BEETHOVEN 200 YEARS AGO TODAY: Sunday, June 15, 1823

Nephew Karl is with Ludwig in Hetzendorf today. Tomorrow is the annual Mass at the Old Soldier’s Home, celebrating the anniversary of Emperor Franz’s return from the Napoleonic Wars. The Mass will use music composed by Ignaz von Seyfried. Uncle Ludwig would like Karl to go along with him, but the boy begs off, saying he has a written examination tomorrow in the morning. He needs to be there early, and considers what would be the best way to get back to the City. He is prepared for the exam, he feels.

There was trouble finding a fiacre to come out to Hetzendorf. He went from place to place with housekeeper Barbara Holzmann trying to find one at a reasonable price, but they were all booked up. or wanted 5 florins. They finally found one in the Josephstadt. Karl could have also made the three-hour walk, if there were no other alternative.

Karl’s eye is also infected; his method of treatment i just to wash it with milk in the morning. But he has to do that early, or it won’t open up at all.

The laundry is under way; Karl’s shirts are finished, but not the rest. Karl mocks Uncle Johann’s cheapness. His brother-in-law’s daughter Franziska Obermayr has a good piano teacher, but it would still be too expensive for Johann. “I shall never have any doubts about his money, any more than I shall about his cheapness.”

Karl makes another attempt to teach Uncle Ludwig more complicated multiplication, this time using Austrian money, converting it from C.M. to W.W, the two different currencies used in Vienna at the time. This no doubt caused even more confusion.

Beethoven orders some wine, and Karl notes down the charges for him. The winekeeper suggests that it is better to have the containers full, since otherwise they will jostle around in the wagon. Afterwards, Karl is skeptical since they have brought wine by carriage that was jostled about and it was very good.

Beethoven and his nephew discuss the eating of pork. Karl thinks they might eat less. He believes the Turks consider them unclean, and they also forbid the eating of beans. “I presume because they cause a great deal of gas.”

They also talk about another cheap acquaintance, who buys old glassware and then washes it in the dog dish. “I believe if one doesn’t practice cleanliness any more than that, then he doesn’t deserve any improvement….It’s good we got to know him in time.”

Karl says he saw the landlord’s beloved; “She almost looks like Fettlümml” [Fat Lout, Beethoven’s favorite name for his sister-in-law Therese.] The baron’s servant believes that the baron will be unhappy about how Beethoven is treating the floors of the rooms in his apartment. Schindler will also be the subject of his wrath, because he gave his word of honor for Beethoven. “I absolutely believe you should not have taken the apartment for many reasons.”

Karl also has a little diarrhea today; he excuses himself but it was only a brief stomach cramp.

Beethoven saw an essay about Abbé Mozin’s instructional book on learning French (Tübingen, 1802). Karl agrees that it is the best one that exists. He has it in a newer edition. Ludwig has a copy of Johann Meidinger’s French grammar (Dessau, 1783).

Beethoven is reading The Merchant of Venice (in German translation). Karl expresses his admiration for Shakespeare: “I have never encountered the abundance of thoughts in any other poet.” But he is very difficult.

Karl is annoyed with his language teacher, Peter Joseph Pleugmackers. He is strong in French, but not in Italian or English. To make matters worse, their English textbook is worthless. Pleugmackers teaches German, French, English, Spanish, Portuguese and Italian, so he knows a little about many things but nothing in depth. Karl believes that one person can master multiple languages completely, but that person is not Pleugmackers. Worst of all, he doesn’t understand German at all. But since nobody else in the place, even Blöchlinger himself, can speak Italian or English very well, no one can challenge him. It would not be that expensive to take the courses from the public professors at the university. Next summer, he believes it will be better and cost less. He will be able to go to classes every day and learn over the summer.

Ludwig asks whether Karl knows what his mother has been up to. He professes ignorance: “For the past couple of years, I haven’t known where she is at all; I have also had no thoughts [about her] at all.” [Karl knew very well where she and her three-year-old daughter lived, and is most likely trying to avoid friction with his Uncle Ludwig.]

Ludwig mentions that he has not given up on the idea of getting a kapellmeister position. Karl thinks it would be a good way to get money. The piano teacher Ignaz Assmayr composes horrible stuff, yet he has a good reputation and is expected to become the next court organist. [He did indeed become court organist in 1825, on the death of the prior organist at age 34; Assmayr held the position until 1846.]

Karl makes arrangements for a carriage into the City in the morning for his examination; the price is only 2 florins. Uncle Ludwig asks again whether Karl might not come with him to the Mass tomorrow; Karl grudgingly agrees if he can fit it in around his examination. They then do more exercises in currency conversion, again between the two Viennese currencies with the added complication of converting them into British pounds.

Conversation Book 34, 1r-7v.