Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 1.djvu/211

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BEETHOVEN.
199
 

past 7 was the family breakfast, and directly after it he hurried out of doors, and would saunter about the fields, calling out, waving his hands, going now very slowly, then very fast, and then suddenly standing still and writing in a kind of pocket-book. At half-past 12 he came into the house to dinner, and after dinner he went to his own room till 3 or so; then again in the fields till about sunset, for later than that he might not go out. At half-past 7 was supper, and then he went to his room, wrote till 10, and so to bed.'

During the last three years he had been composing incessantly, and yet all that he had done seemed to him as nothing as a mere prelude to what he was yet to do. As Newton before his death spoke of himself as 'a child picking up a few shells on the shore while the great ocean of truth lay undiscovered before him,' so does Beethoven in somewhat similar strain express himself at the close of his life:—'I feel as if I had written scarcely more than a few notes.'[1] And again—'I hope still to bring a few great works into the world, and then, like an old child, to end my earthly course somewhere amongst good people.'[2] His wish, however, was not fulfilled; he was to die in harness. Either before leaving Vienna or immediately after it he had completed the C# minor Quartet, and before the end of October had finished another, that in F, which is dated with his own hand 'Gneixendorf[3] am 30 Oktober, 1826.' This is the work the finale of which embodies the strange dialogue between Beethoven and his cook, 'Muss es sein?—Es muss sein,' and shows how he could rise from the particular to the universal. A week or two later and he had written a fresh finale to replace the enormously long fugue which originally terminated the B♭ Quartet, and dated it 'Nov. 1826.' And this was his last work. By that time the fine weather, of which he speaks shortly after his arrival,[4] had departed. The economical Gutsbesitzer had forbidden his infirm brother a fire in his room, the food was not to his taste, and he was informed that for both food and lodging a charge would be made; so that he determined to brave the police and return with his nephew to Vienna on Dec. 2. The journey from Gneixendorf to Krems, the post town, is not far,[5] but the close carriage could not be had, and Beethoven was obliged to perform it in an open chaise the weather was cold and damp, and the result was a violent cold in the stomach, which was the beginning of the end. He took to his bed on reaching the Schwarzspanierhaus. His former physicians, Braunhofer and Staudenheim, refused to attend him, and he was in the hands of a Dr. Wawruch who had been casually called to him by a billiard-marker at the rooms frequented by young Carl Beethoven. The cold had developed into an inflammation of the lungs, and on this dropsy supervened. Wawruch, who appears to have been a poor practitioner and a pompous pedant,[6] drenched his patient with herb decoctions, but the malady would probably have ended fatally whatever treatment had been adopted. What the poor patient most required was good nursing and comfort, and this he could not obtain till after the departure of his nephew for his regiment in the latter half of December. Then Schindler and Stephen Breuning came to his bedside, and from this time to the end Gerhard Breuning, the son of Stephen, a boy of eleven, was his constant attendant. He was first tapped on Dec. 18, then again on Jan. 8, and a third time on Jan. 28. It was during one of these operations that on seeing the water he made the characteristic remark 'Better from my belly than from my pen.' The confidence both of Beethoven and his friends in Wawruch now became much shaken, and an application was made to Malfatti, who had attended him years before, but like so many others had parted from him in anger. It was long before Malfatti would answer the appeal, and even then he would only act in conjunction with Wawruch. The treatment was now changed, and iced punch administered in large quantities as a restorative. His faith in Malfatti was only equalled by his disgust at Wawruch. He would watch for the arrival of the former with eagerness, and welcome him as if he were an angel—whereas when Wawruch appeared he would immediately stop talking, turn his face to the wall with the exclamation 'Ach, der Esel!' and only answer his enquiries in the most grumpy manner.[7] Under the change Beethoven's spirits greatly improved, and if permitted he would at once have begun to work. This however was forbidden, and reading only allowed. Walter Scott was recommended him, and he began 'Kenilworth,'[8] but soon threw it down with the exclamation 'the man writes only for money.' He now made acquaintance with some of Schuberts songs[9] for the first time, and was delighted with them—'Truly Schubert has the divine fire,' were his words. Handel's works, in 40 volumes,[10] a present from Stumpff, arrived at this date, and were an unfailing source of interest to him[11] as he lay in bed. A lithograph of Haydn's birthplace gave him the liveliest satisfaction; his delight at receiving it, his wrath at the misspelling of the name, and his curious care in paying for it, may be read in Breuning's narrative (pp. 98-100). During the four months of his last illness he wrote and dictated many letters—24 are published, some of them of considerable length, and others no doubt remain in MS.

His nephew still retained his hold on his affections. A letter to Dr. Bach, his old advocate, of Jan. 3, declares the lad his sole heir, and commits

  1. Letter to Schott, Sept. 17, 1824.
  2. Letter to Wegeler, Vienna, Oct. 7, 1826.
  3. 'I am at Gneixendorf,' says he to Haslinger. 'The name is something like the breaking of an axletree' (Briefe, No. 383).
  4. Letter to Haslinger, Oct. 13.
  5. Gneixendorf is on the high ground which rises above Krems, 2 miles due north of it.
  6. Breuning, 90.
  7. Ibid. 91, 90.
  8. Schindler ii, 126; but see his letter in Moscheles' Leben, i. 144.
  9. The 'Junge Nonne,' 'Die Burgschaft,' 'Der Taucher,' 'Elisium,' and the Ossian Songs are mentioned by Schindler. But of the these the only one published before Beethoven's death was the first.
  10. See the Sale Catalogue.
  11. Breuning, 94.