Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 84.djvu/269

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THE PHYSICAL BEETHOVEN

THE PHYSICAL BEETHOVEN
By Dr. JAMES FREDERICK ROGERS
NEW HAVEN, CONN.

THE study of the parentage of Beethoven should cause the overzealous eugenist to pause and ponder whether we as yet have sufficient knowledge of the conditions governing heredity for the passing of any save the most tentative laws toward the regulation of lives to be.

Beethoven's mother was consumptive, his father a sot, and yet, though his immediate ancestry promised so little, the great musician was a giant in bodily force, a marvel of sober mental power in his art and a profound thinker along other lines; tender and self-sacrificing in his family relations, and of lofty moral sentiment and practise. Erratic he undoubtedly was, but largely from the stress and distress of a hypersensitive organization, produced by his deafness and other bodily ailments.

Little is known of the ancestry of Beethoven. His grandfather, who seems to have been a worthy man, and well-to-do, was apparently of good physique and in excellent health. Besides being a musician he carried on a small wine business. His wife was not so steady. The wine shop was too great a temptation for her. She fell into intemperate ways to such an extent that it was found necessary to confine her in a convent. Their only surviving child came easily by his mother's bad habits, for "he was given to tasting wine from a very early age." His illustrious son often rescued him from the clutches of the police and helped him home, always with the utmost tenderness. He was never known to utter a bitter word about his father, and he resented any uncharitableness toward him on the part of others. His father lived until Beethoven was twenty-two. His mother, who is described as a pretty and slender woman, died, after a long illness of consumption, when Ludwig was seventeen.

The boy Beethoven was a lively little fellow, but more reserved and less boisterous than most at his age. He evidently had a goodly fund of animal spirits for, like all healthy children, he had a great dislike for sitting still, and it was necessary to drive him to the piano if any studying was to be done. His unfortunate father, hoping to produce a profitable prodigy—possibly another Mozart—began his lessons by the time he was four years old and kept him hard at work at them. Friends of