Correspondence of Wagner and Liszt, Volume 2 (1889)
By Richard Wagner; Franz Liszt; Francis Hueffer (translator)
TABLE OF CONTENTS
BRIEF BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH
CORRESPONDENCE OF WAGNER AND LISZT, Volume 2
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BRIEF BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH
The German musical genius Richard Wagner (1811-1883) could be
considered to be one of the ideological fathers of early 20th
century German nationalism. He was well-suited for this role.
Highly intelligent, sophisticated, complex, capable of imagining
whole systems of humanistic philosophy, and with an intense need
to communicate his ideas, he created great operas which, in
addition to their artistic merits, served the peculiar role of
promoting a jingoistic, chauvenistic kind of Germanism. There are
things in his operas that only a German can fully understand,
especially if he would like to see his country closed off to
outsiders. It is unlikely, however, that Wagner expected these
ideas to achieve any popularity. Time and again he rails against
philistines, irrational people and politicians in his letters.
With great exasperation and often depression he expressed little
hope that his country would ever emerge out of its "philistinism"
and embrace "rational" ideas such as he propagated. Add to this
the great difficulties he had in getting his works performed, and
one might assume that he felt himself to be composing, most of
the time, to audiences of bricks. Yes, his great, intensely
beloved friend Liszt believed in, fully understood, and greatly
appreciated Wagner's works, but Liszt was just one in a million,
and even he, as Wagner suggested, associated with a base coterie
incapable of assimilating Wagnerian messages. Considering the
sorry state of music and intellectualism in Wagner's time and
setting, he surely would have been surprised if his operas and
his ideas achieved any wide currency. That he continued to work
with intense energy to develop his ideas, to fix them into
musical form and to propagate them, while knowing that probably
no sizeable population would ever likely take note of them, and
while believing that his existence as an underappreciated,
rational individual in an irrational world was absurd and futile,
is a testimony to the enormous will-power of this "ubermensch."
CORRESPONDENCE OF WAGNER AND LISZT, VOLUME 2
Yesterday (Saturday, January 7th) first performance of
"Lohengrin" at Leipzig. The public, very numerous in spite of
double prices, displayed much sympathy and admiration for this
wonderful work. The first act went tolerably well as far as the
artists were concerned. Rietz conducted in a precise and decent
manner, and the ENSEMBLES had been carefully studied. The second
and third acts, however, suffered much from the faults and
shortcomings of both chorus and principals. Further performances
will, no doubt, show an improvement, although the Leipzig theatre
does certainly not possess the proper singers and scenic artists.
The flagging in the second act, which I previously took the
liberty of pointing out to you, was felt very much on this
occasion, and the public seemed painfully and unmistakably tired.
The tempi of the choruses seemed to me considerably too fast, and
there was more than one break-down in this scene. Altogether,
without self-conceit, I may say that the Leipzig performance is
inferior to ours, as you will probably hear from other quarters.
On the other hand the Leipzig public is in many respects superior
to ours, and I feel convinced that the external success of
yesterday's performance will prove very considerable indeed. The
grand success of this work can no longer be denied; of that we
should be glad, and the rest will follow sooner or later. The
actors, Rietz and Wirsing, were called after the first act, and
after the last the representatives of the principal parts had to
appear again. T., who had come from Paris for this performance,
was very dissatisfied with it. I toned him down, not thinking it
advisable to impair the chief thing by detailed criticism. Before
all, let it be stated that "Lohengrin" is the grandest work of
art which we possess so far, and that the Leipzig theatre by
performing it has done credit to itself.
If you have to write to Leipzig show yourself, to please me,
friendly and appreciative of their goodwill, and of the success
which cannot be denied. The only remark you might make concerns
the quick tempo of the choruses in Act II., Scene iii., and of
the "Lohengrin" passage in the third act
[Here, Liszt illustrates with a 4-bar musical score example
where the words, "Ath——mest Du nicht die su—ssen Dufte" are
as compared with YOUR METRONOMIC INDICATION. This is the more
necessary as the chorus practically broke down, and these
passages failed to produce their due effect.
On the next birthday of the Grand Duchess (April 8th) "Lohengrin" will
be given here, with Gotze (at present professor of singing at the
Leipzig Conservatoire, late first tenor of this theatre) and Frau
Fastlinger, and about the middle of May Tichatschek will sing the part
here twice. Zigesar has also asked X. to sing Ortrud, and has offered
her as well as Tichatschek very decent terms, but her answer is somewhat
vague and undecided: "Unless I have to go to England at that time," etc.
Tichatschek is again behaving splendidly on this occasion, and I
thank you for the few friendly lines you have written to him, for
he really deserves it by his warm friendship for you and your
works. He came to Leipzig together with Krebs, and during the
entr'acte we met at the buffet, when he told me that you had
written to him, which I was very glad to hear. The Hartels have
sent you three hundred thalers for the nine pieces from
Farewell, and let me soon hear from you.
January 8th, 1854.
The "Rhinegold" is done, but I also am done for. Latterly I had
intentionally dulled my feeling by means of work, and avoided
every opportunity of writing to you before its completion. Today
is the first forenoon when no pretext prevents me any longer from
letting the long-nourished and pent-up grief break forth. Let it
break forth, then. I can restrain it no longer.
In addition to your very kindly notice of the Leipzig
"Lohengrin," I also received that of the "Deutsche Allgemeine"
Zeitung, and discover in it the scornful punishment inflicted
upon me for the crime I committed against my being and my inmost
conscience when, two years ago, I became unfaithful to my
rightful determination and consented to the performance of my
operas. Alas! how pure and consistent with myself was I when I
thought only of you and Weimar, ignored all other theatres, and
entirely relinquished the hope of any further success.
Well, that is over now. I have abandoned my purpose, my pride has
vanished, and I am reduced to humbly bending my neck under the
yoke of Jews and Philistines.
But the infamous part is that by betraying the noblest thing in
my possession I have not even secured the prize which was to be
the equivalent. I remain, after all, the beggar I was before.
Dearest Franz, none of my latter years has passed without
bringing me at least once to the verge of the resolution to put
an end to my life. Everything seems so waste, so lost! Dearest
friend, art with me, after all, is a pure stop-gap, nothing else,
a stop-gap in the literal sense of the word. I have to stop the
gap by its means in order to live at all. It is therefore with
genuine despair that I always resume art; if I am to do this, if
I am to dive into the waves of artistic fancy in order to find
contentment in a world of imagination, my fancy should at least
be buoyed up, my imagination supported. I cannot live like a dog;
I cannot sleep on straw and drink bad whisky. I must be coaxed in
one way or another if my mind is to accomplish the terribly
difficult task of creating a non-existing world. Well, when I
resumed the plan of the "Nibelungen" and its actual execution,
many things had to co-operate in order to produce in me the
necessary, luxurious art-mood. I had to adopt a better style of
life than before; the success of "Tannhauser," which I had
surrendered solely in this hope, was to assist me. I made my
domestic arrangements on a new scale; I wasted (good Lord,
wasted!) money on one or the other requirement of luxury. Your
visit in the summer, your example, everything, tempted me to a
forcibly cheerful deception, or rather desire of deception, as to
my circumstances. My income seemed to me an infallible thing. But
after my return from Paris my situation again became precarious;
the expected orders for my operas, and especially for
"Lohengrin," did not come in; and as the year approaches its
close I realise that I shall want much, very much, money in order
to live in my nest a little longer. I begin to feel anxious. I
write to you about the sale of my rights to the Hartels; that
comes to nothing. I write to Berlin to my theatrical agent there.
He gives me hopes of a good purchaser, whom I refer to the first
performance of "Lohengrin" at Leipzig. Well, this has taken
place, and now my agent writes that after such a success he has
found it impossible to induce the purchaser to conclude the
bargain, willing as he had previously been.
Confess that this is something like a situation. And all this
torture, and trouble, and care about a life which I hate, which I
curse! And, in addition to this, I appear ridiculous before my
visitors, and taste the delightful sensation of having
surrendered the noblest work of my life so far to the
predetermined stupidity of our theatrical mob and to the laughter
of the Philistine.
Lord, how must I appear to myself? I wish that at least I had the
satisfaction that some one knew how I appear to myself.
Listen, my Franz; you must help me! I am in a bad, a very bad,
way. If I am to regain the faculty of holding out (this word
means much to me), something thorough must be done in the
direction of prostituting my art which I have once taken,
otherwise all is over with me. Have you thought of Berlin again?
Something must be done there if all is not to come to a stop.
Before all, I must have money. The Hartels have been very
liberal, but what is the good of hundreds where thousands are
needed? If the Berlin purchase had come to something, I might at
least have used the offer in order to prove to a man of business
here that I possessed "capital," and to induce him to lend me the
necessary sum for three years, paying back one-third every year.
But this hope also has vanished. No one will undertake such an
affair unless he has personal confidence in my future (?)
successes. Such a man, dearest Franz, you must find for me. Once
more, I want from 3,000 to 4,000 thalers in order to find perfect
rest and equipoise. That much my operas may well bring me in in
three years IN CASE something real is done for "Lohengrin," so as
to save it. I am willing to lease my rights to the lender; my
rights in "Tannhauser" and "Lohengrin" shall be secured to him in
any way he thinks desirable or necessary. If I am not worthy of
such a service, then you must own that I am in a bad way, and
all has been a mistake! Help me over this, and I will undertake
once more to hold out.
Dear friend, do not be angry. I have a claim on you as on my
creator. You are the creator of the person I am now; I live
through you: it is no exaggeration. Take care of your creation. I
call this a duty which you have towards me.
The only thing I want is money; that at least one ought to be
able to get. Love I abandon, and art!
Well, the "Rhinegold" is ready, readier than I ever thought it
would be. I went to this music with so much faith, so much joy;
and with a true fury of despair I continued, and have at last
finished it. Alas! the need of gold held me too in its net.
Believe me, no one ever has composed in this manner; my music, it
seems to me, must be terrible; it is a slough of horrors and
I shall soon make a clean copy, black on white, and that will
probably be the end of it; or shall I give permission to have
this also performed at Leipzig for twenty louis d'or? I cannot
write more to you today. You are the only person to whom I could
tell such a thing; no one else has an idea of it, least of all
the people near me.
Do not think that the news of Leipzig has made me suddenly
desperate. I anticipated this, and knew everything beforehand. I
can also imagine that the Leipzig failure may still be repaired,
that "it is not as bad as we think," and much more to the same
effect. It may be, but let me see evidence. I have no faith, and
only one hope: sleep, sleep, so profound, so profound, that all
sensation of the pain of living ceases. That sleep at least is
within my reach; it is not so difficult to get.
Good heavens, I give you bad blood as well! Why did you ever come
The present of the Princess caused me a smile,—a smile over
which I could shed tears. I shall write to her when I have lived
through a few more days; then I shall also send you my portrait,
with a motto, which might make you feel awkward after all. How
are you? Burn this letter: it is godless; but I too am godless.
Be you God's saint, for in you alone I still have faith. Yea!
yea! and once more yea!
January 15th, 1854
Something must be done in London; I will even go to America to
satisfy my future creditor; this too I offer, so that I may
finish my "Nibelungen."
My dearest Franz,
I write once more to try whether I can ease my heart a little.
Dearest friend, this continual suffering is becoming at last
intolerable. Always to submit to things, never, even at the risk
of one's own perdition, to give a turn to the wheel of suffering
and to determine its direction—that must at last rouse the
meekest of men to revolt. I must now act, do something. Again and
again the thought comes to me of retiring to some distant corner
of the world, although I know full well that this would mean only
FLIGHT, not the conquest of a new life, for I am too LONELY. But
I must at least begin something that will make my life, such as
it is, sufficiently tolerable to enable me to devote myself to
the execution and completion of my work, which alone can divert
my thoughts and give me comfort. While here I chew a beggar's
crust, I hear from Boston that "Wagner nights" are given there.
Every one persuades me to come over; they are occupying
themselves with me with increasing interest; I might make much
money there by concert performances, etc. "Make much MONEY!"
Heavens! I don't want to make money if I can go the way shown to
me by my longing. But if I really were to undertake something of
this kind, I should even then not know how to get with decency
out of my new arrangements here in order to go where I could make
money. And how should I feel there?
Alas! this is so impossible that the impossibility is equalled
only by the ridiculous position into which I sink when I commence
brooding over the possibility of the plan. My work, my
"Nibelungen," would then of course be out of the question.
This WORK is truly the only thing which still ties me to the
desire of life. When I think of sacrifices and demand sacrifices,
it is for this work; in it alone I discover an object of my life.
For its sake I must hold out, and hold out here, where I have got
a foothold, and have settled down to work. If I consider it
rightly, all my intended action can only have the object of
enabling me to hold out till the completion of my work. But for
that very reason I can DO nothing; all must be done by OTHERS. On
that account I latterly again felt the liveliest desire to obtain
my amnesty, and thus to gain free access to Germany. In that case
I might at least be active in helping on the performances of my
operas. I might at last produce "Lohengrin" myself, while as it
is I torture myself for the sake of it. The most necessary thing
for the moment seems to me to repair the Leipzig disaster; I was
on the point of venturing there without passport and of
endangering my personal liberty (good God! "liberty!" What
irony!). In calmer moments I intended to write to the King of
Saxony, till this also appeared quite useless and even
dishonourable to me. Then again, as lately as last night, I
thought of writing to the Grand Duke to explain my new situation
to him and to ask him for his energetic intercession at Dresden.
But this morning early I came to think that this also would be in
vain, and probably you agree with me. Where can ENERGY and real
WILL be found? Everything has to be done by halves, quarters, or
even tenths or twelfths, a la X.
So I sit down again, cross my arms, and surrender myself to pure,
unalloyed SUFFERING. I can do nothing, except create my
"Nibelungen"; and even that I am unable to do without great and
My dearest, my only friend, listen. I CAN do nothing unless
others do it for me. The sale of the rights of my operas must be
brought about, unless I am to free myself from my situation by
violent means. In the way of pure business this has become
impossible by the Leipzig performance, which, if my wish and my
conditions had been observed, would not have taken place; it must
be simply a work of friendship. To no one but you can I explain
myself accurately, because you are the only one who can
understand at its true estimate, and without a shake of the head,
my position, such as it has been brought about by my moods,
inclinations, whims, and wants. How can I expect a Philistine to
comprehend the transcendent part of my nature, which in the
conditions of my life impelled me to satisfy an immense inner
desire by such external means as must to him appear dangerous,
and certainly unsympathetic? No one knows the needs of people
like us; I am my self frequently surprised at considering so many
"useless" things indispensable. To YOU alone can I explain how
painfully I am placed, and how necessary immediate help is to me.
This is the first and most indispensable thing to preserve me for
my whole future. Owing to my extreme sensitiveness in this
matter, I shall otherwise be compelled—because for such a
frivolous reason I do not want to take my own life—to start at
once and fly to America.
I am in a pitiful condition, and I know that to such a friend as
you pity comes from love. Give me up if you can; that will settle
all. With my terrible care my violent nervous disorder has also
returned. During my work I frequently felt quite well; the
thunder-clouds seemed to have cleared away. I often felt
beautifully elevated, gently supported; generally I was silent,
but it was from inner joy; even hope wound itself softly round my
heart; the children of fable came to the weeping elf, saying,
"Weep not; thou too mayst still be happy." But the word resounded
from farther and farther distance, till at last I could hear it
no longer. Silence! now the old night holds me again; let it
devour me altogether!
Pardon me. I CANNOT help it.
Farewell, my Franz; farewell; farewell.
You were going to send me your "Kunstler." Why does it not
How about the "Faust" symphony? I am writing the "Rhinegold" at
once in full score. I did not see my way to jotting down clearly
the introduction (the depth of the Rhine) as a sketch; so I hit
upon the full score. This is a slower way of proceeding, and my
head is still a little confused.
The Princess has done well; greet her and thank her warmly from
me. Who knows how it will turn out? I do not care to know.
This is a sign of life to which you must respond sympathetically.
Zurich, February 7th, 1854
It is a sad fate that we have to live apart from each other. I
can tell you nothing but that I think of you constantly and love
you from my heart of hearts.
Latterly my time has been painfully occupied by all manner of
business, visits, work, etc. I have written to nobody, as you may
well imagine, because you did not receive a letter from me.
Together with this I send you the score of my "Kunstler" chorus,
and between this and the autumn I intend to publish half-a-dozen
orchestral pieces, also in full score. By October the "Faust"
symphony will be finished, which also will be published soon
Let us leave these trifles alone and speak of your "Rhinegold."
Have you really finished it? That has been wonderfully quick work
indeed. You know how delighted I should be if you would let me
see the score. Send it to me as soon as you can do without it.
In the meantime I have not neglected your pecuniary affairs, and
hope that my intentions will not be frustrated. CANDIDLY answer
me two questions:—
1. Have you pressing debts, and what sum do you absolutely
require to meet them?
2. Can you manage to live this year on your present income?
There is a probability that Berlin may come off next autumn, and
in that case I shall let you know the little result of my effort
in good time. For the present DO NOT SPEAK ABOUT IT. Dorn was
here, and conducted the second performance of his "Nibelungen."
The work is to be given at Berlin in six weeks.
Brendel wrote several things to me about the "Lohengrin" affair
in Leipzig. In my opinion, nothing further can be done for the
moment, and you have every reason to be calm and SATISFIED.
Lohengrin's barque is drawn by a swan; the cackling of geese and
the barking of dogs are of no avail.
Berlioz is coming to Hanover at the end of March, and goes from
there to Dresden, where he will conduct a few concerts at the
theatre. Fischer wrote to me recently about an intended
performance of "Cellini" at Dresden. This is as yet a secret,
which I, for my part, should like to see made public very soon.
The opera is Berlioz's freshest and roundest work, and its
failure in Paris and London must be attributed to low villainy
and misapprehension. It would be a fine thing if Dresden were to
offer him a brilliant REVANCHE, such as he deserves.
Brendel will publish his book within a few days. When you have
read it, tell me your candid opinion. Raff also has finished a
stout volume on the "Wagner Question" (!). He refuses to show me
ANYTHING of it, although he has read parts to several other
persons. Fortunately you are no longer to yourself nor to me a
[Here, Liszt illustrates with a 3 1/2 bar musical score example
where the words "Ath - mest Du nicht die hol den Duf - te—" are
Live in your "Rhinegold," and think lovingly of
WEYMAR, February 21st, 1854.
Many thanks for your "Kunstler." You had in me a somewhat adverse
judge of this composition—I mean, I was not in the mood for it.
I have got so unaccustomed to judging in an objective sense that
in everything I go entirely by inclination. I take up only what
attracts my sympathy, and enjoy it, without in the least
analysing that enjoyment in a critical manner. Imagine then the
contradictions which the very choice of the poem necessarily
roused within me. It is more or less a didactic poem. In it
speaks to us a philosopher who has finally returned to art, and
does so with the greatest possible emphasis of resolution;—in
brief Schiller to the life! Besides this, a chorus for a concert!
I have no longer any feeling for that kind of thing, and could
not produce it at any price. I should not know where to take my
inspiration. One other thing: my musical position towards verse
and metre has undergone an enormous change. I could not at any
price write a melody to Schiller's verses, which are entirely
intended for reading. These verses must be treated musically in a
certain arbitrary manner, and that arbitrary manner, as it does
not bring about a real flow of melody, leads us to harmonic
excesses and violent efforts to produce artificial wavelets in
the unmelodic fountain. I have experienced all this myself, and
in my present state of development have arrived at an entirely
different form of treatment. Consider, for instance, that the
ENTIRE instrumental introduction to the "Rhinegold" is based upon
the common chord of E flat. Imagine then how sensitive I am in
these matters and how startled I was when, on opening your
"Kunstler," I hit upon the exact contrary of my PRESENT system. I
do not deny that I shook my head while going on, and that
stupidly I observed in the first instance only the things which
startled me—I mean details, always details. At the same time,
there was something in these details which seemed to strike me in
spite of my unsympathetic mood. At the close I reflected and
arrived at the reasonable idea of letting the WHOLE pass by me in
full swing. In fact, I imbibed it in a manner with the most
fortunate results. I saw you suddenly at your desk, saw you,
heard you, and understood you. In this way I received another
proof of the experience that it is our own fault if we cannot
receive what is magnanimously offered. This your address to the
artists is a grand, beautiful, splendid trait of your own
artistic life. I was deeply moved by the force of your intention.
You give utterance to it, body and soul, at a time, in
circumstances, and before people who would be well advised in
trying to understand you. You have done well in drawing
Schiller's lines out of their literary existence and in
proclaiming them loudly and clearly to the world with trumpet
sound. You have, as I say, done well. How to do it was your own
affair. YOU knew HOW these lines should be proclaimed to the
world, for to none but you had occurred the necessity of that
proclamation. I at least know nobody who could do something of
this kind with such force. WHAT an artist intends to do shows to
him HOW he should do it, and by this HOW we recognize the WHAT.
What you intended to do here you could not have expressed
otherwise than by this tremendous display of eloquence, of
emotion, of overpowering strength. This is my criticism. I have
no other. But who will be able to sing this to your liking? Mercy
on me when I think of our tail-coated concert singers! During the
performance at Carlsruhe you had, probably from your own
inspiration, worked yourself into such a state of excitement,
that you thought you heard them sing as they should have sung. I
suspect, however, that the public heard correctly what was sung,
and therefore could of course not understand the matter at all.
Dear friend, you require singers such as I want for my Wotan,
etc. Consider this! I have become so abominably practical that
the moment of actual representation is always before my eyes, and
this is another source of my joyful despair.
Thanks then for your "Kunstler." I feel as if it were meant for a
present to myself only, and as if no one else were to know what
you have really given to the world.
I am hard at work. Can you tell me of any one who would be able
to compile a score from my wild pencil sketches? I worked this
time quite differently from what I did before, but this having to
make a clean copy kills me. I lose time over it which I might
employ to better purpose; and apart from this, the continual
writing tires me to such an extent that I feel quite ill and lose
the inclination for real work. Without a clever man of this kind
I am lost; WITH HIM the WHOLE will be finished in two years. For
that time I should require the man. If there were a pause in the
scoring, he might copy parts in the meantime. Look out for one.
There is no one here. It is true that it may seem absurd that I
am going to keep a secretary, who can scarcely keep myself.
If you can help me, you will be doing God's work. Am I not worth
a few thousand thalers for half a year to some German enthusiast?
I will give him full security on the royalties due to me in the
On Monday I expect Gustav Schmidt, of Frankfort. I have summoned
him in order to go through "Lohengrin" with him, and perhaps he
will bring his tenor. I am glad to see him so full of zeal.
As to the rest, I shut my ears against all the world. I do not
want to know how low I have sunk.
Shall I hear from you soon? If you think of me at all, think of
me always as of one hard at work and profoundly melancholy.
Farewell, best and dearest friend. The "Kunstler" is splendid.
Greet all at home.
ZURICH, MARCH 4TH, 1854.
I am frequently sad on your account; and on my own account I have
not much reason to rejoice. My chief object and task is taking a
very serious and painful turn. I had no right to expect much else
in that direction, and was prepared, but these long entanglements
which I have to submit to have caused me much trouble and have
jeopardised my pecuniary position, so that at present I am unable
to assist a friend. This I feel very much, and prefer to say
nothing further about it. You will understand me and not
misinterpret my silence. When the time comes, I shall explain my
affairs to you by word of mouth; they are not rose-coloured, and
another man might have perished, which other men might not have
disliked to see.
Today I only want to tell you that on the day of the performance
of the opera by the Duke of Gotha I met Herr von Hulsen at
dinner. He led the conversation to the performance of your works
at Berlin, and told me that he was only waiting till you had sold
your rights to Messrs. Bote and Bock in order to produce them. I
made bold to say that I had reason to doubt very much whether
this would be done, and that even if B. and B. bought the scores
of "Tannhauser" and "Lohengrin" I did not think for a moment that
you would abandon your previous demand of my being invited to
Berlin in order to secure an adequate rendering of your works.
Write to me how this matter stands. I do not want to advise you,
but I think that the Berlin performance is an important point for
you, and that you would gain nothing by altering your previous
position—I mean that the performance should not take place
except through my medium and according to my directions.
I was told that the Konigsberg troupe intended to perform
"Tannhauser" at Berlin this summer. I tell you this because I
think that you will not approve of the plan, and will refuse your
consent if asked for it.
I am very weary and tired, but spring will give us new strength.
Write soon to your affectionate and truly devoted
GOTHA, APRIL 4TH, 1854.
P.S.—This afternoon I return to Weymar. R. Pohl and his wife are
there, and I have asked him to give you an account of the
impending performances of "Tannhauser" and "Lohengrin."
MY DEAR FRANZ,
Heaven knows how anxiously I waited this time for your letter! I
reply at once in order to explain the "business" part.
I knew nothing about Messrs. Bote and Bock, but have now come to
the conclusion that they must be the purchasers of my operas whom
my Berlin agent had in his eye when necessity compelled me last
winter to apply to him. I declare that at present I should not
sell my operas to Bote and Bock or anybody else, for reasons
which I need scarcely tell you. I find it difficult to understand
how Herr von Hulsen can be naive enough to think that I should
consent to the performance of "Tannhauser" at Berlin by the
Konigsberg troupe. I shall write to Konigsberg about it this very
day, and I ask you also to write to Hulsen at once and to
announce my VETO to him. You may do this in MY NAME, and mention
at the same time that I have ONCE FOR ALL placed everything
concerning my operas at Berlin in YOUR HANDS, being firmly
resolved to treat with Berlin only through you and according to
your opinion, but never again personally. You may further say
that if Herr von Hulsen intended to give an opera by me, and was
waiting till he had no longer to treat with me, but with a third
person (Bote and Bock, as he thought), because he had fallen out
with me personally, he would now have a splendid opportunity of
settling everything without coming in personal contact with me,
because he would have to deal with you alone; that, as my
plenipotentiary, you were compelled to protest against the
performance by the Konigsberg troupe, but that in the same
capacity you were prepared to arrange the matter with him in some
other way. I think this would be a good opportunity of bringing
the Berlin affair to a satisfactory conclusion. There is much
need for it, I can assure you. Heaven only knows how I am to pull
through; and although I do not wish to torture you any more, I
may tell you that in my present position you can do me a great
and very valuable service by your intercession in another
quarter. Listen! They have performed "Tannhauser" at Augsburg,
badly enough, it is true, but it has paved the way for Munich.
Dingelstedt has written me an amiable and encouraging letter, and
I have sent him the opera which is to be given there in the
summer. As regards honorarium, I have entreated him to procure me
the best possible terms, as these operas are my only capital, and
I must mainly rely upon the great court theatres. I have,
however, made no definite demand, having full confidence in him.
You know Dingelstedt intimately, and you would oblige me by
asking him to get me something substantial, royalties in
preference. Before all, I should wish to have some money BEFORE
THE END OF THIS MONTH, either as an advance on these royalties
or, if that is impossible, as the final purchase money, in which
case I think I might ask a hundred louis d'or. (Dresden always
used to pay me sixty louis d'or; but as "Tannhauser" has
everywhere proved a great draw, I think I might expect the lump
sum of a hundred louis d'or from so great a court theatre as
Munich.) He is probably on his travels now, but if you address to
the care of W. Schmidt, inspector of the Court Theatre, the
letter will, I think, be forwarded to him. Do not be angry with
It is only a friend like you whom one can ask to be of active
help to others while he himself is in such a painful position as
you, poor man, seem to be. Although I have a general idea of your
situation, I am very desirous to know precisely how your affairs
and those of your dear ones really stand. I feel aggrieved
because you touch upon them always in a very cursory manner. From
all I can make out, I must fear that the Princess has been cut
off from her estate permanently and completely, and I must own
that such losses are well adapted to upset one's equanimity. I
also understand that you look into the future with a heavy heart,
as the fate of a most lovable, youthful being is equally
involved. If you had to inform me that you three dear ones were
now quite poor and solitary, even then I could not be very sorry-
-so stupid am I—especially if I saw that you had kept up your
courage. My dearest, dearest, unique Franz, give me the heart,
the spirit, the mind of a woman in which I could wholly sink
myself, which could quite comprehend me. How little should I then
ask of this world. How indifferent would be to me this empty
glitter, which, in my despair, I have latterly again been tempted
to gather round me as a diversion of my fancy. If I could live
with you in beautiful retirement, or, which would be the same
thing, if we could live here wholly for each other instead of
frittering our beings away with so many insipid and indifferent
people, how happy I should be. And "off and on" we should be sure
to undertake something to give vent to our energies in the outer
But I am talking wildly. Correct me if I deserve it; I shall
never be anything but a fantastic good-for-nothing.
Has Eugene sent you my medallion? It is not bad, only a little
I shall soon have to write again; I have more materials than I
can deal with today.
The instrumentation of the "Rhinegold" is going on apace. At
present I am with the orchestra down in "Nibelheim." In May the
whole will be ready, but not the clean copy, only single sheets
with illegible pencil sketches on them. It will be some time
before you can see anything of it. In June I have to begin the
"Valkyrie." When are you coming? You say nothing about it, and
yet you talk of "verbal communications." Schindelmeisser wrote to
me yesterday, asking me to come to Darmstadt on the sly on Easter
Monday, because "Lohengrin" would be splendid. That I shall leave
Adieu, dearest, dearest Franz. I have so many things to write to
you, that I must close for today.
Convey my best regards.
ZURICH, April 9th, 1854.
What do you think, dear friend? Would it be of any use if I sent
you a letter to the King of Saxony, which the Grand Duke of
Weimar might forward to him through a confidential person
(perhaps his ambassador)? I admit that the Prime Minister of
Saxony would be more important than the King, but to such a
person I cannot possibly apply. Would the Grand Duke do this?
Something must be done; I must be able to fly from my ordinary
condition at least "off and on," otherwise—
How are YOU? Do write!
For five days, dearest Richard, I have been in bed suffering from
catarrh and intermittent fever, and shall probably have to be
very careful till next week.
I wrote to Dingelstedt long ago, and asked him to reply to you
direct and make the contents of his letter as weighty as
possible. Dingelstedt is a gentleman, and will no doubt behave in
such a manner as will satisfy you.
"Lohengrin" and "Tannhauser" were given here last week. On the
first occasion the house was illuminated, because the Grand
Duchess visited the theatre for the first time since her
confinement. Gotze (at present professor at the Leipzig
Conservatoire, previously for fifteen or twenty years tenor at
our theatre) sang "Lohengrin," and gave the lyrical portions of
the part with much greater effect than had previously been the
case. He had studied the part thoroughly at numerous
performances, both here and at Leipzig, and therefore sang the
music with absolute certainty. "Tannhauser" drew, as usual, a
full house; at the "Lohengrin" performance many strangers who had
only arrived in the afternoon had to be refused admission.
Pohl's wife played the harp part very well, and I asked him to
write to you about the performance. Pohl is a zealous and warm
adherent of yours.
The newspapers announce that you are going to conduct the
impending Musical Festival in Canton Valais. Is there any truth
in it? What part will Methfessel take in the direction? Let me
know about this, as I have been asked several times.
I had got so far in my letter when yours was brought to me.
That is once more a dark, hopeless complaint! To help or to look
on calmly—the one is almost as impossible to me as the other.
After the experiences I have had, and of which I told you only
the smaller part, I can scarcely believe that the King of Saxony
will perform the act of grace desired by us. However, I will try
again. Send me your letter to his Majesty. I hope it will be
placed before him soon and in the best possible way. Our Grand
Duke is for the moment absent, and I shall not be able to see him
before next week. Write to me at once, and concoct your letter
for Dresden, which you must send to me open.
I have looked out for the copyist you require for your
"Nibelungen." It is difficult to find the proper individual who
could undertake such a task. I know several young men who would
willingly try, but they are not sufficiently skilful and
competent. I have sent a message to one of my former friends at
Berlin asking him whether he could place himself at your
disposal. With him you would be quite satisfied. In case my
inquiry leads to a favourable result, I will let you know. You
ask me how I am …
"When need is highest, God is highest."
Do not be anxious about my indisposition; it will soon be over,
and my legs have to carry me a good way further still.
DEAR, DEAR FRANZ,
I can never complain to you again. I go on worrying you with my
confidences in a sinful manner, while you keep your own grief to
yourself. My troublesome candour knows no bounds; every drop of
the fount of my sorrow I pour out before you, and—I must hope
that that is the very reason why you are so silent as to your own
circumstances. But I begin to feel that the best remedy for our
sufferings is sympathy with those of others. My only sorrow today
is that you hide your grief from my sympathy. Are you really too
proud to let me know, or do you refrain from giving me back the
painful impression I made on you with my complaints, because you
were unable to assist me? Be it so, dear friend; if you do not
feel the want of making a clean breast of it all, be silent! But
if you do feel such a want, then esteem me worthy of listening to
your grief. Do not think me as weak as I may appear to be. My
difficulty lies in the abominable meanness of my situation; but
of that I can take a larger view if some strong sympathy induces
me to break with my habit of thought. I think I have said enough.
If more were needed, even this would have been too much.
Assume henceforth that all is right with me; that I have no other
care but that which your troubles give me.
The letter to the King of Saxony I shall leave alone; I should
not know how to utter any truth in it that he would comprehend,
and to tell lies I do not care; it is the only sin I know. I
shall finish my "Nibelungen;" after that there will be time to
take a look round the world. For "Lohengrin" I am sorry; it will
probably go to the d— in the meanwhile. Well, let it go; I have
other things in my bag. Well then, I have once more needlessly
Dingelstedt has not replied to me yet; he will have difficulties;
it is not the custom to pay decently for dramatic work. Neither
do I know how to oust X. from "Tannhauser." He is said to be a
complete ass and a blackguard to boot. Hartinger, the tenor, is
very good and full of his task; but it was just he who told me
that he did not see how X., even with the best intentions, could
execute such music. You of course I cannot expect to venture into
this wasp's nest of Philistines.
The Konigsberg manager has replied to me, saying that he has no
idea of producing "Tannhauser" at Berlin. What nonsense Herr H.
has been talking to you! Do you care to write to him about it?
Do not misunderstand me if now and then I leave something
concerning myself unmentioned to you. The cause generally is that
I attach no importance to it. The truth about the Valais Musical
Festival is as follows. The committee asked me some time ago to
conduct that festival, which I flatly declined, declaring,
however, my willingness to undertake a symphony by Beethoven
(that in A) if they would appoint for the festival proper another
conductor who would agree to that arrangement. This they readily
accepted, and engaged Methfessel, of Berne, who is quite devoted
to me. In their announcements they think it useful to put the
matter in such a way as to make it appear that I have undertaken
the direction of "the Musical Festival" conjointly with M.
Perhaps it was this that surprised you. Altogether not much that
is "musical" can be expected from this gathering. People frighten
me about the orchestra they are likely to bring together, but
there are even greater doubts as to the collection of a decent
chorus. As, moreover, they are going to have only ONE rehearsal,
you will easily understand why I did not want to have much to do
with the affair, and especially had no thought of making
propaganda. Latterly, it is true, they have asked me to produce
something of my own, and I have given up to them the "Tannhauser"
overture, but with the condition that I must see myself whether
they can manage it; after the rehearsal I shall be at liberty to
withdraw it. The whole thing attracts me only because it gives me
an opportunity for an Alpine trip (by the Bernese Oberland to
Valais). In the same sense I have sent out invitations right and
left, especially to Joachim, who had already promised me his
visit for the summer, and whom I have asked to arrange so as to
be here about that time; he might in that case do a little in the
"festivalling" line in Valais. B. I also invited, but to YOU I
had so many other things to write at the time that I forgot about
this invitation, and the same might easily have occurred again
today. However, how do matters stand? You are sure to come to me,
are you not? And will you follow me across the Alps? It is to be
at the beginning of July.
If Joachim would like on the same occasion to let me hear
something, I could easily get him a regular engagement for the
To Brendel I have been owing a letter some time for his book; I
don't know what to write to him. All that is very well, and those
who cannot do anything better should do what these people do, but
I have no inclination that way any longer.
By your activity, however, I am delighted. What a lot of things
you do! Do not think I am indifferent because I keep silence; no,
I am really glad! May you succeed in all you do! About this
The clean copy of my scores I shall, after all, have to make
myself. It would be difficult to compile it to my liking,
especially as the sketches are frightfully confused, so that no
one but myself could make head or tail of them. It will take more
time; that is all. Many thanks for your trouble in this matter
also. We may perhaps talk about it; and if it tires me too much,
I may still make use of your Berlin friend.
God bless you, dear Franz; you must soon let me hear MUCH, ALL!
Have confidence in your devoted
ZURICH, MAY 2ND, 1854.
While I am composing and scoring, I think only of YOU, how this
and the other will please you; I am ALWAYS dealing with you.
(FROM HERR VON HULSEN.)
In reference to our conversation when I had the honour of seeing
you at Gotha, I beg to ask,—
If I should wish to produce "Tannhauser" at the beginning of next
winter, what would be the conditions?
Be kind enough, dear sir, to let me have your answer as soon as
With the greatest esteem,
Your obedient servant,
BERLIN, May 17th, 1854.
I have the honour to return the following answer to your question
as to the "conditions" of the performance of Wagner's operas in
It need not be explained at length that the performances of
"Tannhauser" and "Lohengrin" which have so far been given by
theatres of the second and third rank, satisfactory and
creditable for them though many of them have been, cannot be
accepted as a standard for the performances contemplated at
Berlin. For the very reason that Wagner attributes special
importance to the Berlin stage, he has asked and commissioned me
to assist him in this matter as a friend and an artist, and has
given me unlimited power to act for him. The conditions are
really none other than a dignified and adequate representation,
which would guarantee a more than ordinary success for these
works. The latter result is not doubtful to me provided that the
representation is worthy of the Berlin stage, and I venture to
think that you, dear sir, would share this opinion after the
final rehearsals. But in order to arrive at rehearsals at all, I
consider it necessary that a conclusive and brief conversation
should without delay take place between you and me to settle the
A. The cast.
B. The arrangement of the rehearsals, at some of which I must be
If you desire it, I am prepared to come to Berlin at the end of
the theatrical season here (June 24th), in order to arrive at an
understanding with you about the whole matter, which cannot be
As to the honorarium claimed by Wagner, I can assure you in
advance that he will make no unreasonable demands, and I shall
let you know his decision after communicating once more with him.
As a minor point, concerning my humble self, I may add that
although my personal participation in the performance of a work
by Wagner would involve a stay in Berlin of about a month, and
the sacrifice of time would therefore be considerable, I should
be so delighted at the anticipated success of this matter, that I
should not like to mix it up with an estimate of my own expenses.
One other point I must mention: I have heard lately that Wagner
makes my direction of his operas an absolute condition for
Berlin. Highly flattered as I must be by Wagner's confidence, I
take the liberty, in accordance with my unlimited power, of
considering the question of my direction as a QUESTION RESERVEE,
which I shall decide later on, ACCORDING TO CIRCUMSTANCES. I hope
some means will be found of preserving my responsibility towards
Wagner and his works without leading to an intrusion of myself on
the Berlin artists. Accept, etc., etc.
Your obedient servant,
WEYMAR, MAY 20TH, 1854.
N.B.—Be good enough to send me your final instructions as to
this point, whether you want a lump sum down, or royalties, or
both. Write to me at once as to this, and leave it to me to get a
PLUS or a MINUS, according to circumstances.
As soon as Hulsen takes another step in the matter, you will hear
of it at once, dearest friend. Write to me about the money point,
and let me know your other wishes as to the Berlin performance.
In the meantime keep the above two letters TO YOURSELF, as too
much has already been said about the Berlin affair.
The arrangement with Dingelstedt has not as yet been settled, but
he is coming to Weymar at the end of June. Probably he intends to
wait till the Munich Exhibition is over and to produce
"Tannhauser" in the autumn. He writes that he is sorry not to be
able to comply with all your wishes as to the honorarium. If you
have made any special demands, let me know.
I am rather unwell and weary. This letter-writing, bargaining,
and transacting are intolerable to me; by way of relaxation, I am
writing a longish article about the "Flying Dutchman"; I hope it
will amuse you. Brendel will publish it completely before the
middle of June; in the meantime it is appearing as a FEUILLETON
in the "Weymar Official Gazette."
Eugene Wittgenstein has sent me your medallion, which has given
me great pleasure. It is the most faithful likeness of all your
In five or six days I shall visit Joachim at Hanover; he was here
all last week, and showed me a very remarkable overture. Joachim
is making a considerable step in advance as a composer; and if he
goes on like this for a few years, he will do something out of
God bless you, dearest friend, in joy and sorrow!
Write soon to
MAY 20TH, 1854.
In a very few days I shall write to you at length, and at the
same time explain to you why this letter is so short. For the
present only this, because it must not be delayed: ROYALTIES,
nothing else. If these royalties are to be lucrative—I.E., if my
operas are to be given FREQUENTLY—the manager must be well and
sincerely inclined to the cause. Therefore we will treat him
nobly. You have written MOST EXCELLENTLY.
In a few days more from your
MAY 26TH, 1854. 156.
HIGHLY ESTEEMED HERR INTENDANT,
By your courteous letter of May 29th, I must perceive that you
are not inclined to agree with Wagner's artistic views which
cause and account for my interference in the performance of his
works at Berlin. I sincerely regret that the deplorable
circumstances which prevent Wagner from living in Germany are
still in existence, and that many things occur thereby which
impede the natural progress of the performances of "Tannhauser"
and "Lohengrin." You, sir, are too well versed and experienced in
matters of art to ignore how much the success of important
dramatic works depends upon the manner of their performance. The
masterpieces of Gluck, cited in your letter, surely owe, in spite
of their great beauties, their permanent effect largely to the
particular interest taken in them by Spontini and to his personal
influence at Berlin. In the same manner, the exceptional
successes of Spontini's and Meyerbeer's own operas were enhanced
by the special activity of their composers. It would lead me too
far to discuss further facts which have been proved so often, and
I confine myself to telling you candidly that if the management
intends to do no more than give TANNHAUSER or LOHENGRIN just like
any other work, it would be almost more advisable to give any
other work and to leave those of Wagner alone.
With Capellmeister Dorn I had several conversations about the
whole matter some months ago, and I am convinced that he will not
consider Wagner's condition of my undisguised participation in
the performance of his works at Berlin to be an unfair demand. It
is of course natural that you, sir, are "not inclined to accept
any obligation which would reflect on the dignity and the
capability of the institution as well as on the authority of the
intendant." Such an intention is, indeed, very far from my mind.
You add, sir, "I expect the confidence of the composer in myself
and the Royal Theatre." This point also has been settled, and is
wholly beyond question or discussion; but as Wagner has
commissioned me to be his substitute at Berlin and has advised
you of his resolution, I must, in the interest of the cause and
of my position, decline to be reduced gradually to the part of
the fifth whist-player, who, according to the proverb, occupies
a very inconvenient position "under the table." In consequence I
am obliged to ask you, sir, either to agree to the arrangement
contained in my last letter, and, in your capacity of intendant
of the Royal Theatre, to approve of my participation in the
rehearsals and performance of Wagner's works at Berlin, according
to his clearly expressed wish, or else to leave the whole matter
in its actual STATUS QUO.
With the highest esteem, I am, sir,
Your obedient servant,
WEYMAR, JUNE 3RD, 1854.
P.S.—In his last letter Wagner writes that he leaves the
pecuniary conditions with regard to Berlin wholly to my decision,
and that "Tannhauser" will satisfy him.
DEAREST FRIEND,—Return Hulsen's letter to me, as I have not
taken a copy, and should not like it to fall into other hands. I
hope you will approve of my answer. The enclosed rough draft you
I was four days at Hanover. What will become of me this summer I
cannot determine. As soon as I know, you shall hear.
Have you a copy of the pianoforte score of "Tannhauser" to spare?
Roger, who is here, would like to study the part, and has written
and asked for a copy, but hitherto in vain. I told him that I
would let you know, and that I was convinced you would send me a
copy for him if possible. It is said that the edition of Meser in
Dresden is sold out, or else I might order one from there. You
might in your next letter write a few lines which, or a copy of
which, I could show to Roger. He is fairly musical, and might
make a good effect in the part of Tannhauser.
When will the Musical Festival in Canton Valais take place, and
how long shall you stay there?
Again only a few lines in reply, dear Franz. You of course will
not doubt for a moment that I feel sincerely grateful to you for
the energy with which you take care of my interest with Hulsen.
Let us "save the soul;" then the body also will fare best. I
return Hulsen's letter to you. But I am grieved to give you all
this trouble. Let us expect nothing. My opinion is that you
should not answer him any more.
About the pianoforte score of "Tannhauser" I am writing to
Dresden; they must get one somehow and send it to you for Roger.
As you know, I have had Roger in my eye for a long time. If,—as
I hope he will through you,—he really learns his task carefully
and goes to it with love, I have no doubt that he will be the
FIRST Tannhauser to satisfy my intentions entirely. Greet him
Your question about the Musical Festival has given me hopes that
you might accompany me there. Really, dear Franz, that would be a
joy in this sad year. If you could induce the Princess and the
Child to make an expedition to Valais by way of the Oberland and
the Gemmi, oh, then, then all would be well. Only from the stupid
festival itself you must expect nothing. All my compositions I
have withdrawn, and shall only produce the A major symphony;
there will be many people, but not much music. If you were there,
and perhaps J. and B. as well, we might extemporise something
purely for our own diversion. May Heaven grant that you may be
sufficiently recovered to do a foolish thing and tempt others to
it as well.
The festival will be on July 10th, 11th, and 12th. In the first
days of the same month we should have to begin our exodus VIA the
Oberland. I have been trying for some time to vegetate; the
copying of the score of "Rhinegold" will have to wait. I must
first of all have a go at the "Valkyrie."
Farewell, dearest, unique Franz. Give me some hope of seeing you
ZURICH, JUNE 7TH, 1854.
Herewith, dearest Richard, I send you X.'s babble, together with
the sketch of my very simple answer. Probably the cart will stick
in the mud for some time, and then the transactions will begin
again. Well, I have learned to understand people, although the
real kernel of their phrases has not been, and cannot be, clearly
expressed. I have seen too much of this to be deceived. The
difficulty lies neither with Hulsen nor with other people whose
names have been mentioned, but with THOSE whom we will not name,
although we know them a little.
My symphonic poems I will bring you as soon as I find it possible
to get away from here for a fortnight. I am very glad you take an
interest in them.
Let us be PATIENT, and remain in evil days faithful to eternity.
June 8th, 1854.
Here you have the "babble" back again, the possession of which I
do not envy you. Let us put this disgusting nonsense on one side;
on hearing the jargon, devoid of honesty or character, which
these stupid souls call "prudence," one feels as if a hundred
thousand fools were gathered together. Our fortune lies at bottom
in the fact that we do not yield to such people, and our
perseverance in this is sufficient gain. To "get" something by it
is of course more than we can expect. Thus in this instance I am
quite satisfied to know that we shall not do what X. wants; this
is alone sufficient to put me in a good temper; what happens
otherwise is a matter of indifference to us. Berlin to us has
been the occasion of celebrating a feast of friendship. What else
have we to do with or to care about Berlin?
A thousand thanks for all you are doing and the way in which you
As regards "success" in X.'s practical sense, I shall probably
never have it. It would indeed be a kind of satire on my
situation and my being. On the other hand, I should at any moment
be prepared to die gladly and with a smile on my face if only a
really fine opportunity would offer itself. What more can one
desire? As regards my personal future, I sincerely wish for
nothing more than a beautiful death, for life is somehow out of
joint. I often feel sorry that things around me do not seem to
tend in that direction. Every one seems to care chiefly for a
"long life," however narrow, thin, and poor it may be. This is
Of all this we will talk when you come, for that you will come is
certain, Lord be thanked. Bring your symphonic poems with you;
that will strengthen my thread of life a little.
Do not look out for a copyist. Madame Wesendonck has given me a
gold pen of indestructible power, which has once more turned me
into a caligraphic pedant. The scores will be my most perfect
masterpiece of caligraphy. One cannot fly from his destiny.
Meyerbeer years ago admired nothing so much in my scores as the
neat writing. This act of admiration has been my curse; I must
write neat scores as long as I live in this world.
You will not be allowed to see the "Rhinegold" till it has been
completed in this worthy fashion, and that can only be done in
certain idle hours of the long winter evenings. At present I have
no time for it. I must begin the composition of the "Valkyrie,"
which I feel joyfully in every limb.
Greet the Princess and the Child with the full power of greeting.
For today I must be satisfied with this request; I can write no
more, not even with my gold pen. I might say a good deal more if
I were not taken with a fit of weeping, as once on the railway. I
have just been called out; an eagle was flying over our house. A
"Long live the eagle;" he flew splendidly. The swallows were very
Farewell in the sign of the eagle.
Let me tell you that tears prevent me from reading on.
Oh, you are unique of your kind!
It has struck me like a thunderbolt. Heavens, what have you
written to me there?
You alone know it!
A thousand thanks, dearest Franz. You have helped me out of a
terrible difficulty after I had exhausted all other resources. By
the autumn, I think, my affairs will be in better order.
When are you coming? I am going to Canton Valais in a few days,
but intend to be back soon. I have no money for roaming about,
and while I am enjoying my work nothing else attracts me.
The "Valkyrie" has been begun, and now I shall go at it in good
How curious these contrasts are—I mean, between the first love
scene of the "Valkyrie" and that of the "Rhinegold."
Brendel must have surprised you. (Bosh!) God bless you.
You are just the person whom I wanted to be in Leipzig at this
moment, and I look upon your passage through that town as a hint
of fate that there may be help for me AFTER ALL. In my great
trouble I wrote to Brendel some time ago, asking him whether he
could get me amongst my Leipzig "admirers" 1,000 thalers on a
bill at four or five months' date. Answer: "No, but perhaps A.
might manage it through one person or another." As A. had
recently paid me a visit, I wrote to him also. Answer: "No." In
the course of the next three months I expect this year's receipts
from my operas, and to all appearance they will be good and help
me once for all out of this last difficulty. The very least I may
expect is this sum of 1,000 thalers. I may therefore, with a good
conscience, give a bill payable after three months (end of
October) to any one who will lend it to me. Hartel must do it. If
he should prefer to advance me 1,000 thalers on account of my
receipts, it will suit me equally well. He can control those
receipts, and I will give orders that all payments of honorarium
are to be made to X. till the money has been returned. Whichever
way he likes will suit me, only let me get out of this miserable
condition, which makes me feel like a galley-slave.
A. wrote to me about certain possibilities of Germany being
opened to me for the special purpose of a short journey. I do not
believe it, and at this moment do not care much about it; I
certainly will not take the least trouble in the matter.
