Selected letters of Mendelssohn/Letter 19

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Leipsic, 6th December, 1835.[1]

Dear Schubring,—You no doubt know already what a heavy blow has fallen on the happiness of my life and on all who belong to me. It is the greatest misfortune possible; I must either endure it or sink under it. I say this now after three weeks; the keen pain of the first days is over, but I feel it only more assuredly; a new life must begin for me from this time, or all come to an end; the old life is torn away. It is our comfort and example that mother should be able to bear the loss with a wonderful quiet and steadfastness. She finds joy in her children and grandchildren, and thus tries to conceal from herself the blank which nothing can fill up. My sisters are doing everything to repay our debt to her, and give themselves up to this the more because it is so hard. I was ten days in Berlin, so that with my presence our mother might be surrounded by all that remains of our family, but what days those were I need not tell you. You understand well, and, I doubt not, have thought of me in this time of darkness. God granted my father’s often repeated petition; his end was as tranquil and gentle, and as unexpected in its rapidity as he had desired. On Wednesday, the 18th, we were all of us round him; late in the evening he went to bed; the next morning he complained a little; at half-past ten his life was ended. The doctors could give no name to his illness. My uncle says that my grandfather, Moses Mendelssohn died precisely in the same way, at the same age, and without illness, his mind bright and tranquil. I cannot say if you knew how especially good my father was to me of late years, how like a friend, so that my whole soul hung on him, and scarcely an hour of my long absence passed without bringing the thought of him into my mind. But you knew him in his own circle and knew how lovable was his character; you will realise what my feelings are. All that remains is duty, and I seek to do it with all my power, for that is what he would desire were he still present with us, and I shall not cease to struggle after what would content him, though the sight of his contentment is granted me no longer. In postponing a reply to your letter, I never thought I should have to answer thus: accept my thanks for it and for all your friendship. One passage for "St. Paul” is admirable: “Der Du der rechte Vater bist.” A chorus for it has been in my mind, and I shall write it very shortly. My especial aim is now to set about the completion of the “St. Paul” with double zeal, for my father’s last letter urged me to it. He awaited the finishing of this work with impatience, so it is to me as though I must throw myself into making the “St. Paul” as perfect as I can, and thus think he has still a share in it. If suggestions occur to you, pray continue to send them. You know how the work has shaped itself. To-day I have been writing at it again for the first time, and shall now do so daily. When it is finished, Heaven direct my further steps. Farewell, dear Schubring, and remember me.

Felix Mendlessohn Bartholdy.

  1. After his father’s death.