcell very deeply.
The story concerns the strenuous career of Alessandro Stradella, and
when you read it you will not wonder that it should have made a great
success as an opera, or that it gave Flotow his greatest popularity next
to "Martha," even though its conclusion was made tamely theatrical.
THE STRANGE ADVENTURES OF STRADELLA
There are historians, sour and cynical, who have tried to contradict the
truth of the life story of Stradella as Bourdelot tells it in his
"Histoire de la Musique et de ses Effets," but they cannot offer us any
satisfactory substitute in its place, and without troubling to give
their merely destructive complaints, and without attempting to improve
upon the pompously fascinating English of old Sir John Hawkins, I will
quote the story for your delectation.
Certain it is that there was a composer named Stradella, and that he was
an opera composer to the Venetian Republic, as well as a frequent singer
upon the stage to his own harp accompaniments. He occupies a position in
musical history of some importance. The following story of his
adventures is no more improbable than many a story we read in the daily
newspapers--and surely no one could question the credibility of the
daily newspapers. But here is the story as Hawkins tells it. As the
cook-books say, salt it to your taste.
"His character as a musician was so high at Venice, that all who were
desirous of excelling in the science were solicitous to become his
pupils. Among the many whom he had the instruction of, was one, a young
lady of a noble family of Rome, named Hortensia, who, notwithstanding
her illustrious descent, submitted to live in a criminal intimacy with a
Venetian nobleman. The frequent access of Stradella to this lady, and
the many opportunities he had of being alone with her, produced in them
both such an affection for each other, that they agreed to go off
together for Rome. In consequence of this resolution they embarked in a
very fine night, and by the favour of the wind effected their escape.
"Upon the discovery of the lady's flight, the Venetian had recourse to
the usual method in that country of obtaining satisfaction for real or
supposed injuries: he despatched two assassins, with instructions to
murder both Stradella and the lady, giving them a sum of money in hand,
and a promise of a larger if they succeeded in the attempt. Being
arrived at Naples, the assassins received intelligence that those whom
they were in pursuit of were at Rome, where the lady passed as the wife
of Stradella. Upon this they determined to execute their commission,
wrote to their employer, requesting letters of recommendation to the
Venetian embassador at Rome, in order to secure an asylum for them to
fly to, as soon as the deed should be perpetrated.
"Upon the receipt of letters for this purpose, the assassins made the
best of their way toward Rome; and being arrived there, they learned
that on the morrow, at five in the evening, Stradella was to give an
oratorio in the church of San Giovanni Laterano. They failed not to be
present at the performance, and had concerted to follow Stradella and
his mistress out of the church, and, seizing a convenient opportunity,
to make the blow. The performance was now begun, and these men had
nothing to do but to watch the motions of Stradella, and attend to the
music, which they had scarce begun to hear, before the suggestions of
humanity began to operate upon their minds; they were seized with
remorse, and reflected with horror on the thought of depriving of his
life a man capable of giving to his auditors such pleasure as they had
just then felt.
"In short, they desisted from their purpose, and determined, instead of
taking away his life, to exert their endeavours for the preservation of
it; they waited for his coming out of the church, and courteously
addressed him and the lady, who was by his side, first returning him
thanks for the pleasure they had received at hearing his music, and
informed them both of the errand they had been sent upon; expatiating
upon the irresistible charms, which of savages had made them men, and
had rendered it impossible for them to effect their execrable purpose;
and concluded with their earnest advice that Stradella and the lady
should both depart from Rome the next day, themselves promising to
deceive their employer, and forego the remainder part of their reward,
by making him believe that Stradella and his lady had quitted Rome on
the morning of their arrival.
"Having thus escaped the malice of their enemy, the two lovers took an
immediate resolution to fly for safety to Turin, and soon arrived there.
The assassins being returned to Venice, reported to their employer that
Stradella and Hortensia had fled from Rome, and taken shelter in the
city of Turin, a place where the laws were very severe, and which,
excepting the houses of embassadors, afforded no protection for
murderers; they represented to him the difficulty of getting these two
persons assassinated, and, for their own parts, notwithstanding their
engagements, declined the enterprise. This disappointment, instead of
allaying, served to sharpen the resentment of the Venetian: he had found
means to attach to his interest the father of Hortensia, and, by various
arguments, to inspire him with a resolution to become the murderer of
his own daughter. With this old man, no less malevolent and vindictive
than himself, the Venetian associated two ruffians, and dispatched them
all three to Turin, fully inspired with a resolution of stabbing
Stradella and the old man's daughter wherever they found them. The
Venetian also furnished them with letters from Mons. l'Abbe d'Estrades,
then embassador of France at Venice, addressed to the Marquis of
Villars, the French embassador at Turin. The purport of these letters
was a recommendation of the bearers of them, who were therein
represented to be merchants, to the protection of the embassador, if at
any time they should stand in need of it.
"The Duchess of Savoy was at that time regent; and she having been
informed of the arrival of Stradella and Hortensia, and the occasion of
their precipitate flight from Rome; and knowing the vindictive temper of
the Venetians, placed the lady in a convent, and retained Stradella in
her palace as her principal musician. In a situation of such security as
this seemed to be, Stradella's fears for the safety of himself and his
mistress began to abate, till one evening, walking for the air upon the
ramparts of the city, he was set upon by the three assassins above
mentioned, that is to say, the father of Hortensia, and the two
ruffians, who each gave him a stab with a dagger in the breast, and
immediately betook themselves to the house of the French embassador as
to a sanctuary.
"The attack on Stradella having been made in the sight of numbers of
people, who were walking in the same place, occasioned an uproar in the
city, which soon reached the ears of the duchess: she ordered the gates
to be shut, and diligent search to be made for the three assassins; and
being informed that they had taken refuge in the house of the French
embassador, she went to demand them. The embassador insisting on the
privileges which those of his function claimed from the law of nations,
refused to deliver them up. In the interim Stradella was cured of his
wounds, and the Marquis de Villars, to make short of the question about
privilege, and the rights of embassadors, suffered the assassins to
"From this time, finding himself disappointed of his revenge, but not
the least abated in his ardour to accomplish it, this implacable
Venetian contented himself with setting spies to watch the motions of
Stradella. A year was elapsed after the cure of his wounds; no fresh
disturbance had been given to him, and he thought himself secure from
any further attempts on his life. The duchess regent, who was concerned
for the honour of her sex, and the happiness of two persons who had
suffered so much, and seemed to have been born for each other, joined
the hands of Stradella and his beloved Hortensia, and they were married.
"After the ceremony Stradella and his wife having a desire to visit the
port of Genoa, went thither with a resolution to return to Turin: the
assassins having intelligence of their departure, followed them close at
their heels. Stradella and his wife, it is true, reached Genoa, but the
morning after their arrival these three execrable villains rushed into
their chamber, and stabbed each to the heart. The murderers had taken
care to secure a bark which lay in the port; to this they retreated, and
made their escape from justice, and were never heard of more.
"Mr. Berenclow says that when the report of Stradella's assassination
reached the ears of Purcell, and he was informed jealousy was the motive
to it, he lamented his fate exceedingly; and, in regard of his great
merit as a musician, said he could have forgiven him any injury in that
kind; which, adds the relater, 'those who remember how lovingly Mr.
Purcell lived with his wife, or rather what a loving wife she proved to
him, may understand without farther explication.'"
GIOVANNI AND LUCREZIA PALESTRINA
Almost exactly a century before Purcell died in England, there died in
Italy, at Rome, a composer who has made his birthplace immortal, though
his own name has almost been lost to public recognition in the process.
