TABLE OF CONTENTS
MY LIFE, VOLUME 2 (ENGLISH TRANSLATION PUBLISHED IN NEW YORK, 1911)
PART III PART IV
MY LIFE, VOLUME 2 (OF 2)
MINNA had been lucky enough to find quarters near Zurich which corresponded very closely with the wishes I had so emphatically expressed before leaving. The house was situated in the parish of Enge, a good fifteen minutes' walk from the town, on a site overlooking the lake, and was an old-fashioned hostelry called 'Zum Abendstern,' belonging to a certain Frau Hirel, who was a pleasant old lady. The second floor, which was quite self- contained and very quiet, offered us humble but adequate accommodations for a modest rent.
I arrived early in the morning and found Minna still in bed. She was anxious to know whether I had returned simply out of pity; but I quickly succeeded in obtaining her promise that she would never again refer to what had taken place. She was soon quite herself again when she began to show me the progress she had made in arranging the rooms.
Our position had for some years been growing more comfortable, in spite of the fact that at this time various difficulties again arose, and our domestic happiness seemed tolerably secure. Yet I could never quite master a restless inclination to deviate from anything that was regarded as conventional.
Our two pets, Peps and Papo, largely helped to make our lodgings homelike; both were very fond of me, and were sometimes even too obtrusive in showing their affection. Peps would always lie behind me in the armchair while I was working, and Papo, after repeatedly calling out 'Richard' in vain, would often come fluttering into my study if I stayed away from the sitting-room too long. He would then settle down on my desk and vigorously shuffle about the papers and pens. He was so well trained that he never uttered the ordinary cry of a bird, but expressed his sentiments only by talking or singing. As soon as he heard my step on the staircase he would begin whistling a tune, as, for instance, the great march in the finale of the Symphony in C minor, the beginning of the Eighth Symphony in F major, or even a bright bit out of the Rienzi Overture. Peps, our little dog, on the other hand, was a highly sensitive and nervous creature. My friends used to call him 'Peps the petulant,' and there were times when we could not speak to him even in the friendliest way without bringing on paroxysms of howls and sobs. These two pets of course helped very much to increase the mutual understanding between myself and my wife.
Unfortunately, there was one perpetual source of quarrel, arising from my wife's behaviour towards poor Nathalie. Until her death she shamefully withheld from the girl the fact that she was her mother. Nathalie, therefore, always believed that she was Minna's sister, and consequently could not understand why she should not have the same rights as my wife, who always treated her in an authoritative way, as a strict mother would do, and seemed to think herself justified in complaining of Nathalie's behaviour. Apparently the latter had been much neglected and spoiled just at the critical age, and deprived of any proper training. She was short in stature and inclined to become stout, her manners were awkward and her opinions narrow. Minna's hasty temper and continual jeering made the girl, who was naturally very good- natured, stubborn and spiteful, so that the behaviour of the 'sisters' often caused the most hateful scenes in our quiet home. I never lost my patience at these incidents, however, but remained, completely indifferent to everything going on around me.
The arrival of my young friend Karl was a pleasant diversion in our small household. Ho occupied a tiny attic above our rooms and shared our meals. Sometimes he would accompany me on my walks, and for a time seemed quite satisfied.
But I soon noticed in him a growing restlessness. He had not been slow to recognise, by the unpleasant scenes that again became daily occurrences in our married life, at what point the shoe pinched that I had good-naturedly put on again at his request. However, when one day I reminded him that in coming hack to Zurich I had other objects in view besides the longing for a quiet domestic life, he remained silent. But I saw that there was another peculiar reason for his uneasiness; he took to coming in late for meals, and even then he had no appetite. At first I was anxious at this, fearing he might have taken a dislike to our simple fare, but I soon discovered that my young friend was so passionately addicted to sweets that I feared he might eventually ruin his health by trying to live on large quantities of confectionery. My remarks seemed to annoy him, as his absences from the house became more frequent, I thought that probably his small room did not afford him the comfort he required, and I therefore made no objection when he left us and took a room in town.
As his state of uneasiness still seemed to increase and he did not appear at all happy in Zurich, I was glad to be able to suggest a little change for him, and persuade him to go for a holiday to Weimar, where the first performance of Lohengrin was to take place about the end of August.
About the same time I induced Minna to go with me for our first ascent of the Righi, a feat we both accomplished very energetically on foot. I was very much grieved on this occasion to discover that my wife had symptoms of heart disease, which continued to develop subsequently. We spent the evening of the 28th of August, while the first performance of Lohengrin was taking place at Weimar, in Lucerne, at the Schwan inn, watching the clock as the hands went round, and marking the various times at which the performance presumably began, developed, and came to a close.
I always felt somewhat distressed, uncomfortable, and ill at ease whenever I tried to pass a few pleasant hours in the society of my wife.
The reports received of that first performance gave me no clear or reassuring impression of it. Karl Ritter soon came back to Zurich, and told me of deficiencies in staging and of the unfortunate choice of a singer for the leading part, but remarked that on the whole it had gone fairly well. The reports sent me by Liszt were the most encouraging. He did not seem to think it worth while to allude to the inadequacy of the means at his command for such a bold undertaking, but preferred to dwell on the sympathetic spirit that prevailed in the company and the effect it produced on the influential personages he had invited to be present.
Although everything in connection with this important enterprise eventually assumed a bright aspect, the direct result on my position at the time was very slight. I was more interested in the future of the young friend who had been entrusted to my care than in anything else. At the time of his visit to Weimar he had been to stay with his family in Dresden, and after his return expressed an anxious wish to become a musician, and possibly to secure a position as a musical director at a theatre. I had never had an opportunity of judging of his gifts in this line. He had always refused to play the piano in my presence, but I had seen his setting of an alliterative poem of his own, Die Walkure, which, though rather awkwardly put together, struck me by its precise and skilful compliance with the rules of composition.
He proved himself to be the worthy pupil of his master, Robert Schumann, who, long before, had told me that Karl possessed great musical gifts, and that he could not remember ever having had any other pupil endowed with such a keen ear and such a ready facility for assimilation. Consequently I had no reason to discourage the young man's confidence in his capacity for the career of a musical director. As the winter season was approaching, I asked the manager of the theatre for the address of Herr Kramer, who was coming for the season, and learned that he was still engaged at Winterthur.
Sulzer, who was always ready when help or advice was needed, arranged for a meeting with Herr Kramer at a dinner at the 'Wilden Mann' in Winterthur. At this meeting it was decided, on my recommendation, that Karl Ritter should be appointed musical director at the theatre for the ensuing winter, starting from October, and the remuneration he was to receive was really a very fair one. As my protege was admittedly a beginner, I had to guarantee his capacity by undertaking to perform his duties in the event of any trouble arising at the theatre on the ground of his inefficiency. Karl seemed delighted. As October drew near and the opening of the theatre was announced to take place 'under exceptional artistic auspices.' I thought it advisable to see what Karl's views were.
By way of a debut I had selected Der Freischutz, so that he might open his career with a well-known opera. Karl did not entertain the slightest doubt of being able to master such a simple score, but when he had to overcome his reserve in playing the piano before me, as I wanted to go through the whole opera with him, I was amazed at seeing that he had no idea of accompaniment. He played the arrangement for the pianoforte with the characteristic carelessness of an amateur who attaches no importance to lengthening a bar by incorrect fingering. He knew nothing whatever about rhythmic precision or tempo, the very essentials of a conductor's career. I felt completely nonplussed and was absolutely at a loss what to say. However, I still hoped the young man's talent might suddenly break out, and I looked forward to an orchestral rehearsal, for which I provided him with a pair of large spectacles. I had never noticed before that he was so shortsighted, but when reading he had to keep his face so close to the music that it would have been impossible for him to control both orchestra and singers. When I saw him, hitherto so confident, standing at the conductor's desk staring hard at the score, in spite of his spectacles, and making meaningless signs in the air like one in a trance, I at once realised that the time for carrying out my guarantee had arrived.
