BEETHOVEN 200 YEARS AGO TODAY: Tuesday, July 10, 1821 (approximately)

While Beethoven is more or less recovered from the repeated bouts with rheumatic fever that plagued him through the first half of 1821, about this time he now falls ill with a severe case of jaundice. This disease is linked to liver problems, and Beethoven’s autopsy in 1827 will indicate that “The liver appeared shrunk up to half its proper volume, of a leathery consistence and greenish-blue color, and was beset with knots, the size of a bean, on its tuberculated surface, as well as in its substance; all its vessels were very much narrowed, and bloodless.” (translation from Thayer/Forbes, p.1059) The jaundice may well be a precursor of these later serious liver issues.

Beethoven in a letter later this month will refer to the disease as “loathsome,” which probably indicates he was suffering from serious symptoms, including fever, chills, flu-like symptoms, and changes in skin color, as well as the color of urine and stool.

Beethoven will continue to suffer with jaundice throughout August, likely rendering him unable to do any significant work. 1821 continues to be a lost year for him.