That is the man whose name in English would be John Peter Lewis, or as
his father called him, Giovanni Pier Luigi, who was born at Palestrina,
at some date between 1514 and 1530, and who died in the fulness of his
fame February 2, 1594, when Shakespeare was thirty years old, and was,
it seems, just getting into print for the first time.
The man whom all posterity knows by the name of his birthplace, as
Palestrina, was the greatest composer the Catholic Church ever had. He
was a younger contemporary of Willaert's, but was born an Italian. And
all his glory belongs to Italy. Of his youth nothing is known. He first
appears as the organist and director at the chief church in Palestrina
from 1544 to 1551.
Of his early love-making nothing is known; it is only certain that he
married young, and it would seem very happily. Yet this marriage brought
him the greatest shock of his life. His wife's name was Lucrezia, "his
equal and an honest damsel" (_donzella onesta e sua para_), according to
the biographer Baini, who adds:
"With her, Giovanni divided the pleasure of seeing himself elected the
first Maestro of the Vatican; with her he suffered the most strait
penuries of his life; with her he sustained the most cruel afflictions
of his spirit, and with her also he ate the hard crust of sorrow: yet
with her again he rested in the sunlight that beamed from time to time
to his glory and to his gain. And so they passed together, these two
faithful consorts, nearly thirty years."
Lucrezia bore him four children, all sons, Angelo, Ridolfo, Silla, and
Igino. The first three died in early manhood, after showing themselves
in some sort heirs of their father's genius: in the second book of his
motets Palestrina has included some of their compositions. The last son,
Igino, outlived his parents and his own welfare; he was "_un' anima
disarmonica"_ After his father's death he attempted to complete and
market an unfinished and rejected composition of his father's, but he
was legally restrained. He lost some of his father's unpublished works,
while certain noddings of genius, better lost, and refused even by the
Pope, Palestrina dedicated them to, still remain, with a dedication to
yet another Pope, put on them by the scapegrace Igino.
A certain writer Pitoni, by a bit of careless reading, multiplied
Palestrina's wives by two, and divided his sons by the same number,
claiming that Lucrezia, the first wife of Palestrina, was the mother of
Angelo, that after her death he married one Doralice, and that she was
the mother of Igino. But Baini exposes Pitoni's carelessness, proves the
existence of Ridolfo and Silla by the inclusion of their works in the
father's book, and shows that Doralice was the wife of Palestrina's son
It being established, then, that Palestrina was married but once, and it
being assumed that he was happily married, it is strange to see how this
happy marriage came near proving fatal to him. Palestrina, who was, like
Michelangelo, intimate with various Popes, dedicated in 1554 his first
printed book of masses to Pope Julius III. As a reward, the careless
pontiff made him one of the singers of his Sistine Chapel, omitting the
usual severe examination, and overlooking as a small matter the fact
that Palestrina was so far from being a priest that he was very much
married and very much the father, and furthermore had no voice. But
Palestrina resigned his post as maestro at Saint Peter's and entered
the chapel. The Pope died shortly afterward and was succeeded by a
cardinal who was a patron of Palestrina's and continued his favour as
Pope Marcellus II. Three weeks later this Pope also died, and was
followed by Paul IV.
Unfortunately for Palestrina, the new Pope was a strict constructionist,
and he found it "indecent that there should be married men
(_ammogliati_) interfering in holy offices." In spite of the action of
the two previous pontificates, he determined to expel the three
Benedicks who had entered the choir, Leonardo Bare, Domenico Ferrabosco,
and Palestrina, "uomini ammogliati, e chi con grandissimo scandalo, ed
in vilipendio del divin culto, contro le disposizioni dei sagri canoni,
e contro le costituzioni e le consuetudini della cappella apostolica
cantano i medesimi tre ammogliati imitamente ai capellani cantori." He
then declares that, after mature deliberation, "cassiamo, discacciamo, e
togliamo" from the list of chappellary singers these three, and that
they ought to be "cassati, discacciati, e tolti dalla cappella," and
that after the present order they "cassino, discaccino, e tolgano." And
excommunication was threatened if any more married men (_uxorati_) were
received in the chapel.
This was on the 30th of July, 1555, just six months after Palestrina had
resigned his important post at Saint Peter's. He was a young man with a
family, and apparently keenly sensitive, for when this sonorous
thunderbolt was launched at his head, he immediately fell ill of a fever
and came nigh to death. But he recovered, and two months later found
another post as canon of the Lateran, of which by the 1st of October,
1555, he was maestro. Eleven years later, a year after he had written
his immortal Improperia, we find him begging on account of the needs of
his family to be given an increase of salary, or the acceptance of his
resignation. They gave him the acceptance. Again he found another post,
and ten years later was back again as maestro of the Vatican after his
many wanderings and vicissitudes.
In the meanwhile he had written his famous mass named after his old
friend, Pope Marcellus II. The ten years between 1561 and 1571 had
marked an epoch not merely in the life of Palestrina, but in the history
of religious music.
The reform Palestrina undertook, or was entrusted with, was the ending
of the old scandal brought upon the Church by the elaborate lengths to
which contrapuntal composers had gone in using popular melodies, and
often even street songs of an obscene nature, as a foundation melody or
cantus firmus for their vocal gymnastics. The churchmen of that day did
in a more elaborate fashion what Wesley did in his day and the
Salvation Army in ours for the popular ballad of the streets. The
trouble was that many of the congregation would think only of the
original words of these catchy tunes, and in the general uproar some of
the priests would sing the actual texts, thinking that the people would
not hear them, and forgetting that they were supposed to be for an
I find an interesting example of this custom in the career of a
musician, a contemporary of Palestrina's mentioned by Van der Straeten;
his name was Ambrosio de Cotes. He was the Maestro de Capilla of the
King's Chapel at Grenada; he was of either Flemish or English birth,
and, though he was a churchman, was a gambler and drunkard; he kept a
mistress, who ought to have been pretty to fit her pretty name, Juana de
Espinosa. Besides, De Cotes caroused miscellaneously, he ran the streets
at night, in bad company, and singing bad songs. In 1591 he was
officially reproved for these habits, and for singing improper words to
sacred music (_y cantan muchos rezes letras profanas, yndecentes_).
So great was the scandal throughout the whole world of church music that
contrapuntal music came near being abandoned entirely. It was given a
last chance in a proposition to Palestrina to see if it were worthy and
capable of redemption. He composed three masses, and the third of them,
dedicated to the memory of Pope Marcellus II., was accepted, not only as
the rescue of the old school of vocal worship, but also as the final
word and ultimate model for future church music.
Some years later, at the very height of his glory, Palestrina's heart
suffered its final blow. In the words of Baini, "Lucrezia, _la sua dolce
consorte_, after having piously accompanied the solemn procession for
the transport of the body of Saint Gregory Nazianzeno from the church of
the monks of S. Maria Campa Marzo to the Vatican the fourth of June,
1580, was assailed by a most oppressive malady."
The attentions of her husband and the remedies of the medical art of
that day kept her alive up to the first of July. Then the sickness began
anew and "neither the tears nor the voice of the loving companion
prevailed against the inexorable scythe of death." On the 21st of July
Lucrezia died. The next day her body was received at the Vatican,
Giovanni watching in the schoolroom of the chapel.
It is easy to picture the wild grief of this man, whom a previous
anxiety had thrown into an almost mortal fever. Yet he lived fourteen
busy years, and in his old age he felt both fatigue and want, and was
compelled to join the long list of those musicians who have appealed to
their patrons for charity. But at least his life, like Bach's and that
of many another, had proved that marriage is not always and necessarily
a failure when set to music.