Concerning the Berlin affair, be assured that I am only too glad
to leave it entirely in your hands. I should be a nice fool if I
withdrew it from them as long as you are not tired of it
yourself. X. will take good care not to apply to me. All this is
From the Musical Festival at Sitten I ran away. It appeared to me
like a great village fair, and I did not care to take part in the
music-making. I simply bolted. No "musical festivals" of any kind
for me! I feel quite jealous because you have gone to Rotterdam.
I hope you will find time for Zurich as well. Come if you can in
the latter half of August, for then I think the Wesendoncks will
Good Lord, my head is a waste. Yesterday early I left the lake of
Geneva. Last night I spent in the stage-coach from Berne to
Lucerne. At present I am afloat on the lake of Lucerne, from the
shore of which I shall fetch my wife, who is going through a cure
of curds and whey. After that I return to Zurich, which I DARE do
only in the hope that your attack on the Hartels has succeeded.
No one can help me here; I exhausted everything to secure my
existence from last winter till now. If all goes well, I shall
continue the composition of the "Valkyrie" after August 1st.
Work, THIS work, is the ONLY thing that makes life bearable. With
the copying of the "Rhinegold" I go on in the intervals; in the
late autumn you will, I hope, have the score.
Pardon me for this confused stuff in reply to your beautiful,
cheerful letter from the Rhine. Perhaps I shall write in a better
spirit soon. I am on the point of landing at Brunnen, where you
are still remembered as "double Peps." How cheerful you were at
On board the "Stadt Zurich," on the lake of Lucerne, en vue de
Remember JULY 31ST.
DEAR, GREAT MAN,
A thousand thanks for the autograph, which will give much joy.
This Fraulein Soest is a good, excellent girl, who was sent by
her parents to England, and was there taken with home-sickness
for the "Weymar school," "the music of the future," and the
"Wagnerian opera." She managed to escape, and is now settled at
Erfurt, where she gives pianoforte lessons, and from where she
comes to Weymar to hear your poems.
Ten and a hundred thousand thanks for many other things besides.
Liszt was delighted to hear that his articles in the Weymar paper
had pleased you. It is a fine thing of you to have understood
them so well. They are to go on for some time, and the "Flying
Dutchman" will conclude this series. It is truly a wreath of
mourning which he binds there; your dark, noble hero lives, and
will live. Sleep and solitude are not death; and his vital
strength is such, that for a long time to come he will make the
round of Europe at certain intervals. Beethoven's "Fidelio" is
only just becoming acclimatised in London.
I am quite happy that the symphonic poems interest you. When he
is ABLE to visit you, he will bring the scores with him. At the
present moment they are, I believe, being partly copied out and
partly revised for engraving, etc., etc. But you, dear, great
genius, will be the first to read them. They have been for the
greater part performed here. The music is most beautiful, very
noble, very elevated.
Your letters give us the same joy which a poor man used only to
kicks and coarse copper coin would feel at receiving an alms of
gold. Give us that alms frequently, because you are none the
poorer for it. Allow Liszt to manage Hulsen, and leave Berlin to
him wholly and entirely. It may go slowly, but it will go WELL
and, before all, DECENTLY. How good, how prudent, how delicate
and patient, HE is—that I know. Another man would during these
six years have sunk and been drowned eighteen times in the storms
which have our poor little barque for a plaything. He alone keeps
us still on the surface.
Liszt has written to Berlin to find some one who will copy your
"Rhinegold," the beautiful "Rhinegold," for which our ears are
sighing. He whom he thought would answer your purpose is not free
for the present. What is needed to make you begin the "Valkyrie?"
And oh! that wonderful scene between Wotan and Brynhild—the
divine Brynhild, who saves Sieglinde! Write at great length; it
will do good to our three hearts, which are united and
inseparable. The whole atmosphere of the Altenburg is gently
illumed when a letter from you has arrived.
Heaven grant that we may say, "Au revoir! soon," and that we soon
may see your "Rhinegold," were it but a sketch. If you only knew
how Liszt sings your poems! We adored "Lohengrin" long before
Beck had studied it, and still listen and weep when he sings it.
Do finish your "Valkyrie" as soon as possible. What a work!
Write to us soon. You say that H. does not know what the matter
is. Who does when the matter is something beautiful and grand?
When a sculptor wants to make a beautiful statue, he takes
granite or marble and wearies his strength in cutting it, but
granite and marble are less hard than the heart of man. The
sculptor, unless he dies, finishes his statue; when a noble thing
has to be done, men are less pliable than granite and marble.
Liszt is indefatigable. He is wholly devoted to your courage and
hope. I cannot tell you sufficiently how your dear letter has
X.'s strong box resists a siege even more obstinately than does
Silistria; storming it will do no good, and I have consequently
nothing satisfactory to tell you. Returning here, I find a letter
from Hulsen, definitely declining the performance of "Tannhauser"
at Berlin, and winding up with the following flourish: "It is
obvious that, after two vain attempts to produce this work at the
Royal Theatre, the management will not undertake a third as long
as I have the honour of being at the head of it. I am sorry for
From another source I hear, however, that the matter is not to
remain in this negative stage, and that in the very highest
quarters there is a wish to call me to Berlin. The event must
show; for the present I have only written a few lines in reply to
What is all this story about the Musical Festival? Why did you
bolt? Let me know when you happen to be in the mood.
After the Rotterdam festival I stayed a few days at Brussels to
meet my two daughters.
As soon as my large arrears of correspondence are disposed of, I
shall settle down to my "Faust," which is to be ready by the new
year. The other things (symphonic poems) will also be in print by
I still feel very much fatigued after my hurried journey, and my
personal regret at not being able to serve you makes me curtail
these lines still further. Ah! good heavens! what can I say to
La vergogna dura
and while there is no means of removing that vergogna?
July 28th, 1854.
Did you really think for a moment that I had conceived the idea
of giving concerts in order to make propaganda for myself, or to
make music, or what not? Did you not see at once that this plan
was purely the result of despair at my miserable pecuniary
situation, and that the only question that required an answer was
whether or not I could make money by it, money in return for an
unheard-of sacrifice, an act of self-abnegation, which probably I
should not have been able to go through with after all? How badly
I must have expressed myself! Excuse me for having given rise to
such a misunderstanding, and be thanked all the more for the
trouble you took nevertheless.
My dear, worthy friend, how proud and happy was I not three years
ago, before I had done anything out of keeping with the full
consciousness of my antagonistic position towards our artistic
publicity. When at that time you, with your friendly anxiety,
were intent upon getting "public recognition" for me and a wider
field for my works, I used to smile and guard myself against
every temptation. But the demon took hold of me; in my terribly
bare life, my inclination began to grow again towards some of the
amenities of existence; I yielded to temptation, surrendered my
scores, was surprised at their success, and—hoped. I now curse
this hope. I feel humiliated before myself, because I seek in
vain release from this grief of self-reproach.
Hulsen has told X. that the whole thing in connection with me was
DONE. Fortunately I was able to comfort X. with the thought that
HE had not done it; but Hulsen is right: the thing is "done for."
What finally could enlighten me better as to the truth and
genuineness of my successes than the fact that in the very places
where they had been gained, and with every conceivable trouble,
the loan of—I must speak plainly—1,000 thalers could not be
raised amongst my "admirers?" This very trivial matter speaks
volumes to me.
Pray, dearest Franz, do not talk to me of my fame, my honours, my
position, or whatever the name may be. I am positively certain
that all my "successes" are based on BAD, very BAD, performances
of my works, that they therefore rest on misunderstandings, and
that my public reputation is not worth an empty nutshell. Let us
give up all diplomatic contrivances, this dealing with means
which we despise for ends which, closely considered, can never be
achieved, least of all by those means. Let us leave alone this
COTERIE, this connection with idiots who in a body have no notion
of what we really aim at. I ask you, What satisfaction, what
pleasure, can we derive from the assistance of all these silly
people, whatever their names may be? I sometimes cannot
understand your ironical enjoyment of life, which gets over your
disgust at these people by making fun of them. Away with all this
stuff, this "glory," this nonsense! We live at a time when glory
can bring neither joy nor honour.
Listen to me: "Tannhauser" and "Lohengrin" I have thrown to the
winds; I do not want to know any more of them. When I gave them
over to theatrical jobbery, I cast them out, I condemned them to
the task of begging for me, of getting me money, NOTHING BUT
MONEY. Even for that purpose I should not like to employ them if
I were not compelled to do so. After the insight which I have
gained this summer, I should willingly submit to the penance of
selling all my goods and chattels, and go, naked as I am, into
the wide world, where—I swear it to you—no illusion should
tempt me any more. But my wife could not bear such a violent step
again; I know it would kill her. Well then, FOR HER SAKE I am
resolved to go on. "Tannhauser" and "Lohengrin" must go to the
Jews. But I am unable to wait and see how much more they might
bring me in in certain patiently looked-for contingencies than
now, when I am compelled to get rid of them at any price, and the
sooner the better. Tell me, dearest friend, how do matters stand
at Berlin? Did you merely rely upon making our condition
plausible to Herr von Hulsen, or had you prepared other means of
securing your honourable invitation to Berlin? I am almost
inclined to believe the latter, and to hope in consequence that
you will soon be able to announce our triumph. The want of Berlin
for my operas involves the delay of the rest of the business, and
I assure you that the spreading of my operas is entirely a matter
of BUSINESS to me. This is the only real point; all the rest is,
and remains, fictitious. Let us not attempt to look upon the
matter in any serious light except as regards money. I should
despise myself if I paid any attention to anything beyond this.
For me the song of the "world" was sung to an end long ago.
And do you know what has confirmed me in this sentiment,
inspiring me with new pride? It is YOUR WORK ABOUT THE "FLYING
DUTCHMAN." In this series of articles I have once more clearly
recognized myself, and have come to the conclusion that we have
nothing in common with this world. WHO DID EVER UNDERSTAND ME?
You, and no one else. Who understands YOU? I, and no one else. Be
sure of it. You, for the first and only time, have disclosed to
me the joy of being wholly understood. My being has passed into
yours; not a fibre, not the gentlest tremor of my heart, remains
that you have not felt with me. But I also see that THIS ALONE
means being really understood, while all else is misunderstanding
and barren error. What do I want more after having experienced
this? What do you want of me after having experienced this with
me? Let the tear of a beloved woman mingle with this joy, and
what else can we desire? Do not let us desecrate our own selves.
Let us look upon the world through the medium of contempt alone.
It is worth nothing else; to found any hope on it would be
deceiving our own hearts; it is BAD, BAD, THOROUGHLY BAD: only
the heart of a FRIEND, the tears of a woman, can dispel its
curse. We do not respect the world. Its honour, its glory, or by
whatever name its shams may be called, are nothing to us. It
belongs to Alberich, to no one else. Let it perish! I have said
enough; you now know my sentiment, which is not a momentary
emotion, but as firm and solid as adamant. That sentiment alone
gives me strength to drag on the burden of life. But I must
henceforth cling to it inexorably. I have a deadly hatred of all
APPEARANCE, of all hope, for it is self-deception. But I will
work; you shall have my scores; they will belong to us, to no one
else. That is enough. You have the "Rhinegold," have you not? I
have got to the second act of the "Valkyrie": Wotan and Fricka. I
shall succeed, you will see.
Are you going to write to my wife?
My cordial remembrances!
(What the other people write I cannot bear to read any longer. I
only read your "Dutchman" article; that is the reward, the pride,
of my life.)
Zurich, September 16th, 1854
Do you know how I can manage to arrange some concerts at Brussels
and perhaps two Dutch towns, such as I gave last year at Zurich,
and do you think that by such an undertaking I might make 10,000
francs in cash? Can you make arrangements so that my offer may be
readily met, and that my programme may be translated into French
and Dutch? If you can answer these questions satisfactorily,
kindly take the matter in hand as soon as possible. I must earn
money at once. No theatre has asked for my operas; nothing is
stirring; I seem to be quite forgotten. If I could bring back
money from Belgium and Holland, I might probably resume my work.
For the present all music has been laid aside.
Your medallion is very beautiful. Many thanks. I care for nothing
else, and for good reasons.
Always your faithful
My wife is going to Germany, in the first instance on a visit to
her parents. At present she is with Alwine Frommann, Berlin (10,
Linden). In a week's time at the latest she will be in Leipzig
(at A.'s, Windmuhlengasse). From there she will return via
Frankfort. If she could hear one of my operas—"Lohengrin" of
course in preference—at Weimar, she would like to stop a day
there. If you can manage this, kindly write to her at Berlin or
Leipzig, or, in case you can let me know BY RETURN, write to ME
at Zurich, so that I can advise her in time.
From H. you will have in a few days the score of "Rhinegold",
which I sent to him in separate pieces for the purpose of having
a copy made at Dresden. But as I have recently finished a clean
copy myself, I cannot bear the thought that the work should not
yet be in YOUR HANDS. I did not want to let you have the
fragments, for I consider it an important and significant event
to place the WHOLE in your hands. Keep it for a month, to have a
look at it occasionally; after that I shall ask you to return it
for a time, so as to get the complete copy done.
My best love to Daniel, the foolish boy.
I write nothing else, either about myself or about your article.
If I once began about these two things, I should not know where
to stop. It is a great pity that I did not see you this year.
Altogether I feel so boundlessly miserable that I begin to
despise myself for bearing this misery. Enough. Farewell.
The worker in plaster-of-Paris has not yet returned your
medallion; the margin was a little damaged. Why do you keep the
"Indian fairy tale" to yourself? I have plenty of prosaic things
around me, and could find a place for it.
My best remembrances to the Princess.
ZURICH, September 29th, 1854.
I begin to find out more and more that you are in reality a great
philosopher, while I appear to myself a hare-brained fellow.
Apart from slowly progressing with my music, I have of late
occupied myself exclusively with a man who has come like a gift
from heaven, although only a literary one, into my solitude. This
is Arthur Schopenhauer, the greatest philosopher since Kant,
whose thoughts, as he himself expresses it, he has thought out to
the end. The German professors ignored him very prudently for
forty years; but recently, to the disgrace of Germany, he has
been discovered by an English critic. All the Hegels, etc., are
charlatans by the side of him. His chief idea, the final negation
of the desire of life, is terribly serious, but it shows the only
salvation possible. To me of course that thought was not new, and
it can indeed be conceived by no one in whom it did not pre-
exist, but this philosopher was the first to place it clearly
before me. If I think of the storm of my heart, the terrible
tenacity with which, against my desire, it used to cling to the
hope of life, and if even now I feel this hurricane within me, I
have at least found a quietus which in wakeful nights helps me to
sleep. This is the genuine, ardent longing for death, for
absolute unconsciousness, total non-existence; freedom from all
dreams is our only final salvation.
In this I have discovered a curious coincidence with your
thoughts; and although you express them differently, being
religious, I know that you mean exactly the same thing. How
profound you are! In your article about the "Dutchman" you have
struck me with the force of lightning. While I read Schopenhauer
I was with you, only you did not know it. In this manner I ripen
more and more. I only play with art to pass the time. In what
manner I try to amuse myself you will see from the enclosed
For the sake of that most beautiful of my life-dreams "Young
Siegfried," I shall have to finish the "Nibelungen" pieces after
all; the "Valkyrie" has taken so much out of me that I must
indulge in this pleasure; I have got as far as the second half of
the last act. The whole will not be finished till 1856; and in
1858, the tenth year of my Hegira, the performance may take
place, if at all. As I have never in life felt the real bliss of
love, I must erect a monument to the most beautiful of all my
dreams, in which, from beginning to end, that love shall be
thoroughly satiated. I have in my head "Tristan and Isolde," the
simplest but most full-blooded musical conception; with the
"black flag" which floats at the end of it I shall cover myself
When you have had enough of "Rhinegold," send it to Chorusmaster
Fischer at Dresden, instructing him in my name to give it to the
copyist Wolfel, so that he may finish the copy which he has
begun. Your cheering words about the "Rhinegold" were splendid,
and it has really turned out well. I hope there will be enough
counterpoint in it to please Raff. My anxiety as to this troubles
me very much.
Is M. ill? How can I do anything to help her? She should come in
the summer to Seelisberg, on the lake of Lucerne. It is the
dearest discovery I have made in Switzerland; up there all is so
joyful, so beautiful, that I long to return—to die there.
There we must meet next summer; I mean to write "Young Siegfried"
there, and you must assist me. Perhaps I shall assist you too.
How full my heart is when I think of it! Many thanks to the
Princess; at her desire, I send the enclosed autograph. Nothing
about business! What do we care about such miserable things? When
shall I see your symphonic poems, your "Faust?"
Farewell, my Franz.
Brynhild sleeps; I am, alas! still awake.
Today I was asked, on the part of the Philharmonic Society of
London, whether I should be inclined to conduct its concerts this
year. I asked in return, (1) Have they got a second conductor for
the commonplace things? and (2) Will the orchestra have as many
rehearsals as I may consider necessary? If they satisfy me as to
all this, shall I accept then? If I could make a little money
without disgrace, I should be pleased enough. Write to me at once
what you think of this.
How are you otherwise? 170
First of all, dearest friend, my best wishes for the new year
1855! May it turn out luckier for us than its predecessors have
I have permitted myself a little indiscretion in Brendel's paper,
and have written for the specimen number of the journal (which is
going to have a new publisher), as well as for the first number
of the new year, a few columns about your "Rhinegold." I hope you
will not be angry with me. My intention was good, and it will do
no harm to draw a little public attention to the matter. The
score I shall one of these days send to Fischer at Dresden,
according to your instructions.
The offer of the Philharmonic Society is very acceptable, and
your friends will be pleased with it. You do not say whether it
is the Old Philharmonic Society or the New Philharmonic Society
which has invited you. The latter Berlioz conducted for one or
two seasons, in conjunction with Dr. Wylde, a protege of one of
the chief shareholders of that Society, whose name I forget. In
both Societies you will find a numerous orchestra and ample
materials. You will know how to bring life into them and to do
something extraordinary. If I can possibly get away from here, I
shall perhaps visit you in London during the season. In the
meantime let me know something more about this Philharmonic
business, which will probably turn out to your satisfaction. I
recommend you, by your leave, some caution, and the tedious but
useful method of waiting.
I have heard nothing from Berlin, and shall write to Alwine
Frommann before long. Our theatre will not be able to perform
your works for several months to come. Frau von Milde is in
interesting circumstances, and cannot appear before the middle of
April, and our public would tolerate no other Elizabeth, Elsa, or
Senta. Besides this, our first tenor has lost his voice, and will
be replaced next month by C., who sang "Tannhauser" here in
November on trial.
I expect Berlioz about the middle of February. Do you know the
score of his "Damnation de Faust?"
My "Faust" symphony is finished. There are three movements:
"Faust," "Gretchen," and "Mephistopheles." I shall bring it to
you at Zurich next summer.
Remember me to your wife, and continue to love
January 1st, 1855.
The Princess sends her thanks and congratulations.
I am able today to send you particulars about London. Mr.
Anderson, treasurer of the Philharmonic Society and conductor of
the Queen's band, came specially to Zurich to arrange the matter
with me. I did not like the idea much, for it is not my vocation
to go to London and conduct Philharmonic concerts, not even for
the purpose of producing some of my compositions, as is their
wish. I have written nothing for concerts. On the other hand, I
felt distinctly that it was necessary for me to turn my back once
for all upon every hope and every desire of taking an active part
in our own artistic life, and for that reason I accepted the hand
held out to me.
London is the only place in the world where I can make it
possible to produce "Lohengrin" myself while the kings and
princes of Germany have something else to do than grant me my
amnesty. It would please me very much if I could induce the
English people next year to get up a splendid German opera with
my works, patronised by the court. I admit that my best
introduction for that purpose will be my appointment as conductor
of the Philharmonic (THE OLD), and so I consented at last to the
sale of myself, although I fetched a very low price: 200 pounds
for four months. I shall be in London at the beginning of March
to conduct eight concerts, the first of which takes place March
12th, and the last June 25th. At the beginning of July I shall be
at Seelisberg. It would be splendid if you could visit me in
London; in any case I must produce something of yours there.
Do not forget Joachim; when I am once in London, I can easily
arrange the matter.
It is splendid that you have finished "Faust," and you may
imagine that I am most anxious to see it; on the other hand, it
is a pity that you will not show it me sooner. At the same time,
I shall be glad to go through it WITH YOU at the piano, and to
make its acquaintance in that way, seeing that my attendance at a
good performance under your direction is for the present out of
the question. The vivid idea which you know how to convey cannot
even approximately be replaced by anything else; and I am more
than ever intent upon getting the right impression from the
first, for I greatly distrust acquaintances made by means of the
It is an absurd coincidence that just at this time I have been
taken with a desire to remodel my old "Faust" overture. I have
made an entirely new score, have rewritten the instrumentation
throughout, have made many changes, and have given more expansion
and importance to the middle portion (second motive). I shall
give it in a few days at a concert here, under the title of "A
'Faust' Overture." The motto will be—
"Der Gott, der mir im Busen wohnt, Kann tief mein Innerstes
erregen; Der uber allen meinen Kraften thront, Er kann nach
aussen nichts bewegen; Und so ist mir das Dasein eine Last, Der
Tod erwunscht, das Leben mir verhasst!"
but I shall not publish it in any case.
I was at first startled at your new year's article, but soon
perceived that here again I am indebted to your ever-increasing
sympathy. If, however, you represent my work as something
colossal, you mistake, in my opinion, the standard of
measurement; to me our artistic publicity, the spirit of our
means of representation, etc., appear to be very small and
miserable, while my work is just in accordance with ordinary
human proportions, and appears gigantic only when we try to
confine it to those unworthy conditions. When therefore we call
our plan chimaeric and eccentric, we in reality flatter the
actual worthlessness of our artistic publicity, and in a manner
mark it as the just and rational measure. We should not give that
wrong impression to people. Every one of your letters is worth to
me gold, and more, but ANSWERS in the proper sense I scarcely
ever receive from you, and you treat many of my questions as if
they had never been asked. Instead of that you always give me
something new; that is splendid, but an answer also would
sometimes be useful.
Well, let me hear something good of you soon, and in London let
me SEE you. I shall take my work with me, and hope to finish the
instrumentation of the "Valkyrie" there.
Adieu, dearest Franz.
How are you? Best remembrances from my wife and many greetings
from me to you all.
ZURICH, January 19th, 1855.
The London Philharmonic comes in very aptly, and I am delighted.
As lately as six months ago people used to shake their heads, and
some of them even hissed, at the performance of the "Tannhauser"
overture, conducted by Costa. Klindworth and Remeny were almost
the only ones who had the courage to applaud and to beard the
Philistines who had made their nests of old in the Philharmonic.
Well, it will now assume a different tone, and you will revivify
old England and the Old Philharmonic. I commend to you
Klindworth, a Wagnerian DE LA VEILLE. He is an excellent
musician, who formerly acted as conductor at Hanover, and there
gave a performance of the "Prophet" at the Tivoli Theatre, of
which the newspapers were full some years ago. He is also a
splendid pianist, who studied eighteen months with me at Weymar,
and you must allow me to send Klindworth a few lines of
introduction to you. As far as I know, there is in London no
pianist like him; but, on account of his determined and open
sympathy with the so-called "music of the future," he has placed
himself in a somewhat awkward position towards the Philistines
and handicraftsmen there.
I was present at the first performance of "Tannhauser" at Gotha.
Capellmeister Lampert had taken much trouble, as had also Beer
(Tannhauser), and the performance was, comparatively speaking,
very satisfactory. The musical part is better with us, but it is
different with the dresses and scenery, which are much more
tasteful at Gotha than at Weymar. I have spoken very strongly on
that point here; and as my prayers and admonitions in this
respect have so far been of little avail, I am determined not to
conduct "Tannhauser" and "Lohengrin" again until the necessary
improvements in the scenery have been made. This negative
measure, which I had kept in reserve, will probably be effective.
In the meantime our opera remains in a stagnant condition. Since
the last performance of "Tannhduser" (December 10th), I have not
been at my desk, neither shall I conduct the festival performance
of "Belisario" on February 16th. Nothing can be done till after
the confinement of Frau Milde.
APROPOS, what do you think of Meffert, the tenor? Would he be any
good to us, and how old is he? Write to me about this.
You accuse me in your last letter of rarely giving you an answer.
This alludes, I presume, to two things: Berlin and Dresden. Alas!
alas! I cannot report from either place what I should wish and,
in spite of all, still hope to report. With wranglings and
trifles I do not care to trouble you.
Stop; one thing I forgot to write to you: your "Tristan" is a
splendid idea; it may become a glorious work. Do not abandon it.
You were quite right in arranging a new score of your "Faust"
overture. If you have succeeded in making the middle part a
little more pliable, this work, significant as it was before,
must have gained considerably. Be kind enough to have a copy
made, and send it me AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. There will probably be
some orchestral concerts here, and I should like to give this
overture at the end of February.
Hartel is having the scores of Nos. 3 and 4 of my symphonic poems
("Les Preludes" and "Orpheus") engraved. I am as yet uncertain
whether I shall publish the nine pieces together or these two
numbers (3 and 4) in advance. In any case I shall send you the
proofs of "Les Preludes" and "Orpheus" before your departure to
London, so that my scribbling may amuse you too. I am sincerely
grateful for your friendly proposal of producing something of
mine at the Philharmonic, but I think it will be more advisable
to leave it till next season (1856). For the present you will
have your hands full enough with your own things, and during the
first year you ought to play a waiting game. The chief thing for
you is to gain firm ground in London, and first of all to impress
your conception of Beethoven, Gluck, etc., on the orchestra and
the public. At the same time, the people should learn to listen
to and understand the "Tannhauser" and "Faust" overtures, and
finally to rejoice in and be elevated by the prelude to
"Lohengrin." Your plan of conducting next year performances of
"Tannhauser," "Lohengrin," and the "Flying Dutchman" with
efficient artists is very good. We talked about this at Weymar in
the year 1849; and, in my opinion, the enterprise can be made to
succeed completely. This year must serve you as a preparation;
and when you are once accustomed to London air, it may be
expected that you will settle there comfortably. Beware of the
theatrical speculators, who will be sure to try and make the best
of you, and might be dangerous both to your purse and to your
position. Once more, good luck!
WEYMAR, January 25th, 1855.
Best remembrances to your wife. For the first year she will, I
suppose, remain at Zurich.
Do not keep me waiting too long for a letter, and send me your
"Faust." The Princess and the Child greet you cordially.
I shall send you in a few days an English translation of your
three opera poems in manuscript; it may be of use to you in
Herewith, dearest Franz, you receive my remodelled "Faust"
overture, which will appear very insignificant to you by the side
of your "Faust" symphony. To me the composition is interesting
only on account of the time from which it dates; this
reconstruction has again endeared it to me: and with regard to
the latter, I am childish enough to ask you to compare it very
carefully with the first version, because I should like you to
take cognisance of the effect of my experience and of the more
refined feeling I have gained. In my opinion, new versions of
this kind show most distinctly the spirit in which one has
learned to work and the coarsenesses which one has cast off. You
will be better pleased with the middle part. I was of course
unable to introduce a new motive, because that would have
involved a remodelling of almost the whole work; all I was able
to do was to develop the sentiment a little more broadly, in the
form of a kind of enlarged cadence. Gretchen of course could not
be introduced, only Faust himself:—
"ein unbegreiflich holder Drang, trieb mich durch Wald und Wiesen
The copying has unfortunately been done very badly, and probably
there are many mistakes in it.
If some one were to PAY ME WELL for it, I might still be inclined
to publish it. Will you try the Hartels for me? A little money
would be very welcome in London, so that I might the better be
able to save something there. Please see to this. All this,
however, is only the prelude to your "Faust" symphony, to which I
look forward with infinite pleasure. I have nothing further to
tell you, except that I have been fool enough to take more
trouble about a performance of "Tannhauser" at the local theatre
than had been my intention. It will take place tomorrow, and,
considering the miserable conditions, will turn out fairly well.
But I shall not conduct. Cordial thanks for your pieces of
advice, which have my full approval. I intend to appear in London
only as a conductor, and to be very tough about my compositions.
The score of the first act of the "Valkyrie" will soon be ready;
it is wonderfully beautiful. I have done nothing like it or
approaching it before. My complaint that you seldom ANSWER me in
the proper sense of the word you have misunderstood. It did not
refer to EXTERNAL matters, like Dresden and Berlin, but
exclusively to INTERNAL ones, for which I thought I had given you
plenty of material.
After having been in Paris together, should we not try to meet in
London also? How can we manage it? And how about the translation?
I am looking forward to it with immense pleasure, and shall use
it for learning English after all. Shall I receive it here?
I start on the 25th. If you find it necessary to write to me at
once at London, address to Ferdinand Prager, 31, Milton Street,
Dorset Square. I shall stay with him till I have found a
convenient lodging. Could you give me an introduction to the
London Erard and ask him to put a nice grand piano in my room? I
shall be glad to see Klindworth. Farewell for today. Give me
another pleasure soon, and remember me at home.
Pardon me, dearest Franz, for writing a few lines to ask you a
favour. I did not communicate with you before because I waited
for the copy of my "Faust" overture to be ready. I expect it in a
few days, and shall send it you at once, together with a proper
letter. For today only the following:—
The French ambassador is going to give me his vise [i.e. the
French term for "visa"] of my passport through France after
repeated applications in Paris, but this is subject to all manner
of chicanery, which is disgusting to me, and must be got out of
the way, so that in future I may be able to pass without
difficulty and at any time through and into France. I shall
therefore pay a visit to the Minister of the Interior in Paris,
and see whether I can succeed in putting a stop to these
vexations. It would, no doubt, be very useful if some one of the
court of Weimar (no one better than the Grand Duke himself,
perhaps through his minister in Paris) could give me an
introduction which would make me favourably known to the people
there and teach them a little reason. I am prepared to make every
necessary promise in return. Do see what you can achieve.
I start in a fortnight; therefore no delay, please.
You will hear in a few days from
February 9th, 1855.
The Grand Duke has been in bed for several weeks, and I shall
probably not be able to see him for a fortnight. Apart from this,
it will not be quite so easy to settle offhand the matter you
have entrusted to me, but I promise that I shall not fail to take
the proper steps, and I hope to send you satisfactory news within
twelve days or a fortnight. Berlioz has been here since Sunday,
and is busily engaged conducting rehearsals for the performance
of his "Trilogie Sacree" ("L'Enfance du Christ") and his
"Symphonic Phantastique," including the second part thereof,
which he calls a monodrame lyrique. I send you programme and
He tells me that he is not going to London till May, and will
conduct only two concerts of the New Philharmonic. As a kind of
prelude to the Paris "Exposition Universelle", he will perform
his Te Deum on the 1st of May in the Church of St. Eustache.
During this week of the year we are generally in a state of great
confusion. Six years ago, on the 16th of February, "Tannhauser"
was performed for the first time, and on the same date two years
ago the "Flying Dutchman;" for today "Belisario" is announced,
which at any rate I prefer to the silly "Le Macon," which has
been the delight of Dresden and Weymar during the winter. Even
some of our friends were simple enough to call this rotten
musique de portieres charming and a model of its kind.
The Cologne people have done better than this: they have bravely
swallowed "Lohengrin" without choking over it. This has delighted
me. From Hamburg also I hear that the public are gradually being
educated up to it.
How far have you got with the "Valkyrie?"
Difficult as I find it to part with your "Rhinegold," I promise
to send the score to Fischer in a few days. He can send me the
pianoforte arrangement later on.
My best remembrances to your wife. I shall soon write again, and
also hope to hear from you.
Most thine own, F. LISZT.
WEYMAR, February 16th, 1855.
These lines, most incomparable friend, are intended to introduce
to you Carl Klindworth, about whom I have spoken and written to
you several times. You will find him an excellent musician and
pianist, who is cordially devoted to you, and has not in vain
lived several years with me at Weymar. Since last year he has
been settled in London, where I cordially commend him to your
WEYMAR, February 16th, 1855.
DEAREST, DEAREST LISZT,
Pray let me have the LETTER TO ERARD for which I asked you
concerning the piano.
More after the concert.
You have entirely forgotten to let me have your address; and
although your fame has reached the point of immortality, it is
just possible that the London postmen might have heard nothing of
"Tannhauser" and "Lohengrin." Be kind enough therefore to tell me
in your next letter the street and the number of the house.
These lines you receive through Klindworth. Enclosed is the
letter to the maison Erard, which is represented in London by M.
Bruzot. If Erard himself should be there, pay him a visit at
once, but I doubt whether he is sufficiently recovered to occupy
himself with pianoforte and harp matters. A few months ago my
children wrote to me from Paris that Erard was very ill, and,
after fruitless trials of baths and medicines, had been taken to
a private hospital.
I have not neglected your passport affair, and have induced the
Grand Duke and another important person to recommend you
specially in Paris. I hope these transactions will not be without
The changes you have made in the "Faust" overture are excellent,
and the work has decidedly gained by them. I have sent the score
to the Hartels. If you are satisfied with an honorarium of twenty
louis d'or, write to me simply, "Yes," and the full score and
parts will soon be published. To a larger honorarium the Hartels
would not agree, but they will make the edition better and
handsomer than would any one else, and I should therefore advise
you to answer me in the affirmative.
I shall have to work hard for several months to come. The
Cardinal Primate of Hungary has set me the task of composing a
grand mass for the inauguration of the cathedral of Gran. The
ceremony will take place in August at the latest. The Emperor
will be present, and I have undertaken to conduct the mass, etc.,
for which purpose I have to be in Gran (three hours' distance
from Pesth) a month before.
This task gives me much pleasure, and I hope to produce an
Farewell, dearest Richard, and write soon to
March 12th, 1855.
The letter to Bruzot is meant for the FIRM of Erard; if he should
be absent, give it to the representative of that firm.
Your letter to B. has been forwarded.
Good gracious! here comes your and M.'s dear, dear letter! In my
terrible mood, it has quite upset me. You will have heard of my
letter containing my disgraceful decision regarding "Tannhauser"
in Berlin. In this matter I feel in turns trivial, sublime, and
contemptible. The latter mood you have just revived in me, and I
am inclined to repent that I have been trivial. But it is almost
too late now. By giving up "Tannhauser," and at last even
"Lohengrin," to the theatres without reserve, I made such
humiliating concessions to the reality of our miserable artistic
circumstances that I can scarcely sink much lower. ONCE AGAIN I
say, How proud and free was I when I reserved these works to YOU
for Weimar; now I am a slave and absolutely powerless. One
inconsistency involves another, and I can dull my unpleasant
feeling only by being still more proud and contemptuous, in the
sense that I look upon "Tannhauser" and "Lohengrin" as altogether
done with and no longer belonging to me, and that I keep my NEW
CREATIONS all the more sacred for myself and my true friends.
This is my only comfort. What I am creating at present shall
never see the light except in perfectly congenial surroundings;
on this I will in future concentrate all my strength, my pride,
and my RESIGNATION. If I die before having produced these works,
I shall leave them to you; and if you die without having been
able to produce them in a dignified manner, you must burn them:
let that be SETTLED.
Klindworth has probably not yet had time to write to you about my
first appearance, but he is going to do so.
After the first rehearsal the directors of the "Philharmonic"
were so delighted and full of hope that they insisted upon my
performing some of my compositions at the very next concert. I
had to yield, and chose the pieces from "Lohengrin." As for that
purpose they granted me two rehearsals, I also fixed upon the
"Ninth Symphony", at which I am pleased, for I should not have
given it with one rehearsal. The orchestra, which has taken a
great liking to me, is very efficient, and possesses great skill
and fairly quick intelligence, but it is quite spoilt as regards
expression; there is no PIANO, no NUANCE. It was astonished and
delighted at my way of doing things. With two further rehearsals
I hope to put it tolerably in order. But then this hope and my
intercourse with the orchestra are all that attracts me here;
beyond this all, all is indifferent and disgusting to me. The
public, however, have distinguished me very much, both in
receiving me and even more at the close. Curious to me was the
confession of some Mendelssohnians that they had never heard and
understood the overture to the "Hebrides" as well as under my
Enough of this.
Many thanks for your introduction to Bruzot; I long for a piano
and for my work. To the Grand Duke also I am much indebted.
Let the Hartels have my "Faust" overture by all means. If they
could turn the twenty louis d'or into twenty pounds, I should be
glad. In any case they ought to send the money here as soon as
possible. I do not like to dun the "Philharmonic" for my fee, and
therefore want money. The proofs of the score they must also send
to me for correction.
The publication of this overture is, no doubt, a weakness on my
part, of which you will soon make me thoroughly ashamed by your
"FAUST" symphony. When shall I hear something of that? I am
afraid my chances of seeing you here have declined, since you
write about this "Hungarian" commission. I can imagine how the
invitation has pleased you; and I too am pleased and most curious
to see your work. But when shall I see something of all this, you
reticent person? Do you not feel how I must long for such
cordials amongst the trivial surroundings in which I always live?
I must confess, however, that I always prefer becoming acquainted
with your creations through yourself. In that manner everything
is disclosed to me at once that otherwise I have to disclose to
myself painfully. This happened to me in the case of your
"KUNSTLER", while all that you gave me yourself at the piano at
once penetrated me by dint of unconditional and perfect artistic
When shall we see each other, you most amiable and noblest of
Most stupidly I was unable at "Paris" to remember the address of
your children, nor could I think of "Belloni's" address. By
taxing my memory I went half mad. Now, stupid fool that I am, it
occurs to me that I need only have gone to "Erard's." In this
manner I deprived myself of the pleasure of seeing them once
more, which grieves me very much. Please let me have the address
for my return journey.
A thousand thanks to dear M. for her beautiful and kind lines.
You all appear to me like a family of saints. Ah, we are all holy
martyrs; perhaps I shall one day be a real one, but in that case
all will be over for me with art—that beautiful delusion, the
last and the most sublime, to hide from us the misery of the
Farewell, dear, glorious friend.
Remember me cordially at home, and continue to love me.
22, PORTLAND TERRACE, REGENT'S PARK, LONDON.
22, PORTLAND TERRACE, REGENT'S PARK, LONDON.
I am in the absurd position of having to demand of you a friendly
service of a peculiar kind. I CANNOT delay the Berlin
"Tannhauser" affair any longer; my pecuniary position is so
unfortunate that I cannot afford to forego the hope of Berlin
receipts. Hulsen has applied to me once more, through Alwine
Frommann, and, as he says, for the last time. He promises all
manner of things; the opera is to be given in the autumn, and the
preparations are to begin as early as the spring. I must adopt
the "trivial" view of this matter, the same view which
unfortunately I am compelled to take of the entire fate of my
operas. In spite of D. conducting, "Tannhauser" will probably
have the same kind of effect in Berlin which it has had every
where else; to connect higher hopes with it seems vain. Let the
matter therefore take the only course which apparently is open to
it, but I regret very much that you have wasted so much trouble
and submitted to so many stupid things in endeavouring to
accomplish the condition made by me. We are, as we now see,
The fate which we must expect is, after all, the COMMON LOT. Our
best efforts always appear before the world in a truncated and
distorted form. I am going to write to Alwine Frommann that she
is to accept Hulsen's offer without further conditions and to
tell him that this has been your advice. The truth is that in
this manner you will avoid a struggle which, in my opinion, would
Klindworth, for whom I am grateful to you, will probably write to
you about my doings in London; I can only say that I do not
exactly see what I am here for. The only interesting thing to me
is the orchestra, which has taken a great liking to me, and
believes in me with enthusiasm. By that means I shall at least be
able to have a few good performances, to which the people are
quite unaccustomed. All other things, especially public, press,
etc., are very indifferent to me. The directors insisted upon my
performing some pieces from "Lohengrin" and the Ninth Symphony as
early as the second concert, and granted me TWO rehearsals for
I am still without a piano. I long to resume my work. WHERE and
WHEN shall I see you again?
Taken all in all, I am VERY, very depressed. I am disgusted with
Adieu. Remember me to all at Altenburg; and if you can, continue
to love me. 181
It would have been difficult to make Hartel consent to the change
of louis d'or into pounds, and after considering the matter I
simply wrote to him that you had left the "Faust" overture to me,
and that in your name I accepted the honorarium of twenty louis
d'or, asking him at the same time to send you that little sum to
We will not let our hair turn grey over the "Tannhauser" affair
at Berlin. I anticipated this all along, although, for my part, I
could not and did not wish to bring it about. I do not grudge
your Berlin friends the satisfaction which this issue of the
affair will give them, and hope that many other occasions will
turn up on which I shall not be superfluous or inconvenient to
The day before yesterday I sent the score of the "Rhinegold"
(beautifully bound) to W. Fischer at Dresden.
Has B. finished the pianoforte arrangement? In that case I would
ask him to let me have it later on, and at my next visit you will
sing and represent the whole to me.
I am hard at work at my Mass, of which the Kyrie and Gloria are
Apart from this, I have to conduct many rehearsals.
Schumann's "Genoveva" will be performed on April 9th, and will
give me another opportunity of studying and conducting an opera,
which I have not done for the last four months.
Next Sunday (April 1st) the oratorio "Die Verklarung des Herrn",
by Kuhnsted, professor at Eisenach and organist of Wartburg in
spe, will be given at the theatre; and on April 2Oth Raff is
going to give a concert, at which half a dozen of his larger
compositions—amongst others, an orchestral suite, the hundred
and twenty-first Psalm, a violin concerto, etc.—will make up
the entire programme.
This is the musical news of Weymar, which probably will be of
less interest to you than to me. Of my life, my hope, my
endurance, I have nothing to say that is cheerful….
Whether the great political event, the death of the Emperor, will
have a softening influence on my personal fate, remains
questionable. In a few weeks I shall have direct news. Whatever
it may turn out to be, I cannot waver or hesitate. To you,
dearest Richard, remains cordially and invariably attached
I am constantly being asked for introductions to you. Generally I
refuse them, but in a few cases I have to yield.
Tell Klindworth he is to write to me about your Philharmonic
concerts. His cousin, a very amiable lady, will shortly bring you
news of Weymar, where she has been staying several months.
182. DEAR, GREAT MAN,
For a long time I have been wishing to write to you, but had not
the courage to do so. Alas! how can I speak to you from my heart?
Today a sheet of paper with a red border comes under my hand; so
many symbols are comprised in that colour! It is devoted to love,
it is the purple of kings, and the image of human blood. It is
therefore suited to both of us: to you as the emblem of your
sovereign genius, to me as that of an ardent attachment, the
flames of which are my happiness and my glory; to both of us as
the sign of the wounds which destiny has inflicted on us without
touching our souls. Need I tell you how much I should like to see
you again, and how sincerely I desire that your sojourn in London
will be agreeable to you in one way or another? I can do nothing,
nothing, except the best thing of all: to love, to bless, to
Your affection is very dear to us; continue in it; it is the sun
of our starless sky.
May God be with you. Our hearts are always yours.
March 27th, 1855.
You have punished me in your amiable manner. I reproached myself
very much about this Berlin affair; in any case I was too rash,
and settled the matter too quickly after my fashion. I ought to
have asked you, as you were my plenipotentiary, to cede the opera
finally to Hulsen; that would have been better, and you would, no
doubt, have undertaken this last transaction to please me. But
the whole matter had long ago become so disgusting to me that I
lost all energy in connection with it, and felt inclined to
finish it as abruptly as possible, so as to hear no more of it.
Do not believe that I was brought to this resolution through my
"Berlin friends," but exclusively through my pecuniary position,
which is accurately known to you, and which has tied my hands as
to this point. I was COMPELLED to think of raising money. I have
therefore asked for an advance of a hundred louis d'or on account
of royalties, and as to the rest have ceded the opera without any
conditions. To tell you the truth, everything else in connection
with my operas has become a matter of perfect indifference to me.
Looking at it carefully, it seems to me that my wish that you
should be called to Berlin for the performance of "Tannhauser"
has by no means been frustrated thereby. The decision of this
matter was never really within the power of the intendant of the
theatre. The King alone can suspend the usual order, and HIS
decision is quite independent of what the intendant can do on his
own authority. It appears to me therefore that our condition was
made to an authority which could not have granted it. My giving
or not giving the opera to the management was a thing apart; and
as regards the invitation to you, this remains a matter which we
ought to work with the King direct. Unfortunately it seems that
you have little hope of this. What could be done to get some
thing out of the King after all? Should I have the impudence to
write to him and to try in my own way what seems impossible in
any other? The thought of accomplishing my wish after all is the
only thing which suddenly places this Berlin affair once more in
an interesting light. What do you think of it?
For your news and for the beautiful lines of the dear Princess I
am cordially grateful.
Unfortunately I have nothing reasonable to tell you in return. My
whole existence here is a perfect anomaly. I am in a strange
element and in a thoroughly false position. If at Zurich I
conduct symphonies now and then, it is done for the sake of
amusement and to please a few friends; to make a vocation of it,
in the sense that I am to be judged as an artist by a wholly
unsympathetic public and press on these grounds, is simply an
absurdity. I sincerely regret that I am here, and shall never in
my life come again. Pecuniary success is out of the question; and
even if they were to offer me a larger fee for next year, I
should probably feel bound to decline it: the misery I have to
undergo is too great. This is not MY BUSINESS, and if at my
present age, and in the unsettled condition of my health, I
cannot at least abide by my business, I would rather not abide at
all; I have quite enough to bear without that.
Perfect performances, which in the long run could alone console
me, I cannot achieve. The rehearsals are too few, and everything
is done in too businesslike a manner. Although the pieces from
"Lohengrin" were favourably received, I am sorry that I have
given them. My annoyance at being compelled to produce such
trifling specimens of my work and to have my whole being judged
thereby is too great. I also hate like poison to have to take a
single step in order to gain the favour of that wretched pack of
journalists. They continue abusing me to their heart's delight,
and the only thing that surprises me is that the public have not
so far allowed themselves to be misled. In short, I would have
nothing to do with these contemptible matters even if I happened
to please the people.
Let me finish my "Nibelungen;" that is all I desire. If my noble
contemporaries will not help me to that, they may go to the
devil, with all their honour and glory. Through London I have got
into awful arrears with my work; only yesterday was I able to
finish the instrumentation of the first act of the "Valkyie."
Body and soul are weighed down as by a load of lead. My chief
wish for this year—to begin "Young Siegfried" at once after my
return at Seelisberg—I shall have to give up, for it is very
unlikely that I shall get beyond the second act of the "Valkyrie"
here. Such as I am, I want a soft, clinging element around me, in
order to feel gladly inclined for work. This eternal need of
self-condensation for the purpose of self-defence supplies me
with obstinacy and contempt, but not with the love of expansion
Klindworth has probably written to you; at least he was startled
when I recently conveyed your reminder to him. He was ill, and is
not doing well here, but how am I to help him? Blackguardism,
obstinacy, and religiously nursed stupidity are here protected
with iron walls; only a blackguard and a Jew can succeed here.
Upon the whole, you were right in retiring to Weimar; as much
solitude as possible, that alone can save us.
The Hartels sent me the bill of exchange yesterday; many thanks.
Cannot B. do the pianoforte arrangement?
He had only just begun the "Rhinegold," when I took the score
away from him to send it to you. As soon as the copy at Dresden
has been finished, he is to have it for the completion of the
pianoforte arrangement; and after that, if you wish it, it is to
be sent to you. Shall we see each other this year, perhaps on
your return from Hungary? That would be something like it!
Perhaps at that time I should have recovered my voice, which here
has disappeared entirely.
Farewell, dearest friend. Patience—that is all that remains to
us. Remember me to all at Altenburg. Much luck to your mass!
Farewell, dear, dear Franz.
Klindworth has just played your great sonata to me.
We passed the day alone together; he dined with me, and after
dinner I made him play. Dearest Franz, you were with me; the
sonata is beautiful beyond anything, grand and sweet, deep and
noble, sublime as you are yourself. It moved me most deeply, and
the London misery was forgotten all at once. More I cannot say,
not just after having heard it, but of what I say I am as full as
man can be. Once more, you were with me! Ah, could you soon be
with me wholly and bodily, then we might support life
Klindworth astonished me by his playing; no lesser man could have
ventured to play your work to me for the first time. He is worthy
of you. Surely, surely, it was beautiful.
Good-night. Many thanks for this pleasure vouchsafed to me at
LONDON, April 5th, 8:30 evening.
I had nothing to tell you that was pleasant or important, and
therefore did not write to you for a long time. During these last
weeks I have spun myself into my mass, and yesterday at last I got
it done. I do not know how it will sound, but may say that I have
PRAYED it rather than COMPOSED it. On my return from Hungary in
September, I shall bring you the mass and my symphonic bubbles and
troubles, half of which will by that time be in print. If my scores
should bore you, that will not prevent me from deriving sweetest
enjoyment from your creations, and you must not refuse me the
favour of singing the whole "Rhinegold" and "Valkyrie" to me. In
the meanwhile all other musical things appear to me "stupid stuff."
How do you feel in London?
Troublesome though it may be, one must try to bear the inevitable
and immutable; to take pleasure in it would be a lie.
The English edition of Philistinism is not a whit pleasanter than
the German, and the chasm between the public and ourselves is
equally wide everywhere.
How, in our wretched conditions, could enthusiasm, love, and art
have their true effect?
"Patience and resignation" is our device, and to it we sing
[Here, Liszt illustrates with a music score excerpt]
Pardon me for being your hollow echo, and let us endure what
cannot be cured.
I am very grateful to you for being so kind to Klindworth. In a
few days his cousin will come to London and bring you news of me,
as she has spent the whole winter at Weymar. Your letter about
the sonata has highly delighted me, and you must excuse me for
not having thanked you at once. You are often so near to me that
I almost forget writing to you, and I am seldom at the right
temperature for correspondence. Well, in September I shall be
with you; and (D.V.) we will have some bright, comforting days
WEYMAR, May 2nd, 1855.
DEAR POET, DEAR FRIEND,
Our hearts are with you, and suffer with you; that you know, and
cannot be ignorant of.
Let us hear from you soon, and forgive me if, in the midst of the
preoccupations of your heart and of your grief, I ask you for a
trifle; but it will cost you so little to grant it me, and you
will give such great, such very great, pleasure by it. It is the
fate of poets and women sometimes to give what they have not
themselves—I mean happiness. Take a piece of paper and write on
it the following verses, which, as you know, appear to me written
with the purest blood of my veins:-
"Nicht Gut, nicht Gold, noch gottliche Pracht; nicht Haus, nicht
Hof, nicht herrischer Prunk, nicht truber Vertrage trugender
Bund, noch heuchelnder Sitte hartes Gesetz: selig in Lust und
Leid lasst—die Liebe nur sein!—" Sign this with your name, your
great name, enclose it in an envelope, address it to me, and put
it in the post. Forgive me for asking you this small thing—small
in its material aspect, but great as the world in its
I press your two hands with mine, dear, dear, great man.
May 7th, 1855.