It was, nevertheless, a somewhat difficult and trying task to make young Ritter understand that I should be compelled to take his place; but there was no help for it, and it was I who had to inaugurate Kramer's winter season under such 'exceptional artistic auspices.' The success of Der Freischulz placed me in a peculiar position as regards both the company and the public, but it was quite out of the question to suppose that Karl could continue to act as musical director at the theatre by himself.
Strange to say, this trying experience coincided with an important change in the life of another young friend of mine, Hans von Bulow, whom I had known in Dresden. I had met his father at Zurich in the previous year just after his second marriage. He afterwards settled down at Lake Constance, and it was from this place that Hans wrote to me expressing his regret that he was unable to pay his long-desired visit to Zurich, as he had previously promised to do.
As far as I could make out, his mother, who had been divorced from his father, did all in her power to restrain him from embracing the career of an artist, and tried to persuade him to enter the civil or the diplomatic service, as he had studied law. But his inclinations and talents impelled him to a musical career. It seemed that his mother, when giving him permission to go to visit his father, had particularly urged him to avoid any meeting with me. When I afterwards heard that he had been advised by his father also not to come to Zurich, I felt sure that the latter, although he had been on friendly terms with me, was anxious to act in accordance with his first wife's wishes in this serious matter of his son's future, so as to avoid any further disputes after the friction of the divorce had barely been allayed. Later on I learned that these statements, which roused a strong feeling of resentment in me against Eduard von Bulow, were unfounded; but the despairing tone of Hans's letter, clearly showing that any other career would be repugnant to him and would be a constant source of misery, seemed to be ample reason for my interference. This was one of the occasions when my easily excited indignation roused me to activity. I replied very fully, and eloquently pointed out to him the vital importance of this moment in his life. The desperate tone of his letter justified me in telling him very plainly that this was not a case in which he could deal hastily with his views as to the future, but that it was a matter profoundly affecting his whole heart and soul. I told him what I myself would do in his case, that is to say, if he really felt an overwhelming and irresistible impulse to become an artist, and would prefer to endure the greatest hardships and trials rather than be forced into a course he felt was a wrong one, he ought, in defiance of everything, to make up his mind to accept the helping hand I was holding out to him at once. If, in spite of his father's prohibition, he still wished to come to me, he ought not to hesitate, but should carry out his wishes immediately on the receipt of my letter.
Karl Ritter was pleased when I entrusted him with the duty of delivering the letter personally at Bulow's country villa. When he arrived he asked to see his friend at the door, and went for a stroll with him, during which he gave him my letter. Thereupon Hans, who like Karl had no money, at once decided, in spite of storm and rain, to accompany Karl back to Zurich on foot. So one day they turned up absolutely tired out, and came into my room looking like a couple of tramps, with visible signs about them of their mad expedition. Karl beamed with joy over this feat, while young Bulow was quite overcome with emotion.
I at once realised that I had taken a very serious responsibility on my shoulders, yet I sympathised deeply with the overwrought youth, and my conduct towards him was guided by all that had occurred for a long time afterwards.
At first we had to console him, and stimulate his confidence by our cheerfulness. His appointment was soon arranged. He was to share Karl's contract at the theatre, and enjoy the same rights; both were to receive a small salary, and I was to continue to act as surety for their capabilities.
At this time they happened to be rehearsing a musical comedy, and Hans, without any knowledge of the subject, took up his position at the conductor's desk and handled the baton with great vigour and remarkable skill. I felt safe as far as he was concerned, and all doubt as to his ability as musical director vanished on the spot. But it was a somewhat difficult task to overcome Karl's misgivings about himself, owing to the idea ingrained in his mind that he never could become a practical musician. A growing shyness and secret antipathy towards me soon manifested itself and became more noticeable in this young man, in spite of the fact that he was certainly gifted. It was impossible to keep him any longer in his position or to ask him to conduct again.
Bulow also soon encountered unexpected difficulties. The manager and his staff, who had been spoiled by my having conducted on the occasion already mentioned, were always on the look-out for some fresh excuse for requisitioning my services.
I did, in fact, conduct again a few times, partly to give the public a favourable impression of the operatic company, which was really quite a good one, and partly to show my young friends, especially Bulow, who was so eminently adapted for a conductor, the most essential points which the leader of an orchestra ought to know.
Hans was always equal to the occasion, and I could with a clear conscience say there was no need for me to take his place whenever he was called upon to conduct. However, one of the artistes, a very conceited singer, who had been somewhat spoiled by my praise, annoyed him so much by her ways that she succeeded in forcing me to take up the baton again. When a couple of months later we realised the impossibility of carrying on this state of things indefinitely, and were tired of the whole affair, the management consented to free us from our irksome duties. About this time Hans was offered the post of musical director at St. Gall without any special conditions being attached to his engagement, so I sent the two boys off to try their luck in the neighbouring town, and thus gained time for further developments.
Herr Eduard von Bulow had, after all, come to the conclusion that it would be wiser to abide by his son's decision, though he did not do so without evincing a good deal of ill-humour towards me. He had not replied to a letter I had written him to explain my conduct in the matter, but I afterwards learned that he had visited his son in Zurich by way of patching up a reconciliation.
I went several times to St. Gall to see the young men, as they remained there during the winter months. I found Karl lost in gloomy thought: he had again met with an unfavourable reception when conducting Gluck's Overture to Iphigenia, and was keeping aloof from everybody. Hans was busily rehearsing with a very poor company and a horrible orchestra, in a hideous theatre. Seeing all this misery, I told Hans that for the time being he had picked up enough to pass for a practical musician or even for an experienced conductor.
The question now was to find him a sphere which would give him a suitable scope for his talents. He told me that his father was going to send him to Freiherr von Poissl, the manager of the Munich Court Theatre, with a letter of introduction. But his mother soon intervened, and wanted him to go to Weimar to continue his musical training under Liszt. This was all I could desire; I felt greatly relieved and heartily recommended the young man, of whom I was very fond, to my distinguished friend.
He left St. Gall at Easter, 1851, and during the long period of his stay in Weimar I was released from the responsibility of looking after him.
Meanwhile Ritter remained in melancholy retirement, and not being able to make up his mind whether or not he should return to Zurich, where he would be disagreeably reminded of his unlucky debut, he preferred for the present to stay in seclusion at St. Gall.
The sojourn of my young friends at St. Gall had been pleasantly varied during the previous winter by a visit to Zurich, when Hans made his appearance as pianist at one of the concerts of the musical society there. I also took an active part in it by conducting one of Beethoven's symphonies, and it was a great pleasure to us both to give each other mutual encouragement.
I had been asked to appear again at this society's concerts during the winter. However, I only did so occasionally, to conduct a Beethoven symphony, making it a condition that the orchestra, and more especially the string instruments, should be reinforced by capable musicians from other towns.
As I always required three rehearsals for each symphony, and many of the musicians had to come from a great distance, our work acquired quite an imposing and solemn character. I was able to devote the time usually taken up by a rehearsal to the study of one symphony, and accordingly had leisure to work out the minutest details of the execution, particularly as the technical difficulties were not of an insuperable character. My facility in interpreting music at that time attained a degree of perfection I had not hitherto reached, and I recognised this by the unexpected effect my conducting produced.
The orchestra contained some really talented and clever musicians, among whom I may mention Fries, an oboist, who, starting from a subordinate place, had been appointed a leading player. He had to practice with me, just as a singer would do, the more important parts allotted to his instrument in Beethoven's symphonies. When we first produced the Symphony in C minor, this extraordinary man played the small passage marked adagio at the fermata of the first movement in a manner I have never heard equalled. After my retirement from the directorship of these concerts he left the orchestra and went into business as a music-seller.
The orchestra could further boast of a Herr Ott-Imhoff, a highly cultured and well-to-do man who belonged to a noble family, and had joined the orchestra as a patron and as an amateur musician. He played the clarionet with a soft and charming tone which was somewhat lacking in spirit. I must also mention the worthy Herr Bar, a cornet-player, whom I appointed leader of the brass instruments, as be exercised a great influence on that part of the orchestra. I cannot remember ever having heard the long, powerful chords of the last movement of the C minor Symphony executed with such intense power as by this player in Zurich, and can only compare the recollection of it with the impressions I had when, in my early Parisian days, the Conservatoire orchestra performed Beethoven's Ninth Symphony.
Our production of the Symphony in C minor made a great impression on the audience, especially on my intimate friend Sulzer, who had previously kept aloof from any kind of music. He became so incensed when an attack was made on me by a newspaper that he answered the gratuitous critic in a satirical poem composed with the skill of a Platen.
As I have already said, Bulow was invited in the course of the winter to give a pianoforte recital at a concert at which I promised to produce the Sinfonia Eroica.
With his usual audacity he chose Liszt's piano arrangement of the Tannhauser Overture, a work as brilliant as it is difficult, and therefore a somewhat hazardous undertaking. However, he caused quite a sensation, and I myself was astounded at his execution. Up to this time I had not paid it the attention it deserved, and it inspired me with the greatest confidence in his future. I frequently had occasion to admire his masterly skill both as conductor and accompanist.
During that winter, apart from the occasions in my young friend's life already briefly alluded to, there were frequent opportunities of displaying his capabilities. My acquaintances used to foregather in my house, and formed quite a little club for the purposes of mutual enjoyment, which, however, would hardly have been successful without Bulow's assistance.
I sang suitable passages from my opera, which Hans accompanied with an expressiveness which delighted me very much. On an occasion like this I also read aloud extracts from my manuscripts. For instance, during a series of successive evenings I read the whole of my longer work, Oper und Drama, written in the course of this winter, and was favoured by a steadily growing and remarkably attentive audience.
Now that after my return I had secured a certain degree of peace and tranquillity of mind, I began to think of resuming my more serious studies. But somehow the composition of Siegfried's Death did not seem to appeal to me. The idea of sitting down deliberately to write a score which should never go further than the paper on which it was written, again discouraged me; whereas I felt more and more strongly impelled to lay a foundation on which it might some day be possible to present such a work, even though the end had to be gained by roundabout means. To secure this object it seemed above all necessary to approach those friends, both at home and abroad, who interested themselves in my art, in order to expound to them more clearly the problems that demanded solution, which, although definite enough to my own mind, had scarcely as yet even entered into their heads. A singularly favourable opportunity for so doing offered itself one day when Sulzer showed me an article on 'Opera' in Brockhaus's Modern Encyclopedia. The good man was fully convinced that in the opinions expressed in this article I should find a preliminary basis for my own theories. But a hasty glance sufficed to show me at once how entirely erroneous they were, and I tried hard to point out to Sulzer the fundamental difference between the accepted views, even of very sensible people, and my own conceptions of the heart of the matter. Finding it naturally impossible, even with all the eloquence at my command, to elucidate my ideas all at once, I set about preparing a methodical plan for detailed treatment of the subject as soon as I got home. In this way I was lead to write this book which was published under the title of Oper und Drama, a task which kept me fully occupied for several months, in fact until February, 1851.
But I had to pay heavily for the exhausting toil expended on the conclusion of this work. According to my calculations, only a few days of persevering industry were needed for the completion of my manuscript, when my parrot, which usually watched me on my writing-table, was taken seriously ill. As it had already completely recovered from several similar attacks, I did not feel very anxious. Although my wife begged me to fetch a veterinary surgeon who lived in a village which was rather far off, I preferred to stick to my desk, and I put off going from one day to the next. At last one evening the all-important manuscript was finished, and the next morning our poor Papo lay dead on the floor. My inconsolable grief over this melancholy loss was fully shared by Minna, and by our mutual affection for this treasured pet we were once more tenderly united in a way likely to conduce to our domestic happiness.
In addition to our pets, our older Zurich friends had also remained faithful to us, in spite of the catastrophe which had befallen my family life. Sulzer was without a doubt the worthiest and most important of these friends. The profound difference between us both in intellect and temperament seemed only to favour this relationship, for each was constantly providing surprises for the other; and as the divergencies between us were radical, they often gave rise to most exhilarating and instructive experiences. Sulzer was extraordinarily excitable and very delicate in health. It was quite against his own original desire that he had entered the service of the state, and in doing so he had sacrificed his own wishes to a conscientious performance of duty in the extremest sense of the word, and now, through his acquaintance with me, he was drawn more deeply into the sphere of aesthetic enjoyment than he regarded as justifiable. Probably he would have indulged less freely in these excesses, had I taken my art a little less seriously. But as I insisted upon attaching an importance to the artistic destiny of mankind which far transcended the mere aims of citizenship, I sometimes completely upset him. Yet, on the other hand, it was just this intense earnestness which so strongly attracted him to me and my speculations. This not only gave rise to pleasant conversation and calm discussion between us, but also, owing to a fiery temper on both sides, sometimes provoked violent explosions, so that, with trembling lips, he would seize hat and stick and hurry away without a word of farewell. Such, however, was the intrinsic worth of the man, that he was sure to turn up again the next evening at the accustomed hour, when we both felt as though nothing whatever had passed between us. But when certain bodily ailments compelled him to remain indoors for many days, it was difficult to gain access to him, for he was apt to become furious when any one inquired about his health. On these occasions there was only one way of putting him in a good temper, and that was to say that one had called to ask a favour of him. Thereupon he was pleasantly surprised, and would not only declare himself ready to oblige in any way that was in his power, but would assume a really cheerful and benevolent demeanour.
A remarkable contrast to him was presented by the musician Wilhelm Baumgartner, a merry, jovial fellow, without any aptitude for concentration, who had learned just enough about the piano to be able, as teacher at so much an hour, to earn what he required for a living. He had a taste for what was beautiful, provided it did not soar too high, and possessed a true and loyal heart, full of a great respect for Sulzer, which unfortunately could not cure him of a craving for the public-house.
Besides this man, there were two others who had also from the very first formed part of our circle. Both of them were friends of the pair I have already mentioned; their names were Hagenbuch, a worthy and respectable deputy cantonal secretary; and Bernhard Spyri, a lawyer, and at that time editor of the Eidgenossische Zeitung. The latter was a singularly good-tempered man, but not overburdened with intellect, for which reason Sulzer always treated him with special consideration.
Alexander Muller soon disappeared from our midst, as he became more and more engrossed by domestic calamities, bodily infirmities, and the mechanical drudgery of giving lessons by the hour. As for the musician Abt, I had never felt particularly drawn towards him, in spite of his Schwalben, and he too speedily left us to carve a brilliant career for himself in Brunswick.
In the meantime, however, our Zurich circle was enriched by all kinds of additions from without, mainly due to the political shipwrecks. On my return, in January, 1850, I had already found Adolph Kolatschek, a plain, though not unprepossessing-looking man, though he was a bit of a bore. He imagined himself born to be an editor, and had founded a German monthly magazine, which was to open a field for those who had been outwardly conquered in the recent movements to continue their fight in the inner realm of the spirit. I felt almost flattered at being picked out by him as an author, and being informed that 'a power like mine' ought not to be absent from a union of spiritual forces such as was to be established by his enterprise. I had previously sent him from Paris my treatise on Kunst und Klima; and he now gladly accepted some fairly long extracts from my still unpublished Oper und Drama, for which he moreover paid me a handsome fee. This man made an indelible impression on my mind as the only instance I have met of a really tactful editor. He once handed me the manuscript of a review on my Kunstwerk der Zukunft, written by a certain Herr Palleske, to read, saying that he would not print it without my express consent, though he did not press me to give it. It was a superficial article, without any true comprehension of the subject, and couched in most arrogant terms. I felt that if it appeared in this particular journal it would certainly demand inconvenient and wearisome rejoinders from me, in which I should have to restate my original thesis. As I was by no means inclined to enter upon such a controversy, I agreed to Kolatschek's proposal, and suggested that he had better return the manuscript to its author for publication elsewhere.
Through Kolatschek I also learned to know Reinhold Solger, a really excellent and interesting man. But it did not suit his restless and adventurous spirit to remain cooped up in the small and narrow Swiss world of Zurich, so that he soon left us and went to North America, where I heard that he went about giving lectures and denouncing the political situation in Europe. It was a pity that this talented man never succeeded in making a name for himself by more important work. His contributions to our monthly journal, during the brief term of his stay in Zurich, were certainly among the best ever written on these topics by a German.