BACH, THE PATRIARCH
The genealogy of the Bachs shows them to have been in the habit of
marrying at least two or three times apiece, and of being very prolific.
Johann Ambrosius Bach, the father of "the Father of Modern Music," had a
twin brother, Johann Cristoph. They were astonishingly alike in mind and
manner and mien. They suffered the same disorders and died nearly
together. Their wives, it is said--_horresco referens_!--could not tell
them apart. J. Christoph was sued for breach of promise by a girl whom
he said he had discussed matrimony with and exchanged rings with, but
tired of. The Consistory ordered him to marry her, but he appealed to a
higher court and was absolved from the tenacious woman whom he said he
"hated so that he could not bear the sight of her." He married another
woman four years later.
The great Bach, Johann Sebastian, was the youngest of six children. His
mother died when he was nine years old, but with Bachic haste his
father remarried; the new wife was a widow and seemed to be in the habit
of it, for she buried J. Ambrosius two months after the wedding. The boy
Sebastian was put in charge of an uncle.
At eighteen he was organist at Arnstadt--at twenty-one he went on foot
fifty miles to Luebeck to hear the great Buxtehude play the organ. He had
been given four weeks' leave and took sixteen. He was severely reproved
for this by the Consistory; and the reproof is in existence still. While
they were about it, they reproved him for his wild modulations and
variations, also for having played too long interludes, and then, when
rebuked, playing them too short. He was given eight days to answer, and
waited eight months. Then they remonstrated with him mildly again,
adding, that they "furthermore remonstrate with him on his having
latterly allowed the stranger maiden to show herself and to make music
in the choir." His answer to this was simply that he had spoken about it
to the parson. Further explanation we have none.
Spitta speculates on the identity of this "stranger maiden." In the
older church-cantata women did not sing: in the newer form they
occasionally did. She might have been a professional from the Brunswick
opera. But Spitta decides that it must have been Maria Barbara Bach, his
cousin from a neighbouring town. She is known to have had relatives and
friends in Arnstadt, and Bach married her a year later. Assuming this to
be true, Spitta notes that a delightful episode in the courtship of the
young couple is disclosed to our view. Perhaps, too, when Bach "spoke to
the parson," he confessed his love and his betrothal.
Further Spitta comments: "The plan on which Bach wished to found his own
family shows how he, too, was filled with that patriarchal feeling by
which his race was distinguished and brought to such flourishing
conditions. Without straying into foreign circles he found, in a
relation who bore his name, the person whom he felt to be the most
certain of understanding him. If we must call it a coincidence, it is,
at any rate, a remarkable one, that Sebastian, in whom the gifts of his
race reached their highest perfection, should also be the only one of
its members to take a Bach to wife. If we are right in regarding the
marriage union of individuals from families not allied in blood as the
cause of a stronger growth of development in the children, Bach's choice
may signify that in him the highest summit of a development had been
reached, so that his instinct disdained the natural way of attempting
further improvement, and attracted him to his own race. His second wife,
indeed, was not allied with him in blood, but that with the first he
found, in some respects, his more natural development may perhaps be
concluded from the fact that the most remarkable of his sons were all
the children of his first marriage."
Upton says that Bach loved Maria Barbara when he was only eighteen and
they agreed to wait till he got a better post. This was not till three
years had passed and then his salary was only eighty-five gulden (about
L7, or $35) besides a little corn and wood and some kindling-wood.
It was on October 17, 1707, that, according to the record, "the
respectable Herr J.S. Bach, the surviving lawful son of the late most
respectable Herr Ambrosius Bach, the famous town-organist and musician
of Eisenach, was married to the virtuous maiden Maria Barbara Bach, the
youngest surviving unmarried daughter of the late very respectable and
famous artist Herr Johann Michael Bach."
A little inheritance of fifty gulden (L4 or $20) aided the new couple.
But it is small wonder that we find Bach sighing later: "Modest as is my
way of life, with the payment of house-rent and other indispensable
articles of consumption, I can with difficulty live." A year after his
marriage, however, he was appointed court organist to the Grand Duke of
Weimar, a post he held nine years. Then he became musical director with
the Prince of Anhalt-Koethen. In 1720 he went to Carlsbad with his
prince. When he returned to the bosom of his family, he found that his
wife was not only dead, but buried. Spitta imagines his grief as he
stood over the grave of the woman who had followed him from humility to
success and had not been able to wish him a last Godspeed. She had borne
him seven children, three of whom died; of the sons were Wilhelm
Friedemann, the father's favourite, and Karl Philipp Emanuel, whom the
world long preferred to Sebastian himself, and whom later times
The shock of coming home to his dead wife did not annul Bach's powers,
and his next cantata with the suggestive title, "He that exalteth
himself shall be abased," shows a larger grasp of resource and power. In
the same year he made a sensation by his playing in Hamburg, winning the
high praise of the eminent organist Reinken (whom by the way Mattheson
accused of being "a constant admirer of the fair sex, and much addicted
to the wine-cellar of the Council").
For all they may say of the superior genius of Bach's first wife's
children, it was in his second wife that he seems to have found his more
congenial and appreciative helpmeet. Bach's father had remarried after
seven months of widowering, and lived two months longer. Bach waited
from July 7, 1720, to December 3, 1721, and he lived nearly thirty years
more. His new wife bore him thirteen children, six of them sons, none of
whom were remarkable musically, though their mother was more musical
than the mother of Bach's first children. Perhaps the newcomers thought
it time to take the name out of the rut.
Anna Magdalena Wuelken was the daughter of the court trumpeter in the
ducal band at Weissenfels. She was twenty-one years old while Bach was
thirty-six. They were betrothed as early as September, 1721, and
together stood sponsor to the child of the prince's cellar-clerk. The
wedding took place at Bach's own house.
The new wife was very musical, a gifted singer and a devoted student.
She made the Bach home a little musical circle. It is evident that she
kept up her singing, for October 28, 1730, he wrote of his family, "They
are one and all born musicians, and I can assure you that I can already
form a concert, both vocal and instrumental, of my own family,
particularly as my present wife sings a very clear soprano and my eldest
daughter joins in bravely."
Soon after the marriage Sebastian and Anna started to keep a musical
book together. Her name appears in her own hand, then her husband's
cheery note that it was "_Anti-Calvinismus_ and _Anti-Melancholicus_."
In this book and another begun in 1725 are compositions by himself and
other men, copied in the handwritings of both husband and wife. There
are arias written apparently for Anna Magdalena, and when in an
unusually domestic humour he wrote in a song, "Edifying Reflections of a
Smoker" in D minor, she transposed it up to G minor in her own
hand--doubtless that she might sing it to him while he puffed
contentment in uxorious ease. Later on is a wedding-poem, gallantly
"Irh Diener, werthe Jungfer Braut
Viel Gluecke zur heutgen Freude!"
and exclaiming that at the sight of her in her garland and wedding-garb
the heart laughs out in rapture;--and what wonder that lips and breast
overflow with joy. There are rules he wrote out for her instruction in
thorough-bass with a note that others must be taught orally, and there
is a love-song for soprano, which he must have written for her, to judge
from the words, "Willst du dein Herz mir schenken." Upton declares this
song to have been written during and for their first courtship. A
portrait of this ideal wife was painted by Cristofori and passed into
the keeping of her stepson, Karl Philipp Emanuel Bach, but alas, it is
lost while so many a less interesting face is repeated in endless
Twenty-eight years after her marriage this faithful woman stood by her
husband's side in his blindness and through the two operations by the
English surgeon in Leipzig. How must she have rejoiced when on July 18,
1750, he suddenly found that he could see and endure with delight the
blessed sunshine! How her heart must have sunk when a few hours later he
was stricken with apoplexy and a high fever that gave him only ten more
days of life! At his death-bed stood his wife, his daughters, his
youngest son, a pupil, and a son-in-law. An old chorale of his was, as
Spitta says, "floating in his soul, and he wanted to complete and
perfect it." The original name had been, "When we are in the highest
need," but he changed the name by dictation now to "Before thy throne
with this I come" (_Vor deiner Thron tret ich hiemit_). The preacher
said he had "fallen calmly and blessedly asleep in God," and he was
buried in St. Thomas' churchyard; but later the grave was lost sight of,
and his bones are now as unhonoured as his memory is revered.
