Thank you to those who donated to Piano Society in 2017.

On his own disposition and character


So open-hearted and straightforward a character as Beethoven
could not have pictured himself with less reserve or greater
truthfulness than he did during his life. Frankness toward
himself, frankness toward others (though sometimes it went to the
extreme of rudeness and ill-breeding) was his motto. The joyous
nature which was his as a lad, and which was not at all averse to
a merry prank now and then, underwent a change when he began to
lose his hearing. The dread of deafness and its consequences drove
him nearly to despair, so that he sometimes contemplated suicide.
Increasing hardness of hearing gradually made him reserved, morose
and gloomy. With the progress of the malady his disposition and
character underwent a decided change,--a fact which may be said to
account for the contradictions in his conduct and utterances. It
made him suspicious, distrustful; in his later years he imagined
himself cheated and deceived in the most trifling matters by
relatives, friends, publishers, servants.

Nevertheless Beethoven's whole soul was filled with a high
idealism which penetrated through the miseries of his daily life;
it was full, too, of a great love toward humanity in general and
his unworthy nephew in particular. Towards his publishers he often
appeared covetous and grasping, seeking to rake and scrape
together all the money possible; but this was only for the purpose
of assuring the future of his nephew. At the same time, in a merry
moment, he would load down his table with all that kitchen and
cellar could provide, for the reflection of his friends. Thus he
oscillated continuously between two extremes; but the power which
swung the pendulum was always the aural malady. He grew peevish
and capricious towards his best friends, rude, even brutal at
times in his treatment of them; only in the next moment to
overwhelm them most pathetically with attentions. Till the end of
his life he remained a sufferer from his passionate disposition
over which he gradually obtained control until, at the end, one
could almost speak of a sunny clarification of his nature.

He has heedlessly been accused of having led a dissolute life, of
having been an intemperate drinker. There would be no necessity
of contradicting such a charge even if there were a scintilla of
evidence to support it; a drinker is not necessarily a
dishonorable man, least of all a musician who drinks. But, the
fact of the matter is that it is not true. If once Beethoven wrote
a merry note about merrymaking with friends, let us rejoice that
occasions did sometimes occur, though but rarely, when the heart
of the sufferer was temporarily gladdened.

He was a strict moralist, as is particularly evidenced by the
notes in his journal which have not been made public. In many
things which befell him in his daily life he was as ingenuous as
a child. His personality, on the whole, presented itself in such
a manner as to invite the intellectual and social Philistine to
call him a fool.

160. "I shall print a request in all the newspapers that
henceforth all artists refrain from painting my picture without
my knowledge; I never thought that my own face would bring me

(About 1803, to Christine Gerardi, because without his knowledge a
portrait of him had been made somewhere--in a cafe, probably.)

161. "Pity that I do not understand the art of war as well as I do
the art of music; I should yet conquer Napoleon!"

(To Krumpholz, the violinist, when he informed Beethoven of the
victory of Napoleon at Jena.)

162. "If I were a general and knew as much about strategy as I, a
composer, know about counterpoint, I'd give you fellows something
to do."

(Called out behind the back of a French officer, his fist doubled,
on May 12, 1809, when the French had occupied Vienna. Reported by
a witness, W. Rust.)

163. "Camillus, if I am not mistaken, was the name of the Roman
who drove the wicked Gauls from Rome. At such a cost I would also
take the name if I could drive them wherever I found them to where
they belong."

(To Pleyel, publisher, in Paris, April, 1807.)

164. "I love most the realm of mind which, to me, is the highest
of all spiritual and temporal monarchies."

(To Advocate Kauka in the summer of 1814. He had been speaking
about the monarchs represented in the Congress of Vienna.)

165. "I shall not come in person, since that would be a sort of
farewell, and farewells I have always avoided."

(January 24, 1818, to Giannatasio del Rio, on taking his nephew
Karl out of the latter institute.)

166. "I hope still to bring a few large works into the world, and
then, like an old child, to end my earthly career somewhere among
good people."

(October 6, 1802, to Wegeler.)

167. "O ye men, who think or declare me to be hostile, morose or
misanthropical, what injustice ye do me. Ye know not the secret
cause of what thus appears to you. My heart and mind were from
childhood disposed for the tender feelings of benevolence; I was
always wishing to accomplish great deeds."

