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A Trip to the Shrine of Beethoven, Part II. By Richard Wagner.

By Richard Wagner
 
A Remarkable Indication of the Imagination of the Great Musical-Dramatist
Reprinted by Special Request
 
Part II.
[Synopsis: The first part of this remarkable article, indicating Richard Wagner's unlimited and exceptionally versatile imagination, was printed in The Etude for last month. In it Wagner describes his journey to the home of Beethoven in such a manner that one can hardly believe that he has not actually covered the ground upon such a pilgrimage. This atmosphere of verity is the distinguishing mark of all great descriptive writing. In order to have funds wherewith to undertake the trip, Wagner states that he has composed a few galops and pot-pourris for a money-groveling publisher. On the way, Wagner meets a group of wandering musicians, and enjoys himself by playing the viola part of a Beethoven's "Septour" with them. Later, he meets an Englishman, who figures largely in the description. Wagner makes several attempts to see the great master, but up to the time of the opening of this installment he has not been successful.]
 
The Englishman, who always watched my attempt with excited attention from his window, had at last received positive information that Beethoven was really not to be approached. He was thoroughly vexed, but immeasurably persevering. My patience, however, was soon exhausted, for I had more reason for it than he. A week had gradually slipped away without the attainment of my object; and the income from my galops by no means permitted me a long residence in Vienna. I gradually began to despair.
 
I communicated my sorrows to the landlord of the hotel. He smiled, and promised to tell me the reason of my woes if I would swear not to betray it to the Englishman. Foreseeing disaster, I made the vow demanded of me.
 
"You see," said the trusty landlord, "hosts of Englishmen come here to see Herr von Beethoven and make his acquaintance. This annoys Herr von Beethoven so much, and he has been in such a rage at the impertinence of these people, that he makes it absolutely impossible for any stranger to get admittance to him. He is a singular man, and this may be pardoned in him. It is an excellent thing for my hotel, however, for it is generally liberally patronized by Englishmen, who are compelled by their anxiety to see Herr Beethoven to remain my guests longer than they otherwise would. Since you promise me, however, not to betray me to these gentlemen, I hope to find a means to secure your admission to Herr Beethoven."
 
UNSUCCESSFUL VISITORS.
 This was refreshing; so I had not reached the goal, because I—poor devil—passed for an Englishman! My presentiment was justified—the Englishman was my ruin! I would have left the house at once, for of course every one that lodged there was taken for an Englishman at Beethoven's, and I was already outlawed for this reason; but the landlord's promise restrained me—that he would bring about an opportunity to see and speak with the master. The Englishman, whom I detested from my soul, had meanwhile begun all sorts of intrigues and bribes, but without result.
 
So several more fruitless days slipped away, during which the receipts from my galops visibly diminished; till at last the landlord confided to me that I could not fail to meet Beethoven if I would go into a particular beer-garden, whither he went almost daily at a certain hour. At the same time I received from my counsellor certain unmistakable descriptions of the personal appearance of the great master, which would enable me to recognize him. I roused myself, and determined not to put off my happiness until to-morrow. It was impossible to catch Beethoven as he went out, for he always left his house by a back way; so there was nothing left for me but the beer-garden. Unfortunately, however, I looked there for the master both on this and the two following days without success.
 
At last on the fourth day, as I again directed my steps to the momentous beer-garden at the appointed hour. I perceived to my horror that the Englishman was cautiously and observantly following me at a distance. The wretch, perpetually watching at his window, had not let the fact escape him that I went out every day at the same
 
hour and in the same direction. He had been struck by this, and at once suspecting that I had found some clue by which to trace out Beethoven, he had decided to take advantage of my presumed discovery. He told me all this with the greatest frankness, and forthwith declared that he proposed to follow me everywhere. In vain were all my endeavors to deceive him, or to make him believe that I had no other purpose in view than to visit, for my own refreshment, a beer-garden that was far too unfashionable to be worth the consideration of a gentleman like him; he kept steadfastly to his resolution, and I had my luck to curse for it. At last I tried rudeness, and sought to rid myself of him by insolence; far from letting himself be influenced by this, however, he contented himself with a gentle smile. His fixed idea was—to see Beethoven; nothing else disturbed him in the least.
 
In truth, it was to be; on this day I was for the first time to behold the great Beethoven. No words can picture my ecstasy—or at the same time describe my rage—as, seated beside my "gentleman," I saw approaching a man whose carriage and appearance fully bore out the description that the landlord had given me of the master. The long blue overcoat, the tangled, bristling gray hair, and more than these the features, the expression of the face, as they had long hovered before my imagination, pictured from an excellent portrait. No mistake was possible; I had recognized him in an instant! He passed us with short and hurried steps; surprise and reverence enchained my senses.
 