In the new year, 1851, Georg Herwegh also joined us, and I was delighted to meet him one day at Kolatschek's lodgings. The vicissitudes which had brought him to Zurich came to my knowledge afterwards in a somewhat offensive and aggressive manner. For the present, Herwegh put on an aristocratic swagger and gave himself the airs of a delicately nurtured and luxurious son of his times, to which a fairly liberal interpolation of French expletives at least added a certain distinction. Nevertheless, there was something about his person, with his quick, flashing eye and kindliness of manner, which was well calculated to exert an attractive influence. I felt almost flattered by his ready acceptance of my invitation to my informal evening parties, which may, perhaps, have been fairly agreeable gatherings, as Bulow entertained us with music, though to me personally they afforded no mental sustenance whatever. My wife used to declare that, when I proceeded to read from my manuscript, Kolatschek promptly fell asleep, while Herwegh gave all his attention to her punch. When, later on, as I have already mentioned, I read my Oper und Drama for twelve consecutive evenings to our Zurich friends, Herwegh stayed away, because he did not wish to mix with those for whom such things had not been written. Yet my intercourse with him became gradually more cordial. Not only did I respect his poetical talent, which had recently gained recognition, but I also learned to realise the delicate and refined qualities of his richly cultivated intellect, and in course of time learned that Herwegh, on his side, was beginning to covet my society. My steady pursuit of those deeper and more serious interests which so passionately engrossed me seemed to arouse him to an ennobling sympathy, even for those topics which, since his sudden leap into poetic fame, had been, greatly to his prejudice, smothered under mere showy and trivial mannerisms, altogether alien to his original nature. Possibly this process was accelerated by the growing difficulties of his position, which he had hitherto regarded as demanding a certain amount of outward show. In short, he was the first man in whom I met with a sensitive and sympathetic comprehension of my most daring schemes and opinions, and I soon felt compelled to believe his assertion that he occupied himself solely with my ideas, into which, certainly, no other man entered so profoundly as he did.
This familiarity with Herwegh, in which an element of affection was certainly mingled, was further stimulated by news which reached me respecting a new dramatic poem which I had sketched out for the coining spring. Liszt's preparations in the late summer of the previous year for the production in Weimar of my Lohengrin had met with more success than, with such limited resources, had hitherto seemed possible. This result could naturally only have been obtained by the zeal of a friend endowed with such rich and varied gifts as Liszt. Though it was beyond his power to attract quickly to the Weimar stage such singers as Lohengrin demanded, and he had been compelled on many points to content himself with merely suggesting what was intended to be represented, yet he was now endeavouring by sundry ingenious methods to make these suggestions clearly comprehensible. First of all, he prepared a detailed account of the production of Lohengrin. Seldom has a written description of a work of art won for it such attentive friends, and commanded their enthusiastic appreciation from the outset, as did this treatise of Liszt's, which extended even to the most insignificant details. Karl Ritter distinguished himself by providing an excellent German translation of the French original, which was first published in the Illustrirte Zeitung. Shortly after this Liszt also issued Tannhauser in French, accompanied by a similar preface on its origin, and these pamphlets were the chief means of awakening, now and for long after, especially in foreign countries, not only a surprisingly sympathetic interest in these works, but also an intimate understanding of them such as could not possibly have been attained by the mere study of my pianoforte arrangements. But, far from being satisfied with this, Liszt contrived to attract the attention of intellects outside Weimar to the performances of my operas, in order, with kindly compulsion, to force them upon the notice of all who had ears to hear and eyes to see. Although his good intentions did not altogether succeed with Franz Dingelstedt, who would only commit himself to a confused report on Lohengrin in the Allgemeine Zeitung, yet his enthusiastic eloquence completely and decisively captured Adolf Stahr for my work. His detailed view of Lohengrin in the Berlin National-Zeitung, in which he claimed a high importance for my opera, did not remain without permanent influence upon the German public. Even in the narrow circle of professional musicians its effects seem not to have been unimportant; for Robert Franz, whom Liszt dragged almost by force to a performance of Lohengrin, spoke of it with unmistakable enthusiasm. This example gave the lead to many other journals, and for some time it seemed as though the otherwise dull-witted musical press would energetically champion my cause.
I shall shortly have occasion to describe what it was that eventually gave quite a different direction to this movement. Meanwhile Liszt felt emboldened by these kindly signs to encourage me to renew my creative activity, which had now for some time been interrupted. His success with Lohengrin gave him confidence in his ability to execute a yet more hazardous undertaking, and he invited me to set my poem of Siegfried's Death to music for production at Weimar. On his recommendation, the manager of the Weimar theatre, Herr von Ziegesar, offered to make a definite contract with me in the name of the Grand Duke. I was to finish the work within a year, and during that period was to receive a payment of fifteen hundred marks (L75).
It was a curious coincidence that about this time, and also through Liszt, the Duke of Coburg invited me to arrange the instrumentation for an opera of his own composition, for which he offered me the sum of two thousand seven hundred marks (L135). In spite of my position as an outlaw, my noble patron and would-be employer offered to receive me in his castle at Coburg, where, in quiet seclusion with himself and Frau Birchpfeiffer, the writer of the libretto, I might execute the work. Liszt naturally expected nothing more from me than a decent excuse for declining this offer, and suggested my pleading 'bodily and mental depression.' My friend told me afterwards that the Duke had desired my co-operation with him in his score on account of my skilful use of trombones. When he inquired, through Liszt, what my rules for their manipulation were, I replied that before I could write anything for trombones I required first to have some ideas in my head.
On the other hand, however, I felt very much tempted to entertain the Weimar proposal. Still weary from my exhausting labour on Oper und Drama, and worried by many things which had a depressing effect on my spirits, I seated myself for the first time for many months at my Hartel grand-piano, which had been rescued from the Dresden catastrophe, to see whether I could settle down to composing the music for my ponderous heroic drama. In rapid outline I sketched the music for the Song of the Norns, or Daughters of the Rhine, which in this first draft was only roughly suggested. But when I attempted to turn Brunhilda's first address to Siegfried into song my courage failed me completely, for I could not help asking myself whether the singer had yet been born who was capable of vitalising this heroic female figure. The idea of my niece Johanna occurred to me, whom, as a matter of fact, I had already destined for this rule when I was still in Dresden on account of her various personal charms. She had now entered upon the career of prima donna at Hamburg, but, judging from all the reports I had received, and especially from the attitude towards me that she openly adopted in her letters to her family, I could only conclude that my modest hopes of enlisting her talents on my behalf were doomed to disappointment. I was, moreover, confused by the fact that a second Dresden prima donna, Mme. Gentiluomo Spatzer, who had once enraptured Marschner with Donizetti's dithyrambics, kept hovering perpetually before my mind as a possible substitute for Johanna. At last, in a rage, I sprang up from the piano, and swore that I would write nothing more for these silly fastidious schoolgirls. Whenever I saw any likelihood of being again brought into closer contact with the theatre I was filled with an indescribable disgust which, for the time being, I was unable to overcome. It was some little consolation to discover that bodily ill-health might possibly be at the bottom of this mental disorder. During the spring of this year I had been suffering from a curious rash, which spread over my whole body. For this my doctor prescribed a course of sulphur- baths, to be taken regularly every morning. Although the remedy excited my nerves so much that later on I was obliged to adopt radical measures for the restoration of my health, yet in the meantime the regular morning walk to the town and back, surrounded by the fresh green and early spring flowers of May, acted as a cheerful stimulant on my mental condition. I now conceived the idea of the poem of Junger Siegfried, which I proposed to issue as a heroic comedy by way of prelude and complement to the tragedy of Siegfrieds Tod. Carried away by my conception, I tried to persuade myself that this piece would be easier to produce than the other more serious and terrible drama. With this idea in my mind I informed Liszt of my purpose, and offered the Weimar management to compose a score for Junger Siegfried, which as yet was unwritten, in return for which I would definitely accept their proposal to grant me a year's salary of fifteen hundred marks. This they agreed to without delay, and I took up my quarters in the attic-room evacuated the previous year by Karl Ritter, where, with the aid of sulphur and May-blossom, and in the highest spirits, I proposed to complete the poem of Junger Siegfried, as already outlined in my original design.
I must now give some account of the cordial relations which, ever since my departure from Dresden, I had maintained with Theodor Uhlig, the young musician of the Dresden orchestra, which I have already described, and which by this time had developed into a genuinely productive association. His independent and indeed somewhat uncultivated disposition had been moulded into a warm, almost boundless devotion to myself, inspired both by sympathy for my fate and a thorough understanding of my works. He also had been among the number of those who had visited Weimar to hear my Lohengrin, and had sent me a very detailed account of the performance. As Hartel, the music-dealer in Leipzig, had willingly agreed to my request to publish Lohengrin on condition that I should not demand any share in the profits, I entrusted Uhlig with the preparation of the pianoforte arrangement. But it was more the theoretical questions discussed in my works that formed the chief link that bound us together by a serious correspondence. The characteristic which especially touched me about this man, whom from his training I could regard merely as an instrumentalist, was that he had grasped with clear understanding and perfect agreement those very tendencies of mine which many musicians of apparently wider culture than his own regarded with almost despairing horror, as being dangerous to the orthodox practice of their art. He forthwith acquired the literary facility necessary for the expression of his agreement with my views, and gave tangible proof of this in a lengthy treatise on 'Instrumental Music,' which appeared in Kolatschek's German monthly journal. He also sent to me another strictly theoretical work on the 'Structure of Musical Theme and Phrase.' In this he showed the originality of his ideas about Mozart's and Beethoven's methods, to an extent which was only equalled by the thoroughness with which he had mastered the question, especially where he discussed their highly characteristic differences. This clear and exhaustive treatise appeared to me admirably adapted to form the basis for a new theory of the higher art of musical phrasing, whereby Beethoven's most obscure construction might be explained, and elaborated into a comprehensible system that would allow of further application. These treatises attracted the attention of Franz Brendel, the astute publisher of the Neue Zeitschrift fur Musik, to their brilliant young author. He was invited by Brendel to join the staff of his paper, and soon succeeded in changing his chief's previous attitude of indecision. As Brendel's aims were on the whole perfectly honourable and serious, he was quickly and definitely led to adopt those views which from this time began to make a stir in the musical world under the title of the 'New Tendency.' I thereupon felt impelled to contribute an epoch-making article to his paper on these lines. I had noticed for some time that such ill-sounding catch-phrases as 'Jewish ornamental flourishes' (Melismas), 'Synagogue Music,' and the like were being bandied about without any rhyme or reason beyond that of giving expression to meaningless irritation. The question thus raised regarding the significance of the modern Jew in music stimulated me to make a closer examination of Jewish influence and the characteristics peculiar to it. This I did in a lengthy treatise on 'Judaism in Music.' Although I did not wish to hide my identity, as its author, from all inquiries, yet I considered it advisable to adopt a pseudonym, lest my very seriously intended effort should be degraded to a purely personal matter, and its real importance be thereby vitiated. The stir, nay, the genuine consternation, created by this article defies comparison with any other similar publication. The unparalleled animosity with which, even up to the present day, I have been pursued by the entire press of Europe can only be understood by those who have taken an account of this article and of the dreadful commotion which it caused at the time of its publication. It must also be remembered that almost all the newspapers of Europe are in the hands of Jews. Apart from these facts, it would be impossible to understand the unqualified bitterness of this lasting persecution, which cannot be adequately explained on the mere ground of a theoretical or practical dislike for my opinions or artistic works. The first outcome of the article was a storm which broke over poor Brendel, who was entirely innocent, and, indeed, hardly conscious of his offence. This erelong developed into a savage persecution which aimed at nothing less than his ruin. Another immediate result was that the few friends whom Liszt had induced to declare themselves in my favour forthwith took refuge in a discreet silence. As it soon seemed advisable, in the interests of their own productions, to give direct evidence of their estrangement from me, most of them passed over to the ranks of my enemies. But Uhlig clung to me all the more closely on this account. He strengthened Brendel's weaker will to endurance, and kept helping him with contributions for his paper, some of them profound and others witty and very much to the point. He fixed his eye more particularly on one of my chief antagonists, a man named Bischoff, whom Hiller had discovered in Cologne, and who first invented for me and my friends the title of Zukunftsmusiker ('Musicians of the Future'). With him he entered into a prolonged and somewhat diverting controversy. The foundation had now been laid for the problem of the so-called Zukunftsmusik ('Music of the Future'), which was to become a European scandal, in spite of the fact that Liszt quickly adopted the title himself with good-humoured pride. It is true that I had to some extent suggested this name in the title of my book, Kunstwerk der Zukunft; but it only developed into a battle-cry when 'Judaism in Music' unbarred the sluices of wrath upon me and my friends.
My book, Oper und Drama, was published in the second half of this year, and, so far as it was noticed at all by the leading musicians of the day, naturally only helped to add fuel to the wrath which blazed against me. This fury, however, assumed more the character of slander and malice, for our movement had meantime been reduced by a great connoisseur in such things, Meyerbeer, to a clearly defined system, which he maintained and practised with a sure hand until his lamented death.
Uhlig had come across my book, Oper und Drama, during the early stages of the furious uproar against me. I had presented him with the original manuscript, and as it was nicely bound in red, I hit upon the idea of writing in it, by way of dedication, the words, 'RED, my friend, is MY theory,' in contradistinction to the Gothic saying, 'Grey, my friend, is all theory.' This gift elicited an exhilarating and most delightful correspondence with my lively and keen-sighted young friend, who, after two long years of separation, I felt sincerely desirous of seeing again. It was not an easy matter for the poor fiddler, whose pay was barely that of a chamber musician, to comply with my invitation. But he gladly tried to overcome all difficulties, and said he would come early in July. I decided to go as far as Rorschach, on the Lake of Constance, to meet him, so that we might make an excursion through the Alps as far as Zurich. I went by a pleasant detour through the Toggenburg, travelling on foot as usual. In this way, cheerful and refreshed, I reached St. Gall, where I sought out Karl Ritter, who, since Bulow's departure, had remained there alone in curious seclusion. I could guess the reason of his retirement, although he said that he had enjoyed very agreeable intercourse with a St. Gall musician named Greitel, of whom I never heard anything further. Though very tired after my long walking tour, I could not refrain from submitting the manuscript of my Jungcr Siegfried, which I had just finished, to the quick and critical judgment of this intelligent young man, who was thus the first person to hear it. I was more than gratified by its effect upon him, and, in high spirits, persuaded him to forsake his strange retreat and go with me to meet Uhlig, so that we might all three proceed over the Santis for a long and pleasant stay in Zurich. My first glance at my guest, as he landed at the familiar harbour of Rorschach, filled me at once with anxiety for his health, for it revealed but too plainly his tendency to consumption. In order to spare him, I wished to give up the proposed mountain climb, but he eagerly protested that exercise of this kind in the fresh air could only do him good after the drudgery of his wretched fiddling. After crossing the little canton of Appenzell, we had to face the by no means easy crossing of the Santis. It was my first experience also of travelling over an extensive snow-field in summer. After reaching our guide's hut, which was perched on a rugged slope, where we regaled ourselves with exceedingly frugal fare, we had to climb the towering and precipitous pinnacle of rock which forms the summit of the mountain, a few hundred feet above us. Here Karl suddenly refused to allow us, and to shake him out of his effeminacy I had to send back the guide for him, who, at our request, succeeded in bringing him along, half by force. But now that we had to clamber from stone to stone along the precipitous cliff, I soon began to realise how foolish I had been in compelling Karl to share our perilous adventure. His dizziness evidently stupefied him, for he stared in front of him as though he could not see, and we had to hold him fast between our alpenstocks, every moment expecting to see him collapse, and tumble into the abyss. When we at last attained the summit, he sank senseless on the ground, and I now fully understood what a terrible responsibility I had undertaken, as the yet more dangerous descent had still to be made. In an agony of fear, which, while it made me forget my own danger altogether, filled me with a vision of my young friend lying shattered on the rocks below, we at last reached the guide's cottage in safety. As Uhlig and myself were still determined to descend the precipitous further side of the mountain, a feat which the guide informed us was not without danger, I resolved to leave young Ritter behind in the hut, as the indescribable anguish I had just endured on his behalf had been a warning to me. Here he was to await the return of our guide, and in his company take the not very dangerous path by which we had come. We accordingly parted, as he was to return in the direction of Gall, while we two roamed through the lovely Toggenburg valley, and the next day by Rappersweil to the Lake of Zurich, and so home. Not until many days later did Karl relieve our anxiety concerning him by arriving at Zurich. He remained with us a short time, and then departed, probably wishing to escape being tempted into more mountain climbing, which we had certainly planned. I heard from him afterwards when he had settled for some time in Stuttgart, where he seemed to be doing well. He soon made great friends with a young actor, and lived on terms of great intimacy with him.
