BEETHOVEN 200 YEARS AGO TODAY: Friday, February 20, 1824

Nephew Karl comes after his classes at the university, probably around 2 p.m., to help interview housekeeper applicants. The first, Franziska Hirshmann, about 40 years old, comes from the Austrian countryside. She is a surgeon’s widow, and is currently working for the vegetable dealer, where she has done everything including carrying wood. She has children, but they do not live with her.

While waiting for the next applicant, Karl mentions he ran into an angry Schuppanzigh this morning. The violinist said he went to Abbé Stadler to learn how it is that “they had given preference to a slovenly and even, as he expressed it, drunken young man, not yet 20 years old [Jansa is actually 28, and will be 29 in March.]” Count Dietrichstein, who was to award the position, told Schuppanzigh to apply for the position, and then turned around and did everything he could to get Jansa the position.

Karl, seeing pencils on his uncle’s shopping list, mentions he bought some pencils at the beer house when he went to the theater with Johann the other evening; they seemed very inexpensive, so he bought a bunch, all for only 30 kreutzers. He had forgotten about them, but he hands over a full dozen pencils.

The second applicant, Juliane Gneisel, arrives. Her husband had been a chamber servant to the nobility. She is strong in cooking because she also worked in noble houses. They ask whether she cooks with lard, and she says, “Lard is absolutely out of the question, because no lard may be used at the homes of the aristocracy; everything must be cooked well; as a result I am very strong in cooking.” The old woman mentioned to her that there was one applicant already here, though she didn’t want to tell her.

They talk about getting 2 florins worth of wine and cheese. They need to remember there is a 24 kreutzer deposit on the bottles, and the cheese costs 36 kreutzers. Karl then does a currency computation, that 36 and 24 kreuzers makes 1 florin, the wine is 1 florin 30 kreutzers, making 2 and one-half florins W.W., or 1 florin C.M. Karl writes Quod erat demon[strandum.] Uncle Ludwig asks him what that means. Karl tells him that in mathematical proofs, the proven proposition is developed, and at the end one repeats the thesis to be proven and says Quod fuit demonstrandum–that which was to be proven. [Q.E.D. still commonly appears at the end of mathematical proofs.]

Karl mentions that he attended a ball [possibly Thursday evening the 19th, since he did not have any conversation book entries then] and it lasted a full 8 hours.

The third applicant, Frau Sartory, arrives. She is the wife of a school teacher. She finds Beethoven’s conditions acceptable. Although she has not worked as a servant before, she can cook, wash, etc. more than well. Beethoven asks for a sample of her handwriting. She apparently is dressed quite well, for Karl notes, “You should not be shocked by her clothing. She has never been a domestic servant, because of her circumstances.” She wanted to work for a nobleman. She is satisfied with the room. She says she doesn’t receive visitors.

Karl thinks that they have made good progress with these three, and Frau Lehmann yesterday. Uncle Ludwig has reservations about the attractive Frau Sartory, and her informal [and perhaps suggestive] way of walking. Karl agrees, and it is not so much how she walks, “but about her breasts that it would not be advisable.” [Both of them are apparently concerned about gossip if they were to have desirable young women working there.] Karl thinks they won’t get a servant like “Mamsell Maria Pamer” any time soon.

Ludwig and Karl go out for the wine and cheese, but end up buying twice as much wine as they had intended (four bottles instead of two) for a total of 3 florins.

When they return, Johann comes by Ludwig’s apartment, and dictates his responses through Karl. Ludwig asks whether Johann’s wife Therese still brings her lover to their apartment. Johann says he wouldn’t dare. Johann has forbidden him to come to the house, and Therese answers “Good, then I’ll go to him, if he is not to come here any longer.”

Johann mentions that Count Moritz Lichnowsky goes to his mistress every day, but if his wife makes a similar deviation from the rule of fidelity, he gets horribly enraged and doesn’t permit it.

Johann would really like to get free of Therese, as she would from him, but they’re held together somehow. Karl offers Uncle Ludwig a piece of cheese. One of the housekeeper applicants [probably Hirshmann] would like to come work for them, but she appears not to be in pleasant circumstances. She said where in Austria she was from but Karl doesn’t remember the town.

Johann leaves to go visit a family where they play cards every Friday evening. Karl mentions that piano maker Wilhelm Leschen would give Uncle Ludwig very reasonable rates [for piano repair and maintenance], “because he has the greatest esteem for you as an artist.”

Conversation Book 56, 31r-36v. This concludes Conversation Book 56. The next surviving book begins about three or four days later, so there may be a short conversation book missing here.

Today, King Louis XVIII of France, who had subscribed to the Missa Solemnis, sends Bethoven a gold medal weighing 21 gold Louis d’or. The King’s chamberlain, the Duke d’Achâts. writes a cover letter from the Tuileries to M. Beethoven, expressing the King’s thanks for the score of the Mass. The King has directed him to send a gold medal of himself in effigy. Thayer-Forbes indicates at 829 that this medal was most likely sent in addition to the 50 ducat fee for the Mass, not as payment.

Brandenburg Letter 1781; Albrecht Letter 343. The original is held by the Berlin Staatsbibliothek (aut.35,4.) The medal is today in the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde.