BEETHOVEN 200 YEARS AGO TODAY: Thursday, July 3, 1823

Unpaid assistant Anton Schindler writes from Vienna to Beethoven in Hetzendorf today on a number of issues. First, he forwards the response from Louis Schlösser in Paris, which had been brought by a young painter by the name of Wüst. Beethoven had given Schlösser letters for Cherubini and Maurice Schlesinger, and this letter (which is not known to survive) presumably included their respective responses.

Yesterday morning, Schindler received a question from Prince Hatzfeld, the Prussian ambassador, as to whether he was still receiving the score of the Missa Solemnis, to which King Friedrich Wilhelm III had subscribed. Berlin is pressing him constantly for the score, which had been paid for long ago.

Now, as to Brother Johann, who is quite ill. “He is a weak man, unfortunately a very weak man, but also one to be much pitied. But he is your brother, and therefore he requires attention. His illness has demonstrated how like Touchstone he has maintained 2 serpents in his bosom. [Johann’s wife Therese and her illegitimate daughter Amalie Waldmann, now 16, are meant here. In Shakespeare’s As You Like It, Touchstone is in love with goat-keeper Audrey. In Act III, Sc.3 they discuss whether or not she is a slut.] I went there daily, three or four times per day. Since he was bedridden, I endeavored to entertain him as best I could. During that time, I had the opportunity to observe these two people closely. I tell you upon my honor that these people, despite their world-famous name, deserve to be locked up, the older in prison and the younger in a correctional institute.”

“How can one treat a husband and father so, in his illness? Not even a barbarian would do so. This illness provided the opportunity for them both to go about their business freely and unobserved by him. They would have let him rot, these sluts. If not for the kindness of strangers, he would have perished a hundred times over. One would have been in the Prater or Nußdorf, and the other would have been at the baker’s [Therese’s brother, a baker.] So he remained in the care of servants, who often were not around and he was unable to lift a limb for himself for several weeks.”

“He finally had to hire his own nurse, although there were three women in the house. Unfortunately the nurse does not hear very well, so that did not help him much either. He often wept over the treatment by his relatives, and once pleaded, quite sunken in sorrow, to tell you how he was being treated, so that you would come in and smack them both for their reward. But on second thought, when he felt a little better, he begged me not to do it and to tell you nothing.”

“Last Friday [June 27], I came back as usual, and met the doctor, who had heard his complaints about how he had had to lie there completely without help the previous entire night, as the nurse was so soundly asleep he could not rouse her, which was no wonder as she has not slept for the last 14 days. But these two were in the next room, and did nothing as he called out. At that point, I could not hold back my indignation, and broke out in a loud curse to the doctor. Quite naturally, Madame was quite indignant, but I don’t give a damn about that.”

“It is most unnatural, more than barbaric, for a woman while her husband is ill, to take her lover into his room and introduce him, and decorate herself in front of him like a sleigh horse. They then go out for a walk or a ride, while the sick man languishes at home. She has done this quite often. Your brother has brought it to my attention himself, and is a fool for having watched it patiently for so long. Either his hands are tied so that he must endure this outrage, or there is some other reason that is a mystery to me. I was with him yesterday for the first time since last Friday. His circumstances do not allow me to abandon him, and I try to entertain him for a few moments of the day, because otherwise he would have no friends at all to visit him.”

“I hear that he’s feeling worse again today. As soon as he is able to leave the house without danger, I beg you for his sake to take him in. He himself told me recently that he would like to visit you for a while if his health permits. Dr. Saxinger is his doctor, and he is very strict and treats him well. Enough on this for the moment, although more could be said about it. I beg you fervently not to do anything right now, as it would only make matters worse. But the fact remains, and you will be able to take action when the moment calls for it. Say nothing, otherwise they would bar me from the house altogether. Any anger would only harm your brother. It’s a shame, because I see that he has gotten worse and worse after every one of these performances. The doctor has strictly forbidden him from getting angry, and it can’t be allowed to get any worse than it already has.”

In other news, Schindler asks Beethoven to write to the Russian chargé d’affaires, Obreskow. The parcel with the copies of the Missa Solemnis for the Czar and Prince Galitzin can be sent via courier much more quickly than through the mails. The quickest route to St. Petersburg is via Hamburg. Schindler then recounts a long anecdote about how in 1819 he sent some books to Riga and it took 15 months to arrive; they went from Warsaw to Danzig, and from there back to Lübeck and only then to Riga, stopping for months in each place. [Beethoven, preoccupied with other matters, will not get around to writing to Obreskow until about July 9th or 10th.]

Schindler suggests that Beethoven is overtipping the postman for delivering his mail to Hetzendorf. 6 kr. would be fine, but tipping 30 kr. makes the postman think that he will soon be rich. They make jokes about serving such splendid gentlemen. “No prince pays that much.”

Schindler closes by saying he has just come from the police station about Beethoven’s dispute with his landlord, Johann Ehlers. Schindler went there with the housekeeper, Barbara Holzmann. The landlord has been summoned to appear there at 5 p.m. tomorrow, along with Schindler. The old woman [Holzmann] probably does not need to come. “The police director and Ungermann send their best to you, and they indicate in advance that they will deal with the subject as you wished….I’m preparing for tomorrow when I will read him the riot act. It’s good that I’ll be doing it in front of the authorities. I’ll report the result to you right away.”

Brandenburg Letter 1688, Albrecht Letter 326. This letter is known only from a surviving draft in Schindler’s hand, held by the Berlin Staatsbibliothek (aut. 36,75); the final version sent to Beethoven may have differed somewhat from the draft, and may have included additional details about Therese and Amalie, but based on later correspondence it probably tracked the draft pretty closely.

The question must be addressed as to how much of this letter was true, since Schindler is demonstrably willing to make things up to suit his own narrative, he would seldom avoid an opportunity to drive a wedge between the two brothers, and he was well aware that Therese would trigger Ludwig’s fury like few things other than perhaps Karl’s mother Johanna.

From later conversation book entries made by Karl, it does appear true that Johann was indeed very seriously ill, and Therese did have a suspicious habit of getting up late, paying little attention to Johann, and then vanishing for the day. Karl is only able to verify the stories of Therese bringing her officer lover to the house and parading him in front of bedridden Johann through talking to the nurse. So that lends some credibility to Schindler’s allegations.