BEETHOVEN 200 YEARS AGO TODAY: Wednesday, December 20, 1820

Beethoven has waited three days for a response from Artaria & Co. about his December 17 request to borrow another 150 gulden to redeem his bank share, but heard nothing. Increasingly desperate, Beethoven now writes to Carlo Boldrini, a partner in the Artaria publishing house (Beethoven spells his name “Poldrini.”) He urgently needs the 150 gulden lest he lose the bank share. If Boldrini has some objection, Beethoven would like to know, and then he will find someone else to borrow the money from. But he needs it at once so his bank share that he borrowed against this autumn may be redeemed.

The lender is ill and demanding payment. Beethoven gives Boldrini the unnamed lender’s address [although his description of the address is confusing: Beethoven says the lender lives in the House of the Twelve Apostles, then adds in a footnote that it is across from Count Deym’s house. However, Deym’s house was not across from the House of the Twelve Apostles, but rather behind it]. Payment can be made to the lender directly, and the bank share retrieved from him. Beethoven understands that the January dividend on the stock has already been spoken for by the lender, but he says he is willing to accept that small loss. The key is getting the bank share itself back.

Beethoven reminds Boldrini that he ordered from the company some visitation cards–very simple, just “Ludwig van Beethoven,” — which he needs for his New Year greetings. Beethoven says he will defray the cost.

In a postscript about the debt, Beethoven notes that he has “already had unpleasant scenes with O. [almost certainly Oliva] about it.” Beethoven writes that he will say more verbally. [Oliva had arranged the initial loan secured by the bank share, and he stood to be humiliated if Beethoven defaulted. The fact that Oliva is about to leave the country no doubt adds to the anxiety.]

[Artaria loans Beethoven the money. The bank share is successfully redeemed, the unclear address notwithstanding. Despite his promises in the previous letter to make good on the debt within three months, Beethoven never repays the debt, at least during his lifetime. Artaria finally collects it from Beethoven’s estate in 1828. At least the repayment of the loan and redemption of the bank share may prevent Beethoven and Oliva from parting on bad terms.]

This letter, Anderson 1040 [Anderson’s version contains significant errors], Brandenburg 1421, is held by the Bonn Beethovenhaus as part of the H.C. Bodmer collection, HCB Br.53. The letter can be seen here: