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How Schumann and Mendelssohn Regarded Poverty

An interesting book entitled, A Day With Mendelssohn, by George Sampson, an English singer, records a conversation between Ferdinand David, Sterndale Bennett, Robert Schumann and Mendelssohn. The talk drifted around to Schubert, and more particularly to the extreme poverty in which he lived:
 
"'Poor Schubert!' said Mendelssohn with a sigh; 'he always met Fortune's frown, never her smile.'
 
" 'Don't you think,' said Bennett, 'that his genius was the better for his poverty—that he learned in suffering what he taught in song?'
" 'No, I do not!' replied Mendelssohn, warmly. 'That is a vile doctrine invented by a callous world to excuse its cruelty.'
 
" 'I believe there is something in it, though,' said Bennett.
 
" 'There is some truth in it, but not much,' answered Mendelssohn, his eyes flashing as he spoke. 'It is true that the artist learns by suffering, because the artist is more sensitive and feels more deeply than others. But enough of suffering comes to all of us, even the most fortunate, without the sordid, gratuitous misery engendered by poverty.'
 
" 'I agree with Mendelssohn,' said Schumann. 'To say that poverty is the proper stimulus of genius is to talk pernicious nonsense. Poverty slays, it does not nourish; poverty narrows the vision, it does not ennoble; poverty lowers the moral standard and makes a man sordid. You can't get good art out of that.'"

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