Cordial thanks, dearest Franz, for your kind note, which I had
been expecting a long time. The hope which you open to me of
seeing you in September is my only light in the night of this sad
year. I live here like one of the lost souls in hell. I never
thought that I could sink again so low. The misery I feel in
having to live in these disgusting surroundings is beyond
description, and I now realise that it was a sin, a crime, to
accept this invitation to London, which in the luckiest case must
have led me far away from my real path. I need not expatiate to
you upon my actual situation. It is the consistent outgrowth of
the greatest inconsistency I ever committed. I am compelled to
conduct an English concert programme right down to the end; that
says everything. I have got into the middle of a slough of
conventionalities and customs, in which I stick up to the ears,
without being able to lead into it the least drop of pure water
for my recreation. "Sir, we are not accustomed to this"—that is
the eternal echo I hear. Neither can the orchestra recompense me.
It consists almost exclusively of Englishmen, that is clever
machines which cannot be got into the right swing; handicraft and
business kill everything. Then there is the public, which, I am
assured, is very favourably inclined towards me, but can never be
got out of itself, which accepts the most emotional and the most
tedious things without ever showing that it has received a real
impression. And, in addition to this, the ridiculous Mendelssohn
And even if all this were better than it is, what business have I
with such concerts? I am not fit for them. It is quite a
different thing if I conduct one of Beethoven's symphonies before
a few friends, but to be a regular concert conductor, before whom
they place the scores of concert pieces, etc., so that he may
beat the time to them—that, I feel, is the deepest disgrace.
This thoroughly inappropriate character of my position led me to
the resolution of sending in my resignation after the fourth
concert. But of course I was talked out of it, and especially my
regard for my wife, who would have heard of this sudden
resignation and of all that would have been written about it with
great grief, determined me to hold out till the last concert. The
infernal torture this is to me I cannot express. All my pleasure
in my work is disappearing more and more. I had made up my mind
to finish the score of the "Valkyrie" during the four months
here, but that is out of the question. I shall not even finish
the second act, in so terribly dispiriting a manner does this
false position act upon me. In July I wanted to begin "Young
Siegfried" at Seelisberg, on the lake of Lucerne, but now I think
of delaying that beginning till next spring. This dislike of work
is the worst feature of all. I feel as if with it eternal night
were closing around me, for what have I still to do in this world
if I cannot do my work?
Through this hell my study of Dante, to which I could not settle
down before, has accompanied me. I have passed through his
Inferno, and am now at the gate of Purgatory. Really I am in need
of this purgatory; for if I consider it rightly, I was brought to
London by a really sinful degree of thoughtlessness, which now I
have to repent with fervour. I must, I must be resigned; my
experience long ago convinced me of the necessity of resignation
in the widest sense of the word, and I must now subdue altogether
this terrible, wild desire of life, which again and again dims my
vision and throws me into a chaos of contradictions. I must hope
that I may at some future time rise from purgatory to paradise;
the fresh air of my Seelisberg will perhaps help me to this. I do
not deny that I should like to meet Beatrice there.
In all other respects things are going badly and crookedly. Poor
Klindworth has been ill all along, and the fact that I could
undertake nothing with him has deprived me of a great pleasure.
He is better now, but not yet allowed to take a walk with me.
Besides him, my intercourse is limited to Sainton, the leader of
the orchestra, who caused my ill-fated appointment here, and a
certain Luders, who lives with him. Both are ardently devoted to
me, and do all in their power to make my stay here pleasant.
Apart from this, I frequently go to Prager. Quite recently a Mr.
Ellerton, a rich amateur, approached me very cordially. He has
heard my operas in Germany, and my portrait has been hanging in
his room for two years. He is the first Englishman I have seen
who does not care particularly for Mendelssohn. A fine, amiable
Klindworth has made the pianoforte arrangement of the first act
of the "Valkyrie," which he plays beautifully. Unfortunately I
have lost my voice entirely, and can sing very little, so that I
am afraid I shall not be able to be of much service to you in
You will have to do all the work next September. You owe me a
great debt, you reticent man. If I look forward to anything in
the future as pure happiness, it is my becoming acquainted
through your means with your new compositions. Do not forget to
bring me every one of them. I congratulate you on your mass from
the bottom of my heart. Let us hope that you will derive much
pleasure from it at Gran.
And how is the Princess? Joyful and sorrowful? Does she still
preserve her bright enthusiasm? And Beatrice—I mean the Child?
Greet her for me a thousand times.
Farewell, dearest, most unique of friends. Believe me that the
thought of you is an ever-new delight to my heart. Be thanked for
LONDON, May 16th, 1855.
22, PORTLAND TERRACE, REGENT'S PARK, LONDON,
May 26th, 1855.
Once more, dearest Franz, I must make a complaint about the
"Faust" overture. The Hartels have sent me an abominable
arrangement for four hands, of which I cannot possibly approve.
Did not you tell them that B., who, I believe, had already made a
be ginning, would best be able to make this arrangement?
Klindworth also would be prepared for it. In any case it should
be a pianist of that type. The actual arrangement, which I
yesterday returned to the Hartels through a music-seller, must
However, some wrong notes in this arrangement have drawn my
attention to the fact that very probably there are many errors in
the score as well. You will remember that it was a copy which I
sent to you for your own use, asking you to correct such errors
as might occur in your mind, or else to have them corrected,
because it would be tedious for me to revise the copy. For the
same reason I urgently requested the Hartels, if they printed the
score, to send me a proof. You are in frequent communication with
the Hartels, and the edition of this overture is really your
doing. Be not angry therefore if I ask you to set the matter
completely right when convenient. For heaven's sake, forgive me
for troubling you with this trifle. The day after tomorrow I have
my sixth concert, and a month afterwards I start for home.
Shall I hear from you soon?
A thousand greetings.
Your R. W.
189. DEAREST RICHARD,
I returned here yesterday from the Dusseldorf Musical Festival,
tired and dull. Hiller, who conducted the whole, had invited me,
and it interested me to go through the whole thing for once, to
hear "Paradise and the Peri," and to applaud Jenny Lind. I need
not tell YOU anything about it, and I am not much the wiser
myself. Although the whole festival may be called a great
success, it wanted something which, indeed, could not have been
expected from it. In the art world there are very different kinds
of laurels and thistles, but you need care very little about
such. "The eagle flies to the sun."
Then you are reading Dante? He is excellent company for you. I,
on my part, shall furnish a kind of commentary to his work. For a
long time I had in my head a Dante symphony, and in the course of
this year it is to be finished. There are to be three movements,
HELL, PURGATORY, and PARADISE, the two first purely instrumental,
the last with chorus. When I visit you in autumn, I shall
probably be able to bring it with me; and if you do not dislike
it, you must allow me to inscribe it with your name.
With the Hartels little can be done. If the arrangement for four
hands of the Faust overture has already been made, I do not
advise you to propose some one else. The only thing that can be
done with the four-hand arrangement is to ask Klindworth to make
some corrections in accordance with your instructions, and to
have some of the plates newly engraved without mentioning
Klindworth's name on the title-page. Another time it would be a
practical thing to send in the four-hand arrangement together
with the score, and to come to terms with the publisher about it.
The attitude of the Hartels towards us is naturally always a
little reserved. I, for my part, cannot complain of them, and
they have always treated me in a decent and gentlemanly manner.
But I should not rely upon them for many things, because their
intimate friends are decidedly adverse to us; and for the present
we shall not be able to arrive at more than a peaceful, expectant
footing with them. Although this may sometimes be inconvenient, I
think it best to let it continue.
I am surprised that you found so many mistakes in the proofs of
the "Faust" score, for, amongst other advantages which they
possess as publishers, one is bound in justice to admit that the
Hartels have excellent readers (Dorffel, Schellenberg, etc.).
Therefore use time and patience in correcting, and where
necessary let the plates be engraved over again.
When shall you be back in Zurich? At Dusseldorf they were saying
that you had already left London, and jealous Philistia received
the news with a joy which I was not sorry to spoil. Whatever may
happen, and however it may happen, I implore you to
"Hold out and persevere."
In your capacity of poeta sovrano, you must, as Dante says of
Homer, pass on your way quietly and undisturbedly, si come sire.
All this dirt does not touch you. Write your "Nibelungen," and be
content to live on as an immortal!
Later on I shall ask Klindworth to let me see the pianoforte
arrangement of the first act of the "Valkyrie." How about that of
the "Rhinegold?" Has H. kept it? Write to me about it, so that I
may know how to get at it.
I have advised H. to settle in Berlin, where his position at the
music school will be very useful to him. There is not much to be
got by travelling about in our days. Later on he may go to Paris
and London, but for the next few years Berlin will be a good
field for his activity.
I shall stay here during the summer, until I start for Gran at
the end of August. The musical task which occupies me is a new
and considerably altered score of my choruses to "Prometheus,"
which I want to publish next winter. As soon as it is finished I
shall return to my Dante symphony, which has partly been
Farewell, dearest, most unique of friends, and write soon to your
serf, body and soul,
WEYMAR, June 2nd, 1855.
The Princess and the Child send cordial greetings.
Let me express to you, best of men, my astonishment at your
ENORMOUS PRODUCTIVENESS. You have a Dante symphony in your head,
have you? And it is to be finished in the autumn? Do not be
annoyed by my astonishment at this miracle. When I look back upon
your activity in these last years, you appear superhuman to me;
there is something very strange about this. However, it is very
natural that creating is our only joy, and alone makes life
bearable to us. We are what we are only while we create; all the
other functions of life have no meaning for us, and are at bottom
concessions to the vulgarity of ordinary human existence, which
can give us no satisfaction. All that I still desire in this
world is a favourable mood and disposition for work, and I find
it difficult enough to protect these from the attack of
vulgarity. It is the same thing with you. But what astonishes me
and appears worthy of envy is that you can create so much.
A "Divina Commedia" it is to be? That is a splendid idea, and I
enjoy the music in anticipation. But I must have a little talk
with you about it. That "Hell" and "Purgatory" will succeed I do
not call into question for a moment, but as to "Paradise" I have
some doubts, which you confirm by saying that your plan includes
choruses. In the Ninth Symphony the last choral movement is
decidedly the weakest part, although it is historically
important, because it discloses to us in a very naive manner the
difficulties of a real musician who does not know how (after hell
and purgatory) he is to represent paradise. About this paradise,
dearest Franz, there is in reality a considerable difficulty, and
he who confirms this opinion is, curiously enough, Dante himself,
the singer of Paradise, which in his "Divine Comedy" also is
decidedly the weakest part. I have followed Dante with deepest
sympathy through the "Inferno" and the "Purgatorio;" and when I
emerged from the infernal slough, I washed myself, as does the
poet, with the water of the sea at the foot of the Mountain of
Purgatory. I enjoyed the divine morning, the pure air. I rose
step by step, deadened one passion after the other, battled with
the wild instinct of life, till at last, arrived at the fire, I
relinquished all desire of life, and threw myself into the glow
in order to sink my personality in the contemplation of Beatrice.
But from this final liberation I was rudely awakened to be again,
after all, what I had been before, and this was done in order to
confirm the Catholic doctrine of a God Who, for His own
glorification, had created this hell of my existence, by the most
elaborate sophisms and most childish inventions, quite unworthy
of a great mind. This problematic proof I rejected from the
bottom of my soul, and remained dissatisfied accordingly. In
order to be just to Dante I had, as in the case of Beethoven, to
occupy the historic standpoint; I had to place myself in Dante's
time and consider the real object of his poem, which, no doubt,
was intended to advocate a certain thing with his contemporaries-
-I mean the reform of the Church. I had to confess that in this
sense he understood marvellously well his advantage of expressing
himself in an infallible manner through means of popular and
generally accepted ideas. Before all, I cordially agreed with him
in his praise of the saints who had chosen poverty of their own
free-will. I had further to admire even in those sophisms his
high poetic imagination and power of representation, just as I
admire Beethoven's musical art in the last movement of his "Ninth
Sympthony." I had further to acknowledge, with deepest and most
sublime emotion, the wonderful inspiration through means of which
the beloved of his youth, Beatrice, takes the form in which he
conceives the Divine doctrine; and in so far as that doctrine
teaches the purification of personal egoism through love, I
joyfully acknowledge the doctrine of Beatrice. But the fact that
Beatrice stands, as it were, on the chariot of the Church, that,
instead of pure, simple doctrine, she preaches keen-witted
ecclesiastic scholasticism, made her appear to me in a colder
light, although the poet assures us that she shines and glows for
ever. At last she became indifferent to me; and although as a
mere reader I acknowledge that Dante has acted appropriately, in
accordance with his time and his purpose, I should as a
sympathetic co-poet have wished to lose my personal
consciousness, and indeed all consciousness, in that fire. In
that manner I should, no doubt, have fared better than even in
the company of the Catholic Deity, although Dante represents it
with the same art with which you, no doubt, will endeavour to
celebrate it in your choruses. I faithfully record to you the
impression which the "Divine Comedy" has made upon me, and which
in the "Paradise" becomes to my mind a "divine comedy" in the
literal sense of the word, in which I do not care to take part,
either as a comedian or as a spectator. The misleading problem in
these questions is always How to introduce into this terrible
world, with an empty nothing beyond it, a God Who converts the
enormous sufferings of existence into something fictitious, so
that the hoped-for salvation remains the only real and
consciously enjoyable thing. This will do very well for the
Philistine, especially the English Philistine. He makes very good
terms with his God, entering into a contract by which, after
having carried out certain points agreed upon, he is finally
admitted to eternal bliss as a compensation for various failures
in this world. But what have we in common with these notions of
You once expressed your view of human nature to the effect that
man is "une intelligence, servie par des organes." If that were
so, it would be a bad thing for the large majority of men, who
have only "organs," but as good as no "intelligence," at least in
your sense. To me the matter appears in a different light, viz.,-
Man, like every other animal, embodies the "will of life," for
which he fashions his organs according to his wants; and amongst
these organs he also develops intellect, i.e., the organ of
conceiving external things for the purpose of satisfying the
desire of life to the best of his power. A NORMAL man is
therefore he who possesses this organ, communicating with the
external world (whose function is perception, just as that of the
stomach is digestion) in a degree exactly sufficient for the
satisfaction of the vital instinct by external means. That vital
instinct in NORMAL man consists in exactly the same as does the
vital instinct of the lowest animal, namely, in the desire of
nourishment and of propagation. For this "will of life," this
metaphysical first cause of all existence, desires nothing but to
live—that is, to nourish and eternally reproduce itself—and
this tendency can be seen identically in the coarse stone, in the
tenderer plant, and so forth up to the human animal. Only the
organs are different, of which the will must avail itself in the
higher stages of its objective existence, in order to satisfy its
more complicated, and therefore more disputed and less easily
obtainable, wants. By gaining this insight, which is confirmed by
the enormous progress of modern science, we understand at once
the characteristic feature of the life of the vast majority of
men, and are no longer astonished because they appear to us
simply as animals; for this is the NORMAL essence of man. A very
large portion of mankind remains BELOW this NORMAL stage, for in
them the complicated organ of perception is not developed even up
to the capability of satisfying normal wants; but, on the other
hand, although of course very rarely, there are ABNORMAL natures
in which the ordinary measure of the organ of perception—that
is, the brain—is exceeded, just as nature frequently forms
monstrosities in which ONE ORGAN is developed at the expense of
the others. Such a monstrosity, if it reaches the highest degree,
is called GENIUS, which at bottom is caused only by an abnormally
rich and powerful brain. This organ of perception, which
originally and in normal cases looks outward for the purpose of
satisfying the wants of the will of life, receives in the case of
an abnormal development such vivid and such striking impressions
from outside that for a time it emancipates itself from the
service of the will, which originally had fashioned it for its
own ends. It thus attains to a "will-less"—i.e., aesthetic—
contemplation of the world; and these external objects,
contemplated APART FROM THE WILL, are exactly the ideal images
which the ARTIST in a manner fixes and reproduces. The sympathy
with the external world which is inherent in this contemplation
is developed in powerful natures to a permanent forgetfulness of
the original personal will, that is to a SYMPATHY with external
things for their own sake, and no longer in connection with any
The question then arises what we see in this abnormal state,
and whether our sympathy takes the form of COMMON JOY or COMMON
SORROW. This question the true MEN OF GENIUS and the true SAINTS
of all times have answered in the sense that they have seen
nothing but SORROW and felt nothing but COMMON SORROW. For they
recognized the NORMAL state of all living things and the
terrible, always self-contradictory, always self-devouring and
blindly egotistic, nature of the "will of life" which is common
to all living things. The horrible cruelty of this will, which in
sexual love aims only at its own reproduction, appeared in them
for the first time reflected in the organ of perception, which in
its normal state had felt its subjection to the Will to which it
owed its existence. In this manner the organ of perception was
placed in an abnormal sympathetic condition. It endeavoured to
free itself permanently and finally from its disgraceful serfdom,
and this it at last achieved in the perfect negation of the "will
This act of the "negation of will" is the true characteristic of
the saint, which finds its last completion in the absolute
cessation of personal consciousness; and all consciousness must
be personal and individual. But the saints of Christianity,
simple-minded and enveloped in the Jewish dogma as they were,
could not see this, and their limited imagination looked upon
that much-desired stage as the eternal continuation of a life,
freed from nature. Our judgment of the moral import of their
resignation must not be influenced by this circumstance, for in
reality they also longed for the cessation of their individual
personality, i.e., of their existence. But this deep longing is
expressed more purely and more significantly in the most sacred
and oldest religion of the human race, the doctrine of the
Brahmins, and especially in its final transfiguration and highest
perfection, Buddhism. This also expounds the myth of a creation
of the world by God, but it does not celebrate this act as a
boon, but calls it a sin of Brahma which he, AFTER HAVING
EMBODIED HIMSELF IN THIS WORLD, must atone for by the infinite
sufferings of this very world. He finds his salvation in the
saints who, by perfect negation of the "will of life," by the
sympathy with all suffering which alone fills their heart, enter
the state of Nirwana, i.e., "the land of being no longer." Such a
saint was Buddha. According to his doctrine of the migration of
souls every man is born again in the form of that creature on
which he had inflicted pain, however pure his life might
otherwise have been. He himself must now know this pain, and his
sorrowful migration does not cease, until during an entire course
of his new-born life he has inflicted pain on no creature, but
has denied his own will of life in the sympathy with other
beings. How sublime, how satisfying is this doctrine compared
with the Judaeo-Christian doctrine, according to which a man
(for, of course, the suffering ANIMAL exists for the benefit of
man alone) has only to be obedient to the Church during this
short life to be made comfortable for all eternity, while he who
has been disobedient in this short life will be tortured for
ever. Let us admit that Christianity is to us this contradictory
phenomenon, because we know it only in its mixture with, and
distortion by, narrow-hearted Judaism, while modern research has
succeeded in showing that pure and un-alloyed Christianity was
nothing but a branch of that venerable Buddhism which, after
Alexander's Indian expedition, spread to the shores of the
Mediterranean. In early Christianity we still see distinct traces
of the perfect negation of the "will of life," of the longing for
the destruction of the world, i.e., the cessation of all
existence. The pity is that this deeper insight into the essence
of things can be gained alone by the abnormally organised men
previously referred to, and that they only can fully grasp it. In
order to communicate this insight to others, the sublime founders
of religion have therefore to speak in images, such as are
accessible to the common normal perception. In this process much
must be disfigured, although Buddha's doctrine of the migration
of souls expresses the truth with almost perfect precision. The
normal vulgarity of man and the license of general egoism further
distort the image until it becomes a caricature. And I pity the
poet who undertakes to restore the original image from this
caricature. It seems to me that Dante, especially in the
"Paradise," has not succeeded in this; and in his explanation of
the Divine natures he appears, to me at least, frequently like a
childish Jesuit. But perhaps you, dear friend, will succeed
better, and as you are going to paint a TONE picture I might
almost predict your success, for music is essentially the
artistic, original image of the world. For the initiated no error
is here possible. Only about the "Paradise," and especially about
the choruses, I feel some friendly anxiety. You will not expect
me to add less important things to this important matter.
I shall soon write again; on the 26th I leave here, and shall
therefore have endured to the end. Farewell dear, dear Franz.
LONDON, June 7th, 1855.
ZURICH, July 5th, 1855.
Your late servant Hermann called on me today and told me that I
should have a letter from you one of these days, that you and the
Princess would come to Switzerland SOON (?), and a thousand other
I am longing for direct news from you. I have been back in Zurich
since June 3Oth, after having conducted my last London concert on
the 25th. You have probably heard how charmingly Queen Victoria
behaved to me. She attended the seventh concert with Prince
Albert, and as they wanted to hear something of mine I had the
"Tannhauser" overture repeated, which helped me to a little
external amende. I really seem to have pleased the Queen. In a
conversation I had with her, by her desire, after the first part
of the concert, she was so kind that I was really quite touched.
These two were the first people in England who dared to speak in
my favour openly and undisguisedly, and if you consider that they
had to deal with a political outlaw, charged with high treason
and "wanted" by the police, you will think it natural that I am
sincerely grateful to both.
At the last concert the public and the orchestra roused
themselves to a demonstration against the London critics. I had
always been told that my audiences were very much in my favour,
and of the orchestra I could see that it was always most willing
to follow my intentions, as far as bad habits and want of time
would allow. But I soon saw that the public received impressions
slowly and with difficulty, and was unable to distinguish the
genuine from the spurious, trivial pedantry from sterling worth,
while the orchestra—out of regard for its real master and despot
Costa, who can dismiss and appoint the musicians according to his
will—always limited its applause to the smallest and least
compromising measure. This time, at the leavetaking, it broke
through all restraint. The musicians rose solemnly, and together
with the whole thickly packed hall, began a storm of applause so
continuous that I really felt awkward. After that the band
crowded round me to shake hands, and even some ladies and
gentlemen of the public held out their hands to me, which I had
to press warmly. In this manner my absurd London expedition
finally took the character of a triumph for me, and I was pleased
at least to observe the independence of the public which this
time it showed towards the critics. A triumph in MY SENSE was, of
course, out of the question. In the best possible case I cannot
really be known in the concert room, and that best possible case-
-I mean performances fully realising my intentions—could not be
achieved, owing principally to want of time. In consequence, I
always retained a bitter feeling of degradation, increased by the
fact that I was compelled to conduct whole programmes of
monstrous length, and put together in the most tasteless and
senseless manner. That I did conduct these concerts to the end
was done entirely out of regard for my wife and a few friends,
who would have been grieved very much by the consequences of my
sudden departure from London. I am glad that the matter has been
carried through, at least with favourable appearances; with the
Queen I was really pleased, and to individual friends I have
given great pleasure; that must suffice. The New Philharmonic
would like to have me next year; what more can I desire?
One real gain I bring back from England—the cordial and genuine
friendship which I feel for Berlioz, and which we have mutually
concluded. I heard a concert of the New Philharmonic under his
direction, and was, it is true, little edified by his performance
of Mozart's "G. Minor Symphony," while the very imperfect
execution of his "Romeo and Juliet" symphony made me pity him. A
few days afterwards we two were the only guests at Sainton's
table; he was lively, and the progress in French which I have
made in London, permitted me to discuss with him for five hours
all the problems of art, philosophy, and life in a most
fascinating conversation. In that manner I gained a deep sympathy
for my new friend; he appeared to me quite different from what he
had done before. We discovered suddenly that we were in reality
fellow-sufferers, and I thought, upon the whole, I was happier
than Berlioz. After my last concert he and the other few friends
I have in London called on me; his wife also came. We remained
together till three o'clock in the morning, and took leave with
the warmest embraces. I told him that you were going to visit me
in September, and asked him to meet you at my house. The money
question seemed to be his chief difficulty, and I am sure he
would like to come. Let him know exactly when you will be here.
Klindworth was to play a concerto by Henselt yesterday at the
last New Philharmonic concert, conducted by Berlioz. I made the
acquaintance of Dr. Wylde, a good man, and was able to be of some
use to Klindworth in that small matter. I sincerely pity him. He
is much too much of an artist and a high-minded man, not to be
and always remain very unhappy in London. He should try something
On once more touching the Continent I felt a little better. The
air here suits me, and I hope soon to be again at my work, which
at last I gave up in London altogether. Of the "Valkyrie" you
will find little ready.
But when are you coming? If I may not expect you before
September, I shall go to Seelisberg till then, starting next
Monday, but if, as Hermann led me to hope, I receive a letter
before then, announcing your immediate arrival, I shall of course
be very happy to remain at Zurich.
Therefore let me soon hear from you. You have kept me waiting
long, which indeed I might have expected after my last letter
from London, for to communications of this kind your reply has
always been silence. But now you must relieve me of my
uncertainty as to your visit, which may at last be expected
shortly once more. I need scarcely tell you that I am looking
forward to it with great pleasure, and that our meeting will be
to me the only joy after long trouble.
I am expecting a letter from you with great impatience. Cordial
greetings in advance from your
Welcome in Zurich, dearest Richard, where I hope to see you at
the end of September or October.
My Hungarian journey is still somewhat uncertain, as, according
to the latest news, the cathedral will probably not be quite
finished this year. But in any case I shall come to you this
autumn, and shall let you know my arrival in Zurich a few weeks
in advance. The satisfactory close of your stay in London has
pleased me very much, and, as I know London, I think it would be
well if you were to go there again next season. About this and
some other business I shall tell you more when I see you.
In the meantime I am delighted at your friendly relations with
Berlioz. Of all contemporary composers he is the one with whom
you can converse in the simplest, openest, and most interesting
manner. Take him for all in all, he is an honest, splendid,
tremendous fellow; and, together with your letter, I received one
from Berlioz, in which he says amongst other things: "Wagner
will, no doubt, tell you all about his stay in London, and what
he has had to suffer from predetermined hostility. He is splendid
in his ardour and warmth of heart, and I confess that even his
violence delights me. It seems there is a fate against my hearing
his last compositions. The day when, at the demand of Prince
Albert, he conducted his 'Tannhauser' overture at the Hanover
Square Rooms, I was compelled at the same hour to attend a
horrible choral rehearsal for the New Philharmonic concert which
I had to conduct two days afterwards," etc.
And lower down: "Wagner has something singularly attractive to
me, and if we both have asperities, those asperities dovetail
into each other:"
(Berlioz's drawing is more brilliant than mine.)
Many thanks for your Dante letter. By way of answer, I hope to
show you the first half of my work at Zurich, together with some
other things which will illustrate my aims to you more distinctly
than anything I could tell you.
During the next few weeks I shall have to work at my "Prometheus"
choruses, which I want to publish soon, and for that purpose I
must write an entirely new score. For in the year 1850, when I
composed this work, I had too little time (scarcely a month), and
was too much occupied by the "Lohengrin" rehearsals to give it
the necessary finish. I have now kept in view the means of
performance more than before, and although the design and the
conception remain essentially unchanged, the whole thing will
have a better appearance. It is a similar process as in
sculpture, when the artist works in marble. Before the
performance a symphonic, and still more, a dramatic work exists,
so to speak, only in CLAY. I could easily illustrate this
comparison by the new score of your "Faust" overture, and by some
of the changes you have made in the "Flying Dutchman." Wait a
little, dearest Richard, and you will see what a lot of stuff,
and how much material for conversation I shall bring with me. The
end of last week I spent in Dresden, where I called upon our
friends, the Ritters. Sascha Ritter, our Weymar Court musician,
has been blessed with a little daughter, whose god-father I
shall have the honour to be. His mother-in-law has been staying
here for some weeks, and Johanna Wagner is expected in September.
Our theatrical affairs are in a critical condition. The
Intendant, Herr von Beaulieu, is going to leave, and the artistic
director, Marr, is also said to have sent in his resignation. I
do not trouble myself about these matters, and look forward with
perfect peace of mind to the solution of these somewhat
Gutzkow's call to Weymar, which the papers announced several
times, is not in itself unlikely, but will probably be delayed a
little, as nothing definite has, as yet, been done.
Farewell, and set to work at your "Valkyrie." Go up your
mountains, and bring the very skies down to your music. In
September, or at the latest, in October, we shall meet.
Your kindness and friendship for Klindworth have obliged me
particularly, and I ask you to continue them.
WEYMAR, July 11th, 1855.
P.S.—I shall remain here all the summer.
SEELISBERG, CANTON URI, July 22nd, 1855.
I think of nothing now but our meeting and being together. I am
glad you did not come sooner, because at present I should be able
to show you very little of the "Valkyrie," and I am pleased
therefore to have a good deal of time for the completion of the
score. By November I shall have finished, at least, the first two
acts, even the clean copy of them.
Consider this, and bear in mind that it will be a CLIMAX OF OUR
LIVES, for the sake of which all common things must be got over
and brought into order. I count upon your magnanimity.
Farewell for today. I send you many greetings from a longing
Your R. W.
You are my court business agent, once for all. Be kind enough to
forward, through the Weimar minister at Hanover, the enclosed
letter to the king as soon as possible. My theatrical agent,
Michaelson, has exceeded his legal rights by selling "Lohengrin"
to the Hanover theatre without asking me, and for a much smaller
sum than they had previously paid me for "Tannhauser" on my
direct application. The Intendant will not hear of my cancelling
the sale, and all that remains to me is to apply to the king
himself. You will take care of this, will you not?
Why did you not answer my last question?
One million greetings from
In spite of many attempts and inquiries backwards and forwards, I
have not found a sure way of obtaining a hearing from his
Majesty, the King of Hanover. It appears to me that the best
thing you can do in this matter is to write a few lines to
Joachim or, in case he should be absent on his travels, to
Capellmeister Wehner at Hanover, and to enclose your letter to
the king. I, for my part, cannot undertake this commission, as I
have no relations with Hanover just now, and should not like to
be responsible for a failure. Wehner (I am not quite certain as
to the spelling of his name) is on very good terms with the king,
and will be glad to be of service to you. It will be necessary,
however, that you should write to him a few lines direct, in
which please mention me. I herewith return your letter to the
king. Kindly excuse this delay; I was absent for several days,
and some other measures, which I thought had been taken for the
purpose, have come to nothing.
In November you will see me, and I agree to everything that is
agreeable to you. By then several of my scores will be in print,
which will make it easier for us to read them. During these last
months I have been occupied so much by visits, correspondence,
and business matters that I could scarcely devote a few hours to
my work. I am sometimes angry and wild at the ridiculous troubles
I have to go through, and long for our days at the Zeltweg.
Write to me later on when my visit will be most convenient to
you, in November or at Christmas?
The Princess and her daughter stayed several weeks at Berlin, and
for the last week they have been in Paris. I do not expect them
back here till the middle of September. In the meantime my son
Daniel—who at this year's concours at the "Lycee Bonaparte," as
well as in the "Concours General," again distinguished himself
and carried off several prizes—has arrived at the Altenburg.
One of these days you will receive from Bussenius, with whom you
were in correspondence before, your biography. It has been
written with the best intentions, and will probably be read far
and wide. Under the pseudonym of W. Neumann, Bussenius has edited
a biographical collection, "Die Componisten der neueren Zeit,"
for E. Balde of Cassel, and the success has been such that a
second edition of some of the volumes will soon be published. I
have asked Bussenius to send you the little book.
My friendly greetings to your wife. Do not forget your
MY DEAR FRANZ,
Your silence makes me very anxious. Whenever I look around me and
into my future, I see nothing that can rouse me, elate me,
comfort me, and give me strength and arms for the new troubles of
life except our meeting, and the few weeks you are going to
devote to me. If as to the exact time of that period of salvation
I expressed a wish to you, it was done with the care with which
one likes to realise beforehand a supreme blessing, well knowing
that it must be bought with long sadness, both before and after.
But perhaps you misunderstood me after all, and thought that,
apart from the happiness of seeing you again, I was looking for
something else, quite independent thereof, and this perhaps may
have made you angry. Let me know, in a few words, how things are,
and when you are coming. I should certainly like to show you as
much as possible of my "Valkyrie," and principally for that
reason I did not object to this delay of your much-desired visit.
In my present condition, however, I have little hope of gaining
much work by this gain of time. My mental disharmony is
indescribable; sometimes I stare at my paper for days together,
without remembrance or thought or liking for my work. Where is
that liking to spring from? All the motive power which, for a
time, I derived from my dreary solitude is gradually losing its
force. When I commenced and quickly finished the "Rhinegold," I
was still full of the intercourse with you and yours. For the
last two years all around me has grown silent, and my occasional
contact with the outer world is inharmonious and dispiriting.
Believe me, this cannot go on much longer. If my external fate
does not soon take a different turn, if I find no possibility of
seeing you more frequently, and of hearing or producing some of
my works now and then, my fountain will dry up, and the end be
near. It is impossible for me to go on like this.
You may imagine, then, how I look forward to your coming, and
what I must feel when suddenly I see myself forsaken by you.
Comfort me soon. After much trouble the first half of the
"Valkyrie," including a clean copy, has got finished. I should
like to show you the two acts complete, but am still waiting for
the real love of work. For the last week indisposition has
prevented me from doing anything, and if this goes on I almost
doubt whether I shall be able to finish this work from the
Your article about the "Harold" symphony was very beautiful, and
has warmed my heart. I shall write to Berlioz tomorrow; he must
send me his scores. HE will never know ME thoroughly; his
ignorance of German prevents this; he will always see me in vague
and deceptive outline. But I will honestly use my advantage over
him, and bring him nearer to me.
How are matters with you? I hear about you now and then, but you
Adieu! Imagine a very long sigh here.
I enclose a letter from T. Hagen, of New York, where he has been
settled for about a year, and does good work as a musician and
musical author. The letters in the "Leipzig Signale," signed
"Butterbrod," are his, and some time ago he published a volume
about music in its relation to social interests, the exact title
of which I cannot remember. He is a friend of Klindworth's, and
associates with your admirers and partisans. With Mason Brothers
I have some connection through William Mason, one of my pupils,
who lived eighteen months in Weymar. As far as I know, the firm
is SOLID and respectable.
Although I do not suppose that you will accept the offer of
conducting concerts in America during next winter, I ask you to
let me have an answer (addressed to me) soon, because I shall
wait for your letter concerning this matter, in order to forward
it to Hagen. A Beethoven musical festival in connection with the
inauguration of the Beethoven statue at Boston would not be
amiss, and the pecuniary result might be very favourable.
Johanna Wagner arrived here the day before yesterday, and she and
her parents will stay a week in Weymar with her sister, Frau
Ritter. I spent several hours with her last night.
"Tannhauser" is to be produced at Berlin in December.
How far have you got with the "Valkyrie?" I am looking forward to
our meeting in November.
The Princess and the Child are still in Paris. They study
carefully the exhibition of pictures, and see a good deal of
Scheffer, Delacroix, and other artistic notabilities, which suits
them exactly. About the 25th of this month I expect them here,
where, in the meantime, I am terribly bored by the load of
tedious things which are imposed upon me, and with the relation
of which I will not trouble you. On the 16th the theatre will be
opened with Nicolai's "Merry Wives." After that we shall have
"The Huguenots," "Cellini," and Verdi's "I Due Foscari."
"Lohengrin" will not be given just yet because Ortrud (Frau
Knopp) has left us, and the new prima donna, Fraulein
Woltendorff, will at least require three or four months to learn
the part. But as "Tannhauser" and the "Flying Dutchman" have
proved "draws," they will be sure to be thrashed out thoroughly.
I, for my part, am sick of the whole theatrical business, but I
am compelled, to stick to it in a half-and-half sort of way,
because, without me, things would probably be still worse.
Return Hagen's letter to me.
ZURICH, September 13th, 1855.
Your last but one letter, dear Franz, was the best answer to my
last, the two having crossed on the way. As to our final meeting
I use all the arts of an experienced voluptuary in order to get
the most out of it. As it has been delayed so long, I should
almost like to finish the whole "Valkyrie" previously. The
completion of this work, the most TRAGIC which I have ever
conceived, will cost me much, and I must think of recovering what
I have put into it by the most cheering impressions, and those
YOU ONLY can supply. The thought of being able to go with you
through this work also is my only hope of reward. I am quite
unable to deal with it on the piano to my own satisfaction. You
must introduce it to me. For that reason I am thinking of
delaying our meeting till I can go through THE WHOLE with you.
Thus my highest need has made an egoist of me. The first two acts
I hope to have finished and copied out at the end of October, the
whole by Christmas. You said in your last letter it would suit
you equally well to come either in November or at Christmas. This
induced me to curb my impatience to see you again till then, so
as to make it possible, by the most incessant industry, to place
the whole, completed and fairly copied, before you, including the
last act, which is so important to me. Must I then ASK you to
delay your visit till Christmas? It sounds absurd enough, but you
will understand my pedantry. If you agree, and if no further
delay will become necessary on that account, I shall send you the
first two acts for inspection at the end of October, and you can
bring them back with you.
What shall I say to you of this New York offer? I was told in
London that they intended to invite me. It is a blessing that
they do not offer me very much money. The hope of being able to
earn a large sum, say ten thousand dollars, in a short time,
would, in the great helplessness of my pecuniary position, compel
me, as a matter of course, to undertake this American expedition,
although even in that case it would perhaps be absurd to
sacrifice my best vital powers to so miserable a purpose, and, as
it were, in an indirect manner. But as a man like me has no
chance of a really lucrative speculation, I am glad that I am not
exposed to any serious temptation, and therefore ask you to thank
the gentlemen of New York very kindly, in my name, for the
unmerited attention they have shown me, and to tell them that,
"for the present," I am unable to accept their invitation. I
puzzle my head about the cause of the journey which the Princess
and the Child have taken to Paris; is it for amusement and
nothing else? Greet them both most cordially for me when they
return; could they not come with you to a poor devil in
Switzerland just as well as go to Paris? If you would let me
cater for you I could arrange matters very cheaply. At the "Hotel
(Pension) Baur au lac," where you stayed before, one can, during
the WINTER, have brilliant, large, and comfortable rooms for VERY
LITTLE. A family of my acquaintance occupied a whole floor there
last winter, and lived very well at a fabulously cheap rate. The
Wesendoncks are also staying there, and you might set up a
splendid, half-common MENAGE, which would be a great joke. Well,
the chief thing will be to have a good piano for our two selves,
and of that I will take care, although I cannot provide so
splendid an instrument as that which Erard sent me in London, and
for which I forgot to thank you. I believe if I had such an
instrument I should still learn to play the piano.
I am much annoyed about Hanover. I know of no way to address a
reclamation to the King. I have no faith in Wehner's
intercession. As a subordinate of Count P.'s, he can risk no step
which might compromise him with that official. But these are
disgusting things to write about. You also complain of troubles.
Tell me, why do not we live together? Must it be Weimar of all
places? Another time more about this. For today farewell, and let
me thank you for being in existence.
Over America I had forgotten Hanover, and must not omit once more
to point out Wehner to you as the best advocate of your claims
there. If the matter of the honorarium can be arranged according,
to your wish, he will be the most likely man to do it. From
Joachim I have heard nothing since the Dusseldorf festival.
Wehner lives at Hanover, and is in particular favour with His
Majesty, and he will be most eager to do you a little service if
you will ask him in a friendly manner.
At the end of December, about Christmas, I shall be with you.
Then we will feed like the gods on your "Rhinegold" and
"Valkyrie," and I, too, shall contribute some hors d'oeuvre.
WEYMAR, September 23rd, 1855.
Write to me, at the first opportunity, whether ten thousand or
twelve thousand dollars, with proper guarantee, would be a
sufficient honorarium if you were to act as conductor in America
for six months.
October 3rd, 1855.
Today, dearest Franz, I send you the two first acts of the
"Valkyrie" finished. It is a great satisfaction to me to place
them at once in your hands, because I know that no one
sympathises with my work as you do. I am anxious for the very
weighty second act; it contains two catastrophes, so important
and so powerful, that there would be sufficient matter for
two acts; but then they are so interdependent, and the one
implies the other so immediately, that it was impossible to
separate them. If it is represented exactly as I intend, and if
my intentions are perfectly understood, the effect must be beyond
anything that has hitherto been in existence. Of course, it is
written only for people who can stand something (perhaps in
reality for nobody). That incapable and weak persons will
complain, cannot in any way move me. You must decide whether
everything has succeeded according to my own intentions. I cannot
do it otherwise. At times, when I was timid and sobered down, I
was chiefly anxious about the great scene of Wotan, especially
when he discloses the decrees of fate to Brynhild, and in London
I was once on the point of rejecting the whole scene. In order to
come to a decision, I took up the sketch, and recited the scene
with proper expression, when, fortunately, I discovered that my
spleen was unjustified, and that, if properly represented, the
scene would have a grand effect even in a purely musical sense.
The manner of expression I have in places indicated very
accurately, but it still remains, and will indeed be my principal
task, to introduce a gifted singer and actor to the very core of
my intentions by means of personal communication. You, I firmly
hope, will find out the right thing at once. For the development
of the great tetralogy, this is the most important scene of all,
and, as such, it will probably meet with the necessary sympathy
If you should like nothing at all in my score, you will, at
least, be pleased once more with my neat hand-writing, and
will think the precaution of red lines ingenious. This
representation on paper will probably be the only one which my
work will achieve, for which reason I linger over the copying
I hope, more firmly than ever, to finish the last act by
Christmas. That you allow yourself to be ordered about by me is
too kind of you, and touches me deeply. In return, I promise to
behave very reasonably when you come. In the meantime I shall
nurse the feeble remnants of my voice in every way, and during
the last weeks before your arrival I shall try a few solfeggi, in
order to restore the overstrained and badly treated instrument to
a tolerable condition. Must I assure you once more, that I look
forward to our meeting with a sacred awe!
As far as we require society, it will not be unpleasant this
time. You probably know that Semper has been appointed here. I
take great pleasure in him—an artist through and through, and of
his nature more amiable than before, though still fiery. Carl
Ritter also will settle here. He pleases me better than ever. His
intellect is vast, and I do not know another young man like him.
He loves you sincerely, and understands you well.
Berlioz replied lately to a letter of mine, in which I had asked
him, amongst other things, to make me a present of all his
scores, if he could get them gratis. That he cannot do, because
his earlier publishers will give him no more free copies. I
confess that it would interest me very much to study his
symphonies carefully in full score. Do you possess them, and will
you lend them to me, or will you go so far as to give them to me?
I should accept them gratefully, but should like to have them
The Hanover business has been settled satisfactorily, the
Intendant having apparently seen the error of his ways. I thank
you for your well-intended advice with regard to Wehner, and
regret to have troubled you with this trumpery business.
America is a terrible nightmare. If the New York people should
ever make up their minds to offer me a considerable sum, I should
be in the most awful dilemma. If I refused I should have to
conceal it from all men, for every one would charge me in my
position with recklessness. Ten years ago I might have undertaken
such a thing, but to have to walk in such by-ways now in order to
live would be too hard,—now, when I am fit only to do, and to
devote myself to, that which is strictly my business. I should
never finish the "Nibelungen" in my life. Good gracious! such
sums as I might EARN in America, people ought to GIVE me, without
asking anything in return beyond what I am actually doing, and
which is the best that I can do. Besides this, I am much better
adapted to spend 60,000 francs in six months than to "earn" it.
The latter I cannot do at all, for it is not my business to "earn
money," but it is the business of my admirers to give me as much
money as I want, to do my work in a cheerful mood. Well, it is a
good thing, and I will take courage from the thought that the
Americans will make me no such offer. Do not you instigate it
either, for in the "luckiest" case it would be a great trouble to
me. Of your dear ones I never have any real news; I am frequently
asked, and do not know what to say. But you must greet them all
the more cordially for me, and, if you can, love me with all your
heart. Will you not? Adieu.
Your R. W.
And how about your great compositions? To know them at last is
worth a whole life to me. I have never looked forward with such
desire to anything. Let me know AT ONCE that my score has
arrived, so that I may not worry myself about it.
One word, dearest Franz, to say that my score has safely arrived!
I am anxious.
Your "Valkyrie" has arrived, and I should like to reply to you by
your "Lohengrin" chorus, sung by 1,000 voices, and repeated a
thousandfold: "A wonder! a wonder!"
Dearest Richard, you are truly a divine being, and it is my joy
to feel after you and to follow you.
More by word of mouth about your splendid, tremendous work, which
I am reading "in great inner excitement," to the horn rhythm,
page 40, in D:
[musical notation] The scores of Berlioz I possess, but have lent
them all to friends for the moment, and shall not be able to get
them back for some weeks.
About the middle of November I shall send you a parcel of them.
You will find in them much to please you.
The day after tomorrow I am going for a few days to Brunswick to
conduct, on the 18th instant, one of the Symphony Concerts given
by the orchestra there. For the 2lst, Sunday week, your "Flying
Dutchman" is announced here, and at the beginning of November
there will be a performance of "Tannhauser" in honour of several
Berlin people (Hulsen, Dorn, the operatic stage manager Formes,
etc.), who have announced their visit here. I shall send you an
account of it.
Go on with your "Valkyrie," and permit me to adapt the proverb,
"Quand on prend du galon, on n'en saurait trop prendre,"
to your case in the following manner:
"Quand on fait du sublime on n'en saurait trop faire, surtout
quand ce n'est qu'une question de nature et d'habitude!"
WEYMAR, October 12th, 1855.
November 16th, 1855.
Thank the Child a thousand times for her letter, and tell her
that I shall not send the album back till you return from here,
because I want to write something good in it which will not be
finished till then.
I must write many and reasonable things to the Princess, and that
I cannot do at present. So I remain in her debt also, but only to
satisfy her. She may see from this how much I value her letter.
I have not yet gone out into the air; but I am getting accustomed
to my room, and do not particularly long for our autumn mists. I
am doing a little work too. You are coming, are you not?
I should like to be silent till then and for ever, for whenever I
speak or write it is sure to be something stupid.
I am making a tentative effort to rise from the sick bed on which
I have lain again exactly three weeks.
Carl Ritter has informed you of my condition. The thorns of my
existence have now been supplemented by blooming "roses." I have
suffered from continual attacks of erysipelas in the face. In the
luckiest case I shall not be able to go out into the air this
year, and during the whole winter I shall live in continual fear
of relapses. For the slightest excitement, accompanied by the
least cold, may throw me back on my sick bed for two or three
weeks at any moment.
I am now reaping the fruit of my stupid postponement of your
visit, for I cannot possibly expect you to visit me in the
present uncertain state of my health. Anyhow, I thus relieve you
of the burden which a visit in this evil, hard winter would no
doubt have been to you. As concerns myself, nothing can make my
mood worse than it is. I am getting accustomed to all kinds of
trouble, and the disagreeable and the necessary and natural are
to me convertible terms.
I long for news of you, of which you are too chary.
As soon as I get better and am accustomed to sitting up I shall
write more. For today a thousand greetings to the Altenburg.
ZURICH, December 12th, 1855.
Chronos has made another step across all our heads. How can I
write to you, dear poet, without telling you of the kind wishes
which I and the Child entertain for you, and the desire we both
of us have of seeing you again in the course of 1856? I can
assure you that if fate were to send me a messenger with the
assurance of this, I should consider it the best New Year's gift,
although there are many things which I demand of it.
But one must hope—hope is a virtue. Is not this a beautiful
It gives us great pain to know that you are suffering. I would
accept double and treble the rheumatism which I have caught in
this climate, where we have eight months of bad weather, and not
four of fine, if I could secure you perfect liberty thereby.
Liszt is sad because his travelling plans are disarranged,
although he hopes to see you more at his ease another time. He
must be at Vienna at the beginning of January in order to conduct
a Mozart festival given for the centenary of the Master's
birthday; and as Berlioz is coming here at the beginning of
February, he will have to leave Vienna immediately afterwards.
The papers have no doubt informed you of his stay at Berlin,
where he will soon return to attend the first performance of
"Tannhauser," two rehearsals of which he almost entirely
conducted. Stupid people will not be silenced thereby. To poets
living in the tropical regions, where passion expands her
gigantic blossoms and her sidereal marvels, stupid people appear
like little gadflies which sometimes annoy them and draw blood by
their stings, but cannot disturb the enchantment of this
luxuriant nature. Liszt also has been honoured by a swarm of
these insects, which buzz with all the more noise and self-
sufficiency because they can make so little honey. He is quite
composed, and goes quietly on his way, only uttering occasionally
such BONMOTS as "They have cast me down, but I remain standing
none the less," or "What does it matter if other people do things
badly so long as I do them well?" etc., etc.; and so life goes
Write to me, dear poet, and do not always wait for a REASON; and
if you will give pleasure to my daughter send her for the New
Year the autograph for which she has asked you.
Embrace your wife for me, and convey to her my kindest wishes.
She ought to be sure of them, as indeed ought you. Have you
resumed the "Valkyrie?" The duet between Siegmund and Siegliende
has made me shed copious tears. It is as beautiful as love, as
the Infinite, as earth and the heavens.
December 23rdd, 1855.
Today I ought to be with you and prepare your Christmas tree,
where the rays and gifts of your genius should shine. And now we
are apart, you troubled with erysipelas, and I with all manner of
red roses grown in similar gardens. But this abominable FLORA
shall not delay the joy of our meeting too long.
You probably know that I have to go to Vienna, in January, to
conduct the Centenary Mozart Festival, which takes place on
January 27th, and will require at least a few weeks' preparation.
At the beginning of February I shall be back here. Berlioz is
coming on the 8th of February, and Johanna Wagner on the 20th.
Berlioz's "Faust" and "Cellini" will be given before the 16th,
and your niece is announced in three roles. As soon as this is
over I shall write to tell you when I can come to Zurich, but I
am afraid I shall have to wait for the summer.
At Berlin, where I stayed three weeks, I attended a few
pianoforte rehearsals of "Tannhauser," by invitation of Messrs.
von Hulsen and Dorn, and if the first performance is not delayed
after January 6th to 8th (for when it is announced), I shall be
able to send you a report of it as an eye and ear witness.
Johanna will sing and act Elizabeth beautifully, and Formes is
studying his part most conscientiously. Dorn has already had a
number of pianoforte and string rehearsals, and makes it a point
of honour to produce the work as correctly and brilliantly as
No doubt "Tannhauser" will become a "draw" at Berlin, which is
the chief thing, even for the composer, and I hope that the
CRITICAL treatment which I received at the hands of the critics
will redound to the credit of "Tannhauser," and that the
infallible impression of your work on the public will not be
impaired by carping notices. I shall write to you about this at
The day after tomorrow, Boxing-day, we shall have "Tannhauser"
here, which retains its position as a "draw," a distinction which
it shares at Weymar, with "Lohengrin" and "The Flying Dutchman."
Next spring "Lohengrin" is to be mounted again here. Up to the
present we still want an Ortrud, and, unfortunately, cannot get a
good one from elsewhere. The Leipzig one would, for example, be
quite useless, and the voice of Frau Knopp is still much impaired
by her late illness.
I am looking forward to "Lohengrin," that wonderful work, which,
to me, is the highest and most perfect thing in art—until your
"Nibelungen" is finished.