It is a dismal task to write the epilogue to the beautiful life and
death of this father of music. The woman who had made his life so happy
and aided him with hand and voice and heart,--what had she done to
deserve the dingy aftermath of her fidelity?
Bach left no will, and his children seized his manuscripts; what little
money remained from his salary of 87 thalers a year (L13 or $65) they
divided with the widow, now fifty years old. Her husband's salary was
continued half a year longer, but the sons all went away to other towns,
some of them to considerable success. The mother and three daughters
were left to shift for themselves. Two years later they must sell a few
musical remains and the town must aid them out of its funds.
In the winter ten years after her husband's death, on Feb. 27, 1760,
Anna Magdalena died, an alms-woman. Her only mourners were her daughters
and a fourth of the public school children, who were forced by the
custom of the day to follow to the grave the body of the very poor. In
1801 Bach's daughter Regina was still living, a "good old woman," who
would have starved had there not been a public subscription, to which
Beethoven contributed the proceeds of a composition.
Gradually the name and fame of Johann Sebastian Bach were obliterated
almost from man's memory. Half a century of oblivion was followed by the
great revival and the apotheosis of his genius. In that apotheosis some
radiance must always be vouchsafed the sweet memory of her to whom he
owed so much of his life's delight and his art's inspiration, to whom
also he dedicated his life and his music--Anna Magdalena.
PAPA AND MAMMA HAYDN
"Such music by such a nigger!" exclaimed one prince. Another called him
a Moor. And two others could not endure him at all. He was undersized
and slender as well; and his legs were so very short that they hardly
reached the ground. His nose was long and beaked and disfigured, with
nostrils of different shape, and he was undershot like a bulldog, and
unusually pitted with smallpox even for those ante-vaccination days,
when it was the ordinary thing to show the marks of this plague. He
always wore a wig, too; beginning when he was a child of six, "for the
sake of cleanliness"! and continuing to the day of his death, even when
wigs were out of style.
This does not read like the portrait of a man particularly successful in
his love affairs. It does not certainly read like a description of the
hero of a novel written by The Duchess or even by Miss Jane Austen. Yet
this is the picture of a man plentifully beloved, large-minded but
strangely naif; a revolutionist of childlike directness.
Everybody knows the story of the early life of Joseph Haydn, one of the
twelve children of a journeyman wheelwright, and throughout his youth a
shuttlecock of ill treatment and contempt.
Love seems to have reached his heart at a late day but with compensating
suddenness. It is nearly incredible that a man whose after life was so
heart-busy should not have felt the tender passion till he was nearly
thirty, but stranger things have happened, and the anecdote given by his
friend Griesinger of his wild agitation when at the age of twenty-seven
he was accompanying a young countess, and her neckerchief became
disarranged for a moment, would seem to indicate a remarkably
A year later he found himself somewhat relieved of the burden of poverty
that had always hampered him, and he remembered him of the two daughters
of a Viennese wig-maker named Keller. Keller had frequently been kind to
Haydn, and the younger daughter seems to have inspired him with an
ardent love, but she took the veil. Elise Polko has worked up an
elaborate fiction on this affair with her usual saccharinity. When the
convent closed the younger Keller from the world, her father ingeniously
suggested to Haydn that he might marry the elder sister.
As Louis Nohl says, "Whatever may have been the reason, gratitude,
ignorance, helplessness in practical matters, or wish to have a wife at
once--whatever may have been the motive, he married, and sorely
suffered for it."
Anna Keller was older than Haydn, and the family religiousness that led
the younger daughter to enter the convent, led Anna to contribute more
of money to the Church, of food and society to the churchmen, and of her
husband's compositions to the choir, than even so pious a Catholic as
Haydn could afford or endure.
An account of the married life of these two is given by Haydn's friend
Carpani, which incidentally brings up a bit of literary thievery of
unusual quaintness. Carpani wrote his "Le Haydine" in the form of
letters from Vienna; they were published in Milan. Some time after one
Marie Henri Beyle published in Paris what purported to be an original
series of "Letters written from Vienna." He published these under the
pen name of L.A.C. Bombet. Carpani exposed the theft, but a little later
the imperturbable Beyle published a second edition of his work under the
name De Stendhal. An English translation from the French work is
commonly seen, though never with credit to Carpani. Carpani, in his
account of the home life of the Haydns, says they were happy for a
* * * * *
"But soon the caprices of Mrs. Anna turned the knot to a chain, the
bliss to torment, and affairs went so far that, after suffering many
years, this new Socrates ended by separating from his Xantippe. Mrs.
Anna was not pretty, nor yet ugly. Her manners were immaculate, but she
had a wooden head, and when she had fixed on a caprice, there was no way
to change it. The woman loved her husband but was not congenial. An
excess of religious piety badly directed came to disturb this happy
harmony. Mrs. Anna wanted the house always full of priests, to whom she
furnished good dinners, suppers, and luncheons. Haydn was a bit
economical; but rather for cause than desire. At this time he had hardly
enough to live on discreetly, and he began to look with evil eye on this
endless procession of holy grasshoppers (_locuste_) who ravaged his
larder. Nor was it appropriate to the house of a studious man, this
ceaseless clatter of a numerous, genial, and lazy society; therefore,
solidly religious as he was, he could not enjoy these sacred repasts and
he had to close the door of the refectory. After that the deluge (_inde
irae_). Mrs. Anna had a religious brother. Haydn couldn't keep him from
visiting his sister.
"Monks are like cherries; if you lift one from the basket, ten come
along with it. Haydn's convent was not depopulated. Nor did the demands
decrease. Every now and then Mrs. Anna had a new request; to-day a
responsory, to-morrow a motet, the day after a mass, then hymns, then
psalms, then antiphons; and all _gratis_. If her husband declined to
write them, there appeared on the scene the great confederates of
capricious women; the effects of hysteria, spleen (_gli insulti di
stomaco_), spasms; then shrieks, then criminations, weepings, quarrels,
and bad humour unceasing. Haydn ended with having to appease the woman,
to lose his point, and pay the doctor and the druggist to boot. He had
always drouth in his purse and despair in his mind. It is a true
miracle that a genius in such a contrast could create the wonderful
works that all the world knows.
"It was at this time that, seeking solace in friendship, he contracted
that bond of sentiment which lasted till death with Boselli, a singer in
the service of Prince Esterhazy. This friendship, rousing jealous
suspicions in the mind of Mrs. Anna, ended by rendering her unendurable.
The hostile fates willed that no fruit should be borne of Haydn's
marriage." [On this point Haydn once opened his heart to Griesinger,
saying: "My wife was incapable of bearing children, and therefore I was
less indifferent to the charms of other womankind."] "Lacking its most
solid link, the marital chain could not stand such shocks, and grew
fatally weaker. The pair ceased to live together, and only that
sacramental knot remained indissoluble and strong, which Haydn had
contracted at the age of twenty-seven. Mrs. Anna lived to seventy years
on a sufficient pension which her husband faithfully paid, and she died
in 1800. These vicissitudes in great part explain why Haydn, though he
earned much, could not for a long while put aside a penny and make
himself a little ease."
It is not a pretty picture that Carpani draws of this home life, and
Anna is made out to be far from a lovable creature. She is compared to
the patron saint of shrews, Xantippe. But even Xantippe had her side of
the story to tell; and with all possible admiration for that man
Socrates, of such godlike wisdom and such great heart, it must be
remembered that Socrates had many habits which would not only cause
ostracism from society to-day, but would have tried the temper of even
such a wife as the meek Griselda of Chaucer's poem.
We constantly meet these husbands who are seemingly rich in geniality
and yet are mysteriously unhappy at home. It is the custom of the
acquaintances of these fellows to put all the blame on the wife. But
there is a distinct type of mind which always enjoys dining abroad and
appreciates a few herbs in a stranger's house more than a stalled ox at
home. These people are gentle and genial and tender only out-of-doors.
You might call them extra-mural saints.
I have a strong suspicion that Haydn, who was so dear and good a soul
that he was commonly called "Papa" by his friends and disciples, was one
of the souls that shrivel up inside the house. In any case he can never
be forgiven for publishing his domestic miseries as he did. He talked
inexcusably to his friends about his wife; he complained everywhere of
her extravagances and of her quarrelsomeness. When Griesinger wished to
make Haydn's wife a present, Haydn forbade him, saying:
"She does not deserve anything! It is little matter to her whether her
husband is an artist or a cobbler."
As he passed in front of a picture of her once, he seized the violinist
Baillot by the arm, and pointing to the picture said, "That is my wife.
Many a time she has maddened me."
In 1792 he wrote to his mistress from London:--"My wife, the infernal
beast" (_bestia infernale_--Pohl translates this _hoellische Bestie_)
"has written so much stuff that I had to tell her I would not come to
the house any more; which has brought her again to her senses."
This was thirty-two years after his marriage, and a year later he writes
"My wife is ailing most of the time and is always in the same miserable
temper, but I do not let it distress me any longer. There will sometime
be an end of this torment."
Louis Nohl speaks of this as written in a gentle and almost sorrowful
tone! As his biographers find gentleness in such writing, it is easy to
see why Mrs. Haydn has had few defenders.
Heaven forbid that I should be considered as throwing all the blame for
the unhappiness upon the husband. Anna Keller had a remarkably long and
sharp tongue whose power she did not neglect; she once complained to her
husband that there was not money enough in the house to bury him in case
he died suddenly. He pointed to a series of canons which he had written
and framed. When he was in London revelling in his triumph, she sent him
a letter in which she asked him for money enough to buy a certain little
house she had set her heart on, naively adding that it was just a cosy
size for a widow.
Haydn bought it later for himself, and lived in it several years as a
widower. Carpani in his thirteenth letter draws a pleasant picture of
Haydn's life with his mistress Boselli, and incidentally describes how
various composers composed: Gluck with his piano in a summer meadow and
the bottled sunshine of Champagne on each side; Sarti in a dark room at
night with a funereal lamp pendant from the ceiling; Salieri in the
streets eating sweets; Paer while joking with his friends, gossiping on
a thousand things, scolding his servants, quarrelling with his wife and
children and petting his dog; Cimarosa in the midst of noisy friends;
Sacchini with his sweetheart at his side and his kittens playing on the
floor about him; Paesiello in bed; Zingarelli after reading the holy
fathers or a classic; Anfossi in the midst of roast capons, steaming
sausages, gammons of bacon and ragouts.
"But Haydn, like Newton, alone and obscure, voyaged the skies in his
chair; on his finger the ring of Frederick like the invisible ring of
Angelica. When he returned among mortals, Boselli and his friends
divided his time. For thirty years he led this life, _monotona ma
dolcissima_, not knowing his growing fame nor dreaming of leaving
Eisenstadt, save when he mused on Italy. Then Boselli died and he began
to feel the ennui (_le noje_) of a void in his days. It was then that he
went to London."
This mistress of Haydn's, whom Carpani and Fetis call Boselli and whom
Dies calls Pulcelli, is now generally called Polzelli, following the
spelling in Haydn's own handwriting. The pleasant legend Carpani gives
of Haydn's life with this woman, undisturbed by ambition until her
death, is as much upset by later writers as is the spelling of her name.
Pohl, closely followed by Haydn's recent biographer, Schmidt, describes
Luigia Polzelli as a Neapolitan who was nineteen when she was engaged to
sing at the theatre of the Prince Esterhazy. She was the wife of Anton
Polzelli, an insignificant and sickly violinist, with whom she was
apparently not in love. Luigia is pictured--doubtless by guesswork--as
not beautiful, but of a pleasing appearance, showing the indications of
her Italian birth in "her small slim face, her dark complexion, her
black eyes, her chestnut-coloured hair; her body of medium height and
"To this woman," says Schmidt, "Haydn fetched his own deep and lasting
sorrow. Polzelli was in the same position as he: she lived unhappily
with her spouse. Whether she honestly returned Haydn's love cannot be
known. Facts hint that she often abused and took advantage of his good
nature. But for all that she beautified his life, so often joyless, by
the tenderness which she awoke in him; and the woman who throughout
twenty years could do that, deserved well of the man whose friend she
was; and she earns our consideration and sympathy besides. From London
the master wrote her the tenderest letters. Both, as their
correspondence shows, only postponed their union, till the day when
'four eyes shall be closed,'
"Yet when finally both were free, Time had worked his almighty
influence; Haydn had grown gray; outwardly as well as spiritually an
estrangement had widened between them, and of their once so dear a
desire there is no more word. Yet Haydn never ceased to provide for his
friend, as well as to care for the education and the success of her
sons. The elder, Pietro, Haydn's favourite, on whom he hung with his
whole heart, died early." [Pohl quotes many allusions to him in Haydn's
letters.] "The younger, Anton, who was reported without proper
foundation to be Haydn's natural son, later became musical director of
the prince's chapel, but then gave up music and turned farmer, finally
dying of the plague in sad circumstances."
Pohl is somewhat fuller upon this alliance than Schmidt, who, in fact,
merely condenses and paraphrases him. He says that Polzelli's maiden
name was Moreschi [which, being interpreted, is "Moor," a name once
given to Haydn]; she was a mezzo-soprano, who played secondary roles in
the operas. She earned the same salary as her husband, 465 gulden a
year. The letters Haydn wrote her were always in Italian, and in one of
them he wishes her better roles, and "a good master who will take the
same interest as thy Haydn." Haydn had come to her for sympathy, since,
as Pohl says and we have seen, "thanks to his wife he had hell at home"
[_die Holle im House_].
When increasing fame took Haydn by the hand and led him away to royal
triumphs in London, he did not take jealousy along with his other
luggage. He seems to have heard that his place was promptly filled in
Polzelli's heart, but with all his geniality, he could write of the
rumoured rival as "this man, whose name I do not know, but who is to be
so happy as to possess thee." Then there was a recrudescence of the old
"Oh, dear, dear Polzelli, thou lingerest always in my heart; never,
never shall I forget thee (_O cara Polzelli, tu mi stai sempre nel
core, mal, mal scordeo di te_)."
When some one in London told him that Polzelli had sold the piano he had
given her, he could not believe it, and only wrote her, "See how they
tease me about you" (_vedi come mi seccano per via di te_). Still less
will he believe that she has spoken ill of him, and he writes:
"May God bless thee, and forgive thee everything, for I know that love
speaks in thee. Be careful for thy good name, I beg thee, and think
often of thy Haydn, who cherishes and tenderly loves thee and to thee
will always be true."