I was sincerely delighted by the close intercourse I now had with the gentle young Dresden chamber musician, whose manly strength of character and extraordinary mental endowments greatly endeared him to me. My wife said that his curly golden hair and bright blue eyes made her think an angel had come to stay with us. For me his features had a peculiar and, considering his fate, pathetic interest, on account of his striking resemblance to King Friedrich August of Saxony, my former patron, who was still alive at that time, and seemed to confirm a rumour which had reached me that Uhlig was his natural son. It was entertaining to hear his news of Dresden, and all about the theatre, and the condition of musical affairs in that city. My operas, which had once been its glory, had now quite vanished from the repertoire. He gave me a choice example of my late colleagues' opinion of me by relating the following incident. When Kunst und Revolution and Kunstwerk der Zukunft appeared, and were being discussed among them, one of them remarked: 'Ha! he may worry a long time before he will be able to write conductor before his name again.' By way of illustrating the advance made in music, he related the manner in which Reissiger, having on one occasion to conduct Beethoven's Symphony in A major, which had been previously executed by me, had helped himself out of a sudden dilemma. Beethoven, as is well known, marks the great finale of the last movement with a prolonged forte, which he merely heightens by a sempre piu forte. At this point Reissiger, who had conducted the Symphony before me, thinking the opportunity a favourable one, had introduced a piano, in order at least to secure an effective crescendo. This I had naturally ignored, and had instructed the orchestra to play with their full strength throughout. Now, therefore, that the conducting of this work had once more fallen into my predecessor's hands, he found it difficult to restore his unlucky piano; but, feeling that he must save his authority, which had been compromised, he made a rule that mezzo forte should be played instead of forte.
But the most painful news he gave me was about the state of utter neglect into which my unhappy operatic publications had fallen in the hands of the court music-dealer Meser, who, seeing that money had to be continually paid out, while nothing came in, regarded himself as a sacrificial lamb whom I had lured to the slaughter. Yet he steadily refused all inspection of his books, maintaining that he thereby protected my property, as all I possessed having been confiscated, it would otherwise be seized at once. A pleasanter topic than this was Lohengrin. My friend had completed the pianoforte arrangement, and was already busy correcting the engraver's proofs.
By his enthusiastic advocacy of the water cure, Uhlig gained an influence over me in another direction, and one which was of long duration. He brought me a book on the subject by a certain Rausse, which pleased me greatly, especially by its radical principles, which had something of Feuerbach about them. Its bold repudiation of the entire science of medicine, with all its quackeries, combined with its advocacy of the simplest natural processes by means of a methodical use of strengthening and refreshing water, quickly won my fervent adherence. He maintained, for instance, that every genuine medicine can only act upon our organism in so far as it is a poison, and is therefore not assimilated by our system; and proved, moreover, that men who had become weak owing to a continuous absorption of medicine, had been cured by the famous Priesnitz, who had effectually driven out the poison contained in their bodies by expelling it through the skin. I naturally thought of the disagreeable sulphur baths I had taken during the spring, and to which I attributed my chronic and severe state of irritability. In so doing I was probably not far wrong. For a long while after this I did my best to expel this and all other poisons which I might have absorbed in the course of time, and by an exclusive water regimen restore my original healthy condition. Uhlig asserted that by persevering conscientiously in a water cure, he was perfectly confident of being able to renew his own bodily health entirely, and my own faith in it also grew daily.
At the end of July we started on an excursion through the centre of Switzerland. From Brunnen, on the Lake of Lucerne, we proceeded via Beckenried to Engelberg, from which place we crossed the wild Surenen-Eck, and on this occasion learned how to glide over the snow fairly easily. But in crossing a swollen mountain torrent Uhlig had the misfortune to fall into the water. By way of quieting my uneasiness about him, he at once exclaimed that this was a very good way of carrying out the water cure. He made no fuss about the drying of his clothes, but simply spread them out in the sun, and in the meanwhile calmly promenaded about in a state of nature in the open air, protesting that this novel form of exercise would do him good. We occupied the interval in discussing the important problem of Beethoven's theme construction, until, by way of a joke, I told him that I could see Councillor Carns of Dresden coming up behind him with a party, which for a moment quite frightened him. Thus with light hearts we reached the Reuss valley near Attinghausen, and in the evening wandered on as far as Amsteg, and the next morning, in spite of our great fatigue, at once visited the Madran valley. There we climbed the Hufi glacier, whence we enjoyed a splendid view over an impressive panorama of mountains, bounded at this point by the Tody range. We returned the same day to Amsteg, and as we were both thoroughly tired out, I dissuaded my companion from attempting the ascent of the Klausen Pass to the Schachen valley, which we had planned for the following day, and induced him to take the easier way home via Fluelen. When, early in August, my young friend, who was always calm and very deliberate in his manner, set out on his return journey to Dresden, I could detect no signs of exhaustion about him. He was hoping on his arrival to lighten the heavy burden of life a little by undertaking the conductorship of the entr'acte music at the theatre, which he proposed to organise artistically, and thus set himself free from the oppressive and demoralising service of the opera. It was with sincere grief that I accompanied him to the mail-coach, and he too seemed to be seized with sudden foreboding. As a matter of fact, this was the last time we ever met.
But for the present we carried on an active correspondence, and as his communications were always pleasant and entertaining, and for a long time constituted almost my sole link with the outside world, I begged him to write me long letters as often as possible. As postage was expensive at that time, and voluminous letters touched our pockets severely, Uhlig conceived the ingenious idea of using the parcel post for our correspondence. As only packets of a certain weight might be sent in this way, a German translation of Beaumarchais' Figaro, of which Uhlig possessed an ancient copy, enjoyed the singular destiny of acting as ballast for our letters to and fro. Every time, therefore, that our epistles had swelled, to the requisite length, we announced them with the words: 'Figaro brings tidings to-day.'
Uhlig meanwhile found much pleasure in the Mittheilung an meine Freunde ('A Communication to my Friends'), which, immediately after our separation, I wrote as a preface to an edition of my three operas, the Fliegender Hollander, Tannhauser, and Lohengrin. He was also amused to hear that Hartel, who had accepted the book for publication on payment of ten louis d'or, protested so vigorously against certain passages in this preface, which wounded his orthodoxy and political feelings, that I thought seriously of giving the book to another firm. However, he finally persuaded me to give way, and I pacified his tender conscience by a few trifling alterations.
With this comprehensive preface, which had occupied me during the whole of the month of August, I hoped that my excursion into the realms of literature would be ended once and for all. However, as soon as I began to think seriously about taking up the composition of Junger Siegfried, which I had promised for Weimar, I was seized with depressing doubts which almost amounted to a positive reluctance to attempt this work. As I could not clearly discern the reason of this dejection, I concluded that its source lay in the state of my health, so I determined one day to carry out my theories about the advantages of a water cure, which I had always propounded with great enthusiasm. I made due inquiries about a neighbouring hydropathic establishment, and informed my wife that I was going off to Albisbrunnen, which was situated about three miles from our abode. It was then about the middle of September, and I had made up my mind not to come back until I was completely restored to health.