(October 6, 1802, in the so-called Heiligenstadt Will.)

168. "Divinity, thou lookest into my heart, thou knowest it, thou
knowest that love for mankind and a desire to do good have their
abode there. O ye men, when one day ye read this think that ye
have wronged me, and may the unfortunate console himself with the
thought that he has found one of his kind who, despite all the
obstacles which nature put in his path, yet did all in his power
to be accepted in the ranks of worthy artists and men!"

(From the Heiligenstadt Will.)

169. "I spend all my mornings with the muses;--and they bless me
also in my walks."

(October 12, 1835, to his nephew Karl.)

170. "Concerning myself nothing,--that is, from nothing nothing."

(October 19, 1815, to Countess Erdody.)

[A possible allusion to the line, "Nothing can come of nothing."
from Shakespeare's "King Lear," Act 1, scene 1]

171. "Beethoven can write, thank God; but do nothing else on

(December 22, 1822, to Ferdinand Ries, in London.)

172. "Mentally I often frame an answer, but when I come to write
it down I generally throw the pen aside, since I am not able to
write what I feel."

(October 7, 1826, to his friend Wegeler, in Coblenz. "The better
sort of people, I think, know me anyhow." He is excusing his
laziness in letter-writing.)

173. "I have the gift to conceal my sensitiveness touching a
multitude of things; but when I am provoked at a moment when I am
more sensitive than usual to anger, I burst out more violently
than anybody else."

(July 24, 1804, to Ries, in reporting to him a quarrel with
Stephan von Breuning.)

174. "X. is completely changed since I threw half a dozen books at
her head. Perhaps something of their contents accidentally got
into her head or her wicked heart."

(To Mme. Streicher, who often had to put Beethoven's house in

175. "I can have no intercourse, and do not want to have any, with
persons who are not willing to believe in me because I have not
yet made a wide reputation."

(To Prince Lobkowitz, about 1798. A cavalier had failed to show
him proper respect in the Prince's salon.)

176. "Many a vigorous and unconsidered word drops from my mouth,
for which reason I am considered mad."

(In the summer of 1880, to Dr. Muller, of Bremen, who was paying
him a visit.)

177. "I will grapple with Fate; it shall not quite bear me down.
O, it is lovely to live life a thousand times!"

(November 16, 1800, or 1801, to Wegeler.)

178. "Morality is the strength of men who distinguish themselves
over others, and it is mine."

(In a communication to his friend, Baron Zmeskall.)

179. "I, too, am a king!"

(Said to Holz, when the latter begged him not to sell the ring
which King Frederick William III, of Prussia, had sent to him
instead of money or an order in return for the dedication of the
ninth symphony. "Master, keep the ring," Holz had said, "it is
from a king." Beethoven made his remark "with indescribable
dignity and self-consciousness.")

[On his deathbed he said to little Gerhard von Breuning: "Know
that I am an artist."]

[At the height of the popular infatuation for Rossini (1822) he
said to his friends: "Well, they will not be able to rob me of my
place in the history of art."]

180. "Prince, what you are you are by accident of birth; what I
am, I am through my own efforts. There have been thousands of
princes and will be thousands more; there is only one Beethoven!"

(According to tradition, from a letter which he wrote to Prince
Lichnowsky when the latter attempted to persuade him to play for
some French officers on his estate in Silesia. Beethoven went at
night to Troppau, carrying the manuscript of the (so-called)
"Appassionata" sonata, which suffered from the rain.)

181. "My nobility is here, and here (pointing to his heart and

(Reported by Schindler. In the lawsuit against his sister-in-law
(the mother of nephew Karl) Beethoven had been called on to prove
that the "van" in his name was a badge of nobility.)

182. "You write that somebody has said that I am the natural son
of the late King of Prussia. The same thing was said to me long
ago, but I have made it a rule never to write anything about
myself or answer anything that is said about me."

(October 7, 1826, to Wegeler.)

["I leave it to you to give the world an account of myself and
especially my mother." The statement had appeared in Brockhaus's

183. "To me the highest thing, after God, is my honor."

(July 26, 1822, to the publisher Peters, in Leipzig.)