At Berlin, at Count Redern's, I heard a few pieces from
"Lohengrin" splendidly executed by several regimental bands, and
was reminded of our pompous entry into the "Drei Konige" of
Basle: Our new Weymar Union has adopted the entry of the trumpets
as its "Hoch," and I wish we could sing it to you in chorus soon.
Of my concert affairs, etc., I have nothing to tell you. When I
come to you I shall bring some of my scores with me. The rest
will not interest us much. With similar compositions, the only
question is, what is IN them? The publication I shall delay a few
months (although six numbers are already engraved), for the
reason that some of my EXCELLENT friends (an expression which
Kaulbach is fond of using for people who do not like him) had the
EXCELLENT intention of producing these things at once by way of a
WARNING EXAMPLE. That amiable intention I want to forestall by a
few performances under my own direction during the winter.
Try to get better again soon, and remember kindly
December 24th, 1855.
Best remembrances to Ritter.
I am again, or rather still, unwell and incapable of anything. I
was just going to write something in the album, so that the Child
might have it for the new year. But it will not do; my head is
too confused and heavy. I write to you only to tell you so; a
real letter I could not accomplish. Apart from this I have
nothing to tell you; I mean that I have no materials.
I should like to ask you, however, to return the two acts of the
"Valkyrie" to me at once before you start. I have at last found a
good copyist to whom I have promised work, and I am anxious to
have the copy finished soon,—perhaps for the same reason which
induces insects to place their eggs in safety before they die.
If I ever finish the last act I will send you the whole, although
you are so great a man of the world. Till then be of good cheer,
and remember that if you are abused you have willed it so. I also
rejoice in the FIASCO of my "Faust" overture, because in it I see
a purifying and wholesome punishment for having published the
work in despite of my better judgment; the same religious feeling
I had in London when I was bespattered with mud on all sides.
This was the most wholesome mud that had ever been thrown at me.
I wish you joy for the Vienna mud.
Adieu, and do your work well. Of your Christianity I do not think
much; the Saviour of the world should not desire to be the
conqueror of the world. There is a hopeless contradiction in this
in which you are deeply involved.
My compliments and thanks to the Princess, and tell the Child
that I was unable to manage it today. WHEN shall I? Heaven knows!
It is largely your own fault.
Adieu. I cannot say more, and have, moreover, talked nonsense
enough. Farewell, and enjoy yourself.
TO R. WAGNER, ZELTWEG, ZURICH.
Yesterday "Tannhauser." Excellent performance. Marvellous mise-
en-scene. Much applause. Good luck.
BERLIN, January 8th, 1856.
From Berlin I brought home so dreadful a cold that I had to go to
bed for a few days, and to delay my journey till this evening. I
have to supplement my Berlin telegram by the following notes:—
Johanna was beautiful to see and touching to hear as Elizabeth.
In the duet with Tannhauser she had some splendid moments of
representation, and her great scene in the finale she sang and
realised in an incomparable manner. Formes's intonation was firm,
pure, and correct, and there was no sign of fatigue in the
narration, where his sonorous, powerful voice told admirably.
Altogether Formes is not only adequate but highly satisfactory,
in spite of his small stature, which, especially by the side of
Johanna, somewhat interferes with the illusion. Herr Radwaner as
Wolfram, although not equal to our Milde, deserves much praise
for the neatness, elegance, and agreeable style of singing with
which he executed his part; and Madame Tuczek proved herself to
be an excellent musician and a well-trained actress, who may be
confidently intrusted with the most difficult part. Dorn and the
band took every pains to carry out your intentions, and the
orchestral performance was throughout successful, with the
exception of two wrong tempi, in the first chorus
[Here, Wagner illustrates with a 2-bar musical example.]
where you have forgotten to mark the tempo as piu moderato, that
is almost twice as slow as before, and in the G major passage
(before the ensemble in B major), which, in my opinion, was also
taken too fast, the rhythmical climax of the second part of the
finale being considerably impaired thereby.
The chorus had studied its part well, but it is much too weak for
Berlin, and in proportion to the vastness of the opera house,
scarcely more efficient than ours, which always gives me great
dissatisfaction. The stringed instruments, also, are not
sufficiently numerous, and should, like the chorus, be increased
by a good third. For a large place like this eight to ten double
basses, and fifteen to twenty first violins, etc., would
certainly not be too many at important performances. On the other
hand, the scenery and mounting of "Tannhauser" left nothing to be
desired, and I can assure you that never and nowhere have I seen
anything so splendid and admirable. Gropius and Herr von Hulsen
have really done something extraordinary and most tasteful. You
have heard, no doubt, that his Majesty the King had ordered the
decorations of the second act to be faithfully reproduced after
the designs for the restoration of the Wartburg, and that he had
sent Gropius to Eisenach for the purpose. The aspect of the hall
with all the historic banners, and the costumes taken from old
pictures, as well as the court ceremonial during the reception of
the guests by the Landgrave, gave me incredible pleasure, as did
also the arrangement of the huntsmen with their horns on the
hill, the gradual filling up of the valley by the gathering of
the hunt (four horses and a falcon bringing up the rear) in the
finale of the first act; and, finally, the fifteen trumpets in
the march of the second act
which blew their flourish from the gallery of the hall in a bold
and defiant manner.
I only hope, dearest Richard, that you will hear and see all this
before very long, and when I pay you a visit in the course of the
summer, we shall have some more talk about it.
Your last letter was very sad and bitter. Your illness must have
put you out still more, and, unfortunately, your friends can do
little to relieve you. If the consciousness of the most sincere
and cordial comprehension of, and sympathy with, your sufferings
can be of any comfort to you, you may rely upon me in fullest
measure, for I do not believe that there are many people in this
universe who have inspired another being with such real and
continual sympathy as you have me.
As soon as you are well again go to work and finish your
"Valkyrie." The first two acts I returned to you. You must sing
them to me at Zurich.
I have to ask you yet another favour today. Schlesinger, of
Berlin, is bringing out a new edition of the scores of Gluck's
overtures, which is dedicated to me, and he wishes to print your
close of the overture of "Iphigenia in Aulis" in addition to that
by Mozart. For that purpose he wants your special permission, and
has asked me to get it from you. If you have no objection to this
close—which has already been published in Brendel's paper—
appearing in this edition, be kind enough to give me your consent
in a few lines, and address your letter, "Hotel Zur Kaiserin von
Oestreich," Vienna, for which I start to-night.
I shall conduct the two concerts for the Mozart centenary
celebration on the 27th and 28th instant, and shall be back in
Weymar on February 4th.
Your speedy recovery and patience is the wish with all his heart,
dearest Richard, of
WEYMAR, January 14th, 1856.
ZURICH, January 18th, 1856.
My letter, dear Franz, you will have received at Vienna through
Gloggl. I once more put the question contained therein, and ask
you: Can you GIVE me the thousand francs, which would be still
better, and can you settle the same sum on me annually for two
years more? If you CAN, I know that you will willingly join with
those who keep me alive by their pecuniary assistance. My own
income is insufficient for the very expensive style of living
here, and every new year I am troubled by a deficit, so that I am
really no better off now than I was before. If it were not for my
wife you would see something curious, and I should be proud to go
about the world as a beggar; but the continual uncertainty, and
the miserly condition in which we live, affects my poor wife more
and more, and I can keep her mind at rest only by a certain
economical security. More of this when I see you. That I ask you
this question at the present moment when I am sick of life, and
would see the end of it today rather than tomorrow, you will
probably understand, when you realise that from the deepest
mental grief I am incessantly aroused to nothing but the mean
troubles of existence, this being my only change. I have no doubt
of your WILL, and believe even that it would give you pleasure to
belong to those from whom I receive a regular pension. It remains
to be asked only: Can you? I know that some time ago you were not
able, although even at that time you occasionally made real
sacrifices to assist me. Perhaps a change has taken place since
then, and on the chance of this "perhaps" I venture to trouble
you with my question.
One other matter I have to place before you. You remember that I
wrote to you some time ago that I had at last discovered here an
excellent and intelligent copyist for my musical manuscripts. To
him I gave, in the first instance, Klindworth's pianoforte score
of the "Valkyrie," and he brought me the first act beautifully
written; but his charge for the time employed, moderate enough
though I found it, appeared to me so high, that I could not
possibly afford the expense from my yearly income. I considered
what might be done, and found that, if I really went on with my
composition, I should have exactly three years' occupation for a
copyist This would include the copying of the full scores, the
pianoforte scores, and all the vocal and orchestral parts. If the
enterprise of the performance should in any way be accomplished,
three years' salary for a copyist might well be added to the
estimate of the costs, and the question would be whether one
could find, at this moment, a small number of shareholders who
would advance the necessary funds. I should have to engage my
amanuensis for exactly three years, and pay him an annual salary
of eight hundred francs. The only awkward part would be that I
should have to bind myself to furnish the compositions in this
given time. I might, however, as soon as I found myself unable to
continue, give notice to both shareholders and copyist. For one
year I have more than sufficient work for the copyist, and
whatever he had written might, in such a case, be handed over to
the shareholders as a security. I think that would be fair
enough. Kindly see, dearest Franz, whether you can manage this
for me. In the meantime I let him go on with the pianoforte
arrangement, but as soon as you are bound to give me a negative
answer I shall stop him, for, as I said before, I cannot bear
this expense from my housekeeping money.
It was an evil, evil fate that we did not see each other last
year. You must come soon, if POSSIBLE this SPRING. I feel that on
our meeting this time everything, everything depends. I am
continually at war with my health, and fear a relapse at every
moment. But let us leave this for today. We shall soon meet.
Many thanks for your letter from Berlin, received today. Alwine
Frommann writes to me every day, always in a great state of
anxiety about the positive and permanent success of "Tannhauser."
It appears that in over-witty and wholly unproductive Berlin
everything has to be born anew. "Kladderadatsch" was quite right
in taunting me with the fact that I had surrendered "Tannhauser"
to Berlin, solely for the sake of the royalties. That is so. It
is my fault, and I have to suffer for it as vulgarly as possible.
Very well, I suffer, but unfortunately I do not even get anything
Could I only bring back the state of things of four years ago!
Enough. It is my own fault, and it serves me right.
Try to be as little annoyed as possible at Vienna. I am anxious
to learn whether you will be at all satisfied.
Your letter has once more done me a great deal of good. Yes, dear
Franz, I trust in you, and I know that there is some higher
meaning in our friendship. If I could live together with you I
might do many fine things yet. Farewell, and be cordially thanked
for your glorious friendship.
I have no objection to my close of Gluck's "Iphigenia" overture
being used, seeing that I have already published it. It would be
advisable, however, that the overture should appear with the
correct tempi and some necessary marks of expression. Apart from
this, Herr Schlesinger, in his musical paper, might adopt a
pleasanter tone towards me in case Herr M. will permit him to do
My letters to Vienna seem to have put you in a very awkward
position. Forgive me, and do not punish me any longer by your
Before anything else in the world I ask you to pay me as soon as
possible the visit, which was so unfortunately postponed. My
desire to consult with you definitely about my future life has
reached a painful pitch, and my longing for you is unspeakable. I
am very unhappy.
March 21st, 1856.
At last I am able to tell you that you will receive one thousand
francs at the BEGINNING of May. When you wrote to me at Vienna
about this matter it was impossible for me to tell you anything
definite, and even now I am unable to undertake an ANNUAL
I am always sincerely sorry to have to tell you anything
disagreeable, and for that reason I waited for the moment when I
should be able to state that the aforesaid sum would be sent to
you. I have more than once explained to you my difficult
pecuniary situation, which simply amounts to this, that my mother
and my three children are decently provided for by my former
savings, and that I have to manage on my salary as Capellmeister
of one thousand thalers, and three hundred thalers more by way of
a present for the court concerts. For many years, since I became
firmly resolved to live up to my artistic vocation, I have not
been able to count upon any additional money from the music
publishers. My Symphonic Poems, of which I shall send you a few
in full score in a fortnight's time, do not bring me in a
shilling, but, on the contrary, cost me a considerable sum, which
I have to spend on the purchase of copies for distribution
amongst my friends. My Mass and my "Faust" symphony, etc., are
also entirely USELESS works, and for several years to come I have
no chance of earning money. Fortunately I can just manage, but I
must pinch a good deal and have to be careful not to get into any
trouble, which might affect my position very unpleasantly. Do not
be angry, therefore, dearest Richard, if I do not enter upon your
proposal, because for the present I can really not undertake any
regular obligations. If, which is not quite impossible, my
circumstances should improve later on, it will be a pleasure to
me to relieve your position.
About my journey to Zurich I can tell you nothing until I know
when the consecration of the Gran cathedral is to take place.
Some papers state that this solemnity will come off in the course
of September. In that case I shall come to you before, at the
beginning of August. As soon as I have official news I shall
write to you. In the meantime I must stay here. On April 8th, the
birthday of the Grand Duchess, I have to conduct "I due Foscari"
by Verdi, and at the end of April the performances of your niece
Unfortunately I missed Carl Ritter when he called; I had gone to
Gotha for that day to hear the Duke's opera "Tony." Carl Formes
sang the title part. I hope I shall see Carl at Zurich. Remember
me kindly to him. Through his sister Emilie you have probably had
news of our last "Lohengrin" performance, which went off very
well. Caspari sang "Lohengrin" much better than it had been heard
here before. The Princess of Prussia had asked for the
performance, and for want of a local Ortrud (Frau Knopp, who used
to sing the part here, has given up her engagement and gone to
Konigsberg) we had to write for Madame Marx, of Darmstadt, in all
haste. An overcrowded house and a most attentive public were
foregone conclusions. Berlioz was present.
Do you correspond with Counsellor Muller? He is sincerely
devoted to you, and well intentioned.
Dingelstedt, who was here lately, intends to give "Lohengrin"
next winter, and NOT BEFORE. Of the very DECIDED success of the
performance at Prague you have probably heard. Fraulein Stoger,
daughter of the manager there, sang Ortrud, and wrote me a letter
full of enthusiasm about the enthusiasm of the public and the
musicians. She was engaged at Weymar until last season.
Farewell, and be patient, dearest friend, and write soon to
March 25th, 1856.
Your letter has grieved me very much. Do you really think it
necessary to explain to me by an exact description of your
situation why you cannot comply with my request for new pecuniary
assistance? If you only knew how ashamed and humiliated I feel!
It is true that I applied elsewhere first, and then came back to
you, because the feeling of having to accept benefits from less
intimate friends frequently becomes absolutely unbearable to me.
This induced me to apply for assistance to you, who never allow
me to feel the deepest obligations in a painful sense. I thought,
of course, more of your protection and intercession than of a
sacrifice of your personal income, because I know sufficiently
well how limited your resources are. That I spoke in so
determined a manner was owing to the eccentric nature of my whole
situation, which makes everything concerning my most intimate
feeling take a violent form.
About this also I feel the absolute necessity of personal
communication with you. Everything here is so delicate, so finely
threaded, that it cannot be explained by letter. I want so much
patience to preserve courage and love of work in my precarious
position, that in my daily efforts to keep up that courage in
spite of my miserable circumstances, I can only gain a few
moments in which I am happy in my work, and forget all around me.
The reason is that delusive possibilities of escape continually
haunt my troubled imagination. But about this we must have some
Your offer of help in the circumstances in which you make it to
me has placed me in a painful position, and so much is certain,
that I cannot accept the sum which you promise to me for May in
order to make my life more pleasant. I must put my income on a
different basis, that is understood, and you will understand me
if I say so. If, on the other hand, you contrive to dispose of
that sum in my favour under conditions less troublesome to
yourself, I accept it for the purpose of meeting the expenses of
the copying of my scores and pianoforte arrangements, which is
very expensive here. I have already spent some money on it, and
the hole this has made in my income I must fill up somehow. I
certainly cannot go on paying for the copying with my own money.
I therefore undertake, for the sum already named, to have all the
scores and pianoforte arrangements of my "Nibelung" dramas
copied, and to place the copies at your disposal as your
property, assuming at the same time that you will kindly lend
them to me, as soon and as often as I want them. Are you
satisfied with this?
The copy of the "Rhinegold" is quite ready, and I expect it back
from London, together with Klindworth's arrangement. This
therefore, would be at your disposal at once. Of the pianoforte
arrangement of the "Valkyrie," the first two acts will be
finished very soon; the third act I recently sent to Klindworth.
Hoping that you will accept my proposal, I shall now have the
copy of the full score of the "Valkyrie" taken in hand, and this
also you can have as soon as it is finished, because Klindworth
works from my sketches of the parts. If at this moment you have
leisure, and wish to look at it, I will with pleasure let you
have the original score of the finished work for some time, and
shall occupy the copyist with the pianoforte arrangement of the
"Rhinegold" which I expect very soon. I am very anxious to know
how the last act will please you, for, besides you, there is
really no one to whom I could show it with any satisfaction. I
have succeeded, and it is probably the best thing I have written.
It contains a terrible storm of the elements and the hearts,
which is gradually calmed down to the miraculous sleep of
Brynhild. What a pity you will be far from me for so long! Could
you not pay me a short flying visit soon?
And am I at last to see some of your new compositions? Their
arrival and entry into my home shall be blessed. I have desired
to see them ever so long.
Had you nothing more to tell me about Berlioz? I was expecting to
hear a great deal of him. And cannot you send me any of his
scores? I am, as you may imagine, making a pause in my work now.
I am waiting to see what my health will do; my doctor wants to
send me to some watering place, but to this I will not, and
cannot agree. If I knew how to manage it I should go with Semper
to Rome in the autumn. We frequently talk about it, always in the
silent hope that you might be one of the party. Here you have my
latest whim. A thousand greetings to the Princess and her
daughter. She has written me a very cheerful and friendly letter,
for which I am deeply obliged to her. I ask you fervently,
dearest friend, not again to keep me waiting for a letter so
long. Write to me soon and at some length, as we are not going to
meet just yet.
Farewell, and continue to love me.
MY DEAR FRANZ,
Before taking any steps with regard to my amnesty, I must, once
more, take counsel with you, and as this is impossible by word of
mouth, as I should have wished, it must be done by letter as
briefly as possible.
From Prague the Director of Police there, Baron von Peimann, sent
me the advice that I should become a Swiss citizen. In that case
the Austrian minister would give his vise to my passport for all
the Imperial states, and I might then reside there without being
disturbed, for if Saxony should claim me, the reply would be that
no Saxon subject of the name of R. W. was known. This would give
me some air at least in one direction, and although not much
would be gained by it, I might make use of it if there were an
intention of performing "Tannhauser" at Vienna, which opera I
should let them have there only on condition of my conducting it
personally. It is of course more important to me to be allowed to
return to Germany proper, not in order to reside there
permanently, for I can thrive only in the retirement which I can
best secure in a little quiet place in Switzerland, but in order
to be present now and then at an important performance,
especially of "Lohengrin," and to gain the necessary excitement,
without which I must perish at last. I am FIRMLY RESOLVED not to
allow "Lohengrin" to be given at either Berlin or Munich WITHOUT
ME. A performance of my "Nibelungen" can of course not be thought
of, unless I have the permission to travel through Germany so as
to gain a knowledge of the acting and singing materials at the
theatres. Finally I feel the absolute necessity of living, at
least part of every year, near YOU, and you may be assured that I
should make a more frequent and more constant use of the
possibility of visiting you than you do. To gain all this has now
become a matter of the greatest importance to me, and I cannot go
on living without at last and quickly taking a decisive step in
that direction. I am therefore determined to apply to the King of
Saxony for my amnesty in a letter in which I shall candidly own
my rashness, and at the same time explicitly state that my
promise, never and in no manner to meddle with politics, comes
from my very heart. The drawback to this is that, if the other
side were ill-inclined, my letter might easily be published in
such a manner that I should be compelled to protest publicly
against a false and humiliating explanation of my step, and this
would lead to a permanent breach, which would make reconciliation
impossible. Taking all this into account, I must think it the
best thing if my request were laid before the King by word of
mouth, through a third person. To satisfy me completely, and give
me a chance of success, this could only be done by you, dear
Franz. Therefore I ask you plainly, Will you undertake to demand
an audience of the King of Saxony on the strength of a letter
from the Grand Duke of Weimar? What you should say to the King at
such an audience I need not indicate, but we surely agree that in
asking for my amnesty stress should be laid upon my ARTISTIC
NATURE. On account of that nature and of my individual character
as an artist, my startling political excess can alone be
explained and excused, and the reasons for my amnesty should be
considered in the same light. With regard to that excess and to
its consequences, which have continued for several years, I am
ready to admit that I appear to myself as one who was in error
and led away by passion, although I am not conscious that I have
committed a real crime, which would come under a judicial
sentence, and I should therefore find it difficult to plead
guilty to such a crime. Concerning my conduct in the future, I
should be prepared to make any binding promise that could be
desired of me. I should only have to announce the modified and
clearer view which makes me look upon the affairs of this world
in a light in which I did not see them previously, and which
induces me to confine myself to my art, without any reference to
political speculation. You might also point out that my
reappearance in Germany could in no circumstances give rise to a
demonstration which, although it might be meant for the artist
only, could be explained and applied in a political sense by
evil-disposed persons. Fortunately I have, as AN ARTIST, reached
such a stage that I need consider only my works of art and their
success, but no longer the applause of the multitude. I would
therefore promise, with the greatest determination and quite in
accordance with my own wishes, to avoid every public
demonstration of sympathy which might be offered to me, even as
an artist, such as complimentary dinners and the like. These I
should most positively decline, and indeed make them, as far as
would be in my power, impossible by the mode of my sojourn in
various places. I should not even insist upon conducting the
performance of any of my operas in person. All I should care for
would be to secure a correct rendering on the part of the artists
and the conductor by my presence at the rehearsals. If, for the
purpose of avoiding any possible demonstration, it should be
thought necessary, I should be prepared to leave the town after
the completion of the rehearsals and before the performance,
which would show clearly enough what is alone of importance to
me. In addition to this, I will undertake to avoid in my
writings, even of a purely artistic nature, such combative
expressions open to misapprehension as may have escaped me
formerly in my irritability. Considering all these declarations,
the future need be dealt with no longer, only the past. And over
that it would be well, in the case of an artist, to throw the
veil of forgetfulness, not to make it a cause for revenge. All
this you might in conversation explain in a much more
comprehensive and conciliatory manner than I could do by letter,
especially in a petition for amnesty.
I therefore ask you most fervently, perform this great service of
friendship for me. Sacrifice to me the two days which a visit to
Dresden would cost you, and explain the matter with that emphasis
which alone can avail. From no other measure can I expect a
definite and positive result. You alone can speak for me in the
manner which is required. If, for special reasons, you should
refuse my demand, it would only remain to me to write to the King
myself, and in that case we should have to consider by whom my
letter could be forwarded to the King, perhaps through the Weimar
ambassador. In case the King should refuse my request I might
fall back upon the intercession of one of the Prussian ministers,
which has been offered to me for that purpose. But I rely little
on that, while I expect everything from you and your personal
pleading. Be good enough then to let me know soon what I had
Farewell, and accept the cordial greetings of your
ZURICH, April 13th, 1858.
Perhaps you might on the same occasion hand a copy of my
"Nibelungen" poem to the King.
I have not neglected the steps for your return to Germany.
Unfortunately my late efforts and endeavours have not as yet led
to a favourable result, which proves by no means that such may
not be the case in the future. Your hint about the roundabout
way, viz., Prague, I believe to be an illusion which you ought
not to cherish, because it might lead to the most dangerous
The only thing that I can advise, and which I most urgently
request you to do, is to send at once your petition to His
Majesty the King of Saxony.
The stage into which this affair has got makes such a step
absolutely necessary, and you may be sure that I should not urge
you to it if I were not firmly convinced that your return to
Germany cannot be brought about in any other way. As you have
already told me that you would write to the King, I feel sure
that you will do so without delay. Send me a copy of your letter
to the King. You should, in the first instance, ask for an
amnesty to the extent only THAT YOU MIGHT BE PERMITTED TO HEAR
YOUR WORKS AT WEYMAR, because this would be necessary for your
intellectual development, and because you felt sure that the
Grand Duke of Weymar would receive you in a kindly spirit. It
breaks my heart to have to prescribe such tedious methods, but
believe me, in that direction lies your only way to Germany. When
you have once been here for a few weeks the rest will be easily
arranged, and I shall give you the necessary information in due
In the meantime we must have patience and again patience.
Take heart of grace in the hope which I have by no means
abandoned, that we shall see you here.
Johanna has been here this last week, and has sung Orpheus and
Romeo with the MOST ENORMOUS applause.
I shall have to tell you many things about her when we meet.
By this post you receive the three first numbers of my Symphonic
Poems, which have just been published.
Your last letter found me again on a sick bed. Today I am
scarcely recovered, and fear another relapse; that is how I am.
Today I received the second instalment of your Symphonic Poems,
and I feel all of a sudden so rich that I can scarcely believe
it. Unfortunately it is only with great difficulty that I can
gain a clear conception of them. This would be done with
lightning rapidity if you could play them to me. I am looking
forward with the eagerness of a child to studying them. If I
could only be well again!
(Do you want the third act of the "Valkyrie?" My copyist works so
slowly that there will be plenty of time for you to let me know
your wishes. The copy of the full score of the "Rhinegold" I
expect back from Klindworth before long, and shall send it to
I am going to take a purgative in order to avoid the return of my
illness. I wish I could, instead, start for Purgatory at once.
Adieu. A thousand thanks for your friendship.
MORNEX, near GENEVA, July 12th, 1856.
MY DEAR FRANZ,
I have flown, as you see, to this place in order to seek final
recovery. I could not help laughing when the excellent Princess,
with much sorrow and sympathy, announced the impending arrival of
the M. family at Zurich. From evils of that kind I am safe. No
outsider can know approximately what troubles and tortures people
of our stamp suffer when we sacrifice ourselves in the
intercourse with heterogeneous strangers. These tortures are all
the greater because no one else can understand them, and because
the most unsympathetic people believe that we are in reality like
themselves; for they understand only just that part of us which
we really have in common with them, and do not perceive how
little, how almost nothing that is. To repeat it, the tortures of
this kind of intercourse are positively the most painful of all
to me, and I am only intent upon keeping to myself. I force
myself to solitude, and to achieve this is my greatest care. When
I was on the point of taking flight, at the end of May,
Tichatschek suddenly called on me. This good man, with his
splendid, childlike heart, and his amiable little head, was very
agreeable to me, and his enthusiastic attachment to me did me
good. I was specially pleased with his voice, and tried to
persuade myself that I still had confidence in it.
I wanted to take him to Brunnen, but bad weather delayed our
purpose; still we risked it after all, when the carriage drive
brought me another attack of erysipelas in the face—the TWELFTH
this winter. I had foreseen all this, and therefore during
Tichatschek's stay of twelve days, was in a state of continual,
painful anxiety. This abominable illness has brought me very low.
In the month of May alone I had three relapses, and even now not
an hour passes without my living in fear of a new attack. In
consequence, I am unfit for anything, and it is obvious that I
must think of my thorough recovery. For that purpose a painfully
strict regime with regard to diet and general mode of life is
required; the slightest disorder of my stomach immediately
affects my complaint. What I want is absolute rest, avoidance of
all excitement and annoyance, etc.; also Carlsbad water, certain
warm baths later on cold ones, and the like. In order to get away
from home as far as possible, and to avoid all temptation to
social intercourse, I have retired here, where I have found a
very convenient refuge. I live at two hours' distance from
Geneva, on the other side of Mont Saleve, halfway from the top,
in splendid air. At a Pension I discovered a little summer-house,
apart from the chief building, where I live quite alone. From the
balcony I have the most divine view of the whole Mont Blanc
range, and from the door I step into a pretty little garden.
Absolute seclusion was my first condition. I am served
separately, and see no one but the waiter. A dear little dog, the
successor of Peps, Fips by name, is my only company. ONE thing I
had to concede in return for the favour of possessing this garden
salon; every Sunday morning from nine till twelve I have to turn
out. At that hour a clergyman comes from Geneva and performs
divine service for the Protestants of this place, in the same
locality which I, a godless being, occupy for the rest of the
time. But I willingly make this sacrifice, were it only for the
sake of religion. I fancy I shall meet with my reward. But the
thing is frightfully dear, and without your subsidy I could not
have undertaken this expedition. I have had to make an inroad
into the money which I had destined for the copying of the
scores; I could not help it. The money from Vienna arrived
exactly on my birthday; accept my cordial thanks for this
sacrifice. I know it is infamous that you have to give me money;
why do you do it? On the same occasion I was gratified by a few
very friendly lines from your relative, of whose existence I was
not aware; they somewhat sweetened the bitterness of having to
take money from you. Remember me to him, and thank him cordially
in my name.
A piano, although not of the first order, stands in my salon. I
hope I shall soon have the courage to begin my "Siegfried" at
last, but first of all I must take your scores thoroughly in
hand. How many things you have sent me! I had been longing to
have, at last, some of your new works; but now this wealth almost
embarrasses me, and I shall require time to take in everything
properly. For that purpose it would, of course, be necessary for
me to hear your poems, or for you to play them to me. It is very
well to read something of that kind, but the real salt, that
which decides and solves all doubts, can only be enjoyed by
actual hearing. In that terrible month of May I was able only to
look at your scores with a tired eye, and as through dark clouds;
but even then I received the electric shock, which none but great
things produce on us, and so much I know that you are a wonderful
man, by whose side I can place no other phenomenon in the domains
of art and of life. So much was I struck by your conception, and
by the design of your execution in its larger outlines, that I at
once longed for something new—the three remaining pieces, and
"Faust" and "Dante." There you see what I am. Without having made
myself acquainted with the finer details of the artistic
execution proper I wanted to go on, probably because I had to
despair of recognizing these without hearing them. For nothing is
more misleading and useless than to attempt this by a laborious,
halting and blundering performance on the piano, while an
excellent and expressive execution in the right tempo at once
produces the right picture in its varied colours. That is why you
are so fortunate in being able to do this with supreme
excellence. If I look upon your artistic career, different as it
is from any other, I clearly perceive the instinct which led you
into the path now trodden by you. You are by nature the genuine,
happy artist who not only produces, but also represents. Whatever
formerly, as a pianist, you might play, it was always the
personal communication of your beautiful individuality which
revealed entirely new and unknown things to us, and he only was
able and competent to judge you to whom you had played in a happy
mood. This new and indescribably individual element was still
dependent on your personality, and without your actual presence
it did, properly speaking, not exist. On hearing you one felt
sad, because these marvels were to be irretrievably lost with
your person, for it is absurd to think that you could perpetuate
your art through your pupils, as some one at Berlin boasted
lately. But nature, by some infallible means, always takes care
of the permanent existence of that which she produces so seldom
and only under abnormal conditions; and she showed you the right
way. You were led to perpetuate the miracle of your personal
communication in a manner which made it independent of your
individual existence. That which you played on the piano would
not have been sufficient for this purpose, for it became only
through means of your personal interpretation what it appeared to
us to be; for which reason, let me repeat it, it was frequently
indifferent what and whose works you played. You, therefore,
without any effort, hit upon the idea of replacing your personal
art by the orchestra, that is, by compositions which, through the
inexhaustible means of expression existing in the orchestra, were
able to reflect your individuality without the aid of your
individual presence. Your orchestral works represent to me, so to
speak, your personal art in a monumental form; and in that
respect they are so new, so incomparable to anything else, that
criticism will take a long time to find out what to make of them.
Ah me! all this seems very awkward and open to misunderstanding
in a letter; but when we meet I think I shall be able to tell you
many new things which you have made clear to me. I hope I shall
have the necessary leisure and sufficient lucidity of expression.
For that purpose I want good health; for, failing this, I always
lapse into that fatal irritability which frustrates everything,
and always leaves the best things unsaid. For the same reason,
and because our meeting is to me, as it were, the goal for which
I strive as the one desirable end, my only care now is the
perfect recovery of my health. Let us hope that my efforts and
many sacrifices will lead me to it. I shall take care to send you
accounts at frequent intervals. My amnesty is of importance to me
for this reason ONLY, that in the case of success my way to you
would always lie open; if it is granted to me you will have to
put up with me for some time next winter.
Franz Muller has congratulated me on my birthday in a very
touching manner. I cannot write to him today, but I ask you to
give him the news I send you, and to assure him that his
friendship is a great boon to me. In case he cannot accompany you
when you visit me, I hope to become thoroughly acquainted with
him at your house in the autumn, if only the Saxon Minister of
Justice will listen to reason. Even his intention of visiting me
has made me very happy.
A thousand cordial thanks for the letter of the dear Princess,
who soon will have to take the title of private secretary. My
best greetings to ALL.
The splendid air and the quiet sympathetic surroundings which I
have been enjoying for two days have already cheered me up a
little, and I begin to have hopes of perfect health.
Farewell, my dearest, my only friend. For heaven's sake, do not
be so chary of your communications.
When we compare letters some day, I shall appear a veritable
babbler by the side of you; while you, on the other hand, will
make a noble show as a man of deeds. But, dearest Franz, a little
confidential talk is not to be despised. Take note of this, you
Farewell, and write to me soon. I shall once more have a good go
at your scores, and hope to get well into them. My address is
still Poste restante, Geneve.
Your "Mazeppa" is terribly beautiful; I was quite out of breath
when I read it for the first time. I pity the poor horse; nature
and the world are horrible. I would really rather write poetry
than music just now; it requires no end of obstinacy to stick to
one thing. I have again two splendid subjects which I must
execute. "Tristan and Isolde," you know, and after that the
"Victory," the most sacred, the most perfect salvation. But that
I cannot yet tell you. For the final "Victory" I have another
interpretation than that supplied by Victor Hugo, and your music
has given it to me, all but the close; for greatness, glory, and
the dominion of nations I do not care at all.
My Hungarian journey has, during the last three weeks, become
unexpectedly a doubtful matter, and I did not like, dearest
Richard, to write to you before I could tell you something more
definite; for the time of my visit must be arranged according to
that journey taking or not taking place. The consecration of Gran
cathedral is fixed for August 31st, and in case I go there to
conduct my Mass, I should be with you in Zurich about September
15th or 20th; but if I am relieved of that duty I shall be at
Zurich about the end of August. I hope to know by the end of next
week what has been settled, and shall then ask the Princess to
let you know particulars. In the meantime, albeit used to
waiting, I did not care to wait any longer before I told you that
I am an hungered and athirst for being together with you, and
going through our programme of NONSENSE; the hors d'oeuvre
(which, as you know, have the quality of exciting both hunger and
thirst) of your feast of "Rhinegold" and "Valkyrie" will be my
symphony to Dante's "Divina Commedia," which will belong to you
and was finished yesterday. It takes a little less than an hour
in performance, and may amuse you.
After that you will speak to me about your VICTORY, the most
sacred, the most perfect salvation….What will it be? The few
hints in your last letter have made me very curious to know the
Your amnesty business will, for the present, remain in statu quo,
but I hope you will come to me next winter, and am preparing your
rooms at Altenburg. Speak to no one about it. I shall tell you
what I have heard when I see you. Before all, take care of your
health, and do all you can so that more rosy aspects may open
before you than the roses which erysipelas has painted on your
face. Unfortunately, with regard to external matters, I cannot
present you with many rosy things, although, as far as
appearances go, I am counted amongst the happy. It is true I am
happy, as happy as a child of this earth can be. I may confess
this to you, because you know the infinite self-sacrifice and
invincible love which have supported my whole existence for the
last eight years. Why need I be disturbed by other troubles? All
else is only the peace-offering for my exalted happiness.
Do not reproach me any longer for not telling you anything about
myself, for in these words I confide to you the secret of my
Forgive me for not having written to you so long; the Hungarian
troubles, caused by my Mass, were at fault. Let me know soon
whether you are back at Zurich, and whether my coming to you
about the end of August or the middle of September will suit you.
You will receive more definite news before long. You have
probably seen in the newspapers that Herr and Frau Milde sang the
duet from the Dutchman at the Magdeburg Musical Festival
excellently, and with splendid success. At the rehearsal I made
the horns repeat several times, till at last they succeeded in
pulsating tenderly and passionately. The critic of the Magdeburg
"Although we were at first not sorry that Wagner's name did not
appear in the programme, it was very interesting to hear this
scene sung by the two Mildes, who have studied these compositions
under the direction of Herr Liszt, the chief representative of
the Wagner movement. Both sang beautifully, and in many passages,
especially in the second half, with overpowering beauty. We close
our notice with the words of the duet, 'We were conquered by a
Criticisms in the newspapers remind me of A., whom, during my
stay at Berlin, I found in the most touching state of anxiety
about the notices of the performance of "Tannhauser" that might
be published by the Berlin press. Highly estimating, as I do, her
friendship for you, which also keeps up a kind of amiable feeling
between us two, I could not avoid offending her a little by my
indifference. Again, during her last stay here, about three weeks
ago, she excited me to a few bad jokes by the enthusiastic
interest with which she attended a performance of Auber's "Le
Macon" at the theatre here. She was indeed near being seriously
offended by my bad jokes at the many-sidedness of taste, or
rather, the want of taste, shown by her veneration for this
musique de grisettes. When an occasion offers I will try to make
it up with her.
I have only too many opportunities of experiencing what you so
justly say of the troubles and inconveniences which arise to us
from intercourse with heterogeneous persons, although I may boast
of possessing a thicker and more impenetrable skin, and a much
larger portion of patience, than you.
For today I must not tax your patience any more by gossip of this
kind. In a few weeks we shall communicate without the aid of ink
and paper, which is the real and wholesome thing for us.
Perhaps the Princess will accompany me to Zurich this time.
MORNEX, NEAR GENEVA, July 2Oth, 1856.
You may easily imagine, dearest Franz, how delighted I was by
your letter. Sometimes I grow anxious about you when I do not see
you or have proper news from you for such a long time; I always
think then that you care for me no longer. I shall not write to
you anything rational now, for your letter can be answered only
by word of mouth. God knows, I castigate my flesh by this cure
chiefly in order to be quite well when we meet at last. As
regards my health, I could not have done better than place myself
under the immediate guidance and supervision of an excellent
French physician, Dr. Vaillant, who conducts a hydropathic
establishment here. I conquered my first aversion to the course
when I recognized the valour of this Parisian Vaillant. I go
thoroughly to work in using this new and careful treatment, and
feel sure of being completely cured of my ailment, which, after
all, was caused by nervousness. But it is more than possible that
I shall be detained by it till the end of August, and I should
therefore prefer, after all, if you could come about the middle
of September. This also seems to me more likely, because I cannot
believe that you will give up Gran altogether. I expect then to
see you crowned with glory on your return from the land of your
Your Symphonic Poems are now quite familiar to me; they are the
only music which occupies me at present, for during my cure I
must not think of doing any work. I read one or other of the
scores every day, just as I might read a poem, fluently and
without stopping. I feel every time as if I had dived into a deep
crystal flood, to be there quite by myself, leaving all the world
behind me, and living for an hour my real life. Refreshed and
strengthened, I rise again to long for your presence. Yes,
friend, you can do it, YOU CAN DO IT!
Well, not much can be said about it; the noblest expressions
might easily seem a little trivial in such a connection. Enough,
you will soon be here, and bring me my Dante. This is a
beautiful, glorious lookout; I thank you.
I sent you yesterday a parcel containing the original scores of
"Rhinegold" and the "Valkyrie." Their fate will probably be a
peculiar one. Let me explain briefly:—
I shall perish, and shall be quite incapable of further work,
unless I find a habitation such as I require, viz., a small house
to myself and a garden, both removed from all noise, and
especially from the damnable pianoforte noise, which I am doomed
not to escape wherever I turn, not even here, and which has made
me so nervous that even the very thought of it prevents me from
thinking of work. Four years I tried in vain to realise this
wish, which I can accomplish only by buying a piece of ground
and building a house on it. Over this possibility I brooded like
a madman, when it occurred to me not long ago to offer my
"Nibelungen" to the Hartels, and to get the necessary money from
them. They have expressed to me their willingness of doing
something out of the way in order to gain possession of my work,
and I have in consequence made the following demand: They are to
purchase the two pieces which have already been finished, and are
to expect "Siegfried" in the course of next year, and
"Siegfried's Death" at the end of 1858, paying in each instance
the honorarium on the delivery of the manuscript. They also bind
themselves to publish the whole in 1859, the year of the
performance. I have been led to this by sheer despair; the
Hartels are to supply me with means for the purchase of a piece
of ground according to my fancy. If we agree, which must be
decided soon, I shall have to send them, in the first instance,
my two scores, so as to place them in possession of the material
for their future publication. But they will only keep them long
enough to take a copy, and then return the originals to you. In
any case, if I want the money, I must enable them to take actual
possession. They must of course lend me the scores, in case they
have not yet been copied, during your visit to me; that is
understood. As you do not yet know the last act of the
"Valkyrie," I send you the score before taking further steps, so
that you, and no one else, may be the first to whom I communicate
it. If you have time, read the act quickly, and then keep the
whole in readiness for sending it to the Hartels as soon as I ask
you. About this whole matter, however, we must come to a better
understanding when we meet.
During my cure here I have become terribly indifferent towards my
work. Lord knows, if I am not much encouraged to finish it, I
shall leave it alone. Why should a poor devil like me worry and
plague himself with these terrible burdens if my contemporaries
will not even grant me a place for doing my work? I have told the
Hartels as much; if they will not help me to a house, detached
and situated on an eminence, such as I want it, I shall leave the
whole rubbish alone.
Well, if you only will come, I shall not trouble Saxony and the
rest of Germany for some time. Bring the Princess with you, do
you hear? And the Child, too, must come. If you put me in a good
temper I shall perhaps lay my "Victors" before you, although this
will be very difficult. For although I have carried the idea
about with me for a long time, the material for its embodiment
has only just been shown to me as in a flash of lightning. To me
it is most clear and definite, but not as yet fit for
communication. Moreover, you must first have digested my
"Tristan," especially the third act, with the black flag and the
white. After that you will understand the "Victors" better.
But I am saying vague things.
Come and bring me the divine comedy, and we shall see then how we
can come to an understanding about the divine tragedy.
Thine for ever and aye,
I pray you most ardently to let me know AT ONCE by a line the
receipt, or possibly the non-receipt, of my scores.
I always feel nervous when I know they are on the road. They left
My address is:-
a Mornex, Poste restante, No. III, a Geneve.
I say, Franz, a divine idea strikes me.
YOU MUST GET ME AN ERARD GRAND!
Write to the widow and tell her that you visit me THREE TIMES
every year, and that you must absolutely have a better grand
piano than the old and lame one in my possession. Tell her
a hundred thousand fibs, and make her believe that it is for her a
point of honour that an Erard should stand in my house.
In brief, do not think, but act with the impudence of genius. I
MUST HAVE AN ERARD. If they will not give me one let them lend me
one on a yard-long lease.
I am leaving Mornex.
I shall be better than ever on September 20th.
Write to Madame Erard that she must send me a grand piano at
once. I will pay her in instalments of five hundred francs a year
without a doubt.
It must be here when you come.
Happiness and joy to you.
I thank you, dearest, most unique of men, for having sent me your
scores of "Rhinegold" and the "Valkyrie." The work has for me the
fabulous attractive power of the magnet mountain, which fetters
irresistibly the ship and the sailor. H. has been with me for a
few days, and I was unable to withhold from him the joy of
viewing Valhall. So he tinkles and hammers the orchestra on the
piano, while I howl, and groan, and roar the vocal parts; this by
way of prelude to OUR great performance at your Zurich palace, to
which I am looking forward with longing.
In a week's time I start for Hungary, and my Mass will be
performed on August 31st, on the occasion of the Gran ceremony,
for which it has been written. For several minor reasons I must,
after that, stay at Pesth and Vienna for a few weeks, and shall
therefore not be at Zurich till about September 20th. Probably
the Princess will come, too, together with her daughter.
Franz Muller will pay you a visit at Mornex about the middle of
this month, and will show you his work on the "Nibelungen."
The two scores I shall leave here in the keeping of the Princess
until you write to HER that they are to be sent to the Hartels.
Your idea of becoming a houseowner at Zurich is quite peculiar,
and I congratulate you cordially on the building delights which
Dawison told me recently that his starring engagement had enabled
him to buy a villa near Dresden. At the same rate, you ought to
be able to purchase with your scores at least the whole of
Zurich, together with the Sieben Churfursten and the lake.
Whether Madame Erard will be inclined to dispose of a grand piano
on the advantageous terms you mention is a questionable question,
which I shall put to her when I have the chance. Try, first of
all, to get quite well; the other ARRANGEMENTS will come in due
May God protect you.
August 1st, 1856.
We are just going together with H. (who wishes to be remembered
to you), to have another try at the last act of the "Valkyrie."
In order to give you a little more diversion I herewith introduce
to you Herr Zeugherr, an architect, and an acquaintance of
Ernst's; he is in search of a little villa for me to compose in,
but has as yet found nothing. Perhaps you will inspire him.
Farewell, and receive best greetings from your
That I ran away from you was a perfect inspiration, which should
bring noble fruit both to you and to me.
I shall go to bed at nine; do you likewise, and sleep by the
book, so that we may present to each other to-morrow morning a
couple of fresh faces, ready to face the world.
I shall study "Mephistopheles" a little today.
If you like we will do some Valkyring tomorrow.
May a thousand gods protect you.
R. W. 225.
Believe me, by all that is sacred to you and me, that I am ill,
and require the most perfect rest and care today, in order, let
us hope, to enjoy you again tomorrow. A very considerable, though
welcome and wholesome, catarrh weighs down my limbs like lead. It
developed during last night, together with an inflamed throat and
other addenda. The slightest excitement would impede my recovery.
Au revoir in a rational matter tomorrow.
MY DEAREST FRANZ,
I must think it really fortunate that you this time cultivate a
few other acquaintances, and that I may therefore disappear for a
short time without attracting too much attention.
My catarrh has developed so thoroughly and nobly, that I may hope
it will rid me of my usual winter illness, if I take proper care
of it; even now I perceive the beneficial effect of nature's
self-relief, although I feel as if leaden fetters were on me. I
am sure that I shall be better in a few days, and am looking
forward to offering you the fruits of my recovery in the shape of
an excellent temper.
For today I am a strict patient, and must not think of a visit to
Herwegh. If you will give me the pleasure of seeing you today, I
inform you that I shall have to perspire from noon to 4 p.m.;
before or afterwards my aspect would be less horrible. The
hardest thing was that I had to miss the organ concert yesterday.
But resignation helps me over everything.
I will try to finish the letter to the Grand Duke today.
A hundred thousand most cordial remembrances to the whole
Rectory. How are you, indefatigable man?
Here I sit again gazing after you. My best thanks to your dear
Princess for the first news. My mind was set at rest not a little
on hearing that you had been able to continue your journey to
Munich without mishap. There you will be able to rest a little
more comfortably than at the Hecht of St. Gallen. Rest? Ye
A thousand ardent blessings follow you everywhere. What you have
become to me your hearts will tell you. You are so rich a
possession to me that I scarcely know how to realise it. But on
the other hand, you are to me a continual sermon of repentance; I
cannot think of you without being heartily ashamed of myself.
How can you bear with me, who appear so unbearable to myself?
But I am not without good resolutions of amendment. Although I
shall palm off great part of the care on my doctor, who is to put
me completely on my legs again next spring, I am too well aware
that an enormous labour—less watercure than purgatory—lies
before me. Yes, I will shut myself up in that Purgatorio, and
hope, dearest Franz, that I shall do so well that I may greet you
with a MAGNIFICAT soon. It is true that I shall never be able to
equal you, but then you are the only genuine virtuoso.
My aesthetic efforts will, I hope, cure my moral prostration to
some extent. I must try tomorrow to break the news of the death
of his mother to "Siegfried." On Thursday evening I arrived at
the Zeltweg, freezing and empty, with a violent cold and in
terrible weather; since then I have not set foot out of doors.
All I did was to find a good place for the Madonna and Francesca,
which was a difficult job. I hammered like Mime. Now all is safe
and sound. The Madonna hangs over my writing table and Francesca
over the sofa, under the looking-glass, where she looks
beautiful. When I begin "Tristan" Francesca will have to go over
the writing table, and the turn of the Madonna will not come
again until I take the "Victors" in hand. For the present I will
try to inspire myself a little with the victrix, and to imagine
that I could do the same thing.
My studs are much finer than yours, dear Child; that any one can
see. Yours have the sole advantage of moving one to resignation,
while mine excite my vanity terribly—a kind of surreptitious
vanity, not before the eyes of people, but all to myself; merely
for the sake of the studs, not for effect. It is just the same
with my "Nibelungen." You always think of the effect of the
performance, I of the shirt studs that may be hidden in it.
Well, my blessings on you. If only the dear "lady friend" would
soon recover her health, so that the great professors of Munich
might delight in the "Rectory family"! Dear, good Princess, and
dear, dear Franz,
MON BON GRAND! Good and great you are. My blessings on you!
Farewell, and forget all bad and unpleasant things about me.
Remember only the kindness of which you thought me worthy.
Adieu. I am always yours.
My wife has not scolded me once, although yesterday I had the
spleen badly enough. She greets you with all her power, and is
thankful for your friendship.
ZURICH, December 6th, 1856.
I have not forgotten to convey your greetings and inquiries.
Wesendonck has written to me in reply, and enclosed a letter of
his wife's to the Princess, which I herewith ask you to hand to
I long for news from you. How are you, dear Franz, and does the
Princess keep her health? From her daughter I soon expect a
letter, as we have promised to correspond with each other.
I feel so-so. I shall finish the first scene one of these days.
Curiously enough, it is only during composition that the real
essence of my poem is revealed to me. Everywhere I discover
secrets which had been previously hidden from me, and everything
in consequence grows more passionate, more impulsive. Altogether
it will require a good deal of obstinacy to get all this done,
and you have not really put me in the right mind for it.
However, I must think that I am doing all this for myself, in
order to pass the days. Be it so.
You may believe me or not, I have no other desire than that of
coming to you soon. Do not fail to let me know always what
chances there are. I want music, too, and, Heaven knows, you are
the only one who can supply me with it. As a musician, I feel
perfectly mean, while I think I have discovered that you are the
greatest musician of all times. This will be something new to
Adieu. Tell M. that I have overhauled the old red letter case,
and have got my biography up to December 1st, 1856, into shape.
A hundred thousand remembrances to mother and child.
Farewell, and take care to let me have some of your new scores
Your R. W.
MUNICH, December 12th, 1856.
I have come to a close of my stay at Munich, and want to send you
a few short notes of it before returning to Weymar, which will
happen tomorrow evening. First of all about the performance of
"Tannhauser", which took place last Sunday (apart from the
subscription nights) for the benefit of the Munich poor. The
Princess had taken two boxes, which we occupied together with
Kaulbach, E. Forster, Liebig, Carriere, and others. The scenery
and dresses are brilliant, but probably you would not like them
particularly, and I, for my part, think them mannered and
pretentious. In the orchestra the wind (especially flutes,
clarinets, and bassoon) is excellent. The violins and double
basses (six in number) are a little hazy, and lack the necessary
energy, both in bowing, which is short and easy-going, and in
rhythm. The PIANOS and CRESCENDOS are insufficient, and for the
same reason there is no fulness in the FORTES. "Lachner" has, no
doubt, studied the score with the greatest accuracy and care, for
which thanks and praise are due to him. But in the drama, as you
know and say best, "we must become WISE by means of FEELING."
