Herr Graf, du bist ein Schaf.' The anecdote about his brother already alluded to is a case in point. Johann, who lived on his own property, called on him on some jour de fête, and left his card 'Johann van Beethoven, Gutsbesitzer' (land proprietor), which Beethoven immediately returned after writing on the back 'L. van Beethoven, Hirnbesitzer' (brain proprietor). This fondness for joking pervaded his talk also; he liked a home-thrust, and delivered it with a loud roar of laughter. To tell the truth he was fond of horse-play, and that not always in good taste. The stories—some of them told by himself—of his throwing books, plates, eggs, at the servants; of his pouring the dish of stew over the head of the waiter who had served him wrongly; of the wisp of goat's beard sent to the lady who asked him for a lock of his hair are all instances of it. No one had a sharper eye or ear for a joke when it told on another. He was never tired of retailing the delicious story of Simon the Bohemian tenor who in singing the sentence 'Auf was Art Elende' transformed it into 'Au! fwa! Sartellen Thee!' But it must be confessed that his ear and his enjoyment were less keen when the joke was against himself. When at Berlin in 1796 he interrupted Himmel in the middle of an improvisation to ask when he was going to begin in earnest. But when Himmel, months afterwards, wrote to him that the latest invention in Berlin was a lantern for the blind, Beethoven not only with characteristic simplicity did not see the joke, but when it was pointed out to him was furious, and would have nothing more to do with his correspondent.
The simplicity which lay at the root of so many of his characteristic traits, while it gave an extraordinary force and freshness to much that he did and said, must often have been very inconvenient to those who had intercourse with him. One of his most serious quarrels arose from his divulging the name of a very old and intimate friend who had cautioned him privately against one of his brothers. He could see no reason for secresy; but it is easy to imagine the embarrassment which such disregard of the ordinary rules of life must have caused. Rochlitz describes the impression he received from him as that of a very able man reared on a desert island, and suddenly brought fresh into the world. One little trait from Breuning's recollections exemplifies this—that after walking in the rain he would enter the living room of the house and at once shake the water from his hat all over the furniture, regardless, or rather quite unaware, of the damage he was doing. His ways of eating in his later years became quite unbearable.
One fruitful source of difficulty in practical life was his lodgings. His changes of residence were innumerable during the first year or two of his life in Vienna; it is impossible to disentangle them. Shortly after his arrival the Lichnowskys took him into their house, and there for some years he had nominally a pied à terre; but with all the indulgence of the Prince and Princess the restraint of being forced to dress for dinner, of attending to definite hours and definite rules, was too much for him, and he appears very soon to have taken a lodging of his own in the town, which lodging he was constantly changing. In 1803, when an opera was contemplated, he had free quarters at the theatre, which came to an end when the house changed hands early in 1804. A few months later and he was again lodged in the theatre free. At Baron Pasqualati's house on the ramparts he had rooms—with a beautiful look-out—which were usually kept for him, where he would take refuge when composing, and be denied to every one. But even with this he had a separate and fresh quarter nearly every winter. In summer he hated the city, and usually followed the Vienna custom of leaving the hot streets for the delicious wooded environs of Hetzendorf, Heiligenstadt, or Döbling, at that time little villages absolutely in the country, or for Mödling or Baden, further off. To this he 'looked forward with the delight of a child. … No man on earth loves the country more. Woods, trees, and rocks give the response which man requires.' 'Every tree seems to say Holy, Holy.' Here, as already remarked, he was out of doors for hours together, wandering in the woods, or sitting in the fork of a favourite lime-tree in the Schönbrunn gardens sketch-book in hand; here his inspiration flowed, and in such circumstances the 'Mount of Olives,' 'Fidelio,' the 'Eroica Symphony,' and the majority of his great works were sketched and re-sketched, and erased and re-written, and by slow degrees brought far on to perfection.
His difficulties with his lodgings are not hard to understand; sometimes he quarrelled with them because the sun did not shine into the rooms, and he loved the light; sometimes the landlord interfered. Like other men of genius whose appearance would seem to belie the fact, Beethoven was extremely fond of washing. He would pour water backwards and forwards over his hands for a long time together, and if at such times a musical thought struck him and he became absorbed, he would go on until the whole floor was swimming, and the water had found its way through the ceiling into the room beneath. On one occasion he abandoned a lodging for which he had paid heavily in advance, because his landlord, Baron Pronay, insisted on taking off his hat to him whenever they met. One of the most momentous of his changes was in 1804. After he was turned out of his lodgings at the theatre Beethoven and Stephen Breuning inhabited two sets of rooms in a building called the Rothe Haus. As each set was large enough for two, Beethoven soon moved into Breuning's rooms, but neglected to give the necessary notice to the landlord, and thus after a time found that he had both lodgings on his
- Schinder (1st ed.) 121.
- Thayer, ii. 227.
- Thayer, ii. 258.
- See the list for 1822, 3, and 4, in Breuning, 43–45.
- Letter to Mme. von Drossdick. Briefe, No. 61: also to Archd. Bodolph, May 27, 1813, and to Hauschks, No 210. Nohl, Leben, ii. 573.
- Thayer, ii. 278.
- In a letter to Countess Erdödy accepting an invitation he stipulates for 'a little bath room.'