Even to Bologna, whither Polzelli went with her two sons, says Pohl,
"followed Haydn's love--and his gold." He intended after his first
London visit to go to Italy to visit her, and wrote further:
"I cherish thee and love thee as on that first day, and am always sad
that I cannot do more for you. Yet have patience. Surely the day will
come when I can show thee how much I love thee."
Loisa's choice of a spouse had been unhappy, as so many marriages have
been where the wife is a singer on the stage, and the husband a fiddler
in the band. Haydn seems to have sympathised with Loisa in her unhappy
domestic affairs, as cordially as she had sympathised with him in his.
He had sympathy, too, for her similarly ill-matched sister, Christine
Negri, for he writes of her as--
"Already long separated from her husband, that beast, she has been as
unhappy as even you, and awakes my sympathy."
Also in March, 1791, he wrote Loisa about her husband in a manner
implying that he was a brute or a maniac: "Thou hast done well to have
him taken to the hospital to save thy life." Haydn and Loisa, being
Catholics, never thought of seeking divorce: their only hope of
celebrating a formal marriage lay in the death of both her brutish
husband and his shrewish wife--"when four eyes shall close." Loisa's
husband was the first to oblige, for in August, 1791, his death wrings a
charitable word from even Haydn:
"Thy poor husband! I tell thee that Providence has managed well in
freeing thee from thy heavy burden, for it is better to be in the other
world, than useless in this one. The poor fellow has suffered enough."
Later he writes:
"DEAR POLZELLI:--Probably that time will come which we have so often
longed for. Already two eyes are closed. But the other two--ah, well, as
God wills!" Eight years more, and the reluctant and wide-eyed Anna
Haydn was foiled of her desire to be a widow in the snug cottage of her
choice. The lovers at last were both single. But now, freed of their
shackles, why do they not rush to each other's arms? The only answer we
receive is this chill and shocking document found long after Haydn's
death; it is written in Italian and dated shortly after Frau Haydn's
"I, the undersigned, promise Signora Loisa Polzelli (in case I shall be
disposed to marry again) to take no other for wife than the said Loisa
Polzelli; and if I remain a widower, I promise the said Loisa Polzelli
after my death to leave her a life pension of 300 gulden, that is 300
florins in Vienna money. Valid before every court. I sign myself,
"_Maestro di Cappella of his Highness, the Prince Esterhazy_.
Vienna, May 23, 1800."
On this sad and icy postscript to the ardent love affair, Schmidt
comments: "The form of this writing leaves the conclusion plain, that
Haydn was forced to this act by the Polzelli. This throws a poor light
on her character, and we dare not evade the conclusion that, for twenty
years in this love affair for life, she had in mind a business
arrangement with the master."
Thus cynically writes Schmidt of the woman who for a score of years
occupied Haydn's affections. And all of the biographers are inclined to
heap upon her more or less contempt; but as you shall see a little
later, the genial master himself was not above reproach, and Loisa's
anxiety was not unfounded, for her Joseph was casting amorous glances
elsewhere. Thus after the long ardour, the love letters have frozen into
a hard and fast negative betrothal in which Haydn promises to marry no
one else. This, Schmidt says, was dragged out of Haydn. But, if such a
bond were necessary, it speaks surely as ill for Haydn as for the woman
who had given her life and her good name to brighten his joyless heart.
Yet, dead as his love was, honour remained with him, though it was a
rather close-reckoning honour. Three months later he answered with money
her request for house-rent, and in a will dated May 5, 1801, occurs this
clause, cancelling his former agreement, and making new provisions:
"To the widow Aloysia Polzelli, formerly singer at Prince Nikolaus
Esterhazy's, payable in ready money six months after my death, 100
florins, and each year from the date of my death, for her life ... 150
florins. After her death her son, Anton Polzelli, to receive 150 florins
for one year, having always been a good son to his mother and a grateful
pupil to me. N.B.--I hereby revoke the obligation in Italian, signed by
me, which may be produced by Mme. Polzelli; otherwise so many of my poor
relations with greater claims would receive too little. Finally Mme.
Polzelli must be satisfied with the annuity of 150 florins." Two years
later we find him writing to her (and, rumour said, his) son: "I hope
thy mamma finds herself well." In a new will, dated 1809, the year of
his death, Haydn withdraws the cash gift to Loisa, and leaves her only
150 florins annuity. She still remains, however, his chief heir.
Meanwhile, without waiting for his death, she had married again to Luigi
Franci, like herself a singer and an Italian. She outlived him and Haydn
also, only to die in poverty and senility, far away in Hungary. Poor,
eighty-two year old Loisa! Her affairs had been sadly mismanaged.
Why had Loisa given up all hope of marrying Haydn, even when his wife
was dead and she was possessed of his agreement, signed, sealed, and
delivered, to marry no one but her? Awhile ago I stooped to repeating
the scandal that during Signora Polzelli's life, Haydn had been casting
sheep's eyes elsewhere. But it is such a pretty scandal! Besides, these
old contrapuntists were trained from youth to keep two or more tunes
going at once.
I am not referring to Haydn's friendship with Frau von Genzinger. It was
Karajan who discovered and published this pleasant correspondence with
her. She was the wife of a very successful physician, a "ladies' doctor"
(_Damen Doktor_). She was the daughter of the Hofrath von Kayser; her
name was Maria Anna Sabina; she was born Nov. 6th, 1750, and had been
married some seventeen years, and was the mother of five children when
Haydn began taking his every Sunday dinner with the family. Karajan says
that she was an _ausgezeichnete_ singer and pianist.
A deep friendship sprang up at once between them and they corresponded
freely. Haydn's letters to her were published by Nohl, and you may read
them in Lady Wallace's translation. They are full of the most
interesting lights upon Haydn's life and experiences, and are brimful of
affection for Frau von Genzinger. But the husband and the children are
almost always referred to in the letters, and the friendship seems to
have been entirely and only a friendship,--as Schmidt calls it, "_eine
tiefe und zugleich respectvolle Neigung_."
Mr. Upton, who accepts the friendship as "honourable," finds in Frau von
Genzinger the only true feminine inspiration Haydn ever had for
composition. "We owe much of his music to his wife; but the savage and
truculent manner in which she inspired him was not conducive to the best
work of his genius. There is no record that the Polzelli was of any
benefit to him musically; certainly she was not morally."
But there was another woman who idolised Haydn the musician, and with
Haydn the man conducted a quaint and curious love duet embalmed in many
a billet-doux fragrant with charm.
It was not, then, Frau von Genzinger that threatened Polzelli's
supremacy. Nor was it Madame Bartolozzi, for whom Haydn wrote a sonata
and three trios; nor Mrs. John Hunter, who wrote words for many of his
canzonets. Nor yet Mrs. Hodges, for whom he composed, and whom he called
"the loveliest woman I ever saw." Nor yet again the fascinating actress,
Mrs. Billington, of whom the pleasant story is told, that Haydn, when he
went to London, called on Sir Joshua Reynolds at his studio, found him
painting Mrs. Billington as "Saint Cecilia listening to the angels," and
protested gallantly that Reynolds ought to have painted the angels
listening to her. For which sprightliness he received immediately a
fervent hug and a kiss from those so sweet and promiscuous lips. The
skeptics object, that Reynolds exhibited the picture in London in 1790,
a year before Haydn reached London, but it is a shame to spoil a good
and famous story.
The true woman in the case makes her _entree_ in this innocent style:
"Mrs. Schroeter presents her complements to Mr. Haydn, and informs him
that she is just returned to town, and will be very happy to see him
whenever it is convenient to him to give her a lesson.
