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Some observations may finally be acceptable touching Beethoven's
general culture to which the thoughts of the reader must naturally
have been directed by the excerpts from his writings set forth in
the preceding pages. His own words betray the fact that he was not
privileged to enjoy a thorough school-training and was thus
compelled to the end of his days to make good the deficiencies in
his learning. As a lad at Bonn he had attended the so-called
Tirocinium, a sort of preparatory school for the Gymnasium, and
acquired a small knowledge of Latin. Later he made great efforts
to acquire French, a language essential to intercourse in the
upper circles of society. He never established intimate relations
with the rules of German. He used small initials for substantives,
or capitalized verbs and adjectives according as they appeared
important to him. His punctuation was arbitrary; generally he drew
a perpendicular line between his words, letting it suffice for a
comma or period as the case might be (a proceeding which adds not
a little to the embarrassments of him who seeks to translate his
sometimes mystical utterances).

It is said that a man's bookcase bears evidence of his education
and intellectual interests. Beethoven also had books,--not many,
but a characteristic collection. From his faithful friend and
voluntary servant Schindler we have a report on this subject. Of
the books of which he was possessed at the time of his death there
have been preserved four volumes of translations of Shakespeare's
works, Homer's "Odyssey" in the translation of J. H. Voss, Sturm's
"Observations" (several times referred to in the preceding pages),
and Goethe's "West-ostlicher Divan." These books are frequently
marked and annotated in lead pencil, thus bearing witness to the
subjects which interested Beethoven. From them, and volumes which
he had borrowed, many passages were copied by him into his daily
journal. Besides these books Schindler mentions Homer's "Iliad,"
Goethe's poems, "Wilhelm Melster" and "Faust," Schiller's dramas
and poems, Tiedge's "Urania," volumes of poems by Matthisson and
Seume, and Nina d'Aubigny's "Letters to Natalia on Singing,"--a
book to which Beethoven attached great value. These books have
disappeared, as well as others which Beethoven valued. We do not
know what became of the volumes of Plato, Aristotle, Plutarch and
Xenophon, or the writings of Pliny, Euripides, Quintilian, Ovid,
Horace, Ossian, Milton and Thomson, traces of which are found in
Beethoven's utterances.

The catalogue made for the auction sale of his posthumous effects
on September 7, 1827, included forty-four works of which the
censorship seized five as prohibited writings, namely, Seume's
"Foot Journey to Syracuse," the Apocrypha, Kotzebue's "On the
Nobility," W.E. Muller's "Paris in its Zenith" (1816), and "Views
on Religion and Ecclesiasticism." Burney's "General History of
Music" was also in his library, the gift, probably of an English

In his later years Beethoven was obliged to use the oft-quoted
"conversation-books" in his intercourse with friends and
strangers alike who wrote down their questions. Of these little
books Schindler preserved no less than 134, which are now in the
Royal Library in Berlin. Naturally Beethoven answered the written
questions orally as a rule. An idea of Beethoven's opinions can
occasionally be gathered from the context of the questions, but
frequently we are left in the dark.

Beethoven's own characterization of his deafness as "singular" is
significant. Often, even in his later years, he was able to hear a
little and for a time. One might almost speak of a periodical
visitation of the "demon." In his biography Marx gives the
following description of the malady: "As early as 1816 it is found
that he is incapable of conducting his own works; in 1824 he could
not hear the storm of applause from a great audience; but in 1822
he still improvises marvelously in social circles; in 1826 he
studies their parts in the Ninth Symphony and Solemn Mass with
Sontag and Ungher, and in 1825 he listens critically to a
performance of the quartet in A-minor, op. 132."

It is to be assumed that in such urgent cases his willpower
temporarily gave new tension to the gradually atrophying aural
nerves (it is said that he was still able to hear single or a few
voices with his left ear but could not apprehend masses), but
this was not the case in less important moments, as the
conversation-books prove. In these books a few answers are also
written down, naturally enough in cases not intended for the
ears of strangers. At various times Beethoven kept a diary in
which he entered his most intimate thoughts, especially those
designed for his own encouragement. Many of these appear in the
preceding pages. In these instances more than in any others his
expressions are obscure, detached and, through indifference,
faulty in construction. For the greater part they are remarks
thrown upon the paper in great haste.

Jan 6, 2016
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