"Reason tells us SO IT IS, only after feeling has told us SO IT
MUST BE;" and as far as I can tell, Lachner's feeling says little
about "TANNHAUSER", although he was called several times before
the curtain at the first performances. The part of "Tannhauser"
was sung by "Herr Jung", the husband of "Lucile Gran." He
succeeded, in my opinion, better than the public here seemed to
think, which is, as a rule, somewhat lukewarm and stolid. "Frau
Dietz", whose figure and personality do not particularly fit her
for "Elizabeth", sang the beginning of the second act with
intelligence and feeling, but in the last act she was no longer
up to the mark, and the prayer in the third act was applauded as
if it had been "The Last Rose of Summer." "Kindermann's" voice is
splendid, but there is no trace of "Wolfram" about him. Still
less was "Fraulein X." able to identify herself with Venus, whom
she seemed to conceive as an ideal Munich barmaid. "Lindemann",
the Landgrave, you know, from Hamburg; his voice is as powerful
as ever, and he might, later on, serve you as "Fafner" or
"APROPOS", your "X." is a perfect madman, and I should certainly
not advise you to have anything to do with a man like him. He
asked me to attend a vocal practice of his pupils, when the poor
people had to shout nothing but four or five notes do, de, da!
"X." has entirely surrendered himself to his monomania of method,
which to him has become a kind of dram-drinking. His
circumstances are in a very bad way, and I am told that he keeps
himself alive chiefly by acting as clerk in a tailor's business
here. This, of course, is by no means to his discredit, and I
think, on the contrary, that he would do much better to give up
his method, and take to tailoring EX PROFESSO.
Our concert at St. Gallen has not been without an echo at Munich,
and Lachner, with whom I lived on friendly terms, proposed to me
soon after my arrival to write for the parts of the two Symphonic
Poems to St. Gallen, so as to have them played during my stay at
the subscription concerts. I thanked him politely for the
distinction intended for me, and reserved to myself the
permission of making use of it another time. At the theatre I
heard CLEMENZA DI TITO (the festival opera on the King's
birthday), JESSONDA, THE PROPHET, and TANNHAUSER; at the
subscription concert the D minor symphony by "Lachner", his
fourth, if I am not mistaken. LOHENGRIN is promised—that is,
they are talking about it; but amongst the present artists one
would have to search for "Ortrud" with a lantern. The Munich
public is more or less neutral, more observing and listening than
sympathetic. The Court does not take the slightest interest in
music, but "H.M." the King spoke to me about TANNHAUSER as
something that had PLEASED him. "Dingelstedt" complains of the
impossibility of giving importance to the drama, and gives two or
three operas every week for the sake of the receipts.
"Kaulbach" and I have become sincere friends. He is the right
sort of fellow who will please you too, for the very reason that
many people call him intolerable. As lately as yesterday I roared
[Here, Liszt illustrates with a 2 1/2 bar musical score example
with the words, "He - da! He - da! He - do!"]
His designs for Shakespeare's "Tempest" (Ariel as Capellmeister
in the air) are splendid. He must paint your portrait for me
Farewell, dearest Richard. I must take care that we meet soon.
ZURICH, December 16th, 1856.
Several times, dearest friend, I made an attempt to write to you
on serious, and to me important, matters, but I had many things
to settle in my own mind first. At last I feel sufficiently
mature, and will tell you in plain words what is in my heart.
Your last visit, much disturbed as was our intercourse, has left
a decisive impression on me, which is this: your friendship is
the most important and most significant event of my life. If I
can enjoy your conversation frequently and quietly, and in my own
way, I shall have all that I desire, and the rest will be of
subordinate value. You cannot have a similar feeling, because
your life is just the opposite of mine. You love diversion, and
live in it, and your desire of self-concentration is therefore
temporary. I, on the contrary, live in the most absolute
solitude, and therefore want occasional diversion, which,
however, in my meaning, is nothing but artistic stimulus. That
stimulus the musical world cannot give me; you alone can. All
that I lack, especially as a musician, owing to nature and
insufficient education, my intercourse with you and no one else
can alone give me. Without this stimulus my limited musical
capacity loses its fertility; I become discontented, laborious,
heavy, and producing becomes torture to me. I never had this
feeling more vividly than since our last meeting.
I have therefore but one desire, that of being able to visit you
when I wish, and of living with you periodically.
Well, seriously speaking, how does this matter stand? This letter
will find you at Weimar. What news have you to give me from the
Grand Duke? I ask you urgently, let me have conclusive and
definite information soon. Much depends upon it. Let me explain
about Weimar. I want to come to the Altenburg, not to Weimar; and
if it were possible I should be quite willing to live there
incognito. As this will be impossible, my existence might be
noticed by the Court. If the Court wants anything of me, I am
prepared to appear there in person, either reading my poems, or
performing fragments of my music, such as the first act of the
"Valkyrie," in conjunction with you, and after our fashion. I do
not want to go before the public at all. Can this be arranged,
and can the possibility of my visit to Weimar be accelerated?
Concerning my income and my recent hopes of a pension from the
Weimar Court separately, or in conjunction with others, you have
given me some important hints, which I have not left unnoticed or
unconsidered. I should prefer to remain without subvention from
that quarter which would make any subsequent relation to the
Weimar Court much easier to me, because it is my nature to give
rather than receive.
I do not deny it would be very desirable if you could soon make
an arrangement with the Hartels about the "Nibelungen," for which
object, in accordance with your kind offer, I gave you
discretionary power. If you should succeed in this, it would
certainly be advisable to interest the Weimar Court in my work,
to the extent that it might for some time grant me certain
advantages on account of the honorarium which I should receive
for the publication.
If you could not ask this without loss of dignity, my only way
would be to give up the "Nibelungen," and begin a simple work
such as "Tristan" instead, which would have the advantage that I
could presumably dispose of it to the theatres at once, and
receive royalties in return, although, as you know, the music
trade would give me nothing for it.
Let me express my sincere regret at giving you again care and
anxiety. If you decline to meddle with what I ask you, I shall
think it quite natural on your part; but more depends upon your
decision, and especially upon your success, than you may perhaps
imagine. I cannot drag on like this.
Since my return from St. Gallen I have not seen a soul except
Herwegh. Solitary walks, a little work and reading, constitute my
whole existence, in addition to which there were some unpleasant
attacks on the little rest I have, which did not allow me to
breathe freely, and impaired my health to an unbearable extent.
The correspondence between Goethe and Schiller alone pleased me
much; it reminded me of our relation, and showed me the precious
fruits which, in favourable circumstances, might spring from our
Your Munich news showed you to me in your ever serene artistic
element, which I cordially enjoyed with you. Your encounter with
X. I regret. All I told you of the man was, that at one time I
was pleased with his voice and manner, but could form no judgment
whatever of his method. As you were no longer able to hear him
sing, and as none of his pupils was sufficiently advanced to let
you hear some real thing, I can well understand that the poor man
must have bored you terribly with his theory; but I thank you for
the trouble you have taken, and shall make use of your hint. I
thought you would have been able to let me know something about
Dingelstedt, and his conduct towards "Tannhauser," etc. Probably
there was nothing pleasant to tell, and you remained silent in
consequence. A thousand thanks to the most excellent Princess for
the most astonishing cushion, and especially for the famous
German letter. I sent her a short answer to Munich, but it
probably did not reach you.
To the good Child I shall write shortly; continue to love me all
three of you. I need it. Best remembrances from my wife.
Farewell, and let me soon hear something comforting.
I must think of protecting myself against any conceivable
unpleasantness in connection with the impending warlike troubles
Could not the Grand Duke get me from the Prince of Prussia, as
chief of the army, a safe conduct against any possible ill-
treatment or imprisonment on the part of the Prussian
authorities? If this is impossible, I should have to fly to
France in case of a Prussian occupation, which would be
unpleasant to me. I am sure you will be good enough to do all in
your power to set my mind at rest.
Of course the best thing would be if I could soon come to Weimar;
but it appears that none of the difficulties of my position will
be spared me.
Shall I hear from you soon?
A thousand loving and longing greetings.
January lst, 1857.
I am in bed once more, covered with the whole flora of my Zurich
ills. Unfortunately I am no longer near you, and must be content
to celebrate the New Year with you by letter. You could not meet
with better luck than I wish you from the bottom of my heart. The
hope of serving you and, perhaps, of living together with you
soon for some time, keeps me active and cheerful, although the
external aspects are not of the most favourable kind. At
Carlsruhe, where I stayed a day three weeks ago, the Grand Duke
and Grand Duchess spoke with the warmest interest of your works.
("Lohengrin" was being studied for production at Christmas.) Our
Grand Duke here did the same at my arrival, adding, however, his
apprehension, that for the present nothing could be done for you,
and that I must have patience. How sick I am of this patience you
may easily imagine.
I wrote to the Prince of Prussia the day before yesterday
explaining your business at some length to him. I shall probably
have a reply, which I will communicate to you in due course. The
warlike dangers in Switzerland do not appear to me of a very
urgent kind, but I thought this a good opportunity for calling
the attention of the Prince to your miserable fate, which is in
such glaring contrast to your fame and artistic activity. The
Prince is an honourable character, and it may be expected that
his intercession will be of service to you later on. In the
meantime, you ought, I think, to take no further step, nor waste
a single word, because this would lead only to useless
humiliation for you.
As soon as the favourable moment arrives which I expect, I shall
write to you. On the occasion of the performance of "Lohengrin"
for the wedding of the son of the Prince of Prussia, I advise you
again to write to the young Prince in the sense previously
discussed by us. Probably your affair will have entered a
different stage by then.
"Tannhauser" was given here on Boxing-day with great success, and
"Lohengrin" will follow soon. For the latter we shall have to get
Frau Stager from Prague, because amongst our local artists there
is none who could undertake Ortrud. Otherwise everything here is
very much in the old groove, and there is little to please me.
I long very much for my work. As soon as I am quite recovered I
shall shut myself up in it, and you will be always present to my
mind, until we may at last live together in the body.
January 6th, 1857.
Is not this a miserable thing, dearest Franz? I had been looking
forward to your letter as to a Christmas present, and now it
brings me nothing but sad and comfortless news. That you are once
more confined to your bed is the crown of my sorrow.
Ah, heavens! Why do we not give in altogether?
It seems to me that you have not received my long letter, which I
sent you at Weimar on the supposition that you would go there
straight from Munich, and the same has, I fear, been the case
with my letter to M., or else she would have surely sent me a few
lines in reply. Concerning my letter to YOU, it touches upon a
point to which I must urgently return once more, because I want
your definite reply as soon as possible. Since you left me an
important change has taken place in my situation; I have
absolutely given up the annual allowance which the R.'s made me.
In such circumstances, my only hope is the speedy success of the
Hartel affair in connection with the "Nibelungen," which had been
broken off. In accordance with your kind offer, I gave you
unlimited power with regard to it. But now you are again tied to
your bed, and cannot, in any case for the present, pay the visit
to Leipzig which would be necessary for the settlement of such an
affair. Consider, therefore, whether you are quite confident that
the bargain will be completed after all, provided that I declare
myself willing, as I do herewith, to accept any offer, knowing
well that, however small the result may be, I could not get more
in any other way. If you are quite sure of a final success, the
further question would be, how it would be possible to raise some
money on account at once. In any case, I ask you, and authorise
you, and request you, as soon as possible, to come to a distinct
understanding with the Grand Duke as to whether he would be
inclined to confirm his favourable opinion of me by granting me a
pension, or, at least, a sufficient annual subsidy for the three
years which it will take me to complete my "Nibelungen." In the
eventuality of a pension for life I should, of course, accept the
obligation of staying every year some time at Weimar, and give
him my services according to his wish, as soon as the return to
Germany is opened to me. You no doubt remember our discussion of
this point, and of the possible concurrence of other princes well
inclined towards me. But what I particularly care for is SPEEDY
AND ABSOLUTE CERTAINTY. At this moment, when I am most in need of
help, I want to know DEFINITELY how matters stand. This
uncertainty places me in a wavering position of hoping,
expecting, wishing, and desiring, which involves my circumstances
more and more, apart from demoralising me. In short, I want to
know WHERE to look for my friends. Therefore, much-tried friend,
look upon this as your last attempt at intercession between me
and a world, my position towards which I must know exactly.
Patience of any kind is no longer in question. My amnesty will be
granted no sooner than at the moment when Saxony herself
considers that the time has come; those gentlemen like to appear
Farewell for today. I shall very soon write to you about other
matters, which, I hope, will be pleasanter to both of us.
January 27th, 1857.
Wretched and helpless as I am, I must once more trouble you with
something which this time will not be altogether without interest
to you. I enclose the letter of the person concerned, so that you
may be AU FAIT at once. (The enthusiasm displayed for me will, I
hope, not excite you.) B. A., according to the testimony of my
wife, is a young, very handsome, slender fellow, as, indeed, you
may have guessed by the liking of X. for him.
Arrange, therefore, that he may make his DEBUT as "Tannhauser"
and "Lohengrin" at Weimar under your direction. In that manner I
shall know that he will be under the surest guidance, and that I
shall have the best information as to the value of the young man.
Perhaps you will be kind enough to send for him previously.
I have not yet got back to the mood for writing to the kind
Princess and the good Child. I am annoyed at being always in a
state of lamentation, and must therefore wait for a favourable
hour, for I do not like absolutely to deceive you. You yourself
are used to my laments, and expect nothing else. My health, too,
is once more so bad, that for ten days, after I had finished the
sketch for the first act of "Siegfried," I was literally not able
to write a single bar without being driven away from my work by a
most alarming headache. Every morning I sit down, stare at the
paper, and am glad enough when I get as far as reading Walter
Scott. The fact is, I have once more over-taxed myself, and how
am I to recover my strength? With "Rhinegold" I got on well
enough, considering my circumstances, but the "Valkyrie" caused
me much pain. At present my nervous system resembles a pianoforte
very much out of tune, and on that instrument I am expected to
produce "Siegfried." Well, I fancy the strings will break at
last, and then there will be an end. WE cannot alter it; this is
a life fit for a dog.
I hope you are out of bed again. I wish I were a little more like
you. Can you not let me have the "Mountain Symphony?" Do not
forget to send it to me.
Adieu, my good, dear Franz. You are my only comfort.
A thousand greetings to all at Altenburg.
January 27th, 1857.
Your sympathy with me makes me hope that you are at present
employed in giving the necessary helpful turn to my affairs, and
I therefore think it advisable to describe to you, in a few
words, my situation as it has lately shaped itself, so that you
may know accurately upon what I reckon, and may take steps
W. has bought the little country house after all, and offers me a
perpetual lease of it.
As I have given up the allowance of the R.'s, it is important for
me to settle my income on an INDEPENDENT basis. It would be
foolish if I tried to arrange my future definitely at this
moment, which will probably bring my provisional position to a
close. I am certain that my amnesty will be granted in the course
of 1858 at the latest, and I hope that this will suddenly change
my situation, to the extent, at least, that it will depend upon
myself to find a solid basis for my social existence. All I can
rationally care for, considering that I have no chance of success
in any other direction, must be to secure for myself a free,
unencumbered, and not too limited income for the next few years,
until my great work is completed and produced. Nothing appears
more adapted to the achievement of this purpose than the sale of
my "Nibelungen" to Hartel, whom I have asked to settle with me
according to his own judgment. It is most important to me that
this should come to pass, and I hope, in any case, that if Hartel
accepts the offer I shall receive all that is required. I think
they ought to pay me 1,000 thalers for each score, in each case
on delivery of the manuscript—that is, for the "Rhinegold," and
perhaps for the "Valkyrie" also, now at once. "Siegfried" will be
in their hands by the end of this year. However, as I remarked
before, I must be satisfied even if they give me a little less.
In any case, it will be enough to keep me going for several
years; and if I once know what I have, I shall make arrangements
accordingly, being resolved, in any case, to leave the management
of my income in future to my wife.
I need not tell you that if you come to terms with the Hartels
other things ought to be LEFT ALONE ALTOGETHER, for I have made
up my mind henceforth to preserve my independence as much as
You now have the complete synopsis of my situation; let me
commend it to your well-tried sympathy.
I hear with great delight that you are well again. I have
finished the composition of my first act, and, as soon as I have
recovered a little strength, hope to score it before leaving my
present house. Of resuming composition proper I cannot think
here; I have suffered too much of late by the musical and
unmusical noisiness of my lodging.
Tell the dear Child that she will soon receive one of those
letters from me which she likes, but not about "Indian poetry"
(droll idea!), but about that of which my heart is full, and
which I can call by no other name, than "Orpheus." But I must
wait for a favourable mood. You may tell the Child, however, that
the "white rose" is now red and in full bloom, and that the
"slender stem of the lily" looks right robust, and inspires
confidence. The Princess is angry with me—I feel it—but I know
that I shall conciliate her. A thousand greetings to her.
Farewell, dearest, dear Orpheus!
Your R. W.
You could not possibly be forgotten, dearest friend, and the next
few days will give me an opportunity of looking after your
affairs most carefully. On the 22nd I go to Leipzig to stay there
for a whole week. On Thursday, the 26th, "Les Preludes" and
"Mazeppa" will be given at the Gewandhaus for the benefit of the
pension fund of the orchestra, and on the 28th I am to conduct a
performance of "Tannhauser" in Leipzig for the benefit of Herr
Behr (the Landgrave), the Mildes singing Elizabeth and Wolfram
respectively. In the interval I hope I shall succeed in getting a
little "Rhine copper" for the "Rhinegold" from the Hartels, and
shall write to you at once.
Frau X. is announced to sing Ortrud on the 8th of March. She is
to sing the part twice, and then appear as Antonina in
"Belisario." If she pleases her engagement is very probable.
I shall write very soon to Herr A., who sent me your letter by
way of introduction, and I have in the meantime asked Herr von
Beaulieu to let him make his debut as Lohengrin or Tannhauser.
Today, 16th February (the anniversary of the first performance of
"Tannhauser," in the year 1849), we shall have a gala performance
of Gluck's "Armida," with Frau Koster of Berlin. A new opera,
never yet performed, by a Belgian composer, M. Lassen, "Landgraf
Ludwig's Brautfahrt," will be put in rehearsal soon. As far as I
am concerned, while
[Musical Notation] He - da! He - do!
is hammering in my head I can enjoy nothing else, either old or
new, and dream only of the "Ring of the Nibelung," which God's
grace may soon vouchsafe to me.
Your F. L.
WEYMAR, February 16th, 1857.
The three last numbers of my Symphonic Poems will appear by the
end of this month, and I shall send them to you at once. A
similar thing, "Die Hunnenschlacht," I completed last week. The
Princess of Prussia has commanded "Tannhauser" for next Sunday.
Please forward the enclosed proof to Brendel, so that the good
man may get a notion of his bad editorship.
(TO BRENDEL.) ZURICH, April 15TH, 1857. DEAR FRIEND,
The somewhat tardy publication of my letter about Liszt I
recently read in your paper, and saw, to my regret, that it was
very incorrect, and even showed several omissions, disfiguring
the sense, owing to the inattention of the printer. At first I
thought of forwarding you a list of errata, but considered, on
reflection, that such corrections are never read in context with
the article, and therefore made up my mind to send a revised
version to Zellner at Vienna, asking him to print it at once in
his paper. My intention is by no means to punish you for the
neglect shown to me, but to induce those interested in the matter
to read the corrected letter once again. In case you
intentionally made such changes as "PURER form of art" into
"NEWER," etc., you have certainly misunderstood me very much, and
in that case you must look upon my correction as a demonstration
against yourself, although only in private. But I presume that
most of the mistakes were caused by the fact that instead of my
manuscript you received a copy, which you should not have
Shall I soon see you? I live in the greatest retirement, and do
as much work as my health will let me.
Best remembrances from
You have given me a delightful Easter Sunday, dearest, most
unique of friends, by your letter. By the loving "Azymen" which
you offer me with so much kindness and friendship, you have given
me strength, health, and total oblivion of all other leaven.
Receive my most cordial thanks, and let it be a joy to you to
have given me so much and such heartfelt joy. That joy shall not
be disturbed by a few misprints and omissions. The essential
thing is that you love me, and consider my honest efforts as a
musician worthy of your sympathy. This you have said in a manner
in which no one else could say it. I confess candidly that when I
brought my things to you at Zurich, I did not know how you would
receive and like them. I have had to hear and read so much about
them, that I have really no opinion on the subject, and continue
to work only from persistent inner conviction, and without any
claim to recognition or approval. Several of my intimate friends-
-for example, Joachim, and formerly Schumann and others—have
shown themselves strange, doubtful, and unfavourable towards my
musical creations. I owe them no grudge on that account, and
cannot retaliate, because I continue to take a sincere and
comprehensive interest in their works.
Imagine then, dearest Richard, the unspeakable joy which the
hours at Zurich and St. Gallen gave me when your beaming glance
penetrated my soul and lovingly encompassed it, bringing life and
In a few days I shall write to you at greater length about the
Hartel affair, which unfortunately remains in a very
unsatisfactory stage. At Altenburg things are looking very sad.
The Child has been somewhat seriously ill for the last three
weeks, and cannot leave her bed. The Princess also had to doctor
herself, and is not yet allowed to leave her room; and I, after
having been in bed for quite six weeks, am only just able to
hobble about the theatre and the castle. In spite of this, I have
better and best hopes for my dear ones and for you, who live in a
high place of my heart, and to whom I feel and confess that I
April 19th, 1857.
At the beginning of next season Dingelstedt will take the place
of Herr von Beaulieu as our theatrical manager. He has been here
for the last fortnight, and his position, although not yet
officially announced, has been secured by the necessary
By your recommendation Frau X. will sing Ortrud next Sunday. Herr
A., whom you introduced to me, has also been staying at Weymar
for the last month, but I doubt whether I shall be able to serve
him in any particular way. His vocal talent is said to be very
small as yet. Otherwise he impresses me favourably, and I shall
hear him before long.
Once more, my best, best thanks for today, when I did not want to
write to you about anything else.
Your "Lohengrin" has once more pervaded my whole soul, and in
spite of my absurd indisposition, which compelled me to go to bed
immediately after the performance, I am brimful of the sublime
and tender charm of the incomparable work. I wish I could sing in
F and E major "A wonder!" just as you wrote it.
The performance was the best which we have had so far, and the
artists were most enthusiastic. Next Saturday there will be a
repetition, for which I shall get up again. With Frau Milde you
would be pleased; her singing and acting are full of magnetism.
Caspari also gave some passages beautifully, and Milde is always
noble and artistically efficient, although he does not quite
possess the great volume of voice required for Telramund. Frau X.
did not come up to the mark, and Frau Knopp, our former Ortrud,
was much more equal to the part. Frau X. had studied it
conscientiously, but neither her voice nor her enunciation are
particularly adapted to the style. The middle register decidedly
lacks strength and fulness, and the declamation moves in prosaic
theatrical grooves, without individual and deeper pathos. This is
between ourselves, for I do not want to injure a good woman and
conscientious artist; but I cannot advise her engagement at the
theatre here, and prefer to keep the place open which she would
have to fill. I believe I told you already that Dingelstedt will
assume his office of general intendant at Weymar on October 1st.
Perhaps we shall find, in the course of next season, an Ortrud
whom I should like a little younger than Frau X.
From Hanover I have been asked to get the original score of the
"Flying Dutchman" for Capellmeister Fischer there, who is
recommended to me on good authority as a sincere and energetic
admirer of your works. Fischer has the scores of "Tannhauser" and
"Lohengrin" in HIS library, and is very desirous not to be
without the "Flying Dutchman" any longer. I have been informed by
my correspondent that he is in the habit of conducting from HIS
OWN scores, and has taken much trouble to get that of the "Flying
Dutchman," but so far without success. He would of course prefer
the original to a copy, which he could take at any time. Perhaps
you will be able to find an original copy for him, for which he
would have to send you the price agreed upon. Although I do not
like to meddle with similar matters, I thought that one might
show special attention to Fischer, who has prepared your three
operas at Hanover with every care. Write to me soon what I am to
tell him. I do not know him personally.
After many verbal and written discussions of the "Nibelungen"
question with Hartel (in which I throughout stuck to the chief
point of Hartel's FIRST OFFER, without allowing him to swerve from
it on the vague chance of some other and lower proposal), the
matter has about reached this point, that I may assume that he will
not give a negative answer to a letter from you, in which, making
reference to his conversation with me, you should simply and a
little politely ask him to carry out his former proposal. On this
first proposal, I think, the resumption of the transaction must
necessarily be based, and I must tell you candidly that Hartel did
not appear very ready to act upon it now, because the turn given by
you to the matter in your second letter has almost offended him.
Consider, therefore, whether you will write him to this effect,
which I should advise you to do, for it cannot easily be
anticipated that a better proposal will be made to you from
another quarter, and yet it appears important to me that your
work should be published.
Concerning the performance itself, I am still in hopes that the
Grand Duke will supply the means to me, or rather to you, for in
that case I should only act as your assistant.
Go on with your gigantic work bravely and cheerfully. The rest
will be arranged, and I shall be in it.
WEYMAR, April 28th, 1857.
ZURICH, May 8th. 1857.
At last I sit down to write to you, dearest Franz. I have had a
bad time, which now, it is true, appears to give place to a very
pleasant state of things.
Ten days ago we took possession of the little country house next
to W.'s villa, which I owe to the great sympathy of that friendly
family. At first I had to go through various troubles, for the
furnishing of the little house, which has turned out very neat,
and, according to my taste, took much time, and we had to move
out before there was any possibility of moving in. In addition to
this my wife was taken ill, and I had to keep her from all
exertion, so that the whole trouble of moving fell upon me alone.
For ten days we lived at the hotel, and at last we moved in here
in very cold and terrible weather. Only the thought that the
change would be definite was able to keep me in a good temper.
At last we have got through it all; everything is permanently
housed and arranged according to wish and want; everything is in
the place where it is to remain. My study has been arranged with
the pedantry and elegant comfort known to you. My writing-table
stands at the large window, with a splendid view of the lake and
the Alps; rest and quiet surround me. A pretty and well-stocked
garden offers little walks and resting-places to me, and will
enable my wife to occupy herself pleasantly, and to keep herself
free from troubling thoughts about me; in particular a large
kitchen garden claims her tenderest care. You will see that a
very pretty place for my retirement has been gained, and if I
consider how long I have been wishing for this, and how difficult
it was even to bring it into view, I feel compelled to look upon
the excellent W. as one of my greatest benefactors. At the
beginning of July the W.'s hope to move into their villa, and
their neighbourhood promises many friendly and pleasant things to
me. Well, so much has been achieved.
Very soon I hope to resume my long-interrupted work, and I shall
certainly not leave my charming refuge even for the shortest trip
before Siegfried has settled everything with Brynhild. So far I
have only finished the first act, but then it is quite ready, and
has turned out stronger and more beautiful than anything. I am
astonished myself at having achieved this, for at our last
meeting I again appeared to myself a terribly blundering
musician. Gradually, however, I gained self-confidence. With a
local prima-donna, whom you heard in "La Juive", I studied the
great final scene of the "Valkyrie." Kirchner accompanied; I hit
the notes famously, and this scene, which gave you so much
trouble, realised all my expectations. We performed it three
times at my house, and now I am quite satisfied. The fact is,
that everything in this scene is so subtle, so deep, so subdued,
that the most intellectual, the most tender, the most perfect
execution in every direction is necessary to make it understood;
if this, however, is achieved, the impression is beyond a doubt.
But of course a thing of this kind is always on the verge of
being quite misunderstood, unless all concerned approach it in
the most perfect, most elevated, most intelligent mood; merely to
play it through as we tried, in a hurried way, is impossible. I,
at least, lose on such occasions instinctively all power and
intelligence; I become perfectly stupid. But now I am quite
satisfied, and if you hear the melting and hammering songs of
"Siegfried" you will have a new experience of me. The abominable
part of it is that I cannot have a thing of this kind played for
my own benefit. Even to our next meeting I attach no real hope; I
always feel as if we were in a hurry, and that is most
detrimental to me. I can be what I am only in a state of perfect
concentration; all disturbance is my death.
I am deeply touched to hear that my letter has given you so much
pleasure; I am sure you have taken the good will for the deed,
for what I wrote cannot mean MUCH to the many, just because it
was so difficult to write MUCH that might have been more useful
and important to the multitude. A description of your single
poems I had to refrain from altogether, for the reason which I
candidly state in the letter itself. I cannot and will not
attempt such insufficient things again. I had, therefore, to
confine myself to showing to INTELLIGENT persons the road which I
had discovered for myself. Those who cannot follow in this road
and afterwards help themselves further along, I cannot help along
either; that is my sincere opinion. Concerning the misprints, I
shall send you one of these days a corrected copy, just for the
sake of the joke. You will then understand that I might well be
annoyed, but the fault seems to lie less with Brendel than with
the copyist of my manuscript, who has performed his task in a
very perfunctory manner. I do not speak of the intentional
omissions, which were your doing, and to which you were fully
entitled, but of simple abominations. However, that has been set
right now, and will not happen again.
Many thanks also for LOHENGRIN. It must remain a shadow to me, I
really have forgotten it; I do not know it. You do all this
amongst yourselves, and seem scarcely to think that I too might
wish to be present. But I honour the mysterious silence which is
so conscientiously preserved on the awkward question of my
return by my high and highest patrons. Joking apart, the Emperor
of Brazil has invited me to come to him at Rio Janeiro, where I
am to have plenty of everything. Therefore if not at Weymar, then
Why do I hear so much about Frau X.? I did not specially
recommend her for Ortrud. In my introduction I only spoke of an
experienced singer of second parts, who, for want of a better,
and, if she were taken in hand properly, might perhaps do for
Ortrud. In saying this I specially had regard to her agreeable,
although perhaps slightly enfeebled, voice, and her well-known
industry. But that this unfortunate person should have been
engaged specially for the part of Ortrud, which she had never
studied, and that she should have been considered as my chosen
representative of that part, was a little hard on her and on me.
Please do not turn me into the "father" of this DEBUTANTE, whose
interest I should have considered better if I had arranged her
first appearance in some piece by Verdi or Donizetti, or indeed
anything but LOHENGRIN. But enough of such stuff, although I am
grieved to see Herr A., the tenor of the future (if well
prepared), dwindle into thin air also. May heaven grant that
Caspari will keep on, or that a decent tenor may come to you from
some other place.
APROPOS, I must ask you to inform the Royal Capellmeister Fischer
in Hanover, that he must make a copy of the DUTCHMAN score do for
the present. The few autographed copies which were made at the
time, not by myself, but by a copyist, have been reduced to so
few that I cannot possibly spare another. The first twenty-five
copies I scattered about recklessly, before any cock crowed for
this opera, and the very few remaining ones are naturally of
value to me. Excuse me, therefore, and refer him to the time when
the sale of my works will have become so lucrative that the full
scores can be engraved. I am, however, very grateful to him for
his sympathy. Hanover has become a perfect repository of my
Many thanks also for your hints regarding the Hartel affair.
Candidly speaking, the settlement of it is so important to me,
that I immediately followed your advice, and wrote to the Hartels
in such a manner that they will probably accept my offer,
provided that they have been properly informed of the object by
you. This, of course, I assume, and thank you cordially for it.
Well, we shall see.
I am being continually and painfully interrupted in these
sufficiently frivolous lines by the invasions of workmen,
especially of a Saxon locksmith. So I had better come to a close,
although to my sorrow, for I regret our ill-sustained
correspondence, in which at bottom we never express ourselves
thoroughly, but, barring a few violent lucubrations, touch each
other in a very superficial manner. I do not say anything today
on the important point of your failing health. I wrote very
seriously about it to the Princess some time ago, and am longing
for a conclusive answer. I now hear through you that our
magnanimous friend has herself been ill for a long time, and my
fears are thus sadly confirmed. So I must ask you, after all, to
let me know at least what steps you are going to take for the
thorough recovery of your health. Have you really settled to
persevere in the musical festival of Aix-la-Chapelle, or have you
found a doctor with sufficient courage to prohibit your incessant
efforts and sacrifices absolutely, and to withdraw you for a time
from the world which spoils you more and more, in order to secure
your perfect recovery? Really, dearest Franz, you will cause me
the deepest anxiety unless you satisfy me on this point, and
every rational person will see that this can be done only by a
long and careful cure, together with absolute rest and abstention
from every effort and excitement. To speak plainly, you dear
people cannot long go on as you do now. Others would be ruined
very soon by this kind of thing, which, at last, must become
detrimental to you also. Listen, my Franz, come to me. No one
shall know of your presence; we will live quite by ourselves, and
you must submit to our taking the necessary care of your "cure."
You will think this very stupid, and will perhaps scarcely
believe that it is absolute despair which inspires this advice;
but SOMETHING must be done, and if things appear black to me, the
reality of the news which you send me surely does not justify a
rosier view. For Heaven's sake, calm my fear, and believe me that
no triumphs, not even those gained by yourself for yourself, will
give me the least pleasure as long as I know how dearly you pay
for them. Well, I must wait for your reply, but please let it not
be a superficial, futile one.
Heaven only knows what I have written here; it must be nice
Finally, I want to thank you for the last three scores received
by me; they came to me like old friends. I shall take them in
hand thoroughly; they are to consecrate me a musician once
more, and fit me for the beginning of my second act, which I
shall precede by my study of them.
As I said before, I do not thank you for the sacrifice you have
made for me by your last beautiful performance of LOHENGRIN. If
you had written to me instead, "I have put LOHENGRIN, you,
myself, and everything else on the shelf, in order to get
thoroughly well again," I should have thanked you with heartfelt
tears. Let me soon know something of the kind, or else I shall
never write to you again, and burn YOUNG SIEGFRIED with all his
songs of the smithy.
Adieu, you good, wicked Franz. Greet your dear women from the
bottom of my soul; they are to love me, and to get well, the
dear, wicked women.
Adieu, my good dear Franz.
May 19th, 1857.
I received today the enclosed letter from the Hartels. In it they
refer to a letter addressed to you, and in case this latter
contains any indications as to how the business might be settled,
I should like you to send it to me. Otherwise it would be of no
use to me.
It is a sad thing that, in order to have a CERTAIN income for the
next few years, I am compelled to offer my work for sale in this
manner, and in different circumstances I should calmly bide my
time in the firm hope that people would come to me. As it is, I
am compelled to try everything, so as to tempt the Hartels to
this purchase. Above all, I perceive that your time and
occupations will not allow you to acquaint those gentlemen
thoroughly with my music. I have, therefore, invited them to come
here this summer, and to meet Klindworth, who has announced his
visit to me. With his aid I shall give them a piece of my
"Nibelungen," which will give them some notion of it.
Be good enough, therefore, to return to me for some time the
pianoforte score of "Rhinegold," which we shall want for that
Delight me soon with satisfactory news of you; you know what I
mean by this.
Farewell, and be greeted a thousand times.
(I want Hartels' letter back again.)
[Here, Wagner illustrates with a 4-bar musical score example.]
[Musical score example continued] You wicked friend! Let me know,
at least, by some sign, how you are, and whether you forgive me
for my anxiety about you.
May 3Oth, early in the morning, after a good night.
WEYMAR, June 9th, 1857.
I returned from Aix-la-Chapelle yesterday, and (barring a little
pain in both my feet, which requires some care) I feel so well
that I can cheerfully go to my work and various occupations. You
must forgive me for not having satisfied your friendly anxiety
about my health before this; the fact is, I must endure what is
destined to me for your sake and my sake. God be thanked, I do
not lack either strength or a certain tough equanimity.
H. wrote to you about the Aix Musical Festival, which, upon the
whole, was satisfactory, both in arrangement and execution,
although OUR FRIEND Hiller may demonstrate in the COLOGNE GAZETTE
that I have no talent either as a conductor or a composer. The
TANNHAUSER overture went splendidly, and your autogragh "ich lieg
und besitze,—lasst mich schlafen" has given me a happy moment.
Owing to the severe illness of the Princess, my frame of mind has
been sad and anxious for more than nine weeks. At my return I
found her on the way to recovery, but several months may still
pass before she is quite well again. At present she can scarcely
sit up for half an hour every day.
Forgive me for not having written to you sooner, but I had
nothing but sad news to tell you, and the poor Princess caused me
so much anxiety that I scarcely knew how to bear it.
At last you have found a comfortable habitation which has been
prepared for you by tender friendship, and must be all the more
pleasant and beneficial to you on that account. I cordially
participate in this essential improvement of your life at Zurich,
and am glad that you can give yourself up to your genius, and
complete the gigantic mental mountain range of your NIBELUNGEN,
without disturbance from neighbouring smiths and pianists. Have
the W.'s moved into their villa yet? Convey my humble compliments
to the amiable lady, and greet W. most cordially. I hope I shall
be able to visit you in the autumn, after the Jubilee of Grand
Duke Carl August. It will be celebrated here on September 3rd,
4th, and 5th, on which occasion I shall perform my FAUST symphony
and a new symphonic poem THE IDEALS.
In reference to the Hartel affair I enclose his two letters of
March 4th and 5th. At the end of February I had a long
conversation about the matter at Leipzig with Dr. Hartel, and
tried to persuade him to renew his first proposal to you, because
that seemed to me the most advantageous thing for you. After a
few days' consideration he sent me the letter, dated March 4th,
and I replied in the sense of my conversation with him. I tried
to show him as clearly as possible that this matter ought to be
looked upon as a grand ENTERPRISE rather than as a common
COMMERCIAL SPECULATION, and that the firm of Breitkopf and
Hartel, which already possessed LOHENGRIN and the three operatic
poems, would, in my opinion, be the most eligible for that
purpose. I have not kept a copy of my letter, but can assure you
that you need not disavow a single word of it. Hartal's letter of
March 16th is identical with that addressed to you. As matters
stand, I am very doubtful whether the Hartels will make you a new
offer of honorarium unless, of course, the immediate impression
of your rendering of the work on them should be so powerful as to
overcome their commercial timidity. On your part I should not
think it advisable to make them a new offer, and you have, no
doubt, hit upon the best idea in inviting them to Zurich, so that
you may be able to give them at least some previous idea of your
work. This, I think, will be your most favourable chance in the
circumstances. The intention of the Hartels for the present is,
of course, to offer you nothing but an eventual honorarium AFTER
the publication of the work, and after the expenses of that
publication have been covered. You seem to think that I have not
had sufficient time and opportunity for determining the Hartels
to a different and better proposal, BUT THERE YOU ARE VERY MUCH
MISTAKEN; and you may be quite certain that I should willingly
have remained at Leipzig for a month or longer, and should have
played and sung the RHINEGOLD to the Hartels several times if I
had had the slightest hope that our purpose would in that manner
be advanced by a hair's breadth. What I laid particular stress on
with Hartel, apart from the intrinsic importance of the whole
quality and essence of your work, was the possibility and the all
but absolute certainty of its performance, which of course is
denied on all sides.
At last I told him: "This I will guarantee, by word and deed,
that between the completion of the "NIBELUNGEN", which may be
expected by the end of the next year, and its performance,
scarcely a year will elapse, and that the friends of Wagner, and
I foremost amongst them, will do all that is possible to bring
that performance about. In this firm conviction I think it
desirable that the work should appear in print, so that the
necessary standpoint for its judgment may be supplied," etc.,
I am sorry to bore you with all this stuff, and only ask you NOT
TO GIVE WAY TO IRRITATION, and not to say or to write a single
rash word, because the matter is of decided importance, and a
trustworthy publisher is not easily found. The publication of the
"NIBELUNGEN" in full score and pianoforte arrangement will
require an outlay of at least ten thousand thalers, for which few
firms will be prepared. For the present I should advise you to
keep quite quiet, and to invite the Hartels simply, and if need
be repeatedly, to visit you, leaving all further discussion as to
the terms of publication till you have given them more accurate
insight into the matter; that is, till your meeting at Zurich.
What is your present address?
Richard Pohl has asked me to inquire of you whether you will be
at Zurich in July, and whether he may pay you a visit there?
ZURICH, May 8th, 1857.
At last, dearest Franz, I am able to give you an answer by
First of all, receive my heartiest congratulations on the good
state of your health. Your letter has joyfully surprised me, and,
to my greatest delight, has made me feel ashamed of my intrusive
anxiety about you. Your organisation is a perfect riddle to me,
and I hope that you will always solve that riddle in as
satisfactory a manner as this time, when I looked on with real
anxiety. Heaven grant that your profession of good health may not
be that of a Spartan!
All the more sorry do I feel that you have not been able to
dispel my anxiety as to the Princess also. At our last meeting at
Zurich my impression of your (to me) strange and very exciting
mode of life frightened me so much that I am really less
astonished at the Princess being on a sick bed than at your being
up again. My very eager anxiety about both of you is perhaps in
bad taste; for you are accustomed to taking care of yourselves,
and acknowledge probably no special right on my part to trouble
about you. Heaven grant that patience and good advice may restore
our magnanimous friend as soon as possible; when she is once well
again I shall be quite willing to plead guilty to the charge of
impertinence. You say nothing of the health of her daughter, who
was also severely indisposed. May your good star guide you; in
one important point I shall always remain a stranger to you all.
I shall have no further trouble with the Hartels, as I have
determined finally to give up my headstrong design of completing
the "Nibelungen." I have led my young Siegfried to a beautiful
forest solitude, and there have left him under a linden tree, and
taken leave of him with heartfelt tears. He will be better off
there than elsewhere. If I were ever to resume the work some one
would have to make it very easy for me, or else I should have to
be in a position to present it to the world as a GIFT, in the
full sense of the word. These long explanations with the Hartels-
-my first contact with that world which would have to make the
realisation of my enterprise possible—were quite enough to bring
me to my senses, and to make me recognize the chimeric nature of
this undertaking. You were the only person of importance, besides
myself, who believed in its possibility, but probably for the
reason that you also had not sufficiently realised its
difficulties. But the Hartels, who are to advance solid coin,
have looked into the matter more closely, and are, no doubt,
quite right in believing the performance of the work impossible,
as the author did not even see his way to its completion without
As regards myself, there was a time when I conceived, commenced,
and half finished the work without the expectation of its being
performed during my lifetime. Even last winter your confident
tone, as you took leave of me, and your hope of releasing me soon
from my mute and soundless exile, gave me the courage (which by
that time had become a difficult matter) to continue. Such
encouragement was indeed required, for, after having been without
any stimulus, such as a good performance of one of my works might
have given me, my position was, at last, becoming unbearable. Our
trials at the piano further contributed towards my becoming
thoroughly conscious of the misery of such musical makeshifts;
indeed, I felt that a good many things would be explained to
myself only by a good performance. Since then my last hope has
vanished again, and a terrible bitterness has come over me, so
that I can no longer have any faith in mere chance. You, my
rarest friend, do everything in your power to rouse me again in
one way or other, and to sustain my freshness and love of work,
but I know that all you say is only for this particular purpose.
So I have at last decided to help myself. I have determined to
finish at once "Tristan and Isolde" on a moderate scale, which
will make its performance easier, and to produce it next year at
Strassburg with Niemann and Madame Meyer. There is a beautiful
theatre there, and the orchestra and the other not very important
characters I hope to get from a neighbouring German Court-
theatre. In that manner I must try (D.V.) to produce something
myself and in my own way which will once more restore freshness
and artistic conscientiousness to me. Apart from this, such an
undertaking offers me the only possible chance of sustaining my
position. It was only by a somewhat frivolous proceeding—the
sale of "Tannhauser" to the Josephstadt Theatre at Vienna—that I
succeeded in preserving my equilibrium, and this will soon again
be threatened, or, at least, is so absolutely insecure, that I
had to think of something which would free me from care. For so
much I may assume that a thoroughly practicable work, such as
"Tristan" is to be, will quickly bring me a good income, and keep
me afloat for a time. In addition to this, I have a curious idea.
I am thinking of having a good Italian translation made of this
work in order to produce it as an Italian opera at the theatre of
Rio Janeiro, which will probably give my "Tannhauser" first. I
mean to dedicate it to the Emperor of Brazil, who will soon receive
copies of my last three operas, and all this will, I trust, realise
enough to keep me out of harm's way for a time. Whether, after
that, my "Nibelungen" will appeal to me again I cannot foresee; it
depends upon moods over which I have no control. For once I have
used violence against myself. Just as I was in the most favourable
mood I have torn Siegfried from my heart, and placed him under lock
and key as one buried alive. There I shall keep him, and no one
shall see anything of him, as I had to shut him out from myself.
Well, perhaps this sleep will do him good; as to his awaking I
decide nothing. I had to fight a hard and painful battle before I
got to this point. Well, it is settled so far.
Your three last Symphonic Poems have once more filled me with
painful joy. While reading them I was forced again to think of my
miserable condition, which makes such things mute to me, to me
who knows so little how to help himself. God knows the greatest
delight, such as your "Mountain Symphony," is thus turned to
sorrow for me. But I have made these complaints a thousand times,
and there is no help for it.
Some unfortunate person has again sent me a whole heap of
ridiculous nonsense about my "Nibelungen," and probably expects
an approving answer in return. With such puppets have I to deal
when I look for human beings. These are the kind of people who
continually trouble themselves about me with astounding
faithfulness and constancy. Good Lord! it is very well for you to
I shall receive R. Pohl with all the respect due to the Weimar
art historiographer. I shall stay in my "refuge," and shall be
pleased to see him. To speak at last of something hopeful, let me
express my greatest joy at your giving me hope of a visit from
you in September. Let me pray you earnestly not to treat this
matter lightly, but to turn my hope into confidence. Try to
imagine that you have undertaken to conduct a musical festival
here, and then I am sure your passionate conscientiousness will
not allow you to stay away. Really, dearest Franz, such a meeting
is a necessity to me this time. I shall enjoy it like a true
gourmet. Let me soon hear something definite, and greet Altenburg
and all its precious contents from the bottom of my heart. REMAIN
well, for you say that you are well, and once more, love me.
As regards my address, the very blind know my footsteps at
Zurich. About "Tristan" ABSOLUTE SILENCE.
ZURICH, July 9th, 1857.
My DEAR FRANZ,
I forgot to ask you something. At Zurich I told you that that
poor devil Rockel was longing to see one of my new scores.
Recently he has again reminded me of it, therefore I repeat my
request to you to lend him your score of "Rhinegold" for six or
eight weeks. His wife, who lives at Weimar, will, no doubt,
gladly undertake to send him the score. He is a clever fellow,
and I should like to count him amongst those who occupy
themselves with my recent works. It will cheer him up
considerably, and I see from his last letter that he is gradually
becoming low-spirited. You would, no doubt, increase his delight
if you were to add copies of all, or some of your symphonic
poems. I have drawn his attention to them, and he is very curious
to know something of them. You might let him have them just as a
loan. Do not be angry with me for troubling you with this.
How are you, and have you any comforting news of the Princess for
The Grand Duke of Baden recently wrote me a surprisingly amiable
and friendly letter, which is of real value to me, as the first
sign of a breach in the timid or courtly etiquette hitherto
observed towards me. The occasion was a little attention which I
showed to the young Grand Duchess, and for which he thanks me in
a moved and moving manner in her name and his own.
Eduard Dervient stayed with me for three days last week, and
inaugurated my little guest-chamber. To him I also spoke of my
"Tristan" scheme; he highly approved of it, but was against
Strassburg, and undertook, although generally a careful and timid
man, to arrange about its first performance at Carlsruhe under my
direction. The Grand Duke also seems to have got wind of
something of the kind, probably through Devrient, for in one
passage of his letter he pointedly alludes to his confident hope
of seeing me soon at Carlsruhe.
Well, as God wills. This much I see, that I must, once more,
perform a little miracle to make people believe in me.
About my work I am, as you may imagine, in a state of great and
Let it be settled that I have you in September; that is the chief
A thousand cordial greetings to your dear home.
At your recommendation I am reading the Correspondence between
Schiller and Goethe. Your last letter found me at this passage:
"It is one of the greatest happinesses of my existence that I
live to see the completion of these works, that they fall into
the period of my activity, and that I am enabled to drink at this
pure fountain. The beautiful relation existing between us
constitutes a kind of religious duty on my part to make your
cause my own, to develop every reality in my being to the purest
mirror of the spirit which lives in this body, and to deserve by
that means the name of your friend in a higher sense of the word"
(p. 163, vol. i.).
I must weep when I think of the interruption of your
"Nibelungen." Cannot the great "Ring" free you of all the little
chains which surround you? You have certainly many reasons for
being bitter, and if I generally observe silence on the point I
feel it none the less sadly. In many quarters I am, for the
present, unable to achieve anything more, but it would be foolish
to abandon all hope. A more favourable hour will come, and must
be waited for, and in the meantime I can only ask you not to be
unjust to your friend, and to practise the virtue of the mule, as
Byron calls patience. "Tristan" appears to me a very happy idea.
You will, no doubt, create a splendid work, and then go back
refreshed to your "Nibelungen." We shall all come to Strassburg
and form a garde d'honneur for you. I hope to see you at the
beginning of this autumn, although I am not yet able to settle on
a definite plan. The Princess is still confined to her bed, and
her recovery is, as yet, in a bad way.
I, for my part, shall be compelled after all, and in spite of
obstinate resistance, to use the baths of Aix-la-Chapelle, which
is very unpleasant to me. Next week I shall go to Berlin for a
few days, and from there I proceed straight to Aix, where I
intend to go through the cure from July 22nd till August 10th. On
August 14th I shall be back in order to receive the commands of
the Grand Duke with regard to the festivities in September. The
excavations which have been made for the monument of Schiller and
Goethe will, it is feared, cause a dangerous settlement of the
soil near the theatre, and the two "fellows" may possibly not be
able to find a secure position in Weymar. A telegram has been
sent to Rietschel in order to decide in what manner the danger
can be prevented. Perhaps they will order me to make no more
"Music of the Future," so as not to ruin the city from the
bottom. In that case I should have to fly to Zurich in order to
produce the "Faust" symphony and my last symphonic poem,
Schiller's "Ideals," at your villa. The former has been increased
by a final chorus of male voices singing the last eight lines of
the second part, the Eternal Feminine.
It is still very doubtful whether the Princess will be fit for
travelling this year, and the Child will, in any case, not leave
her mother. If both are able this autumn to perform the Swiss
journey, which they missed last year, I shall of course stay with
them at the Hotel Baur. Your wife, in that case, must not refuse
me the boon of getting me excellent coffee and a practicable
coffee machine, for the abominable beverage which is served at
the hotel as coffee is as disgusting to me as a piece de salon by
Kucken, etc., and embitters my morning hours.