"James-st., Buckingham gate, Wednesday, June the 29th, 1791."
This little note was the first of a series of genuine love letters
preserved for many years by Haydn. His answers to them seem to have been
lost, though the whimsical spade of time that has recently brought to
light the works of Bacchylides, after two thousand years and more of
oblivion, may with equal speed unsod Haydn's letters to this interesting
personage. May we be there to see!
Just nineteen years before this little preludising note, Mrs. Schroeter
was an Englishwoman of wealth and aristocracy. In that year there came
to London a German musician, Johann Samuel Schroeter, a brother of
Corona Schroeter, one of that Amazonian army of beauties to whom Goethe
made love and wrote poetry. He became music-master to the English queen
as successor to that son of Sebastian Bach who is known as "the English
Bach." He speedily won pupils and esteem among the higher circles of
London society. But being welcomed as a musician was one thing and as a
son-in-law quite another. When, therefore, he made one of his most
aristocratic pupils his wife by a clandestine marriage, there was,
according to Fetis, such scandal and such a threat of legal proceedings
that he consented to the annulment of the marriage in consideration of a
pension of five hundred pounds, and retired from the city to escape
notoriety. Sixteen years after his entry into London Schroeter died of
Three years later another German musician, Joseph Haydn, appears in
London, and is taken up by society. Mrs. Schroeter, apparently not sated
by her first experience, proceeds to repeat it pat. Just as before, she
becomes a pupil in music, and later a pupil in love of the newcomer. But
whereas her husband had died at the age of thirty-eight, her new lover
Haydn was fifty-nine when she met him.
Dies quoted Haydn's own words as saying, "In London, I fell in love with
a widow, though she was sixty years old at the time." But Mr. Krehbiel
shows good reason for believing that Dies must have misunderstood Haydn.
To me it occurs as a possibility that Haydn said to Dies, not "though
she was sixty years old," but "though I was sixty years old." I think we
are safe in assuming with Mr. Krehbiel that she was not more than
thirty-five or forty, an age not yet so great, according to statistics,
as that of Helen of Troy, Cleopatra, and Marian Delorme, at the times
of their most potent beauty.
Let us also dismiss as unauthorised and gratuitous the words of Pauline
D. Townsend, in her biography of Haydn, when she says of Mrs. Schroeter
that she was "an attractive, although, according to modern taste, a
somewhat vulgar woman, of over sixty years of age, and there is no
disguising the fact that she made violent love to Haydn. Her letters to
Haydn are full of tenderness and in questionable taste; his to her have
not been preserved, but we can have little doubt that they were warmer
in tone than they would have been had not the Channel rolled between him
and Frau Haydn in Vienna." We know how little Frau Haydn had had to do
with Haydn's life in his own town. You may judge for yourself as to the
charge of "vulgarity."
The existence of Mrs. Schroeter's veritable Love Letters of an
Englishwoman was known for many years, and Pohl in his book on "Mozart
und Haydn in London" quoted from them. But for their complete
publication in the original English, we are indebted to Mr. Krehbiel's
"Music and Manners in the Classical Period." This captivating work
contains also a note-book which Haydn kept in London; it is filled with
amusing blunders in English and vivid pictures of London life of the
time, pictures as delectable in their way as the immortal garrulity of
I cannot do better than let these letters speak for themselves through
such quotations as I have room to make. There are twenty-two of them in
all, in Mr. Krehbiel's book. The abbreviations are curious and explain
themselves. M.L. is "my love," D.L. is "dear love," M.D. is "my dear,"
and M. Dst. is its superlative. The abbreviations were possibly due to
the fact that the letters exist only in Haydn's own handwriting, copied
into his note-book without attention to their proper order. Or they may
have been simply the amorous shorthand of that day.
Two of them are signed R.S. and this leads me to believe that Mrs.
Schroeter's first name began with R., though we know neither that nor
her maiden name. In the first letter Mrs. Schroeter says that she
encloses him "the words of the song you desire." This letter is dated
February 8th. In his note-book there is an entry on February 13, 1792,
and just preceding it a little Italian poem in which I have been pleased
to see what was possibly this very song, its first lines being
suggestively like the first line of Mrs. Schroeter's letter.
"Io vi mando questo foglio
Dalle lagrime rigato,
Sotto scritto dal cordoglio
Dai pensieri sigillato
Testimento del mio amore
(Io) vi mando questo core."
Among the letters there are many anxious allusions, which may indicate
that Haydn was suffering from insomnia, unless you are inclined to give
them a more subtle significance. But to the quotations, with regrets
that they must be incomplete.
"Wednesday, Febr. 8th, 1792.
"M.D. Inclos'd I have sent you the words of the song you desire. I wish
much to know _how you do_ to day. I am very sorry to lose the pleasure
of seeing you this morning, but I hope you will have time to come
tomorrow. I beg my D you will take great care of your health and do not
fatigue yourself with too much application to business. My thoughts and
best wishes are always with you, and I ever am with the utmost sincerity
M.D. your &c."
"March the 7th 92.
"My D. I was extremely sorry to part with you so suddenly last night,
our conversation was particularly interesting and I had a thousand
affectionate things to Say to you. my heart was and is full of
_tenderness_ for you but no language can express _half_ the _Love_ and
_Affection_ I feel for you. you are _dearer_ to me _every Day_ of my
life. I am very Sorry I was so dull and Stupid yesterday, indeed my
_Dearest_ it was nothing but my being indisposed with a cold occasioned
my Stupidity. I thank you a thousand times for your Concern for me. I am
truly Sensible of your goodness and I assure you my D. if anything had
happened to trouble me, I wou'd have open'd my heart and told you with
the greatest confidence, oh, how earnestly I wish to See you. I hope you
will come to me tomorrow. I shall be happy to See you both in the
Morning and the Evening. God Bless you my love. my thoughts and best
wishes ever accompany you and I always am with the most Sincere and
invariable Regard my D,
"Your truly affectionate--
"my Dearest I cannot be happy till I see you if you Know do tell me when
you will come."
"April 4th 92.
"My D: With this you will receive the Soap. I beg you a thousand pardons
for not sending it sooner. I know you will have the goodness to excuse
me. I hope to hear you are quite well and have Slept well. I shall be
happy to See you my D: as soon as possible. I shall be much obliged to
you if you will do me the favor to send me Twelve Tikets for your
Concert. may all _success_ attend you my ever D H that Night and always
is the sincere and hearty wish of your "Invariable and Truly
"James St. Thursday, April 12th
"M.D. I am so _truly anxious_ about _you_. I must write to beg to know
_how you do_? I was very sorry I _had_ not the pleasure of Seeing you
this Evening, my thoughts have been _constantly_ with you and my D.L. no
words can express half the tenderness and _affection I feel for you_. I
thought you seemed out of Spirits this morning. I wish I could always
remove every trouble from your mind, be assured my D: I partake with the
most perfect sympathy in _all your sensations_ and my regard is
_Stronger every day_. my best wishes always attend you and I am ever my
D.H. most sincerely your Faithful etc."
"M.D. I was extremely Sorry to hear this morning that you were
indisposed. I am told you were five hours at your Studys yesterday,
indeed _my D.L._ I am afraid it will hurt you. why shou'd you who have
already produced So many _wonderful_ and _Charming_ compositions Still
fatigue yourself with Such close application. I almost tremble for your
health let me prevail on you my _much-loved_ H. not to keep to your
Studys so long at _one time_, my D. love if you could know how very
precious your welfare is to me I flatter myself you wou'd endeaver to
preserve it for my sake as well as _your own_. pray inform me how you do
and how you have Slept. I hope to see you to Morrow at the concert and
on Saturday I shall be happy to See you here to dinner, in the mean time
my D: my Sincerest good wishes constantly attend you and I ever am with
the _tenderest_ regard your most &c.