Minna was quite frightened when I announced my intention, and looked upon it as another attempt on my part to abandon my home. I begged of her, however, to devote herself during my absence to the task of furnishing and arranging our new flat as comfortably as possible. This, although small, was conveniently situated on the ground floor of the Vordern Escher Hauser im Zeltweg. We had determined to move back to the town, on account of the great inconvenience of the situation of our present quarters, especially during winter time. Everybody, of course, was astonished at the idea of my undertaking a water cure so late in the season. Nevertheless, I soon succeeded in securing a fellow- patient. I was not fortunate enough to get Herwegh, but Fate was kind in sending me Hermann Muller, an ex-lieutenant in the Saxon Guards, and a former lover of Schroder-Devrient, who proved a most cheerful and pleasant companion. It had become impossible for him to maintain his position in the Saxon army, and although he was not exactly a political refugee, every career was closed to him in Germany, and yet he met with all the consideration of an exiled patriot when he came to Switzerland to try and make a fresh start in life. We had seen a good deal of each other in my early Dresden days, and he soon felt at home in my house, where my wife always gave him a warm welcome. I easily persuaded him to follow me shortly to Albisbrunnen to undergo a thorough treatment for an infirmity from which he was suffering. I established myself there as comfortably as I could, and I looked forward to excellent results. The cure itself was superintended in the usual superficial way by a Dr. Brunner, whom my wife, on one of her visits to this place, promptly christened the 'Water Jew,' and whom she heartily detested. Early at five o'clock in the morning I was wrapped up and kept in a state of perspiration for several hours; after that I was plunged into an icy cold bath at a temperature of only four degrees; then I was made to take a brisk walk to restore my circulation in the chilly air of late autumn. In addition I was kept on a water diet; no wine, coffee, or tea was allowed; and this regime, in the dismal company of nothing but incurables, with dull evenings only enlivened by desperate attempts at games of whist, and the prohibition of all intellectual occupation, resulted in irritability and overwrought nerves. I led this life for nine weeks, but I was determined not to give in until I felt that every kind of drug or poison I had ever absorbed into my system had been brought to the surface. As I considered that wine was most dangerous, I presumed that my system still contained many unassimilated substances which I had absorbed at various dinner-parties at Sulzer's, and which must evaporate in profuse perspiration. This life, so full of privations, which I led in rooms miserably furnished with common deal and the usual rustic appointments of a Swiss pension, awoke in me by way of contrast an insuperable longing for a cosy and comfortable home; indeed, as the year went on, this longing became a passionate desire. My imagination was for ever picturing to itself the manner and style in which a house or a dwelling ought to be appointed and arranged, in order to keep my mind pleasantly free for artistic creation.
At this time symptoms of a possible improvement in my position appeared. Karl Ritter, unfortunately for himself, wrote to me from Stuttgart while I was at the hydro, describing his own private attempts to secure the benefits of a water cure—not by means of baths, but by drinking quantities of water. I had found out that it was most dangerous to drink large quantities of water without undergoing the rest of the treatment, so I implored Karl to submit to the regular course, and not to have an effeminate fear of privations, and to come at once to Albisbrunnen. He took me at my word, and to my great delight arrived in a few days' time at Albisbrunnen. Theoretically he was filled with enthusiasm for hydropathy, but he soon objected to it in practice; and he denounced the use of cold milk as indigestible and against the dictates of Nature, as mother's milk was always warm. He found the cold packs and the cold baths too exciting, and preferred treating himself in a comfortable and pleasant way behind the doctor's back. He soon discovered a wretched confectioner's shop in the neighbouring village, and when he was caught buying cheap pastry on the sly, he was very angry. He soon grew perfectly miserable, and would fain have escaped, had not a certain feeling of honour prevented him from doing so. The news reached him here of the sudden death of a rich uncle, who had left a considerable fortune to every member of Karl's family. His mother, in telling him and me of the improvement in her position, declared that she was now able to assure me the income which the two families of Laussot and Ritter had offered me some time ago. Thus I stepped into an annual income of two thousand four hundred marks for as long as I required it, and into partnership with the Ritter family.
This happy and encouraging turn of events made me decide to complete my original sketch of the Nibelungen, and to bring it out in our theatres without paying any regard to the practicability of its various parts. In order to do this I felt that I must free myself from all obligations to the management of the Weimar theatre. I had already drawn six hundred marks salary from this source, but Karl was enchanted to place this sum at my disposal in order that I might return it. I sent the money back to Weimar with a letter expressing my most grateful acknowledgments to the management for their conduct towards me, and at the same time I wrote to Liszt, giving him the fullest particulars of my great plan, and explaining how I felt absolutely compelled to carry it out.
Liszt, in his reply, told me how delighted he was to know that I was now in a position to undertake such a remarkable work, which he considered in every respect worthy of me if only on account of its surprising originality. I began to breathe freely at last, because I had always felt that it was merely self-deception on my part to maintain that it would be possible to produce Junger Siegfried with the limited means at the disposal of even the best German theatre.
My water cure and the hydropathic establishment became more and more distasteful to me; I longed for my work, and the desire to get back to it made me quite ill. I tried obstinately to conceal from myself that the object of my cure had entirely failed; indeed, it had really done me more harm than good, for although the evil secretions had not returned, my whole body seemed terribly emaciated. I considered that I had had quite enough of the cure, and comforted myself with the hope that I should derive benefit from it in the future. I accordingly left the hydropathic establishment at the end of November. Muller was to follow me in a few days, but Karl, wishing to be consistent, was determined to remain until he perceived a similar result in himself to the one I had experienced or pretended I had experienced. I was much pleased with the way in which Minna had arranged our new little flat in Zurich. She had bought a large and luxurious divan, several carpets for the floor and various dainty little luxuries, and in the back room my writing-table of common deal was covered with a green tablecloth and draped with soft green silk curtains, all of which my friends admired immensely. This table, at which I worked continually, travelled with me to Paris, and when I left that city I presented it to Blandine Ollivier, Liszt's elder daughter, who had it conveyed to the little country house at St. Tropez, belonging to her husband, where, I believe, it stands to this day. I was very glad to receive my Zurich friends in my new home, which was so much more conveniently situated than my former one; only I quite spoilt all my hospitality for a long time by my fanatical agitation for a water diet and my polemics against the evils of wine and other intoxicating drinks. I adopted what seemed almost a new kind of religion: when I was driven into a corner by Sulzer and Herwegh, the latter of whom prided himself on his knowledge of chemistry and physiology, about the absurdity of Rausse's theory of the poisonous qualities contained in wine, I found refuge in the moral and aesthetic motive which made me regard the enjoyment of wine as an evil and barbarous substitute for the ecstatic state of mind which love alone should produce. I maintained that wine, even if not taken in excess, contained qualities producing a state of intoxication which a man sought in order to raise his spirits, but that only he who experienced the intoxication of love could raise his spirits in the noblest sense of the word. This led to a discussion on the modern relations of the sexes, whereupon I commented on the almost brutal manner in which men kept aloof from women in Switzerland. Sulzer said he would not at all object to the intoxication resulting from intercourse with women, but in his opinion the difficulty lay in procuring this by fair means. Herwegh was inclined to agree with my paradox, but remarked that wine had nothing whatever to do with it, that it was simply an excellent and strengthening food, which, according to Anacreon, agreed very well with the ecstasy of love. As my friends studied me and my condition more closely, they felt they had reason to be very anxious about my foolish and obstinate extravagances. I looked terribly pale and thin; I hardly slept at all, and in everything I did I betrayed a strange excitement. Although eventually sleep almost entirely forsook me, I still pretended that I had never been so well or so cheerful in my life, and I continued on the coldest winter mornings to take my cold baths, and plagued my wife to death by making her show me my way out with a lantern for the prescribed early morning walk.
I was in this state when the printed copies of Oper und Drama reached me, and I devoured rather than read them with an eccentric joy. I think that the delightful consciousness of now being able to say to myself, and prove to the satisfaction of everybody, and even of Minna, that I had at last completely freed myself from my hateful career as conductor and opera composer, brought about this immoderate excitement. Nobody had a right to make the demands upon me which two years ago had made me so miserable. The income which the Ritters had assured me for life, and the object of which was to give me an absolutely free hand, also contributed to my present state of mind, and made me feel confidence in everything I undertook. Although my plans for the present seemed to exclude all possibility of being realised, thanks to the indifference of an inartistic public, still I could not help inwardly cherishing the idea that I should not be for ever addressing only the paper on which I wrote. I anticipated that before long a great reaction would set in with regard to the public and everything connected with our social life, and I believed that in my boldly planned work there lay just the right material to supply the changed conditions and real needs of the new public whose relation to art would be completely altered with what was required. As these bold expectations had arisen in my mind in consequence of my observations of the state of society in general, I naturally could not say much about them to my friends. I had not mistaken the significance of the general collapse of the political movements, but felt that their real weakness lay in the inadequate though sincere expression of their cause, and that the social movement, so far from losing ground by its political defeat, had, on the contrary, gained in energy and expansion. I based my opinion upon the experience I had had during my last visit to Paris, when I had attended, among other things, a political meeting of the so-called social democratic party. Their general behaviour made a great impression upon me; the meeting took place in a temporary hall called Salle de la Fraternite in the Faubourg St. Denis; six thousand men were present, and their conduct, far from being noisy and tumultuous, filled me with a sense of the concentrated energy and hope of this new party. The speeches of the principal orators of the extreme left of the Assemblee Nationale astonished me by their oratorical flights as well as by their evident confidence in the future. As this extreme party was gradually strengthening itself against everything that was being done by the reactionary party then in power, and all the old liberals had joined these social democrats publicly and had adopted their electioneering programme, it was easy to see that in Paris, at all events, they would have a decided majority at the impending elections for the year 1852, and especially in the nomination of the President of the Republic. My own opinions about this were shared by the whole of France, and it seemed that the year 1852 was destined to witness a very important reaction which was naturally dreaded by the other party, who looked forward with great apprehension to the approaching catastrophe. The condition of the other European states, who suppressed every laudable impulse with brutal stupidity, convinced me that elsewhere too this state of affairs would not continue long, and every one seemed to look forward with great expectations to the decision of the following year.
I had discussed the general situation with my friend Uhlig, as well as the efficacy of the water-cure system; he had just come home fresh from orchestral rehearsals at the Dresden theatre, and found it very difficult to agree to a drastic change in human affairs or to have any faith in it. He assured me that I could not conceive how miserable and mean people were in general, but I managed to delude him into the belief that the year 1852 would be pregnant with great and important events. Our opinions on this subject were expressed in the correspondence which was once more diligently forwarded by Figaro.
Whenever we had to complain of any meanness or untoward circumstance, I always reminded him of this year, so great with fate and hope, and at the same time I hinted that we had better look forward quite calmly to the time when the great 'upheaval' should take place, as only then, when no one else knew what to do, could we step in and make a start.
I can hardly express how deeply and firmly this hope had taken possession of me, and I can only attribute all my confident opinions and declarations to the increased excitement of my nerves. The news of the coup d'etat of the 2nd of December in Paris seemed to me absolutely incredible, and I thought the world was surely coming to an end. When the news was confirmed, and events which no one believed could ever happen had apparently occurred and seemed likely to be permanent, I gave the whole thing up like a riddle which it was beneath me to unravel, and turned away in disgust from the contemplation of this puzzling world. As a playful reminiscence of our hopes of the year 1852, I suggested to Uhlig that in our correspondence during that year we should ignore its existence and should date our letters December '51, in consequence of which this said month of December seemed of eternal duration.
Soon afterwards I was overpowered by an extraordinary depression in which, somehow, the disappointment about the turn of political events and the reaction created by my exaggerated water cure, almost ruined my health. I perceived the triumphant return of all the disappointing signs of reaction which excluded every high ideal from intellectual life, and from which I had hoped the shocks and fermentations of the past few years had freed us for ever. I prophesied that the time was approaching when intellectually we should be such paupers that the appearance of a new book from the pen of Heinrich Heine would create quite a sensation. When, a short time afterwards, the Romancero appeared from the pen of this poet who had fallen into almost complete neglect, and was very well reviewed by the newspaper critics, I laughed aloud; as a matter of fact, I suppose I am among the very few Germans who have never even looked at this book, which, by the way, is said to possess great merit.
I was now compelled to pay a great deal of attention to my physical condition, as it gave me much cause for anxiety and necessitated a complete change in my methods. I introduced this change very gradually and with the co-operation of my friends. My circle of acquaintances had widened considerably this winter, although Karl Ritter, who had escaped from Albisbrunnen a week after my own departure and had tried to settle in our neighbourhood, ran off to Dresden, as he found Zurich much too slow for his youthful spirits. A certain family of the name of Wesendonck, who had settled in Zurich a short time before, sought my acquaintance, and took up their abode in the same quarters in the Hintern Escherhauser where I had lived when I first came to Zurich. They had taken the flat there on the recommendation of the famous Marschall von Bieberstein, who moved in after me in consequence of the revolution in Dresden. I remember, on the evening of a party there, that I displayed uncontrolled excitement in a discussion with Professor Osenbruck. I tormented him with my persistent paradoxes all through supper to such an extent that he positively loathed me, and ever afterwards carefully avoided coming into contact with me.
The acquaintance with the Wesendoncks was the means of giving me the entree to a delightful home, which in point of comfort was a great contrast to the usual run of houses in Zurich. Herr Otto Wesendonck, who was a few years younger than I was, had amassed a considerable fortune through a partnership in a silk business in New York, and seemed to make all his plans subservient to the wishes of the young wife whom he had married a few years before. They both came from the Lower Rhine country, and, like all the inhabitants of those parts, were fair haired. As he was obliged to take up his abode in some part of Europe which was convenient for the furtherance of his business in New York, he chose Zurich, presumably because of its German character, in preference to Lyons. During the previous winter they had both attended the performance of a symphony of Beethoven under my conductorship, and knowing what a sensation this performance had aroused in Zurich, they thought it would be desirable to include me in their circle of friends.
About this time I was persuaded to undertake the directorship of the augmented orchestra in view of the performance of some musical masterpieces at three concerts to be given early in the new year under the auspices of the Societe Musicale on conditions arranged in advance.
It gave me infinite pleasure on one of these occasions to conduct an excellent performance of Beethoven's music to Egmont. As Herwegh was so anxious to hear some of my own music I gave the Tannhauser Overture, as I told him, entirely to please him, and I prepared a descriptive programme as a guide. I also succeeded in giving an excellent rendering of the Coriolanus Overture, to which I had also written an explanatory programme. All this was taken up with so much sympathy and enthusiasm by my friends that I was induced to accede to the request of Lowe, who was at that time manager of the theatre, and implored me to give a performance of the Fliegender Hollander. For the sake of my friends I agreed to enter into negotiations with the opera company, an undertaking which, though it only lasted a very short time, was exceedingly objectionable. It is true that humane considerations animated me as well, as the performance was for the benefit of Schoneck, a young conductor, whose real talent for his art had completely won me over to him.
The efforts which this unaccustomed excursion into the regions of opera rehearsals, etc., cost me, greatly contributed to the overwrought state of my nerves, and I was obliged, in spite of all my rooted prejudices against doctors, to break faith with myself and, in accordance with the Wesendonck's special recommendation, to place myself in the hands of Dr. Rahn-Escher, who, by his gentle manner and soothing ways, succeeded after a time in bringing me into a healthier condition.
I longed to get well enough to be able to take in hand the completion of my combined Nibelungen poem. Before I could summon up the courage to begin, I thought I would wait for the spring, and in the meanwhile I occupied myself with a few trifles, amongst other things a letter to Liszt on the founding of a Goethe Institution (Goethe Stiftung), stating my ideas on the necessity of founding a German National Theatre, as also a second letter to Franz Brendel about the line of thought which in my opinion should be taken up in founding a new musical journal.