The Englishman missed none of my movements; he looked with curiosity at the newcomer, who withdrew into the most secluded corner of the beer- garden—at this hour almost deserted—ordered wine, and then remained for a time in an attitude of deep thought. My beating heart said to me, "It is he!!" For a moment I forgot my neighbor, and looked with curious eye and unspeakable emotion upon the man whose genius had alone ruled over all my thoughts and feelings since I had learned to think and feel. Involuntarily I began to murmur softly to myself, and fell into a kind of soliloquy that ended with the but too distinctly uttered words—"Beethoven—it is thou, then, whom I see!"
 
Nothing escaped my accursed neighbor, who, bending close beside me, had listened with bated breath to my murmuring. I was roused in horror from my deep ecstasy by the words—"Yes, this gentleman is Beethoven! Come, let us introduce ourselves at once!"
 
Filled with anxiety and disgust I held the cursed Englishman back by the arm.
 
"What are you going to do?" I cried—"do you mean to disgrace us? Here—in such a place—so utterly without regard to common courtesy."
 
"Oh," responded he, "it's a capital opportunity; we shan't easily find a better one."
 
With this he drew a kind of note-book from his pocket, and would have rushed forthwith upon the man in the blue overcoat. Beside myself, I seized the lunatic by the skirts of his coat, and cried out furiously, "Are you stark mad?"
 
A FORCED INTRODUCTION.
This proceeding had attracted the attention of the stranger. He seemed to guess, with painful annoyance, that he was the subject of our excitement, and after he had hastily emptied his glass he rose to go away. Hardly had the Englishman perceived this than he tore himself from me with such force that he left one of his coat-skirts in my hand, and threw himself in Beethoven's path. The latter sought to avoid him; but the wretch was before him, and making him a marvelous bow according to the latest English fashion, addressed him as follows:
 
"I have the honor to introduce myself to that very famous composer and most estimable man— Herr Beethoven."
 
He had no need to add anything further, for with his first words Beethoven, casting a single glance upon me, had turned away with a hasty start to one side, and had vanished from the garden with the speed of lightning. Not the less did the irrepressible Briton show his intention to pursue the fugitive, when I seized, in a fury of rage, on the remnant of his coat skirts. Somewhat astonished, he checked himself, and cried out in a singular tone:
 
"Damn it! This gentleman is worthy to be an Englishman, and I shall certainly make no delay in forming his acquaintance!"
 
I stood there stupefied; this terrible adventure put an end to every hope of mine to see the dearest wish of my heart fulfilled!
 
It was very clear to me that from this time forth every attempt to approach Beethoven in an ordinary fashion must be perfectly vain. In my ruinous circumstances I had only to decide whether I would at once enter upon my homeward journey with my object unaccomplished, or whether I should make one last desperate endeavor to reach my goal. At the first alternative I shuddered to the bottom of my soul. Who, so near as this to the gates of the holy of holies, could see them close upon him without being fairly annihilated? Before I gave up the salvation of my soul, then, I would make one more desperate attempt. But what step was there for me to take—what way left me to pursue? For a long time I could think of nothing definite. Alas, all consciousness was benumbed; nothing presented itself to my imagination but the remembrance of what I had passed through when I held the vile Englishman's coat-skirts in my hands. Beethoven's side glance at my unlucky self during this frightful catastrophe had not escaped me; I felt what such a glance must mean; he had—taken me for an Englishman!
 
What should I do then, to elude the wrath of the master? Everything depended on informing him that I was a simple German soul, full of worldly poverty, but more than worldly enthusiasm.
 
So I decided at last to pour out my heart—to write. I did so; told him briefly the history of my life; how I had become a musician; how I idolized him; how I had longed to make his acquaintance; how I had given up two years to gaining a reputation as a composer of galops; how I had begun and ended my pilgrimage; what woes the Englishman had brought upon me, and in what a cruel situation I now found myself. As I felt my heart grow consciously lighter during this summary of my griefs, I even passed into a certain degree of confidence, from the pleasure of this feeling; I mingled in my letter some frank and rather decided complaints of the unjust cruelty with which I, poor devil, had been treated by the master. I closed my letter with positive enthusiasm; my eyes swam as I wrote the address—"to Herr Ludwig von Beethoven." I uttered a silent prayer, and myself delivered the letter at Beethoven's house.
 
As I returned to my hotel, full of enthusiasm— great Heaven! what brought the horrible Englishman again before my eyes? He had watched this last errand also from his window; he had seen on my features the happiness of hope, and this was enough to deliver me again into his power. He stopped me on the steps with the question, "Good news? When shall we see Beethoven?"
 
"Never! never!" cried I in despair—"Beethoven will never in his life see you again! Let me go, villain! We have nothing in common!"
 
"Most decidedly we have something in common," responded he, coldly; "where is the skirt of my coat, sir? Who authorized you to forcibly deprive me of it? Do you know, sir, that you are to blame for the behavior of Beethoven toward me? How was he to find it en régle to permit the acquaintance of a gentleman with only one coat-skirt?"
 
