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On education


Beethoven's observations on this subject were called out by his
experiences in securing an education for his nephew Karl, son of
his like-named brother, a duty which devolved on him on the death
of his brother in the winter of 1815. He loved his nephew almost
to idolatry, and hoped that he would honor the name of Beethoven
in the future. But there was a frivolous vein in Karl, inherited
probably from his mother, who was on easy footing with morality
both before and after her husband's death. She sought with all her
might to rid her son of the guardianship of his uncle. Karl was
sent to various educational institutions and to these Beethoven
sent many letters containing advice and instructions. The nephew
grew to be more and more a care, not wholly without fault of the
master. His passionate nature led to many quarrels between the
two, all of which were followed by periods of extravagant
fondness. Karl neglected his studies, led a frivolous life, was
fond of billiards and the coffee-houses which were then generally
popular, and finally, in the summer of 1826, made an attempt at
suicide in the Helenental near Baden, which caused his social
ostracism. When he was found he cried out: "I went to the bad
because my uncle wanted to better me."

Beethoven succeeded in persuading Baron von Stutterheim, commander
of an infantry regiment at Iglau, to accept him as an aspirant for
military office. In later life he became a respected official and
man. So Beethoven himself was vouchsafed only an ill regulated
education. His dissolute father treated him now harshly, now
gently. His mother, who died early, was a silent sufferer, had
thoroughly understood her son, and to her his love was devotion
itself. He labored unwearyingly at his own intellectual and moral
advancement until his death.

It seems difficult to reconcile his almost extravagant estimate of
the greatest possible liberty in the development of man with his
demands for strict constraint to which he frequently gives
expression; but he had recognized that it is necessary to grow
out of restraint into liberty. His model as a sensitive and
sympathetic educator was his motherly friend, the wife of Court
Councillor von Breuning in Bonn, of whom he once said: "She knew
how to keep the insects off the blossoms."

Beethoven's views on musical education are to be found in the
chapters "On Composition" and "On Performing Music."



149. "Like the State, each man must have his own constitution."

(Diary, 1815.)

150. "Recommend virtue to your children; that, alone can bring
happiness; not wealth,--I speak from experience. It was virtue
alone that bore me up in my misery; to her and my art I owe that
I did not end my life by self-murder."

(October 6, 1802, to his brothers Karl and Johann [the so-called
Heiligenstadt Will].)

151. "I know no more sacred duty than to rear and educate a
child."

(January 7, 1820, in a communication to the Court of Appeals in
the suit touching the guardianship of his nephew Karl.)

152. "Nature's weaknesses are nature's endowments; reason, the
guide, must seek to lead and lessen them."

(Diary, 1817.)

153. "It is man's habit to hold his fellow man in esteem because
he committed no greater errors."

(May 6, 1811, to Breitkopf and Hartel, in a letter complaining of
faulty printing in some of his compositions.)

154. "There is nothing more efficient in enforcing obedience upon
others than the belief on their part that you are wiser than
they...Without tears fathers can not inculcate virtue in their
children, or teachers learning and wisdom in their pupils; even
the laws, by compelling tears from the citizens, compel them also
to strive for justice."

(Diary, 1815.)

155. "It is only becoming in a youth to combine his duties toward
education and advancement with those which he owes to his
benefactor and supporter; this I did toward my parents."

(May 19, 1825, to his nephew Karl.)

156. "You can not honor the memory of your father better than to
continue your studies with the greatest zeal, and strive to
become an honest and excellent man."

(To his nephew, 1816-18.)

157. "Let your conduct always be amiable; through art and science
the best and noblest of men are bound together and your future
vocation will not exclude you."

(Baden, July 18, 1825, to his nephew, who had decided to become a
merchant.)

158. "It is very true that a drop will hollow a stone; a thousand
lovely impressions are obliterated when children are placed in
wooden institutions while they might receive from their parents
the most soulful impressions which would continue to exert their
influence till the latest age."

(Diary, spring of 1817. Beethoven was dissatisfied with
Giannatasio's school in which he had placed his nephew. "Karl is
a different child after he has been with me a few hours" (Diary).
In 1826, after the attempt at suicide, Beethoven said to
Breuning: "My Karl was in an institute; educational institutions
furnish forth only hot house plants.")

159. "Drops of water wear away a stone in time, not by force but
by continual falling. Only through tireless industry are the
sciences achieved so that one can truthfully say: no day without
its line,--nulla dies sine linea."

(1799, in a sketch for a theoretical handbook for Archduke
Rudolph.)

Published:
Jan 6, 2016
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