184. "I have never thought of writing for reputation and honor.
What I have in my heart must out; that is the reason why I

(Remark to Karl Czerny, reported in his autobiography.)

185. "I do not desire that you shall esteem me greater as an
artist, but better and more perfect as a man; when the condition
of our country is somewhat better, then my art shall be devoted
to the welfare of the poor."

(Vienna, June 29, 1800, to Wegeler, in Bonn, writing of his return
to his native land.)

186. "Perhaps the only thing that looks like genius about me is
that my affairs are not always in the best of order, and that in
this respect nobody can be of help but myself."

(April 22, 1801, to Hofmeister, in Leipzig excusing himself for
dilatoriness in sending him these compositions: the Pianoforte
sonata op. 22, the symphony op. 21, the septet op. 20 and the
concerto op. 19.)

187. "I am free from all small vanities. Only in the divine art is
the lever which gives me power to sacrifice the best part of my
life to the celestial muses."

(September 9, 1824, to George Nigeli, in Zurich.)

188. "Inasmuch as the purpose of the undersigned throughout his
career has not been selfish but the promotion of the interests of
art, the elevation of popular taste and the flight of his own
genius toward loftier ideals and perfection, it was inevitable
that he should frequently sacrifice his own advantages and profit
to the muse."

(December, 1804, to the Director of the Court Theatre, applying
for an engagement which was never effected.)

189. "From my earliest childhood my zeal to serve suffering
humanity with my art was never content with any kind of a
subterfuge; and no other reward is needed than the internal
satisfaction which always accompanies such a deed."

(To Procurator Varenna, who had asked him for compositions to be
played at a charity concert in Graz.)

190. "There is no greater pleasure for me than to practice and
exhibit my art."

(November 16, 1800, or 1801, to Wegeler.)

191. "I recognize no other accomplishments or advantages than
those which place one amongst the better class of men; where I
find them, there is my home."

(Teplitz, July 17, 1812, to his little admirer, Emile M., in H.)

192. "From childhood I learned to love virtue, and everything
beautiful and good."

(About 1808, to Frau Marie Bigot.)

193. "It is one of my foremost principles never to occupy any
other relations than those of friendship with the wife of another
man. I should never want to fill my heart with distrust towards
those who may chance some day to share my fate with me, and thus
destroy the loveliest and purest life for myself."

(About 1808, to Frau Marie Bigot, after she had declined his
invitation to drive with him.)

194. "In my solitude here I miss my roommate, at least at evening
and noon, when the human animal is obliged to assimilate that
which is necessary to the production of the intellectual, and
which I prefer to do in company with another."

(Teplitz, September 6, 1811, to Tiedge.)

195. "It was not intentional and premeditated malice which led me
to act toward you as I did; it was my unpardonable carelessness."

(To Wegeler.)

196. "I am not bad; hot blood is my wickedness, my crime is
youthfulness. I am not bad, really not bad; even though wild
surges often accuse my heart, it still is good. To do good
wherever we can, to love liberty above all things, and never to
deny truth though it be at the throne itself.--Think
occasionally of the friend who honors you."

(Written in the autograph album of a Herr Bocke.)

197. "It is a singular sensation to see and hear one's self
praised, and then to be conscious of one's own imperfections as I
am. I always regard such occasions as admonitions to get nearer
the unattainable goal set for us by art and nature, hard as it
may be."

(To Mdlle. de Girardi, who had sung his praises in a poem.)

198. "It is my sincere desire that whatever shall be said of me
hereafter shall adhere strictly to the truth in every respect
regardless of who may be hurt thereby, me not excepted."

(Reported by Schindler, who also relates that when Beethoven
handed him documents to be used in the biography a week before his
death, he said to him and Breuning: "But in all things
severely the truth; for that I hold you to a strict

199. "Now you can help me to find a wife. If you find a beautiful
woman in F. who, mayhap, endows my music with a sigh,--but she
must be no Elise Burger--make a provisional engagement. But she
must be beautiful, for I can love only the beautiful; otherwise I
might love myself."

(In 1809, to Baron von Gleichenstein. As for the personal
reference it seems likely that Beethoven referred to Elise
Burger, second wife of the poet G. August Burger, with whom he
had got acquainted after she had been divorced and become an

200. "Am I not a true friend? Why do you conceal your necessities
from me? No friend of mine must suffer so long as I have

(To Ferdinand Ries, in 1801. Ries's father had been kind to
Beethoven on the death of his mother in 1787.)

201. "I would rather forget what I owe to myself than what I owe
to others."

(To Frau Streicher, in the summer of 1817.)

202. "I never practice revenge. When I must antagonize others I do
no more than is necessary to protect myself against them, or
prevent them from doing further evil."

(To Frau Streicher, in reference to the troubles which his
servants gave him, many of which, no doubt, were due to faults of
his own, excusable in a man in his condition of health.)

203. "Be convinced that mankind, even in your case, will always be
sacred to me."

(To Czapka, Magisterial Councillor, August, 1826, in the matter of
his nephew's attempt at suicide.)

204. "H. is, and always will be, too weak for friendship, and I
look upon him and Y. as mere instruments upon which I play when I
feel like it; but they can never be witnesses of my internal and
external activities, and just as little real participants. I
value them according as they do me service."

(Summer of 1800, to the friend of his youth, Pastor Amenda. H. was
probably the faithful Baron Zmeskall von Domanovecz.)

205. "If it amuses them to talk and write about me in that manner,
let them go on."

(Reported by Schindler as referring to critics who had declared
him ripe for the madhouse.)

206. "To your gentlemen critics I recommend a little more
foresight and shrewdness, particularly in respect of the products
of younger authors, as many a one, who might otherwise make
progress, may be frightened off. So far as I am concerned I am
far from thinking myself so perfect as not to be able to endure
faulting; yet at the beginning the clamor of your critic was so
debasing that I could scarcely discuss the matter when I compared
myself with others, but had to remain quiet and think: they do
not understand. I was the more able to remain quiet when I
recalled how men were praised who signify little among those who
know, and who have almost disappeared despite their good points.
Well, pax vobiscum, peace to them and me,--I would never have
mentioned a syllable had you not begun."

(April 22, 1801, to Breitkopf and Hartel, publishers of the
"Allgemeine Musik Zeitung.")

207. "Who was happier than I when I could still pronounce the
sweet word 'mother' and have it heard? To whom can I speak it

(September 15, 1787, from Bonn to Dr. Schade, of Augsburg, who had
aided him in his return journey from Vienna to Bonn. His mother
had died on July 17, 1787.)

208. "I seldom go anywhere since it was always impossible for me
to associate with people where there was not a certain exchange
of ideas."

(February 15, 1817, to Brentano of Frankfurt.)

209. "Not a word about rest! I know of none except in sleep, and
sorry enough am I that I am obliged to yield up more to it than

(November 16, 1801, or 1802, to Wegeler. In Homer's "Odyssey"
Beethoven thickly underscored the words: "Too much sleep is
injurious." XV, 393.)

210. "Rest assured that you are dealing with a true artist who
likes to be paid decently, it is true, but who loves his own
reputation and also the fame of his art; who is never satisfied
with himself and who strives continually to make even greater
progress in his art."

(November 23, 1809, to George Thomson, of Edinburgh, for whom
Beethoven arranged the Scotch songs.)

211. "My motto is always: nulla die sine linea; and if I permit
the muse to go to sleep it is only that she may awake

(October 7, 1826, to Wegeler.)

212. "There is no treatise likely to be too learned for me.
Without laying claim to real learning it is yet true that since
my childhood I have striven to learn the minds of the best and
wisest of every period of time. It is a disgrace for every artist
who does not try to do as much."

(November 2, 1809, to Breitkopf and Hartel, of Leipzig.)

213. "Without wishing in the least to set myself up as an exemplar
I assure you that I lived in a small and insignificant place, and
made out of myself nearly all that I was there and am here;--this
to your comfort in case you feel the need of making progress in

(Baden, July 6, 1804, to Herr Wiedebein, of Brunswick, who had
asked if it was advisable for a music teacher and student to make
his home in Vienna.)

214. "There is much on earth to be done,--do it soon! I must not
continue my present everyday life,--art asks this sacrifice also.
Take rest in diversion in order to work more energetically."

(Diary, 1814.)

215. "The daily grind exhausts me."

(Baden, August 23, 1823, to his nephew Karl.)


Jan 6, 2016
Page Views:

Share This Page