BEETHOVEN 200 YEARS AGO TODAY: Sunday, June 18, 1820 (approximately)

Conversation Book 14, leaves 45v through 54r

Over the next several days, Beethoven simultaneously composes drafts of three letters: one each to nephew Karl, Joseph Blöchlinger (who ran the boarding school where Karl was studying), and a bit later, Joseph Bernard. Beethoven probably began at least the lengthy draft to Karl on Sunday, June 18. He continued working on these drafts through Tuesday, June 20, since they are interspersed with notes of newspaper advertisements from the Vienna papers of June 19, which he would have read in Mödling on June 20. I have separated out the letters from the advertisements, and today will deal with the draft to Karl, and the draft for Blöchlinger tomorrow. The beginning of the letter to Bernard almost certainly dates from the 20th. The drafts are partly in ink, and partly in pencil, indicating that they were not composed at one sitting, but that they were being written together in a stream of consciousness as Beethoven thought of things to mention.

The letter to Karl begins inauspiciously: “Little by little you have become accustomed to terrible deeds.” Beethoven suggests that Karl, at age 13, establish goodness in himself anew. While he should not hate his mother, he should not view her as a good mother. As long as Karl is defiant to Beethoven, he cannot become a good person. It is as if Karl had rebelled against his own father.

Beethoven insists that what he does, he does for Karl, and that he does so happily. Beethoven wanted Karl to live with him after Karl ran away from Blöchlinger’s to his mother.

But Beethoven also insists that Karl’s claiming his mother misleads him is no longer an excuse: Karl is old enough to know good from bad. She has not counseled Karl to study poorly, and his acting as if it is her fault is irresponsible.

Whether Beethoven ever finished or sent any of these three letters is unknown.