BEETHOVEN 200 YEARS AGO TODAY: Saturday, September 13, 1823.

Uncle Ludwig is cranky again this morning, and Karl asks what he has done to make him angry. Karl invites his uncle to walk with him and his friend Joseph Niemetz, but Ludwig refuses, saying he is working [probably on the fourth movement of the Ninth Symphony, or possibly finishing the third movement.] After Ludwig complains about the housekeeper gossiping with the wine merchant at Fuchs’s Wine Shop, Karl asks again whether they can go for their walk or whether Ludwig wants to come with them.

Ludwig, writing in the conversation book so as not to be overheard by Niemetz, lets loose: “I am very dissatisfied with this, your choice of friends. Poverty obviously deserves sympathy, however not without exceptions in addition. I certainly don’t want to do him an injustice, but to me he is an irksome guest who completely lacks the prosperity and good manners that to a certain extent, are still appropriate for well-brought-up youths and men. Otherwise I suspect that he would rather comply with the housekeeper than me.”

He continues, “Otherwise, I love quiet, but the space here is also too limited for even more [people] since I am constantly busy, and have no interest in him whatsoever. – You still have a very weak character.” Karl defends his friend, whom he has known well for five years. They have the greatest similarity of character and inclinations. “If you don’t like him, then you are free to send him away, but he didn’t deserve what you said about him.”

When Ludwig replies, “I find him unrefined and commonplace. This is no friend for you,” Karl fights back: “If you find him unrefined, you are wrong; at least I do not know how he would have given you occasion to believe that.” If Karl gave him up because his uncle didn’t approve, that would be a sign of a weak character. Niemetz helped ease Karl’s often sad stay at Blöchlinger’s [Karl does not mention the forced separation from his mother, but that’s clearly implied here, and seems like a retaliatory jab at his uncle that he knew would make him angrier still.]

When Uncle Ludwig starts to write that Karl is too young to be able to sort out who his friends should be, Karl takes the conversation book away from him and says “It is surely useless to argue about a subject, especially about character, about which I shall never give up my conviction, as long as I myself am not considered a good person, because he is something good for me….For my part, I shall not stop loving him as I would love my brother, if I had one.” Karl and Niemetz go on their walk, apparently leaving Ludwig behind.

The boys return in time for midday dinner, about 2 p.m. Whatever the housekeeper is cooking, it smells strange; Karl thinks she may not have washed out the pot in which she is cooking horse beans. [Another name for fava beans or broad beans.] Niemetz is embarrassed by the goings-on this morning and refuses to look at Ludwig.

Karl reports that the coachman, who wanted a tip the other day and refused the single florin that he was offered, came again to get his tip. The housekeeper gave him the same florin, which he grudgingly accepted after some threats about his conduct. [Housekeeper Barbara Holzmann appears to give as good as she gets.]

Karl, making conversation, notes that there are some fires in the area [likely grass fires] near several little woodcutters’ huts.

Beethoven writes in the conversation book to Karl again, but this time to discuss the loans on his bank share out of Niemetz’s hearing. He asks whether banker Franz Salzmann confirmed that he could get 700 florins. But the interest would probably not be as bad as from the last two lenders, maybe 4 florins per month. Karl says he got confirmation of the delivery of the bank share, and he got a receipt for 700 florins, but he didn’t say anything about the interest. Next time Karl goes to Vienna, he will ask Salzmann. 6 percent would be too much. [4 florins per month on 700 florins would be an almost 6.9% interest rate per annum.]

Conversation Book 42, 7r-12v. Translations from the conversation books by Theodore Albrecht.