"J.S. April the 19th 92"
"April 24th 1792.
"My D. I cannot leave London without Sending you a line to assure you my
thoughts, my best wishes and tenderest affections will inseparably
attend you till we meet again. the Bearer will also deliver you the
March. I am very Sorry I could not write it Sooner, nor better, but I
hope my D. you will excuse it, and if it is not passable I will send you
the _Dear_ original directly. If my H. would employ me oftener to write
Music I hope I should improve and I know I should delight in the
occupation, now my D.L. let me intreat you to take the greatest care of
your _health_. I hope to see you Friday at the concert and on Saturday
to dinner, till when and ever I most sincerely am and Shall be yours
"M.D. If you will do me the favor to take your dinner with me tomorrow I
shall be very happy to see you and _particularly_ wish for the pleasure
of _your_ company _my Dst Love_ before our other friends come. I hope to
hear you are in _good Health_. My best wishes and tenderest Regards are
your constant attendants and I _ever_ am with the _firmest_ Attachment
my Dst H most sincerely and Affectionately yours,
"James S. Tuesday Ev. May 22d."
"M.D. I can not close my eyes to sleep till I have return'd you ten
thousand thanks for the inexpressible delight I have received from _your
ever Enchanting_ compositions and your _incomparably Charming_
performance of them, be assured my D.H. that among _all_ your numerous
admirers no one has listened with more profound attention and no one can
have Such high veneration for your most _brilliant Talents_ as I _have_,
indeed my D.L. no tongue _can express_ the gratitude I _feel_ for the
infinite pleasure your Musick has given me. accept then my repeeted
thanks for it and let me also assure you with heart felt affection that
I Shall ever consider the happiness of your acquaintance as one of the
_Chief_ Blessings of my life, and it is the _Sincer_ wish of my heart to
preserve to cultivate and to merit it more and more. I hope to hear you
are quite well. Shall be happy to see you to dinner and if you _can_
come at three o'Clock it would give me a great pleasure as I shou'd be
particularly glad to see you my D. befor the rest of our friends come.
God Bless you my h: I ever am with the firmest and most perfect
attachment your &c.
"Wednesday night, June the 6th 1792."
"My Dst, Inclosed I send you the verses you was so Kind as to lend me
and am very much obliged to you for permitting me to take a copy of
them, pray inform me _how you do_, and let me know my _Dst L_ when you
will dine with me; I shall be _happy_ to _See_ you to dinner either
tomorrow or tuesday whichever is most Convenient to you. I am _truly
anxious_ and _impatient_ to _See you_ and I wish to have as much of
_your company_ as possible; indeed _my Dst H_. I _feel_ for you the
_fondest_ and _tenderest_ affection the human Heart is capable of and I
ever am with the _firmest_ attachment my Dst Love
"most Sincerely, Faithfully
"and most affectionately yours
"Sunday Evening, June 10, 1792"
"I was _extremely sorry_ I had not the pleasure of _seeing you to-day,_
indeed my Dst Love it was a very great disappointment to me as every
moment of your company is _more_ and _more precious_ to me now your
_departure_ is so near. I hope to hear you are _quite well_ and I shall
be very happy to see you my Dst Hn. any time to-morrow after one
o'clock, if you can come; but if not I shall hope for the pleasure of
Seeing _you_ on _Monday_. You will receive this letter to-morrow
morning. I would not send it to-day for fear you should not be at home
and I _wish_ to have your answer. God bless you my Dst. Love, once more
I repeat let me See you as _Soon_ as possible. I _ever_ am with the most
_inviolable attachment_ my Dst and most beloved H.
"most faithfully and most
"I am just returned from the concert where I was very much Charmed with
your _delightful_ and enchanting _Compositions_ and your Spirited and
interesting performance of them, accept ten thousand thanks for the
great pleasure I _always_ receive from your _incomparable_ Music. My D:
I intreat you to inform me how you do and if you get any _Sleep_ to
Night. I am _extremely anxious_ about your health. I hope to hear a good
account of it. god Bless you my H: come to me to-morrow. I shall be
happy to See you both morning and Evening. I always am with the
tenderest Regard my D: your Faithful and Affectionate
"Friday Night, 12 o'clock."
This is the last of these letters to which one could apply so fitly the
barbarous word "yearnful," once coined by Keats. After Haydn's return to
London, in 1794, there are no letters to indicate a continuance of the
acquaintance, but it doubtless was renewed, judging from the sagacious
guess based upon the fact that Haydn did not come back to his old
lodgings but took new ones at No. 1 Bury Street, St. James's.
This much more pleasantly situated dwelling, he probably owed to the
considerate care of Mrs. Schroeter, who, by the same token, thus brought
him nearer to herself. A short and pleasant walk of scarcely ten minutes
through St. James's Palace and the Mall (a broad alley alongside of St.
James's Park) led him to Buckingham Palace, and near at hand was the
house of Mrs. Schroeter. Perhaps he preferred the walk to
letter-writing. When he went away from London for ever, he left behind
him the scores of his six last symphonies "in the hands of a lady,"
probably Mrs. Schroeter. It was this same woman to whom Haydn
dedicated three trios, his first, second, and sixth. It was undoubtedly
she to whom he referred when he made that little speech which Dies
probably misquoted, in telling the answer Haydn gave him when he was
asked what the letters were. "They are letters from an English widow in
London who loved me; she was, though she already counted her sixty
years, still a pretty and lovely woman, whom I would very probably have
married had I then been single."
Let us remember that these old love letters, so fragrant with faded
affections, were being received by Papa Haydn even while he was writing
to Polzelli, rejoicing in the closing of two of those four baleful eyes
that forbade their union. And let us not judge too harshly the Italian
woman who had given this unbeautiful Austrian of such beautiful genius
so much of her sunshine and tenderness. Nor let us judge too harshly the
enamoured English widow. Why indeed need we judge harshly at all?
When Haydn died he had no child to leave his wealth to--even the fable
that Anton Polzelli was his natural son is taken away from us by Pohl,
who points out how small and temporary was the provision made for him in
Among the heirlooms left by Haydn was a watch given to him by that
Admiral of Admirals, Lord Nelson--and that points to us as a by-path,
which it were pleasant, though forbidden now, to wander, the story of
Nelson's fervent amour with Lady Hamilton, that beautiful work of art,
that pet of artists.
As a postscript to Haydn's story we may tag on here a concise statement
in his note-book, of the domestic affairs of one whom we do not think of
now as a musician.
"On June 15th, I went from Windsor to Slough to Doctor Herschel, where I
saw the great telescope. It is forty feet long and five feet in
diameter. The machinery is vast, but so ingenious that a single man can
put it in motion with ease. There are also two smaller telescopes, of
which one is twenty-two feet long and magnifies six thousand times. The
king had two made for himself, of which each measures twelve Schuh. He
gave him one thousand guineas for them. In his younger days Doctor
Herschel was in the Prussian service as an oboe player. In the seven
years' war he deserted with his brother and came to England. For many
years he supported himself with music, became organist at Bath, turned,
however, to astronomy. After providing himself with the necessary
instruments he left Bath, rented a room not far from Windsor, and
studied day and night. His landlady was a widow. She fell in love with
him, married him, and gave him a dowry of L100,000. Besides this he has
L500 for life, and his wife, who is forty-five years old, presented him
with a son this year, 1792. Ten years ago he had his sister come; she is
of the greatest service to him in his observations. Frequently he sits
from five to six hours under the open sky in the severest cold."