By what manner of means have you got at H.M. the Emperor of
Brazil? You must tell me this. He ought by rights to send you the
Rose Order set in brilliants, although you do not care about
flowers or orders.
Rosa Milde is going to give a few performances at Dresden, and
has asked for Elizabeth as her first part. If the voice of Frau
Meyer does not improve I advise you to choose Frau Milde as
Isolde. I believe you will be satisfied with her, although our
FRIEND Hiller praised her so much.
WEYMAR, July 10th, 1857.
You have not come, after all, dearest Franz; without a word of
explanation, simply remaining silent, you have not come. In two
letters you had given me hope of your visit, and I wrote to M.
that I had thought of a way of receiving you under my roof. Has
my message been given to you? Perhaps not. M. was kind enough to
write to me some time ago, but my last invitation was not
mentioned with a single word. You wrote to me a few lines, but
not a word as to whether you were coming or not. My dearest
Franz, whatever there may have been in my conduct to make you
angry with me, you must, I pray you, forgive me for the sake of
our friendship, while I, on my part, am quite willing to forgive
the person who may have set you against me.
B. will bring you a copy of the poem of "Tistan," which I wrote
during his absence. While I was at work, and had a visitor, I
found it impossible to make a copy and send it to M. Kindly
Farewell, dearest Franz, and let me hear soon that you still
think of me in a friendly way. The successful performance of your
"Faust" has pleased me immensely. I wish I could have heard it.
Your R. W.
HOTEL DE SAXE, No. 17, November 3rd, 1857.
How could I think of you otherwise than with constant love and
sincerest devotion in this city, in this room where we first came
near to each other, when your genius shone before me? "Rienzi"
resounds to me from every wall, and when I enter the theatre I
cannot help bowing to you before every one, as you stand at your
desk. With Tichatschek, Fischer, Heine, and others of your
friends in the orchestra here I talk of you every day. These
gentlemen appear well inclined towards me, and take a warm
interest in the rehearsals of the "Prometheus" and "Dante"
symphonies, which are to be given next Saturday at a concert for
the benefit of the Pension Fund of the chorus of the Court
theatre. The Princess and her daughter will arrive this evening.
The Child is mad about your "Tristan," but, by all the gods, how
can you turn it into an opera for ITALIAN SINGERS, as, according
to B., you intend to do? Well, the incredible and impossible are
your elements, and perhaps you will manage to do even this. The
subject is splendid, and your conception wonderful. I have some
slight hesitation as to the part of Brangane, which appears to me
spun out a little, because I cannot bear confidantes at all in a
drama. Pardon this absurd remark, and take no further notice of
it. When the work is finished my objection will, no doubt, cease.
For February 16th, the birthday of the Grand Duchess, I have
proposed "Rienzi," and I hope Tichatschek will sing in our first
two performances. The third act will necessarily have to be
shortened very much. Fischer and some others even thought that we
might omit it altogether. The Weymar theatre, like the Weymar
state, is little adapted to military revolutions; let me know on
occasion what I am to do. The rehearsals will begin in January.
My daughter Blandine has married at Florence, on October 22nd,
Emile Ollivier, avocat au barreau de Paris, and democratic deputy
for the city of Paris. I am longing to get back to my work soon,
but unfortunately, the inevitable interruptions caused by my
innumerable social relations and obligations, give me little hope
for this winter. I wish I could live with you on the Lake of
Zurich, and go on writing quietly.
God be with you.
F. LISZT. MY DEAR, DEAR FRANZ,
I want you to receive these lines just as you are going to the
first performance of your "Dante." Can I help feeling grieved to
the very depth of my existence, when I am compelled to be far
from you on such an evening, and cannot follow the impulse of my
heart, which, were I but free, would take me to you in all
circumstances, and from a distance of hundreds of miles in order
to unite myself with you and your soul on such a wedding-day? I
shall be with you, at least in the spirit, and if your work
succeeds as it must succeed, do honour to my presence by taking
notice of nothing that surrounds you, neither of the crowd, which
must always remain strange to us, even if it takes us in for a
moment, nor of the connoisseur, nor of the brother artist, for we
have none. Only look in my eye just as if you would do if you
were playing to me, and be assured that it will return your
glance blissfully, brightly, and gladly, with that intimate
understanding which is our only reward.
Take my hand and take my kiss. It is such a kiss as you gave me
when you accompanied me home one evening last year—you remember,
after I told you my sad tale. Many things may lose their
impression upon me. The wonderful sympathy which was in your
words during that homeward walk, the celestial essence of your
nature, will follow me everywhere as my most beautiful
remembrance. Only one thing I can place by the side of it, I mean
that which you tell me in your works, and especially in your
"Dante." If you tell the same thing to others today, remember
that you can do so in the sense alone in which we display our
body, our face, our existence to the world. We wear ourselves out
thereby, and do not expect to receive love and comprehension in
return. Be mine today, wholly mine, and feel assured that by that
means you will be all that you are and can be.
Good luck on your way through hell and purgatory! In the supernal
glow with which you have surrounded me, and in which the world
has disappeared from my eyes, we will clasp hands.
January 1st, 1858.
I want to consecrate my pen for the new year, and cannot do so
better than by a greeting to you, my dear Franz. Above all other
wishes is my wish of seeing you and enjoying you to my heart's
content. The worst loss of the past year has been that of the
visit you had promised me. If I were to try to imagine the
greatest delight that could be vouchsafed to me, it would be to
see you suddenly in my room. Are you inclined at all for such a
stroke of genius? If I were only free you would experience such a
surprise from me, but I must no longer hope for miracles;
everything comes to me in a laborious and gradual way, and, after
all, I have to share it with a host of Zurich professors. You
perceive I am not very many-sided. My ideas move in a somewhat
narrow circle, which, fortunately, through the objects it
comprises, becomes as large as the world to me (I do not count
the Zurich professors amongst those objects). If I have a grudge
against your eternal and manifold obligations and engagements,
you will understand my very special reason, viz., that they take
you away from ME so much. Candidly speaking, my being together
with you is everything to me; it is my fountain, all the rest is
but overflow. When I sit down to write to you I do not know what
to say. Nothing occurs to me but what I cannot write. To speak to
you of "business" is altogether an abomination to me, for when I
deal with you my heart grows large, while business narrows it in
the most deplorable manner. It is bad enough when, as formerly
was too often the case, I am compelled to trouble you with my
private sorrows. Especially today these must be far from me, for
the first stroke of my pen in the new year is to convey nothing
but a pure, sonorous greeting to you. I want to tell you,
however, that yesterday, at last, I finished the first act of
"Tristan." I shall work at "Tristan" assiduously; at the
beginning of the next winter season I want to produce it
My reading is, at present, confined to Calderon, who will at last
induce me to learn a little Spanish. Heaven forbid that in that
case I should remind you of H. Nageli. The necessary cache-nez I
possess. My wife has given me one, together with a splendid
carpet with swans on it, a la Lohengrin. I heard recently of your
Dresden life with Gutzkow, Auerbach, etc., etc. Oh, you
tremendous fellow! You can do anything. Perhaps you, too, will
appear to me in a Spanish light, when I shall have a good laugh
at you. I have struck up a friendship with the X.'s for the sole
purpose of not being again left out of their invitation when the
time comes. But I begin already to regret having done so, and any
amount of enthusiasm cannot make me appreciate this abominable
race of professors. But you will see by my having made the
attempt that I wish to get rid of my roughness, in order to be
quite amiable at your next visit. Did I recently write something
stupid to the dear Child? I cannot remember exactly, but God must
forgive me all my sins, just as I forgive Him many things in His
world, and where God forgives, the Child should not be sulky. You
ought to be angry least of all, for you must know that I love no
one as I love you, and that it was you who taught me to love. If
the Princess is angry with me I want her to give a good scolding
one of these days to Professor M., or Professor V., etc., for it
is in reality the fault of this type of men if I make any one
I am delighted above everything at your being well again,
although I find it difficult to believe that there are men who
can go through what you go through. I am in fairly good health,
and still have to thank Vaillant for it. I wish I could reward
Let me hear from you soon, and do not mind my nonsense. Greet the
Altenburg with a will, and tell the dear ladies that they are to
hold me in kind remembrance.
The blessings of a world on you, my Franz. Farewell.
Your R. W.
I intend to go to Paris in order to look after my interests
there. If it is too far for you, or if you do not like to come to
Paris, we might as well meet at Strassburg, I should like to
consult you about my whole position, in order to have the consent
of my only friend to my new undertakings. For the present you
will see, at least, that I am not acting hastily. I wait for some
money coming in. Everything leaves me in the lurch. I have had to
send a power of attorney to Haslinger in Vienna, in order to
compel the manager there to pay me some considerable sums which
he owes me, but I cannot with any certainty reckon upon success
within a month. At Berlin they have given "Tannhauser" exactly
once during last quarter, and for the first time I received very
little money, while formerly I used to draw considerable sums
from there during the winter. The Hartels, to whom I made some
days ago the offer of "Tristan" on certain conditions, I cannot
ask for an advance of money, even in the favourable case of their
accepting my offer, because I should not be able to send them the
manuscript before the end of February. The housekeeping money of
my wife is in the last stage of consumption, and she longingly
expects funds from me to meet the new year's bills. In such
circumstances, and being absolutely without resources, I am in
the painful position of having to delay my necessary journey,
which I could not undertake, even if I had only the actual
travelling money, because I must not leave my wife without means
for ever so short a time. I shall therefore require at least one
thousand francs in order to get away. By Easter at the latest,
and perhaps sooner, I shall ask Hartel for a considerable sum on
account of the first act, and promise faithfully to return the
money then. Please consider from whom, and how, you can get the
money for me. Send me the money, and let me know at the same time
where you can meet me, at Strassburg or in Paris.
Farewell! Au revoir very soon.
At Weymar I cannot raise ten thalers just at present, but I have
written at once to Vienna, and in a week's time the sum of a
thousand francs, named by you, will be handed to you by my son-
in-law, M. Emile Ollivier (avocat au barreau et depute de la
ville de Paris). Call on him at the end of next week. He lives
rue St. Guillaume, No. 29, Faubourg St. Germain.
If it is of use to you to have some conversation with me, I will
come to Strassburg for one day, although I find it difficult to
leave Weymar at the present moment.
The Princess has had an excellent idea, of which you will hear
more before long. She will write to you as soon as she has had an
answer with regard to it.
God be with you!
FRIDAY, January 15th, 1858.
Your telegram, arrived a day before your letter which I received
last night. Let me have your address; poste restante is not safe.
Tired to death and worn out, I write only to tell you that I have
arrived at Paris, and that my address is Grand Hotel du Louvre
In a modest room on the third floor, overlooking the inner
courts, I found at last the quiet position which is necessary to
I expect help from you. My difficulty is great. In a few days I
shall write more calmly.
GRAND HOTEL DU LOUVRE, No. 364, PARIS.
You dear, splendid man! How can I be unhappy, when I have
attained the supreme happiness of possessing such a friend, of
participating in such love? Oh, my Franz! could we but live
always together! Or is the song to be right after all: "Es ist
bestimmt in Gottes Rath, dass von dem liebsten was man hat, muss
Farewell; tomorrow I shall write about other things. A thousand
Yet another friend, dearest Franz, has a kind fate vouchsafed to
me. I was permitted to feel the delight of becoming acquainted
with such a poet as Calderon in my mature stage of life. He has
accompanied me here and I have just finished reading "Apollo and
Klymene," with its continuation "Phaeton." Has Calderon ever been
near to you? I can unfortunately approach him through a
translation only on account of my great want of gift for
languages (as for music). However, Schlegel, Gries, who has
translated the more important pieces, Malsburg, and Martin (in
the Brockhaus edition) have done much towards disclosing the
spirit and even the indescribable subtlety of the poet to us. I
am almost inclined to place Calderon on a solitary height.
Through him I have discovered the significance of the Spanish
character—an unheard of incomparable blossom, developed with
such rapidity, that it soon had to arrive at the destruction of
matter, and the negation of the world. The fine and deeply
passionate spirit of the nation finds expression in the term
"honour," which contains all the noblest and at the same time
most terrible elements of a second religion; the most frightful
selfishness and the noblest sacrifice simultaneously find their
embodiment in it. The essence of the "world" proper could never
have been expressed more pointedly, more brilliantly, more
powerfully and at the same time more destructively, more
terribly. The most striking imaginings of the poet have the
conflict between this "honour" and a profoundly human pity for
their subject. This "honour" determines the actions which are
acknowledged and praised by the world, while wounded pity takes
refuge in a scarcely expressed, but all the more deeply moving,
sublime melancholy, in which we recognise the essence of the
world to be terror and nothingness. It is the Catholic religion
which tries to bridge over this deep chasm, and nowhere else did
it gain such profound significance as here, where the contrast
between the world and pity was developed in a more pregnant, more
precise, more plastic form than in any other nation. It is very
significant for that reason that almost all the great Spanish
poets took refuge in priesthood in the second half of their
lives. It is a unique phenomenon that from this refuge, and after
conquering life by ideal means, these poets were able to describe
the same life with greater certainty, purity, warmth, and
precision than they had been capable of while they still were in
the midst of life. Yea, the most graceful, most humorous
creations were given to the light from that ghostly refuge. By
the side of this marvellously significant phenomenon, all other
national literatures appear to me without importance. If nature
produced such an individual as Shakespeare amongst the English,
we can easily see that he was unique of his kind; and the fact
that the splendid English nation is still in full blossom,
carrying on the commerce of the world, while the Spanish nation
has perished, moves me so deeply, because it enlightens me as to
what is really important in this world.
And now, dear friend, I must tell you that I am very satisfied
with myself. This curious and unexpected fact is particularly
useful to me for my stay in Paris. Formerly Paris used to fill me
with fears of boding evil; in one sense it excited my desire,
while on the other it repelled me terribly, so that I continually
felt the sufferings of Tantalus. At present only the repulsive
quality remains, while every charm has lost its power. The nature
of that repulsiveness I now fully understand, and it appears to
me as if my eyes had always possessed an unconscious faculty
which has at last become conscious to me. On a journey, in
carriages, etc., my gaze always tried involuntarily to read in
the eyes of fellow-travellers whether they were capable of, or
destined for salvation, that is, negation of the world. A closer
acquaintance with them often deceived me as to this point; my
involuntary wish frequently transferred my divine ideal to the
soul of another person, and the further course of our acquaintance
generally led to an increase of painful disappointment, until,
at last, I abandoned and violently cut short that acquaintance.
FIRST sight is less fallible, and as long as my intercourse with
the world is of a passing kind, my feeling with regard to it is
free from any doubt, resembling, as it does, that perfect
consciousness which comes to us on better acquaintance with
people, after we have thrown off prolonged and laboriously
sustained illusions. Even the passing sight of individuals, in
whose features I see nothing but the most terrible error of
life,—a restless, either active or passive, desire,—affects me
painfully; how much more then must I be terrified and repelled by
a mass of people whose reason for existence appears to be the
most shallow volition. These finely and very clearly cut
physiognomies of the French, with their strong feeling for
charming and sensuously attractive things, show me the qualities
which I see in other nations in a washed-out, undeveloped state,
with such precision as to make illusion even for a moment
impossible. I feel more distinctly than elsewhere in the world
that these things are quite strange to me, just because they are
so precise, so charming, so refined, so infallible in form and
expression. Let me confess to you that I have scarcely been
able to look at the marvellous new buildings erected here; all
this is so strange to me that, although I may gaze at it, it
leaves no impression on the mind. As no delusive hope, that might
be excited here, has the slightest attraction for me, I gain by
my absolutely unimpassioned position towards these surroundings a
calmness which—let me say it with a certain ironic humour—will
probably be of advantage to me in gaining that for which I strove
here in my early days, and which now, as it has become
indifferent to me, I shall probably attain.
What this possible "attainment" may be I can only briefly
indicate to you. The object of my journey has been the securing
of the rights of property in my operas, and beyond this I can
look for nothing except what is freely offered to me, and the
only person who seems inclined to make a definite offer is the
manager of the "Theatre Lyrique." I saw his theatre; it pleased
me fairly well, and a new acquisition he had made, a tenor,
pleased me very much. In case he is prepared for more than
ordinary efforts, as to which of course I must have every
security, I might give him "Rienzi," provided that I succeeded
(perhaps through intercession of the Grand Duke of Baden with the
Emperor of the French) in obtaining the exceptional privilege of
having my opera performed at this theatre WITHOUT SPOKEN
"Ollivier," whom I did not meet till yesterday, and with whom I
am going to dine en garcon today, received me with such amiable
kindness that I imagined I had arrived at "Altenburg." He made me
an unlimited offer of his services with the manager of the
Theatre Lyrique, a personal friend of his, amongst other people.
Well, we must see what will come of it; in any case, I should
surrender, without much scruple of conscience, "Rienzi," to gain
me an entry, but of course only on the supposition that
considerable pecuniary advantages would accrue to me.
I had got so far when Berlioz called on me. After that I had to
go out, and found soon that I was not well, the cause probably
being a cold, which pulls me down more than usually, because as I
remember only now, my food has lately been very bad, I being
feeble and very thin in consequence. I had to make my excuses to
Ollivier and stop at home in bed. In consequence of this prudent
measure I feel a little better, and am expecting Ollivier, who
will call for me at two to take me to the concert of the
Coservatroire; so I will go on talking to you a little about
It was a real shame that I was once more compelled to take money
from you, but this time it is quite certain to be a loan, which I
shall repay to you in any circumstances. From the letter of the
Princess, I see that you have to use all manner of stealth to get
"Rienzi" accepted at the Weimar theatre. This grieves me very
much, and I am afraid that a serious conflict between myself and
the management will be the result. If this should be the case,
the repayment of the thousand francs would become more difficult,
but by no means impossible, and in any case I count upon
returning the money to you by "Easter." As to the employment of
what you sent to me, and for which also I thank you cordially,
you must please set the mind of the good Princess at rest. I am
sorry that this also should trouble her.
Apart from you and Calderon, a glance at the first act of
"Tristan," which I have brought with me, has roused me
wonderfully. It is a remarkable piece of music. I feel a strong
desire to communicate some of it to some one, and I fear I shall
be tempted to play some of it to Berlioz one of these days,
although my beautiful performance will probably terrify and
disgust him. Could I only be with you! That, you know, is the
burden of my song.
Something more about business. The Hartels have replied to my
offer of "Tristan." It was quite amusing. Whatever I may do, the
Philistine will think more or less impossible; to that I am
accustomed, and must comfort myself with the success achieved so
far by my impossible creations. To sum up, the Hartels accept, in
spite of their great doubts, the publication of the work, with a
reduction, however, of my demands. Even so they think they are
offering a great sacrifice to me, but they say that they are
prepared to have the full score engraved at once, and I think
that I cannot do better than accept their offer.
I am always loth to write to you about business, and have done so
only when I expected you to help me, which unfortunately was the
case often enough. This time, however, I want to give you a short
synopsis of the state of my Paris expedition. At the beginning of
the winter a M. Leopold Amat, Chef or Directeur des Fetes
Musicales de Wiesbaden, wrote to me from Paris, and set forth the
results of his voluntary exertions for "Tannhauser" (at Wiesbaden
with Tichatschek and in the French press). He asked me to
authorise him to take the necessary steps for the performance of
"Tannhauser" at the Grand Opera. I informed him that my only and
indispensable CONDITION would be that an exact translation of the
opera, without omission or alteration, should be given. Soon
afterwards a M. de Charnal, a young litterateur without
reputation, applied to me, asking me for permission to publish a
good translation in verse of the poem of "Tannhauser," in one of
the first Revues de Paris. That permission I granted him, on
condition that the publication in the review should not imply any
further copyright. I am now expecting the pianoforte arrangements
of my operas, in order to secure my rights, which will be of
importance, whether I want my operas to be performed or whether I
want to prevent their performance. The management of the Grand
Opera has made no move, but M. Carvalho, of the Theatre Lyrique,
seems to be lying in wait for me. In case I should do anything
with him, I am determined, as I said before, to leave "Rienzi" to
his tender mercies, first because that work causes no anxiety to
my heart, and may be transmogrified a little for all I care;
second, because the subject and the music are certainly less
strange to the Paris public than are my other works. What do you
think of it? To me the whole thing would be purely an affair
d'argent, and as such it would no doubt turn out well.
Here you have plenty of business, but I must add one thing more.
I have lately laid your poor Vienna cousin under contribution. As
my manager at Vienna sent me no money, I asked Haslinger, on the
strength of your friendship, to enforce my demands, and as he
(being prevented by illness, as I afterwards heard) did not
reply, I hunted up the address of your cousin (from 1856), and
again invoking your sacred name, asked him to prod on Haslinger.
That had the desired effect, and to both I owe it that my manager
will probably discharge his debt before long. You see, it is
always "Franz Liszt," even if he knows nothing about it.
Here you have a very long letter from me. Next time the good
Child shall have one equally long; I am deeply in her debt. The
practical Princess also shall have a regular professor's letter
from me. For today I send a thousand thanks and greetings to you
all from the bottom of my heart. Be assured of my most faithful
Long live Altenburg!
Farewell, you dear unique one.
HOTEL DU LOUVRE, No. 364.
January 30th, 1858.
You have struck up a regular friendship with Calderon in Paris,
dearest Richard; a la bonne heure, he is one of the right sort in
whose society one may forget many blackguards and blackguardisms.
Unfortunately I know him only very superficially, and have not
yet succeeded in making him part of myself. Grillparzer used to
tell me wonderful things about him, and if you remain much longer
in this element I shall have to read some of his things after
you. Let me know on occasion which are the pieces I ought to
begin with. His two chief elements, CATHOLICISM and HONOUR, are
both dear to my heart. Do you think something musical might be
made of this? I once read the translation by Cardinal Diepenbrock
of a wonderful sacred drama, in which heaven, and air, and earth,
with all their powers, are set in motion. I forget the title at
this moment, but shall find out.
Perhaps you may tell me, some day, how to mould and handle this
subject-matter for musical purposes.
I shall have to postpone "Rienzi" till May. We shall invite
Tichatschek for it. All that IS POSSIBLE will be done, but I am
annoyed that the result will again be very small. Fischer of
Dresden writes me a very sad letter about the frustration of his
hope of producing "Reinzi" there in the course of the winter. He
and Tichatschek and many others are cordially devoted to you, and
we shall certainly not fail to do our duty as far as in us lies.
"Lohengrin" will be given here very shortly; I have already had a
few rehearsals, because Ortrud, the Herald, and the King will be
in new hands. I cannot tell you how deeply the work moves me
every time. The last time we performed it I felt proud of my
century, because it possessed such a man as you show yourself to
be in this work. With "Lohengrin," the old opera world comes to a
close; the spirit moves upon the face of the waters, and there is
As to your chances in Paris I have not much to say. It is true
that "Rienzi" is amongst your works the most congenial to the
Parisians. But whether they will take you up in earnest, and
whether in that case you will be able to count upon the sympathy
of the manager, the artists, and the press, appears very
questionable to me. Nevertheless you have done well to go to
Paris yourself. Go on reading Calderon industriously; it will
help you to bear the state of things there, which are in glaring
contradiction with your genius and your nature.
Keep me au courant of your Paris adventures, and if I can be of
any service to you, I need hardly say that you may freely dispose
257. DEAREST FRANZ,
People take care to give me plenty of diversion. From the
enclosed letter, which please seal before you forward it to the
person in question, you will see that in addition to other
troubles I have been robbed. The thief is near you at Jena, where
he has had to go for a short time on military duty. You will, I
hope, find no difficulty in finding a person attached or semi-
attached to the police, who could deal with E. W., late waiter at
the hotel here, in the manner indicated by the letter. I think it
will be best to frighten the fellow into restoring the money. If
we were simply to put him in prison he would deny the charge in
order to save himself, and it is always difficult to prove a
money robbery in legal form.
Show me your practical wisdom as a police agent. But it must be
done very quickly, as the fellow will stay at Jena or Weimar for
a little time only. As I start the day after tomorrow, and shall
therefore not be in Paris when he comes back, it would be
difficult to lay hold of him here. So much for today. I hope I
shall find time to write you a rational letter from Paris. A
thousand thanks for your faithful love.
The money, if recovered, should be sent to Zurich.
If it were given to me, dearest friend, to give you comfort and
strength, I should joyfully make any sacrifice. From Dresden
nothing much can be expected as yet, but I shall make another
attempt soon. At Carlsruhe they are well inclined towards you,
and the day before yesterday I had a long conversation about your
sad position with the Grand Duchess of Baden, who, like the Grand
Duke, seems to take a lively interest in you. Do not neglect your
"Tristan." For the first performance I should advise you to
choose either Carlsruhe or Prague. Weymar would of course follow
at once; for the moment, however, I think it more advisable that
another stage should take the initiative, and have spoken in that
sense to Thome in Prague. In any case I shall not fail to attend
the first performance, and you will oblige me by sending me the
score as soon as you have finished it. I intend to lay the work
before the Grand Duke, and to ask him earnestly that he may get
you from Dresden the permission of conducting the opera here. May
God grant that this step will, at last, lead to a favourable
"Rienzi" cannot be given here this season. Frau von Milde is
expecting her confinement, and has not been singing these two
months, besides which, we are at present unable to fill some
other parts properly, and must wait till the end of the year,
when several new engagements come into force. I had, as you know,
proposed "Rienzi" as gala opera for February 16th; but a light
opera was preferred, and, as such, your tribune of the people
would scarcely pass.
You are probably in direct correspondence with Eckert concerning
the performance of "Lohengrin" at Vienna. He informed me that the
work would be given this autumn. The principal parts will be
splendidly cast: Ander (Lohengrin), Meyer (Elsa), and Csillagh
(Ortrud), and if Eckert throws his heart into the thing, a great
success is beyond all doubt.
Of my performances at Prague, Vienna, and Pesth, you have
probably heard from others. Although I have no reason to
complain, I am very glad that they are over, and that I may stop
at home again; for I must candidly confess that the wear and tear
connected with similar occasions is very unpleasant to me, and
becomes almost unbearable if it lasts more than a few weeks.
Do not desert "Tristan"; he is to lead you back soon, and
VICTORIOUSLY, to Siegfried.
May 7th, 1858.
I send you today a WONDERFUL FELLOW, dearest Richard; receive him
Tausig is to work your Erard thoroughly, and to play all manner
of things to you. Introduce him to our mutual friends at Zurich—
Herwegh, Wille, Semper, Moleschott, Kochly—and take good care of
WEYMAR, May 18th, 1858.
ZURICH, July 2nd, 1858.
At last, dearest Franz, I have once more got so far as to be able
to carry out my long-delayed intention of writing to you.
I have to thank you very much for your last letter, to which I
thought, upon the whole, silence was the best answer. I hope you
understood me rightly. I am generally too talkative, and chat
about many things which it would be better to keep to myself.
This would be more advantageous to others also, for he who
refuses to understand a silent friend will find a talking one
Cordial thanks also to the good Princess for her letter.
Of "Tristan" I have sketched the second act; whether I have
succeeded I shall see when I come to work it out. It was amusing
to me to see you treat this peculiar affair as a matter of
literary business in your letter. I explained to the Princess
some time ago that the belief of the Prague manager, that I was
writing this opera for a first performance at his theatre, was a
pure misunderstanding. I could not help smiling at your believing
in the assertion of this odd man sufficiently to speak to me
seriously of the matter, and to offer me your amiable assistance.
You must, of course, have been puzzled at my having the score
engraved in this early stage of the proceedings. But there is a
very simple reason for it. I had, as you know, no money, and, as
"Rienzi" came to nothing, I saw no other way except "doing
business" with the Hartels. For that purpose I chose "Tristan",
then scarcely begun, because I had nothing else. They offered to
pay me half the honorarium of 200 louis d'or, i.e., 100 louis
d'or on receipt of the score of the first act, so I hurried to
get it done head over heels. This was the reason of my business-
like haste in finishing this poor work. Altogether, the fate of
my works, including "Tristan", has become a matter of great
indifference to me; as to how, where, and when, I care little, as
long as I may be present.
The Grand Duke has probably given you my greetings, for which he
asked me in a very amiable manner. I did not think it proper to
charge him with such a message. H. R. H. wanted to know whether,
in case I were permitted to return to Germany, I should go to
Weimar, or whether I should prefer another "engagement," and I
explained to him that the only advantage I expected from my
amnesty was, to be able to visit Germany periodically, and that
for that purpose I had chosen your house, because it was your
house, as my pied-a-terre. That house, fortunately, being at
Weimar, the only danger would be that you might refuse to receive
me, and his wish of having me at Weimar would entirely depend
upon your friendship, which, therefore, he should try to
perpetuate. With that he was quite satisfied.
You have given me great pleasure with little Tausig. When he came
into my room, one fine morning, bringing your letter, I shook you
cordially by the hand. He is a terrible youth. I am astonished,
alternately, by his highly developed intellect and his wild ways.
He will become something extraordinary, if he becomes anything at
all. When I see him smoking frightfully strong cigars, and
drinking no end of tea, while as yet there is not the slightest
hope of a beard, I am frightened like the hen, when she sees the
young ducklings, whom she has hatched by mistake, take to the
water. What will become of him I cannot foresee, but whisky and
rum he will not get from me. I should, without hesitation, have
taken him into my house, if we had not mutually molested each
other by pianoforte playing. So I have found him a room in a
little hole close to me, where he is to sleep and work, doing his
other daily business at my house. He does, however, no credit to
my table, which, in spite of my grasswidowerhood, is fairly well
provided. He sits down to table every day stating that he has no
appetite at all, which pleases me all the less, because, the
reason is, the cheese and the sweets he has eaten. In this manner
he tortures me continually, and devours my biscuits, which my
wife doles out grudgingly even to me. He hates walking, and yet
declares that he would like to come with me when I propose to
leave him at home. After the first half hour he lags behind, as
if he had walked four hours. My childless marriage is thus
suddenly blessed with an interesting phenomenon, and I take in,
in rapid doses, the quintessence of paternal cares and troubles.
All this has done me a great deal of good; it was a splendid
diversion, for which, as I said before, I have to thank you. You
knew what I wanted. Of course the youth pleases me immensely in
other ways, and, although he acts like a naughty boy, he talks
like an old man of pronounced character. Whatever subject I may
broach with him, he is sure to follow me with clearness of mind
and remarkable receptivity. At the same time it touches and moves
me, when this boy shows such deep, tender feeling, such large
sympathy, that he captivates me irresistibly. As a musician he is
enormously gifted, and his furious pianoforte playing makes me
tremble. I must always think of you and of the strange influence
which you exercise over so many, and often considerably gifted,
young men. I cannot but call you happy, and genuinely admire your
harmonious being and existence.
My wife will return in a fortnight, after having finished her
cure, which will have lasted three months. My anxiety about her
was terrible, and for two months I had to expect the news of her
death from day to day. Her health was ruined, especially by the
immoderate use of opium, taken nominally as a remedy for
sleeplessness. Latterly the cure she uses has proved highly
beneficial; the great weakness and want of appetite have
disappeared, and the recovery of the chief functions (she used to
perspire continually), and a certain abatement of her incessant
excitement, have become noticeable. The great enlargement of her
heart will be bearable to her only if she keeps perfectly calm
and avoids all excitement to her dying day. A thing of this kind
can never be got rid of entirely. Thus I have to undertake new
duties, over which I must try to forget my own sufferings. Well,
and how about you? Will you come to my assistance again this
year? Your kind heart promises me to do so every year, but,
during the nine years of my exile, I have succeeded only twice in
tearing you away from your great dense world. Although you have
promised me your visit for this year, you will find it natural if
I am not too certain of seeing my wish fulfilled. I must add
several marks of interrogation and of prayer.
Cordial thanks to the dear, heavenly Child for her last letter; I
hope my silence was eloquent.
A thousand greetings and cordial responses to you three dear
ones! I also wish to be remembered to F. Muller, who sent me a
beautiful letter of congratulation on my birthday. I shall write
to him soon, without fail.
Farewell, dear Franz. You can imagine how often I am with you,
especially when Tausig is sitting at the piano. Between us, all
is one. Farewell, and continue to love me.
When I saw the Grand Duke last night for the first time after his
return, he told me much about the visit you paid him at Lucerne.
I do not know what impression your acquaintance with him has left
on you, as we have had no news from you for such a long time, but
from what I have heard, and what has already happened, I conclude
with tolerable certainty that we shall see you here for the first
performance of "Tristan", AT THE LATEST. May God grant that it
will be sooner; and I need not tell you that nothing I can do
will be left undone.
Dingelstedt will shortly write to you about "Rienzi", which is to
be performed next season, in December or January. Last winter we
were unable to get on with the work for reasons which, as they
exist no longer, are not sufficiently important to be discussed.
Let me soon hear from you.
July 3rd, 1858.
I enclose a letter to Tausig, which you will be kind enough to
hand to him.
How is he getting on at Zurich, and what do you think of him?
ZURICH, July 8th, 1858.
This affair of T. and X., dearest Franz, has become very
significant to me. It has shown me most clearly and definitely
that even amongst the best of friends a certain mode of action
may be perverted beyond recognition into its very opposite; and I
look with horror upon the cares of this world, where everything
is ruled by confusion and error to the verge of madness. It was
absolutely terrible to me to read your charges against T. What I
felt is difficult to describe; it was like a longing for death.
About this young T. I recently wrote to you in a very
unconventional manner. Two things make me overlook all his
shortcomings, and attach me to him to such a degree that I feel
inclined to place much confidence in him. One of them is his
boundless love for you, the absolute abandonment of his
impertinence as soon as you are mentioned, his most tender and
deep reverence for you; the other, the beautiful warmth and
genuine friendship which he shows at every moment for X. In the
present case also he defended the latter in a really touching
manner, and speaks of him always with enthusiastic praise of his
heart and his intellect. Were it not for these two traits I
should not know what to think of this young man, who speaks of
God and the world in the most ruthless manner. Curiously enough,
your reproach hit him in this particular point, and when he
showed me your letter there was a peculiar desperate question in
his glance. With such experiences the boy will become quickly,
almost too quickly, mature.
My words will show you how deeply this matter has affected me; it
is one of the thousand things which, when they occur to me,
estrange me more and more from this world.
Farewell, and write to me again soon.
Always cordially your
I cannot understand in what manner I have caused YOU grief, but I
feel the painful rebound of your wounded heart. My admonition to
T. proceeded from a pure cause. X. himself knew nothing of it,
and T. would have done well if he had kept silence towards you.
"Insinuations" and "diplomacy" are surely out of the question. I
greatly dislike mixing myself up with other people's affairs, and
if I have done so this time, it was certainly not because I was
led to it by others (I give you my word, that not a word has been
said or written about the whole matter), but merely because it
had been imposed upon me as a kind of duty to act as guardian to
T., and it appeared only too probable that his conduct had not
been very correct. The young Titan sometimes gives way to an
absence of mind and a state of overexcitement, against which
those who wish him well should warn him. His exceptional talent
and his genial and prepossessing manner generally incline me
towards being overindulgent with him, and I do not deny my
genuine love and partiality for this remarkable specimen of a
"Liszt of the future," as T. has been called at Vienna. But for
that very reason I expect him to be a good and steady fellow in
Be thanked for the kindly friendship and care you bestow upon
him. I hope he will not only profit by them, but honour them. The
rare happiness of living near you, and of being distinguished by
you, should form and mature him as an artist and as a man.
July 18th, 1858.
Before the 18th inst. I cannot get away from here; the centenary
celebration of Jena University will take place on the 15th, 16th,
and 17th, and I have promised to take part in it. Apart from
this, I expect in a few days a visit, which is of importance to
It was my intention to see you at the beginning of September, but
I will gladly undertake the journey a few weeks sooner. You on
your part must delay your journey by a fortnight, and write to me
by return whether I shall find you at Zurich on the 20th instant.
I should, of course, not make this journey unless I could be
certain of being a few days with you. Trips of pleasure or
recreation are not my affair any longer, and I could not consent
to one. On the other hand, I shall be genuinely pleased to see
August 6th, 1858.
GENEVA, August 20th, 1858.
Kindly make inquiries whether I might stay a short time at Venice
which does not belong to the German confederacy without being
claimed, extradited and otherwise molested. The vise of my
passport I got from the Austrian minister without any difficulty.
I daresay the Saxon minister would have given me his vise too (in
order to get hold of me).
If there is any danger, kindly let the Grand Duke intercede for
me, so that I may stay at Venice without being bothered.
I should be very thankful to him, for that quiet, interesting
city tempts me greatly. I shall delay my departure till I hear
from you; in any case I must wait till the heat is over.
Farewell, and be thanked for all your friendship.
MAISON FAZY, 30 ETAGE.
GENEVA, August, 24th, 1858.
Best thanks for your reply. It somewhat startled me, and I made
inquiries through a friend in Berne of the Austrian minister
there. I enclose his answer, from which you will see that for the
present I have nothing to fear at Venice. Whether they will allow
me to stay there for any length of time is a different question
which is of great importance to me. I feel the necessity of
living in strict seclusion for some considerable period, in order
to devote myself entirely to my work. The country will not, in
the long run, do for this, and in an indifferent town I might, at
last, be reduced to making acquaintance with commonplace people—
the worst of all evils. One of the interesting, large cities of
Italy is exactly what I want. In such surroundings one can most
easily keep to oneself, for every walk presents objects of an
important kind, and satisfies the want of men and things. But in
large towns the noise of carriages is absolutely unbearable to
me; it drives me wild. Venice is notoriously the quietest, i.e.,
most noiseless city in the world, which has decided me in its
favour. Apart from this Dr. W. and K.R. have given me the most
attractive accounts of life in Venice; the latter will spend the
winter there. Finally, Venice is more convenient for my frequent
communications with Germany than any other Italian town would be;
by way of Vienna my letters, etc., will reach the centre of
Germany in no time. In short, I am obstinately fixed on Venice,
and do not want to think of any other choice, because it is not
travelling about, but settling down as soon as possible that I
Listen, therefore. Kindly ask the Grand Duke in my name, for the
special favour of securing for me, by his intercession in Vienna,
an undisturbed sojourn in Venice. This is indispensable for my
future, for such a permission would permanently open to me Venice
and Austrian Italy generally. Let therefore the Grand Duke show
himself my well-inclined protector, and do all in his power to
comply with my wish.
It will further be necessary that your friend should graciously
take the necessary steps as soon as possible. If, in the
meantime, I should get into difficulties, I should at once claim
Therefore, please, please go to court at once! Help me and do
what I wish.
From Venice I shall write again; till then continue to love me.
VENICE, poste restante.—Depeche telegraphique.
BERNE, Le 24 Aout, Tuesday, 1858.
To RICHARD WAGNER,
Austrian minister thinks you have nothing to fear if your
passport has the Austrian vise. He can guarantee nothing, but is
morally certain that you will not be molested.
Telegraphic inquiry of the Gouverneur of Venice, he thinks
imprudent because exciting attention and necessitating inquiry at
Vienna. Answer would take too long. Dangerous refugees are
notified to the embassy to prevent vise of their passports, which
is not the case with you. Minister thinks your journey quite
safe, but cannot personally give you any further information.
Bon voyage, dear friend.
Bad news again! All the inquiries I have made agree on the point
that your stay in Venice will by no means be secure. The Grand
Duke, to whom I communicated the contents of your last letter,
has commissioned me simply to advise you against the journey, and
to recommend to you (as I have already done) Genoa or Sardinia.
From Dresden I hear that there is at present no hope of your
amnesty, and that the statements to that effect in several
newspapers have not been confirmed. Nevertheless, I hope that
some "measure" in your favour, I mean the permission of staying
for a time at one place or another in Germany, will be taken,
through means of the Grand Duke of Baden or the Grand Duke of
Weymar. The performance of "Tristan", at Carlsruhe or elsewhere,
will offer the best opportunity, and as soon as you have finished
the work, I beg of you to neglect nothing which may facilitate
your return to Germany, although at first only for a few months
for the special purpose of conducting "Tristan" in person. As far
as I know your situation, or rather your connections and
relations, I think you will have, in the first instance, to apply
to the Grand Duke of Baden; the young Prince is much in your
favour, as is also the Grand Duchess. With our Prince I have, of
course, discussed the matter frequently and at great length. I
have, it is true, not been able to get a positive promise from
him, but I think it very probable that when the time comes for
"Tristan" he will not fail to give you a proof of the interest in
you which he has frequently expressed, and, as you know, has
shown by several letters and intercessions in your favour.
I wish, dearest Richard, I could give you pleasanter and more
desirable news, but certain things cannot be changed or broken
through all at once. From Austria you cannot expect much for the
recovery of your personal liberty. It would be half a miracle if
anything of the kind should happen. Even the performance of your
operas at Vienna is an example of exceptional toleration,
considering the customs of the country. To demand more would
appear to me illusory. Your POLITICAL expectations in Austria are
as small as are your ARTISTIC expectations in Paris and Italy.
Performances of your works in the French or Italian language must
for the present be looked upon as pia desideria, or else as
I am sometimes surprised (forgive my candour) that you fail to
perceive that if a performance of "Tannhduser" were given at
Paris or Milan, it would take place in very unfavourable
circumstances. (I do not speak of London, where a good GERMAN
opera troupe might have a chance.) For several years to come the
only true soil for your works is Germany; that soil they will
occupy more and more firmly, and in advance of all other
productions. Do not allow yourself to be led away by vague
talking, and preserve your justifiable pride……………..
I start to-night with the Princess and her daughter for the
Tyrolese mountains. Address your next letter, "Hotel de Baviere",
Munich, whence it will be forwarded to me. I cannot say, for the
present, where we shall make a longer stay. About September 20th
we shall once more pass through Munich, and shall be back here on
October 1st at the latest.
When you can spare a quiet hour, let me know why you did not care
to stay a few days longer at Zurich, where I intended to visit
you on the 20th inst. at the latest. Several business matters
(mostly in connection with the Grand Duke), and the University
celebration at Jena, on August 15th (where I had undertaken to
conduct some of my compositions), made it impossible for me to
leave here sooner.
However that may be, I remain invariably your faithful and loving
WEYMAR, August 26th, 1858.
VENICE, September 12th, 1858.
I have just received your letter, dated 26th ult., which had lain
at Geneva all that time. I see from it that you are very near me,
and I hope I need only tell you that I am here in order to be
able to expect your visit. Descend the Tyrolese mountains on this
side, and you are with me. I should like much to reply by word of
mouth to all you tell me, including your most curious ideas as to
my designs on Italy.
Let me see you soon. A thousand greetings from
CANAL GRANDE, PALAZZO GIUSTINIANI,
CAMPIELLO SQUILLINI, No. 3228, VENICE.
VENICE, September 27th, 1858.
CAMPIELLO SQUILLINI, 3228.
Your letter of 23rd ult. was forwarded to me from Geneva very
late, and I saw from it that you were near me,—"in the Tyrolese
mountains," you said,—and this raised the hope in me that I
should see you and speak to you soon. I must doubt, however,
whether my letter to that effect, addressed to you "Hotel de
Baviere", Munich, reached you in time, because I have neither
seen nor heard anything of you. I feel that my desire of personal
communication with you will not be realised, and I therefore
write to you as to certain points, in connection with which I owe
you an explanation.
Altogether this cannot amount to much; you had to attend to
University celebrations, etc., which, pardon me for saying so,
appeared extremely trivial to me. I did not press you any more,
but I must confess that when at last I received the news of your
intended arrival on the 20th, it did not impress me very much.
Of my desire of selecting Venice for my place of abode, I gave
you a full account in my last letter from Geneva, in which I also
informed you of the satisfactory news I had had from the Austrian
minister at Berne. I am in quest of repose and absolute
retirement, such as only a larger town can offer to me. My
attitude towards my surroundings must be an absolutely negative
one; in that manner alone can I gain leisure and the proper mood
for my work.
Your warnings and admonitions not to rely on the performance of
my operas in Italy I pass over. Whatever can have given you the
curious and mistaken notion that my journey to Italy had this
ambitious, artistic purpose, I fail to see. I have selected an
Italian town because I hate Paris, and because here in Venice I
am certain to be removed from any possible contact with artistic
publicity. This was not the case even at Zurich, which for that
reason had long since become disagreeable to me. That newspaper
writers explain my sojourn in Venice as a political manoeuvre in
order gradually to open Germany to me, is quite in accordance
with the spirit and intellect of such people. I hope you will
soon divest yourself of the idea that anything similar was in my
mind. As an Austrian city, Venice exists for me only in so far as
it does not belong to the German Confederacy, and as I may
consequently live there in security. This has proved to be true.
Unfortunately I could not prevent my landlord from trumpeting
about my stay here, which in consequence was made public sooner
than I desired. The police which, once more, asked for my
passport, has, however, returned it to me with the remark that
there is nothing against my undisturbed stay at Venice. Whether
this was the result of the intercession of the Grand Duke, for
which I had asked, I cannot tell.
You will be pleased to hear that Venice has not disappointed my
expectations. The melancholy silence of the Grand Canal, on the
banks of which I live in a stately palace with large rooms, is
sympathetic to me. Amusement and an agreeable diversion of the
mind is afforded by a daily walk in the square of St. Mark, a
trip in a gondola to the islands, walks there, etc. It will be
the turn of the art treasures later on. The entirely new and
interesting character of the surroundings is very pleasant to me.
I am waiting for my grand piano, and hope to resume my work
without interruption next month. My only thought is of completing
"Tristan", nothing else.
Farewell; accept my corrections in the benevolent spirit of a
true friend. Pardon the seriousness which pervades me, and all my
opinions and judgments. Let me hear something kind from you, and,
before all, answer this letter soon.
Always and ever thine
SALZBURG, October 9th, 1858.
The news about you, contained in the papers during last month,
was so different and so contradictory that I did not know
where to write to you. At last your arrival at Vienna was
announced, and when this premature statement was contradicted,
some one wrote to me that you had gone to Florence or Paris. By
your last letter, which reached me on the day of my departure
from Munich, I see that for the present you intend to remain in
Venice, and that the Government does not object to your stay
there. I wish with my whole heart that you may find rest at
Venice, and be able to settle comfortably, and to resume and
complete your works. Fiat pax in virtute tua is a prayer in the
service of the Mass, which I repeat to you from the bottom of my
heart. The information which I received as to the security of
your stay at Venice was not of a kind to make me think your
domicile there, even for a short time, an advisable thing. Even
now I entertain some doubts, which, however, I hope will prove
futile. It is a great pity that we cannot live together, and I
long unspeakably for the day when this will be possible. Lately,
again, I spoke to the Grand Duke about your situation, and
conjured him to set everything in motion in order to open your
return to Germany. He promised that he would do so. The remarks
in my last letter in reference to the performances of your works
in the French or Italian language you seem to have misunderstood.
By several things which you had previously written to me, and by
your last journey to Paris, this possibility was suggested to me
for discussion, and my only intention was, of course, to explain
my view of the matter to you, without in the least wishing to
prejudice you. The Queen of England had told you that an Italian
performance of your works would be desirable; of Roger's
"Tannhauser" we had spoken several times, and you had also come
to an understanding with Ollivier as to the droits d'auteur. My
expectations of all this are small, and I cannot agree with
others of your friends as to the opportuneness and desirability
of performances in a foreign language; indeed I should think it
more advisable not to attach any importance to them for the
present, and to make no attempt in that direction. But you must
not charge me with having evolved the whole matter from my
imagination. In the worst case, my view would simply be an
erroneous one, but you should not misunderstand or disapprove of
my intention of saving you unnecessary trouble. You have struck
your roots entirely in German soil; you are, and remain, the
glory and splendour of German art. While theatrical affairs
abroad are in their present condition, while Meyerbeer and Verdi
reign supreme, while theatrical managers, singers, conductors,
newspapers, and the public are under their immediate influence,
there is no need for you to mix yourself up with this muddle.
Another point in your letter, dearest Richard, has almost hurt
me, although I can well understand that you think the official
impediments which prevented my journey to Zurich trivial, and
that you fail to give due importance to the University Jubilee of
Jena, and to the many considerations which I have to observe,
were it only in order to be occasionally useful to you in small
matters. In a calmer mood you will easily understand that I
cannot and dare not leave Weymar at every moment, and you will
surely feel that the delay of my journey to Zurich was caused by
no kind of TRIVIALITY. When I wrote to you that I should be with
you on August 20th, I made no doubt that even in case of your
earlier departure from Zurich you would appoint another place,
Lucerne or Geneva, for a meeting. As you failed to do so, I came
to a conclusion which I am only too happy to abandon on your
Enough of this, dearest Richard: we shall remain what we are—
inseparable, true friends, and such another pair will not be
During the first half of September I roamed about the Tyrolese
mountains with the Princess and her daughter, and we stayed a few
days quite alone in the Otz-valley. Driven away by bad weather,
we returned to Munich, quietly witnessed the festivities, and saw
our friend Kaulbach every day. Lachner told me that he had had
some correspondence with you about an early performance of
Rienzi. "Tannhauser" I heard again at Munich, but "Lohengrin" had
to be postponed owing to the sudden indisposition of Herr
Lindemann. Since I heard some passages of it from you, I know
more of it than all the performances can teach me.
In order to carry out our original plan, and assert our rights
even against the bad weather, we have come to Salzburg, and shall
be back at Weymar in about a week. Probably I shall find there
the proofs of my "Dante" symphony, which I shall send to you at
once, as the true child of my sufferings.
When shall I have the joy of reading "Tristan?" The Hartels
informed me that the pianoforte score was in print. Have you
quite settled as to where the first performance is to take place?
According to all accounts the Carlsruhe people reckon upon it for
certain. May God grant that "Tristan" will put an end to your
exile. This is my hope.
"Rienzi" with Tichatschek is to be given at Weymar in the course
of the winter. Previous to that I shall go to Dresden, where I
have promised Rietschel to pay my OLD debt to Weber, and to make
ONE exception by playing several of Weber's pianoforte
compositions at a concert for the benefit of the Weber monument,
the model of which Rietschel has executed with incomparable
mastery. On that occasion I shall ask for a performance of
"Rienzi" at the theatre, in accordance with which I shall arrange
that of Weymar, so far as our means will allow us. If I had a
little more money I should have preferred to pay the balance
which is still due on the subscription for the Weber monument in
hard cash, instead of playing to the people a few hackneyed
pieces. Weber must forgive a poor devil like me that I can do
nothing better for him. You wrote to me about this matter many
years ago, and now that the model of the monument is ready, it is
a point of honour to make an end of the matter and commence
casting it in metal. Write to me at Weymar how you like the city
of the Lagunes. I presume that C. R. is with you. Remember me to
him kindly, and tell him that I sincerely approve of his sonatas
published by Hartel.
With invariable friendship, I remain cordially and sincerely
VENICE, October 19th, 1858.