Furious at seeing the fault thus cast upon me, I cried—"You shall have the coat-skirt back, sir! Treasure it up as a shameful reminder of the way in which you insulted the great Beethoven, and ruined a poor musician!—Farewell! may we never see each other again!"
 
He sought to restrain me, and to pacify me by assuring me that he had still a large number of coats in the best possible condition; I must tell him when Beethoven would receive us. But I rushed past him up into my fifth story; and there I locked myself in and waited for Beethoven's answer.
 
But how shall I describe what passed within me— around me—when I really received within an hour a little piece of note-paper on which was hastily written—"Pardon me, Herr R————, if I ask you to call for the first time to-morrow; for I am at work to get off a packet of music by post. I expect you to-morrow. Beethoven."
 
First of all I sank upon my knees and thanked Heaven for this marvelous boon; my eyes were clouded with' burning tears. But at length my emotions broke loose in the wildest joy; I sprang up and danced about my little bedroom like a madman. I hardly know what I danced; but I remember that to my infinite shame I suddenly became aware that I was accompanying myself by whistling a galop. This unhappy discovery brought me to myself again; I left my room and the hotel, and rushed into the streets of Vienna fairly drunken with delight.
 
A PERFORMANCE OF FIDELIO.
Heavens! My woes had made me utterly forget that I was in Vienna! How the lively stir of the people of the imperial city delighted me! I was in an enthusiastic mood, and saw everything with enthusiastic eyes. The somewhat superficial   sensuousness of the Viennese seemed the fresh warmth of life; their frivolous and not very fastidious pursuit of pleasure passed for natural and frank appreciation of the beautiful. I looked over the five daily theatre-bills; on one of them I saw announced "Fidelio—opera by Beethoven."
 
I must go to the theatre, be the receipts from my galops ever so sadly lessened! As I came into the parquette the overture begun. This was the rearrangement of the opera that had once—to the honor of the highly critical public of Vienna—failed, under the title of "Leonore.'' Even in this latter form I had nowhere been able to produce it; and the delight may be imagined, which I experienced as I now heard for the first time this glorious novelty. A very young girl rendered the role of Leonore; yet this singer seemed even in her early youth to have fairly wed herself to the genius of Beethoven. With what ardor, poetic feeling, deep emotion did she depict this wonderful woman! Her name was Wilhelmine Schroder. She had gained for herself the noble merit of opening Beethoven's work to the German public; for I saw that evening, that even the superficial Viennese were roused to thorough enthusiasm. For me the very heavens were opened; all was illuminated for me, and I bowed down before the Genius that had led me—like Florestan— from night and chains to light and liberty.
 
That night I could not sleep. What I had just gone through and what awaited me on the morrow, was too great and overwhelming to have let me carry it quietly into my dreams. I lay awake; I wandered; I prepared myself to appear before Beethoven. At last the day appeared; I waited with impatience for a time suitable for a morning call; it came, and I started forth. The most important event of my life stood before me; I trembled at the thought.
 
But I was to pass through a terrible trial.
 
Leaning against Beethoven's door-post there awaited me with great sang-froid, my demon—the Englishman! The villain had bribed everybody— finally even the landlord. The latter had read Beethoven's open note before I had seen it myself, and had betrayed its contents to the Briton.
 
A cold sweat burst from me at the sight. All romance, all divine ecstasy disappeared. I was again in his power.
 
"Come," said the wretch, "let us introduce ourselves to Beethoven!"
 
At first I thought of helping myself out of the difficulty with a lie, and asserting that I was not on the way to Beethoven at all. But he at once deprived me of all possibility of refuge, by explaining to me with the greatest candor that he had discovered my secret; and declaring that he would not leave me till we had seen Beethoven. I sought at first to dissuade him good-humoredly from his design; in vain. I fell into a rage; in vain. Finally I hoped to escape him by fleetness of foot. I flew up the steps like an arrow, and jerked at the bell like a madman. But before the door was opened the man stood beside me, seized the skirt of my coat and said: "Don't run away from me! I have a right to your coat-skirts, and I'll hold fast by them until we stand in Beethoven's presence."
 
I turned upon him in a fury, and struggled to free myself; I even felt tempted to defend myself by physical force against the proud son of Albion—when suddenly the door was opened. An old servant appeared, frowning as she discovered us in our extraordinary position; and seemed about to shut the door again upon us. In my anxiety I called my name aloud, and affirmed that I had been invited by Herr Beethoven himself.
 
The old woman was still in doubt, for the sight of the Englishman seemed to rouse in her a very just suspicion—when suddenly, as luck would have it, Beethoven himself appeared at the door of his study. Taking advantage of this moment, I rushed quickly in, and sought to approach the master to excuse myself. But I dragged in the Englishman with me, for he clung to me still. He carried out his purpose, and did not let me go until we stood before Beethoven. I bowed, and stammered out my name; and though he certainly did not understand it, he seemed to know that I was the one who had written to him. He motioned to me to go into his room; and without being in the least disturbed by Beethoven's amazed look, my companion slipped hastily in after me.
 
 

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