BEETHOVEN 200 YEARS AGO TODAY: Thursday, November 13, 1823

Karl joins his uncle in the afternoon. This morning’s Psychology lecture at the university was about the viscous humidity in the nose. He needs to get annotations to the prescribed textbook, Elementa philosophiae by Joseph Likawetz (Graz, 1818-1820).

Uncle Ludwig says he needs to go to confession, perhaps in connection with the observance of the death of Karl’s father, Caspar Carl, on November 15, 1815. Karl says he will also go to confession, but on Sunday, the 16th.

Karl relates an anecdote about an apothecary or doctor identified only as “W.” who committed suicide but was consecrated in a church. “One person cried quite loudly about this desecration, that a person who has hanged himself, a suicide, should have as magnificent a funeral as W. had.” Uncle Ludwig asks why he committed suicide. “Because several people had been poisoned by one of the medicines he had made.” Ludwig asks whether that was intentional, but no. “He made the medicine for himself; a house porter took a bottle of it, thinking it was wine, and gave everyone some of it.” Ludwig questions why he would kill himself over that. “He was said to have been so very distressed because he hoped to become Chief Surgeon at Court.” [Editor Ted Albrecht finds no indication in the November Vienna newspaper death announcements as to who W. might be, so this may not have been a recent occurrence.]

The conversation turns to one of Beethoven’s favorite composers, Luigi Cherubini. Karl says “Cherubini himself is said to have become foolish, because when awarding a prize, he preferred the opera of another over his own.” [Which seems like the ethical thing to do.] Uncle Ludwig comments that it has been a long time since any opera has appeared from Cherubini’s pen. [His duties as director of the Conservatoire were quite demanding, and Cherubini had turned to mostly writing religious music over the last ten years.] Karl jokes, “Just wait another 20 years; then you will also no longer write as quickly.”

Conversation Book 45, 16r-17r.