Be thanked, dear friendly friend; your beautiful friendship is
the only thing that still impresses me; you give it me purely,
As regards my fate, I look forward with patience to calm, clear,
quietly active years. My work has become dearer to me than ever.
I have resumed it lately; it flows from my spirit like a gentle
In all my relations to the suffering world one thing guides and
determines me—pity. When I give myself up to it unconditionally,
all my personal suffering ceases.
I have at last got my Erard. It stands in the large echoing hall
which serves me as a study. There "Tristan" is to be finished
this winter. The first act, dearest friend, is quite complete;
ask the Hartels to give you the proof-sheets of the full score,
which is already engraved. In the completion of the second act,
which I have only slightly sketched, I am continually interrupted
by visits. I have just begun working at it again; it will be very
beautiful, and is to be finished and printed by the end of this
year at the latest. By March the last act will follow, and if all
goes well I shall witness the first performance about Easter. You
are aware that, through Eduard Devrient's intercession, the Grand
Duke of Baden has acquired a right in this work. If he can
arrange to get me permission to go to Carlsruhe for the
performance, it will take place there. But of this hope also I do
not make a vital question; I can wait.
Venice continues to be most sympathetic to me; my choice was
guided by instinct, and has turned out well. This kind of
retirement is most pleasant to me. I see just enough to occupy my
fancy agreeably; nothing disturbs me. That, looking upon this
peaceful scene, I also was allowed to look upon you, and that you
appeared to me in so beautiful and blissful a light as you did in
your last letter, has crowned my happiness.
Be thanked my dear, noble, unique friend! Shall I say more? You
know all that these words imply.
Greet the Princess and the good Child; they are to be annoyed by
nothing in the world, and they are to love me as much as they
I hope that these lines will affect you as sympathetically as
yours have made me happy.
Farewell, and be always assured of my responsive love.
It would be a good omen if this letter were to reach you on your
VENICE, October 23rd, 1858.
After I had settled with R. on the 21st that we were to
congratulate you jointly on your birthday, he came to me on the
22nd and told me that he had just sent you a telegram. By way of
revenge I ordered a dinner with oysters and champagne in the
Square of St. Mark, to which a military band played the overture
of "Rienzi" most excellently. We drank your health and clinked
our glasses, and had a most pleasant evening.
Of this I send you documentary evidence by this letter.
VENICE, October 26th, 1858.
I have just had a letter from Munich telling me that they have
given up "Rienzi" owing to religious scruples. I want money, much
money, in order to get honestly through my difficult position,
and am looking out everywhere for a little business. I have just
offered my "Lohengrin" to the Cassel management. If you can help
me there, do so.
I should not like myself to write to Coburg, where I have been
neglected in a surprising manner. Do you know of a channel
through means of which you could bring it about that they should
buy "Lohengrin" and the "Dutchman" as well? Think of this and
help me in the old way.
A thousand greetings from your
R.'s telegram of October 21st was received with joyful
acclamation, and your letter, which arrived on the same evening,
was the most welcome birthday present on account of the calm,
conciliatory mood which I felt in it. May you soon resume your
work joyfully! I hope you are getting on with "Tristan", of which
as yet I do not know a single note. In accordance with your last
letter, I have asked the Hartels to lend me the score for a few
days when the engraver does not want it any longer.
Your hints as to the performances of "Lohengrin", "The Flying
Dutchman", and "Rienzi" in Cassel, Gotha, and other cities will
not be neglected, and I need not assure you again that I shall do
all in my power. First of all you will receive a letter
concerning "Rienzi" from my chief and friend Dingelstedt. The
opera is to be given here in January. Be kind enough to reply to
Dingelstedt's letter with some POLITENESS, and do not be annoyed
at my making this remark. I wish very much to incline Dingelstedt
a little more favourably towards the performance of your works
and to co-operate with him in perfect sympathy. That co-operation
is of importance to me not only as regards "Tristan", which will
meet with no difficulty, and, as I hope and longingly wish, will
open your return to Germany, but chiefly with a view to the
performance of the "Nibelungen," which is our ultimate goal. The
honorarium of 25 louis d'or which our theatrical exchequer can
offer you is very small, but I advise you to accept it, and take
it upon myself to get you a small douceur from the Grand Duke's
privy purse later on.
I should like to have Tichatschek for the first two performances
of "Rienzi", although that would increase the expense
considerably. But I have a great liking for him, and wish to get
him some distinction from the Grand Duke on that occasion.
Last Sunday we gave "Komala" by Sobolewski. I do not know whether
you have seen a small pamphlet "Opera, not Drama," which he
published last year as an introduction to his opera. The
following beautiful comparison occurs in it: "The words are the
hard, transparent pieces of incense, the melody is the beautiful
scent which emerges from the thick clouds of smoke, when the
incense has been lit." In many other things I cannot agree with
him, especially not as regards the marks of punctuation, by means
of which he tries to distinguish himself from you, when at the
end of the pamphlet he exclaims: "Wagner says, OPERA NOT,—DRAMA;
I say OPERA, NOT DRAMA." His "Komala" is better than his comma,
and his practice much better than his theory. There is much in it
that would please you, and has undoubtedly been originated by
"Lohengrin." Sobolewski wrote "Komala" at first in three acts,
and had it done in that form at Bremen. Afterwards, in honour of
operatic theory, and probably persuaded by the critics who thirst
for contrasts and operatic tunes, he added two acts more, in
which he introduced vocal pieces de salon, reminding one of the
Queen in the "Huguenots", and the inevitable drinking chorus. By
his desire I preserved the five acts at the first performance,
but at the second I omitted the two additional ones without any
consideration, or rather, for very good considerations, and shall
even take the liberty of altering his finale, which has been
fashioned after your finale of the second act of "Tannhauser"
("nach Rom"), and after the last act of "Iphigenia in Aulis." In
that manner the work will appear in its only true form, and may
keep its place as a fine musical cloud-and-mist picture in
perfect accord with Ossian's poem. For your private benefit I
send you a few motives from "Komala", which I copied for you.
About the middle of November we shall perform here a comic opera,
"The Barber of Baghdad," founded on a tale from the "Arabian
Nights," words and music by Cornelius. The music is full of wit
and humour, and moves with remarkable self-possession in the
aristrocratic region of art. I expect a very good result.
"Rienzi" will be taken in hand immediately afterwards.
Excuse me for having delayed writing to you so long. I am up to
the ears in all manner of business and correspondence, and have
not had a free hour since my return. Please do not retaliate, and
let me have good news of you soon.
November 5th, 1858.
Kindly give the enclosed few lines to Ritter. The additions to
the "Dante" symphony and to the Gran Mass will be ready before
Christmas, and I shall send you both together.
VENICE, November 21st, 1858.
MY DEAR FRANZ,
Many thanks for your kind letter; I had nothing particular to
tell you, or would have replied to you sooner. In addition to
this I was ill during the whole first half of November, which was
more than I had bargained for, especially as it interrupted my
work in the most unpleasant manner. Now I am well again and all
will be right. I am looking forward to the Mass and "Dante" which
you promise to send to me. Mind you keep your word. I have asked
the Hartels to send you proof sheets of the first act of
"Tristan." Perhaps you have received them by this time. The
Hartels treat me with much forbearance. At first when I thought
that the score would be finished this autumn, I prodded them on
terribly. Since then I have left them miserably in the lurch.
Before the end of December I cannot think of sending them the
second act. I cannot help this, because I must wait for the most
favourable mood to go on with the work. The "Nibelungen" question
has also been mooted again by us. I shall have these things
engraved now, and shall leave the discussion of the honorarium
till after the performance. In this matter a very droll
intermezzo has been played, or rather it has not been played out
yet, because its conclusion will probably take place in a few
days. I shall relate this adventure to you when it is finished.
My affairs are in a somewhat miserable condition. "Rienzi" is not
getting on in spite of the continued success of the Dresden
revival. The first disappointment came from Munich where I had
expected to get an honorarium of fifty louis d'or. They wrote to
me that the reading committee objected to the subject on
RELIGIOUS grounds. I pity that dear religion! It is partly your
fault that it is put to such uses now; why do you write beautiful
Masses for the parsons? From Hanover also I expected an immediate
remittance, and could not understand the delay, when I heard that
Niemann, after having heard Tichatschek in "Rienzi", did not feel
competent to sustain the part with equal voice-power. Therefore
it was given up. Breslau alone is sufficiently bold, and will
venture upon it. I wish I could find some one who would do
justice to the real character of the part, in which case he need
not be afraid of singing it even before Tichatschek. I have
hinted so much to Niemann. I am thus, once more, reduced to my
old capital, "Tannhauser" and "Lohengrin", and they are no longer
sufficient for my present difficult position.
D. wrote to me five and a half lines, inquiring as to my terms.
You probably know my reply. I wish the inhuman creature had sent
me the money at once. Good Lord, what Jacks-in-office you all
are! None of you can put himself in the place of a poor devil
like me who looks upon every source of income as a lucky draw in
a lottery. Please, tread gently upon his toe.
K. R. left me today, probably for a few weeks, in order to
congratulate his mother on her birthday at Dresden. If he finds
it possible he will pay you a visit at Weimar.
W. remains with me in his place; he arrived from Vienna with a
Russian family a month ago, in order to spend the winter here.
Fortunately, he keeps quiet and does not molest me, for being by
myself is the boon which I enjoy, and watch over with painful
care. In the Square I am literally run after by foreign princes;
one of them, D., who boasts of knowing you personally, I was
unable to avoid. He lives where I have my dinner and,
occasionally, waylays me. He is an odd and apparently good-
natured person. Today he dropped down upon me with much
enthusiasm between the soup and the cutlets, in order to tell me
that he had heard one of your symphonic poems beautifully played
on the piano, and by whom? By a Venetian music-teacher, who has
been made an enthusiast for German music by you and me. This
amused me very much. D. also has been gained for your cause. What
more can you desire? And all this happened in the Square of St.
Mark at dinner, the weather being infamously cold.
Be of good cheer then, and may God bless you. Continue to love
me. Write to me soon, and greet Altenburg a thousand times for
VENICE, November 26th, 1858.
I enclose you a beautiful autograph.
I cannot tell you how comic it appears to me that I have to
transact Weimar business with F. D. I have a good mind to tell
HIM that he had better leave my opera alone. Weimar has lost all
its charm for me since I have to meet so formal a person before I
can get at you and the Grand Duke. You are a very tedious set of
You told me two years ago that you were in possession of a score
of "Rienzi" which I had left there on my flight. If that is so, I
should be glad if you would not attach much importance to its
possession. My original score is always at your disposal in case,
as I scarcely believe, you should care much about this opus. I
have only a very few copies left. At the time I had no more than
twenty-five copies made, more than half of which I have
squandered away. If it MUST be, get a copy from Fischer in
Dresden, and submit it reverentially in my name to the great
Dingelstedt. Have you had your score altered by Fischer? In the
third act there is a long cut and a change necessitated by it
which I made for Hamburg.
Good Lord! it is miserable that one has to take all this trouble
for a little money. I am once more confined to my room, and
cannot even get up from my chair; a neglected abscess in my leg
causes me terrible pain; sometimes in the middle of my music I
call out loudly, which has a very fine effect.
Have the Hartels sent you the first act of "Tristan?" You will
have copies of the poem before long.
Farewell for today. I have to indulge in a few shrieks, which in
a letter would not sound well.
A thousand greetings—oh!
R. W. (oh!!)
Have I really to wait for the wretched twenty-five louis d'or—
oh!!—till after the PERFORMANCE? Lord only knows when that will
VENICE, December 5th, 1858.
I made haste, dearest friend, to write to D. in accordance with
your summons sent to me through our Princess.
I wrote to him that doubts had arisen in me whether I still
desired the performance of "Rienzi" at Weimar, and I ask you to
agree with me and give up the plan. If anything could have
induced me to push my "Rienzi" at this time of day it would, as
you will understand, have been the desire of deriving a good
income from it, such as would have been welcome in my poor and
uncertain condition. In itself I look upon this revival as an
anachronism which, moreover, would be quite premature. After the
recent great success of the opera at Dresden I was in hopes that
the rapid sale of this opus would supply me with sufficient means
for my present wants. That hope, however, has been deceived in
the most important points, especially with regard to Munich and
Hanover, as I recently informed you. By offering this opera
broadcast I had to humiliate my pride very much, and I have now
become very sensitive as to this matter. At Weimar, too, the
opera is, properly considered, an intruder, and is evidently
being looked upon as such. You enlightened me upon this point
last winter, when you explained to me the reason for its delay.
But I do not desire that you should force this juvenile
production upon any one in Weimar. The reasons for keeping on
good terms on such an occasion with this person or that person do
not exist for me, and my sincere wish is, that they should not
exist for you either. In this matter we two should agree. Whether
or not I perform my "Nibelungen" at some future time is at bottom
a matter of indifference to me. I shall complete it in any case,
for my enthusiasm and strength for such works I do not derive
from any hopes, for the realisation of which I should require
certain people. All that the world and my "admirers" and
"worshippers" of whom I have to hear so much can do for me, is to
look upon my whole situation in a serious and sympathetic light,
and to do all in their power to ease my heavy cares and to
preserve to me the pleasure and leisure which I require for my
work. Beyond this I want nothing. But to attain it, very
different efforts are necessary from those which have hitherto
come to my knowledge.
Enough of this. I can do without the Weimar honorarium and
douceur for "Rienzi," which, in any case, would come too late to
be of service to me. By next Easter, till which time I should
have to wait, I shall be able to help myself in other ways; in
the meantime it will be a hard struggle, but I shall manage
Even the Weimar receipts would, unfortunately, not have enabled
me to repay your 1,000 francs.
To sum up: you will, undoubtedly, save yourself much trouble and
unpleasantness by giving up "Rienzi." If you have Tichatschek in
the spring let him sing Lohengrin; that will give you much more
Imagine that for a week and a half I have not been able to move
from my chair. This illness was just what was required to finish
me up. I had just resumed my work a little, after a gastric and
nervous indisposition, when I was obliged to give in again.
However, I am getting better, and hope to be able to walk and
work again next week.
Farewell, and be pressed to my heart a thousand times.
Hartel has sent me a divine Christmas present. All the children
in the world cannot be so delighted with their trees and the
golden apples and splendid gifts suspended thereon as I, in my
own person, am with your unique "Tristan." Away with all the
cares and tribulations of every-day existence! Here one can weep
and glow again. What blissful charm, what undivined wealth of
beauty in this fiery love-potion! What must you have felt while
you created and formed this wondrous work? What can I tell you
about it beyond saying that I feel with you in my heart of
However, in my capacity of practical friend, I must speak to you
of commonplace things. Your negative answer to D., much as it
grieved me in many respects, came at the RIGHT MOMENT. I
proposed, as you know, "Rienzi" for performance eighteen months
ago, and your small opinion of my small influence on our affairs
is, unfortunately, too correct. Without troubling you with the
details of local matters, I only tell you that I quite approve of
your conduct, reserving to myself, however, the right of asking
for your "Rienzi" if a favourable moment for the performance of
this opera, long desired by me, should arrive. In the first
instance, the "Prophet" and Auber's "Bal Masque" are to be given,
and I, for my part, have declared that I shall not enter the
orchestra for some time to come. By next spring I hope your
personal affairs will have taken a more favourable turn, to which
I may, perhaps, be able to contribute something. When "Tristan"
is completed, and you have sent the dedication copy to the Grand
Duchess of Baden, you must write to me at length as to what
remains to be done.
With K. R., who delighted me with a visit of several days, I
discussed a good many things which he will shortly communicate to
you. I flatter myself that he has taken a good impression away
with him, and that some old friendly associations will be even
more firmly established in years to come. His musical gift
appears very considerable to me, and I have advised him to
concentrate himself on an operatic subject, which he had better
arrange for himself. You should encourage him in this; by your
advice and influence he will no doubt achieve something
excellent, and a musico-dramatic work will help him to proper
recognition in the quickest and best way.
I wanted to send you the "Dante" symphony for the new year, but
the corrections have taken me longer than I expected, and the
publication will not take place before January. I shall send you
a respectable parcel, for the Gran Mass will also be included in
it. I wish I could bring you these things personally, stay with
you, accompany you in "Tristan." Let us hope that the new year
will put an end to our separation, and chain us to each other in
the body, as we are already in spirit and heart.
December 26th, 1858.
You may expect a dedication from the composer of the opera D. v.
S.; accept it in a friendly spirit, although you will find
yourself in the strange company of Meyerbeer. The composer is
well inclined towards you, of which I recently had a very
convincing proof. Do not mention this until the dedication
actually reaches you. Later on you will probably have to write a
few lines in reply.
Cordial thanks for your New Year's greeting, dearest Richard. I
expect to see the explanation of the last words of your telegram
in your next letter, for I have no knowledge of the event which
you describe as "wonderfully miserable." In certain quarters,
however, the MISERABLE appears no longer WONDERFUL to me. I hope
the new year will bring some things to a better issue, and have
many good things in store for you. Enclosed I send you this
week's repertoire of the Weymar theatre, in which you will see
the announcement of "Lohengrin" for next Sunday. For the first
time I shall not conduct this work to which I am attached with my
whole soul. "Tannhauser" also I have left to my colleague, and
when I come to explain to you the circumstances which determine
me to this negative attitude, I feel sure that you will see in it
no neglect of my artistic conviction, much less of my duty as a
friend to you.
If your operas have elsewhere been given for the purpose of
getting money, the responsibility lies with those concerned; but
here, where these works have been guarded and watched with so
much love, I cannot make myself an accomplice of the brutal
mercantile spirit in which they are now regarded, especially not
after we two have been treated with such total want of
consideration in this "Rienzi" affair, which has been allowed to
drag on for more than eighteen months.
As I said in my last letter, I fully approve of your resolution
not to sell "Rienzi" to the management here. If you should be
applied to by letter I ADVISE YOU TO MAKE NO CONCESSION. If the
time for relenting should come I shall send you word; you know
how deeply your interests concern me.
In the first instance, the "Prophet," "Bal Masque," "Don
Pasquale," and "Antigone", have to be studied and performed,
which will leave no time or goodwill for "Rienzi." As regards
goodwill, C. R. can relate to you the circumstances of the first
performance of Cornelius's opera, when my passive attitude during
this season will be explained to you. Really I often require the
patience beseeming a confrater of the Franciscan order to bear so
many intolerable things.
January 1st, 1859.
VENICE, January 2nd, 1859.
MY DEAR FRANZ,
The time has come when I must once more speak with calmness and
in a decisive manner of the subject which has been so rich a
source of my life's troubles, and which last New Year's Eve
caused the storm I let loose upon you, no doubt to your sorrow.
Such storms must not occur again, that I feel deeply. Even this
last attack was caused only by a moment of the most violent
excitement. I must, in fact, undergo an absolute change in order
to gain a position more worthy of myself. It is for this reason
that I apply to you, for the last time, and perhaps it would be
better if I did not trouble you in the matter, even for this last
time. But if I omitted to do so at the moment when I am about to
take a decisive step, I might perhaps have to reproach myself
with having neglected my nearest, most helpful, and most
influential friend in an unaccountable manner.
Let me come to the point.
After living in exile for ten years, my amnesty has become of
less importance to me than the guarantee of an existence free
from care and secure from discomfort for the rest of my life. Do
not be surprised. The return to Germany is of relative value to
me. The only positive gain would be my seeing you often and
living together with you. The possible performances of my operas
under my direction, would certainly bring me less enjoyment than
exertion, care, trouble, and annoyance. I never had much pleasure
in the performance of one of my operas, and shall have much less
in future. My ideal demands have increased, compared with former
times, and my sensitiveness has become much more acute during the
last ten years while I lived in absolute separation from artistic
public life. I fear that even you do not quite understand me in
this respect, and you should believe my word all the more
implicitly. Your nature and position in life and in the world are
so entirely different from mine that you can scarcely realise my
sensitiveness in this respect from your own consciousness.
Believe me implicitly when I tell you that the only reason for my
continuing to live is the irresistible impulse of creating a
number of works of art which have their vital force in me. I
recognise beyond all doubt that this act of creating and
completing alone satisfies me and fills me with a desire of life,
which otherwise I should not understand. I can, on the other
hand, do quite well without any chance of a performance. I see
clearly that before the completion of "Tristan" my amnesty would
absolutely place me in an awkward position; no expectation, not
even that of producing "Lohengrin", could induce me to leave my
present place of abode before I had finished my work. From this
you may guess at other things. Any offer of a secured and
comfortable existence would be of no value to me if it were
coupled with the condition of my accepting the amnesty, and of
doing certain services made possible thereby. I cannot and shall
not accept an appointment or anything resembling it. What I
demand, on the other hand, is the settlement upon me of an
honourable and large pension, solely for the purpose of creating
my works of art undisturbed and without regard for external
Being without property or subvention of any kind, I have to rely
for my income upon my operas. He who has real knowledge of the
nature of my works, and who feels and esteems their peculiar and
differentiating qualities, must see that I, in my position
towards such an institution as our theatre, ought to be entirely
relieved from the necessity of making commercial articles of my
works. Any just-minded man must perceive that it would be quite
unworthy of me to relinquish my freedom by giving my operas to
managers without stipulating for their artistic interest, without
choice, without preference for any particular theatre, or even by
being compelled to offer them to such managers. This necessity
has already filled me with much painful bitterness, and the worst
of it is that even if I suppress my sense of honour to that
extent, the receipts accruing to me are of such a nature that
they place me, pecuniarily speaking, in a painful and alarming
position. At times those receipts come in plentifully and
unexpectedly, and in consequence bring with them all of a sudden
perfect security and a certain tempting plenty. At other times
they fall off for a long period and again quite unexpectedly; and
this falling off, just because it could not be foreseen, is
followed by want, care, and tribulation. If this is to be mended
I must be relieved from the necessity of counting upon these
receipts, and be placed in a position which will enable me to
look upon them as an accidental increase of resources, which I
can employ in adding certain comforts to my existence, and which
I am able to dispense with without interfering with my sufficient
and settled income, as soon as I find it desirable to withhold my
operas from those theatres, the strength or the direction of
which does not enable me to credit them with honest zeal for my
work. In this manner, and by the position towards our abominable
theatrical institutions thus attained, I should be protected by
my contemporaries, and enabled to continue my creations in
accordance with my earnest desire and with the peculiarity of my
artistic nature. An ample and fully secured pension can alone do
this for me, and only a combination of several German princes
whom I have inspired with sympathy can accomplish the desired
On such a combination I should have to insist, for the reason,
more especially, that this pension, if it is to fulfil its object
and to satisfy my somewhat refined and not altogether ordinary
wants, must amount to at least 2,000 or 3,000 thalers. I do not
blush in naming such a sum. My experience of what I want in
accordance with my nature, and, perhaps I should add, the nature
of my works, teaches me that I cannot well do with less; and on
the other hand, it is well known that artists like Mendelssohn
(although he was rich), have received equally large honorary
salaries from one single quarter.
I ask you therefore, definitely and finally, whether you will
take the initiative in this matter? At the same time I would draw
your attention to the fact that, after mature consideration, I
must abide by the character of my demand. An appointment at
Weimar, although it might leave me at perfect liberty and even be
equal to yours, I could not accept, because the salary would not
be sufficient for my purpose. It would not help me radically, and
would therefore imply all the dangers of a palliative measure.
Once more, I require an absolute settlement of my external
circumstances, which will provide for and exercise a decided
influence on my future artistic creativeness. I shall be forty-
six next birthday, and therefore speak of about ten years at the
If you have reasons for not entering into my request, or for
declining to concern yourself with it personally, let me know
plainly and definitely. I could explain those reasons from your
peculiar position, and they would not in the least interfere with
our friendship. Let me know in that case whether you advise me to
apply MYSELF to the Grand Duke of Weimar, in order to induce him
to place himself at the head of the aforesaid combination of
princes. If you do not think this advisable, I am determined to
ask D. whether he will intercede for me with another prince. If
he also refuses, my last resource will be to apply to that prince
myself. On the success of this step will depend my further
relations to Germany, as to which in such circumstances I have
quite made up my mind.
My request, whether it be addressed to you, or D., or one of the
princes, will be accompanied by a clear and convincing exposition
of my circumstances, my position towards the artistic world, and
my individual qualities, and wants. At the same time I shall
state precisely what I promise to do in return for such a
pension. In the first instance, and whether my return to Germany
will be granted or not, I shall undertake to continue the
creation of new works. All my works, present and future, will be
given to the various court theatres gratis. Finally, as soon as I
am allowed to return to Germany I will, by special desire,
undertake to superintend in person the study and production of my
operas, and, if it should be wished, of other works, the
representation of which would be for the benefit and honour of
This letter, dear Franz, is the first I have written in this
fateful new year 1859. It is addressed to you, and deals with a
subject which will be of decisive influence on my future life.
May Heaven and our friendship reward it with success!
Answer me soon definitely and decisively, for I repeat that I do
not want my request to be in any way connected with the amnesty.
A thousand cordial greetings to the ladies, to whom I shall soon
write a pleasant letter.
Have you NOTHING AT ALL to say to me? What is to become of me, if
EVERY ONE ignores me?
MY DEAR FRANZ,
On reading my letter again, you will probably have discovered
what was the meaning of my jocular complaint—"You answer me much
too pathetically and seriously." You must have seen by the exact
terms of my letter, somewhat loosely worded though it was, that
by your answer I meant the manner in which you speak of my
conduct towards D. with regard to "Rienzi." As this part of my
letter has remained obscure to you, I add the following words of
explanation. My letter about the withdrawal of "Rienzi" was
written with a view to being shown, because I had referred D. to
you. I thought, however, you would see that I was annoyed by the
difficulties he made about the honorarium, and by the remote date
for which payment was promised. I was in hopes that my letter
discussing the withdrawal of the opera would help me quickly to
the honorarium, and perhaps increase the amount a little. I had
unfortunately reckoned upon this income before the new year, and
relied upon it all the more because I had on a former occasion
explained my difficult position to your sympathetic heart. When I
forwarded D.'s last letter to you my intention was to complain of
his pedantic statement: "The honorarium will be paid to you after
the first performance,"—a statement to which I am no longer
accustomed at any other theatre. I further hoped to induce you—
as indeed I clearly indicated—to effect at least the immediate
payment of the honorarium. As my letter about the withdrawal of
"Rienzi" was written with a view to being shown, it may very
likely have puzzled you; but I know that it was intended only to
frighten D., and to supply you with a weapon for forcing him into
a decent and business-like attitude. In consequence, I hoped that
the success of this little manoeuvre would secure me the receipt
of the wretched twenty-five louis d'or before the new year. Upon
this sum I looked as my only certainty, because you were there to
get it for me, while the moneys which I expected from other
quarters represented only so many hopes which might be delusive.
At last New Year's Eve came. My money was all gone; my watch, the
snuff-box of the Grand Duke, and the bonbonniere of the Princess,
the only valuables I possess, had been pawned; and of the money I
had got for them only one and a half napoleons remained. When, on
New Year's Eve, on entering my lonely room, I found your letter,
I confess I was weak enough to hope that it would announce to me
the imminent arrival of the twenty-five louis d'or, in
consequence of the successful demonstration against D. which I
thought I had made. Instead of this, I found, in reference to
this matter, a serious explanation of your relations with D.,
which, as I see from this letter, have already become matter of
bitter and troublesome experience to you. I had foreseen this,
and made you silent reproaches when D. was called to Weimar
through your means. I quite understood that, owing to prolonged
irritation, you were, on receipt of my last letter, in a mood
which misled you as to the character of my threat to withdraw
"Rienzi." You recognized in me also the sympathetic annoyance at
all the unworthy things we meet with, and you overlooked the fact
that a poor devil like me cannot afford to be serious. Therefore
you entered seriously and bitterly into my withdrawal of
"Rienzi," which, after the insults you had received, was welcome
to you, and I, for my part, had to witness on that wretched New
Year's Eve the destruction of my last secret, but none the less
certain, hope of receiving money. The great disappointment of
that moment would, at any other time, have probably made me
reticent and silent, but the long-expected and ardently-longed-
for boon of your sympathy for "Tristan" evoked in me a kind of
convulsive excitement. Once more, your joy at my first act had
brought you so near to my innermost heart that I thought I might,
at such a moment, make the most outrageous demand on you. That
feeling I expressed, if I remember rightly, in the words, "For my
paroxysm of joyous excitement your delight at 'Tristan' is
responsible." Dearest friend, at that moment I could not even
think of the possibility of a misunderstanding. Everything being
so certain and infallible between us, I went to the opposite
extreme of reproaching you because you had left me in the
lurch with regard to money matters, and because you had taken my
diplomatic demonstration against D. in a much too earnest and
pathetic sense, my only interest in him being comprised in a
little money. I further indicated that the various
considerations, which to you, being on the spot, and holding an
official position, might appear serious and of great moment, did
not exist for me at all, the only connection between myself and
the theatres, and their public art, being solely that of money.
THAT OF MONEY! Yes, so it is; and with that you reproach me. You
should rather pity me. Do you not think that I should prefer your
position in regard to the performance of your own works because
money is no object to you? My first letter of this year will have
shown you that I also am capable of considering the matter in a
serious and literally pathetic, i.e., suffering mood.
Enough of this. Your letter, received today, has affected me
deeply, as you will easily understand. Yet I am calm and full of
hope. Your curious misunderstanding in applying my reproach, that
you answer me in "too earnest and pathetic a style," to your
delight at "Tristan", must by this time have become clear to
yourself. I feel quite confident that any unprejudiced friend, to
whom you may show our last letters, will persuade you, in spite
of your prejudice, that my humorous and playfully extravagant
reproach referred only to your idea of my intended withdrawal of
"Rienzi," and, generally speaking, to the expectation I had of D.
and the whole slough of our German operatic theatres. You now
know the position which excited me to this kind of desperate
humour, and I hope it will be a long time before I again have to
change my last napoleon at the telegraph office.
It is you, dear friend, who are suffering and needing comfort;
for the extraordinary letter which you found it possible to send
me can only have sprung from a terrible mental irritation. I hope
in the meantime that this lengthy explanation and disclosure of
the misunderstanding into which you had succeeded in falling will
be some comfort to you. I have none other to offer. If your
irritation concerned me alone, this letter should dispel it
altogether. Let me further assure you that you have hurt me in no
way, for your arrows did not hit me; their barbs stuck in your
own heart. This letter, I hope, will free you of them.
One more thing let me ask you today. Do not answer my letter of
January 2nd. Look upon it as if it had not been written, or, at
least, not received. I am fully aware that you are not able to
put yourself in my place with such goodwill and understanding as
would enable you to do justice to my letter. Please forget it
altogether; in that case, I will on my part pardon your
reproaches, you curious, dear, dear friend.
Farewell for today.
I am sure I have not lost you.
VENICE, January 7th, 1859.
In order to set your mind at rest, I inform you that, by a
curious and lucky accident, some money, which I had long expected
and already despaired of, arrived here from Vienna in the first
week of the new year. My three valuables (let a kind world
forgive me this luxury!) are out of pawn. For the present I am
provided for, and do not apprehend any new stoppage of my
resources just yet.
May the friendly remembrance of me be revived in you.
Your greeting, dearest Richard, has brought me the enchanting
forgetfulness of all that should ever be far from us. Receive my
thanks, and let us continue to suffer patiently together.
Before you had written to ask me not to mention your proposal, I
had communicated it at some length in the proper quarter. As I
might have expected, after numerous similar conversations (which
I never mention to you) there were several reasons for not
accepting it. Perhaps I shall be able to broach the subject again
later on, and obtain a more favourable result; to the extent, I
mean, that a small sum will be sent to you. Anything more cannot
be hoped for.
I must ask you to believe that I am extremely grieved always to
have to tell you things of this kind.
In your letter to Princess M. you speak of a change of abode, and
of your desire to settle in a large town. In case, against my
sincere hope, the permission to return to Germany should be
permanently refused to you, and you prefer to live in a large
town, I still think that Paris would be the most comfortable, the
most convenient, and even the cheapest place for you. I know your
dislike of this city pleine de boue et de fumee; but I think that
if you were to live there for any length of time you would feel
more at home, apart from which we should be tolerably near each
other, so that I might visit you frequently.
Have you had any further news from Carlsruhe? The newspapers
continue to announce a performance of "Tristan" in September, and
I do not relinquish the hope that at that time a favourable turn
in your affairs will take place. Anyhow, this summer must not
pass without our seeing each other.
Once more, thanks for your greeting; the song is indescribably
Most cordially your
WEYMAR, February 17th, 1859.
From Vienna you will soon receive through my cousin a small
collection of NOTES.
All that is kind to C. R.
VENICE, February 22nd, 1859.
I have just received your letter; as I am expecting R. and W.,
who may come in at any moment, I must defer answering you at
length until tomorrow. But I will not go to bed today without
thanking you most sincerely for the great benefit you have
conferred upon me by your letter. I am often in a state of
convulsive excitement, and must then look very ugly. But that
state has now disappeared entirely; you took it away today.
I shall say more about this tomorrow, and you will find me in a
willing frame of mind for confessing my sins.
One word more. If I have understood your short hint rightly, let
me ask you, for Heaven's sake, not to send me any money now. I
could not bear it. Send me your "Ideals," and, when it is ready,
your "Dante;" those I am looking for longingly.
The boys have just come in; the well-brought-up K. thanks you a
thousand times for your remembrance of him.
More tomorrow, God willing.
My blessings on you!
VENICE, February 23rd, 1859.
To my hurried lines of yesterday I add a more comprehensive
letter today. I have many things to tell you.
Lately I felt the urgent desire of sending you a word of comfort
and sympathy. I thought that you were in need of such. For I had
heard, to my horror, how great your annoyance must be, and B.'s
account confirmed my impression that you were deeply annoyed and
grieved by ingratitude, faithlessness, and even treachery.
Suddenly, however, I felt quite stupid, and all I intended to say
to you appeared to me trivial and superfluous. I could think of
nothing better than to copy out for you a few fragments of my
last work. They are not the really important things, for those
can be understood only in their larger context, and I am all the
more obliged to you for your kind reception of my good
intentions, which count for little in art, but for a great deal
I must almost thank you for the alarming New Year's greeting
which you sent to me. I believe it has been beneficial to me; I
am aware that I have too little control over myself, and rely
upon the patience of others to an undue extent. An occasional
lesson, therefore, does me good. Although I remain firmly
convinced that you have misunderstood me in one essential point
(as, indeed, well you might), I feel, nevertheless, that I must
have cut a very ugly figure. That was proved to me by the effect
I had upon you, for we know little of our appearance until we see
ourselves in a looking-glass, and in your irritation I recognized
my ugliness. These attacks of my violence ought surely to have
calmed down by this time; indeed, I long for that unruffled calm
which I esteem so highly and recognize to be the finest quality
in man. It appears to me that I have arrived at the turning point
of my life, and I deeply long for a state of quiescence. I am
aware that that quiescence must, at last, come from the inner
man, and our position towards the outer world must become one of
apathy, if nothing from there contributes to the contentment of
our mind. Let us see then.
I am intent at present upon gaining a clear and definite view of
my fate. My mental disposition you know from my letter to M. As
regards external matters, after mature consideration, I am taking
every step to place my future relations with Germany on the
necessary definite basis. I heard from Dresden that the king
would on no account swerve from his decision to reserve the
amnesty for those who had submitted to the investigation and
judgment of the law-courts. I was advised to submit to that
condition, but after mature consideration, and after weighing all
the chances, I am firmly resolved never to fulfil that condition.
In order to do all that was possible, I lately wrote to the
Minister of Justice, asking him to discuss the matter with the
King once more. This measure was suggested to me by my latest
experience in this place. I ought to tell you and the Grand Duke
for your satisfaction that, by desire of the Saxon Government, I
was to be banished from here. I was advised to submit
unconditionally, but to send a medical certificate to the
Governor-General, praying that I might be allowed to stay for a
few months longer for urgent reasons of health. For the moment
this has answered, and I am allowed to stay. If I refuse to be
examined or perhaps to be locked up a few months in Saxony, I
base that refusal towards the Government entirely upon my state
of health, which I need only exaggerate a little in order to show
good and sufficient cause for my refusal. In other respects I
submit most humbly to the decree pronounced against me, recognize
my guilt and the justice of the proceedings without reserve—and
only ask H.M. to remit the conditions of my amnesty by an
exceptional act of grace on account of my health, which has
become so weak that the doctor has strongly advised me not to
undergo that strain. In that manner I think I have taken the only
step which may lead me straight to the goal of certain knowledge
as to my fate. If the King refuses to grant me this request it is
clear that I shall have to give up all hope from that quarter for
ever. But even in that case I am resolved to make one more last
trial. I shall apply direct to the Grand Duke of Baden, placing
the case before him, and asking him for his permission to
approach the Emperor of Austria, the Prince of Prussia, the Grand
Duke of Weimar, the Duke of Coburg, and perhaps one other
friendly Prince with the prayer to grant me an exceptional
privilege of residence in their respective states, either by
agreement amongst themselves, or by a decree of the National
Diet. Avoiding anything of the nature of a complaint against the
King of Saxony, I shall base this request solely upon the same
circumstance, viz., the very serious state of my health and my
nervous irritation, which do not permit me to undergo the risk of
a criminal investigation at Dresden, although I fully recognize
the justice of that investigation, and do not expect the King to
alter his decree in my favour. I shall further ask the Princes in
question to suspend the treaty of extradition in my favour after
due consultation with the Saxon Government, the object being to
secure my personal efforts for the advancement of German art. It
will depend upon the consent of the Grand Duke of Baden whether I
take further steps in that direction. I do not venture to say
that I expect a successful issue, but one thing I shall gain in
any case, and that the most necessary of all, viz., certainty as
to my position. I must no longer delay gaining that certainty,
because my whole future life depends upon it. Before telling you
what further steps I have in view in order to gain certainty in
another direction also, I must answer your question as to
Devrient wrote to me that in case "Tristan" were finished by that
time, September 6th, being the birthday of the Grand Duke, would
be the best day for the performance; and he added that the Grand
Duke counted with certainty upon my personal attendance. As to
this last point, which of course I had made the chief condition
from the first, I have recently received further information. The
Grand Duke intends to invite me for the time in question to
Carlsruhe on his own responsibility. Nothing is to be known
beforehand, and my presence is to be simply an accomplished fact,
for which the Grand Duke takes the personal responsibility. This
seems a princely way of doing things, and the young sovereign
inspires me with confidence. But I must assist him by denying any
intention of a journey to Carlsruhe altogether. You will
therefore oblige me, dearest Franz, by ostensibly assisting me in
this matter. You might cause some paragraphs to be inserted in
the newspapers, contradicting that rumour which, unfortunately,
has been spread about a good deal, and stating that nothing was
settled, and that my personal attendance at Carlsruhe was quite
out of the question, as, as yet, there was not the slightest
chance of my amnesty.
Concerning your own recent steps in my favour, I must charge you
in all friendliness with having acted too delicately towards me
by not letting me know the motives of the refusal you have met
with. Even now you do not state those motives plainly, for the
reason apparently that you fear to wound me unnecessarily by
their communication. On the other hand, I ask you to consider
that it would be better if I saw quite clearly in this matter.
This would finally and for ever free me from all the illusions
into which my strong desire tempts me while things are in this
uncertain state, and an unpleasant feature of our mutual
relations would disappear altogether.
All my transactions with the Hartels as to the edition of the
scores, etc., of the "Nibelungen" to be prepared at once, have
again been abandoned recently. The only thing they were willing
to grant was the immediate commencement of the engraving
(provided always that a performance was guaranteed), without
payment of an honorarium, and with the undertaking only on their
part to share the profits of the edition with me. How loath I am
to agree to this latter proposal I need not explain. The profits
to be derived from such a work increase as the years go on, and
will probably become lucrative only after my death. In any case,
those profits would accrue to me at a time of life to provide for
which at present would be folly, considering how urgently I
require immediate assistance and freedom from care. Heirs I have
Your advice to settle in Paris in case Germany remains closed to
me quite coincides with my own plans. The dear Child has
communicated to you what my immediate views of life are. I cannot
bear this state of inactivity any longer; my health is ruined for
want of life and action. Paris is the place, appointed to me by
fate. I quite agree with you in thinking that I shall get
accustomed to living there as time goes on. Apart from any plans,
I shall there have at least the occasional use of a fine
orchestra which I have missed for so long. Without considering
for the present any possible performances at French theatres, I
should there also have the best chance of witnessing a
performance of my own works. A well-managed scheme of German
opera would be all that would be required. But it is impossible
for me and my wife to lead, once more, a half-starving life in
Paris. Some comfort and freedom of action must be secured to me,
otherwise I cannot think of it. I shall probably leave my
furniture, etc., at Zurich. The pretty little house will be kept
for me, and I hope to inhabit it again later on in the summer,
which would be an agreeable change.
The hope you give me of receiving frequent visits from you in
Paris is the real bright point in the picture of the future.
Believe me, dear Franz, when I consider the advantages which my
desired amnesty would offer to me, there is only one which
appears to me worth a real sacrifice, I mean that of being
together with you more frequently and for longer periods. What
else is there that could very strongly and decisively attract me?
Performances of my operas I should, in most instances, carefully
avoid, although I might in rare and particular cases take part in
first performances of my works, which would of course be very
desirable. The question, whether in that case encouragement and
new strength, or grief, annoyance, and overexcitement would be
the lasting effect upon me, I fear I must decide in favour of the
latter alternative, and no external success, no applause, could
make up for this. If I was sensitive before, I am so now to the
verge of excessive irritation, and I dread every contact with
theatrical matters, singers, conductors, etc., to such a degree
that I feel almost inclined to bless the fate which keeps me
apart from them. But we, we two, want to cultivate our friendship
by personal intercourse; we are to each other the only enjoyment
which the world can offer us. Only think how painfully we have
always been kept separated, during how few weeks of the long and
beautiful years of our friendship we have looked into each
other's eyes. This fountain of generation of inner strength and
fire is fully appreciated by me, and I feel it to be the direst
deprivation that I can approach it so rarely. If you promise me
this boon for Paris, you may look upon my determination to go
there as certain and immutable.
Let me have a full account of yourself, dear friend; of all your
troubles I hear from others, sometimes even through the
newspapers. That is not right; neither should you be too brief in
your statements; it looks like want of confidence. I want to gain
a closer view so as to know how to stretch out my hand, which
would comfort you with a friendly touch. It is natural that you
are too great, too noble, too beautiful, for our dear, gossipy
Germany, and that you appear to the people like a god, whose
splendour they are not accustomed and not inclined to bear. It
was left to you to illustrate this phenomenon, for so bright, so
warm a being as yourself had never before appeared in Germany.
But I should like to know to what degree this miserable conduct
touches your heart, annoys you, embitters you. I have grown so
indifferent to similar impressions, that I often find it very
difficult to discover the exact point where the impression is
If, on the other hand, I consider what happiness is in your
possession, what crowns of life and of eternity are on your
forehead, if I think of your sympathetic and nobly refined home,
free as it is from the serious cares of common life, if I finally
observe how your personality and your ever-ready art enchant and
delight all around you, I find it difficult to understand what
your sufferings really are. And yet you suffer, and suffer
deeply; that I feel. Sink your pride for once, and write to me as
plainly and as comprehensively as I too frequently do to you,
much to your annoyance. I must conclude, in order not to begin
the fourth sheet, and will only tell you in the margin that I
thank you cordially for your love, and shall always remain
faithfully and lovingly
MILAN, March 25th, 1859.
I am once more on my travels without having told you anything
about them; tired out as I am by the Brera, the "Cena", the
Cathedral, etc., I do not want to go to bed before sending you
two words of news.
In order not to interrupt the composition of my third act, I came
to the conclusion that I ought to begin it in a place where I
might finish it. I have selected Lucerne for the purpose; you
know how dearly I love the Lake of Lucerne; the Righi, Pilatus,
etc., are indispensable remedies to me and my blood. I shall live
there in solitude, and at this time of the year shall easily find
a most desirable lodging. There I mean to work splendidly. My
Erard has already preceded me.
My health gives me still much trouble, otherwise I am fairly well
off, but with your friendly cousin in Vienna, who thinks so
little of your advantage, I have still a bone to pick. About that
next time. I should, no doubt, have had news from you if, in my
last letter, I had not again given you such a dose of gravy. I
should have been only too happy to receive a sign of life from
you, even if that matter had not been mentioned with a word. I
hoped for it from day to day, and in that idle hope neglected
advising you of my intended change of abode.
As soon as I am settled again I shall write better and more,
without waiting for you to ask me. For today these preliminary
lines must suffice. A thousand cordial greetings.
LUCERNE, poste restante.
Be heartily welcomed on the Lake of Lucerne, my dear, great
friend. "Tristan" will once again enjoy and derive strength from
Alpine air before he leaves you for ever to shine on others. At
Carlsruhe they are afraid that he will not arrive punctually at
the appointed time. Devrient, whom I saw here and at Jena, told
me so lately. The first performance is wavering between September
and December—the birthday of the Grand Duke or that of the
Grand Duchess, and I have already announced myself as the
Your dose of gravy, as you put it, was not particularly
palatable. At our next meeting I shall have to say much about it,
unfortunately of the negative kind. Nevertheless, I hope to be
able at the same time to propose to you a different arrangement
(if that is the name) with which, no doubt, you will agree. First
of all, however, "Tristan" must be finished, engraved, and
performed, and after that we will, without delay, take the
"Nibelungen" affair seriously in hand, and set it right to your
The Princess and her daughter are going to Munich next week
(Kaulbach is painting the portrait of Princess M.). I stay here
till Easter, and then go on a visit to Prince Hohenzollern at
Lowenberg, Silesia. From the middle of May to the beginning of
June I shall pitch my tent at Leipzig, where all manner of things
will happen. Later on, for Whitsuntide, grand Schiller
festivities are announced here. Whether they will take place is
very questionable, but in any case I shall have to get the music
for the festival-play by Holm (VOR HUNDERT JAHRERI) ready, which
will be something of an effort.
My health, fortunately, gives me no trouble, and I have no lack
of patience. The rest may come and will come.
Farewell and persevere. Such is the wish of
WEYMAR, April 6th, 1859.
LUCERNE, April 19th, 1859.
Tell me, dearest Franz, how would you feel if you were in my
position? I have repeatedly asked you to send me your new works
as they appear. The "Ideals" has appeared, but you are silent on
the subject. Now I read the publisher's announcement of the
appearance of "Dante." How would you feel if this happened to
you? Do you still harbour your strange illusions about me? That
surely is impossible.
The weather is bad; I am absolutely alone, and seldom in the
right mood for work. So I drag on amidst mists and thoughts.
Let me hear, let me see.
DEDICATION OF THE "DANTE" SYMPHONY.
As Virgil guided Dante, so have you guided me through the
mysterious regions of life-tone imbued worlds. From the bottom of
his heart calls to you:—
"Tu se lo mio maestro, el mio autore!"
and dedicates this work to you with invariably faithful love
WEYMAR, Easter 1859.
LUCERNE, May 8th, 1859.
I should prefer not to write to you today, dearest Franz, because
I am not in the proper mood for it, but as I must not think of
working, I make at least this attempt at some sort of activity,
without knowing exactly what the result will be. If you suddenly
were to enter my solitude,—that would be a chance of the
possibility of a possibility. But you seem to have disposed of
your summer,—Lowenberg and Leipzig, while the third L. (Lucerne)
has been totally forgotten. Well, I stick to Lucerne, and,
carefully considered, it is the only place in the world which is
at present possible to me. You know, or might imagine, that I do
not live a life in the proper sense of the word; the only thing
that could help me—art, art to the verge of drowning and world-
forgetfulness, of that I have still less than of life, and this
state of things has lasted for a period which I soon shall count
by decades. Excepting the servants, I see and speak to no one;
just imagine how I must feel. My good people, I fear you leave me
too much alone, and the meaning of "too late" will one day be
brought home to you in connection with me. It is very well to
say: "Get "Tristan" ready, and then we shall see." But how if I
did not get "Tristan" ready because I could not get it ready? I
feel as if I should break down pantingly in sight of the goal.
Once at least every day I look at my book with a right good will,
but my head is waste, my heart empty, and I stare at the mists
and the rain-clouds, which, ever since I have been here, have
debarred me even from the chance of shaking up my stagnant blood
by pleasant excursions. People say: "Go to work, then all will be
right." Very well in its way, but I, poor devil, lack routine,
and if ideas do not come to me of themselves, I cannot make them
A pleasant state of things this! and what is worse, there is no
chance of helping myself in any other way. All is shut and locked
against me. Work alone is to help me, but who is to help me to
the possibility of work? I have evidently too little of what you
have too much.
I am full of enthusiasm for the German Confederacy of the
Teutonic nations. For heaven's sake do not let the villain L.
Napoleon touch my dear German Confederacy! I should be too deeply
grieved if any change were made. I am curious, however, what will
become of my intended migration to Paris. It is surely most
unpatriotic to look for a comfortable existence at the head-
quarters of the enemy of the Teutonic nation. The good Teutons
should really do something to save the most Teutonic of all
Teutonic opera-composers this terrible trial. Moreover, in Paris
I shall be pretty well cut off from all my German resources, and
yet I shall be obliged to apply in a very high quarter in order
to get permission for permanent settlement in Paris, for my Swiss
settlement is coming to a close. Germany is evidently intent upon
driving me forcibly to the enemy. Very well! There is a
possibility of my going in the autumn for six months to America,
where offers have been made to me which, considering the friendly
sympathy of the German Confederacy, I cannot very well neglect.
This will be decided before long. What makes me hesitate is that
the "Tristan" scheme at Carlsruhe would be crossed thereby in
such a manner that I should have to give it up for the present,
and should probably not resume it at any future time. The last
act of this child of sorrow is now on the verge of the "to be or
not to be;" a slight pressure of some spring of the vulgar fate,
at whose mercy I am, might kill this child at the very moment of
its birth. Everything with me depends now upon the turning of a
hand; there may be a way and there may be a complete stoppage,
for I, my Franz, am in a bad way.
I have heard nothing for a long time of any of my friends; they
probably think that I am very happy in my dear Switzerland, in
this splendid solitude, in the joy of composing, forgetful of all
the world. I am not angry with them because they make themselves
such illusions. If they only knew that I had to threaten violence
in order to get out of you the "Dante" symphony dedicated to me,
they might draw further conclusions from this fact. What do you
say to that? I have, after all, arrived at "Dante", of which I
did not wish to speak today, because I love it too much to
involve it in my present mood. Let me tell you, however, that we
had better keep the dedication, written in my copy, to ourselves.
I at least shall not mention it to a soul. Your words have
positively made me blush, you may believe me. I cannot tell you
too often how miserably weak I feel as a musician. I know, in the
depth of my heart, that I am an absolute blunderer. You ought to
watch me when I am at it; now thinking "it must do after all,"
then going to the piano to puzzle out some wretched rubbish, and
giving it up again in a state of idiocy. Oh, how I feel then! how
thoroughly persuaded of my musical wretchedness! And then come
you, whose pores are running over as with streams, fountains,
cataracts, and tell me such words as those which you have said to
me. I find it difficult to think that this is not the purest
irony, and I must recall your friendship in order to believe that
you have not been cutting a joke at my expense after all. This is
a peculiar story, dearest friend; believe me, I am not up to
much. I really begin to think that Reissiger must have helped me
with "Tannhauser" and "Lohengrin." With my new works you have
most certainly helped me, and now that you leave me in the lurch,
I can do nothing more.
About "Dante" only so much today that I was specially pleased to
see how perfectly well I remembered it from your playing it to
me. As I come to study it more closely I perceive that no feature
of any importance had escaped me, even the smallest and finest
details were perfectly familiar to me from that time. This at
least is good evidence of my receptive faculties; but I believe
that the credit is really due to the peculiar grandeur and
quality of your work.
Generally speaking, if you wish to know, I am again in exactly
the same condition as when I wrote the letter about you to M.
Concerning that letter I recently had a brand-new experience. K.
R. had not read it, when I found it accidentally amongst my
papers at Venice, and gave it to him. After that he came to me,
and told me that people who were near to you had told him in
connection with this letter that I expressed myself in it in an
evasive manner, and was evidently intent upon saying nothing
definite about you. He himself had been made anxious by this, and
now, having read it, was truly delighted at perceiving the
ENORMOUS significance I had attributed to you. Astonished at the
possibility of an ill-natured misunderstanding, I read the letter
once more, and was compelled to chime in with K. R.'s impetuous
declamations at the incredible dulness, superficiality, and
triviality of people who could have misunderstood the meaning of
this letter. I have taken a solemn oath not to publish ANOTHER
WORD. What we are to each other we know and tell one another at
intervals for the sake of encouragement and comfort. But what we
are to the world I will be d—d if I—!
It is TOO incredible.
Good Lord! I cannot get out of my trivial mood in this letter,
and therefore must not discuss anything noble, least of all the
"Ideals." If you want to be sure of hearing something rational
from me, come to me and play all your things to me, especially
the Crusaders' chorus (splendid!!); then at least YOU will know
once more accurately what is in me.
For the present I spend all the good humour I can dispose of on
my wife. I flatter her and take care of her as if she were a
bride in her honeymoon. My reward is that I see her thrive; her
bad illness is visibly getting better. She is recovering, and
will, I hope, become a little rational in her old age. Just after
I had received your "Dante", I wrote to her that we had now got
out of Hell; I hope Purgatory will agree with her, in which case
we may perhaps, after all, enjoy a little Paradise. The whole
thing is splendid. Remember me to the Prince of Lowenberg, or
whatever his name may be, and tell him that if the German
Confederacy does not recall me soon I shall go to Paris and
betray the length and breadth of Germany.
God be with you. I hope you will pardon this absurd letter. Ever
What a terrible storm is your letter, dearest Richard! How
desperately it lashes and knocks down everything. What can be
heard in the midst of this roaring thunder? Where shall I find,
and what is the good of, words, words, words?
And yet my confidence in you is unshaken. Hamlet's dilemma does
not apply to you, for YOU ARE and cannot help being. Even your
mad injustice towards yourself in calling yourself a "miserable
musician and blunderer" (!!) is a sign of your greatness. In the
same sense Pascal says, "La vraie eloquence se moque de l'
eloquence." It is true that your greatness brings you little
comfort and happiness, but where is happiness, in the narrow
monotonous sense which is absurdly given to the word? Resignation
and patience alone sustain us in this world. Let us bear our
cross together in Christ—"the God whom one approaches without
pride, before whom one bends the knee without despair." But I
must not be betrayed into needless Franciscan sermons.
Candidly speaking, I do not think much of your American project,
and fear that New York would appear even more uncanny to you than
London. Nevertheless, write to me some particulars about the
offer which has been made to you, without the slightest fear of
alarming the German Confederacy. As I frequently said, Carlsruhe
is, for the present, your best chance, and I am persuaded that
the Grand Duke of Baden, who is very well inclined towards you,
will not fail to give you practical proof of his kindness.
Devrient does not expect to give "Tristan" before December, on
the birthday of the Grand Duchess. You need, therefore, be in no
particular hurry to finish the work. In any case, I shall visit
you before that at Lucerne, or wherever you like, and will play
to you a lot of my stuff if, as you tell me, it amuses you. The
noblest reward of my work would be if it were to bring home to
you the truth that you are and remain an IMMENSE MUSICIAN, and if
by that means you were incited to renewed industry.
In spite of all the war troubles the meeting of musicians will
take place at the beginning of June, as announced, and I have to
take up my quarters at Leipzig for that purpose as early as next
week. Do not laugh at me too much because I continue to take an
interest in similar things; they are not without influence on
your tentiemes, and from that point of view I may ask for your
toleration. I hope the weather will soon be finer on the lake,
and a milder spirit will illumine your soul.
WEYMAR, May 14th, 1859.
I told you at the time how deeply your letter to M. about the
Symphonic Poems had rejoiced me. The twaddle which dulness,
triviality, and spite have talked about it is not worth notice.
LUCERNE, May 15th, 1859.
Thiele, of Berne, the, trombone player, has just called on me,
and told me that he recently visited you at Weimar, not knowing
at that time that the place of trombone player would be vacant
there. He asked me to recommend him to you, because, as a native
of Weimar, he would like much to be employed there. I am
cordially pleased to recommend him to you most warmly, not only
for the sake of Thiele, but for that of your orchestra. He took
part in 1853 in my famous May concerts at Zurich, and on that
occasion gained, I may say, my whole heart by his enthusiasm. He
had two very weak players with him, but managed to carry them
along with him by his energy to such an extent, that in the
[Musical score excerpt]
one might have thought that one was listening to a whole host of
trombones. Thiele, in short, is excellent, and known all through
Switzerland as a trombone genius. I congratulate you on his
acquisition. Do not let him escape you.
Farewell for today, dearest friend. What state I am in you may
unfortunately see from the fact that a few days ago I felt bound
in conscience and duty to ask Devrient not to rely on "Tristan"
or me any longer. This was bound to happen, and there is an end
for the present.
Much luck to the Leipzig festival.
Farewell, and accept the best wishes of
May 21st, 1859.
Send Tausig to me; I hear he is disengaged. My wife has even
written to me that he wished to come to me. Otherwise I have
nothing rational to tell you today. I feel miserable; you will
soon hear more. A thousand cordial thanks for your letter.
My excellent friend, Felix Draseke, is on his way to you. Receive
him kindly as one of "ours," and reveal to him your "Nibelungen"
treasure, on which he is worthy of gazing with heart and soul.
I hope to be with you at the end of August; let me know where I
shall find you then.
WEYMAR, July 19th, 1859.
WEYMAR, August 9th.
TO RICHARD WAGNER,
On the completion of "Tristan" the most cordial congratulations
of your invariably faithful
LUCERNE, August 19th, 1859.
I should like to thank Princess M. for the news contained in her
last letter, and to congratulate her cordially on her impending
marriage, but I am ill, and a feverish cold has suppressed all
rational thoughts in me. But as I wanted to give you some news of
me without delay, I ask you, for the present, to be the very
eloquent interpreter of my sincere feelings to our amiable Child.
The effort thus made, in spite of my indisposition, enables me to
add that, although the disappointed hope of your visit, which
would have been most welcome just now, fills me with grief, I
fully understand that the sacrifice in my favour would have been
too great. On the other hand, I lay the sacrifice made by me at
the feet of the happy Child with joyful pride.
As to my fate I can tell you nothing, not knowing myself whither
I shall direct my steps. I should like to live in Paris in
absolute retirement, but the French Minister refuses to give me
his vise for my passport. In answer to my remonstrances, he wrote
to Paris a fortnight ago, but has had no answer. I am probably
taken for an obstinate conspirator, an opinion which the
treatment I receive at the hands of Germany seems to countenance.
I wait for my fate in my little room here, neither longing for
Paris nor attracted by any other place that is open to me.
Draseke is still with me, and I enjoy his visit. Soon he will go
Excuse me from writing any more. Even the effort of these few
lines has put me in a perspiration.
Continue to love me, and greet Altenburg a thousand times from
"Tristan" has received your welcome with pride and joy.
Your letter, received today, has increased my grief at not being
able to be with you. Although I am not much worth as a sick
nurse, I should nurse you well, and assist you in passing the
time with more ease. Alas! we are miserable creatures, and the
few who have penetrated the deepest secrets of life are the most
miserable of all. That snarling old cur, Schopenhauer, is quite
right in saying that we are ridiculous in addressing each other
as MONSIEUR or citizen. Compagnon de misere et de souffrance, or
fellow-sufferers, and worse we are, TUTTI QUANTI, and nothing we
can do can make any essential change in this. The worst is that
we know it quite well, and yet never like to believe it.
What is this about the vise of your passport? Probably the
impediment has been removed by this time; otherwise make
inquiries as to the quarter from which it arises, whether from
the Saxon embassy in Paris, or from the French police. Steps must
be taken accordingly. It is understood that I am quite at your
service in this matter, but I should not like to make a faux pas,
and it is necessary, therefore, that I should be more accurately
informed by you, in order to apply at once to the right people.
In my opinion Paris is the most comfortable, most appropriate and
cheapest place for you while things in Germany remain in their
wretched state. Although you may not agree with the artistic
doings there, you will find many diverting and stimulating
things, which will do you more good than your walks in
Switzerland, beautiful though the Alpine landscape may be. I am
surprised, it is true, at your speaking of a permanent settlement
in Paris at this moment. I thought that your relations to
Carlsruhe had reached such a point as to secure to you an asylum
in the Grand Duchy of Baden (perhaps at Heidelberg, unless the
PROFESSORS should frighten you there). How about the first
performance of "Tristan" at Carlsruhe? Devrient informed me, with
tolerable certainty, that the intention was to give the work on
the birthday of the Grand Duchess in December, and that you would
be invited to conduct it. I hope no change has taken place in
this. Let me have particulars. Perhaps I shall be able to assist
you in simplifying the matter.
Do you know what I did a few days ago? Looking at your portrait,
which you had signed "Santo Spirito Cavaliere", it occurred to me
to write a "Rienzi fantasia" for pianoforte. If it should amuse
you for a moment my time will have been well employed. I should
tell you that your little bust adorns my writing desk. You are of
course without the company of any other celebrities—no Mozart,
no Beethoven, no Goethe, or whatever their names may be. To this
room, which is the heart of the house, none of them is admitted.
What a beautiful day it will be when I see you here.
M. will leave us soon, probably in October; until then I cannot
get away from here. If you should happen to remain in Switzerland
till after that, I shall visit you in the late autumn. Otherwise
I shall see you at Carlsruhe or Paris.
Remember me cordially to Draseke. I am very glad you have taken a
liking to him. He is a splendid fellow. In our small circle of
most intimate friends he is called the "hero." Has he shown you
his ballad, "Konig Helge?" It is a glorious thing.
Be good enough to tell him that I INVITE HIM SPECIALLY to stay
with me on his return journey, and that I should think it very
shabby of him if he played me the trick of flying past me under
my very nose.
Try to get well again as soon as possible, dearest friend, and
continue to love
WEYMAR, August 22nd, 1859.
PARIS, October 20th, 1859.
I hope, dear Franz, these lines will reach you exactly on the
Accept my cordial wishes for your birthday. It is of great
significance to me that just at present, while I am seriously and
deeply considering our mutual relations, I should come upon this
day which Nature herself, no doubt, counts amongst her most
fortunate days. For what she succeeded in creating on this day
has borne such rich fruit that, without this gift of your
existence, there would be a chasm in the essence of things, of
the depth of which he only can judge who loves you as I love you,
and who might suddenly imagine that you existed no longer. Gazing
down this terrible chasm, such as my imagination pictured it, I
turned my eyes to you as one awaking from a terrible dream, and
was so sincerely delighted, so deeply moved by your real
existence, that you appeared to me as one newborn. In this spirit
I greet you on this, to me, highly important birthday. Your
friendship is an absolute necessity to me; I cling to it with my
last vital strength.
When shall I see you at last?
Have you an idea of the position in which I am, of the miracles
of faith and love which I require in order to gain new courage
and patience? Think this out for yourself, without my telling
you. You MUST know me sufficiently to understand this, although
we have not lived much together.
I ask you, once more, when shall we meet again? Carlsruhe is more
than uncertain. "Tristan", altogether, has become a shadowy and
half impossible thing. Do not wait for an external occasion which
may bring me to you. In the most favourable case the "Tristan"
period, with its desperate and terrible exertions, would not be
fit for our meeting again for the first time. Be guided to me by
your innermost heart, and may it impel you to come to me soon. By
the middle of November I expect my wife. Could I not have you
BEFORE? It is bad enough for me that I have to call you, and that
you do not come of your own accord. I heard of the marriage of
Princess M. through B. yesterday; he does not inform me where she
is going to live. Kindly tell me where I am to write in order to
convey my wishes to her.
Farewell; I am just on the point of moving into my new lodgings.
So I am "settled" once more, without faith, love, or hope.
Farewell, and accept my wishes kindly; in congratulating you I
16, RUE NEWTON, CHAMPS ELYSEES. 299.
PARIS, November 23rd, 1859,
16, RUE NEWTON.
Believe me, dear Franz, I find it very difficult to give you news
of myself. We live too little together, and must necessarily
become strangers in one important aspect of friendship. You wrote
to me to Venice and Lucerne that you liked my migration to Paris
for the reason that you would be able to visit me more
frequently. I have often assured you that I desired an amnesty
particularly because I should be able to pay you more frequent
and longer visits, and I informed you again that your promise
induced me to look upon my Paris settlement in a more favourable
light. In spite of this, my first request for your visit
addressed to you from here has met with a refusal. You say you
cannot come to Paris, and propose a two days' meeting at
Strassburg instead. What will be the use of these Strassburg days
to us; what to me? I have nothing to tell you in a hurry, no
plans that we need discuss. I want to enjoy you, to live with you
for some time, as we have hitherto seen so little of each other.
Why do you all of a sudden object to Paris, where, if you do not
wish it, no one need know of your presence? I can get you rooms
near me in a very remote quarter. We shall spend the days at my
lodging, where you can see whom you like. Why need you always be
a public man apart from the private friend? I cannot understand
this. My poor deserted life has made me incapable of
comprehending an existence which casts a side glance at the whole
world at every step. You must pardon me for declining the
Strassburg meeting, greatly as I appreciate the sacrifice which
you offer me. It is just this sacrifice which appears to me too
great at the price of a few hurried days in a Strassburg hotel.
I am extremely sorry that the Princess was unable to find me; her
very valuable letter I fail to understand. By the spontaneous joy
and cordiality with which I should have received her, she would
have recognized what she is to me. She has often experienced
this, and surely does not suspect me of affectation. I do not
know what to say to all this, and remain silent.
My silence extends to everything else that otherwise I might have
told you about myself. If one has to tell such things at all, it
is better to be silent about them. As to the Carlsruhe plan you
are probably sufficiently enlightened. Devrient has thought it
desirable to make an excuse for the bungling and neglectful way
in which he has taken up the idea of a first performance of
"Tristan" at his theatre, by saying that it is impossible to
execute the work. To that ALSO I do not reply. Why should I
speak? I know my fate and my position, and remain silent. It is
more serious to think of the consequences which the wiping out of
my new work from the list of living things will have for my means
of subsistence. However, why should I point out those
consequences? He who is endowed with five senses must know what
my position is. I can complain no longer, for that would mean to
accuse, and I do not even want to accuse friend Devrient. I have
not said a word to him. You know enough now, and more than will
My wife has arrived here. She is a little better, and I hope
things will go on tolerably well. She told me, without
complaining, that you had been at Dresden without paying her a
visit. I tried to comfort her as well as I could.
Farewell, my dear Franz. Do not misunderstand me; I wanted to
write to you, and for a long time did not know how to set about
it. Heaven only knows whether I have done it in the proper way.
Be always assured that you are dear to me above all else, even if
I fail to comprehend many things which determine your action.
Farewell. Greet the Princess, and tell her that her letter
pleased me, although I failed to understand it. Greet also
Princess H—. May you all think ot me in a friendly spirit.
BRUSSELS, March 29th, 1860.
Once more I give you a sign of life. That one lives at all is
perhaps the most wonderful case in point, and when one arrives at
the end of things, one need not care any longer. Death, which at
this moment mows down men so recklessly, leaves us standing in a
bare field by a mere whim. One is astonished and a little
thoughtful for awhile.
My fate is very odd. While the real thing for which alone I care
remains enveloped in the most German mist of impossibility. H.'s
diplomatic skill has arranged for me all manner of Paris glories,
which float before me mockingly like a "Fata Morgana." Heaven
only knows what will come of this "Tannhauser" scheme. In my
heart I do not yet believe in it, and for good reasons. It is of
more importance to me to perform "Tristan" in Germany, and I am
determined to set that old Dresden matter right if any decent
concessions are made to me. If I succeed in this, I shall look to
Vienna as the theatre which has the best singers, and presents
the unique phenomenon of being conducted by a competent musician,
with whom one can come to an understanding. This, as you know,
cannot be found in the rest of Germany.
Of you, dearest friend, I have heard nothing for a long time, for
even H. was unable to tell me anything. The comfort of your
visits in Paris, which at one time you promised me so
confidently, will not, it appears, be vouchsafed to me. Be not
offended, therefore, if today I send you a visitor in order to
give you some news of myself on the same occasion. I have been
brought here by the absurd illusion of being able, by repeating
my Paris concerts at Brussels, to recover some of the money which
those Paris excesses had cost me. But of course the only results
of this excursion were new expenses and a little propaganda.
Amongst the most valuable conquests I have made here is first
Herr A. Samuel, who is starting for Germany, and would like to be
introduced to you. He has been very amiable towards me, both in
deed and word. You will like him, too, and in that belief I
recommend him to your welcome.
You also introduced some one to me here. Frau Agnes Street—
Klindworth brought me a letter from you which you had given to
her five years ago for London. I have to thank you for the most
pleasant acquaintance which you procure to me so unexpectedly and
after all that time. I was soon at home with her and Papa
Klindworth, and owe the most pleasant memories to these two
people. The old man amused me greatly by his incredible wealth of
I return to Paris today in order to have a closer view of my
brilliant misery. M. Royer wants a large ballet for the second
act of "Tannhauser"; you may imagine how I relish the idea. My
only refuge in the face of such demands is Princess Metternich,
who is highly esteemed by Fould, etc. I must see whether I can
get rid of this ballet, otherwise I shall of course withdraw
Well, you have now a good insight into the joy of my existence.
Do not delay communicating to me a fragment of your life. The
only thing that makes our position towards this misery of world
and life tolerable is the growing contempt for world and life;
and if one can arrive at that in a good humour, things are all
right for a little while. But when one perceives how few things
hold water, when one observes the terrible superficiality, the
incredible thoughtlessness, the selfish desire for pleasure,
which inspire every one, one's own earnestness appears often in a
very comic light. This consideration is to me, at least, the only
one which sometimes puts me in a tolerable mood.
A thousand cordial greetings to you, my dearest Franz; with Mamma
I get on very well. The old lady quite touches me by her love and
sympathetic insight. Farewell, and remember lovingly,
WEYMAR, le 22 Mai.
Deposee sous le no. 93 a 12 heures 31 minutes s. Expediee a
domicile le 22 a 2 heures 15 minutes soir.
RUE NEWTON, 16, CHAMPS ELYSEES,
CHEMIN DE VERSAILLES, PARIS.
Cordial wishes for your birthday from your
Your letter, dearest, unique friend, is to me more beautiful than
the most beautiful balmy May day. May you rejoice in the joy
which it has given to me.
I wish I could telegraph myself to Paris. Where could I be more
happy than with you, in the magic circle of "Rhinegold", the
"Valkyrie", "Siegfried", "Tristan" and "Isolde"—all of them the
objects of my longing? But I must not think of this for the
present, although I shall certainly come as soon as I can.
Your photograph has been announced to me by an amiable hand, but
has not made its appearance so far. I told you before that your
little bust stands on my writing-desk as UNICUM. The photograph
will find its place in the same room, which otherwise contains
nothing ARTISTIC. Beethoven, Weber, Schubert, and others of that
stamp keep company to your portrait (that with the motto, "Du
weisst wie das wird") in the ante-room. HERE I want to have you
alone together with my St. Francis, whom Steinly has designed for
me splendidly. He stands on heaving ocean-waves, his outspread
cloak on, firmly, unmovedly. In his left hand he calmly holds
burning coals; the right is extended in the act of blessing; his
gaze is turned upwards, where the word "charitas" glows,
surrounded by an aureole.
The great life-question of the Princess has been finally and
favourably settled. All the villainous and subtle intrigues which
were spun for a number of years have been dispelled.
After the return of the Princess from Rome (where she arrived
last Sunday, and will probably stay till the end of July) all
will be arranged. I wish I could soon have the pleasure of seeing
you CHEZ NOUS.
Through Fraulein Hundt (whom, together with her friend Ingeborg
Stark, you received so amiably) I heard a good many things about
your way of life in Paris. "Tannhauser", with ballet, and a
contest of translators as well as of minstrels, are immediately
before you. It will be a tough piece of work for you, and I
advise as many walks and cooling baths as possible. Fips should
teach you a little philosophic patience during the rehearsals.
Frau Burde-Ney told me lately when she was "starring" here, that
she intended to go to Paris for a few days, in order to study
Isolde with you. She has the necessary stuff ("Wupptich" they say
at Dresden) for it.
A thousand thanks for the score which Hartel has sent me. You
know best how all this is sung from my very soul. Let me know
when convenient what you consider most desirable in regard to the
performance of "Tristan." At Carlsruhe it seems impossible, and
Devrient was inclined to bet that "Tristan" could not be
performed anywhere else either, unless you consented to
considerable alterations. This is by no means my opinion, and as
often as Devrient said NO, I replied YES. His stage experience
is, no doubt, older than mine, but nevertheless I have perfect
confidence in my opinion of such things. You know for what
reasons I did not, at the time, beg "Tristan" for Weymar, and you
will approve of my passive attitude. If, as I should not like to
think, no favourable chances for the speedy performance of this
marvellous work turn up, and if, for the present, you will be
satisfied with a performance here, I firmly believe that I can
arrange it for next season (1861). Let me know your views when
you write again. Meanwhile I remain, with all my heart,
WEYMAR, May 31st, 1860.
I shall remain here till the return of the Princess. Whether
Berlioz will reply to your letter, couched in the barbarous
French of Genius, in OUR sense, appears somewhat doubtful. The
more's the pity.
PARIS, June 15th, 1860.
Can you induce Herr D. to send me a prompt reply to my last
letter? The question at stake is whether or not I shall be able
to do something for the health of my wife this summer in
accordance with the doctor's prescription. I MUST know this. At
the same time I must declare that I shall not accept less than
I do not want to encroach upon you, but what you can do without
injuring yourself, do please, as soon as possible.
If they think me worth that sum at Weimar I shall expect the bill
of exchange by return of post.
16, RUE NEWTON, CHAMPS ELYSEES.
According to a letter just received, D. thinks it necessary to
refuse me the thousand francs I had asked for, and offers me
thirty louis d'or instead.
This puts me in an awkward position. On the one hand I am, as
usual, greatly in want of money, and shall decidedly not be able
to send my wife to Loden for a cure, unless I receive the
subvention I had hoped for. On the other hand, I must despair of
ever prospering if, compelled by necessity, I have to yield on
every occasion. I have explained my view of the question of
honorarium to D. quite openly and without any brusqueness, and
have finally insisted upon my first demand.
I should like to let my wife start as soon as possible. The worst
turn which this affair could take at Weimar would be, if my
demand were simply refused, and if I had nothing at all to give
to my wife.
You now know my position exactly. If your diplomatic genius could
find a middle course (in case my demand cannot be carried) you
would oblige me greatly. I suppose that you are on sufficiently
good terms with D., and hope that, at the worst, you will
discover such a middle course. Therefore kindly look after this
trumpery matter. I am unfortunately surrounded by nothing but
Let me hear from you soon.
Concerning the "Rienzi" honorarium, I could effect nothing beyond
what D. had offered to you. Pardon me, dearest friend, for not
having written to you at once, but I am very tired this week and
as unwell as the normal state of my health will allow me to be.
It is not of any consequence, and a few days' rest will set me
right again. In the meanwhile I must unfortunately advise you to
accept D.'s proposal. The G. D. is not here, and no other course
is open until the performance actually takes place. After that I
hope to get you a few hundred francs more. D. tells me that
"Rienzi" is to take the place of the "Prophet" next season. Five
(say 5) new decorations have been ordered, and are in
preparation. Meffert will sing the title part, and the other
characters will be decently represented, while the chorus will be
increased by soldiers. Let it therefore take its course until we
can do something better. Patience, says Byron, is the virtue of
mules, but he who does not possess it remains a miserable ass.
I shall write to you in a few days about several things not
connected with business. Most cordially
June 24th (birthday of the Grand Duke, who is not expected back
here before eight or ten days. From Baden he has gone to
Switzerland with his wife).
Your photograph has arrived at last, and lights up my room.
MOST UNIQUE OF MEN,
Madame Kalergi's intercession in your concert affair gives me
great joy. Beautiful and noble traits of that kind are,
unfortunately, seldom met with. Will you kindly forward the
enclosed lines to my gracious lady protectress? I do not know her
present address. You are once more in the old "Tannhauser" birth
throes. Much luck! You will have to suffer much at the
rehearsals, and have perhaps never undergone so hard a trial of
patience as the re-writing and studying of this work, which to
you is partly "ein uberwundener Standpunkt," as friend Brendel
says. Through means of the "Presse Theatrale", which is kindly
sent to me, I remain au courant of your exertions. Be not too
much annoyed at being an immortal poet and composer; there is
nothing worse in this world to which one should apply the
following modified version of Leibnitz's well-known axiom: Tout
est pour le mieux, dans un des plus mauvais mondes possible!
Alas! I lately again had a great misfortune. One of my few
friends, the bravest and most self-sacrificing of all, is dead.
Her name was Clara Riese, and she lived as pianoforte teacher at
Leipzig, where, on Tuesday, I accompanied her to her last place
of rest in the old Johannes cemetery.
Up to the last day I was in hopes that her incredible strength of
character would keep her alive; but in vain.
Excuse this mournful message, but I am still so full of her death
that I cannot help thinking of it.
Nothing is happening here. D. showed me your letter about
"Rienzi", and I am thankful to you for having behaved in so
accommodating and generous a manner. The opera will be taken in
hand at the commencement of the season (September), and after the
first performance I intend to have some conversation with His
Serene Highness. Before that it would be useless.
Have you heard anything from Seebach? Madame Kalergi will be the
best and most useful intercessor you could employ in this matter.
May everything succeed to your heart's desire.
From the Princess I continue to have very good news; she will
probably remain in Rome for some time to come.
In October Hartel will publish the last two of my twelve
Symphonic Poems, "Hamlet", and "The Battle of the Huns." As soon
as I have an opportunity I shall send you my medley of songs to
MY DEAR RICHARD,
It will be quite right and proper for you to pay a call of thanks
to the Princess Regent at Baden-Baden. Considering the well-known
favour in which you stand with the Princess, and the sterling
quality of her sympathy, she will not fail to have a favourable
influence on the course your circumstances will take in the
immediate future. Your presenting yourself personally to her is
most likely to increase, if possible, her interest in your works.
All this is right, and as it should be; on the other hand, it is
a pity that I shall not be able to come to Baden. Excuse me from
mentioning my reasons; you would perhaps think them miserable,
but they determine me categorically. Although I do not think that
you will return to Paris as early as Saturday, the hurried
character of our meeting, especially in the landscape
surroundings of Baden, would be painful. I had made arrangements
to start to-night, and the resolution of resigning the pleasure
of seeing you again costs me much. Nevertheless, I think it
preferable to wait for an opportunity more favourable to both of
us, which, I hope, will occur soon.
B. was with me when your letter of August 10th arrived. He came
from Wiesbaden, where they were expecting you for a performance
of "Lohengrin" (with Niemann). By-the-bye, there will be no lack
of "Tannhauser" and "Lohengrin" performances in these regions. Be
a little lenient and longsuffering with regard to their defects.
Do not misinterpret my stopping at home for the present; there is
not an atom of laziness or egoism in it—mats tout bien considere
je dois faire ainsi, parceque cela vaut mieux pour vous—and I
feel convinced that, later on, you will agree with me.
WEYMAR, August 14th, 1860.
My gracious master, the Grand Duke, spoke of you lately with the
most lively interest, and expressed his wish to see you here, to
which I replied, that for that a SPECIAL occasion would be
necessary. You should not forget, however, that he has more than
once interceded for you with the King of Saxony by word and by
PARIS, September 13th, 1860.
At last I find time and the proper mood for writing to you in a
more collected manner than is usually the case. My late brief
letters left a debt to you unpaid.
The letter I received from you at Baden quite satisfied me, and I
felt quite ashamed at having proposed so hurried, and to you so
inconvenient, a meeting. The matter simply came to this:—
A longer excursion to Germany was on my part quite out of the
question, and I had to abandon all hope of the long-desired
proper visit to you for this year. A brief interruption of my
anything but pleasant stay in Paris was, on the other hand, very
desirable to me. I had promised my wife to fetch her, if
possible, from Loden. The Rhine I had never seen. I was told at
the Prussian Embassy that the Princess of Prussia would shortly
arrive on the Rhine, and the Saxon ambassador told me that he
would be very pleased, and that it would be agreeable to the King
of Saxony also, if I were to thank the Princess for the interest
she had taken in the decision finally made in my favour. These
various motives I developed into the plan of a very short tour to
the Rhine, such as suited my limited finances. One or two days
more would have caused the most painful embarrassment to me. I
could of course not have thought of staying a day in Frankfort
without thinking of the possibility of embracing you, but as you
were unable to come, I was unable to wait at Frankfort; you
understand why. Therefore, I ventured to ask you to follow me to
Baden, where my narrow financial circumstances compelled me to
go. I fully understand the reasons which prevented you from
coming there. Pardon me for having attempted to smuggle, so to
speak, our meeting into another plan. The temptation to such an
attempt was too great.
You are quite mistaken, however, in thinking that a "special
occasion" would be necessary for inducing me to pay a visit to
Weimar. Believe me that I abide by what I told the Grand Duke at
Lucerne years ago, when he asked me whether I should be inclined,
in case of an amnesty, to stay at Weimar now and then. I told him
that the chief reason which would attract me to Weimar would be
your society, and that, therefore, I should pay frequent visits
to Weimar as long as you were there. You will understand that in
my relations to Weimar no change whatever has, fortunately, taken
place; on the contrary, I may hope that I shall no longer be
obliged to pay for the boon of your society by my participation
in insufficient artistic doings (I am speaking of the opera). Be
assured that I am joyfully looking forward to the day when I may
set sail for Altenburg.
My position in Germany is still far from satisfactory. As you
know, I am neither amnestied nor has my sentence been remitted.
All I have obtained is the promise that the claim to extradition
will be abandoned whenever, for the purpose of performing my
works, I wish to enter a German territory, the government of
which has given its consent, and asked permission of the Saxon
Government. Even my six days' journey to the Rhine I could not
have extended to Weimar without previously complying with those
conditions, for otherwise I should have offended the Saxon
Government at the very outset. Our German potentates cannot enter
into direct communication with me, for I am still a political
outlaw, neither must I hope for important or sufficient measures
in my favour at any court, and the plans for the performances of
my last works have not been advanced much. This is all the more
evident, as the condition of our largest operatic theatres is
most disappointing. Of Berlin I could not think at all without
first contemplating the possibility of a complete revolution of
affairs, both as regards the theatre and the management. I was
not bold enough to approach the Princess of Prussia with any hope
of producing a profound impression in that sense. I was quite
satisfied with meeting in her the SPIRITUELLE, intellectual,
lively woman I had pictured to myself, and I limited myself to
acknowledging and thanking her for the uninterrupted sympathy she
had shown for my works without being in the least tempted to
communicate to her any plan or wish of mine.
It remains therefore a perfect mystery where my "Tristan" is to
see the light of the world. The birth would probably be most easy
if I were to trust the King of Hanover with the delivery. Niemann
declares that the King would engage any singer, male or female,
whom I should require for the model performance of my work as
long as that performance took place at Hanover. This might lead
to something; that King appears liberal and magnificent in his
passion for art, and nothing else will suit me. Let us hope that
my political situation will be no obstacle.
For the present my Paris enterprise occupies me altogether, and
mercifully obscures my view of future German misery. I do not
know what rumours are current with you as to the difficulties
placed in my way. They may be well intended, but they are false.
NEVER YET HAS THE MATERIAL OF AN EXCELLENT PERFORMANCE BEEN
PLACED AT MY DISPOSAL SO FULLY AND UNCONDITIONALLY as has been
done at Paris for the performance of "Tannhauser" at the Grand
Opera, and I can only wish that some German prince would do the
same for my new works. This is the first triumph of my art which
I personally witness. I owe it to the success of my works in
Germany, which has gained me such warm admirers, that the
Emperor, on the strength of their word, has issued a truly
imperial COMMAND, which makes me master of the whole material,
and protects me from all intrigues. A translation, as excellent
as could have possibly been expected, is another earnest of
general success. I have secured the best singers that are to be
had, and the preparations in every department are made with a
zeal and a care to which Germany has little accustomed me. All
the leading people go with pleasure to a task which offers them a
more interesting occupation than is usual. I also take the
matter seriously. I am removing such weak points as I have
discovered in the score. I take great delight in the re-writing
of the great Venus scene, and hope to improve the effect thereby.
The ballet scene also will be executed on the larger scale
designed by me.
Unfortunately I have not yet been able to begin this necessary
work in the proper way. Before my journey to the Rhine the
translation occupied me exclusively, and on my return here I had,
first of all, to complete a little piece of literary work which
has only just been finished. M. Frederic Villot, about whom H.
has probably spoken to you, asked me to publish an edition of my
operatic poems in a prose-translation, and to add a preface
explaining my ideas. This I have done, and I hope that the opus
will appear about the beginning of October at the latest. The
rehearsals are in full swing, but unfortunately I had to object
to the baritone at the last moment. Fould had at once to give
orders for the engagement of a new singer, but we have not yet
found the right man, and this has caused a slight delay. There
has, however, been no trace of ill-will on the part of any one.
M., who is working here in his underhand way, will not, after
all, be able to do anything against the Emperor and the cause; he
is trying, however, to secure the good engagements which have
been made for me for his own benefit later on. Well, I do not
grudge him this; the man has no real initiative.
You have now, dearest friend, an approximate view of my life and
work. That I should be happy you can scarcely expect, but I feel
the calm of the fatalist who surrenders himself to his fate,
astonished perhaps a little at the often curious manner in which
it disposes of me and leads me into unexpected paths, and saying
to myself: "So it was to be."
With real horror I think of Germany and of my future enterprises
in that country. God forgive me, but I discover nothing but mean
and miserable things, conceit and a pretence of solid work
without any real foundation; half-heartedness in everything.
After all I prefer to see "Le Pardon de Ploermel" in Paris than
under the shadow of the famous, glorious German oak tree. I must
also confess to you that my treading once more German soil did
not produce the slightest impression upon me, except in so far as
I was astonished at the insipidity and impertinence of the
language I had to listen to. Believe me, we have no Fatherland,
and if I am "German" it is because I carry my Germany along with
me. This is fortunate, because the Mayence garrison has certainly
not inspired me with enthusiasm.
X. seems to be angry with me; I at last got annoyed with him
because his optimism irritated me.
I cannot understand a good many things, and allowance ought to be
made for me on account of my curious life. X., it seems to me,
fritters himself away; he undertakes too much, and by that means
loses the compact, concentric quality which a true man needs. I
cannot look on without being painfully affected. On the other
hand, I am, no doubt, very wrong in not accepting so true a
friend as he is; and I have much reason to acknowledge X.'s
friendship. He must not be angry with me and do as he likes; but
he should be sometimes a little more punctual with his letters.
Believe me, that in spite of my Paris surroundings I feel awfully
lonely, while of you I can never think except as of some one who
is surrounded by people, even at Weimar. Perhaps I have a good
many erroneous notions in that respect; at least Madame Street
gave me to understand as much when she described her visit to
you. She said that you had been very sad, although in very good
health. Well, I certainly cannot see why you should be
particularly joyous; at the same time this news has struck me
very much, and Madame W., to whom I spoke about it, was quite
frightened. There is something about you which causes you to
appear surrounded by splendour and light, and makes it difficult
for us to understand what could make you sad. Least of all am I
inclined to discover the cause of your irritation in the stupid
reception which your works have met with now and then, for it
seems to me that no one ought to know better than you that this
animosity is caused not by your works, but by the false light in
which you appear to the multitude. That light which reveals you
as so exceptional a phenomenon, that a misconception of it is
only too easily accounted for, is now and then too powerful,
especially for German eyes. I think, therefore, you are right in
withdrawing yourself from that illumination as much as possible,
and in letting your works take their own course for a time
without the least anxiety about them. One thing you will gain,
the avoidance of personal contact. In that, everything is misery,
and believe me that while we try to "do violence to the kingdom
of heaven," we only stir up the nether mud. No, the kingdom of
heaven comes to us in our sleep. But enough of this vague talk!
Let us soon meet, when we shall see how we can ward off all
sadness. I shall soon make a long stay with you.
God bless you, my Franz! Pardon this long talk to my desire of
being near you once more.
A thousand greetings from
WEYMAR, September 21st, 1860.
Your glorious letter, dearest Richard, made me breathe the pure
atmosphere of high mountains once more. You know what I require,
and offer it to me in abundance. I was almost afraid that you
might have misunderstood my non-appearance at Soden or Baden, and
I am cordially delighted at being set right by you as to this. As
I wrote to you before, it was IMPOSSIBLE for me to get away from
here before Thursday, August 16th. Well, all is over now, and you
have pardoned me. Let us talk of something else. How proud I
should be of your visit here, and how beneficial and
strengthening prolonged intercourse with you would be to me, I
need not tell you. I think it more probable, however, that I
shall pay you a visit in Paris first. The exact date I shall not
be able to determine until the continued uncertainty and wavering
of all my circumstances here have ceased, which must happen
shortly. As regards your visit here, I repeat what I have said to
you and others. Weymar owes you a special distinction, and it is
necessary that an appropriate and adequate opportunity of
presenting yourself here should be offered to you. It is
extremely amiable of you to mean principally me when you
pronounce the name of Weymar. I wish that this SYNONYM (in an
artistic sense) were a little more pronounced; that my advice
were followed, and my reasonable wishes complied with a little
more readily. But this can scarcely be expected, and I must in
this, as in other matters, show myself resigned, determined, and
consistent. I quite agree with what you say of the "INSUFFICIENT
artistic doings" here; however, many things COULD and SHOULD be
done, especially for you and your works. You will understand that
I cannot abandon this view, and that I shall do all in my power
to realise it. The impending performance of "Rienzi" may do
something towards it.
I consider Hanover a well-chosen ground for the first performance
of "Tristan." The King works magnificently for his theatre, and
if the matter is placed before him in the proper way, it may be
expected that he will carry out your wishes and intentions.
Unfortunately I cannot be of service to you, for to the
particular influence of some of my "FRIENDS" I owe a distinctly
pronounced dislike on the part of His Majesty. All I can do in
the face of this is to wait quietly and resignedly, until the
King condescends to adopt a more correct view. Fortunately
Niemann is devoted to you, body and soul, chest-voice and head-
voice. He will, no doubt, do all in his power to bring about the
Berlin and Vienna will probably hold back a little in existing
circumstances, and the rest of Germany, which is united at least
in the spirit of NEGATION, will probably wait prudently until the
camel comes walking along, after which it will consult no end of
folios in order to describe and appreciate it properly. Oh! lazy
abomination, your name is—artistic conditions.
At Wiesbaden, Frankfort, and I know not where else, they were
waiting for Wagner, and wanted to see him conduct, or at least
listen to, "Tannhauser", "Lohengrin", etc., and there would
certainly have been no lack of enthusiastic demonstrations; but
from a work like "Tristan", at the very first sight of the score
of which every one must exclaim: "This is something unheard of,
marvellous, sublime," they run away, and hide themselves like
I have taken the liberty of making use of the passage of your
letter referring to the ready assistance you receive from the
artists, and the management of the Grand Opera in Paris by
Imperial command; and in the next number of Brendel's paper you
will read something corresponding to your letter in the form of
an original correspondence. We had, of course, to adapt some
things too true in themselves to our laudable habits here. As I
have named Brendel I should like to mention a request, viz., that
you should publish the preface to the French translation of your
dramas in Germany, simultaneously with the Paris edition, and
that you should for that purpose send the ORIGINAL, probably
written in German, either to Brendel or some publisher. A
translation of that preface will, no doubt, appear, unless you
forestall it by the original itself, and thus prevent the
travesty of your ideas, or at least of your style. If no German
sketch should be in existence, my request of course falls to the
ground, for it would be asking you too much to do the work twice
Then you are satisfied with the translation of "Tannhauser?" I am
extremely pleased, for I confess that I think it no easy task to
Frenchify your works in your sense. I am very curious to see the
new version of the Venus scene and the ballet. When you have
finished it quite, and a copy has been made, you might perhaps
lend me the sketch of the new version for a few days, but I hope
that this will be made unnecessary by my visit to you.
Truly, dear Richard, we belong together and must come together at
last. Cordial thanks for your kind letter, which in these dreary
days has been a great and noble joy to me. Amongst other things
you have taken a fine and strikingly correct view of the totally
passive attitude with regard to the reception and promulgation of
my works which I shall observe for the future. Other people have
somewhat misunderstood my conduct. What a blessing it is to be
able to dispense with the explanation and discussion of certain
God bless you, dearest Richard; keep fresh and brave and upright.
I shall write to X. today, and give him news of you. 310.
PARIS, November 24th, 1860,
3, RUE D'AUMALE.
Forgive me for writing but a few lines. I have been severely ill
these four weeks, and my recovery is scarcely noticeable. I am
still extremely weak.
I have an urgent request to make. Fancy! I do not possess a
SINGLE copy of my poem of "The Ring of the Nibelung." I want to
publish it, and do not know where to get a copy for the printer.
I remember that at the time I sent a great number of copies to
Weimar, and there was such abundance there that (as I think
Draseke told me) the book was to be had secondhand. Be kind
enough to get me one copy in consideration of my urgent need, and
send it me as quickly as possible. If there should not be a
single possessor who could make up his mind to part with his copy
in spite of the author's great difficulty, I promise to restore
to him the identical copy after the completion of the reprint. I
may therefore fairly ask even the most ardent admirer of my poem
to make this sacrifice on my behalf.
Alas! I begin to perspire, and can write no more.
Come to Paris as you promised, and make me happy!
I have managed to get a copy of your "Nibelungen." Counsellor
Muller was kind enough to give me his for you; it was taken
yesterday to Paris by the courier of the French Embassy here,
together with the volume "Wagner und das Musik-Drama," by Franz
Muller, which has just been published. You will receive the
little parcel from Monsieur Leree, chef de bureau des departs au
ministere des affaires etrangeres. It is not customary for the
ministry to transmit private messages, and you therefore must
either call on M. Leree personally, or send him a few lines.
I was in bed a whole week at the same time as you. There are
moods and conditions in which we bear physical illness better
than the uninterrupted sequence of every-day cares and
When will the French edition of your three operatic poems appear,
and what publisher undertakes the edition of the "Nibelungen?"
Have you arranged with Schott about the publication of the full
scores of "Rhinegold" and the "Valkyrie?" Send me word as to
these three things.
The first performance of "Rienzi" is announced for Boxing-day. I
have conducted several rehearsals, and have undertaken the others
as well, but I have declined most positively to conduct the
performance. That performance will be a brilliant one according
to the circumstances here, and will probably realise D.'s
expectations as to pecuniary success. Capellmeister Stor, who has
conducted your three other operas ever since I left the theatre
definitely, will undertake the direction of "Rienzi." Our artists
are full of enthusiasm.
As a trifle I may mention to you that Muller of Dresden (Messrs.
Meser) will shortly publish two transcriptions by me,—the
"Spinning Song" ("Dutchman"), and "Santo Spirito Cavaliere"
("Rienzi"). I shall not talk to you about my coming to Paris
until I am able to tell you the exact date; it will be before
WEYMAR, December 2nd, 1860
PARIS, December 15th, 1860.
I am very slowly regaining my strength. What impedes my recovery,
and indeed makes it impossible for the present, are the
extraordinary exertions and excitements to which I have to expose
my health, which is gradually coming back to me. My daily
occupation is this, that by the utmost care and by abstaining
from any other kind of activity, however slight, I manage to
attend the rehearsals at the opera. The proofs of "Rhinegold",
which Messrs. Schott would have liked so much to have published
at Christmas, have been lying on my table for seven weeks without
my being able to make any progress with them. Guess at my
condition from this fact, and forgive me anything that I may have
done to shock you.
Pardon, for example, my not having thanked you before for sending
me Muller's copy of my "Nibelungen." Good Lord! I wanted so much
to hasten the publication, and hurried you in consequence. Now I
possess the copy, and have not been able even to look at it. I
also found it impossible to send you the book before this; I have
a horror of undertaking anything, and apart from this, the Paris
publishers treat one with abominable negligence. The German
original of my letter to Villot you have probably seen. I have
not been able yet to address a single line to my Leipzig
publisher in connection with this matter.
For "Tannhauser" I have still to score the grand new scene for
Venus, and to compose the whole of the Venusberg dance music. How
this is to get done in time without a miracle I fail to perceive.
I wish YOU would at last come to Paris.
But no more of this. I cannot speak of anything at greater
length, firstly, because I know too little, and secondly, because
I must absolutely conclude these lines.
Farewell, and a thousand greetings.
3, RUE D'AUMALE.
MY GREAT FRIEND,
How it is that we live for weeks and months BY THE SIDE OF EACH
OTHER while I know all the time that we are cordially united and,
so to speak, welded together in spirit, I will not explain to you
today. You have probably heard of the painful circumstances which
prevented me from visiting you in Paris at the end of February.
God be thanked, my anxiety is now slightly diminished, and I
intend to arrive at Paris between May 7th and 9th. But I do not
want to have it talked about because the many impediments which
have so far frustrated my travelling schemes have made me a
With your permission I should like to advocate the offer made to
you by Brendel, concerning the performance of the second act
of "Tristan," at the meeting of musicians (August 7th). Schnorr
and his wife have undertaken to sing, and the other parts will be
decently filled here. Of course, this fragmentary performance
ought not in the least to disturb or interfere with your original
and further plans concerning this work. I hope that you will
credit me with sufficient knowledge of the circumstance to
understand your hesitation at sanctioning this proceeding. Be
good enough to tell me simply what you think about it. If you do
not send us packing, and look favourably on our request, the
proper steps will be taken.
Write to me, if possible, by return of post, because I leave here
on the 29th inst.
WEYMAR, April 18th, 1861.
A thousand thanks, dearest Richard, for your kind letter. May the
treacherous fate which has hitherto kept us apart soon be
vanquished for ever. No one can understand better than I that a
fragmentary performance of "Tristan" must appear quite absurd to
you. I thank you for the gentle manner in which you reply to my
proposal, and take into account the narrow circumstances and
resources which impede my activity. You cannot believe how
painful it is to me not to be able to do anything PROPER for your
honour, benefit, and use. For several years all my steps and
efforts in that direction have been in vain; otherwise, not only
"Tristan" but "The Ring of the Nibelung" would be in existence
and do wonders. I was told several times, and positively assured,
that everything would be done here to further your efforts, and
especially to effect the performance of "The Nibelungen" and of
"Tristan." I, for my part, have clearly demonstrated, by word of
mouth and by letter, what they would have to do, viz., to invite
you here for the purpose of mounting and conducting those works
in accordance with your instructions and wishes. But the whole
plan was always wrecked on the score of expenses.
I will not trouble you with the details of this affair, the
failure of which, between ourselves, was my chief reason for
giving up my connection with our theatre altogether.
The Carlsruhe performance of "Tristan" in September will be a
great joy to me. The Grand Duke of Baden be praised and thanked
for it. You will reward his kindness and grace in a glorious
What will become of me in the course of this year is quite
uncertain. First of all I shall see you in Paris.
WEYMAR, April 26th, 1861.
An answer would be too late to find me here.
PARIS, June 15th, 1861.
A few days ago I received a telegram from Leipzig for Tausig, in
which he was requested to send his address. Today followed a
letter for him, accompanied by one to me, in which I am asked
for information as to Tausig and his whereabouts. I think it
unnecessary to give that information, because I assume that
Tausig has either seen the person in question at Leipzig or given
news of himself. I therefore ask you to transmit to our young
friend these facts, and also the enclosed letter intended for
him, as I do not know what to do with the latter.
Beyond this I have nothing to tell you, dearest Franz—no event,
no plan, no hope—for not the slightest change has taken place in
Farewell, and, if possible, make me happy soon by news of your
3, RUE D'AUMALE.
A letter from my daughter, Mdme. Ollivier, informs me that your
wife will go to Soden by the middle of this week, and that you
intend to come to Weymar by the end of the month.
Your presence here, coming as it does at the end of my too much
prolonged stay, will be a beautiful spiritual ray of sunlight;
let me urgently pray you not to refuse me this joy. On August
15th I intend to leave Weymar for a longer period, and have made
the necessary preparations for my removal.
You will, of course, stay with me at Altenburg, where H. and T.
also have quarters. To the Grand Duke I have announced your
visit, and I expect that your personal relations to him will be
of a most pleasant and satisfactory kind.
How about your settling at Carlsruhe? Have your pecuniary affairs
been arranged in Paris, and how? Let me know something about
As to myself I know nothing definite, except that I am going away
from Weymar. Many objections have of course been raised, which,
however, have not been able to alter my resolution. Between this
and the beginning of August I shall fix on my next place of
abode, which will, in any case, not for the present be a large
town, because I want retirement and work above all. Briefly
speaking, my situation is indicated by this dilemma: Either my
marriage takes place, and that soon—or not. In the former case,
Germany later on, and especially Weymar, may still be possible
for me. Otherwise no!
For the moment I am plagued with all kinds of business matters.
Excuse me, dearest Richard, for writing you so little, and
vouchsafe soon the great joy of your presence to
Your sincerely devoted
P.S.—My daughter writes to say that she will arrive here with
Ollivier on August 3rd. The performance of the "Prometheus" and
"Faust" symphonies will be on August 6th.
END OF VOL II.